May 18, 2012
Jongmyo ancestral shrine

Jongmyo ancestral shrine

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Gyeongbokgung palace

Gyeongbokgung palace

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May 16, 2012

Seoul, first thoughts

first impressions as told through the 3 good, 3 not so good list, but this time with only two things.

Good
1. The subway system is awesome. Cheap, clean, easy to navigate & gets you pretty much wherever you want to be.

2. Gorgeous palaces. So far we’ve seen two of them & they are pretty spectacular.

The less good
1. Difficult to figure out how to get anywhere outside of Seoul to the point of almost comical absurdity.

2. Trying to find housing for the world expo was a comedy of errors but we have persevered & finally managed to get something booked.

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Changdoukgung Palace on Day 1 in Seoul.

Changdoukgung Palace on Day 1 in Seoul.

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December 28, 2010

While I was in Jordan I did a two day trek in the Wadi Rum dessert.  I was on the trek with a couple from Japan and yesterday they were nice enough to email me these photos from our trip.  I can hardly believe this was almost a year ago.

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April 23, 2010
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April 16, 2010
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March 14, 2010

The trip by the numbers

Days gone:  179

Number of miles traveled:  41,000+

miles walked and stairs climbed:  far too many to count

Countries visited:  12

Cities visited (only counting cities where I spent at least 1 night):  34

Cities visited including day trips:  41

Books read:  44+

National Parks visited:  4

Number of the big 5 animals seen:  5

Museums visited:  16

Number of religious paintings looked at:  thousands, I’m sure

meters dropped in free fall over the Zambezi river:  80

Number of rapids on the Zambezi river:  23

Number of those that are class 5 or higher:  13

City I wish we could have spent more time in:  Tarifa, Spain

Favorite Country visited:  Jordan

Favorite City visited:  Barcelona

Country I wished I could have visited, but didn’t:  Syria

Best beach:  Zanzibar, Tanzania

Most disappointing attraction:  cloistered nun cookies, which were not sold to us in a lazy Susan by cloistered nuns like we were promised.

Best cathedral:  La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona Spain

Worst meal:  couscous in Morocco

Worst weather:  Turkey

Favorite museum:  Musee d’Orsay

Strangest thing done:  trying to catch Cape spring hares while working on the game reserve 

scariest experience:  white water rafting

Favorite ruins:  Petra in Jordan, but Ephesus in Turkey is a close second.

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Paris

The last four days of the trip.  The weather was relatively nice, it was my birthday, and it was, well, Paris.  Not a lot not to like.

Best

Musee d’Orsay:  housed in the former railway station,it holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, and is probably best known for its extensive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces (the largest in the world) by such painters such as Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, Seurat, Gauguin and Van Gogh.  This is probably my favorite musuem I visited on this trip. 

Hotel de Tourville:  As a birthday and end of the trip treat to myself, I decided to stay in a really nice hotel in Paris.  A hotel where I didn’t need to question when the sheets were last washed, a hotel that had working heat, and maybe most importantly a hotel that had hot water and decent water pressure.  i’m sure they weren’t sure what to think of me when i showed up with my falling apart shoes, backpack and dirty clothes, they were nice to me anyway.  And on my birthday even gave me a free glass of wine. 

Pompidou Center:  This is one of the world’s best contemporary and modern art museums.  They had a fascinating Women in Contemporary art exhibit which was really nice to see.  And after seeing countless numbers of sanitized female nudes, it was nice to see some actual real female bodies. 

Worst

Pompidou Center:  While there was a really interesting exhibit at the museum, the entire modern art wing was closed for renovations.  So, no cubism or dadaism; no Picasso’s or Warhol’s.  This was the collection I most wanted to see, so it was disappointing to learn it was closed while I was there.

The Mona Lisa:  Worst isn’t really the right word here, but most over-rated would fit.  I just don’t get the fascination with this painting.  And I’m not sure why everyone wants to take their picture with it.  It’s not like you can stand close to the painting.

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Tunisia Roundup

Tunisia is a strange place.  Probably the most liberal of the arab countries, it’s also the place where I experienced the most amount of hassle.  Here’s the quick roundup.

Best

Carthage:  The ruins at Carthage are spread across this small town and are quite stunning.  The mosaics are beautiful, the scenery stunning, and a lot of the ruins are still intact enough to tell what they were.

The beaches:  The weather was warm and I spent at least half of my time in Tunisia hanging out at various beaches.  It was too cold to go swimming, but perfect weather for working on the tan.

El-Jem:  The Roman amphitheater that is outside of Sousse.  It’s incredibly well preserved and just sort of appears out of nowhere in this small town.  Pretty cool.

Worst

The hassle:  The hassle here was unrelenting.  Not that plenty of people weren’t simply friendly and helpful, but it was impossible to just sit on a bench and enjoy the weather without being interrupted by someone wanting to just talk.  Since it was the end of the trip, it was especially exhausting to need to deal with this all of the time.

The distance to the sites:  or maybe this would better be described as my laziness getting the better of me.  Some of the best sites were simply not that easy to get to.  I didn’t go visit the best preserved punic era ruins, for example, because it would have required 3 bus transfers and a taxi each.  And each morning I’d wake up and think about going, decide it was too much hassle (see above) and go to the beach instead.  Not that spending time at the beach was a rough way to spend the time, but it does mean there were things on my list to see that I didn’t.

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