Santander and Calabria

We´ve enjoyed our stay on the north coast of Spain.  It´s a beautiful area that looks more like Switzerland than Spain. That is, if Switzerland were on the water.   We´ve gone bike riding along the beach and the kids enjoyed riding Segways around the castle.

Yesterday we rented a car and drove to a cave in the mountains that was amazing.  We also saw the reproduction of the caves at Altamira (16,000 year old cave drawings).  We also visited a small town called Santilla del Mar.  Because we got a late start we ended up having three different dinners — some seafood salad at 6pm, barbecue at 9pm and fish dinner back in Santander at 11pm.  It´s really strange but the locals don´t  seem to start their evening until 10pm.  It´s fun and we figure it´s helping us get adjusted to US time.

This afternoon we´re going to the open air market and beach and then we take the train back to Madrid.  We´ll arrive at 9:30 tonight and stay at a hotel near the station and then take a taxi out to a fun area of Madrid for our last dinner.  We fly home tomorrow.

We´re still using an internet kiosk to check e-mail (and write this entry) so we can´t post any pictures.  Maybe we´ll have a better connection back in Madrid.  But of course we´ll be back in the US soon anyway and we´ll be able to fill everyone in.

We haven´t heard from Ryan yet but he has a very busy schedule and it´s probably hard to find a place to check e-mail.

Much love,

Rusty, Sue, Cal, and Roby

Espana – Madrid and Santander

We spent two days in Madrid.  Although it was a short visit we saw all of the highlights – the royal palace, the Prado, and of great tapas for dinner.

We said goodbye to Ryan yesterday and we took a train north to Santander.  We´re now in a hotel near the beach in Santander.  Unfortunately the warm weather that we had in Madrid doesn´t happen here for a few more weeks.  Because we´re near the mountains it´s much cooler.  We are thinking about going up to see the caves of Alta Mira this afternoon or maybe just renting bikes. Cal and Roby say they just want to chill out at the beach, but with the weather that may turn out to be literally true.  We find something fun to do.

When we were in Madrid I uploaded a bunch more photos from Italy onto Flickr.  It´s the same link as before (I´m trying to figure out how to paste it here, but I´m on a spanish keyboard that I don´t understand.

Much love to everyone.

Rusty, Sue, Cal and Roby

Good wine, great scenery (but no internet)

We’re just waking up in Madrid after a difficult late night flight and last minute change of hotels.  We’ll tell more of that story later, but for now just wanted to let everyone know that we’re OK and had a great time in Tuscany with the Sheltons and Bryants.

Rusty, Sue, Ryan, Cal, and Roby

Family Unity

Sue and Ryan made it to the apartment about 1pm without any of the unpleasant side stories that we described (the rip off conductor and the broken down tram).  initially Sue insisted that she’d power through the day on just a few hours sleep.  We went to the Colosseum tour together.  It wasn’t quite as a hot as the day before due to a few clouds in the sky.  During the tour we learned about all of the gruesome things that Romans did for entertainment.  It made me feel better about earning my living (in part) from shows like The Batchelor, Survivor, and Temptation Island.  They’re all tame compared with hanging Christians and letting wild animals rip their limbs off until they die (that was the half time entertainment while they waited for the Gladiators).  Really classy stuff.

Sue and Ryan slept for about 3 hours until 7.  Cal Roby and I went to visit the Palantine Hill which was very pretty and certainly has a lot of historically interesting stuff, but without a guide, we didn’t get too much out of it.  I’m sure we’ll read about it later. 

After Sue and Ryan woke up, we really wanted to see St. Peter’s and we bought bus tickets but after waiting for 45 minutes for the right bus, we just gave up and walked to Piazza Navano by way of the Pantheon (which was closed).  We then had dinner, saw the crowds at Trevi fountain and walked home.   The kids enjoyed introducing mom and Ryan to the gypsies and the various trinkets they sell.  Somehow they all make a living selling knock-off handbags, belts, watches and pens.  Roby seemed to think that he needs a good gypsy pen, but we talked him out of it.

We hung out for a bit in the apartment before going to bed.

Today we’re leaving for Tuscany as soon as we can get organized.  We have no idea whether there’s an internet connection anywhere near there so it could be a few days before we check in again. 

More photos posted on Flickr:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/61465501@N00/

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Kipu Falls and Luau

It rained very hard over night — first hard rain we’ve had since coming to Hawaii.  The kids had a lazy moring while we tried to figure out the logistics of fitting together some activities with one of the tour agencies in the area.  For two weeks we’ve avoided anything organized, but today we decided it was worth trying a couple activities. 

While we were calling and pouring over guidebooks.  Roby and Cal went for a quick swim in the pool and then Ryan tattooed (with a pen) Roby and Cal’s backs.  Around 11 we went to Kauai Outfitters.  Sue, Cal, and Roby rented bikes and rode around the Poipu area.  They saw Spouting Horn, rode through a series of resort complexes, along the beach, and ended up swimming at Shipwreck Beach.  The waves were huge again, but it was fun to play in the surf and cool off for the ride back to the bike shop.  They also stopped at the condo for lunch and a dip in the pool.  The plan was to ride until 3:00 or so, then drive to Kipu Falls to meet Rusty and Ryan.  Together we would all go to a laua at nearby Kilohana, which started at 5:00.  That worked out great. 

Just after returning the bikes, the rain came.  It was light at first, then started pouring.  We stuck with the plan and navigated our way to Kipu Falls.  We drove through fields, across a bridge, and ended up outside private property near the Kipu Ranch.  We were relieved to see the "Kauai Outfitter" vans parked outside the locked fence, but now we had to figure out our way to the falls.  We drove back to where our guidebook suggested (just across the bridge) and giggled our way down a muddy path that resembled a jungle maze.  It was a clear path, but thick plants were high on each side, forming a tunnel.  It was fun.  After a few minutes you could hear the roar of the falls and soon a beautiful view from the top of the falls opened up.  It was tricky getting down over slippery rocks and muddy paths, but we were psyched.  Only three people were there and it was a magical place.  We asked where it was safe to jump off the cliffs and took the plunge!  It felt like a high 20 ft. drop and we were all a little scared to step out on the edge.  Roby went first (of course), then Cal, then Sue.  We each took two turns, hoping to meet up with Rusty and Ryan at the gate by 4:30.   Roby said, "It was really high and there was a pretty strong current in the pool. It was hard to get under the waterfall because the current was pushing you away."  Cal said his stomach dropped when he jumped but he felt the adrenaline kick in and it was fun afterwards.  He didn’t really like the ladder back up, though. 

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We would have stayed longer and taken time to lounge in the freshwater pools at the top of the falls, but we didn’t want Rusty and Ryan to be waiting for us in the rain.  Turns out we got back in plenty of time, waiting in our car for about 30 minutes for the zipline crew to emerge.  We had fun watching the ATV tours return to the ranch and listening to the rain pitter-patter on the car roof.

Once back on the highway, heading toward Lihue, the Kilohana Plantation was only a few miles down the road.  Our timing was perfect, but the weather was iffy.  We arrived at the grounds just after 5,  changed out of wet bathing suits and into dry clothes, and headed into the festivities.  The kids were a little cynical–especially Ryan– who said, "I don’t want to be here" as we walked through the gates, but, as always it was better than they expected. The ceremony started off with the "imu" which is when they dig up a whole pig that’s been roasting on volcanic rocks underground for the whole day.  The food was Luau_pig_1 delicious – particularly the pork.  The entertainment was elaborate, but they would have preferred less hula and more fire dancing.  As we said, it was clearly cliche Hawaii, but we hadn’t been too touristy much of this trip and wanted to see what a luau was all about.  We were home by 9:30, quite tired from another day of activity. 

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