When we loosely planned our trip while we were still stateside (we say loosely because we clearly haven't had much direction during our travels), we thought we would just skip right over Western Europe. For us Americans, that Euro can be quite expensive. Also, Josh lived in Germany for two years and had traveled extensively throughout Western Europe while Leanne did a bit of backpacking after college and some work related trips to Western Europe. We felt like we could save some money by skipping over it and planned to visit later when we get back to reality and have "real jobs" again. Well, that plan of not visiting Western Europe went right out the window when we met some of the most amazing friends while traveling around the world. One of the main components of traveling is meeting people that change your life. We certainly are not lacking in this part of the trip.
After hours of research during our Eastern European adventure, we actually discovered that is was cheaper for us to fly to Buenos Aires via Portugal. Well I'll be a monkey's uncle! With that news, we rearranged what plans we didn't previously have and were able to map out a two-week jaunt to visit friends in London, Ireland and Portugal before making our way to South America. The unfortunate part was that we weren't able to visit The Netherlands and Paris to visit other friends we have met along the way. We will definitely make our way there in the near future to visit you guys!
First stop on our whirlwind tour: London
This was actually Leanne's first visit to London and she was beyond excited. Josh, on the other hand, has been to London several times but he was a travel trooper for Leanne's sake.
We met Rut(h) (she's Spanish so it's pronounce "Ruth" but spelled Rut) while we were traveling in Cambodia. We kept in touch over the past year and planned to meet up with her in London. She is such a beautiful person both on the inside and outside. While Rut didn't have room for us to stay at her apartment her friend, Giulia was kind enough to let us stay with her for four nights. Giulia's partner, Andy, was working in Indonesia so she said she could use the company. Also, she and Andy are heading out on a three-month Southeast Asia adventure at the end of October (lucky them) so in exchange for letting us stay she wanted some travel tips. That sounds like one of the best deals we have ever come across!
Giulia's apartment was beautiful and in a very artsy district of Stoke Newington.
Rut, Giulia, and us! Three beautiful ladies and and this ugly mug. Josh was lucky tonight!! Rut and Giulia showed us around their neighborhood and took us to one of their favorite pubs. We can't thank you both enough for showing us such a fabulous time in London. We took this picture with our selfie stick. Rut had been subjected to this in Cambodia. However, this was Giulia's first experience with the selfie stick and she was quite embarrassed when we pulled it out at their local pub. Sorry about that, Giulia. Thanks for being such a great sport.
During the days we visited the most touristy spots in London and Josh went along with Leanne like a champ. To be fair, she stopped off and sat with him while he had a beer every now and then so it was good deal for both.
Our daily transportation. A little side note. If you end up in London buy an "Oyster" card at any off-license or bus station. It cuts the cost down significantly. Also, if you can learn the bus system instead of the underground (the tube) it can also save you a lot of money as buses are cheap and the tube is definitely not.
Oh, those phone booths.
View from the River Thames
Just in case you can't remember what side of the road they drive on here's a little reminder.
I think the picture says it.
Some big clock. We forgot the name.
The London Eye
Here's that clock again. We kept ending up here. It's a great point of reference.
To our surprise the bobbies (cops) were really cool and even posed for pictures with the tourists. They even smiled!
View from behind parliament.
St. Paul's Cathedral. This is the cathedral where the royal weddings and coronations take place.
While we were walking along the front of Westminster Abbey Josh was reminiscing with Leanne about one of the times he went to London with his parents and Nelson Mandela was visiting. They waited for hours to catch a glimpse of him and it was something that none of them have ever forgotten. Just as he finished his story we looked across the street and there was a statue of him right there! The statue was definitely not there those many years ago. Exciting? Meh, probably not but the timing was so funny to us that we'll remember it forever. Maybe it was one of those "You had to be there" type things.
The sightseeing continued for the next four days and four nights. We told you we kept ending here.
You know those motivational posters? Somebody should make one for this picture...
Actually, we'll just go ahead and take care of that right now:
We spent most of our days walking around enjoying the city.
The royal cars were brought out for the day for a photo shoot so we were able to peak through the fence and snap some pictures. Man, just one of these cars could fund our trips for years to come. Do you think they would miss just one?
We were blessed with gorgeous weather. This was the talk of the town for the duration of our trip. Londoners love to talk about the weather. We should sit them in a room with Josh's grandmother, they would talk each other's ears off.
Ohh, that phone booth again.
More city sites.
This area is appropriately named Oxford Circus.
We were blessed yet again to meet up with another one of our friends that we met while traveling. You remember Fiona, right? We met on the train ride to Zambia. Leanne and Fiona were cabin mates on the train and we all quickly became buddies. Our timing in London was perfect because we were able to hang out for a night on the town before Fiona headed off to Malawi for a week. Yep, she had only returned from her African travels a month prior but she was already heading back to Malawi. Africa seems to have that effect on people. It just keeps drawing you in. However, Fiona was heading there for a work trip this time. She is a pharmacist and works on volunteer missions in Africa every year. A great big pat on the back to you, friend!
We drank some pints at one of the oldest bars in London.
Vertically challenged? No problem! Just get a boost from your friends. Rut met up with us for a pint. Wow, look at those infectious smiles!
We can't remember the names of the guys in this picture. Yes, that's bad. We are both former (soon to be again, maybe) sales reps so we should remember the names of people when we meet them. Fiona met the guy on the far left in Africa and the other guy is his bud. Cheers, mate!
It wouldn't be a trip to London without rain. This was the perfect day for a visit to the British Museum. Besides, it's free so that made it even more inviting.
There's the world-famous Rosetta Stone. To say it drew a crowd is an understatement. We couldn't really capture a picture of it because we weren't in the mood to throw elbows or get pushy. Instead, we just took silly pictures of Leanne photo bombing other people's pictures.
We spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the rest of the exhibits. We have to say, the British Museum is one of the best museums we've been to on the trip.
Remember the wedding we attended in Mumbai, India? Another one of the reasons we visited London was to see the guys we became such good friends with. It was so exciting to see these guys and man, did we tear it up!! They took such good care of us and we had a blast!
Can't wait to see you guys again. Look how happy everybody looks. Wherever in the world it is let's make it happen!! Side note: Who decided it was a good idea to put Leanne in the back row? Shortest in the back.
To all of our dear friends in London, THANK YOU SO MUCH for making our trip so memorable. We have a humble little place for you all to stay in Denver when you come visit us. Hint hint
We were out until 4:00 in the morning but had to drag ourselves out of bed at 7:00 to make our flight to Dublin. Josh was still drunk and barely remembers the flight so we took a picture of the wing so we could remember. We probably didn't think that one through very well but the pain the next morning was well worth the sacrifice of having a fantastic night. It was Leanne's 33rd birthday and she was one lucky girl; celebrating in both London and Dublin.
When we arrived in Dublin we went through a very easy passport control, grabbed our bags, and walked out to the terminal. For the first time in nearly two years we had somebody waiting for us when we walked out. Waiting for us! It felt so special; like coming home to family. Actually the entire trip to Ireland was like being with family. We stayed with David and Antoinette. We met them in Varkala, India. They were our neighbors for one night and then we spent hours talking to them on the beach the next day. They moved places to save around 50 cents (big money in India) so we went ahead and followed them. If you want to read more it's on the Southern India blog from January 2013.
They took us on a pub crawl and made Leanne's birthday so special. They even made her a cake?! What amazing friends.
David shared (maybe a little too much?) some of his cognac with us.
Heading to Glendalough, an early Medieval settlement. Here's the beautiful Ireland we all imagine in our minds.
Josh with three beautiful ladies again! How does this keep happening?!
Antoinette had her family over for dinner and we spent time talking, eating, and enjoying each others company. It felt so good to be around such a wonderful family. We owe David, Antoinette and her entire family more than just a thank you. They made us feel like part of a family, something we have only encountered a few times on our trip. We can only hope that you will make it out to Denver so we can return the favor!
We then made our way downtown via the public bus. Our friends Fiona and Neil were picking us up as we had plans to stay with them for a few days.
We met Fiona and Neil in Thailand and then again in India. Neil came up with one of our favorite quotes of the trip. He said our trip around the world meant that we were "Human being rather than human doing." We remind ourselves of this phrase quite often and we challenge you to do the same. When they pulled up in their car to pick us up, it felt so surreal. Fiona just kept saying "I can't believe you are here." We couldn't believe it ourselves!
This picture is from a hike we took a few days later, we just wanted to put a picture with the names so you knew who we were talking about.
After grabbing some of the best chicken wings in Dublin (they wanted to make us feel at home) followed by ice cream made from Ireland's Kerry cows (yeah, we are going to gain weight this portion of the trip) we made our way to see The Book of Kells. While the book is a fascinating part of history, we actually enjoyed the library more.
Pubs and Dubs, oh my!
We arrived at Fiona's house and were able to lay eyes on Neil's fancy little Mini Cooper. It was voted as one of the best classic Mini Coopers in the UK a few years ago.
Does this look like Ireland or what?
Here's our group shot again.
After the great hike we stopped back by the pub to have a pint of Guinness.
We then watched, lets' repeat that, WATCHED Neil and Fiona take a dip in the Irish Sea. The water was a little too cold for our blood but according to Neil it makes his soul feel good (or some variation of this).
Later on that night we had a wonderful dinner at Neil's mom's house. Apparently, Bono lives near her house so we took a picture of his front gate. Josh wished politely for them to stop making albums and leave everybody alone. Still it was kind of funny to see where he lived.
The view from Neil's mom's house was absolutely stunning.
Wow, Irish folks know how to make you feel at home. Two Irish family dinners in one week? We were getting Spoiled with a capital S.
The next day we ventured out for another hike, this time along the coast. Rather than use more predictable adjectives to describe Ireland's beauty, we will just post some pictures.
A great big Guinness cheers to our wonderful Irish friends. We ate great food, drank some great pints, saw some incredible landscapes but most importantly, felt at home with you and your families. We are grateful to call you our friends and can't wait to see you in Colorado or in Ireland again. As the Irish would say "We had a grand time!"
Our next stop on our whirlwind friend tour was Portugal. We had four days in Lisbon before our flight left for Buenos Aires. Our friends, Micky and Rodrigo, were kind enough to let us stay with them in their apartment during our time in Lisbon. Rodrigo came to the airport to pick us up when we landed. Wow, two pick-ups at the airport in less than a week! His smiling face was the perfect welcome to Portugal.
To top it all off, their apartment was just steps away from all of the action.
We met Micky and Rodrigo a year ago outside of an ATM in Laos. Who would have thought you could make friends outside of an ATM machine? A year later, there are three members of their family. Micky actually came back from their Southeast Asia vacation with news that she was pregnant. Meet Mimi. She was born in June and is so precious.
Seriously, Micky just had a baby 3 months ago!?! She looks amazing. Leanne has her fingers crossed that she can look half as good as Micky when she has a baby.
Rodrigo had to work for the afternoon so Micky and Mimi joined us on an afternoon stroll of the town. Josh insisted on pushing the stroller. He said "I haven't pushed a stroller on this trip yet." He wasn't ashamed to admit that he enjoyed it. Someone's clock is ticking!
When Rodrigo got off of work he took us to the beach for a couple of hours. In one day we went from jackets and scarves to bathing suits. It felt good to dip our toes in the sand and ocean. Josh and Rodrigo kicked the ball around with this future pro.
During our visit, Leanne was able to partake in a ladies night out with Micky and her friends. It was Vogue Fashion's Night Out. It was low key fashion which was a relief for Leanne because she doesn't have any fancy outfits. Micky was a true girlfriend and let Leanne borrow an outfit for the night.
Ladies night out!
The streets were packed. This was a shot outside of their apartment at midnight.
In the days that followed we checked out the local sights.
Castle of Sao Jorge
The buildings in Lisbon are just one of the things that make it so unique. Leanne imagined what it would be like to live in a house this cool.
It was beautiful wedding day for some lucky bride and groom.
Boys breaking rules
Everywhere you look there's a beautiful view.
Why, hello there!
We visited a monastery on the sea and the views were amazing.
After a day at the monastery we had one of the most unbelievable seafood lunches of our trip.
This was followed up by another trip to the ocean. What an amazing day!
Back to the abode.
We spent our last night enjoying the coast with our great friends.
Until next time Mimi!!
Leanne got in one last hug.
We can't thank you enough Rodrigo and Micky! We can't wait to see you again!
To all of our friends around the world, we are truly grateful for your friendship and for making us feel so welcomed in your hometowns. We have an open door in Denver and can only hope to return the favor to you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you! We miss you all so much.
On the next blog we're heading to South America. Thanks for following!!
Josh and Leanne