Disneyland Paris

*Warning for Disney Fans: This post will inevitably contain errors about Disney. I will accidentally call things by the wrong names, and my descriptions will not be up to your standards. Please accept my apologies in advance, I am a mere mortal, and do not know as much as you.

Of course we went to Disneyland Paris! We both discovered our love of Disneyland late in life, thanks to some incredibly eye-and-heart-opening experiences guided by our very wise friends. Jessie, Clarko, and Brad held my hands on my first walk down Main Street in 2012 and I was forever changed. Patrick and I have loved visiting Disneyland in California over the past few years, so we could not pass up the opportunity to experience a little foreign Disney Magic™!

The official Disneyland Hotels were $$$$ so we booked a budget hotel which had a free, 5-minute, on-demand shuttle to the parks. Score! We checked into our hotel and spent the afternoon shopping for Disneyland supplies (fresh sneakers and artisanal granola bars). I hadn’t had a haircut since March and my head-mop situation was getting dire, so in a very spontaneous moment I decided to get a mall-basement haircut. The hairdresser didn’t speak English, and I speak about 10 words of French (mostly food-related) so we communicated via iPhone photos and hand motions. The haircut took about 5 minutes and involved an electric razor and texturizing scissors. Sure, whatever! It was shorter and cost €17, so mission accomplished. I think.

We spent the evening walking around Disney Village (like Downtown Disney in California), checking out the overwhelming souvenir shops, Lego store, and American chain restaurants. We stopped into Annette’s Diner (named after Annette Funicello, natch), a 50’s Americana themed joint to split a vanilla shake and basket of fries. It was all very Happy Days until half-way through our basket we watched, open-mouthed, as this monstrosity walked by. We took that as our cue to get the hell out of there.


The next morning, BRIGHT AND EARLY, we got to the Disneyland gates at 9:00am, right as they opened. We walked down Main Street, but it wasn’t Main Street, it was an uncanny-vally-twilight-zone-backwards-town Main Street. My brain kept telling me, “We’re on Main Street in Disneyland in California!”, but then instead of the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor there was some other weird store.


Simultaneously fun and trippy. We ogled all the pretty shops and then saw the castle. And holy shit, the castle.


It’s SO MUCH bigger than the one in California. And it’s on a hill, and has little forced-perspective trees around it which definitely helps it appear larger. It made the California castle look like a fancy dog house.



Also, getting some serious Sagrada Familia vibes from the interior architecture.


We spent the day checking out every single attraction that was open (half of them were closed) and marveling at all the little differences between Disneyland Paris and Disneyland in California.


Main Differences:

Disneyland Paris is fancy. $5.5 billion dollars fancy. Disney poured a ton of money into Disneyland Paris and it shows. The attention to every single ornate detail is mind boggling. For example, Disneyland Paris has two enormous Arcades (Liberty Arcade and Discovery Arcade), chock full of delightful surprises.


They are completely unnecessary, and completely stunning.


They also have this totally incredible and gigantic zeppelin, just hangin out, for no reason other than it looks AWESOME.


The cast members are not jazzed. Disneyland in California is staffed by some of the most lovely people I’ve ever met. They truly care about Disneyland and your experience. In Paris, not so much. 99% of our interactions with cast members felt like talking to the ultra-bored teens who usually staff the state fair. Most of the cast members gave us the impression they were just waiting for their shift to end. I went to First Aid to ask for an antihistamine (I was having an allergy attack – fun!) and the nurses were straight up rude.

They have a real dragon. Yeah, watch out Daenerys, you’re not the only one with dragons.


Ok so it’s not actually alive, but the animatronics/lighting/effects are SO GOOD and you can get SO CLOSE to it, it feels like it’s real. It was one of my favorite attractions in the whole park.


Space Mountain hurts. Like actually hurts. The cars/safety harnesses aren’t designed properly so your head involuntarily bangs from side to side in a violent way. After our third time on that ride my body’s instinct was to cry because it had been hurt so suddenly and quickly. Veryyyyyy weird feeling to experience after coming off of a ride in The Happiest Place On Earth, no? The theming is also confusing.


You’re being shot out of a steampunk cannon into… space? The interior line experience mixes astronomy, an old-timey ammunition company, and outer space?

Pirates of the Caribbean is backwards. Like the boat goes backwards? No. The order of the ride is backwards. The first time it feels trippy, but by the second time you’re totally into it.


The line area was masterfully themed as well, as opposed to the sad chain-rope-line-maze outside Pirates in California.


One of the times we rode it we accidentally got a boat all to ourselves which was fantastic. The ride is so much more spooky when you’re not surrounded by chatty randos. I joked with Patrick that we could do anything we wanted (hand stuff) but instead we quietly sang a little song we made up called “Own Boat”. Definitely a dream come true.


In lieu of the Blue Bayou, the themed restaurant inside Pirates is called the Blue Lagoon and it is AWESOME. It’s a bit like Trader Sams and serves tiki drinks.

Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril is le horrible. Indiana Jones is one my favorite rides in Disneyland, and this one was one of the bummeriest bummers in bummertown. It’s a crappy Wild Mouse style outdoor roller coaster that is loosely camping themed. It was total garbage. It’s hidden in the outskirts of the park and has a 0 minute line all the time. It was like going to see the the Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular, but when you got there it was just some old dude doing hand puppets. Yeah NO THANKS.

Dapper Dan’s is an actual barber shop. Patrick purposely put off getting a haircut so he could get one at Dapper Dan’s Hair Cuts – an actual barber shop in Disneyland. So all excited, we walked over to Dapper Dan’s and it was closed. Nooooooooo. We asked a cast member working in the adjacent store and she said “It iz closed today. He iz sick.” So we asked, “Who is sick? Dan?”, and she said “hmeh” (some kind of passive French sound). So we’re super bummed, but luckily we’re in Disneyland and there’s a million other things to do. At the end of the day we go to City Hall and Patrick asks, “Dapper Dan’s was closed today. Will it be open tomorrow?” And the City Hall cast member says, “It waz open today. 10:30-7:00”. And we’re like, ”Did the shop girl lie to us?!” So we explain our story, while another guy goes into a back room to “check”. He comes back to confirm Dapper Dan’s WAS closed today and the guy WAS home sick but he said he’ll be in tomorrow. “There iz just one guy who doez it, so if he iz not here, it doez not happen.” We asked, “Is his name Dan?”, and the City Hall cast member says “I do not know hiz name.” It was bizarre.

Haunted Mansion is called Phantom Manor. It’s located in Frontierland, looks like Bates Manor from Psycho, and tells the story of a Miss Havisham-style killer bride (Melanie Ravenswood) seeking revenge on her groom who stood her up on her wedding day. It’s designed to be scarier and more derelict than the Haunted Mansion. Alarmingly, two months before we went, the body of a cast member was found inside the attraction. Disney reported, “He had been working on lighting backstage and his death is understood to have been accidental and due to electrocution,” but maybe Melanie Ravenswood finally got her revenge.

There’s a non-exclusive Club 33. It’s not actually Club 33, it’s called Walt’s, but it looks like pre-reno Club 33. It feels super special, the food is fancy and expensive, the service is wonderfully overdone, and the views over Main Street are awesome.


I actually liked it better than Club 33, because when I’m at Club 33 I feel like I’m trespassing. I feel like the cast members are bummed that a non-member-bozo such as myself is there, and they hope I’ll hurry up and leave already. I know that’s probably just mostly my insecurities, but I felt more relaxed at Walt’s. Oh, they also have a DOPE old-timey glass elevator.


They have an amazing “under-water” Nautilus walk-through. Instead of that dumb Nemo Submarine sadventure, you can walk through Captain Nemo’s submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.


The attention to detail is INCREDIBLE (again with the huge budget).


We spent like 30 minutes in there just looking at everything.


They don’t have Dole Whip or churros. I know, like what’s even the point of going. I don’t understand this at all. You can buy churros at the Eiffel Tower, but not in Disneyland? Blasphemy.

Mostly everything else from Disneyland is the same. City Hall, the Railroad,



“it’s a small world”, Jedi Training Academy,


the Carrousel, the Tea Cups,






Buzz Lightyear’s zip zap ride, etc.

The fireworks show was stunning, as always,


and the projection mapping on the castle was really well done.

Unfortunately due to all the closures there was a ton of stuff we didn’t get to check out, but that just gives us an even better excuse to go back!

Walt Disney Studios

Instead of California Adventure, Disneyland Paris has Walt Disney Studios, a Hollywood-themed park featuring behind-the-scenes looks at “how movies are made” and also all the Pixar rides. Yeah, it didn’t make sense to us either. But at any rate, this is where all the good thrill rides are secretly kept.

Crush’s Coaster is incredible. It’s a spinning roller coaster that is both indoors and outdoors, and features dark ride special effects.


It was wonderful. One of my favorite rides ever. I wish they would put this in California Adventure.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is almost exactly the same. It’s roughly 25’ shorter than the Tower in California, but still has an 130 foot drop at 39 mph. Same story, same aesthetic treatment. The only difference is everyone screams in French. Fun fact: due to French construction codes the Tower was built using concrete instead of steel like in California and Florida. This ended up costing over €180 million and delayed construction. Oops.

Ratatouille shows off the tech. The new Ratatouille attraction is an immersive trackless 3D dark ride, where you sit in a “Ratmobile” and shrink down to the size of a rat and run though Gusteau’s restaurant. It opened in 2014, cost an estimated €270 million (deep breaths), and really showcases Disney’s latest imagineering magic. The Fast Passes disappear immediately, and the line hovers around 50-70 minutes, but we went through the single-rider line, walked right on to the ride and sat together. We did this three times. Hacks!

They nailed Gusteau’s Restaurant. Bistrot Chez Remy is the Rattatouille-themed restaurant in La Place de Rémy, the Ratatouille-themed area in Walt Disney Studios. Upon entering the restaurant you walk down a hallway where you “shrink down to the size of a rat” so upon entering the dining room you’re seeing the world from a rat’s perspective.


Champagne cages serve as chairs, jam lids are tables, plates are booth dividers, forks are coat racks, drink parasols are table umbrellas, and Christmas twinkle lights are the primary overhead light fixtures.


The imagination behind the decor is really well done. I spent a lot of time away from our table checking out all the details. The French food (foie gras, steak frites, red wine, etc) is authentic, (“after all Miss, this is France!”), expensive, and pretty good for Disney parks food. 


We really enjoyed our time here – the whole experience felt really special. I do think it’s funny that Disneyland Paris has a Paris-themed area of the park (recursion!) but I guess it’s the same as a California-themed park in California (California Adventure).

RC Racer was surprisingly awesome. It’s a giant U shaped rollercoaster where you’re swinging 180 degrees back and forth at a fairly high speed. I loved it. Unfortunately the line was SUPER LONG, and it didn’t have a fast pass, so we only got to ride it once.

Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic aka How Is This Still A Thing. You sit in a little tram and go for a “behind the scenes tour of a Hollywood movie set”. It’s SOOOO dated, and just seems like an excuse for tired parents to sit down for 15 minutes. Hopefully they take this thing down soon and put in something better, because it takes up a LOT of space.

Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. Yeah, Aerosmith. This is another ride clearly showing it’s age. Fortunately it was closed so we didn’t have to ride it. Our friend Dan said it was super loud and you just get a bunch of dust blown in your eyes. Woof.

Armageddon – Les Effects Spéciaux. Again, Armageddon? Come on guys. Refresh time!

Moteurs…Action! Stunt Show Spectacular was impressive but long. If you like watching impossibly cool French stunt drivers do highly synchronized car and bike tricks, then this is the show for you.


The driving was entertaining and impressive, but the show was was only 15 minutes of tricks spread out through a 45 minute show. 


If they could edit this down to a tight 20 minutes it would be awesome.

All in all, we had a wonderful two days. It was really cool to see another Disney park and take a short break from reality.



Southern France & Geneva

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do has been to drive through the French Alps. With a bit of time on our hands before Paris, we thought this would be a great opportunity to do just that. We left Barcelona via another high speed train, this time on SNCF, to Perpignan, just across the Spanish/French border, where we picked up a rental car. We tried to spring for something that would be enjoyable to drive for a long distance, and ended up with a red Citroen DS 4. While the car isn’t terrible to look at (at least it wasn’t silver) and it handled well enough in the mountains, it had a turning radius of about 3 American football fields. This made it tough to take through the narrow old town streets. Anyway, we’ll get to that later.

Citroen DS4

Our weird French car.

Sadly, our original train was canceled due to a SCNF strike (France!), but we were able to simply take a later one. This meant we had to cut our Perpignan visit short and had to drive straight to Marseille. Overall, not a terrible problem.

Once in Marseille we checked into the Mama Shelter, which was a damn delight. Maja had recently signed up for a Tablet Plus subscription which we used to book this, and it ended up scoring us an upgraded room and free breakfast. Hell yes.

Mama Shelter View

Side note: I may have mentioned this before, but since long term travel involves making so many decisions every day, we’ve started opting for – on short stay – lodging that includes breakfast. Sometimes (though not often) it’s a better deal than going out, and it always makes mornings way way easier. The Tablet Plus subscription fit very well with this.

The hotel was very hip and young and chill, kind of like a French Ace Hotel. The room came with superhero masks and an iMac that doubled as the TV, though it seems most guests used it to send webcam snapshots of themselves to the (huge, cool) lobby bar.

We spent the next day wandering around Marseille, having lunch by the marina and stocking up on various supplies at the nearby mall. Surprisingly, we saw the place we had lunch in the newspaper the next week – it was in the background of the soccer riots that followed from the Russia/England Euro 2016 match that would take place there after we left.

Désolée pour le mur. :)

The next day, we drove eastward to Nice, the southern France vacation hot spot. We stayed a cute little hotel just off the beach (Hôtel Les Cigales) and spent the evening wandering the promenade and eating on the roof bar of a cute little restaurant who’s name I will never remember in a million years. The city was all decked out for the Euro 2016 matches that would be played there. It was super cool and beautiful to see. I ran around in the fountains which I think embarrassed Maja, but oh well, she’s stuck with me now. (Hi guys, this is Maja, it didn’t, I laughed my butt off and put it on Snapchat)

Nice definitely feels like France’s domestic vacation hotspot. The beach, the party atmosphere, the all-around chill attitude of the people. It doesn’t feel as busy (or dingy) as Marseille, but it certainly has many more tourists.

Nice Fountains

From Nice we kept heading east, mostly just to pop in to Monaco to say hi. We parked and walked around the lavish and beautiful and vertical city, had a €40 ham and cheese at the cafe in front of the Casino Monte-Carlo, and left. It was stupid and great.

The Monte-Carlo Casino

After Monaco we charted a course up through Sisteron and Gap through to Grenoble. The drive was really lovely. We mostly stayed off the highways (thanks, Google Maps “Avoid Tolls” feature!) and saw tons of beautiful scenery – mostly mountains and lakes – while we listened to various podcasts and Hamilton on repeat.

Grenoble was really cool. It’s not quite small enough to be called a “mountain town” – it’s a college city and major research hub. (Tech-friends may know that Apple will open – or has opened – an advanced imaging lab there.) We stayed a very design-y hotel called the OKKO which was fun. Any hotel that offers you a free beer in the lounge on arrival is A-OK in my books. We had definitely made it far from the beaten tourist track though – we saw literally no other tourists there and I got to do most of the communication as very few of the locals spoke English.

I’d love to go back to Grenoble some day. It seemed like there was a lot of fun outdoors stuff nearby, and the mountain views from all over the city were incredible. I bet it’s good fun in the winter. For this trip, we only spent a day, and then it was onwards!

Our next stop wasn’t far – we swung through Chambéry to drop by a knife museum. What? Well, let me explain. When I was a kid I had this little folding knife that I used to fight over the ownership of with my brother. It was an Opinel knife – legendary in France, these cheap but super durable and useful pocket knives are all over the place there. We eventually lost the knife, which in retrospect was probably for the best, since who the hell gives a kid a folding knife? Let alone one that has to be shared by two competitive brothers? Anyway, I decided since we were so close to the source, now would be a good time to replace it.

Opinel Museum

We arrived at the Opinel museum around the same time as a bus full of adorable elderly French people. We skirted past them and checked out all the cool old history of the Opinel company – one of the few 100+ year old companies that still does the thing which it was founded for. We landed in the gift shop which housed every kind of knife they make, from the mini pocket knives to the huge machetes. I got one to replace the one we lost, and sent one to my brother at home. One more thing we no longer have to fight about.

Knives and Stuff

Side note: The knife I bought for myself I forgot to mail home, and left in my bag when we went through CDG airport security. No worries though – they didn’t notice!

We hit the road soon after and continued north to Geneva, Switzerland. We had a sort of funny moment when we arrived in Switzerland where we were pulled over by the immigration control / police at the border checkpoint. We thought “oh no, they are going to search us, or otherwise give us a hard time” but nope – they just required us to buy a highway pass, which I had forgotten was necessary in Switzerland. We haggled but had no luck, and had to pay €60 or so for a sticker to let us drive on all the toll roads. Ah well.

When we arrived we decided that although the road had been beautiful, we were Driving Too Much and needed a break. A couple days in Geneva, a city we enjoyed from the moment we arrive, would be great. Also, Maja had caught another cold, which was also a good reason to take it easy for a little while. One great recommendation: Birdie.

Patrick in Geneva

Geneva is impossible to talk about without mentioning how expensive everything was. Kebabs and street pizza were priced in the mid-teens of Swiss Francs, a currency with near parity to the US dollar. Entrees at even “cheap” restaurants were in the twenties. We ended up mostly staying in our hotel, planning more of the trip, catching up on email and blogs, and generally having Internet Time.

One cool thing we did do was drive out to CERN and visit the Large Hadron Collider and the exhibits there, which was extremely nerdy and cool. They had lots of interesting stuff on display, from data tapes that held real test data to the NeXT cube that Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first web browser on. It was awesome.

Our last stop before heading to Disneyland Paris (which deserves and will get its own post) was in Beaune. We didn’t really know anything about it before arriving, and chose it mainly because it made sense as a good place to stop on our trip. We were very, very pleasantly surprised!

Beaune is a small (20,000-ish residents) walled city in Burgundy. Not only did it feature cool architecture, it had plenty of small restaurants to keep us fed and happy. The real star though was the bed and breakfast we stayed in – Les Chambres De L’Imprimerie. Marie and her husband Seb were super nice and welcoming and their Bed and Breakfast was so far the coolest and nicest we’ve stayed in on our trip. Marie makes jam of various odd flavors – I ended up buying a jar of pineapple jam that was devoured before we left Paris. We didn’t expect it at all, but our stay here ended up being a surprise highlight of our driving tour.

In retrospect, it probably would have been a lot better to plan all of our stops much further in advance. Because of our lack of planning, this road trip cost much more than we would have liked, mostly due to our impromptu stay in Geneva, and we spent a lot of time researching places to go and things to do instead of actually doing them. We also ended up eating and staying at quite a few places out of convenience instead of desire. While this isn’t at all a horrible problem to have, we both felt it would have been more prudent to plan ahead. Noted for the future!

After leaving Beaune, it was only a short drive to Chessy, where we ditched our car and checked in to a nearby hotel for a few days of EuroDisneyland Paris adventures!

Dummies on the road.



After two short visits to Seville and Madrid, we booked five days in Barcelona. The city has always received rave reviews from friends and family, so we wanted to give ourselves time to explore.

We booked an Airbnb in Vila de Gracia, the main core of Old Town. More narrow, cobbled streets with tiny sidewalks and itty bitty local shops. The apartment was fifty shades of beige and full of tired Ikea furniture, but had good wifi, air conditioning, and a washing machine (our three top amenities of choice) so we were pleased.


We took a quick spin around the neighborhood to get our bearings, had some tapas at a little sidewalk cafe, did a grocery shop (I giddily picked out fresh cherries and donut peaches while Patrick laughed at the local cereals), and returned to our apartment to relax for a quiet evening in.

Around 6pm we heard a small bang, then another, and another, and another. They sounded like little explosions, like a small car backfiring. We poked our heads outside and saw a group of boys, roughly 8-10 years old, lighting off pocket-sized fireworks and throwing them at each other. Nearby, a bench was filled with uninterested, chain-smoking parents. Huh. This delightful dodge-the-fireworks game continued for the next three hours. And then again, every night we were there.

One of Barcelona’s many attractions is the famous architectural works of Antoni Gaudí. If you’re unfamiliar please spend a minute or two reading about him – his inventions, style, and body of work are incredible. As you’ll see, photos of his buildings are kind of incomprehensible. They need to be seen in person to be understood. So my first stop on my self-guided Gaudí tour was his magnum opus – the Sagrada Família. This massive, towering Gothic/Art Noveau church is one of the most incredible architectural undertakings in the history of the world. I don’t know enough about church design to describe how insane this building is, so you’ll just have to go to Barcelona and see it. And it’s not even finished! They broke ground in 1882, and 134 years later are still working on it. They hope to have it completed in 2026 – 100 years after Gaudí’s ridiculous death (he was hit by a tram, no one knew who he was so he didn’t receive immediate medical attention, and when someone finally identified him, it was too late).


I felt excited, uneasy, and anxious as I walked towards the church. It is just so massive and complex it’s very existence seems to defy reality.  As I walked through the doors I felt like I needed to be quiet, like I was walking into the Cave of Wonders, and at any moment the lion’s mouth could close and trap me inside forever.


The building felt alive, like it was growing and breathing, a sleeping giant made of stone and glass. I was in love, I was in shock, I was in awe.


I circled the ground floor multiple times, trying to take in all the details. I took an elevator up the tower on the Nativity Facade and took in the sights of the city from above.



Then I began the slow climb down the endless, narrow spiraling stairs to the ground floor.


There isn’t an inside wall or handrail to keep you from falling down the center spiral of the stairs, so it’s quite a stomach-lurching experience. One of the coolest experiences of the trip by far.


After my religious experience I met up with Patrick at Restaurante Gut. A tiny lunch spot specializing in organic/vegetarian/vegan food. The place was filled with locals (which felt awesome) and our food was delicious and cheap. Win win.

After our healthy lunch we indulged in some delicious cinnamon rolls from Sil’s Cakes – an American-style bakery specializing in ridiculous American-themed cakes (ie. Oreo cheesecake), and iced coffees from Syra Coffee. The coffee at Syra was so good we went back at least once every single day.

Still riding my high from the Sagrada Familia I needed another hit of Gaudí. I visited La Pedrera, and then Casa Batlló – two of Gaudí’s famous apartment buildings. Seeing how this genius’ building style translated between the Sagrada Familia and residential buildings was incredible.


The spaces were etherial and strange, but everything just made sense. The attic of La Pedrera has been transformed into a Gaudí museum, explaining his process, showing his architectural models, and sources of inspiration. I was in heaven. I was so high I bought an architecture textbook.


I met back up with Patrick at Cal Boter, a no-nonsense traditional Catalonian restaurant down the street from our apartment. We had gazpacho, grilled corn, roasted artichokes, black Catalan sausage, and a bottle of rioja. The staff laughed along with our bad Spanish, and everything was delicious. I was even able to contribute a leftover Moroccan dirham note to their wall of foreign money. Awesome evening.

The next two days were filled by casually wandering the streets and exploring the city. A few of our highlights were:


Passeig de Gràcia – The main shopping street in Barcelona. It’s super wide with trees and fountains down the center, and every high0end retail store you could ever need. One afternoon a vandal tagged the fronts of a number of stores which caused quite a stir.


Barcelona Cathedral – Open since 1420. As Patrick pointed out, ” That’s 350 years older than your country!”.  The gothic exterior is really impressive.

Waterfront – Walking along the waterfront was a nice break from the crowded streets. We saw the Ulysses, Graeme Hart’s (richest man in New Zealand) 351-ft super yacht. It made all the other yachts in the harbor look like row boats. [Just learned he put it up for sale in July for $195m to make way for his new 380-ft yacht?!]


Arc de Triomf – Hey did you guys know there’s an Arc de Triomf in Barcelona? Neither did we! We were walking through the park and saw it and had one of those all too common which-city-are-we-in moments.


Qu Qu – The Passeig de Gràcia has tons of sidewalks cafes where you can spend the afternoon munching on tapas and drinking goblets of sangria. We settled in at Qu Qu and spent a few hours people-watching. Super fun.


Picasso Museum – We went on free-admission day which was great because we saved $25 on tickets, but the place was PACKED with a rowdy crowd. Museum etiquitte went out the window as people were talking loudly, bumping into other patrons, and taking tons of selfies in front of the art. Seeing all 58 pieces of his Las Meninas series next to each other was super cool.


Toto – Totally gorgeous restaurant with totally underwhelming food. Skip dinner and just grab a drink at the bar so you can enjoy the ambiance.

Lo Pinyol -We loved this very hip, teeny tiny, restaurant. We sat on little stools around a small table, crammed in with a bunch of other people sitting around small tables, enjoying wave after wave of tapas. Patatas bravas, stuffed olives, empanadillas, salted cod with tomatoes, padrón peppers, tortilla española, and more delicious rioja. I highly recommend this place

Kibuka Sushi– Wanting a little break from tapas we went to this great, authentic Japanese restaurant. Everything was delicious, it was packed with locals, and the ambiance was super chill and relaxed. Loved this place.

We really liked Barcelona but it wasn’t one of our favorite cities. Seville and Madrid seemed to have much stronger cultural identities. Barcelona felt a little too westernized – a little too generic. Definitely fun to visit, but I’d return to Seville before Barcelona.




After a criminally short stay in Seville we hopped the train to Madrid – a quick 2.5hr ride. Our Airbnb was a small, brightly colored loft on a busy street downtown. The neighborhood felt urban and metropolitan – like downtown San Francisco. Our very friendly host gave us a quick explanation of the city’s highlights, we threw a load of laundry in the machine, and headed out to explore.

Madrid is a very walkable city. It felt really clean and regal, like Madrid was proud to be Madrid. We saw flamenco dancers performing in the street, a ton of super cute dogs, and happy people everywhere.


Our first stop was the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, which was enormous and gorgeous. Housed in a beautiful 18th-century hospital with an $103M expansion added in 2005, the building is a cool mix of old and new. The museum features mostly 20th-century Spanish art with huge Dalí and Picasso collections. We spent a long time ogling Picasso’s Guernica which is fucking incredible. At 11′ tall and 26′ wide, the thing is MASSIVE. It’s beautifully presented in it’s own room, and just really, really impressive.  


We had dinner one night at Bosco de Lobos, a gorgeous modern restaurant tucked inside a garden hidden in the center of the city. We didn’t read about it online or anything, we were just walking down a side street, saw a cute garden, and poked our heads in. I love stumbling upon cool places like that – feels more special somehow. Our evening was so lovely I completely forgot to take pictures.

Jessie recommended we check out El Corte Ingles – an impressively thorough department store. This place has everything. It’s like Macy’s when Macy’s still gave a fuck. Floors upon floors of clothes, home goods, furniture, food, and everything in between. The top floor is a giant fancy food court filled with culinary options from around the world. We had some dim sum and took in the views from the roof terrace. After lunch we took the escalators down, stoping on every floor to marvel the endless shelves of goods. We picked up a UV filter for my camera, and a Space Pen for Patrick. Pretty successful afternoon stop.

On one of our explore-the-city-strolls we passed a really gorgeous hotel and thought “Ooo, is this some cool independent Spanish hotel?”. It was The Ritz. Of course. We decided to stop in to enjoy some afternoon tea in the garden. The garden was really fancy. Like, fancy fancy. Like, we shouldn’t have been allowed in. All the other guests were older, dignified vacationers, or very lucrative lifestyle bloggers photographing €27 Cobb salads. We enjoyed our €14 pot of tea (oops) and left to rejoin the real world. 


Retiro Park, or as the locals call it, Parque del Buen Retiro (which literally means “Park of the Pleasant Retreat”) is a goddamn delight. It’s about half the size of Manhattan’s Central Park but nearly three times as beautiful. Endless manicured lawns, fountains, sculptures, a man-made lake, amazing flowers and trees, galleries, and even a palace. I wanted to spend the whole afternoon exploring but my allergies were like “GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE THIS POLLEN WILL KILL YOU” so we regrettably had to leave. 


On our way out we swung by the Crystal Palace. It’s unbelievably stunning – truly straight out of a fairy tale. Unfortunately there was a modern art exhibit inside, which sounds cool but I wish it had been empty. While most probably appreciated the juxtaposition of the heavy modern assemblages contrasted against the effervescent palace walls, I found it intrusive. The building is art, it doesn’t need more art on top of it. Anyway, bla bla bla, whine whine whine, it was gorgeous. 


Here’s a fun fact: A “Maja” was a term for women in the lower classes of Spanish society, especially in Madrid, who distinguished themselves by their elaborate outfits and cheeky behavior. Sound like anyone you know? These “Majas” inspired Goya’s famous painting, “The Naked Maja”, which he painted in 1800 as a commission for Manuel Godoy, the young corrupt Prime Minister of Spain to add to his private collection of nudie paintings. What a creep. Now the painting hangs in the Prado Museum next to “The Clothed Maja”, an identical painting in every way, just with the addition of clothes.


So, naturally, we went to go check them out. The Prado Museum is GIANT (reminded me of the Met), slightly difficult to navigate, and houses a shocking number of classical masterpieces. We found the Majas after getting lost a few times, and they were pretty great. I snapped a really horrible iPhone pic and then got yelled at by the guards, so this is the only one I have. Tragic, I know.

We went for tapas at Casa Patas, a famous restaurant/flamenco club. We were planning on having dinner and then seeng the flamenco show, but my allergies were so bad we had to leave. No one likes a sneezy audience member. 

So, all in all, our time in Madrid was five stars, two thumbs up. It didn’t feel super touristy, and the parks were incredible. We’ll definitely be back.





We happily waved goodbye to Morocco and hopped onto our first Ryan Air flight. After hearing stories about how bare bones the airline was, I was pleasantly surprised – it was great. The plane was stripped down to the bare essentials and every square inch of wall space was plastered with advertising, but it was very clean, the service was great, and the flight was on time. We also paid $15 extra to sit in the second row of the plane (first on, first off, guaranteed spot for our carry-on’s, etc) so that may have influenced my opinion.


We landed in Seville and stood outside the airport just breathing in the cool air. After the stale heat of Morocco, the air in Seville was deliciously refreshing.


Seville was a pretty extreme but very welcome culture shock after Morocco. Most notably, women – suddenly they were everywhere. Beautiful, fashionable Spanish women, with long hair, juicy silhouettes, tight clothing, and endless confidence. This was in stark contrast to Morocco, where women kind of disappear from the picture. Hidden behind burkas, tucked away inside their homes, and in the very few advertisements featuring a woman wearing western style clothing, fully covered.


Our Airbnb was SUPER COOL. An architect’s live/work studio, complete with architectural models and a reference library. The vast collection of vintage Spanish architectural magazines were so fun to flip through.


In addition to being cool, the apartment was located in the old part of Seville which was perfect for us. We spent most of our time strolling through the tiny, winding, orange tree lined streets, sitting at outdoor cafes drinking rioja. Oh man, the rioja. After not drinking alcohol for weeks in Morocco, wine never tasted so good.

A few of our favorite places:


La Azotea – One of the best dinners we’ve had on the trip so far. Delicious food, served in an untraditional way. Beautifully plated. We had a bunch of tapas and delicious wine. We had a wonderful evening. The people watching was spectacular.


Maquila – Hip little brewery/bar with fantastic tapas. We slid in for an afternoon “snack” and four giant tapas and four glasses of beer later, we stumbled out happy and full. Great vibe, awesome staff, bright breezy interior. Great place to spend an afternoon and/or evening.


Seville Cathedral – Enormous gothic church containing the biggest altarpiece in the world and Christopher Columbus’ bones. As one of the largest Christian churches in the world, it’s pretty impressive.


Torch Coffee Roasters– Super cute coffee shop run by two sisters. After drinking exclusively mint tea for three weeks I wanted to make out with the perfect almond milk cortado they made me. Oddly, their only other location is in Raleigh, NC. Go figure.


Torre del Oro – Dodecagonal military watchtower built in 1220 (yeah, that’s not a typo) to control access via the river. Very cool little museum inside full of naval artifacts, and after a narrow, spiraling climb up the tower, you’re rewarded with spectacular views from the top.


We found Seville to be delightful, relaxing, beautiful, and charming. If you’re going to Spain, definitely take the time to visit.



After the magic and beauty of Cape Town we were struggling to decide on our next African destination. We considered Tanzania, Botswana, Kenya, but all either looked too similar (and possibly not as great as) Cape Town, or way too expensive. For example, good safaris in the Masai Mara are around $1000 usd/day. So instead of going somewhere and just hoping we’d love it, we decided to head to our next Must Visit destination: Morocco.

Surprise, surprise, the cheapest/least horrible way to get to Morocco was via Dubai on Emirates. There was an option to fly Etihad to Abu Dhabi, which I was seriously considering because I really want to check out the new Louvre Museum. Plus they have a Ferrari amusement park?! But the reviews for Etihad were really poor, and the fear of two potentially awful 10+ hour flights outweighed my desire to visit the museum. Another time, (fingers crossed).

The Plan

Based on my limited knowledge of Morocco I knew I wanted to: visit a spice market, ride a camel, climb a sand dune, and dine in a traditional Moroccan restaurant. We started doing some research and found the first and last desires could be accomplished in Marrakech, and the second and third could be found in the South, specifically the Sahara Desert. I found a 10-day tour of southern Morocco which included a camel ride, and an evening sleeping under the stars in a Saharan desert camp. Bingo. I signed us up, we bought tickets to Casablanca, and off we went.



I read Casablanca was pretty… boring. Everything kept redirecting me towards other Moroccan cities. “Casablanca is… yeah… hey what about Rabat!”. So we only spent two days there, enough to see the Hassan II Mosque (one of the most incredible buildings I have ever seen anywhere ever) and Rick’s Cafe (delightfully touristy). Other than those two gems the city felt really dull. We hopped on a 4 hour train to Marrakech and instantly felt the difference. Marrakech is alive with the endless hustle of the city. We spent four nights in a riad (a traditional home where all the rooms face in and center around a garden) in the medina (old town) surrounded by the souks (small shops selling spices, leather goods, clothes, shoes, light fixtures, blankets, jewelry, etc.).



We developed a love/hate relationship with Marrakech. The city is incredibly rich with color and culture – very visually stimulating. The gardens, palaces, mosques, tile work, and hospitality are all wonderful. But there were a few nagging detractors. For a country famous for it’s spices the food is oddly bland and repetitive. I don’t think I’ll want to eat couscous again for a very, very long time. As a woman, I received unwanted stares and comments, even though I stayed respectfully covered (shoulders, chest, and knees) at all times. After ignoring a man’s passing comments he yelled “We don’t hate women!” at me. Yeah, right. After the first day of this I started walking behind Patrick, my head down, avoiding eye contact. Not super comfortable. Motorbikes are the preferred method of transit in the medina, being the most equipped for handling the narrow, winding roads. However, the emissions standards are either not enforced or non-existent, because the air pollution they create is pretty intense.


We spent our days wandering the medina, poking our heads into restaurants, shops, and attractions. The main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa, was a wasteland of horrible tourist traps. It felt dirty and tired, and we only stayed for a few minutes. However, we did find a few gems:

Dar Yacout


Five star luxury restaurant in a traditional riad in the medina. Very hard to find, but once you do it feels like stepping into Arabian Nights. Lush fabrics, ornate lanterns, intricate tile work, mountains of pillows, live music, traditional outfits, and endless amounts of food and wine. A very quintessential Moroccan experience. 

Secret Garden


Beautifully restored old palace with corresponding gardens. You can get a tour of the palace, with great views of the medina from the roof. Very cute little garden cafe, perfect for a quiet lunch. The entrance building houses a modern craft shop, where a local artist hand-paints traditional Moroccan tile designs on pillows and tote bags. Awesome.

Riad Miski


We got to call this beautiful and traditional riad home for four luxurious nights. Despite being in the heart of the bustling medina, it’s amazingly quiet and calm. The staff was incredibly friendly and cooked us some of the best meals we had in Morocco. Really cool experience of what it’s like to live in Marrakech.

Roti D’or

At first glance, you wouldn’t suspect this tiny hole in the wall is the #3 restaurant in all of Marrakech. But once you get a taste of the delicious and impossibly inexpensive food, you are already planning your next visit back. We went two nights in a row, and enjoyed tacos (20 Dhs / $2 usd) and shwarma (25 Dhs / $2.50 usd) which both came with rice, french fries, and yummy sauces.

Photography Museum


Very hip little museum set in an old house where the steep and narrow staircases definitely aren’t up to code. Exhibits show old photos of the old town when it was just called “town”. Wonderful cafe on the roof with great views of the medina. Just watch your step on the tiny spiral staircase, it’s a neck-breaker.

Southern Tour


Once our four days passed, we were excited to hook up with our tour group. We joined 13 other travelers, from Australia, Canada and the US, ranging in ages from 19 to 70. It was awesome and exhausting. Here were the highlights:

Atlas Film Studio

Located in Ozzourarte, a local businessman opened this film studio in 1983 with a few conditions. The production companies were required to hire exclusively local labor to build the sets, and after the film wrapped the sets had to remain at the studio. This way, the studio can rake in the tourism bucks via snap-happy tourists like myself. The result? The sets are giant and incredible. We “traveled” to Egypt, China and Israel in the span of 30 minutes. Basically any movie that involves Egypt or ancient times has been shot here (Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Babel, Game of Thrones, The Mummy, etc). There’s a delightfully amateurish drone video at the bottom of their homepage which gives you a nice flyover of the studio so you can get a sense of what’s there.


Super chill little beach town on the southern coast of Morocco. Has it’s own little medina which is way easier to handle than the giant one in Marrakech. If I went back to Morocco I would spend the entire time in Essaouira. 

Sahara Desert Camp


Hey you guys, the desert is hot. Like, really hot. It felt like someone was blasting a hairdryer in our faces and we couldn’t turn it off. The camp we stayed at looked like Jakku: dirty, dingy, dusty, and deserty. We climbed the sand dunes, drank uncomfortably warm water, and waited for the sun to go down. At night, we all dragged our cots out of the hot tents which had been baking in the sun all day, and slept under the stars. The starry sky (sans-light pollution) was so bright it was almost hard to go to sleep. One of the coolest experiences of my life.

Camel Ride


Super mixed feelings about this. Animals definitely don’t want to be climbed upon, so I kind of hate that I did this, but sitting on a camel, a good 8 feet off the ground, and feeling it move beneath you is in a very unique experience. 


We had tons of highs and lows in Morocco. I’m super glad we went, but I’m definitely not in a rush to go back. Overall pros and cons:


  • gorgeous interior architecture
  • beautiful gardens
  • elements of surprise, tons of amazing sights hiding behind plain, ugly walls
  • tons of intact history
  • hospitality is on point
  • mint tea like woah
  • fairly inexpensive


  • being a woman is uncomfortable
  • old town is dirty and smelly
  • getting lost in the Medina is inevitable
  • lots of animal-abuse-as-tourist-attractions (ie, monkeys on chains, de-fanged snakes, etc)
  • oddly bland and repetitive food (what are they doing with all those spices?!)
  • water is undrinkable, can’t even use it to brush teeth
  • tons of tourist scams which hinder visitor/local interactions
  • HOT AF


South Africa

This post is a little different in that it isn’t going to be about a single city, but rather an entire country. We spent 3 weeks in South Africa and traveled around within it quite a bit, so we feel it’s fair to talk about the country rather than just Cape Town, even though that is where we spent the majority of our time.

First thing to get out of the way: South Africa is INCREDIBLE. It was our favourite stop on the trip so far, by a long shot. Practically everything about it was enjoyable, and we liked it so much that we’re already (loosely) planning a return trip.

This is going to be a long post, so here’s a quick overview of what we did before we dive into things:

  • Flew into Cape Town and stayed about 5 days.
  • Flew from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, shuttled to Kichaka and stayed for 3 days.
  • Shuttled from Kichaka back to the Port Elizabeth airport and rented a car.
  • Drove the Garden Route back to Cape Town, with overnight stops in Knysna, Mossel Bay, and Stellenbosch.
  • Stayed in the Camps Bay neighborhood of Cape Town for 4 more days.
  • Took a 3-day train from Cape Town to Pretoria, stopping in Matjiesfontein and Kimberley.
  • Shuttled from Pretoria to the Johannesburg airport and flew out!

Cape Town

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

Table Mountain from Cape Town Center

After a 10 hour flight from Dubai, we landed in Cape Town in the evening and nearly didn’t make it past immigration. Because we knew we’d be in the country for a few weeks, we hadn’t yet booked our exit flight, and that didn’t sit well with the immigration officer! Luckily she was chill about it and allowed us to book an exit flight on the spot. We booked something refundable so we were able to cancel it later – it seemed they are more interested in making sure you can leave rather than if you actually will, which makes sense. After that somewhat scary moment (never again!) we took a quick cab into the city, marveling at Table Mountain at sunset on the way.

Our 5 days in Cape Town blew by. We were lucky enough to meet up with local gentleman Aaron Marshall who provided us with a damn near overwhelming list of things to see, eat and do. Some highlights:

We ate amazing food at Loading Bay, The Company’s GardenThe Potluck Club, Kloof Street House, and Chefs Warehouse & Canteen. We had some of the best pizza on the trip at Bocca. We got fantastic coffee at Origin and elsewhere. Nearly everywhere we went and at every meal we had, people were friendly and helpful, offering even more recommendations for places we had to go. This is part of why we are already planning another trip.

When we weren’t stomping around Bree St. we spent a fair bit of time at the V&A Waterfront, which is sort of like if San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf area wasn’t overpopulated with huge chain restaurants and souvenir shops. While still touristy, and yes, there are still souvenir shops, it has a much more relaxed vibe and is filled with decent restaurants at which to grab a drink and relax by the water. There’s also a mixed-use building called the Watershed which houses a rotating market on the ground floor and a co-working space and coffee shop above. We bought postcards here and snacked and drank and wrote to our friends back home. It was highly enjoyable.

While in Cape Town we also used took the opportunity to visit Robben Island, which was totally cool. It’s their Alcatraz, basically, but instead of housing scumbags like Al Capone or George Kelly, it held political prisoners like Nelson Mandela and Kgalema Motlanthe. While our guide (a former inmate himself) was a bit difficult to understand through his heavy accent, he was super friendly and answered all kinds of questions from the group. The tour was long, but the views of Cape Town from the island were spectacular, as was being out on the water in general.

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

Patrick on Robben Island

We had a lot of fun in our first five days and it went by super quick! Before we knew it, we were off to…


After a short 45 minute flight, we landed in Port Elizabeth and we took a car about an hour and a half northeast towards the outskirts of Grahamstown, to Kichaka, a game reserve that came highly recommended by friends. We spoiled ourselves for this particular part of the trip, both because it was Maja’s birthday and because we couldn’t turn down a such exceptional testimony from friends on what is supposed to be an amazing experience. We were not disappointed.

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

The pool and watering hole at Kichaka, where hippos hang out.

The way a game lodge works is like this: It’s basically a nice resort hotel with usual resort hotel amenities: pool, restaurant, areas to relax, exceptional service, etc. The big difference is that it’s located inside a huge park (the reserve) with wild animals roaming everywhere. The actual lodge grounds are cordoned off so you’re not in any danger of being eaten while on your way to the pool, but it’s more a “keep everything out” then a “cage everything in” sort of feeling.

Kichaka is special in that aside from being amazing and luxurious, it sits on a very large game reserve. The story we were told was that some years ago, the owner made an agreement with the owners of the adjacent game lodges (Lalibela and Bayeti) to remove the fences between them and share the land. This means that the acreage is huge – it took us 45 minutes by land cruiser to get across some parts of it, but more on that later. Some game reserves do hunting, but not Kichaka. That shit is rude as hell.

The big thing to do on the the game reserve is go on game drives. They’re included as part of your stay (it’s the whole reason people go, really) and there are two per day, both around 2-3 hours in length: One at 6AM and one at 4PM, to optimize your time around sunrise and sunset. This happens to be the best time to view animals since both the nocturnal and diurnal ones will be waking up or going to sleep. Although you may be thinking “6AM? eff that!” you would quickly realize once you’re there that you very much want to get up to do this. The landscape and environment is such that if there’s any time in your life you’d want to see a sunrise – it’s there and then.

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

Sunrise Giraffe

We arrived in the early afternoon which meant we were able to hop on the afternoon game drive. Our driver, Ashley, who would be our driver for every drive during our stay, was the lead ranger and awesomely chill. A former electrician, he gave up the daily grind to spend his life with animals, which is pretty damn cool. He had encyclopedic knowledge of every animal we saw, from termites to birds to the big game. And man, did we see some big game.

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

It’s lit fam

One of the advantages to going when we did (late April) was that it was low season – Fall was just kicking up and so there were very few other people at the lodge. In fact, our very first drive, we had Ashley all to ourselves in a Land Cruiser designed for 6-10 people. It was hot (haha, we hadn’t yet been to the Desert at this point and thought 90F was “hot”) but we lucked out and got to see a male Lion only about 30 minutes into the ride.

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

Just Waking Up

Shortly after sunset, Ashley pulled over and broke out the cooler and prepared snacks and drinks for us. “Sundowners” would soon become a staple of our trip. (He also did this on the morning drives, but with tea and coffee an biscuits. A+.)

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

Ash with the Morning Snack

Although each drive was special in it’s own way, it would be silly to recount the details of each ones, so I’m just going to share a ton of photos and let those do the talking.

Here’s some video, too:

[wpvideo idLIVjPi]

[wpvideo GhwVUAgR]

We were extremely sad to leave, but we know for sure we’ll come back. Kichaka remains one of the most amazing experiences we’ve had on our trip.

Garden Route

After getting a ride back to the Port Elizabeth airport, we decided that instead of flying back to Cape Town, we would drive the acclaimed Garden Route, which is sort of similar to California’s Highway 1. We rented a car at the PE Airport, and I was surprised to learned that not only could I still drive a manual transmission car pretty well, I could do it on the opposite side of the road as well! I did have a few hiccups – using my left hand to shift felt extremely unnatural at first, and I may have grabbed my door-handle by accident at one point, but overall everything worked out better than expected!

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

Garden Route Views

Driving in South Africa is pretty interesting. First, it’s important to note that highway driving in South Africa was quite a bit different than driving state-side. The speed limit is 130km/h, but even that seems to be only a suggestion, as we were routinely passed by cars doing 150+. Second, the shoulders are all paved and clean, and they get used. It’s customary to move aside, into the shoulder, to allow cars behind you to pass, and this happens frequently on the many single-lane stretches of the garden route. Third, and finally, you have to watch out for baboons. Seriously. We witnessed a huge family cross the highway with luckily enough visibility that we were able to slow down and avoid them, but they seem to be a major problem for drivers, as there are warning signs about them everywhere.

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

Maja at the Knysna Heads

The drive itself was quite beautiful. The route is about 750km, which we split up over about 3 days, so only about 2-4 hours of driving a day. We saw massive mountains and fjords (can I use that word in the southern hemisphere?) early on, and rolling hillsides and wind farms later on. We stopped to stay in Knysna, Mossel Bay, and Stellenbosch, where we stayed 2 nights so that we could do some wine tasting.

Stellenbosch itself was fantastic. It felt like Berkeley combined with a less pretentious Napa Valley. It’s a college town, with a huge university anchoring the city in the wine country just outside of Cape Town to the east.

Our BnB host was kind enough to arrange a wine tasting tour for us which worked out wonderfully. We visited Kanonkop, Rustenberg, Oldenberg, and Camberley, all of which had alarmingl heavy pours. We tried the South African-native Pinotage varietal at nearly all of them, which if I remember correctly (I probably don’t) was surprisingly dry and fruitful. Rustenberg was probably our favourite due to it’s beautiful gardens and architecture, though Oldenberg had some fantastic mountain views as well.

Camps Bay

After our short stay in Stellenbosch we drove the quick 30 minutes back into Cape Town to drop off our rental car and cab to our next AirBnb. We decided to stay in Camps Bay suburb due to it’s proximity to the beach and the fact that we really just wanted to hang out for a few days. And hang out we did. Our place was right on the main strip of Camps Bay and we had breakfast at the same little restaurant every day, and didn’t do a whole lot over the next few days. We finally got to see Zootopia (or as it’s known in South Africa, Zootropolis) and Maja went to a bird sanctuary while I downloaded Xcode updates and did laundry. It was a great time.

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

The beach at Camps Bay

One interesting thing we did was visit the 12 Apostles Hotel. Located roughly 10 minutes drive south of Camps Bay, this insanely lavish hotel has an awesome bar with patio that’s perfect for sundowners. Visiting cool bars inside fancy hotels we’re not staying at really seems to be our special move on this trip.


While we were sad to leave Cape Town again, we were pretty excited by our method of transport: our first train! And what a train it was. Maja had arranged for us to take the Rovos journey from Cape Town to Pretoria, just outside of Johannesburg.

It was a trip on many levels.

We walked up to the Rovos building next to the train station with our backpacks on and were greeted with puzzled looks – surely, we couldn’t be passengers, the small fleet of porters must have thought. But yep when we told them “we’re checking in”, they quickly grabbed our bags and assisted us into the private waiting area where we started to realize what we had gotten ourselves into. There were huge couches everywhere, tiffany lamps on side tables, champagne, and even live music – a string quartet, natch. The crowd was… a little older than us. I believe we were the youngest passengers by about a decade, maybe more. The average passenger age was easily 65, and we were really weighing that down.

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

The Train stopped at Kimberley

The train was beautiful, even nicer than the Lilly Belle, Walt Disney’s (once) private Disneyland train car, which is the only thing I can even think to compare it to. Our room had a private bathroom and shower, queen bed, and a mini bar. The lounge car was the best though, with it’s beautiful bar, huge windows, and dark wood everywhere. It was all super over the top.

Sleeping on the train was somewhat of a challenge. The train, while beautiful, is essentially an antique, and as such doesn’t have the smoothest or most comfortable ride. The train purposely stops for about 4 hours in the middle of the night to let people get some rest, but this seemed counter-productive to me. Starting and stopping was the most jarring part – the entire car would shake violently, so if you did fall asleep before the scheduled stop, you’d almost certainly be woken up by it, and then again when it would start moving again.

The train made two stops during the days, once in Matjiesfonten, which I’m fairly certain is simply an used Wes Anderson movie set, and Kimberley, the former diamond industry headquarters. Both were sort of interesting, but not especially stop-worthy. The train was so nice, I would have rather stayed aboard.

Our last night aboard we successfully got drunk with the staff, who were all much closer to our age and quite a lot of fun. They even gave me an honorary bowtie. Good times.


Goodbye ZA

Note: If you’ve ever wondered why South Africa is abbreviated as ZA: It’s not because Saudi Arabia got dibs on “SA” or because they “ran out of letters by the time they got to the bottom of the world.” The shorthand is derived from the fact that Dutch name for “South Africa” is “Zuid-Afrika”, and with dutch colonization being a part of South Africa’s history, the unique abbreviation stuck.

When we arrived in Pretoria we disembarked to an equally fancy and ridiculous private train station and took a cab to Johannesburg. We flew out early the next day, so we took the opportunity to crash at our airport hotel and have proper showers and get ready for the long flight back to Dubai and onward to Morocco.

Our time in South Africa, just about 3 weeks, was amazing throughout. We didn’t really know what to expect but we couldn’t have been happier with our investment of time there. We really can’t wait to go back.

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset



After Rio our next stop was CAPE TOWN! I have been dreaming of going to Africa for years and was SO EXCITED my dreams were finally coming true! Everyone I know who has been to Cape Town barely made it back because they almost stayed because it was so incredible.

Turns out, flying from Rio to Cape Town is very $$$, and the cheapest, least horrible flight was on Emirates with a layover in Dubai. Wait, what? That’s like flying from Seattle to Los Angeles via New York. Let’s look at a map real quick.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 10.36.52 PM

Yeah, slight detour.

Anyway, since we were flying all the way to Dubai, and neither of us had been we decided to extend our layover from 8 hours to 32 hours, get a hotel room, and Experience Dubai!™

Dubai is ridiculous. It’s like Las Vegas without the sex, drugs, or alcohol. It’s just loaded with tons of money, insane shopping, and ludicrous buildings. For example, the Burj al Arab, the only 7-star hotel in the world. A “room” (the smallest is a 1,830 sqft two-floor suite) starts at ~$1,400 USD/night. A few of the many amenities include:

  • a 24hr butler
  • two private bars (upstairs and downstairs, duh)
  • 14 types of pillows
  • daily in-suite breakfast buffet
  • full-size jacuzzi (not a tub like an actual jacuz)
  • 5-head rain shower
  • 21″ iMac
  • super king bed “personalized to suit your specific posture preferences”
  • professional wardrobe packing and unpacking (?)
  • choice of 200+ international newspapers (how do they get them?)
  • fruit baskets galore

It is the third tallest hotel in the world, stands on an artificial island, and is connected to the mainland by a private bridge. We obviously couldn’t afford to stay there, but we definitely wanted to visit. You can’t even step foot on the bridge unless you’re a guest of the hotel (there are serious guards and gates), or if you have a reservation at one of the hotel’s restaurants. We booked a table at the hotel’s Sky Bar for evening drinks. More on that later.

Our Hotel

We booked a room at the Hotel Kempinski – Mall of Emirates. They gave us a complementary quadruple upgrade from their basic room to a junior suite (!!) and everything was completely gorgeous. It was definitely the fanciest place we have stayed on the trip and the luxury was appreciated. They decked out our suite with flowers, a cake from their pastry chef, and comped everything in the mini bar. I was in heaven.

The next morning we went to the breakfast buffet which IS A THING. It was the most incredible buffet I have ever seen in my life. This place had everything. There were only three other people there so it felt really relaxing (buffets are normally hectic). We stayed for far too long and ate far too much but we wanted to try as much as we could.

Burj Khalifa


The number one attraction on our list was the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world. Visitors may purchase a ticket to access the viewing floor at a specific time. When we got to the ticket desk everything was sold out, but the desk attendant said there was a small tour leaving in 5 minutes that we could join. A tour sounded awesome, so bought our tickets and were ushered into a small waiting room. A few minutes later I asked Patrick,

“Wait, were those tickets 100 dirham or 1,000 dirham?”

“100 dirham.” [glances at tickets] “Nope, 1,000 dirham.”

We paid $272 usd to see a building. Oops.

Well the views and the building were absolutely incredible. We spent about two hours exploring, taking in the views (inside and out) and laughing at the junk in the gift shop.


Dubai has the most insane shopping I’ve ever seen anywhere. It has a number of GIGANTIC malls containing every store imaginable from the highest of high end to the lowest of dollar stores. In addition to the retail the malls have celebrity chef restaurants and crazy entertainment. Our mall had an indoor ski slope complete with a chair lift and real penguins. If you’re thinking “It must be weird to see people wearing ski gear when it’s 100 degrees outside” you are correct.

The Sky Bar


We put on our nicest clothes and took a cab to the Burj al Arab. Driving across the bridge and approaching the building is impressive. The building is massive and slightly daunting.



The hotel lobby is OVER THE TOP. I was expecting a more subdued elegance but this place was an assault on the eyes. A mish-mash of bright colors, water features, retail, level changes, tons of over-designed furniture, and music was a bit overwhelming. It looked like the designer had gone to a Persian fabric store and said yes to everything.


The bar looked like a future-themed bar built in the 90’s. It was so odd. The cocktails were a teenage girl’s dream (they all tasted like candy and some even contained candy), and when Patrick ordered an Old Fashioned there was a lot of confusion. It was a fun experience, because it just felt so wacky. It was like a fancy-themed bar, but it wasn’t actually fancy.

Dubai felt like being in a future city on another planet. Great for an extended layover, but not as a destination.






We accidentally had a super short stay in Rio. We booked the 18th through the 21st. Four days, right? Nope. We left Buenos Aires the evening of the 18th but arrived the morning of the 19th, and flew out at 2am on the 21st. This means we were only on the ground for 48 hours. Oops.

So, we made the most out of the little time we had.

Monday, April 18

9:30p – Depart Buenos Aires 

Tuesday, April 19

12:20a – Land in Rio

The airport was empty, immigration a breeze, and cabs were plentiful. A+ late night airport experience. Astute observers will noticed that this was quite a long flight time for what should be a relatively short flight. Turns out there was a crazy storm and we had to route way around it, almost doubling our flight time.

1:30a –  Check into our hotel, and immediately go to bed

The Rio Summer Olympics are right around the corner, and to prepare, a bunch of giant new hotels were just built near the giant new Olympic Village. They’re super nice, and since all the Olympic hoopla hasn’t yet begun, they’re super empty, which means they’re super cheap! We scored a beautiful room in the brand new Hilton Barra. The amenities and service were outstanding.

10:00a – Breakfast time 

After a nice long sleep we hit the buffet and planned out the rest of our day.

12:00p – Hire a Guide

The very friendly bellman, Edwardo, helped us hire a driver for the day. He didn’t speak English, and we don’t speak Portuguese, so we communicated with lots of pointing, nodding, and smiles. He charged us $70BRL/hr (~$20USD/hr) to drive us wherever we wanted to go, hang out, and then drive us to next location. It was awesome.

1:00p – Christ the Redeemer


Our first stop, naturally, was Christ the Redeemer. Arguably the most popular tourist spot in Rio. The 125′ Art Deco statue is the perfect selfie bait. We sweated it out with hundreds of other tourists, climbing the stairs to the top and attempting the photo. With Arms Wide Open, the seminal Creed classic, played in my head the entire time. I bought an açai (the Brazilian superfruit) smoothie because when in Rome, right? Surprisingly, the ones in Hawaii are better.

3:00p – Sugarloaf Mountain


Next was Sugarloaf Mountain. Maybe the second most popular tourist attraction in Rio? It rises 1,299 ft above the harbor and via a series of two cable cars, you can check out some pretty fantastic views. The weather was perfect, super sunny and clear so we could see everything. We rushed our way through lunch (there were LOADS of bees) and quickly made our way back down the mountain.

5:00p – Sit in traffic

It took two hours to get home. The traffic in Rio is totally unpredictable, and since there is tons of Olympic prep road work going on, the streets are a mess. Also the driving is bonkers. The drivers are very assertive and alert, making four or sometimes five lanes where there are only three.

7:30p – Swim at the hotel

Back at the hotel I had the outdoor rooftop pool all to myself and enjoyed a nice pre-dinner lap swim under the stars. Not a bad way to unwind after a day of schlepping up and down various mountains.

8:30p – Chill dinner

We were totally pooped and decided to have dinner at our hotel. Our waiter Andre, a young local guy, was incredibly friendly and brought us all kinds of local snacks to try. “This one we eat at the beach!”, he explained, showing us the correct way to dip the light, crispy donut-shaped crackers into a bright cheese sauce. He said the bar could make “Any drink!”, so I ordered a martini with a twist. After about 30 seconds he proudly came rushing back with a martini with a twist, of lime. Oh boy. He stayed to make sure I enjoyed my first sip (“Delicious!”) before beaming and slightly bowing as he walked away.

Wednesday, April 20

10:00a Pack up and check out

We packed up, checked out, stashed our bags with our bud Edwardo, and took another victory lap through the breakfast buffet.

12:00p Olympic Village

Thoroughly sated with unidentifiable fruits and tiny pancakes, Edwardo hooked us up with another driver, Junior. He took us for a spin around the Olympic Village (we weren’t aloud to walk through due to the copious amount of construction). For being only a few months away, they look like they’re in pretty good shape. We’ll be those annoying people who’ll say “Actually, we’ve like, been there.”, when we’re watching the Olympics.

12:30p Parque Lage 


Next, Junior took us to Cafe Plage, a stunningly beautiful public park. In the middle of the park stands a gorgeous mansion, formerly the home of industrialist Enrique Lage and his wife, singer Gabriella Besanzoni. In the 1960s the land became a public park, with walking trails through the surrounding subtropical forest. Now an arts school and a café open to the public operate from the former mansion. Fun Fact: The mansion was notably featured in the 2003 music video for Snoop Dogg’s single “Beautiful.”

We enjoyed lunch in the atrium while observing the endless identical Instagram photoshoots occur by the pool. Fix the hair, pop the leg, turn slightly, angle the face, hand on the waist, smile and click!

4:30p Ipanema Beach


Duh. Of course we went. The beach was a beautiful endless strip of beachgoers and vendors, offering anything and everything you could possibly want. Beer, cachaça, fresh coconuts, snacks, beach chairs, souvenirs, bikinis, hats, everything. There were tons of people playing football, volleyball, and if that isn’t enough, footvolley, a locally invented sport that is, you guessed it, a combo of volleyball and football.

5:00p Sunset


We made our way to the end of the beach and climbed Arpador Hill, where locals and tourists come to watch the sunset. The rock was hot AF after baking in the sun all day, but we settled in and watched the sun dip behind the mountains. It was really, really lovely.

6:00p Melting

Next we walked over to Leblon, the fanciest neighborhood in Rio. It was uncomfortably hot, and I felt like my brain was starting to melt, so we sought refuge in an overly air conditioned restaurant. The only people there, we nibbled on the bread basket while drinking four bottles of water apiece. Feeling guilty for taking up space and not ordering anything other than water, Patrick ordered two beers, and once those had been taken care of, we boogied our way out of there.

8:00p The Fifties

After two failed cab attempts we finally found a cab who would take us to our hotel and accepted credit cards. Square, get your butt to Rio, STAT! After sitting in traffic for an hour, we were over it. We asked our driver to dump us at the nearby mall instead, so we could kill some time and wait for the traffic to die down. Patrick tried to buy the freshly-released MacBook at the Apple Store but they hadn’t received their shipment yet. Deflated, we did a lap and came across an American-style diner called The Fifties. It was like stumbling onto a Happy Days set and we loved it. Realizing it was dinner time, we sat down and enjoyed a slice of good old Americana.

10:00p Quick change

Traffic abated, we hopped a cap back to our hotel, and retrieved our bags. We set up camp in the lobby restroom, changing clothes, brushing teeth, and getting our bags organized for our giant flight ahead.

11:00p Deserted Airport

Junior came back to out hotel, and gave us a ride to the airport. We saw fireworks from the highway for Tiradentes’ Day, a local holiday, which made me miss Disneyland and my friends. We arrived at the airport, and walked though the empty departures hall until we reached the Emirates desk where there were 300 people waiting in the Economy line. Oh boy. But, since we’d checked in online and didn’t have any luggage to check, we were able to skip past and head straight through immigration and security. We sat at the gate for an hour, and then hopped onto our 777, lustfully walking past the business class thrones on our way to economy.

Thursday, April 21

2:05a Depart Rio, fly to Dubai

We really enjoyed our quick stint in Rio. The city is beautiful, lush, culturally rich, and very relaxing. And who knows, you may even spot us in some Olympics b-roll!


Buenos Aires


Buenos Aires was the first city on our trip that one of us (me) had the opportunity to visit previously. My last visit was just a quick stop-over with my brother and father in 2012, while we were on our way to (and when we returned from) Antarctica. We only stayed a couple days both times, but we found the city pretty fun. There was a lot do and we ate very well, so I was a little sad we didn’t get to spend more time there. Given that, I was extremely excited to return with Maja.

Based on my previous experience there, we decided to stay for about 2 weeks. This would be a much longer stay than any of our other landings so far. We figured the time was right for an extended stay somewhere, to spend time relaxing and to plan the next leg of our trip. We also wanted to slow down and do more things without having to fit so much into only a few days. We missed having time to read, time to watch TV, and generally enjoy vacationing.

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

Our room came with a cat.

We arrived on March 31st, which now feels like ages ago. From EZE (love that airport code) we took a taxi to the Palermo Hollywood district for a short stay at Home, a small boutique hotel that Maja booked for us. We (she) decided to splurge a little and so we booked The Garden Suite, a little bungalow with it’s own little pool and spiral staircase to a rooftop patio. It was so lovely, and the staff was amazing. After staying in a mix of hostels and budget hotels, it was really nice to be somewhere that felt like vacation.

After spending a few nights there, we transferred to an Airbnb in the adjacent neighborhood, Palermo Soho. It was a lovely studio apartment on the 17th floor, giving us great sweeping views of the city that let us truly appreciate how big the city really is.

Being such a huge city, there was tons of stuff to do. We mostly just ate and drank a lot, but we did some other sightseeing too. Here’s a list of some of our places:

(Hey guys. This is Maja. Patrick attempted a list of the stuff we did, but it included items like “That dumb pizza place” and “The cool bars??” so I’m jumping in to add some details.)



  • Las Cabras – Classic Argentine food in generous portions at low prices. We got the bife de chorizo a Las Cabras – a steak with side dishes all piled onto a wood plank. Amazing.
  • Las Pizarras – So good we went here twice. Inspired cooking beyond the classic steak. Different menu every night. Very friendly and helpful (and English-speaking!) staff. The first night we went their credit card machine was down, we didn’t have enough cash to cover the bill, so they told us to “just come back on Tuesday to pay.” An absolute MUST for dinner.
  • Muu Letcheria – After two friends independently sent me the same photo of this highly-photographable diner, we decided to check it out. Themed as a 1950’s diner, but with artful graffiti and chandeliers made of retired cutlery (?) this place has seen brighter days. It’s open 24/7 so it would be perfect for a grilled cheese at 4am after a night at the clubs.
  • Don Julio – One of the most famous parrillas (traditional steak restaurants) in Buenos Aires. Constant two-hour wait (appeased by free champagne) for the quality beef and exemplary service. We snagged a wonderful sidewalk table and ordered half-portions of steak (which we still couldn’t finish). Olé!
  • Pizzeria Kentucky – One hangry afternoon we stumbled into this divey pizza chain (open since 1942) because we didn’t have the brain power to research somewhere better. We were surprised by the delicious fugazzetta – just simply dough with cheese and onions.
  • Osaka Sushi – After eating mostly steak for a week, we decided to switch it up with some sushi. Osaka had great recommendations, so we gave it a go. We found it to be totally meh.
  • Casa Felix – This puerta cerrada (closed door restaurant) was written up by the NYT a few years ago and has been booked ever since. The idea behind puertas cerradas is talented, passionate young chefs open their own homes to cook a set tasting menu showing their creativity and signature style. Patrick managed to get a reservation (amazing) and we enjoyed a long evening of fabulous food in a beautiful house with 16 other tourists. Well worth the effort and price tag.
  • Perón Perón – Uncomfortably delicious ossobuco empanadas set in a small restaurant plastered with Peronist imagery. Best empanada in Buenos Aires.
  • Las Cabreras – Touristy parrilla that we LOVED. A giant restaurant made up of tons of tiny adjoining rooms, with eclectic art, tchotchkes on the walls, and cool grandpa waiters. The steak and wine were delicious (they gave us a free bottle to take home!), but even better were the seemingly endless parade of tiny side dishes that kept arriving. Very fun evening, and great for groups.
Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

There are a lot of tiny bowls at Las Cabreras

  • Blanch – Allegedly spectacular brunch but we accidentally went during restaurant week so we were served a weak Asian-inspired pre-fixe lunch. I found the food to be boring, and the restaurant was oddly dark. Good Aperol spritz though.
  • Fervor – Classic old-school Parilla. A bit formal and dated, but the people-watching was incredible. We went for a late lunch after visiting the Recoleta Cemetery.
  • Fukuro Noodle Bar – The best ramen I have EVER HAD, even including Japan. Super funky, cool, small space, with walls plastered in manga. If they don’t have space for you when you arrive (no reservations) you’re invited to sip sake as you wait in their twinkle-light lit garden. Spectacular evening.
Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

Fukuro has manga all over it’s walls. Never be bored.

  • Olsen – This place would bring even the hippest of designers to their knees. Very modern Scandinavian influenced food with a beautiful garden and deck area. Set off the street behind a giant wall, this place is a totally isolated oasis. Perfect for a cappuccino wile you lounge in the sun, or a long multi-course lunch with your designer sunglasses-bespectacled comrades.
  • La Fabrica del Taco – A good attempt at Mexican food. My favorite part was the walk-up taco bar built into the restaurant’s exterior. Perfect for a quick nosh after a night at da club.
  • Casa Cavia – A multi-concept store set in a refined 1920’s house right next to the park. This place was a lifestyle blogger’s dream come true. It includes a parfumerie, flower shop, book shop, and an excellent restaurant in the courtyard. Everyone here was uncomfortably chic and looked very hungry. I enjoyed watching the skinny skinnies on their lunch breaks gawk at me as I ordered a lemon tart.
  • El Bistro at the Faena Hotel – Designed by Philippe Starck in collaboration with the famous hotelier Alan Faena, this place feels like walking into a Kubrick film. We were the only people in the giant white dining room adorned with unicorn busts. Definitely a trippy experience.
Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

The sundial bridge near Faena is beautiful at night.

  • Dean & Denny’s – An impressive Shake Shack rip off (same menu, fonts, icons, everything). The dulce de leche milkshake is everything.


  • In Bocca Al Lupo – Italian barista owner, deliciously creative coffee concoctions coupled with warm coffee cake and a peaceful inner courtyard.
  • Ninina – We went here at least four times. This bakery is the pride and joy of the youngest generation of a renowned family of local bakers. Clean lines and modern details make this place a Instagrammer’s paradise. They serve breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. We kept going back for their blueberry-raspberry scones and welcoming environment. Everything is incredible, I just wish we could have tried more.
Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

The counter at Ninina is no joke. Neither are their raspberry/blueberry scones.

  • La Panera Rosa – Generous portions and indulgent combinations like waffle sandwiches make this place a gem. They even have smiley face hashbrowns! We went for afternoon tea which included a full grilled cheese sandwich and enough pastries for a small army.
Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

It’s not pink it’s rosa.

  • Bar du Marche – I wanted to tuck this place in my pocket and take it home with me. Very tiny and very French cafe with delicious food, cheese and wine. Absolute gem.
  • La Biela – Historic restaurant/cafe on the park in the Recoleta. We enjoyed cappuccinos outside while writing postcards and people-watching. The perfect place for an afternoon pick-me-up.
  • LAB – This coffee shop is hip AF. Multiple kinds of beans and multiple methods of brewing. Patrick got a Kenyan bean through an Aeropress and was in heaven.



  • MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) – A beautiful building and gallery full of contemporary works. We saw the Jorge Macchi exhibit, which according to Patrick was, “super cool”. The lovely outdoor cafe has delicious medialunas and horrible service.
  • Planetarium – Wacky 60’s architecture that looks like a UFO landed during the Cold War. The inside is bananas, with a tubular elevator surrounded by a spiral staircase running through the center of the building. We wanted to explore every inch, but were sadly restrained to just the planetarium show, which was hilarious due to the school group of 7-year-olds screaming out the names of the planets they knew.
  • Recoleta Cemetery – Of course, no visit to Buenos Aires is complete without a visit to the Recoleta. We actually visited twice – a quick stop 20 minutes before closing, and another day to take a guided tour. The tour was super useful – it was great to hear the stories and explanations behind a lot of the tombs.
Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

Blah blah blah, these people are dead.

  • FOLA – Photography museum in a warehouse connected to an outlet mall on the outskirts of town. Beautiful space, and beautiful shows.
  • Botanical Garden – This place looked INCREDIBLE but was closed due to rain (?) when I tried to go.



  • El Ateno Books – The famous opera-house turned bookstore. Breathtaking interior with rows and rows of colorful books. Unfortunately the only books in English we could find were drugstore romance novels, but wandering through the stacks was totally worth it.
  • Kabinett – Carefully curated very hip design store. Reminded me of Canoe in Portland.
  • Editor Market – A lifestyle store providing the complete package: clothing, accessories, furniture, home wares, kitchen goods, gifts, kid stuff, and a healthy dose of hipper-than-thou attitude.
Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

The stores in Palermo Soho offer no end of weird stuff.


  • Frank’s – A glam speakeasy with amazing cocktails. A secret code is required to make it past the bouncers. If you make it past, the numerical code then must be punched into the number-pad of a phonebooth, which unlocks a door to enter a secret passageway into the bar. Worth the fuss.
  • Victoria Brown – Another speakeasy with slightly less hoopla to enter. Turns out the real speakeasy is actually inside the speakeasy, through a false wall in the back corner of the bar. The bergamot lavender gin martini was pretty wonderful.
  • Library Bar at the Faena Hotel – After our trippy experience in the Bistro, we moved over to the Library. My advice: skip the restaurant the head straight for the bar. Delicious classic cocktails, great bar menu, and awesome band. We bopped along to their entire set of American pop songs while sipping Zombies. Pretty spectacular evening.
  • Floreria Atlántico – Enter a flower shop, go through the walking fridge type door and step down into a cocktail bunker. The food was oddly horrible but the drinks and ambiance were fantastic.

(Ok, back to Patrick.)

While in BsAs we got visas for our next location: Brazil! It only took 2 visits to the Brazilian Consulate (one to drop off our passports, another to pick them up 3 days later) and about $500. Yikes.

Funny story: Getting a visa for Brazil is a pain in the ass. You have to fill out a huge online form, upload photos of yourself and your passport, go get passport photos taken, upload your itinerary and flight/lodging confirmations – yes, you’re expected to book this even before you have a visa, which seems a little like putting the carriage in front of the horse, but hey, whatever. Then you make an appointment online to visit the consulate, but when you arrive you still have to wait in a (standing) line for 15-30 minutes to see a clerk. Once the clerk looks at your application, they take your passport and give you a little card with instructions on how to pay the fee. This was somewhat weird: instead of paying it at the consulate, with a credit card or something easy, they make you walk to a local bank and deposit cash (cash only) into a numbered account. The bank then gives you a receipt that you can use to retrieve your passport from the consulate three days later. When you get your passport back it includes a glued-in visa on one of the pages with the passport photo you gave them. Nice.

Worth mentioning: This is the “easy” way to get a visa for Brazil. If you apply from within your home country, you can do so from home, you’re required to mail your passport to the consulate for your jurisdiction, and knowing which one is which is up to you. It can then take weeks or months to get your passport back.

Brazil-curious readers note: Brazil is waiving these visa requirements for the Olympics this year. This means US and Canadian citizens (as well as Japanese and Australians) can visit, visa free, from June 1st to September 18th, for up to 90 days. I’d highly recommend doing this, since as we’ll explain in the next post, Rio de Janeiro was incredibly beautiful and very worth visiting.

While we were waiting for our visas (as well as some items we ordered online that got held up in customs and are likely never to be seen again…) we decided to extend our stay a little longer and booked another Airbnb closer to Palermo Soho’s main drag. While it wasn’t as nice as the first, it was again very cheap ($54/night) and did the job well.

We left Buenos Aires the afternoon of April 18th, shortly after sending off a package of our own items we decided we didn’t need to carry with us for the rest of the trip. Our bags a bit lighter, we took a 4 hour flight past a thunderstorm to the next location on our list: Rio de Janeiro!