Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No Bidets!

For those of you that have followed my blog in the past, you know that I always begin my travel blog with a comment about the bathrooms. For those of you that have not seen my blogs before, consider yourself warned. I have to deliver what is expected of me!

I fully expected my French bathroom blog to feature different styles of bidets and maybe even offer a few historical facts about these French fixtures. The truth...I have not seen one! I have been to multiple hotels and restaurants, but have yet to see the iconic bidet in these French establishments. Maybe the bidet is reserved for the home. But I have to say, France, I am a little disappointed...I saw more bidets in Argentina!

France did, however, pull through in presenting me with my first "squatty-potty"...an experience I won't soon forget. (Actually, through my wiki research, I found that they are more formally called squat toilets other possible names include: Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Iranian, Indian, Pakistani, Turkish or Natural-Position toilet.) Now this particular squatty-potty was in a bar. This made the experience even more special. It was the only toilet in the bar and I'm pretty sure the design of these toilets do not encourage better aim by the drunk patrons. I giggled thinking about how the inebriated girls were planning on keeping their balance. Now my only hiccup in the first use of a squatty-potty was not being able to find a lock on the stall door. I had to try to balance and hold the door closed at the same time...even I was laughing thinking about how ridiculous I looked! I couldn't believe that they wouldn't put a lock on a door like that. Once I stood up, I saw the lock and felt really stupid.

Here is a picture of the toilet. I begged one of Nathanael's coworkers to take a picture with his iPhone for me. (Some things I probably shouldn't admit on here!)

What are we doing in Europe?

Once again, Nathanael's job has allowed us to travel! (We are so blessed to have such amazing opportunities!) He is taking a class on EC225's (pictured above) that will last for 5 weeks in Marseille, France. We are staying in Aix-en-Provence during the week and taking side-trips on the weekends. At the end of the 5 weeks, we will be taking a quick trip through Italy for a week before returning home.

Here is a map of France for reference.

Now, I have to be honest. We have actually been in France for 4 weeks now, so my blog is just a little behind! My lack of blogging is due in part to the slow internet, but mostly due to just plain laziness! Sorry! I will try to catch everyone up to speed, but there may be some posts that will not show up on the blog until after we have returned to the US. So, without further ado...a taste of Europe.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Iguazu Falls - Part 2 The Animals

Iguazu Falls was teeming with wildlife. It seemed like everywhere we looked, we saw something moving. Nathanael was hoping for a Jaguar sighting, but Sarah is happy to say that we never saw one (even if it would have been a good photo op!). But we did get to see so many animals we have never seen before and some that we have only seen in zoos.

So, without further ado...the wildlife tour:

Starting with the birds
(The Toucans were Nathanael's favorite.)

Coatis - cousins of the raccoon and scavengers...they will steel your food right out of your hand!

These lizards looked like they were fighting (biting, clawing, hissing) but upon closer inspection of the photo, that may not be the case!

Butterflies everywhere!! There were so many butterflies that we even had some landing on us! It was incredible! Check out the range of colors...

Millipedes or caterpillars (we can't agree!) maybe doing the same thing the lizards were doing?!

And Sarah's highlight saved for last....Look how many MONKEYS were in the trees after a huge tropical downpour!

Ahhh...Isn't he cute?!

Iguazu Falls - Part 1

At the beginning of September, we traveled to Iguazu Falls on the border of northern Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. These waterfalls rival Victoria Falls in South Africa and are actually a candidate for the New Seven Wonders of the World (voting takes place in the Fall of 2010). This trip was one that we will never forget! Iguazu Falls is, by far, one of the most beautiful places either of us have ever been. In fact, this trip was so breathtaking that we are having trouble explaining the beauty in words.

So, we decided to take the easy way out...here are the pictures! (If you are interested, we included a synopsis of the aboriginal legend of Iguazu Falls following the pictures. We were constantly reminded of our Almighty Creator when staring at these powerful falls. It is no surprise that the aboriginals looked to higher beings for an explanation, as well.)

In order to get to to the falls, we took a 19-hour bus ride. It wasn't as bad as it sounds. Argentina claims to have invented bus transport. We were served warm meals and sat in leather reclining chairs...this is better than we can say for any bus travel we have done in the U.S.

The waterfalls:

(Wildlife pictures to follow)

The Legend of Iguazu Falls:
The Guarinis were an aboriginal tribe that inhabited this land prior to the arrival of the Spaniards. Their elaborate legend of Iguazu falls claims that these beautiful falls are in fact a curse of two heartsick lovers. As the legend goes, every year a virgin was sacrificed to to serpent god M'boi who lived in the river. There were women who were "bred" for this sacrifice, so the Guarinis thought nothing of throwing them into the water to their death. Well, one day Naipi, a woman who was not set to be sacrificed, was walking by the water's edge. M'boi saw her reflection and found her to be the most beautiful woman in all the land. He ordered her to be sacrificed to him. Unfortunately, Naipi was in love with Taruba, a great warrior of a neighboring tribe, and was to be married to him very soon. Devastated, Naipi and Taruba got into a canoe and tried to run away. M'boi tried to follow them, but they paddled too fast. This infuriated M'boi. He grew as large as the river and made new twists and turns in the river and in all his rage split the river. Naipi and Taruba were thrown from the canoe. Before Naipi could reach the land, M'boi transformed her into a rock so that she could not run. At the top of the falls, Taruba was thrown onto an embankment. He saw Naipi's transformation and before he could run to help her, his hands grew into roots and he was transformed into a palm tree. The Guarinis believe that Iguazu Falls was M'boi's revenge. These two lovers are now separated by these enormous falls destined to always see each other and never be together.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Buenos Aires is a city full of beautiful architecture. During our stay, we walked almost everywhere we went and were constantly blown away by the detail and craftsmanship. City guides and tourist websites drew attention to some of them, but others received no fanfare or even a sign to tell their stories. You could walk the same streets everyday and see something new each time.

The apartment where we stayed for the month of August was located very near the center of the city. If you walked three to four blocks north from our front door you would see the Supreme Court Building:

Across a grassy plaza is the Teatro Colon, possibly the most famous building in Buenos Aires. It is considered to be one of the world's most important Opera Houses. Unfortunately it was closed for renovation.

If you continue north for another block you will see the Templo Libertad, a beautiful Jewish temple.

Note: Argentina is home to one of the world's largest Jewish populations.

A few blocks to the south of our apartment was Congreso, where the Avenida de Mayo ends into a beautiful park in front of the Congress building.

Note 2: Many things in Buenos Aires have "Mayo" in the name, because on May 25th 1810 Argentina declared independence from Spain.

On the other end of the Avenida de Mayo is the Plaza de Mayo, where you get a view of the Cabildo de Buenos Aires, which is the old government house. It was originally built in 1610, torn down and re-built in 1764 and has undergone significant changes over the years.

Also visible from the Plaza de Mayo is the Casa Rosada (Pink House). It is the Argentine equivalent of our White House, although the President actually lives off site.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires is one of the other buildings surrounding the Plaza. It has twelve pillars (one for each of the Tribes of Israel) and above the pillars is a scene of Jacob re-uniting with Joseph in Egypt. General Jose de San Martin is also buried in a room connected to the church.

Note 3: Even though San Martin is the country's greatest hero (think Washington) he could not be buried in the church because he was a Mason.

But Churches and Government Buildings aren't the only places worthy of elaborate design. Check out the mall!



And finally, one of our favorite buildings in the city was the Palacio de la Aguas Corrientes. Which was designed in 1877, completed in 1894, and still performs it's original function. Any guesses? That's right, a water pumping station. Those in power at the time thought the old water tower was "unsightly", and they commissioned this one. Over a hundred years later it's still turning heads.

As always, if you click on a picture it will get bigger. Some of these buildings were hard to capture in one shot, so we will be posting more pictures of buildings and everything else on our Flickr page. Check in soon.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cementerio de la Recoleta

We have finally gotten back to blogging. When you last visited, we were in Mar del Plata visiting the Lobos. After Mar del Plata, we returned to Comodoro Rivadavia and are now in Buenos Aires taking Nathanael's 28 days off. The next couple of blogs will be themed according to different sites, architecture, or other adventures. So, here is the first of many: The Recoleta Cemetery.

The Recoleta Cemetery is a collection of mausoleums. Many greats including Evita Peron are laid to rest here. Elaborate statues and uniquely fashioned graves mark the burial sites of presidents, politicians, writers, and other influential and important Argentines. In a city brimming with incredible architecture, el Cementerio de la Recoleta is an architectural tour of its own. This cemetery left us awestruck when we expected to be a little disgusted by the morbidity of it all.

Beware: MANY pictures to follow. If you want to see a bigger image, simply click on the picture. And, if this isn't enough...keep an eye on Nathanael's flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/40231079@N02/.

Many mausoleums were religious:

Some were militaristic:

Some modern:

Others ancient:

Some were down right huge:

And here are some of our favorite statues in the cementerio:

So what does Eva Peron's mausoleum look like? A woman remembered for helping the working class and the poor.

"Don't cry for me you who are lost,
I am an essential part of your existence,
all of my love and pain was expected,
attribute my humility to the imitation of Christ,
who walked in the path that I follow.
His disciples. "
(that's my best attempt at translation)

And one last reminder that we were in a cemetery (not found on Eva's grave):