beach

Beach Time in Portugal

Last June when we finished the school year, we started the long trek from Kuwait back to Minnesota.  The school books our flights to and from Kuwait each year, and they usually book all of our flights using Lufthansa Air.  Lufthansa has a sweet policy on layovers.  Here’s how it works: when you book a flight with Lufthansa you can extend your layovers for FREE.  Meaning that our flight path took us from Kuwait to Frankfurt before it took us back to the U.S. Using Lufthansa’s layover policy we were able to extend our stay in Europe for 6 days to soak up some time on the beaches of Portugal, before we headed home for our whirl wind of a summer.  IMG_7102We convinced six of our friends to join us on the Southern Coast of Portugal, in an area known as Algarve.  We rented a beach house with amazing views for dirt cheap.  Our vacation began once we landed in Lisbon, where we grabbed two rental cars and drove a few hours from the capital, down to the beach.
IMG_7103We very purposefully planned nothing to do on this vacation!  We just enjoyed the stunning views over the ocean, played cards, bar-b-qued, and stayed up late listening to music and laughing with friends.  
IMG_7146My words aren’t really going to be able to describe how beautiful this area was, so I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

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IMG_7154 IMG_7155 IMG_7156 IMG_7157Friends + Sunshine + Exploring a New Country = a Fantastic Vacation  Thanks for the great time crew, I would travel with any of you, anywhere, anytime.

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Boat Tour in Portugal

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The group heading out to sea.

While we were in Portugal last summer, we mostly sat on the beach with our friends, looking at the ocean, and soaking up the sun.  One day though we hopped into our rental cars and drove a half hour to the coastal town of Faro.  Once we got there, we walked up and down the boardwalk and saw what tour options there were for tourists.  IMG_7114After reviewing our options, we decided to take a boat tour of the caves in the surrounding area! Our friend Niamh’s cousins were coincidentally in Portugal at the same time we were, so we were able to fill the entire boat with just our group.   As we headed out of the Marina the blue skies and jutting cliffs were just what we were hoping to see.  The pictures just don’t quite do this natural phenomena justice.

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Private beaches along the coast.

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Niamh and Lauren showing off their cute life jackets!

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Mitch looking super serious on the boat ride.

 

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Mitch & Adam, the day after the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.

Hilton Membership

One change we decided to make in our lives this school year was to get a membership at the Hilton Resort.  The Hilton is a super fancy hotel, very close to our apartment, that offers an option for people to purchase a membership to use their facilities.  Our membership includes access to an incredible spa, multiple pools, private white sand beach, paved walking paths, a gym, tennis courts, and even fitness classes!

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The main pool at the Hilton.

We decided not to purchase a membership last year because we wanted to get out and do some exploring around Kuwait.  However with a baby on the way in a few weeks, we knew this would be the perfect place to do some relaxing.  We also wanted to have a nice outdoor space that we could spend time at, that was close to home, for those days when we need to get out of our apartment.

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Looking out towards the beach from one of the garden areas.

So far this week we have been to the Hilton 3 times to work out, relax in the Spa, and float in the pool.  It seems like every time we are walking to the car to leave I say to Mitch, “I am so happy we have this membership!”

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The Hilton Spa….otherwise known as a pregnant ladies dream come true

We are not going away for our fall break this year, as it will be too close to my due date, so we planning on spending A LOT of time at the Hilton enjoying our own little “staycation.”  Our “staycation” will not only involve a lot of time at the pool and the spa, but I think it will also include a Mother-To-Be massage for me!

FAQ’s of the Summer

When we were back in the United States this summer, we had a great time hanging out with friends and family!  We were able to reconnect with a lot of people and do a lot of catching up.  People were excited to hear about our experiences in Kuwait and to learn more about our lifestyle overseas.  Interestingly, most people asked many of the same questions.  Thus, I decided to compile a list of what I’m calling, “FAQ’s of  the Summer!”

Is Kuwait safe?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes!  Kuwait is a very safe country, and I can honestly say that I have never felt unsafe at any time since we have been here.  The people here are fabulous, kind, genuine, and sincere.  We’ve met some incredible people who have been so welcoming to us.  Before we moved to Kuwait last year, I made a promise to Rachel.  I told her that if either of us ever felt unsafe, we would immediately board a plane, and leave the country.  I reassured her that we are always only one flight away from leaving.

Are you going to have Baby J in Kuwait?

Yes, we are having the baby in Kuwait!  Believe it or not, nearly 350,000 babies are born every day, all over the world, and only a small fraction of them are born in the United States.  Babies are born in the jungles of South America, in the deserts of Africa, and the 5 star luxury hospital we go to in Kuwait.  Our doctor is fabulous, the hospital is excellent, and the care we receive there is top notch. Neither of us have any reservations about having our baby here.

Is Baby J going to be an American even though he is going to be born in Kuwait?

Yes, he will be an American and will have an American passport.  The United States is the ONLY country in the world, that gives birthright citizenship. (Meaning that if you are born in the U.S. you automatically become a citizen).  Baby J is just going to have a cool birth certificate in life that is called a “Birth Abroad Certificate” indicating that he was born abroad, but still has citizenship in the United States.

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When are you going to move back to the United States?

Right now we have no plans on returning to the United States.  We are currently in the second year of our two year contract in Kuwait.  At the end of the year we can decide to resign another contract here, move to another country, or return to America.

What is your favorite country that you guys have traveled to last year?

Mitch: For me, it was definitely the Maldives! It was such a beautiful and magical place with the best beaches I’ve ever seen!  The white sand beaches and the crystal clear water were awesome, and it was such a relaxing place. I highly recommend it!

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Rachel: Sri Lanka, I loved the option of being at the beach or in the jungle in such close proximity, and learning more about the people who survived the Tsunami 10 years ago was completely humbling.

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Where are you guys going to travel to this year?

So far, we only have two trips planned.  For our Holiday Break over Christmas & New Year’s, we are heading to Thailand!  We have a nice long winter break so we are looking forward to spending some time at the beaches.  My family is also planning on going to Thailand, so it will be fun to meet up with them and spend time together over the holidays.

The other trip that we have planned this year is to Oman.  We have a friend who has been living there for about 7 years, so we are excited to go visit him and his family, as well as see the beautiful countryside that Oman has to offer.  From what we hear, outdoor enthusiast’s dream location with all of the beautiful mountains and beaches.

We also have a week off for Spring Break, however we haven’t decided yet where we want to go.

 

This is a brief recap of some of the common questions we received over the summer.  Perhaps some of our readers also had similar questions, and if so, hopefully this provides a bit of insight for you.

 

Sri Lanka Through the Eyes of Mitch’s iPhone

I was going through the pictures on my iPhone the other day, and found a few candid shots I took while we were in Sri Lanka. They are nothing special, just a few little tidbits I captured during our trip. Enjoy!

This is called a tuk tuk.  There are millions of these little micro-tricycles all around Sri Lanka. Since gas is so expensive, they are the most popular form of transportation in the country (2nd is a moped). They operate on a little 50cc engine and get good gas mileage. We rode these all over place and they are super cheap! A 5 minute ride would cost about $0.50.  The fun thing about them . . . . each one is personally decorated by the owner! There was a variety of colors, advertisements, posters, sound systems, etc. I would always pick the “coolest” looking one before we would hop in with the driver.

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Check out all the chrome man!

In Sri Lanka, they drive on the left hand side of the road.  It is always a little weird getting used to at first, but luckily we didn’t do the driving.

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The view from the back seat of a tuk tuk.

This was the sound system in one of the tuk tuks we rode in.  The driver was about 20 years old, and OBSESSED with Tupac! He decorated his entire tuk tuk in memory of him. There were posters, paintings, stickers, and all kinds of other stuff. Being Mr. Obvious that I am, I asked him, “Do you Tupac?” He smiled and responded, “You like?” After I nodded “yes,” he pumped up the sound system and we listened to “California Love” bumping through the speakers for the rest of our ride!

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Rachel jammin’ out to 2Pac!

This was the main road through the town of Unawatuna.  It is about the width of an alley back in the States. When a car would come down the street, everyone would have to pack to one side of the street so that it could pass. This is also a good view of all the tuk tuks lined along the roads.

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Beep Beep

Here is a cool panorama picture I took at Jungle Beach.  It is located on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, about a 15 minute tuk tuk ride from Unawatuna.  You have to hike down a dirt path for about 15 minutes to reach the beach.  It was a super nice beach, and very quiet compared to Unawatuna Beach.

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Jungle Beach

This sign was posted outside a small surfer bar in Unawatuna called Koha Surf Cafe & Lounge.  It was one of my favorite places, because they didn’t have any tables to sit at. Instead you took your shoes off, and climbed into like a king sized bed. There tons of cushions and pillows, and you just made yourself comfy there. A super hippy place, just how I like it!  I took advantage of the “free smiles” but didn’t want a hug.

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Free hugs & free smiles!

These little rigs were all over the streets and highways in Sri Lanka! they basically took the front end of a large garden tiller, put bigger tires on it, and attached a homemade trailer to ride around in.  I think they did it because it is so much cheaper to operate that little gas engine, rather than buying a pickup truck.

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Weirdest invention ever!

I know it’s 2015, and there is free wifi virtually EVERYWHERE . . . . . however I still get pumped when a place offers it.  I usually keep my excitement to myself.  However one night when we were looking for a place to chill at, I blurted out, “let’s go here, there’s free wifi!”  Rachel and our friends gave me a look of, “really dude? You get that excited over free wifi?”  Of course, from that point forward, it became the joke of our trip every time we saw another sign advertising free wifi!

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Woohoo, free wi-fi!

One of our favorite things about Sri Lanka was all of the fresh seafood!  Just about everyday for dinner, one of us was enjoying a plate full of fresh (and cheap) seafood.  All along the southern coast of the country, you would see these little fish stands on the side of the road.  The fisherman would literally park their boat on the beach, and unload their daily catch at their stand.

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My favorite was the fresh tuna!

During our time in Unawatuna, we had a chef come to our chalet to make us breakfast.  Everyday he said we were going to have sausage.  We quickly realized that the word “sausage” in Sri Lanka was not the greasy, fatty, pork that we so desired.  Instead it was a grilled Oscar Meyer hot dog that tasted like it was grilled the night before, then microwaved before breakfast.  Yuck!

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WAIT!!!! That’s a hotdog, not sausage!

There was so many fruit stands along the roadways too!  There were so many different kinds of exotic fresh fruit you could buy for a couple of nickels.  Our favorites were the mangos, papaya, bananas, coconuts, passion fruit, and pineapple.

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There was so much fresh fruit!

Our favorite place in Unawatuna was the Kingfisher Hotel & Restaurant.  They had the best food, best service, and was just a super nice place.  One night we were all sitting on the beach for dinner, when Rachel excused herself to the bathroom.  Moments later she returned with a look of disblief on her face!  She stumbled for the proper words to describe what she had just encountered . . . . a dog in the women’s bathroom!  Apparently, she opened the door and started walking into the dark bathroom when she heard a dog growling. She JUMPED back, turned my iPhone’s flashlight on, and realized there was a dog snuggling up to the toilet!  So she did what any tourist would do . . . . SHE TOOK A PICTURE!  (then used the men’s restroom).

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That dog must have had too many Lion Lagers the night before. He was snuggled up to the toilet all night!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from the beautiful beaches of the Maldives!

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The last few days here have been fantastic, as we wrap up our amazing 2.5 week Christmas break vacation!  We will be back in Kuwait in a few days, and will share our stories and pictures from the trip.  As we ring in the New Year, here is our view, as we contemplate our resolutions.

IMG_5371This view sure does make it easy to bump “travel more” to the top of the resolution list.

Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

The first stop on our Christmas Vacation was Unawatuna, Sri Lanka.  Unawatuna, pronounced just as it is written una-wa-tuna, is a small beach town on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.  Nearly all of our teacher friends who recommended Sri Lanka to us, said we had to spend time in Unawatuna! Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 6.08.39 AMWe heard it was the perfect spot to swim, lay on the beach, drink out of coconuts, and relax. IMG_5011 Unawatuna delivered on all of those promises and a few more that we weren’t expecting, like monkeys coming out from the jungle and checking us out during our breakfast. IMG_5005 We chose to stay at an Airbnb that was located “upstairs” in Unawatuna, a short Tuk Tuk ride up the hill from the beach into the jungle.   Our view was amazing, we were surrounded by jungle with a view of the Indian Ocean off in the distance.  So with a view like that, we spent as much time as possible sitting out on the deck and soaking in all the greenery that we have been desperately missing since we live in the desert.  On our second morning in Unawatuna, a brown adult male monkey decided to come and check out what we were up to while we ate breakfast on the deck. He swung his way from tree to tree and hopped right up onto the deck railing.  Even though the camera was sitting right on the table, Mitch was too excited by our visitor to snap any pictures.  The monkey stared at us for a few seconds before climbing the post on the deck to go to our friend’s Lauren and Adam’s deck to say hello to them as well.  Lauren and Adam were clearly aware that a monkey was nearby, as once the monkey started to make his way up to their deck, I began yelling like a crazy person: “MONKEY, MONKEY, LAUREN, MONKEY, ADAM, ADAM, ADAM, MONKEY.”  The nice part about my crazy yelling is that Adam reciprocated my crazed enthusiasm by answering with “MONKEY, MONKEY, HOLY SHIT, I SEE A MONKEY!” IMG_5004 After Mr. Monkey made his way across Adam and Lauren’s deck, I had composed myself enough to snap a couple of pictures, but none of them would truly do justice for how close this buddy had come to investigate what we were up to. Once he was at a safe distance from us, we heard a bunch of crashing in some nearby trees.  Soon after, Mrs. Monkey and her three babies emerged and followed him from tree-to-tree making their way deeper into the jungle. IMG_4994 The beaches here are great, the views are beautiful, but sometimes it’s an unexpected breakfast guest that makes the trip worth it.