Paris, Our Last Stop Before Heading Back to the USA!
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Jamie and I arrived in Paris on Tuesday.  We made the 9 hour drive up from Spain after an awesome skiing/boarding trip with Cliona and Roo.  The ride went smoothly until the last 10 miles when we hit the inner limits of Paris and then we sat in traffic for 45 minutes! Not the best reminder of what we’re heading back to!

Just a little bit of traffic in Paris!
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Just a little bit of traffic in Paris!

We finally made it to my Aunt’s to catch up with them as well as my parents.  My parents left us in Chamonix but they are continuing their travels in Europe for a couple more weeks.  We had one full day in the city and after quickly returning the rental car and packing things up we had a lot of free time.  My father, Jamie and I decided to check out the Eiffel Tower since this was the only attraction left for Jamie to see close up.  The weather was overcast and cold but it was still a nice walk and we managed to get some good shots.

Eiffel Tower from the Seine River
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Eiffel Tower from the Seine River

As close as we're going to get for free!
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As close as we’re going to get for free!

Playing around with a B&W version
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Playing around with a B&W version

jamie and Papa Russo at Trocadero
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Jamie and Papa Russo at Trocadero

Arc de Triomphe from the Champs-Élysées
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Arc de Triomphe from the Champs-Élysées

That night we all gathered for an awesome meal my Aunt Sandra prepared for the 8 of us and we couldn’t ask for a better way to conclude our time in Europe.

Hanging in the kitchen while my Aunt prepares a fabulous meal, the last supper abroad, for now!
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Hanging in the kitchen while my Aunt prepares a fabulous meal, the last supper abroad, for now! From left, Jamie, Papa Russo, Mama Russo, her brother Uncle Bill, and Aunt Sandra

A lovely dinner with the McCluskey family!
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A lovely dinner with the McCluskey family!

We made a plan to walk back to the Eiffel Tower after dinner together to see her all lit up. The tower also sparkles at night for 5 minutes every hour on the hour all year long! This has been going on for years and it is an impressive sight.  Something not to be missed next time you’re in Paris.

Eiffel Tower as it sparkles from Trocadero
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Eiffel Tower as it sparkles from Trocadero

Our time has now come, to close this chapter of our journey, head home for a few months and make plans for the next great adventure.  We’ll keep the blog going during the Spring if there is anything exciting to share, otherwise we’ll start it back up over the summer.  We appreciate everyone who has been following this blog and offering support over the past year.  A huge thank you to all of our family and friends who have met up with us, hosted us, provided valuable insight and encouraged us along the way.  We will be in Virginia through the end of Spring and look forward to catching up with you all when ever we can!

 

Spain
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Our last destination on this great adventure was Spain. We met up with my fiends Cliona and Roo.  Cliona and I played lacrosse together at Ohio State and have remained friends ever since. Cliona and her husband Roo have been living in Spain for the past 10 years. They left their kids with Grandma for a few days and met up with us in the Pyrenees mountains for some more skiing/boarding.  We drove in from Chamonix after dropping Ed off at the airport and saying goodbye to the Russo family.  After crossing the border into Spain we drove through some charming little villages and made our way around the mountains to the resort.

Driving through Vielha on our way to Arties
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Driving through Vielha on our way to Arties

View of the mountains surrounding the valley
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View of the mountains surrounding the valley

Driving through town
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Driving through town

We arrived at our hotel and this shot portrays our weather for the next few days…..

Conditions we had for the first couple days
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Conditions we had for the first couple days

We chose the resort of Baqueira/Beret and it snowed for 3 straight days!! On the ground it was pure powder and lots of it, the terrain was awesome and the skiing/boarding was some of the best powder Jamie and I have ever experienced. However, in the air it was a total whiteout for the first day and a half. We couldn’t see anything in front of us so we were skiing blind most of the time but it was still a blast.

Nearly a whiteout on the slopes!
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Nearly a whiteout on the slopes!

From left, Roo, Cliona and Cathy
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From left, Roo, Cliona and Cathy

Due to the overcast weather, the deep powder, and the inability to see 5 feet in front of us it was only a matter of time that one or more of us would go down and go down hard!

Total wipeout by Cathy that became a yard sale!
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Total wipeout by Cathy that became a yard sale!

Cliona's turn!
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Cliona’s turn, getting stuck in the pow pow!

We stayed in the town of Arties, about 7km from the base of the mountain. Our hotel was situated on the main road so we were able to walk to all the bars and restaurants. We enjoyed lots of tapas and other great local dishes.

Jamie and I in the town of Arties
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Jamie and I in the town of Arties

The 4 of us at Apres ski
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The 4 of us at Apres ski

During the afternoon of our second day the sky started to open up a little but which gave us the opportunity to step up our game a bit and do a bit more off piste runs plus get some better pictures.

Jamie, Cliona and Roo heading up the chair lift
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Jamie, Cliona and Roo heading up the chair lift

Cliona and Cathy
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Cliona and Cathy

It was cold!!
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It was cold!!

Having fun on the slopes
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Having fun on the slopes

It was only inevitable that on our departure day from Spain the sky would open up to be a clear blue bird day and we had to get in the car to head to Paris. Luckily, Cliona and Roo had the chance to board some more in such great weather before heading back home, they sent us these shots of the resort.

Baqueira/Beret Resort
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Baqueira/Beret Resort

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A huge thanks to Cliona and Roo for making this all happen, we had such a blast catching up.  Next time, we’ll have to make the the trip all the way to Santander to meet the kiddos and get in some prime surfing.

We are now headed back to Paris, two more days and we’ll be back home in the good old USA!

Chamonix Part II
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After the Valle Blanche and one more day of Skiing /Bording we needed a day off! We spent the day checking out the town and sampling some of the food of Chamonix….hence the stop off at Poco Loco, the local burger joint…supposedly home to the best burger in Chamonix? Here are a couple of pics from our visit.

Ed and I about to enjoy our burgers at Poco Loco!
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Ed and I about to enjoy our burgers at Poco Loco!

Cathy and I after a good burger.....yummy!
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Cathy and I after a good burger…..yummy!

During our last few days we also sampled a couple more mountains in Chamonix to check out their different ski areas. We have to admit some were good and some were ……not so good, but either way we had a good time! It isn’t always the environment your in…it is the company you keep that makes the experience! ;-) Here are some pics from our last couple of days in Chamonix.

Enjoying a bluebird day in Chamonix!
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Enjoying a bluebird day in Chamonix!

Awesome day in mountains!
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Awesome day in the mountains!

Cathy and Jenn enjoying the scenery
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Cathy and Jenn enjoying the scenery

More of the beautiful mountains of Chamonix
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More of the beautiful mountains surrounding Chamonix

For our last day in Chamonix we actually didn’t spend it in Chamonix……we went to Italy! Our lift pass gave us the freedom to ski/board Courmayeur resort….one of Italy’s premier ski resorts. We had a great time sampling and checking out the slopes in Italy…….it was pretty cool! Here are some pictures from our day in Courmayeur.

VIew of Courmeyre town from the top of the tram
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View of Courmayeur town from the top of the tram

Having fun in Italy!
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Having fun in Italy!

Cathy and Ed deciding which way to go ;-)
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Cathy and Ed deciding which way to go ;-)

Us with Cathy's sister Jenn enjoying the day in Italy
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Us with Cathy’s sister Jenn enjoying the day in Italy

After our week in Chamonix we are now off to Spain to meet friends. We are heading to an area called Baquiera to ski/board…..we will have pictures from our experience in Spain posted up soon!

Chamonix Part 1
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We left Belgium on a seven hour drive heading to Geneva. The drive through the French countryside was uneventful, but nice. We arrived in Geneva for a one night stay, because the next morning we woke early to head to the airport to pickup our friend Ed. Once we had Ed and the car was all loaded up we were all off to Chamonix!

The drive from Geneva to Chamonix is only about 1.5 hours. Once you enter the Chamonix Valley you are blown away by the scenery…..this place is gorgeous! Unfortunately we had to wait till 5pm to check into the apartment we would be staying in for the week, so we spent the day getting rentals sorted for Cathy’s sisters, getting our lift tickets for the week, exploring the town, and taking in the sights!

Cathy in front of the local church in Chamonix Village central
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Cathy in front of the local church in Chamonix Village central

One of the many views looking out from town
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One of the many views looking out from town

This is the famous statue in central Chamonix, symbolising people watching people do the first ascent of Mont Blanc
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This is the famous statue in central Chamonix, symbolizing people watching people do the first ascent of Mont Blanc

Cathy, Jenn, Joanne taking in the sights
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Cathy, Jenn, Joanne taking in the sights

Our apartment is located near the center of town and has some great views….to be honest, I couldn’t imagine a place here that doesn’t have a great view!

The view from our living room....pretty inspiring!
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The view from our living room….pretty inspiring!

We have been skiing / boarding for three days now. We have hit up a few different areas and all have had a different feel to them. The one thing, by far, that is consistent though…..is the scenery!

Ed taking in the sights as we head up the mountain
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Ed taking in the sights as we head up the mountain

Cathy, Jenn, and Joanne enjoying the day on the mountain
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Cathy, Jenn, and Joanne enjoying the day on the mountain

Enjoying the day!
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Enjoying the day!

One of the many bowls we have skied / boarded in
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One of the many bowls we have skied/boarded in

Cathy and Ed getting ready to head down
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Cathy and Ed getting ready to head down

What does Solonges mean ?.....who cares....lets just go this way!
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What does Solonges mean?…..who cares….lets just go this way!

Out of our three days on the mountain, everyone would agree that the highlight so far has been the Valle Blanche. This was our biggest day yet here in Chamonix. The best way to describe the Vallee Blanche is it is this huge valley in which you ski/board on the glacier in the valley. We think it is the longest off piste (backcountry) trail in Europe. You are not required to hire a guide, but it is HIGHLY recommended since there are some hazards out there you want a professional to help you steer clear of. For example crevasses, cliffs, rocks, and the chance of an avalanche! Our guide, John, is from the U.K., and owns his own guiding business. He really did an awesome job guiding us down and showing us the ropes. Thanks to his sense of humor and professionalism we all had a blast and it has been by far our best experience here in Chamonix. Before starting our 23km descent we got some great pics from the summit.

Looking out from the summit, I think off in the distance is Italy!
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Looking out from the summit, I think off in the distance is Italy!

Cathy and Ed getting all suited up to start our decent
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Cathy and Ed getting all suited up to start our descent

You need to wear a harness and be roped together for the zig zag decent you see in this picture
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You need to wear a harness and be roped together for the zig zag ridge descent you see in this picture

Just after the roped hike down
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Just after the roped hike down, more people behind us are making their way down

The view looking out at the start of the Valle Blanche....the line we take goes around the huge fin of rock in the center of the picture
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The view looking out at the start of the Valle Blanche….the line we took goes around the huge fin of rock in the center of the picture

Here are some pictures of our day going down the Valle Blanche.

Our first pit stop on the way down....to give you a sense of scale, the rockface behind me is an 11-pitch climb to the summit....1000ft!
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Our first pit stop on the way down….to give you a sense of scale, the rockface behind me has an 11-pitch climb in it!

Ed enjoying the powder and the views!
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Ed enjoying the powder and the views!

All smiles on the Valle Blanche!
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All smiles on the Valle Blanche!

Cathy and Jenn coming down the big powder section
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Cathy and Jenn coming down the big powder section

Heading down....you can see parts of the glacier on the right and some of the crevasses you need to avoid
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Heading down….you can see parts of the glacier on the right and some of the crevasses you need to avoid

Cathy enjoying the day!
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Cathy enjoying the day!

Cathy and Joanne having a blast!
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Cathy and Joanne having a blast!

Cathy getting some local info from our guide Jonh
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Cathy getting some local info from our guide John

As you near the bottom you can see part of the headwall of the glacier
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As you near the bottom you can see part of the headwall of the glacier

At the bottom you get some great views of the Dru mountain
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At the bottom you get some great views of the Dru mountain, 3x the size of the empire state building

If anyone comes to Chamonix, and is a very competent skier/boarder we would highly recommend doing the Valle Blanche…..it has to be one of the best experiences we have ever had on skis/board.

Thanks John.....what an awesome day!
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Thanks John…..what an awesome day!

Paris to Belgium
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We woke early to catch our flight from Bangkok to Paris, and sadly said bye to our buddy Chuck. The flight to Paris was 12.5 hours long, but we both watched a bunch of movies trying to make the time go by. We landed in the evening in Paris, and coming from the heat of Bangkok we knew it was going to be cold…BUT! I don’t think we were quite ready for this…..

WOW!!
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WOW!!

We were happily greeted by Cathy’s Uncle Bill. We stayed with Bill and his wife Sandra in Paris. They have a beautiful home in Paris and it’s perfectly located for us to walk around the city.

Enjoying some rum with Cathy' Uncle Bill
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First night in Paris enjoying some rum with Cathy’s Uncle Bill

Our first day in the city we got an early start (thanks to jetlag) and headed off for the Louvre. We were really impressed with the museum, but it gets crowded fast……real fast! Luckily we were able to hit up some of the highlights before things got out of hand.

At the entrance to the Louve
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At the entrance to the Louvre

Now that is one big painting!
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Now that is one big painting!

Largest Sphinx outside Egypt
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Largest Sphinx outside Egypt

We got to see the Mona Lisa
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We got to see the Mona Lisa

The people looking at the Mona Lisa....holy crap!
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These people are all  looking at the Mona Lisa….holy crap! ……time to go!

We then headed off to check out Notre Dame Cathedral. While walking from the Louvre to Notre Dame we got these shots.

Looking over the La Seine River
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Looking over the La Seine River

My first glimpse of the Eiffle Tower
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My first glimpse of the Eiffle Tower

Cathy has visited Paris and all the sites before but was happy to return to Notre Dame, and I was impressed by the building, inside and out. Here are a couple of pictures of Notre Dame.

Cathy at the front door of Notre Dame
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Cathy at the front door of Notre Dame

Looking at Notre Dame from the courtyard
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Looking at Notre Dame from the courtyard

That evening Sandra cooked us a great dinner of braised ribbit. After our experience with the food in Thailand, we both really appreciated a home cooked meal. Thanks Sandra!! The next day we headed off to check out the Musee d’Orsay, which is an old railway station they converted into a museum. It holds the worlds most expensive collection of artwork. Your not allowed to take pictures inside, but we did get to see paintings by Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, and Renior. I have never been big into art, but it was impressive to see so many painting by these famous artists, and the museum itself is really cool to see.

While walking around outside the museum we also came across the following.

This obelisk was brought to Paris from Egypt by Napoleon
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This obelisk was brought to Paris from Egypt by Napoleon

Triumph
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Gilded statue Genie de la Liberte

We picked-up our rental car that evening, and the next morning we got an early start toward Brussels. Cathy’s sisters Jenn and Joanne had flown in from New York that morning, and we met them at our hotel. It was great seeing them, and we have really enjoyed catching up with them. For our first afternoon we headed off to see the Grand Place in central Brussels. The square that makes up the Grand Place is very impressive and here are some pictures from the area.

Part of the Central Place
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Part of the Grand Place, Brussels

Jenn, Joanne, and myself in the Grand Place
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Jenn, Joanne, and myself in the Grand Place

We also headed down to this area to meet up with some old friends as well. Chuck, who we were in Thailand with, his son Tim and his wife Elisa have been living in Belgium for the past four years. We wanted to meet up with them for drinks and dinner. It was great seeing them and catching up. We also wanted to say thanks for playing tour guide for the evening……it made the girls first night in Brussels really good. One of the first things Tim showed the girls was Manneken Pis……a very famous small statue of a little boy peeing!

The ladies taking in the sights of Manekken PIs
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The ladies taking in the sights of Manneken Pis

Catching up with Tim and Elisa.....
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Catching up with Tim and Elisa…..good times!

The next morning we woke to some crappy weather, a mixture of rain and freezing rain! We all bundled up and made the best of it,  and boarded a train to Bruges. Even though the weather was not cooperating, you could tell in the spring this is a very beautiful city. The architecture, history, and the scenery are pretty awesome. Here are some pics from our day at Bruges.

The ladies trying to stay warm in front of the Bellfry
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The ladies trying to stay warm in front of the Belfry

Walking around Bruges
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Walking around Bruges

The center statue was carved by Michelangelo
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The center statue is Madonna and Child, carved by Michelangelo

Jenn and Joanne in front of the Church of our Lady
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Jenn and Joanne in front of the Church of our Lady

Cathy near the Church of our Lady
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Cathy near the Church of our Lady

We are now off to Chamonix. We pick up our friend Ed from the airport tomorrow, then we’re all hitting the slopes on Sunday!

Similan Islands
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After three days on Koh Phi Phi, I think all three of us were really looking forward to the relaxing atmosphere of the dive boat. Unfortunately, we had one more slog to get through……the ferry ride from Phi Phi to Phuket. This was a very unique experience, and good thing we didn’t have any problems on the ferry…..because they sure do pack them on, way over capacity!

Not much room left!
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Not much room left!

Trying to stay patient with all the people
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Trying to stay patient with all the people

Almost to Phuket
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Almost to Phuket

The mad scramble for bags once we arrive in Phuket....crazy!
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The mad scramble for bags once we arrive in Phuket….crazy!

Once we arrived in Phuket, the dive boat had arranged to pick us up and transport us an hour and half North to Koh Lak where the boat is. Needless to say, once we boarded the boat we were all happy to just chill and relax. The boat we were on was the MV Dolphin Queen run by Smilian Dive Safaris. There were a lot of different nationalities on board, and everyone was great! Here are some pics from around the boat.

Cathy studying hard for her Advanced Open Water course
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Cathy studying hard for her Advanced Open Water course

Hanging out after a dive ;-)
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Hanging out after a dive ;-)

Right before the first night dive we got a visitor
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Right before the first night dive we got a visitor

Pre-dive briefing
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Pre-dive briefing

Enjoying the sunset
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Enjoying the sunset

We spent 4 nights on the boat, and dove 4 days. You could get in as many as 14 dives if you wanted, but we all took a few off to relax. As with most live-aboard dive boats the schedule is pretty much the same no matter what boat you are on……dive, eat, nap……dive, eat, nap…..dive, eat, nap……dive, eat, sleep……then repeat the next day. Yep…life is pretty rough on a live-aboard trip! ;-) The crew was great and Cathy even completed her Advance Open Water course. She had a really good instructor named PePe. He also guided us around showing us the highlights of all the dive sites.

Heading off for a dive with Pe Pe
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Heading off for a dive with PePe

Cathy geared up for her night dive with Pe Pe
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Cathy geared up for her night dive with PePe

Unfortunately, we didn’t have an underwater camera this trip, but we were able to bum some underwater pictures from Jack Curran (we met on the boat)…..thanks Jack! Here are some of his pictures of some of the things we saw on the trip.

Morray eel
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Morray eel

Colorful Nudibranch
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Colorful Nudibranch

They come in all sorts of colors!
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They come in all sorts of colors!

Almost swam right past this guy, he was so well camouflaged
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Almost swam right past this guy, he was so well camouflaged

Sea snake
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Sea snake

Schooling barracuda
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Schooling barracuda

Schooling fish
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Schooling fish

After all these years of diving, I finally got to see a seahorse!
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After all these years of diving, I finally got to see a seahorse!

We all had a blast on the trip, and really enjoyed the people we met and the crew. We had one final picture on our way back into port.

Good people....good times!
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Good people….good times!

After we got off the boat we made our way a little South to Mai-Khao Beach where we spent one night. We timed it just right when we arrive and enjoyed the afternoon hanging out at the beach and pool at sunset.

Cathy enjoying the pool by the beach
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Cathy enjoying the pool by the beach

We are now on our way back to Bangkok for one night, and then the long flight to Paris. We aren’t quite sure if we are ready for the cold winter in Europe, but we are excited about catching up with everyone, and hitting the slopes!

Koh Phi Phi…..same…same…but different
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Where to start and how to even begin to attempt to explain our experience in Koh Phi Phi Don is going to be a challenge. I’ll start off with the most simple explanation I can come up with. Koh Phi Phi Don is a lost paradise and was an eye opening experience for us.

The first step in enjoying Phi Phi (Pee-Pee) is getting there. We kept an eye on the tides all week at Tonsai hoping it would be in our favor the morning of our departure but it was not. So we had another slog out to the ferry boat which would take us to Phi Phi. It wasn’t as nearly as bad as Tonsai but a high tide would have been nice. We took a long tail boat out to the large ferry boat which met us about 500 yards from shore. We boat jumped, got our luggage on board and cruised for about 90 minutes before arriving at Phi Phi for the next 3 days.

Chuck with his luggage as we headed toward the boat
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Chuck with his luggage as we headed toward the boat

Hangin' on the beach
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Hangin’ on the beach

Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles” and the people are so charming, super casual, and very inviting to all those lucky enough to visit this land. And herein lies the problem, with millions of visitors flocking to the beaches of the Phra Nang Peninsula each year and those numbers continuously increasing, there was no way the region would be able to keep up with the demand for development. The region did develop quickly but without a proper plan in place to handle it all. This was most evident on Koh Phi Phi island where a once pristine island of white sandy beaches, coves and lagoons which was home to a few locals and heaps of coconut trees is now a revolving door of foreign visitors, endless isles of food stalls and clothing shops selling bikinis, sarongs, and beaded jewelery and each stall selling a replica of the items in the stall before it, all of this packed into a very small island. There does not seem to be a proper sewage system or garbage disposal system in place other than hauling waste out to sea, burning garbage in the country side and letting it pile up in back woods areas for weeks. This leaves the aroma and image of the area as something the tourists just have to accept and get used to, which we did but we were also glad it was only a few days.

One of the many walkways through the maze of shopping stalls
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One of the many walkways through the maze of shopping stalls

The busy beach of Koh Phi Phi Don with Tonsai climbing wall in the background
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The busy beach of Koh Phi Phi Don with Tonsai climbing wall in the background

We only spent 3 nights in Phi Phi and this was plenty enough time to take it in as a hustling and bustling party island. Lucky for us the staggering limestone cliffs, aqua blue Andaman Sea and surrounding rain forests have been untouched and remain as beautiful as ever so the landscape was still amazing.

To get away from it all for a little while we rented a long tail boat for a ½ day trip to Koh Phi Phi Lay, a separate and smaller island south of Phi Phi Don. Famous with tourists for one small and stunning beach called Maya Bay as this is where the Leonardo di Caprio film “The Beach” was filmed in 1999. Since then the demand for people to visit this bay has exploded. We were warned to get there early and not stay too long. We set out at 7:30am for the 30 minute boat ride there. When we arrived there were only a handful of people there which was nice but by the time we left, only 2 hours later, the place was a mob scene of tourists, long tail boats, and jet boats full of tour group. Here are some shots from Maya Bay and Pileh Cove.

Koh Phi Phi Lay from a distance, on our way!
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Koh Phi Phi Lay from a distance, on our way!

Long tail boat ride out to Koh Phi Phi Lay Island
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Long tail boat ride out to Koh Phi Phi Lay Island

Approaching the islands staggering limestone cliffs
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Approaching the islands staggering limestone cliffs

Beautiful Maya Bay prior to the onslaught of tourists later that morning
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Beautiful Maya Bay prior to the onslaught of tourists later that morning

Jamie continues to improve his levitation skills!
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Jamie continues to improve his levitation skills!

Jamie chillin' on the beach at Maya Bay
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Jamie chillin’ on the beach at Maya Bay

The backside of Maya Bay offers cool views of this little cove
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The backside of Maya Bay offers cool views of this little cove

Leaving a very crowded Maya Bay after only being there 2 hours
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Leaving a very crowded Maya Bay after only being there 2 hours

You can circumnavigate Koh Phi Phi Lay and stop off at all of the tourist sites, about 4, we chose 2 with the other one being Ao Pileh Cove. This is famous for once being one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and while it is still beautiful you can see the evidence of too many years of tourists and long tail boats coming in and out everyday. We stayed in the boat and went for a snorkel.

Cruising around the island toward Pileh Cove
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Cruising around the island toward Pileh Cove

Arriving in Pileh Cove
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Arriving in Pileh Cove

Getting a quick snorkel in, Pileh Cove
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Getting a quick snorkel in, Pileh Cove

The beautiful cliffs surrounding the cove
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The beautiful cliffs surrounding the cove

During our last day in Phi Phi we went rock climbing on Tonsai Wall which was only a few minutes walk from the beach and overlooked the whole island, once you made your ascent!  This is what we captured….

Climbing on Tonsai Wall, Koh Phi Phi
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Climbing on Tonsai Wall, Koh Phi Phi

Jamie enjoying the view
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Jamie enjoying the view

Chuck giving it a go
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Chuck giving it a go

My turn!
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My turn!

Chuck and Jamie at Tonsai Wall
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Chuck and Jamie at Tonsai Wall

View of Koh Phi Phi from the top of Tonsai Wall
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View of Koh Phi Phi from the top of Tonsai Wall

The climbing and a nice dinner out was a nice way to cap off the visit to Phi Phi but we were all looking forward to moving on as our next adventure would be a 4 day scuba diving trip on a live aboard boat cruising the Similan Islands : )

Tonsai
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Our last morning in Bangkok we woke to find a comment on the blog from our friend Sam. Turns out Sam was in Bangkok for work, and we were able to connect up that morning for some breakfast before we headed off to the airport. It was great catching up!

Catching up with Sam the man!
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Catching up with Sam the man!

After breakfast we finished packing our bags and made our way to the airport to meet our good friend Chuck. For those who don’t know Chuck, he is a very good and close friend of ours. Chuck and I have been climbing together for many years, so we were looking forward to catching up and having another great climbing adventure together.

To get to Tonsai from Bangkok you first have to fly down to the small town of Krabi. From there you hop in a taxi for a 30 minute wild ride……dodging scooters and people to Ao Nang Beach. Once there is enough people, usually 6 or more you board a long tail boat for a 20 minute ride around the pininsula to finally arrive at Tonsai Beach. Unfortunately, we learned a hard lesson that day……don’t arrive at low tide! You have to hoof your bags for about 200 yards out to the boat, then another 200 yards over muddy coral to get to the proper beach…..needless to say, we were all sweating pretty good by the time we checked into the Tonsai Bay Resort.

Hoofing our bags out to the longtail boat to Tonsai
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Hoofing our bags out to the longtail boat to Tonsai

All aboard....a little wet.....and Chuck's passport survived the the hoof out to the boat
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All aboard….a little wet…..and Chuck’s passport survived the hoof out to the boat

On the ride over to Tonsai
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On the ride over to Tonsai

There are great rewards for all the effort in getting here,  not only is there a ton of great climbing all within 20 minute walk from where we are sleeping, but some of the views are just awesome. We have been spending our days climbing, relaxing, Cathy went kayaking, and just experiencing the unique lifestyle of this part of the world. Here are a bunch of pictures from our time at Tonsai.

View from our resort
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View from our resort

Our first climb on the beach
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Our first climb on the beach, that is me in the black shirt at the top of the small cliff

Chuck getting ready to launch off on his first climb of the day
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Chuck getting ready to launch off on his first climb of the day

While we were climbing Cathy went out for a Kayak
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While we were climbing Cathy went out for a Kayak

Cathy's view while kayaking
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Cathy’s view while kayaking

After a couple of days in Tonsai we decided to check out some of the other beaches and climbing areas. We hiked over through Railey West beach to get over to Railey East Beach.

View of Railey West, the next beach over from Tonsai
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View of Railey West, the next beach over from Tonsai

Cathy climbing over in Railey East....her first climb in Thailand
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Cathy climbing over in Railey East….her first climb in Thailand

Chuck leading the mega classic climb "The Best Route in Minnesota"
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Chuck leading the mega classic climb “The Best Route in Minnesota”

Not a bad view from the beach at Railey East
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Not a bad view from the beach at Railey East

To save some time, instead of hiking back we decided to catch a longtail boat back.

Just leaving Railey Beach
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Just leaving Railey Beach

On the way back to Tonsai
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On the way back to Tonsai

We caught a longtail boat from Railey, obviously it was low tide, and we had to hike back into our resort
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When we caught the longtail boat from Railey, it was low tide at Tonsai, so we had to hike back into our resort

Here are some more views from the area.

Looking out into the Tonsai Bay
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Looking out into the Tonsai Bay

More of the walls you can climb in Tonsai
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More of the walls you can climb in Tonsai

On our last day in Tonsai, Chuck and I decided to head out try one of the multi-pitch climbs in Tonsai. Here are some pics from our afternoon on the wall.

Our wall. The climb is called Big Wave
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Our wall. The climb is called Big Wave

Heading up one of the upper pitches
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Heading up one of the upper pitches

Chuck looking down from the top
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Chuck looking down from the top

The view from the top of the climb.....not bad!
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The view from the top of the climb…..not bad!

On Friday we catch another boat and head to Kho Phi Phi. We are all very curious about this portion of our trip as we have heard good and bad things about this little island that inspired the movie The Beach. We will let you know how it goes!