Faial – the land of my ancestors By: Kelly


Faial, the island of my ancestors.  This is the island that started the whole discussion about coming to the Azores to see where my great grandma was from.  We were excited to land here and we weren’t disappointed.  Again, a beautiful, lush, green island.  We were staying at the Porto Pim apartments in Porto Pim Bay, a beautiful bay near the main part of the island, Horta, but just far enough away that it was quiet and quaint.  And it happened that we were a two minute walk from the church where my great grandma was baptized, so that was a bonus, but more on that in another post.


Porto Pim Bay. Our apartment was all the way right, to the left of the mountain.

Our first full day on the island we went on a tour with Azores Experiences with our awesome guides Felipe Avila and Leandro.  Once Felipe heard that my mom was Azorean and her grandma was from Faial, he tailored our tour to a something a little more cultural.  With the last name of Avila, we thought he might be a long lost cousin since that is my great grandma’s family name, but we never quite made the connection.  He added our first stop of the day so that we could see a typical Azorean house.  This one had been redone for the purpose of preserving the culture and how they once lived.  It was interesting to hear that Felipe, who was not much older than me, remembered his grandmother’s house being very similar to what we went to see. 

The main part of our day was spent learning about volcanoes and the eruption of Capelinhos.  This was truly a unique experience and one I will never forget.  This eruption lasted for 13 months, from September 27, 1957 until October 24, 1958, much of it captured in photographs and descriptions from the light house keeper at the time.  Homes and land in the nearby villages of Capelo and Praia do Norte were devastated.  The aftermath looks like you are walking on some other planet with the black volcanic sand in all directions. 

We learned about the Azores Refugee Act of 1958, that then Senator John F. Kennedy passed to help those affected by this volcanic eruption.  It resulted in half the population of Capelo leaving the Azores for America.  The museum here, the Volcano Interpretation Center of Capelinhos, is probably one of the best that I have been too.  The building is buried so it does not interfere with the landscape, and part of the museum is even in the lighthouse building that is still buried underneath the volcanic ash.  When you emerge you are able to walk to the top of the lighthouse for an amazing view.




Our lunch was special and spent at Felipe’s family’s restaurant, Campo Dos Sabores.  Connected to this is Pitch and Putt Golf, which made my dad very happy.  He actually got to hit a few balls before we left. The girls, Dave and Krieg even got out there in the rain with him. Lunch did not disappoint with homemade, delicious Azorean fare including cheese from the islands, linguisa – a family favorite, homemade jams from Felipe’s family farm, fresh pea soup and of course wine. 


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We had a little rain at times and there was definitely some fog as we drove up Caldeira do Faial that afternoon, but we are used to that in San Francisco and it didn’t bother us at all.  It actually gave the volcanoes a mysterious quality.



View of Horta. 

Overall, the day did not disappoint. 



São Miguel – A day in the thermal waters of the Azores – By Kelly

Today was sadly our last day touring the beautiful Azore islands.  I think we are all a little sad to leave. Although, I will be honest and say traveling with kids is never easy.  They have had a great time, but are of course ready to get home to their own house, sleep in and hang out.  But we got them up and out today and they were once again glad they made it!  Our tour guide was Deni from Geo Fun Tours, she is actually from Croatia, but she too had found her way to this archipelago and is now calling it home.

Our destination today was Furnas, on the eastern side of the island.  Furnas is another town at the bottom of a volcano – in the caldera – a large hollow that forms after the emptying of a magma chamber/reservoir in a volcanic eruption.  This volcano last erupted in 1630, but you can still see signs of it in the thermal pools, steam holes and hot springs.  Really crazy to think about – living at the bottom of a volcano!

If you haven’t read about the Azores, what you will come to find is that what the locals say is true – there are 4 seasons in 1 day.  We were also told today that summer is maybe 5 days of sun with 2 days of clouds/rain, and winter is the opposite with maybe 5 days of clouds/rain and 2 days of sun.  Well, today we got the clouds/rain and so we live like the locals.  The fog and mist actually made the drive down into the caldera very mystical and made us feel like we weren’t too far from summer in San Francisco!

Our first stop was to see where they make the traditional dish from São Miguel called the Cozido das Furnas.  This particular dish is made only in this town because of the geothermic conditions.  All of the ingredients – chicken, pork, morcela, beef, carrots, cabbage and kale – are put into a pot and cooked under ground with the heat from the hot springs for roughly 5-6 hours.  You can see geothermal pools bubbling from the heat with vapor rising – a sign of how hot it is. There is a slight sulfer smell in the air, but not too bad.  It was really cool to see how the meal was prepared.




Hole in the ground where pot is placed.


Mounds of dirt are then placed over the pot.


Because of the weather we drove straight into town to the Terra Nostra Botanical garden to take a dip in the geo thermal pools.  This was an experience!!  When you walk past the beautiful garden entrance, up the steps to the pool, it was quite surprising to find it orange in color.



While a little off putting at first, once you walk into the pools, you don’t care what color the water is.  It is so relaxing!  With a little misty rain, and steam coming off the water, the warmth of the pools was perfect to relax.  The orange color comes from the iron dissolved in the water that gushes from a volcanic spring at 95-105F.  There was one large pool and then two smaller ones they called jacuzzis that were even warmer, but had clear water.  They even had fountains that poured water out almost like jets.


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An hour or so in these pools and we were all pretty relaxed.  Once we got out, the skies opened and it really started to rain, so we weren’t able to walk the Botanical Gardens, but went to dry off and eat our Cozido.

We arrived at Tony’s Restaurant and were not disappointed.  The food that was cooked in the cozido we saw earlier was served on a platter from which you could choose what you wanted.  We all loved it!!  The smoky flavor was perfect.  We all had favorites, mine was the morcela, which was different here than other places we had eaten it in the Azores so far, not as sweet and so delicious!  The cabbage and carrots were delicious as well!


Our last stop was the Cha’ Gorreana tea plantation which has been producing green and black tea on the island since 1883.  Interestingly, it is actually the only tea plantation in Europe.  Since it is harvesting season, we were able to see the machines at work –  rolling and drying the tea.  We also got to see the harvesters in the fields.  The plantation itself is small and almost like a working museum with all original machines except one and women packaging the tea by hand.  Very impressive to see….and to taste!

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We have loved this island.  There is so much to see and do since it is the biggest island.  While it is a big city, the downtown square gives it a small town feel.  I am sad to leave the Azores, but definitely have a greater appreciation from where I come from.

Extra notes:

Hotel in São Miguel – Grand Hotel Azores – great views of the ocean and two swimming pools across the street – one natural.  Dave and Lauren went for a quick dip before we went to the airport.






Restaurants – Casa da Rosa – Dave, my parents and I split a great octopus salad, mushrooms, Rosa’s beans and a pork rib.  Delicious and a great atmosphere, right off the main square.


Also fun on the harbor is the tiny food trucks that they have.  There was one selling traditional malassadas – a Portuguese sweet, much like a donut.  I personally think the ones in Hawaii are better 🙂  There was also a little wine truck called D’Wine where my mom and I purchased a glass of wine that we could take with us while we walked around.  Genius!



One for the road!


Sete Cidades: A Day in a Volcanic Crater – By Kelly

Today we had an amazing experience on the island of São Miguel – the fourth and final island on this trip.  The girls were not excited to have another tour day as they are very tired, but we made it to the van only 15 minutes late, and they were happy they came.  Lauren said it was here favorite tour yet!  

We were picked up by our darling tour guide, Chiara.  Originally from Rome, she relocated here 2 years ago after falling in love with it when she came to visit.  We found out that she had worked at the same place we had stayed in Rome, Villa Irlanda – what a small world!  We were lucky to have her with us. 


The main part of our day was to head to Sete Cidades, a volcanic crater located on the western side of the island.  Our goal?  To bike the crater floor and kayak the lakes located there as well. To get there, we climbed up the mountain which was pretty foggy, but we were lucky to see a little slice of the island while we drove.  


I’m not sure what I was expecting a crater floor to look like, but what I saw on our decent was definitely not it!  It was a beautiful, lush, green valley like we saw in Switzerland, with a small village at the bottom, also known as Sete Cidades – population 800, located on twin lakes, called Lagos das Sete Cidades.  It was amazing!!!  You can see a little bit of the village at the shore of the lake below the clouds.


View of Sete Cidades and the twin lakes.

Even though it was not sunny, we could still understand the beauty all around and we took advantage of what they had planned for us.  We hopped on our bikes and made our way along the first lake, Lagoa Azul – Blue Lake. 



There were not many people biking and we road along a dirt road lined with cute farm houses and more hydrangeas than I’ve seen before!  Beautiful, all different colors – quite a site!  While not native to Portugal, they have been here so long and cover the countryside so prevalently, that it is now the national flower of the Azores. 



Cows grazed along beside us to the right and the lake to our left – they say cows on the Azores are the happiest cows and I can see why. 


It was breathtaking to look up to the heights of the volcanic walls.  Many times I had to remind myself that I was in a volcanic crater!  The second lake, Lagoa Verde, is separated from the first by a narrow strait that is crossed by a bridge.  Also, beautiful. 

After a picnic lunch, we began the next part of our day – kayaking.  Now, as I said, it wasn’t sunny, but we persevered, paddling against the wind, and experienced this crater from the middle.  Wow!! 






We ended our adventure in Sete CIdades walking to the quaint town with cobblestone streets and a darling church.  We ordered an espresso and a small local cake only made on Sao Miguel – Queijada de Vila Franca do Campo.  It is a traditional pastry refined by nuns in convents during the sixteen hundreds in the town of Vila Franca do Campo, island of S. Miguel. Delicious!


This is a beautiful island.  Different than the rest as it is the largest and most populated, but today we did not see the people, just the lush farmlands on our way to and from Sete Cidades.  One difference you will see here is that the pastures are not separated with rocks as they were in Pico and Terceira, but with hedges of hydrangeas.  I can’t even begin to imagine what they look like when they re in full bloom.  Even the roads were lined with blooming bushes that I wish I could have gotten a picture of, but I will just have to take that memory with me.


On the Road Again By: Kelly

Well, we dusted off the passports after 3 years and The Wandering 5 are back on the road.  We pulled out our carry-ons, and after months of talking about it, we are in Açore Islands off the coast of Portugal.  The Açores are a group of 9 islands about 850 miles off the west coast of Portugal, and although we are only on island #1 of our trip, I can safely say that they are beautiful!  Why did we choose the Açores?  Well, my great grandma is from the island of Faial and my mom has been wanting to see where her family came from for a long time, so we decided to tag a long.  The Wandering 5 have added 4 more – my mom and dad and my brother, Krieg, and his girlfriend, Jen.

After a long journey from SFO to Boston and then onto the island of Teceira, we arrived at our hotel, Pousada de Angra do Heroísmo São Sebastião.  This is not your ordinary hotel, this one is built in a former fortress commonly known as the Castelinho de São Sebastião.  It is amazing.  Built overlooking the water, with one side looking like the original fort and the other side, a hotel perfectly situated right along the wall.  You can still walk the rampart and envision what it might have been like to be a soldier protecting their land.




Day 1 was a tough one with naps taken by all, and Grace almost missing dinner sleeping the day away.  We walked the cute cobbled streets of Angro de Heroísmo, a world heritage site.  To me if felt a little like Lisbon, a little like Switzerland, and a little like Austria.  It was quaint, with black and white cobbled streets and sidewalks, and streets lined with lights above.  Quite picturesque.



After a tour through a local church, we stopped for a light snack at Cafe Pastelaria Athanásic for some delicious Portuguese treats – beef pasties, Pasteis de Nata, and mini quiche.  A great stop to hold us over until our dinner at Tasca das Tias.  This place was delicious!  We feasted on limpets, barnacles, Azorean tuna, the local beef stew called Alcatra and morcela, a Portuguese sausage called Black pudding that is a blood sasuage.  Sounds disgusting, but I’ve grown up eating it and tasting it here was even better.

The next day we took our first full day tour of the island.  Our guides, Tiago and Gabriel, of CommunicAir, were fantastic!!  For those of you who may travel here, please look them up, you won’t be disappointed.  The island, though small, took us all day to visit.  It was green, volcanic, and beautiful, with wild hydrangeas growing all over!  We learned so much from our guides about how the Azore archipelago was formed, the plant life, the local economy of dairy and meat cows; it was a great day!!  The Azoreans are very kind people and very proud of their culture.



Two interesting things we saw that day, were the Piscinas Naturais Dos Biscoitos  – Natual Pool of Biscoitos, and Algar de Cavão – coal pit.

The Piscinas Naturais Dos Biscoitos, were amazing natural pools that were formed by the volcanic eruptions.  Stairs and railings have been built so that you can swim in many of the pools.  It is truly an amazing site to see!  There were cute little vendors selling fresh fruit juices, local nuts, chips, fruit and jewelry.




Algar de Cavão  was amazing!  There are few places in the world where you can go inside a volcano and this is one of them.  You walk down stairs inside a volcanic chimney and secondary magma chambers where the the cave walls are formed from dark black lava . It was a once in a lifetime experience!



The mouth of the volcano

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our lunch.  We went to a cute little restaurant called Ti Chao, in the village at Serreta.  It was delicious!!  Run by two sisters with a wood oven, all vegetables home grown and animals raised by them – Portuguese farm to table.  We had all of the best Azorean cuisine, in an intimate setting: morcela, linguica, masa sovada, alcatra, a marinated pork dish, and of course, some local vino.  We have been drinking a lot of local vino at lunch – it’s great!






To end our fantastic day, we drove up to the side of a crater to get a view from above.  Tiago and Gabriel treated us to a warm cup of tea and a local treat called a D.Amélia cake – mini cakes made of corn flower, raisins, sugar cane molasses, and cinnamon from a delicious bakery called O Forno.

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An amazing end to our day!

PS – I’m behind on the blog due to too much fun!  More to come!


It’s the journey, not the destination… By Kelly

…but we did go to some pretty cool places on this journey.  Hard to believe that we covered 20 countries and 62 cities in 11 months.  Could we have done more?  I guess, but we didn’t want to move too fast or rush through any place we stayed.  We really enjoyed taking our time and setting some roots down so to speak.  We finished our time in Stockholm and actually had one couple from Canada ask us how long we were staying.  When we said 8 days, they wanted to know what we would do here for so long.  The answer is a lot and nothing at all.  Having extra time means no rushing and enjoying what you do see.  We went on a bike tour, a boat ride, spent 7 hours at an amusement park and the girls got to have a lot of down time, which is necessary.  So, if you can take anything away from our time on the road, it is this – slow down, take your time and don’t feel like you need to check the box.  After all is said and done, we are really happy with the direction we took and the places we saw.  We didn’t have one bad stay or experience – how lucky we were.  

Here is the list of the places we went and actually stayed overnight.  After that there is a list of each person’s favorites – which actually changes sometimes depending on the day 🙂

JAPAN – Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima

CHINA – Beijing, Mutinayu, Xian, Shanghai, Hong Kong

VIETNAM – Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, HoiAn

THAILAND – Chiang Mai, Bangkok


CAMBODIA – Siem Reap


PHILIPPINES – Boracay, Manila


BALI – Seminyak, Ubud

AUSTRALIA – Bondi Beach, Brisbane, Sunshine Beach, Port Douglas, Melbourne

NEW ZEALAND – Waiheke Island, Aukland, Rotorua, Taupo, Rangitikei Farm, Wellington, Picton, Nelson, Blenheim, Christchurch




SPAIN – Barcelona, Figueres, Granada, Sevilla, Madrid


ITALY – Venice, Palermo, Agrigento, Taormina, Sorrento, Gaiole in Chianti, Lucca, Rome

ENGLAND – London

FRANCE – Paris

AUSTRIA – Vienna, Hallstatt

SWITZERLAND – Lucerne, Basel, Murren, Zurich

GERMANY – Meckenbeuren

SWEDEN – Stockholm


Kelly – New Zealand, Switzerland, Austria, Portugal, Paris and Japan

Dave – Japan, Vietnam, New Zealand, Australia, Taormina, Portugal,

Paris and Murren

Claire  – Japan, London, Australia and New Zealand

Lauren – London, Basel, Australia and New Zealand

Grace – Paris, Portugal, and Australia

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.

~ St. Augustine

Coming next: Planes, trains and automobiles


Did it have to end? By Kelly


First of all let me say that I started this post before our trip ended and now we have been home two months and I still haven’t posted it.  I wish I could say that it’s because we are still in the travel bubble and that we are taking time to process the whole experience.  Or maybe it’s because I have been organizing the thousands of pictures from the trip.  Or maybe it’s even that we are spending time with family and easing into reentry.  (Okay, we did do that when we first arrived home and it was great).  But now we are back in San Francisco and back in the game.  It’s crazy and hectic and I feel like there is no time to do anything.  Boxes are still sitting here ready to be unpacked and pictures are still in iPhoto ready to be organized into a keepsake book, but life is going on around me at a rapid pace and I’m just trying to keep up and keep my head above water.  That’s the ugly truth.

So, if I have to answer the question I posed at the beginning of the blog, “Did it have to end?” I wish I could answer with a definitive, “No!”  We still have so many places we haven’t seen, countries and continents left to explore.  Plus, now that I know what was waiting for me back at home, I did not miss the daily grind that comes with 3 kids.  Of course we missed our friends and family, but I did not miss getting kids to school on time, packing lunches each day and homework!!!  When did homework take so much time?  When did it become about the only thing my kids can do after school because it takes so long?  I’m missing the care free days that allowed my kids to be kids.  And I didn’t miss the traffic – I think it is a lot worse after only a year!  I am definitely having a hard time getting back into the routine.  I think we all are.  The girls are happy to be back at school for certain reasons, but I think they are also realizing what an amazing experience we had and what a good life we had on the road. 


What will I miss?

The unknown – Waking up each day in a new place and exploring.  Will we goto a museum?  Hang out in the neighborhood?  Live life like a local? 

Public transportation – metro, train, bus, tram, doesn’t really matter.  There is an ease in train travel that I love and wish it was a bit better in the US.  I would love to take the girls on the train to see my brother in Sacramento, but by the time I take BART to the Amtrak train station, an hour and a half has turned to over two and half hours, I may as well drive.  I wish BART would connect to the train station – would make so much more sense.  I only drove 1 day in the 11 months we were gone, so getting behind the wheel of “Sally,”  was a little weird.  And yes, our car has a name 🙂  But I’m back to it since I don’t really have a choice.

School of the World – Teaching the kids on the road might not have always been a pencil to paper activity or even something we would have classified as “school.”  But what we experienced each day was so much more than they can ever get in a classroom.  Here they are just learning to do school, how to manage time and people.  Out there they were seeing different cultures, hearing different languages, looking at art and architecture, learning about themselves in different environments.  An amazing experience for sure.

I don’t regret that we did this at all.  I am thankful that Dave came home that day in February saying this was the time to do it.  I am thankful that we were able to manage it.  We had 11 months of time together as a family.  And yes, there were tough some days where we would have thrown in the towel.  I was talking to someone while we were in Switzerland and said we always have our daily dose of drama – that comes with 3 girls and it drives me crazy, but now that we are home and school has started and sports have started, our time together is limited.  Claire will be a teenager soon where friends will become more important than her parents and we will never get her back.  So the time we had together is invaluable to me.  I got to know each of my girls in a way that I may never have.

I think the best thing about this trip is what it has taught my girls.  It’s okay to get out of your comfort zone and try something new.  Traveling to foreign countries isn’t easy.  Well it is if you go 5 star all the way and stick to resorts, but if you want to get to know the people and the places you are visiting, get out there.  Get out into the real world.  Ride the public transportation, shop at the local markets, meet the people.  I think the girls have a great grasp on travel now.  They can maneuver their own luggage on and off trains.  They know how to look at train, plane and metro schedules, how to read a metro map.  They can ask for help if they need it.  They know to try to speak a language even if you don’t know it.  They know how to pack light.  They know what’s out there besides their own backyard.  They know that while people might look different or speak another language, dress differently, eat differently, the majority of people are eager to talk with you, help you and hear your story.

I wish we could pack up and head to another part of the world right now just to keep our family together with no interruptions and no homework and continue the journey.  For now I will take the memories that we have.  Dave is reading his journal every so often to remind us of where we were and what we were doing this time last year.  We talk about it a lot and try to keep the memories alive.  And eventually those pictures will get into an amazing book that we can look back on.  Some might even get framed and find their way onto the shelves.  For now, we will take what we learned and make our way here at home in San Francisco.

Traveling is to the mind, what love it to the heart and education is to life…..truly enriching

Still to come:  Our favorite places

Take a Chance on Stockholm by Dave

(Pic Above is from Tivoli Gardens in Stockholm. Thanks to my friend Grant I think its the same one from this Dave Matthew’s album right?)




Stockholm was a great last stop for us. I have always wanted to see Scandinavia, especially in the summer. We had originally thought we would fly out of London, but we found an inexpensive, direct flight from Stockholm to of all places Oakland, California, through Norwegian Air, so for us it was the perfect setup.

Our first impression of Stockholm was how beautiful and clean the city was. Lauren said it reminded her of Paris.  We stayed at this great airbnb in the Sodermalm area of the city. The owner, Anna, was head of Scandinavian marketing for LiveNation so it had a hip, rock and roll vibe to the place. Plus the kitchen was one of the best we have ever used. The place had a kids room with lots of toys that the girls loved.

My favorite aspect of the city was that there are so many islands a short ferry ride away so you can feel like you are outside of the city in no time.  I also liked how it didn’t get really dark until 11:00 pm at night, just crazy.  People were out and about all the time, parks were full of people enjoying the sun, I’m sure because winters days here are short and dark.


Here were some of the Highlights:

Tour of the city by bike – Kelly booked a 3 hour bike ride around the city through a company called Bike Sweden. We had a really cool guide named Staffan who showed us around some of the beautiful parks and backroads of the city. We would have never seen this side of Stockholm and it was nice to have a guide to show us around and tell us about different landmarks or history of the city.


Waxholm – we took a 45 minute ferry to one of the many islands around the city. There are so many islands in the Archepelago that it would take you about 2 hours by boat to reach the open ocean. Waxholm itself was a quiet, quaint vacation town. We grabbed lunch and walked around the mostly nautical themed shops. My favorite part was probably the ferry ride itself checking out the other islands and watching all the different boats cruising around.



I actually saw this same boat docked in San Francisco during Americas Cup


Tivoli Amusement Park – one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, built in the 1850s. It was a cool mix of carnival games and roller coasters. Food was great as well. The girls played Skee ball, shot BB guns and basketballs, and won some stuffed animals – which we didn’t need.  One of the great things about Europe is that there are some rides that would be a lawsuit waiting to happen back in the states.  We went into this wild fun house that had all kinds of moving floors, walls, crazing moving stairs, and moving tunnels that made you feel dizzy to the point that I had to close my eyes.  It was a total blast. There was also a swing ride similar to the one above except 10 STORIES HIGH.!! I was too freaked out to even pull out the GoPro to film it. It was like a different weather system up there. We spent 7 hours at the park and the girls would have stayed longer, especially since it was so light out, but 10pm was our cutoff.



A little freaky, its pretty high


Good Times.

Abba Museum – relatively new (3 years) museum which even the kids loved.  Lots of interactive  exhibits like tuning a music studio control panel, singing onstage with ABBA holograms, Karaoke, and making a music video. You forget how absolutely HUGE this band was all around the world, probably because I was in diapers at the time.


Vasa Museum – The Vasa was a 17th Century boat that sank on its maiden voyage (Titanic who?) and was dredged up in almost perfect condition. Supposedly it is the most visited museum in Scandinavia. Really good exhibits about life on board the ship, navigation, and how the sails worked.


The grocery stores – Kelly really loved the grocery stores here. What I noticed was the amazing amounts of fish, hard breads, and yogurts.  Their cheese and meat sections were like nothing Kelly had every seen before – so many choices!


Bacon and Cheese Spread. Not that bad actually.


They love their hard breads here

The liquor stores – I had no idea that all the liquor stores in Sweden are state run. The benefit of that is that the state gets huge volume discounts. The selection is top notch as well, but you can only buy liquor at those stores and they are closed on Sunday, so you must plan accordingly.

The subway – we have seen a lot of subways on this trip, but the one is Stockholm has this 70’s, underground cavern type of vibe.  When we were there they were also pretty empty. I felt like I was in the movie Logan’s Run.



To cap off our stay we ended up meeting with some friends from the girls school, the Mahoney family, on our very last night of our trip. John was on a European trip celebrating his 50th birthday and Jen’s family is from Sweden, so we met her sister Michelle who lives in Stockholm. The girls were glad to hang with kids from their school and we had a great time catching up over drinks at the Hotel Diplomat.  What a great way to end our trip!


The Alonsos and the Mahoneys


After 11 months and 20 countries, ready to go home!!

Seeing an Old Friend in Lake Constance, Germany-by Dave



As you can see from Kelly’s last post, we have been very fortunate to spent time with many friends and family during this adventure.  After our time in Switzerland we visited an old friend of mine, Mausi, who lives just outside Lake Constance, Germany, in a town called Meckenbeuren.  Lake Constance is a huge lake in Southern Germany that also borders Switzerland and Austria.  As we wind down the trip, I was looking forward to just hanging around and living like a local.

But first some background about how I met Mausi.  We first met the summer after I graduated from high school, in 1990, on my first trip to Europe.  I was on a “student ambassador” program called People to People, a month long trip through several European countries which my family friend, Maria, had gone through a previous summer. To be in Germany at that time was amazing, as the Berlin Wall had just come down in November of 1989.  Our tour guide in Berlin was flabbergasted that our bus could just drive through the checkpoint to our hotel in East Berlin.  I actually had a chance to break off a piece of the wall with a sledgehammer.

During this trip we had a couple of homestays with local families, and one of them was with Mausi’s family in a really cool Bavarian town called Murnau, which is a couple hours south of Munich.  I remember having gulash for the first time, how empty the streets were when Germany played in the world cup finals, practicing with the local basketball team, and playing tennis on red clay.  It was also the first time when I realized that the BMW emblem was the Bavarian flag. Duh.

Mausi has since visited me in San Francisco a couple of times, I visited her when I was living in Vienna, my mom visited her family when she was traveling, and Kelly even met her when she was touring Europe after we graduated from Santa Clara.  When Mausi studied abroad at Depaul University in Chicago, she even lived on the same floor as my cousin, Gina. Gina and Maui even shared the same birthday down to the year! Small world.  To top it off, Mausi was even part of our wedding.

So it was great to catch up, meet her husband, Rudy, and her two kids, Anna and Theresa, and just spend time in a place with zero tourists.  We went to local bakery every morning, barbecued, watched Euro cup soccer, took a ferry to the nearby city of Konstanz and visited the kid’s elementary school.

One day Rudy took me on a tour of the surrounding area and its amazing countryside. We went to nearby town of Friedrichshafen, which is famous for is aviation industry, most notably the Zeppelin (or Blimp). We checked out the planes at the Donier aircraft museum. We also grabbed coffee and talked about life in Germany-housing, education, taxes.  Rudy works in the space industry designing scientific payloads to be sent into space, so it was interesting talking about different launch sites, orbits, the international space station, things I know nothing about.

We also had a chance to check out Anna’s soccer tournament, which looked exactly like any tournament in the states, except with amazing pork sandwiches and brats.

One of my favorite parts of our stay was that Mausi’s daughter Anna would speak to the girls in german, assuming they understood.  The girls had to figure out how to communicate with her, which they did – one of the perks of traveling to so many countries and hearing so many languages.  Anna was really good in helping the girls learn to ride a unicycle.  They had a blast and no one killed themselves. Win-win.

One story sticks out to me during our stay. I was hanging out with Mausi and Rudy after watching a Euro cup soccer match.  Mausi asked, “You know how we ended up with you when you first visited?”  I had no idea.  I guess all the kids in our group had to put down their hobbies and interests for their potential homestay families.  Apparently I looked like I was the most normal person when I put down basketball and tennis, while other kids put down things like Dungeons and Dragons, which I played too but would never admit to a stranger, because, you know, it’s weird.  Since most kids don’t want a potential axe murderer staying with them (buzzkill), a couple kids expressed interest in having me stay with them. Mausi couldn’t make it to the meeting when this decision was being made, so the teacher just asked her who she wanted.  All these years and I never knew.  Funny how that works out.

So a big heartfelt thanks again to Mausi, Rudy, Anna, and Theresa for having us and for all your hospitality. We look forward to returning the favor one day!



The people we have met along the way – Part 2 By Kelly

A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles – Tim Cahill

I was so blown away by all the people we met, visited or who visited us on the first half of our trip that I dedicated a blog post to naming each of them and giving our thanks for taking the time to make our journey that much better.  Now as we end this incredible experience, I continue to be amazed by the people we encountered on our journey.  Some we knew, some we met, some we saw after many years.  But once again, a friendly face, kind words, a glass of wine, dinner, it all meant the world to us.  So, once again, I would like to give a shout out to all the people who made the second half of our trip so special.

Barcelona – Dave’s mom stayed with us for 5 weeks.  We are so thankful for the time we had with her and her fluent Spanish which helped us along the way.

Barcelona – Liz and Lindsay – One of our San Francisco babysitters, Liz, and her roommate, Lindsay, happened to take a trip to Paris and Barcelona that coincided with our time there.  We were so happy to have a night out, without kids might I add, and to share a delicious, gourmet tapas meal at La Pepita.

Lisbon – To my family – Fernando, Maria Helen, Francisco, Dulce, Guillerme, Ines, Alexander, Ana, Henrique and to the extended family who came to see us.  For showing us your slice of Portugal.  We loved your beautiful country, your food and most of all you!!!  A highlight of our trip for sure.  We can’t wait to see you again!

Venice, Italy – Christina and Mia Green and their daughter, Maggie – If you can believe it, Dave got an email from our good friend, Tom Green, once he heard we were in Venice.  His brother, Christian, had just landed in Venice as well.  We met him and his family for a drink.  Small world!!

Sicily –  To my parents for joining us on this journey.  It was an amazing month and a treat to get to spend that time with you.

Terrasini, Sicily – To our friend Tina’s aunt, Lina.  For showing us true Sicilian hospitality and cuisine. It was such a delicious lunch and so nice to get to know you and your family.

Lucca – To our friend, Danny’s dad’s cousin, Domenico and his daughter, Beatrice, for showing us the quaint and charming town of Lucca and for driving us to see the amazing villas outside the walls.

Rome – To Father Kevin for taking the time to celebrate Grace and Lauren’s First Communion.  It was such a personal and memorable day.

London – To the Sweitzer family, Polly, Steve and Sadie, our compadres in world travels.  Cousins of my college friend, Julie.  

Paris – To my best friend, Jennie, for sharing her love for Paris and all things Eiffel Tower for 3 weeks!!!!  You made Paris a city we all love! 

Paris – And to Jill, from meeting briefly in Chianti, to having drinks and dinner in Paris.  Hope we meet again.

Paris – Dave’s high school friend, John Gaynor and his family, for having us all over for a home cooked meal.  We appreciate your hospitality.

Vienna – Phil Nery – grade school friend of Dave’s who happened to be in Vienna for work.  Dave was able to meet him for coffee.

Vienna – Penelope – a great girl we met when we toured Dave’s old school in Vienna.  She ended up babysitting twice for us – so lucky!

Lucerne and Murren – To my brother, Matt.  I can’t even believe that our paths crossed!! That’s the icing on the cake!  Loved spending time in beautiful Murren with you – a magical place.  Love you!

Basel – To our college friend, Shannon and her family, Tim, Blake, Jenna and Kate, for taking us in and showing us the sites in Basel.  What a treat to reconnect after all these years.  Can’t get rid of me now!  And to Ms. Jeanne – we loved our day with you!!

Lake Constance – To Dave’s friend, Mausi, who he met in 1990 when he did a homestay at her house in Murnau, Germany.  For housing us and showing us the beautiful countryside.

Stockholm – To our San Francisco friends, The Mahoney Family – who happened to be visiting their family in Stockholm while we were there.  We enjoyed dinner and drinks and the girls enjoyed hanging out with their kids.

Again, it really amazes me as I write this list.  The internet is an amazing tool that has allowed us to connect, reconnect and find people all over.  It definitely made the world a smaller place for us.   There are so many people around the world who took part in this journey with us.  You will all hold a special place in our hearts and memories for helping to make this trip so special.   

The joys of travel is visiting new towns and meeting new people – Genghis Khan

On Top of the World: Our Time in Switzerland – By Kelly


It’s hard to believe we have now been traveling for almost 11 months.  The time actually seems to fly by.  Okay, there are some days that drag on, but for the most part, it’s crazy to think that Japan was way back in August of last year.  We still have our roll ons, although Gracie’s is now double strapped after the zipper broke last week.  Can’t bear to part with it since the girls have been collecting stickers at each country.  Her backpack zipper broke as well and a new backpack was purchased – tough week for Grace, but we continue on. 

We have accumulated much more it seems.  We left for the Paris airport last month with everything packed up as usual only to find that the bags needed to weigh 10 kilos each (which isn’t very much by the way.  Our luggage is on average about 12-13 kilos and we are living slim).  One new duffle bag and some reorganizing and we were off.  The only problem is that somehow the duffle bag was still full when we left Vienna and again when we left Lucerne.  How does that happen?  We didn’t buy anything new – I don’t think.  Lucky for us, we had some friends heading to the states with empty bags and filled one up with our stuff.  Honestly, I don’t know what we would have done.  Dave would have refused to lug an extra duffle any further 🙂 

We are nearing the end of this journey, which is bittersweet.  The girls are dying to get home, Claire would keep going if she could.  She even said the other day that she thinks it will be weird to be home again.  It has been so amazing seeing the world and showing the girls what else is out there.  Different people, different food, music, culture, ways of life.  It has been an extremely eye opening experience and one I hope they look back on.  I think Claire will remember all of it, the twins maybe not as much.  But I do think that without them knowing it, the decisions they make going forward will be influenced by this experience.

As I write this, we are on a train heading out of Switzerland.  Switzerland is a the most beautiful country.  I remember loving it when I came after college and it still does not disappoint.  The towns and villages are quaint and the beauty is staggering.  It was a busy week, but actually seems like we were there a long time. 

Here are the highlights:

MY BROTHER, MATT – While we were in Paris, we were surprised to find out that we were going to cross paths with  my brother, Matt.  For the last 11 summers he has come to Switzerland to lead treks in the Swiss Alps with the company Alpine Hikers.  One would think we would have known we were going to be able to see each other, but we literally found out about a week before we were leaving Vienna.  Luckily we were able to switch a few things around and we met him for a day in Lucerne.   We were all so happy to see him!  It had been almost a year!  Uncle Matt was a good sport listening to all the girls stories and looking at each piece of art.  You know you’ve been around each other too long when you can’t wait for someone new to talk to!


Lucerne is a cute town with the typical Alpine architecture.  What really got us was just how beautiful it was.  The town sits right on the lake with the mountains towering above it.  We had an amazing view of Mt. Pilatus right from our window. 


Uncle Matt took us to a Glacier Garden -Gletschergarten – which I would highly recommend if you ever go to Lucerne. The girls really enjoyed seeing the glacier pot holes from the Ice Age, fossils, crystals and rocks, plus there was a really fun mirror maze at the one point that was over 100 years old!

The best part of our time with Uncle Matt was that when we looked at his itinerary, he was going to be in the small town of Mürren up in the Swiss Alps for two nights.  I had been there in college and was excited to show Dave and the girls this part of Switzerland.  We figured we wouldn’t have the chance to do it again, so we headed up there and we are so glad we did.  That might be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.  (Hallstatt rates up there as well).  Up in the Alps you really feel like you are on top of the world.


There is something about towns with no cars that are so peaceful and relaxing.  Murren is not easy to get to, a tram takes you up and then a little train makes you into the village.  And this time of year it is filled with hikers looking to get a great day on the mountain.

The pinnacle of our time with Matt was the  day hike we took.  I would say it was about 5 1/2-6 miles and the girls were troopers.  The weather was amazing the few days we were there, so we lucked out.  The wild flowers were in full bloom, which is a site to see.  We also walked amongst the Swiss cows – their huge cow bells ringing.  We literally felt like we could have been the Von Trapp Family and we did break out in “The Hills Are Alive” a few times.  We stopped at a hut way up the mountain where we enjoyed fresh cheese and butter that were of course made from the cows we had just seen – truly farm to table.  We ended at the best park – set high on the mountain top – where the kids had a blast.  If hiking is something you like to do, this is the place.  You can’t beat the beauty or the feeling like you are experiencing something few will ever have a chance to see.  It’s like a hidden secret.  Contact Matt and he will set you up!  Alpinehikers.com


We were sad to see Uncle Matt leave, but he set us out on a journey down to the Lauterbrunnen Valley for our last day where he said we had to see Trümmelbach Falls.  The Lauterbrunnen Valley is called the valley of 72 waterfalls.  It reminded us of Yosemite Valley in California.  


The Trümmelbach Falls are 10 waterfalls inside a cave that you access via an elevator.  They carry about 20,000 liters of water per second from the glaciers above.  The sound is deafening, but such a cool thing to see.


Another great stay was in the cute town of Basel with my college friend Shannon and her family.  They have been living there as expats for the last 6 years.  We were glad we were able to connect and see what their experience has been.  It was the perfect stop and they were the perfect hosts.  The girls were ready for some time with others kids and got along great with Blake, Jenna and Kate.  We hit the park with a water area and a zip line – the girls were in heaven!  We swam, the kids played Minecraft, did art, basic kid fun and went to one of the girls favorites museums – The Basel Paper Mill – Basler Papiermühle.  A super cool museum in an old restored building that was once a paper mill 500 years ago. You get to see the history of papermaking, printing and writing.  The girls were able to make their own paper, practice writing with quills, type on typewriters (remember those?) and make marbled paper as well.  Claire was in heaven and said it was the best museum she had been too!


Shannon also set us up with a teacher the girls used to have who does tours of the Basel for children.  We loved meeting Miss Jean!  The girls were super excited to find the next clue she gave them and learn about the city in the process.  We took a water ferry across the Rhine River during the tour, which was a cool experience.  You are on a small boat that is “powered” by nothing but a steel cable and the current of the river.


We were happy to have time to catch up with Shannon and Tim over some great barbecue, which is one thing we have all been missing since we last really had a bbq in Australia.  We had fajitas, salmon, and kebabs – Dave and I were in heaven.

Family and friends all around the world – how lucky we have been!  Makes this experience extra special.

Next stop – Germany