Hi, I’m Mark, and welcome to Mark's Travel Blog!

 

I created this site to share stories and photos with family and friends but found that other people were also interested in some of my posts.  If that's you, welcome!  I hope you enjoy the site.

 

Happy travels!

Mark

 

 

 

Adventures in Kenya (Part 3 of 6): "Photos Take Away Your Soul"

May 20, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Photo Day in Kipsaina, Kenya

The bleeding myth that I shared in my previous post was one of many misconceptions that the local population had about white people, Western culture, and technology.  Another myth held in some of the more remote villages (which I only encountered a few times in very small communities such as the photo below) was the idea that, if someone takes a photo of you, it takes away your soul or some variant of that belief.

 

 


For this Mythbusters episode, a community leader asked me to come to the church in the village of Kipsaina the following Sunday and take photos of anyone who was interested.  I assumed that 10 or 20 people might show up.  I was wrong.  Well over 100 people showed up, dressed in their Sunday best.  Entire classes of schoolchildren lined up, according to their grade or age, to take class photos.

Group photo in Kipsaina, Kenya

 

Families and friends assembled for small group photos.

Small group photo in the church of Kipsaina, Kenya

 

Someone had even set up a motorcycle as a prop for people to sit on and look cool as I took their picture.

Motorcycle for photos

 

Fortunately, I brought many rolls of film.  I had an old-school camera at the time (1996), so I had to send in the rolls of film to get them developed.  To be safe, I shipped all of the rolls to my parents back in the United States.  About a month later, I received a box full of photos.

 

As I distributed the pictures, it was clear that many of the people had never seen themselves in a photo ... which was really the main reason why the community leader had organized a photo day in the first place.  There was a lot of laughter, pointing, and smiles.  It was a blast and well worth the effort.

 


 

Another stereotype that pervades Africa is the previously mentioned idea that, if you’re white, you’re rich.  I once asked someone why they believed that to be true.  The answer caught me by surprise: He had seen the TV show Beverly Hills, 90210.  What more evidence do you need?  Case closed.


My heart sank when I heard that people had actually seen Beverly Hills, 90210 in rural Africa.  Why did that show have to be the baseline for U.S. wealth?  So I asked the next logical question: “How in the heck did you manage to see that?”  Well, one of the local outdoor “cinemas” showed it on occasion.  By cinema, you should not be envisioning red velvet curtains, large buckets of popcorn, and comfy chairs with cup holders for your giant fountain drink.  Instead, think of a small TV, propped up on crates and attached to what looks like a car battery, with a bunch of old patio chairs scattered in front of it.  The cinema owner or renter charges admission to anyone who wants to gather around to watch whatever show or soccer game finds its way to the TV after manipulating
the rabbit ears.  Apparently, the stars aligned so that Beverly Hills, 90210 found its way to rural Kenya.  I also learned that The Dukes of Hazzard had been seen by quite a few people.  You can decide if that’s good or bad.


Of course, the long list of misconceptions and stereotypes worked both ways.  When I arrived in Kenya, I was armed with an extensive arsenal of preconceived notions and stereotypes about the local population that I believed to be true, based on Beverly Hills, 90210-like evidence.  Once I actually met people and gained firsthand experience of the local culture, many of my misconceptions were obliterated.  More on that topic in next week's post.
 

 

 

Mark Aspelin is a travel writer and author of two books who has enjoyed a wide variety of adventures in his travels to over 100 countries (so far) and all 50 U.S. States.  Mark lives in the mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

   

 

 


Adventures in Kenya (Part 2 of 6): Wear Thick Socks

May 13, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Wear Thick SocksWear Thick SocksProtecting Against Ticks by Tucking Pants into Socks
 

In my last post I shared with you the surreal experience of having a long line of schoolchildren waiting to shake my hand as I would be the first white person that many of them had ever touched.  It was a great experience that I'll never forget.  But I should confess that there's a backstory to that experience that you probably won't find all that impressive.  

 

Many people find it helpful to go through life with a daily mantra to guide them and keep them on track.  Mantras like "Om," "Thy will be done," and "Be the change you wish to see in the world" are common examples.  My mantra in rural Africa was often an inspiring "Don't touch your face."  This was the lofty thought that often crossed my mind while shaking the hands of children who had never touched a white person.  I know ... I'm truly an inspiration.

 

Why did that thought cross my mind?  Because I'd seen the local toilets - think ramshackle outhouse with a hole in the ground, two well-worn spots for your feet, and a questionable bucket of water to clean your butt afterwards ... with your hand.

 

 

Before I entered one of those outhouses, I always did a quick scan of the floor, walls, and ceiling to look for snakes, spiders, and other unmentionables before committing to the journey to enter. Once my feet were in place, my goal was to not look too closely at anything at all and get out of there as quickly as possible.

 

Toilet paper did not exist in these remote outhouses. For that matter, neither did sinks, running water, or electricity. Your choice was to either use the perilous water bucket or skip the cleaning part altogether. The latter seemed to be a popular choice among many of the young children. Heck, many of the kids didn’t even bother using the outhouse! On plenty of occasions, I had the joy of witnessing young children on the path in front of me suddenly stop, squat down to do their business, pull up their pants, and merrily carry on as if nothing had happened, leaving little landmines to dodge.

 

Faced with this stark reality, I always carried a stash of toilet paper in my pocket. (Well, almost always.) I remember two notable instances where I forgot this prized possession. One instance forced me to use the dreaded bucket. The second instance warrants a story.

 

I woke up one morning with some “intestinal distress,” which didn’t surprise me given the risky food and water that I was exposed to on a regular basis. But, on this particular day, I had plans to meet with two community leaders to get a tour of some local conservation projects. Since there were no phones (this was 1996), and the people I intended to meet were several miles away on foot, I had no easy way to reschedule.

 

I reluctantly put on my hiking boots, made the trek to the neighboring village, and met my colleagues as planned. As we made our way to one of the conservation project sites, I really had to go the bathroom. There were no public facilities in the area and no easy place to squat down in private, so they took me to a nearby farm and asked the owner if I could use their outhouse.


Relieved to receive the green light, I told my colleagues, “Go ahead, and I’ll catch up with you.”  Their response was a distressing, “No, no. We will wait for you here.”


Great.


I felt like I was about to burst, so I accepted my impending humiliation and stepped inside. What followed was a classic bout of explosive diarrhea, and the community leaders enjoyed front-row seats for the fireworks. Still, I felt relieved … until I realized that I didn’t have any toilet paper with me. My eyes darted to the water bucket in the corner, and my heart sank when I realized that it was empty. Not good. In desperation, I took off my underwear and used it to wipe.


Unfortunately, there was no garbage can or easy place to hide or bury the evidence. I felt that it would be rude to throw it in the toilet for someone else to fish out later, while also realizing that it’s generally considered uncool to emerge from an outhouse with a pair of filthy underwear in your hand. I decided that the only way to escape with a tiny shred of dignity was to hike up one of my pant legs and stuff it in my hiking sock.


I emerged with my best poker face and said, “Okay, thanks for waiting. Let’s go.”

 

So, what's the moral of this life-changing story?  Whenever you're traveling in remote parts of the world, always care spare toilet paper or, at the very least, wear thick socks!

 

 

Mark Aspelin is a travel writer and author of two books who has enjoyed a wide variety of adventures in his travels to over 100 countries and all 50 U.S. States.  Mark lives in the mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which serves as a great home base for his blog, New Mexico & Beyond (www.nmbeyond.com or www.markstravelblog.com).

   

 


Adventures in Rural Kenya (Part 1 of 6): "Touch me. I won't bleed."

May 06, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

A line of young children waited outside of the doorway of a mud hut with a thatched roof. With bare feet, dirty clothes, and school-issued bright-blue sweaters, the children smiled and laughed as they anxiously fidgeted. What was the occasion? These kids were lined up for the opportunity to touch a white person for the first time, and I was that white person in the hut.

 

The year was 1996, and I was in a remote part of the Western Highlands of Kenya, near the border with Uganda. I was working as a representative of the International Crane Foundation (as in birds, not machinery). The International Crane Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of cranes and the wetlands that cranes depend on. I had just completed an internship as an aviculturist at the organization’s captive breeding facility in Baraboo, Wisconsin, when I received an unexpected phone call from George Archibald, co-founder and chief executive officer. George asked me if I would be interested in working on a project in Kenya. After picking my jaw off the floor, I thought about it for two seconds and accepted; a few weeks later, I was on a plane to Africa.


My work in rural Kenya gave me the opportunity to meet many wonderful people who live under challenging circumstances, far off the grid. One day, while walking along a dusty trail with a community leader, a woman passed by with a baby dangling from a colorful sling on her back. As soon as the baby saw me, he let out a shriek and started to cry from his perch.

 

I laughed and wondered aloud what that was all about. My colleague smiled and explained that it was very unusual to see a white person in that part of Kenya, so it was probably the first time that the young child had seen such a creature. He then went on to tell me that some of the young children in the village believed that, if they touched a white person, the white person would bleed. It certainly wasn’t a widely held belief, but it was still out there.

 

That last bit of information explained a few of my experiences while riding in those death traps known as “matatus.” A matatu is a privately owned vehicle that functions as a bus of sorts. Matatus come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. The only things that all matatus have in common are faulty brakes, reckless drivers, full loads, and loud horns. Where I worked, most of the matatus came in the form of small, beat-up pickup trucks with shells that covered the truck bed.  Aside from walking on foot or riding a bike, matatus were the most common form of transportation in the area.

 

The goal of the matatu owner is, of course, to make money. And the best way to make money is to pack the vehicle with as many people as possible on three long benches, which run along the three walls inside the shell. Next, the center aisle would be filled with people who had to stand with their back hunched under the low ceiling of the shell. Small animals were welcome in this area too. Luggage generally went on top of the matatu along with a few more people. Any remaining stragglers would climb up to form a row along the back bumper of the truck and hang on to the outside of the shell. The combination of faulty brakes, fast driving, and heavy loads predictably resulted in a lot of accidents and fatalities.

 


A typical matutu in the Western Highlands of Kenya

 

I was staying in a fantastic tent at Sirikwa Safaris, near Saiwa Swamp National Park, hosted by Jane Barnley.  There were no phones in the area (in 1996), so if I wanted to make a phone call or pick up mail, I had to squeeze into one of these matatus for the 30- to 60-minute drive to the nearest town called Kitale. This was before the days of widespread smart phones. To make a call, I would get in line at the post office to use one of a handful of phones—a process that could take another hour or two, depending on the line—so I didn’t make many calls.

 

My awesome tent at Sirikwa Safaris

 

The local matatus didn’t operate on a set schedule. When they were “full,” they departed, and “full” was determined by an aggressive matatu director who evaluated the amount of cash collected, the number of people clinging to some part of the vehicle, and the potential for more customers to arrive anytime soon. (“Soon” is a loosely defined word in Africa.)

 

If you paid the matatu director enough money, he could persuade the driver to depart, despite a relatively empty load. After collecting your payment, the director and driver would still try to pick up as many people as possible along the way, but at least the payment got the vehicle rolling towards your destination. Former aviculture interns who work in rural Africa aren’t high up on the salary ladder (I’m not sure the pay even qualifies you to be in the same room as the ladder), so I never paid the premium to get the vehicle rolling.

 

When I first arrived, the matatu directors usually tried to charge me a higher mzungu—“white-person” rate—compared to the other passengers, despite the fact that I looked anything but rich. In my dirty jeans, hiking boots, a well-worn shirt that was stained with daily applications of mosquito repellent, and with a hairstyle created after eight hours in a sleeping bag, my looks didn’t scream money. But I was white, and that’s all that matters in many parts of Africa. White equals rich. End of story.

 

My typical work outfit

 

After a few weeks, the matatu directors and drivers figured that I must be staying awhile, and they routinely greeted me with a local handshake and abandoned further attempts at price gouging. I paid the normal rate, climbed in, and waited for the matatu to be considered full. This could take five minutes, an hour, or more. You could only predict your arrival with a margin of error of one or two hours, assuming that you are traveling a short distance; the margin of error for long journeys was measured in days, not hours.

 

This was quite a change from where I had been living the previous year: Switzerland. In the land of mountains, chocolate, and fancy watchmakers, I could set my watch based on the arrival and departure of trains. In Africa, time is just a suggestion. If you arrived at your destination within a few hours of the estimated time, then you were on time.

 

As you may have gathered, seat selection was important in the world of matatus. The worst spots were usually the two corners where the benches met. If it was a busy day, you were virtually guaranteed to be smashed on both sides by the people seated next to you. Plus there was the bonus of having a few armpits stuck in your face from the people standing in the aisle, with their arms reaching up to the ceiling for balance. Seatbelts and air conditioning did not exist. It was hot, it was crowded, and the smell of body odor was strong. If someone coughed or sneezed, you would invariably wear and inhale whatever came out. Feeling lucky?

 

The best strategy that I could determine, other than walking, was to find a seat where I could stick my face as close as possible to an open window. But not all matatus had windows, let alone open ones. This is why I earned the local nickname “the mzungu who walks.” But, on rainy days or on journeys that were more than 6 miles roundtrip, I rolled the dice and hopped on a matatu.

 

Given that I was naïve, kind, and polite, I often found myself in one of the two undesirable corner spots, which should have guaranteed some serious body smashing. However, on several occasions, and particularly when children were seated next to me, I found that there was no body contact at all. It appeared as if the kids were contorting their bodies to avoid touching me. I couldn’t tell if they were just being polite or if I smelled bad, or both. But, after my colleague’s disclosure during that walk along the dusty trail, I now had a hunch that these kids didn’t want me to start bleeding in the matatu.

 

So there I was, standing in a mud hut, ready to shake hands with a long line of children to put the myth to rest. Most of the kids didn’t believe in the bleeding myth. They just wanted to shake hands with a mzungu for the first time. As the children entered the hut, they became quiet. Once they were at the front of the line, they looked up at me and smiled broadly. Some eagerly said hello and extended their hand while others waited for me to act first. Many of the kids were fascinated by my blue eyes and thick blond hair, which resembled a rat’s nest. I would smile and say “Jambo” or “Habari” as I reached out to shake hands. Each child’s smile would widen after hearing my terrible Swahili, and then we would shake hands.

 

Local schoolchildren in their blue uniforms

 

 

It wasn’t one of those elaborate, 30-second handshakes that you encounter in many parts of Africa, which include intricate hand maneuvers that end with a finger snap produced by using the other person’s finger. This was just a simple handshake. But it did the trick, and I didn’t bleed.



 

Mark Aspelin is a travel writer and author of two books who has enjoyed a wide variety of adventures in his travels to over 100 countries and all 50 U.S. States.  Mark lives in the mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which serves as a great home base for his blog, New Mexico & Beyond (www.nmbeyond.com or www.markstravelblog.com).
 

   

 


Very Early Retirement

April 29, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  

-- J.R.R. Tolkien

 

I’m a big fan of early retirement, just not in the normal way of thinking about it.  In my early 20s, I made a conscious decision to switch the order of my career and my retirement. I figured there was a good chance that I would work until the day I died, hopefully doing work I enjoy, so I might as well retire for a few years at age 23, and then focus on my career after my retirement.  In that way, I could do all of the crazy things I wanted to do while I was still healthy, single, and tolerant of long, uncomfortable bus rides with farm animals.

 

I learned this approach from a few Aussies and Kiwis whom I met when I was on my first backpacking trip in Europe. They convinced me of the wisdom of doing a long walkabout after graduating from school and before starting a family or career, for a duration of about six months to two years. (Not that I needed much convincing at the time.) It sounded like a solid plan to me.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t solid, but it was very appealing nonetheless. So that’s what I did, although my journey ended up taking three years to complete.

 

As soon as I passed my comprehensive exams to earn a Master of Science degree in biology from Creighton University, I was on a plane from Omaha, Nebraska, to Geneva, Switzerland. I didn’t even wait the extra few days to attend my graduation.

 

Why Switzerland? I wanted to be able to speak French, and I heard that people speak the language slower in Switzerland compared to France. That was a good enough reason for me. Plus, I was an avid hiker and mountain climber; in my mind, Switzerland was synonymous with mountains. So Switzerland it was.

 

My parents were a bit reluctant to support my idea at first, but as long as I was able to support myself financially while I traveled, they agreed. With their blessing, I was ready to start the “deliberate wandering” phase of my life. 

 

Even during these walkabout years, I had an agenda—albeit a vague one.  My goal was to visit 100 countries by the time I was 50 years old.  There was no magic in those numbers; 100 sounded like an impressive number, and 50 sounded old at the time. I figured that, if I visited 100 countries, I would have some good stories to tell, and I would hopefully acquire some nuggets of wisdom about myself and the world. Most importantly, I would have an opportunity to meet foreign women and drink exotic beer.

 

Later in life, I heard this concept articulated by Jim Rohn from a slightly different angle. (The women and beer parts were notably absent.) Jim had a mentor, John Earl Shoaff, who suggested that Jim set a goal of becoming a millionaire.  The reason?  For what it will make of him to achieve it.  The money part was irrelevant.

 

The greatest value in life is what you become, not what you get.  Set goals that will make something of you to achieve them. That’s solid advice, and I shamelessly use that line to justify my crazy trips.

 

At age 23, my plan was simple: Travel until I run out of money, find a random job abroad to save up for the next trip, and then repeat the process. I had no idea where I was going, and I didn’t care.  I just went with the flow and capitalized on opportunities as they came up.  I did that from May 1993 through August 1996.

 

What kind of work did I end up doing during that time?  Well, here’s the basic outline:

• Biology, math, and geography teacher for five months at the Gstaad International School in Gstaad, Switzerland—the most expensive school in the world at the time.

• Bartender for four months at The Boater, a rugby pub in Bath, England.

• Aviculturist at the captive breeding program at the International Crane Foundation to help raise all species of endangered cranes, including the whooping crane. This turned into an opportunity to go to Kenya and live in a tent for several months in the western highlands, where I worked on wetland conservation projects in and around Saiwa Swamp National Park.

 

You get the idea. These were great experiences, and I found it to be a priceless education. While I did a lot of wandering over those three years, I never felt lost.  I sometimes wonder why I ever stopped living that way. (Oh, yeah. Now I remember: family and debt.)

 

Fortunately, you can apply the “early retirement” concept to your life, and it doesn’t have to be anything extreme. Write down the things that you dream of doing or learning when you retire. Then make some changes in your schedule so you can start doing those things today, without dropping the ball on your commitments to your family, job, and so on.

 

Why wait until retirement to do the things you love to do? Set aside a few hours each week, and gradually increase the amount of time you spend “in retirement” throughout your life. When I reach the normal retirement age, I want to write, play music, exercise, enjoy quality time with my family, spend time in nature, and travel. And that’s precisely what I do today, just in smaller doses. I hope to allocate more time to do these things as I get older.

 

Start your early retirement today.

 

 

 

Mark Aspelin is a travel writer and author of two books who has enjoyed a wide variety of adventures in his travels to over 100 countries and all 50 U.S. States.  Mark lives in the mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which serves as a great home base for his blog, New Mexico & Beyond (www.nmbeyond.com or www.markstravelblog.com).

   

 

 

 


How to visit 15 countries in 20 days with a 10-year-old (Day 11): Monaco

January 06, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

 

 

 

An hour before the ferry arrived back in Toulon after our overnight journey from Bastia (Corsica), we were jarred awake by a deafening announcement alerting us that it was time for everyone to get out of our private cabins and leave the key in the door.  This was the same announcement that we encountered yesterday when we arrived in Bastia.  But this time, we decided to ignore the announcement since the only purpose we could determine was that it is intended to get people to spend money on breakfast and last-minute shopping.  We stayed in our room.  It proved to be a wise choice.  Once we could see from our window that land was approaching, we exited our room and joined the line of people gathering to exit the boat.  It was 8am and we were back in Toulon, France.  Once on land, we found our rental car, paid 53 Euro for the 1.5 days of parking, and were back on the road.  Our destination for today: Monaco.

 

The 2.5-hour drive to our hotel in Monaco took us through some nice scenery that included snow covered peaks on one side of the car and coastal views of Cannes, Nice, Antibes, and Cap D'Ail on the other.  We had great weather and it was an easy drive to get to Monaco.  

 

Home to about 40,000 residents, Monaco is the second smallest (by area) sovereign state in the world.  Only the Vatican is smaller.  In case you're wondering, Monte Carlo is one of the "administrative areas" of the Principality of Monaco and it's where the Monte Carlo Casino (of James Bond fame) is located.  Monaco is also home to the Monaco Grand Prix Formula One race.  And lots of money.  Monaco is one of the wealthiest and most expensive places in the world. 

 

As we weaved our way through the streets of Monaco, we eventually found our way to our hotel for the night: The Monte Carlo Bay Hotel and Resort.  It was an amazing place.  Erik was already in a state of shock by the quality of cars that he saw during the drive to the hotel, which including a drive by the McLaren showroom ... which was now on his list of top priority stops during our stay.  But the quality of the hotel just added to his state of bliss.  We checked in and were given room 731 - with nice views of the ocean and town.  Erik said it was the best hotel that he has ever been in.  I have to admit it was high up on my list too.  We were lucky to get a very good deal on the hotel, given that it was after the Holidays.  

 

Checking out our room upon arrival

Erik approves of our room

 

 

View from our balcony

 

 

After a refreshing shower with one of those nice rain shower heads that we've already enjoyed several times on this trip so far, we started walking into town to find that McLaren dealer.  It was pretty easy to find.  It was next to the Bentley, Ferrari, and Rolls Royce dealers.  Erik was in heaven. 

 

Which amazing car dealership to visit first?  Decisions, decisions ... 

 

 

Decision made - McLaren!

 

 

Even I was impressed, and I'm definitely not a car person, putting it mildly.  As a teenager I bought a very used VW Rabbit (white) as my first car.  I had a different car in college, but I don't even remember what kind of it was.  Let's just say it was a junker, putting it mildly.  By the end of my junior year it was missing a door handle on the driver's side so I had to enter through the passenger door.  And it stalled when I took right hand turns.  My fix was to put it in neutral, take the turn and then restart the car.  In my senior year, I got a good deal to buy my parents' used Chrysler LeBaron.  

 

As for the first new car that I ever bought ... my purchasing criteria was that I wanted something that I could sleep in and had a decent stereo.  I ended up with a Mercury Tracer station wagon - I didn't even see the car before buying it.  I was living in Switzerland at the time, and my parents found it for me.  At the dealer, the salesman demonstrated to my parents that he could lie down flat in the back.  Sold.  I bought that car and drove it into the ground.  Even today, I drive a Honda CRV.  Not exactly McLaren material.  

 

My 1994 Mercury Tracer station wagon in action ... every car lover's dream

 

 

Erik, on the other hand, is a car fanatic and seems to be able to identify the make and model of cars within a fraction of a second, with his eyes closed.  Ok, maybe he needs to see the car.  Regardless, he was a kid in a candy store in Monte Carlo ... a very expensive candy store.  I can't even afford to replace a side mirror on those cars.  But it was fun to see him run from one car to the next, in disbelief of what he was seeing.  It's sort of like me with rare birds.

 

I suggested that we have lunch outside on that street so that he could be on the lookout for cars.  We found the Song Qi Chinese Restaurant that ended up being way more "high-end" than I was used to for Chinese food.  Erik ordered sweet and sour chicken ... for 29 Euros, and I had a bento box type of thing that was top quality ... a type of roll with shrimp, sea bass, salad, and rooibos tea.  But the food was irrelevant to Erik.  He couldn't take his eyes off the cars on the road. 

 

A very distracted diner at Song Qi Restaurant

 

 

 

As for me, I had trouble taking my eyes off the menu cover.  Why, you ask?

  

The menu cover at the Song Qi Restaurant ... I told you.

 

 

Then it happened.  The moment Erik had been dreaming of before the trip ... he spotted a Lamborghini driving along the road.  It appeared to be an Aventador.  Erik was in shock.  About 20 minutes later, Erik spotted another bright orange Lamborghini Aventador.  He mentioned to me that his legs were shaking and his heart was racing.  He was so excited.  He said that it was the best sweet and sour chicken meal he'd ever had, all while spotting Lamborghinis and other fancy cars on the road.  It was a lot of fun to watch.  

 

Erik is in heaven with another Lamborghini siting

 

 

After lunch, we walked to the Japanese Garden across the street, but not for long.  Walking around a garden was of interest to me but was far down Erik's list of activities given the car situation on the street.  We exited the garden and walked along the street instead. 

 

A quick visit to the Japanese Garden 

 

 

We went inside a souvenir shop that had car logos on the window.  A minute later, Erik had found his dream iPhone case – a Lamborghini phone case that included a strip of carbon fiber.  It was 49 Euros, but he was happy to consider that to be his main souvenir from the trip, so I bought it.  After that purchase, he wanted to make a beeline to the room so that he could put his phone in the new case.  


 

Erik is very happy with his new Lamborghini phone case, but getting smile-fatigue after being in too many photos

 

 

 

After getting his phone safely ensconced in his new case, we decided to go downstairs to swim laps in the awesome indoor/outdoor pool. 

 

Sunset from our hotel, with a view of the expansive indoor-outdoor pool ... oh, and the Mediterranean Sea

 

 

After getting cleaned up, we walked back into town to see the harbor and walked up to the Fairmont Hotel, Hotel de Paris, and the Monte Carlo Casino.  There was an amazing Christmas display outside of the casino, along with more awesome cars parked outside, including a few Rolls-Royces and red Ferraris that had Erik's attention.  There are some mighty wealthy people in this city. 

 

Me looking robotic in front of a nice car and an amazing Christmas display

 

 

 

We decided that we weren’t really that hungry after our lunch at the Chinese restaurant.  Instead, we found a bakery and bought a loaf of bread, along with a profiterole for Erik (with chocolate rather than ice cream) and a vanilla éclair and a vanilla mille feuille for me.  We found a bench and sat outside, splitting a loaf of bread as our main course and then enjoying our tasty desserts.  It was certainly one of the cheapest dinners available in Monte Carlo. 

 

Our extravagant dinner in Monaco ... only missing a "Will work for food" sign.  Next time.

 

 

After that, we walked back to the room where I typed up this summary and downloaded the latest batch of photos from my camera, while Erik spent an hour giggling while looking at Pinterest pics that show silly text exchanges, and sharing the best ones with me.  

 

The end of a great day in Monaco.  The only bad part is that now Erik wants to move here.

 

Next up: San Marino

 

 

 

Mark Aspelin is a travel writer and author of two books who has enjoyed a wide variety of adventures in his travels to over 100 countries and all 50 U.S. States.  Mark lives in the mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which serves as a great home base for his blog, New Mexico & Beyond (www.nmbeyond.com or www.markstravelblog.com).

   

 

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