One of the natural wonders of the world is the Great Barrier Reef. This 2400-kilometer (1400 mile) beauty stretched from Australia’s east coast to the southern coast of Papua New Guinea. It has some of the most diverse and unique sea life in the world. It comes as no surprise that feasting our eyes on this natural wonder was on our “must see list” before we took off on our world tour. Armed with our GoPro Hero+ (classic), we dove in and explored the reef. Here are 25 of our favorite photos.
Germany is one of the most advanced countries in Europe and one of the most outstanding about acceptance to LGBT, specially its capital, Berlin. But the gay night in Frankfurt, though much quieter than Berlin, offers its options.
Note that there are two cities called Frankfurt in Germany. A not so well known is Frankfurt an der Oder, which borders the city of Slubice (Poland), in north-eastern Germany, near Berlin. The most famous one is the other, Frankfurt am Main, also known only as Frankfurt, It’s in the central-western area of the country and it is the one I’ll talk about here today.
I visited the city at the very end of January 2015, with my father, in a backpack trip through the four countries bordering the Czech Republic (Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria) and paying a quick visit to Hungary! All in 15 days!
Frankfurt was our first stop and at the very first night, a Saturday, I left my dad at the hostel where we were (read here the review) and went to check the city buzz.
My father wanted to go along with me, but as we had arrived that day, walked all day and it was cold outside, he preferred to stay at the hostel and have a well slept night.
My Gay Night in Frankfurt, Germany
With a quick research, I tried to list what seemed to be the best options of the gay night in Frankfurt. I got the addresses, put the map on my phone, and there I was facing the German cold with courage. The gay district of the city is the center (Innenstadt), close to the street Alte Gasse.
Despite being a Saturday, do not expect from Frankfurt a very hectic scene. My choice was a circuit near Zeil street, the famous and posh shopping street in town. There’s a block there that brings together several bars and clubs for LGBT between the Alte Gasse and Elenfantengasse streets.
I started at the Central Bar (check the map). The bar was very small and I got the feeling that the people who go there are regulars. I ordered a drink and stayed a while there even though it was a “half dead” environment. It felt super weird. Not the bar itself, but it felt weird to arrive alone in a bar or club in a city where I didn’t live, not knowing the customs, and it turns out to be full of the “regulars.”
The second bar was, literally next door to the Central Bar, but I cannot remember its name, nor found it in the research. Sorry, honey! As soon as you enter, you go down a staircase and the club/bar is below street level. It was not my scene, so, of course, I would not recommend.
Third place I stopped is called Tangerine and was more like a pub and was, perhaps, the most enjoyable of the three, having a more relaxed atmosphere, not so posh, but not so underground. I remember the clerk to be super friendly and the public more relaxed, although not so full.
It was pretty strange for me that nowhere was busy on a Saturday night, but from what I learned talking to the people there, gay night Frankfurt is really calm. Good for you to know before going out in Frankfurt, I didn’t.
Because I was looking for more upbeat, I felt a bit frustrated. I thought about going to Gibson, a club at Zeil and the most famous the city. It is not totally gay, but has a LGBT night called Delicious. Since it happened to be that night, I said to myself, “let’s go!”… But I was barred at the door! 😮
It turns out that in Germany, it is common that the security guards standing at the door assess whether or not you can enter the club. I was in jeans and T-shirt, but on a more tidy footprint, and the sweater was smart casual. But he said I was not well dressed enough! It was an outrage, you know, but will I discuss in German? Of course not! My 1 year and a half of German classes helped me to order in restaurants, but not to argue how my presence was renowned and I would brighten up the place. Then I went away, right? LOL
What I had for the night was turn back to the hostel and rest well because Frankfurt is an amazing city (that I loved and want to go back), and has a lot to do during the day.
Other Frankfurt Gay Night Options
You can’t get to know everything in such a short time, but in addition to the options already mentioned, on my fabulous research I found some other points around the city you can test if you’re there for a longer time. Shall we?
Gay bars in Frankfurt
You can try the Zum Schwejk, which is super traditional, or Babylon Frankfurt, which has karaoke on Wednesday nights. Lucky’s has karaoke on Tuesdays and is known for low prices. Halo is open every day from 8pm and has shows, warming up the gay night of Frankfurt. If your style is more of a pub, worth trying the Birmingham Pub, which is popular with gay clients.
But the Switchboard, besides being a café bar, is also a support site on HIV/AIDS, providing care to the public. On Sunday evenings, the locals usually go for coffee and cake there. During the year, there are some events and lectures.
Gay clubs in Frankfurt
Club 78 plays songs of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s on two floors and is recommended in the gay night for those who like to party, that’s why they organized a gay cruise last September.
The party Atomic, which takes place on the second Friday of each month at the club Nachtleben, offers a more indie/pop party for a mostly younger audience. Admission is €5.
Delicious, in Gibson, mentioned before, only happens 3 times a year and is your highlight if you want to know the selected people from Frankfurt. Each party has a unique theme with spectacular shows and outstanding production! The dates are posted on the official website.
Not totally gay but still fabulous
The Alte Oper Frankfurt is a historic building in Frankfurt. It is a venue used for musicals, concert and other posh events. Great for a sophisticated gay night out. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it’s very handsome! 😉
Prior to coming to Marrakech, we hadn’t even thought about going to the Sahara Desert. Since we decided to spend two weeks here to “rest and relax” from three months of travel we had plenty of time to slow down and take it all in. A great side effect from settling in for a couple of weeks is the unexpected opportunities that have presented themselves.
After doing a little research and a little haggling we ended up booking a 3-day/2-night excursion from Marrakech to the Sahara Desert for only 600 MAD a person, around $60 American. After spending a lot of time together with other people that booked the trip, we learned most people paid around 900 MAD ($90) per person; we got a great deal for sure!
It was an early morning the day of departure, up at 5:45, breakfast at 6:30, out the door by 7:00. When we arrived at the Jamaâ el Fna, we were put on a van and we waited. Quickly we learned we were on Moroccan time, which means, no time schedule. Finally, the large van was filled with 19 people and we were on our way!
From the beginning the entire eclectic group clicked. We made friends fast and the laughing began. We were a van filled with like-minded, well-traveled people from all over the world. Countries represented were America (us), Canada, Sweden, Spain, Sicily, England, and Australia.
On the way to our first destination we stopped a few times for photo-ops, bathrooms, refreshments and to just stretch our legs. This was much needed because there would be a lot of driving during this trip. The Sahara is on the other side of Morocco. We noticed that everyone was selling geodes on the side of the road for next to nothing! Kevin knows a lot of designers and clients would fill a suitcase full of them.
After stopping for lunch we headed to Aït Ben Haddou, a Berber city 235km east of Marrakech. Berbers are the tribal people of Morocco. The homes that you see will hold up to 20+ people form a single family. We then took a moment to soak in the sun and enjoy the signs of the city from afar before crossing the “Berber Bridge” to make our way into the city and explore her many winding streets.
Inside the city there were many local families that owned shops and markets. We were invited into a man’s home to watch him demonstrate making sugar art. He painted sugar with pigments on paper and then cooked it over and open flame to reveal the art.
Back in the van and on the road to Taourirt Kasbah, our next destination. Taourirt Kasbah is a UNESCO world heritage site and is mostly in ruins. We did not go inside, however, after reading many reviews about the place, it’s probably best we did not waste our time. The highlight of this stop was we a local street musician stopped by our group and began to play a song for us. “How are you, how are you,” the title we gave the made up song, became our theme song the rest of the trip, we could not stop laughing with joy.
Our final pit stop was in the Valley of the Roses. It was not the time of year to see anything bloom, however, we were greeted by a beautiful sunset. By this time, we were all a little worn out from a long day of driving. We enjoyed the super moon rising as we made our way to the final stop of the day.
Our accommodation for the evening was a hotel nestled in the Gorges du Dadés. There was almost no light, and you could see the starts very clear. We settled into our chilly room and headed to the bar, time to relax! At the bar and during dinner we began to get past the introductory small talk and have more in depth conversations. As one of our van mates put it, “The universe knew what it was doing when it put us all on the van together.”
Today we got to sleep in until 6:30am, a real treat from the day before (we got jokes). After eating breakfast and enjoying the views from the rooftop of the hotel we headed out for another day of adventure.
Our first stop of the day was in the village of Tingher. Here we toured through a four-family community farm to get an understanding of how they work the land and make a living. Community farms are normal throughout Morocco.
After strolling though the farm, we made our way into the town. While in the town we were invited into a local rug makers home to share tea and learn how his Berber family have been hand making rugs on a vertical loom for generations. Each rug can take up to 6 months to make by hand. The quality and craftsmanship was unreal. Kevin was in designer heaven!
Following this, we decided to purchase a few Keffiyehs, a headdress Berber people use to protect themselves from the sun. This would be needed for the Sahara Desert later. We learned how to properly wrap around our heads and headed to enjoy a fantastic lunch on a great patio with the best of company.
Now that our bellies were full we drove to the Gorges Toudra and took a short hike between the towering walls of rock. The driver said this was like their Grand Canyon of Morocco. It was beautiful.
With the Gorges Toudra in the rearview mirror, we journeyed on to the much anticipated Sahara Desert. You could visibly see the landscape changing with every kilometer we drove closer. When we arrived, the mood was nothing short of ecstatic. We put on our backpacks, hopped on our camels and rode off into the sunset over the Sahara Desert. An incredible experience.
An hour and a half passed before we made it to our camp site for the evening. We unloaded into the tents and explored around before dinner. Dinner was a family style traditional Berber dinner with chicken tajine, bread, rice and after dinner fruit.
After dinner we decided to hike up the tallest dune next to the camp to see the desert at night. The dine was a lot taller then it looked and the hike was hard because of the unstable sand but euphoric when reached the top. Because of the light form the super moon, we were able to see the desert go for what seemed like forever. This was one of those moments to never forget.
The hike back down was a lot easier with the momentum of gravity. We gathered with the rest of the group around the fire and listened to the two Berber men playing songs for us. We were all having such a great time, we even got up and dance around the fire while clapping our hands to the beat. The perfect ending to a fantastic day.
We woke up to see the sunrise. We decided to hike back up the tall dune to get the best view of the sun showing its face for the first time today. It was so peaceful and picturesque.
With the sun in the sky it was time to gear up, hop back on the camels, and head to breakfast.
On the 12-hour journey back to Marrakech we retraced our path that lead us to the Sahara. We made a few stops along the way through the twisty and mountain roads, but all-in-all we hunkered down and powered through to get back to Marrakech.
Our journey to the Sahara was long and it was full of all sorts of wonderful sights along the way. This was a journey we will never forget.
Sri Lanka has been full of surprises. It was never on our “must visit” list of countries. However, when taking a gap year to see the world we knew we would have to be open to going where the cheap flights, busses, boats, trains or cars would take us. We are so glad that one of those flights landed us on this special tear-drop shaped island off the Southern coast of India.
One of the major highlights of our trip to Sri Lanka was getting to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Polonnaruwa, we know, it’s a mouth full to try and say. Polonnaruwa is a city in the North Center Province of Sri Lanka. At one point, like many other cities in Sri Lanka, it was the capital of the country. In fact, it is the second most ancient capital. Today it is a mass of ruins crawling with cute little monkeys and travelers like us exploring the past.
We decided the best way to explore this city was by our favorite means of transportation, the bicycle. We would recommend this. For only 300 lkr per person (about $2 USD) we set off to explore the ruins…or so we thought. At the entrance we were turned away because we did not have a ticket. It turns out that you have the by the tickets from the Archeological Museum 1km back into town. After shelling out 3750 lkr ($25 USD) each, we biked back to the entrance and started to discover the 5 areas of this wonderful ancient site.
1. The Royal Palace Grounds
This part of the city contains the Royal Palace, Council Chamber and the Kumara Pakuna (bathing pool). They say first impressions are all you get and we were wowed.
The Royal Palace was thought to have been a 7-story high palace in it’s time but now only stands as a three story ruin. Records saw there use to be up to 1000 rooms in this grand palace. A fantastic way to start our exploring.
The Council Chamber was where the King’s throne use to be. As you walk the few flights of stairs you are greeted by two stunning carved lions.
We would not suggest taking a dip in the stagnant bathing pool, however, it was awesome to see the remnants of how this civilization would gather in communal bathing.
The Quadrangle was one of our favorites. The entire area is sacred ground so we had to remove our shoes and hats. Shoulders and knees are not supposed to be shown either, so out of respect, people will wrap a scarf around their waist or throw a shawl over their shoulders. Sri Lanka is a hot country and the ground you are walking on is stone and gravel, so at times we would need to find a shaded spot to cool our feet off.
The vatadage in the Quadrangle is an 18 meter round relic house. Their are four entrances that lead to the central chamber which houses four Buddha statues. At the base of the northern entrance is a moonstone that is the best in all of Polonnaruwa.
The Thuparama Image House is one of the few buildings where you can see a roof still intact. This building has survived for over 900 years and takes some maintenance to keep up appearances.
Atadage Dalada Maligaya is where the Tooth Relic of the Buddha was kept in Polonnaruwa. This would have been a very sacred place where people would have come to worship and meditate. The Velikkara pillar of inscription tells the story of protection of the Relic of the Tooth.
Sathmahal Prasadaya is the most popular square shaped stupa in all of Sri Lanka. It’s seven-stories high and is a defining structure in the Quadrangle.
Nissanka Latha Mandapaya is a building featuring fine stone carved pillars shaped like a stork topped with a lotus flower. They are a fun and unique feature in Polonnaruwa.
Gal Potha is the “Stone Book” which tells of King Nissanka Malla (1187-1196). It describes his life as the ruling king and why he was eligible to be king of Sri Lanka. The stone is 26’10” x 4’7″ and weighs around 25 tons. Pictures is the side showing a beautiful carving of two elephants showering the Hindu goddess Lakshmi.
3. The Outskirts
These few sites were a little off the beaten path but we had bikes so it was not a problem hitting all the spots.
Shiva Devale No. 2 is the oldest structure in Polonnaruwa and is virtually unchanged from when it was constructed.
Manik Vehera is one of the oldest stupas (a domed shaped structure erected as a Buddhist shrine) in the ancient city. It is small compared to the other stupas in Polonnaruwa but still packs a punch.
The Pabalu Vehera stupa is one of mystery. It is unknown when and who built this unique shaped building. Traditionally stupas have only four image houses surrounding them, however, Pabalu has nine.
4. Northern City
The largest area in Polonnaruwa is the Northern City. Here is where you will find notable sites such as Rankoth Vehera, Kiri Vehara, Alahana Pirivena, and Lankatilaka temple.
Ronkoth Vehera is huge. It’s a 54 meter high stupa whos name translates to “Golden Pinnacle Stupa.” It is one of the most iconic stupas in Polonnaruwa.
Lankatilake temple houses a colossus size carving of the buddha. The power of it’s grand scale is matched by the remaining walls surrounding the sacred ground. Across are the monastic ruins of Alahana Pirivena where the monks would have lived.
Kiri Vehera, or “the milk stupa,” is only 30 meters tall but is hundreds of years older than the more recognized Rankoth Vehera. It is estimated to be from the 6th century BC.
5. Gal Vihara
The final area of the ancient royal ruins of Polonnaruwa was a site to be seen.
Gal Vihara is a buddhist rock temple with four buddhas carved from a single piece of granite rock. It is considered the best example of carvings from it’s time.
Not knowing what to expect as we rode the bus from Dambulla to Polonnaruwa turned out to be an awe inspiring experience. Even though the day was scalding hot and at times we felt exhausted by the sun, we had a fantastic time in Polonnaruwa.
Today we were reflecting on our day spent at the only remaining wonder of the ancient world. Some people would say that an entire day is entirely too long to spend seeing the pyramids, we beg to differ. Our approach was to take our time, explore every nook and cranny we could find, and soak it all in. Here is our guide on how to visit the Pyramids of Giza.
Where to stay:
The current climate of Egypt can be worrisome and because of this we recommend staying in a western owned hotel as close to the pyramids as possible. We stayed at the Le Méridien Pyramids which is a Starwood property so we knew we could rely on staying there. Most hotels near the pyramids will run you between $45-$75 USD/night.
How to get there:
You can get to the pyramids by many forms of transportation. We recommend Uber. It’s the safest and easiest way to get there and will only cost you around 130 EGP ($7 USD) each way if you are staying in Cairo. The plus side is you do not have to deal with haggling a price with a taxi and then feeling pressured to tip or navigating the hectic public transit routes. However, if you are wanting to take the bus find the 355 or 357 route and if you are taking the Metro, Line 2 will take you to Giza and from there you would need to walk a few kilometers or hail a taxi.
Cost to visit:
The cost to visit is dependent on what you want to do. The general admission into the complex itself is 80 EGP (Egyptian pounds) per person, roughly $4.50 USD, a steal in our opinion. You will also have to decide right then if you want to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu. This will cost you 200 EGP per person ($11 USD). There are some other sites you can purchase tickets to get into at the ticket counter, however, they were not open to enter when we went. We did some asking around and it turns out their is nothing inside of them anyway. The only one worth going into is the Great Pyramid of Khufu.
Getting around inside:
Once inside be prepared to be harassed relentlessly by people claiming you have to show them your ticket (which you don’t), vendors trying to sell you post cards or souvenirs (which you don’t need), guides selling their services to take you around the complex (wikipedia knows more then them), and men on camels trying to sell you a camel, horse or buggy ride around the complex (maybe later).
After shaking off all of the people, we decided to first explore on our own by foot. We are both in good shape so taking on the task of walking the very large area of the pyramid complex was not intimidating. This also gave us the opportunity to get away from the crowds hitting the “hot spots” and the vendors that accompanied them.
Other ways you can get around are by camel, horse, or carriage. At one point we ended up taking a ride on two Arabian horses for the experience. It was the best way to get back to the beginning of after we had walked across the entire complex. The cost for any of these forms of transportation should be 50 EGP ($2.75 USD) per person. Never more! The ride will usually include a stop at some photo destinations along the way. Of course we tipped the guide afterwards to thank him for a fun experience.
5 Dos and 5 Don’ts:
It is easy to fall into the tourist trap so here are the dos and don’ts to follow when visiting.
DO bring food and water. The pyramids are in the desert which means you will dry out quickly. With all the people who will pester you through the day, none of them are food vendors so be sure to pack a lunch or bring snacks for when hunger hits and water for the thirst.
DO wear a hat or sunscreen. Unless you want to hang out in the shadows of the pyramids all day, you will encounter a lot of sun. SPF is your best friend for a long day at the pyramids.
DO go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Climbing inside the inner chamber was a fun experience. This is the only time you may be at the pyramids so be sure to enjoy every moment.
DO ride a camel, horse, or carriage. It seems touristy (and it is) however, the guide will take you out to the best photo spots and you will enjoy the wind blowing through your hair.
DO take lots of photos!
DON’T under any circumstance rush your visit. It’s easy to take a few pictures from the vantage points and say you have seen the pyramids, but truly experiencing them will be an everlasting memory to cherish.
DON’T climb on the pyramids. There are no climbing signs everywhere but people ignore that and crawl all over them. Respect this world wonder so they can be around another 4500 years.
DON’T let the harassers peddling stuff ruin your experience. As long as you do not say anything back to them and walk away, they will not bother you any longer. It felt like they had their own “turf” and once we got a certain distance they would stop following. The also are very intense near the entrance, as soon as you get away from that, they are fewer and farther between.
DON’T talk to anyone other than who you are traveling with. Usually you will be asked 1000 times “Where are you from?” The second you answer, they will continue to talk to you and give you advise, information and directions. They will expect a tip even after giving you information you did not want.
DON’T ride a camel, horse or carriage if it looks like the animals have been mistreated. We know it’s hard to tell sometimes, but when it is an obvious situation of mistreatment, find another person with a better treated animal.
At the end of the day the most important thing to remember to to enjoy the moment. Let the fact that the pyramids you have seen on TV, watched in Movies, and read about in books are within arms reach.
We let our time at the pyramids wash over us and soak into our memories forever. We hope that they will be here for our grandchildren to see and enjoy just as we have.
We are two en route to soak in life’s most amazing moments
Meet Juno & Okra. These are the four-legged fur babies we love and adore, and now we have to leave them behind. Going through the process of what we were going to do with them was emotionally difficult. However, it had to be part of the process.
Juno is a six year old rat terrier mix. We first rescued her in 2011 and she quickly became our little girl. She has lived with us since our first home, a condo in Oak Lawn, to now, our extended stay hotel. Along the way we entered her into the Cutest Dog in North Texas contest and she made it to the top 4 dogs. She officially became the cutest mutt in north Texas in our eyes. We tried getting another dog, but Juno liked having us all to herself. After a few years we decided a partner in crime was not in the cards for Juno, or so we thought…
Okra, the accidental partner in crime, was a dog from the streets. One Saturday, Kevin was driving home through the neighborhood and saw this dog running down the middle of the street just as happy as could be. After chasing her for three blocks and bribing her with he leftover crumbs from his blueberry muffin, he finally caught her. The moment Okra leaped through the door of our home and met Juno they were best of friends! Our chocolate brown Chiweenie, has now been part of the family for just over a year. It’s funny how the unexpected happenings in life become the happiest.
When looking at every decision we had to make when talking about traveling the world, we knew that the dogs would be one of the most difficult. At first we thought we would look into trying to take them with us. We knew they would want to see the world! Correction, Okra would want to see the world, Juno is a little scaredy-cat, but she would survive.
We found that taking our dogs with you around the world is almost impossible. A lot of countries will keep your dog in quarantine until they give them a clean bill of health. For example, in New Zealand you are required to have an import permit you have to get prior to arriving and our dogs would be quarantined for a minimum of ten days. Additionally, if we had a certain breed of dog, they would have been banned outright. Things like this would not only make our WTR travels much more difficult it would not be fair for Juno and Okra.
Aside from taking them with us, the solution that made most sense was finding them a new home. This was an important decision to make. First there are a number of factors we had to consider when narrowing down potential new homes for the dogs. We had to decide if we wanted them to stay with a friend, family or someone completely new. Fortunately, we both come from pet loving families, however, seeing if someone will keep your dogs for an indefinite amount of time is a lot to ask. In the end Kevin’s Dad and Step-Mom agreed to watch Juno and Okra. They already have two big outside dogs, two small inside dogs, and a cat. Two more dogs would not be too difficult. Kevin also has a teenage brother and sister who live there which would be great for the dogs. Specifically, Kevin’s brother is naturally drawn to animals and will be a protector of our dogs.
The hardest truth we had to come to terms with is the fact we may never get our dogs back. We are aware that over the course of a year, our family may become very attached to Juno and Okra and it would be wrong for us to come back and take them away.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is what is best for the dogs. We feel confident in knowing that they will be provided for and loved while we are gone. We will miss our girls very much but are excited to come back and tell them about our awesome adventures.
We started our journey waking up at 5:45am to get ready and head out the door by 6:15. Its times like this where we are glad to have perfected the “shower and go” routine. After walking 20 minutes to St. Andrew’s Church in Dublin to catch our coach we departed at 6:40am.
On the way to the cliffs we passed by a large field where they filmed the scene in Braveheart where the Irish army runs down and join the Scotts! Where’s the blue and white face paint when you need it. As we continued or trek onward we had a proper Irish soundtrack in the background, fiddles, flutes and all. The tone for the day was set.
A few hours later we made it to the Cliffs of Moher! It was a spectacular day with clear blue skies and shining sun. A day like this is a rarity in Ireland and one we would relish in. Upon arrival we set off on a 45 minute hike along the cliffs.
The first stop on our hike was O’Brien’s Tower. It was built in 1835 as an impressive tea house. It is now the tallest point on the cliffs and is used as an observation tower. Near here the cliffs rise around 214 meters (702 ft.)
After a quick stop at the tower we continued on our hike. At some points we were hiking right along the edge of the Cliffs. Every now and then our breath was taken away with those picture perfect moments.
The path was a slick and muddy so we both got a little mud on our hands, down the legs of our pants, and a good amount on our shoes. They say not to get too close to the edge because the cliffs can come crashing down, but we couldn’t resist.
Even with a slip here and there, we had such a blast. We made sure to take our time and enjoy the scenery. The end of our hike came to a crux with a view we will never forget.
After spending some time relaxing with a great view, basking in the sun, and listening to the waves crash against the cliffs, we made our way back to the start. It was time to hop on the coach and head off for more sightseeing.