Hobbiton, NZ part 2 – ’10

maybe it’s because of our yearly watching of lord of the rings, or maybe it’s because the hobbit part 2 just came out, or maybe it’s because of our little hobbit (because she eats so many meals a day, get it!!!) but i just felt in the mood to share more of our hobbiton visit!

we shared the first part here about how we accidentally got a private tour in the rain 🙂

as i said in the previous blog post, they usually have the holes stripped down like this but they were already dressing the set for filming the hobbit!!! yay for us!!

our tour guide that we couldn’t understand 🙂

so much detail!

unfortunately bag end was off limits that day, that’s up the hill there.

the party tree, which is sick or something…another story we couldn’t quite make out with the rain and the accent 🙂

they even paint smoke on the chimneys to make the houses look lived in!

where gandalf rode into hobbiton through…jared is totally geeking out right now

we were finally allowed into a few, and now we’re totally in the market!

hope you enjoyed, that’s the most nerdy we got while in kiwi-land, but come on, you have to admit, those are some good stories!!


lisbon, portugal – ’08

this is a story of two people trying to be clever and then failing…miserably…

we thought it might be funny on this trip to bring fanny packs back into style because we’re so cool we can restart fashion trends… or because we’re so cool that we can make fun of people who wear fanny packs…

well, lesson learned: keep reading for the rest

the fanny pack is on and ready to make a statement!

also, please disregard my horrible long shorts fashion phase in this post…see told you we’re cool!

so off we went to portugal to work with orphans and run a summer camp. halfway through the trip, we had some resting time in lisbon. jared was mistaken as portuguese throughout the trip which we figured was due to his incredible ability to tan! this is what a few days at the beach will do to him!

before the halfway point lisbon trip though, jared and i got to have a little sneak peek at the city only a few days in with the orphans because i got sick. the funny thing was that i was leading this trip because of all my travel experience and of course i’m the one who has to go to the hospital 2 days in and leave everyone to fend for themselves! our translator (who also had a job as a stunt driver randomly enough) took us to a hospital where she used to work.  jared was driving the rental van through the tiny streets and crazy traffic while i was rolled into a ball in the back. she wasn’t very good about giving directions in a timely manner so it was a slightly scary drive. the directions usually consisted of  ‘follow dat car!!’ or ‘left…i mean right!’ so jared was a little stressed while i winced with every bump in the road.

we finally  made it to the hospital and they examined me a bit, then the doctor spoke with our translator for 5-6 minutes which was a bit worrisome to me, but then she turned to me and said ‘you have a bladder infection’. oh…that’s ALL he said?? ok… i was pretty sure this was my problem because i definitely did not drink enough water on the flights over, that was partly because the airline wouldn’t give us water at all and i refused to purchase water on a flight. ridiculous of them, ridiculous of me…pride might be a good title for this entire blog post, i’ll be honest.

so he gave me a bunch of stuff written in portuguese, a shot in the back for pain, some antibiotics and some sort of weird cleanse drink.

apparently europe doesn’t like to hand out water either and i had a tough time getting them to fill this water bottle up for me so i could drink my nasty mystery drink. they look at you like you’re crazy if you want tap water (instead of water with gas for purchase). man that is one thing i am so thankful of here in the states…they just GIVE YOU WATER at restaurants…like for free!!

so then i was all good, we went back to the camp (blog post in the future on the camp) and then came back to lisbon halfway through the trip.

portugal has some interesting things going on with their real estate and they have to make sure that there isn’t some living relative somewhere that could take over a property before they sell it again or some strange rule like that so there are tons of places that would be beautiful but are all boarded up empty.

ahh, more long shorts…what’s wrong with me?!

the beaches were beautiful! tops optional yikes!

loved the random banksy style art

except this one above was creepy…it was on the outside of a travel agency

there’s a big obsession with roosters here because legend has it that some dead rooster miraculously proved the innocence of a man who was sentenced to death for allegedly stealing silver. he said the roasted rooster would get up and crow to prove he was innocent, and he did. now it’s a popular symbol there, random.

mocktography for the win!

this just reminded us of our former governator, hee hee

love the upcycling going on here!

sometimes the graffiti didn’t really make sense to us…

had to indulge in a yummy treat called pasteis de belem, which is kind of like a flan type of custard but crispy on the top like creme brulee but not as sweet. it was good but not amazeballs like we were lead to believe.

recognize this skyline from two different continents? the ‘golden gate bridge’ and the ‘christ of hope statue’ from rio de janero (this one is called christ of peace)

yes, this says urinal…and yes, there is someone currently using it…

yes, they don’t believe in guard rails here…

and yes, jared and i are NOT tour people…we like to explore and take fun pictures, it was not our vote to take a tour of a castle 🙂

but we did have a fake tea party overlooking the city which made it worth it

so we met up with some of the group for lunch in the town center and this is where the fanny pack comes back into play. i was holding on to my camera bag really well because i’d been robbed before (story to come) while traveling and so i had warned everyone to be super careful and watch out for gypsies. i think i even warned people more than a few times about this. well so as much as i was paying attention to my camera bag, i didn’t care about the fanny pack too much, it was more for the fashion statement and didn’t have much in it. well, we were approached by gypsies while we were eating and while a couple of them were getting really close to us demanding (not asking) for money, their partner in crime (apparently) took advantage of us being distracted and nabbed my fanny pack!!! i didn’t realize it until we got up to leave and then i was laughing about how stupid i was for warning everyone else when i’m the one who gets robbed!! (see: pride)

then i stopped laughing because i realized what i did have in there…3 things: chapstick, the cell phone we were loaned while we were working there, and my antibiotics

so the rest of our ‘down time’ in lisbon was spent hunting down a pharmacy open on a weekend so i could convince someone that i needed to finish a round of antibiotics without a prescription, fun times…but i did think that the gypsy would at least be sorely disappointed with her loot 🙂

we also enjoyed trying to find coffee in a full sized mug (another difficult thing to do in europe – they like their little coffee drinks) and watching as jared and another guy in the group got offered to buy drugs multiple times. we were never quite sure if it was because they were tourists or because they had beards because portuguese men didn’t have beards at the time. my hubby is so shady with his beard!

 good times…

hiroshima and miyajima, japan – ’12

 almost exactly a year ago, we were visiting hiroshima and miyajima.  so i’m posting this on the anniversary of the bombing of hiroshima.

traveling is so easy in japan, even though we had to figure out the system in each city (because the JR tickets don’t work everywhere). here, we took trolley cars like in san fransisco. there were more tourists here than any other place we visited on this trip besides tokyo and we met an americanji on the trolley. it’s always nice meeting other americans when traveling because we usually always like chatting. we also met a little japanese girl at breakfast who wanted to come over and say ‘hello’

more indoor malls, the japanese love their indoor malls!

the a-bomb dome. crazy that this is just right in the middle of the city. but what’s more crazy is that the bomb basically took out the entire city of hiroshima, and 67 years later, the city has increased six times its previous size! it’s a beautiful park with really great memorials to commemorate the day and wish for peace.

i love how everything was so linear, see how you can see the dome in the background below..

for dinner, we were recommended hiroshima style okonomiyaki. that literally translates to ‘as you like it’ they are like crepes on the bottom with cabbage and noodles, then you add anything you want to it. we did eggs, cheese and green onions and they make it right in front of you. it reminded me of a tostada, and we shared it, it was delicious! they came to be during WWII when the troops introduced flour to japan.

that night we wandered into an area labeled on the map ‘night life area’. we thought it might be a good place to grab a drink or a snack…turns out it was pretty sketch and was more than likely a red light district…whoops!! so we headed back to the covered mall and hung out at a three story starbucks instead.

we had also found out about a really cool island right off the coast. we were heading to our next destination after, so unfortunately we had to carry all our bags. but it was still a cool little random side trip. we took a boat (which took our JR passes!) and there were these temple gates in the water (o-torii gate).

surprise, there are tons of deer everywhere. at first we (ok probably only me) were excited to see them, and they were tame so you could pet them, which of course i love. but we soon realized that these deer are basically pests. if you plan to grab any food, you are suddenly surrounded by them and they start pulling at your clothes or anything you have with you. one chewed a hole in my bag.

here’s the bag this deer ripped into…there wasn’t even any food in there!!

this island is known for their flavor filled ‘cookies’. they had a variety, as you can see below. we loved the sea eel one…kidding! we got chocolate 🙂

we also got mango smoothies and french fries, random!

Rotorua, NZ ’10

 here’s another post from our super last minute new zealand trip in 2010. we posted a little teaser from hobbiton and now here’s a little something from rotorua. it’s a stinky town because of all of the thermal activity around there. on our way there, we had some lunch and we were laughing at the chicken flavored chips they had. the girl there wondered why we would laugh at that since she heard we had jalapeno flavored chips in the US.

right outside of our hotel room was a thermal hot spring! we saw it go off every hours or so. as we headed out of rotorua, we went to two thermal parks, waimangu and wai-o-tapu. we got a good deal getting into the parks because it had been raining non-stop since we left auckland and there was flooding on part of the trail. luckily they also had these nice large umbrellas for us to use like in hobbiton, we apparently were not prepared with our dinky little san diego umbrellas 🙂

these two parks were huge and unfortunately because of the rain, we had a hard time taking photos…it was actually good practice for us to get the shot right the first time rather than having all the time in the world to take photos.

it was cool on the hikes that there were all these open places with the thermal activity but then we were also walking through forest, it was beautiful!

all of the places at wai-o-tapu were named after the devil and hell, we found where he lives!! run away! the funny thing was that there were all these dark names like devil’s ink pots, devil’s bath and inferno, but then there were also places like bridal veil and champagne as well.

love the detail in the rocks from all the bubbly acid over time.

such pretty colors from all the elements

at the end of the hikes we were soaked and actually got picked up by buses because of the flooding. i asked the lady if they ever worry about volcanoes or earthquakes. she said volcanoes but they usually have 2-3 weeks notice, that’s nice!!

we need to start finding vacation spots that don’t rain 100% of the time, i guess that’s due to our general poor vacation planning…oh well still fun!!

Boston, MA – ’12

the first and last stop of our new england trip

we actually had planned on only going to boston because we just had about a week to travel, but when us californians realized how much we could drive in a short amount of time, we decided to do all the new england states! so we started in boston, had the first evening there, then at the end, spent the last day/night there.

so the first day we were there was the coldest day of our trip. this is what we packed for having gone in spring, but we were surprisingly hot the rest of the trip. so at least we got to pull out the jackets and beanies one day!

boston tea party 🙂


oh hey, there we are!

i loved that they use these historical buildings for modern businesses rather than tearing them down

more mocktography and some chowder! [which jared wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole]

so on the way back through town, it was pretty warm! we did some of the freedom walk and pretty much walked through the whole city. what a fun city!! we got directions from this girl and her bostonian accent was just amazing. we kept asking her more details so we could just keep listening to her talk 🙂

loved this old guy!

yum! dunkin!!

hope you enjoyed! no crazy stories this trip, just a bunch of fun photos 🙂

Sendai, Japan – ’12

another one of our last minute adventures. we knew we had some time to go somewhere but weren’t sure where to go…tickets to europe were out of control because of the olympics and we found out that japan wasn’t as expensive as we expected it to be, and we’d both always wanted to go there so off we went.

we went in august which is a time of year that they have a lot of celebrations so we tried to go around and find places where we’d be able to see some neat things. first stop, sendai! many of the celebrations in august have to do with the dead, specifically tanabata festival. it’s a long story but in short the stars align and they are able to commune with their dead ancestors, but bad spirits are allowed to come too during this time so there are lots of ghost stories. they make a bunch of things out of paper to put out their wishes to the dead. all these beautiful hanging streamers must have taken an  incredible amount of time to make! they were so cool!

we really wanted to be in hiroshima on the 6th but it didn’t work out that way, it would have been cool to see the floating lanterns in celebration.

jared was REALLY grossed out that i got this but it was soooo good!

japanese love their malls and there are enclosed shopping malls like this everywhere!

they also seemed to be shooting news or tv shows in every town we were in, so we made sure to walk in the backround of each one, hopefully we made some japanese TV!!

yup, makes sense…

that’s MISTER donut to you!

people in japan also love everything that is cute…and there is a lot of cute in japan 🙂

people can write their wishes on slips of paper.

there were lots of mocktography opportunities this trip 😉

see, cute! he dyed his dogs’ tails…cute or weird…not sure.

there aren’t a lot of gringos (err gaijins) in sendai so we’re not sure if they were having everyone do this or if we got made fun of a little…we still don’t know what this was all for but they made us put on these robes and pose for a picture. random!!

yep…err what?

soda…water…beer…just a normal vending machine.

and then we were off to our next spot on the bullet trains, stay tuned for more!