Category Archives: My crazy life

Kissama National Park

The Mission President and his wife had family visiting in March and while they were here they planned to visit the safari park here in Angola.  It isn’t well stocked, but it is large, and hopefully eventually the animals that left during the war start coming back.  As it is there is one elephant, some giraffes, and a whole lot of monkeys and antelope.  We decided to visit with them as we hadn’t ever gone, and we felt like seeing some attractions in Angola seemed like a good idea!  So we took off on the 2 hour drive to the park.  When we arrived we went to get a truck and found out that we had missed the next tour by 10 minutes… so we had a good 2 hour wait ahead of us.  We ate lunch and visited with everyone.  There was mother church family that was there, they luckily, had little kids, so all the kids entertained each other.  Very nice!  We had a good time, and saw some pretty good animals.  It was nice company and fun to play with church friends again, it has been a while!

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One of the whole group!  We all crammed in the same truck together!


Portugal 2016- Part 4, Silves, Tavira and Evora

We promised the girls one more beach morning, so before leaving Lagos we enjoyed a very chilly morning playing in the sand.  The girls were thrilled!

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We left Lagos and stopped in Silves right as the rain was letting up.  We got pretty lucky with the rain, it rained a ton while we drove but we stayed pretty dry while exploring.  This castle was made of this gorgeous red rock, so cool.

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That night we stayed in Almancil, and enjoyed some delicious donuts before heading to Tavira for the day.  We wandered everywhere looking for the market.  Didn’t find the one we expected, but found other not interesting ones, then just wandered around more Moorish Castles and all over town.  The girls got to climb all over ruins and castles, you would have thought they would get sick of it, but they would have climbed all day long if we let them.

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We drove onward to Evora the next day and the views as we drove were just so green and lush, I was in heaven!


Evora was this adorable historic center.  Almost everything was within walking distance from the place we were staying.  We stayed in the super old monastery.  It was built in 1485 and we stayed in the old nun cells.  It was pretty cool.  This first picture is a view from our window, and then you can see the front of the hotel.  Right in front of the hotel was this old Roman ruin, the Temple of Diana.

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There were churches, ruins and all kinds of cool things all around town.  we saw the aqueduct, and several castle ruins and gardens.  We wanted to go see the bone church, but it was closed.  We couldn’t figure out why all the police were blocking it off, and then we found out that the President of Portugal was visiting for some reason, the security was not huge, we had been walking on the street that he drove in on just minutes before he arrived, but kind of cool to see him arrive and walk into the church.

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The next morning as we were driving back to Lisbon we stopped at these old stones.  The Cromiech of Almendres.  It is one of the largest collection of menhirs in Europe.  They were built somewhere between 6000-4000 BC!  It of course was pouring on us as we walked there, but they were super cool, and muddy!

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We arrived back in Lisbon hoping to walk around Castel St George, but it was raining too hard for any outdoor activity.  We ended up at the mall and then taking a tram along the coastline.  We had a great time exploring Portugal!


Portugal 2016- Part 3, Lagos

We walked around Lisbon for a little bit Sunday morning, and then headed down to the Algarve region, we were staying in Lagos for a couple of days.  As we drove down we drove through a cute little town of Albufeira- I loved the colors.

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When we finally arrived in Lagos we walked ourselves to the beach and I couldn’t stop taking pictures!  The cliffs, and the colors on the beach were just gorgeous.  And, bonus, because it was February we had the beach pretty much to ourselves.

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The problem with visiting beach areas during the winter is that not many restaurants are open… so after driving around for a good amount of time we ended up eating dinner at a Chinese restaurant, right in time for Chinese New Year… and it was dang good food!  Win-Win!


The next day we headed to Sagres and started our day at the Fortaleza.  It was huge, and had great views of those amazing cliffs!    There was also this giant sundial built in the middle of the fort, pretty cool.  We also visited the lighthouse, but you weren’t allowed inside, so we just walked ourselves around for a while.

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We headed back into the main part of Lagos for lunch and more exploring.  The beaches were just perfect, I can’t imagine how fun they would be in the summer (and busy).

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Our last stop in Lagos was Ponte de Piedade.  We almost didn’t stop because Hattie had fallen asleep, but we were so glad we did.  It was about the most beautiful thing ever!  The water, rocks and green all surrounding you.  Amazing!

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Our last visit of the day was Praia de Rocha.  We got there right as the sun was setting, just in time for one picture!


Portugal 2016- Part 2, Sintra

We headed out of the city for day 2 and visited Sintra.  A lot of hiking, a lot of fun, and a lot of cool sights!

We started by visiting the Moorish Castle.  Gorgeous views and ruins to hike and climb on.

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Our next visit in Sintra was Pena National Castle.  It is the castle you can see on the hilltop in that last picture above.  The colors of the castle, and the tiles, and the details, so pretty.

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Some pretty scenes in Sintra!


Portugal 2016- Part 1, Lisbon

We decided to take our long weekends and visit Portugal.  We started in Lisbon.  Got there super early after a red eye flight and checked into a cheap hotel for a quick nap and shower before heading out to see the city.  Turns out our hotel was right across the street from Hard Rock Cafe… so lunch was covered!

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We headed out to Belem to see a bunch of different sights.  It was a gorgeous walk, and there was a matching Golden Gate Bridge (and cable cars) which just made you feel like you were home for a little bit.

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Then, on the recommendation of a friend, we went to get egg custard tarts, from THE Place to get them… and they were delicious and hot and wonderful creamy!

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We ate dinner at a Brazilian place,  it was delicious and meat filled!

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What a great start to our Portuguese vacation.

Eastern Europe- Christmas 2015: Part 9- Budapest

We arrived in Budapest and thought we might freeze on the spot!  If we thought Vienna was cold it turned out we were dead wrong!  Budapest was frigid.  But beautiful!  We did as much as we could in the days we had, but I think we missed plenty by putting our heads down and walking quickly to the next location!

We visited St. Stephen’s Basilica.  There was a Christmas market right outside the Basilica and also a light/video show on the outside of the building, super cool, set to music and running every 30 minutes of so.  We got ourselves one seriously delicious pitas for dinner, and the kids and Jeff had burritos.  Man, street food is delicious!

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The next day we started by visiting the church in the rock.  Very cool old cave, and the perfect chilly temp for sitting on hard pews for a while!  We got to the church by crossing over this beautiful green bridge, from the Buda side to the Pest side.  Then we hiked up Geliert Hill to the Citadel.  It was a lot farther than we thought it was going to be, but the views were pretty great from all the way up there!  We tried to get a ferry cruise of the city afterwards, but all the boats seemed to be closed because it was New Year’s Eve.  We also visited the Central Market, it was 2 stories of all kinds of souvenirs, food, food products and anything else you could imagine!

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Later that night we headed to the Buda Castle.  You took a funicular ride up to the top and walked around.  The views of the Pest side, Parliament and the city were amazing.

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Our next stop was Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion.  Fisherman’s Bastion was just the coolest bunch of buildings around, the tile work, the stonework, it was just so dang beautiful.  I wish we had seen it in the light, but we weren’t going to hike up there again!  so pretty!

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We walked back to the apartment over Chain Bridge and watched fireworks celebrating the new year from our balcony!


The next day we visited Hero’s Square.  The girls warmed up by running around.  On the way back to the apartment we decided that it wasn’t worth it to walk, got on the subway and took the easy way out of the cold.

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We headed out to the Children’s Tech Museum, couldn’t find it ANYWHERE, and ended up at the Aquarium.  It was a smaller aquarium, but had a huge touch and pet area, which kept the girls busy for quite a long time.  It was fun, and not outside!

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Our last stop while in Budapest was the Parliament and the Shoes on the Danube memorial (all the shoes represent Jews who were killed in that spot during the war).

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The next morning, my parents had to leave super early.  We got out of the apartment by 9 and headed to the airport.  We had a layover in Frankfurt where we had our last serving of Nuremburg sausages and then it was back to Joburg, Africa and home!  We had a great time visiting so many new places.


Eastern Europe- Christmas 2015: Part 8- Vienna

We arrived in Vienna and had to wait a while for our house owner to show up and let us in.  But after she arrived we were free to explore the city.  It was FREEZING COLD, especially compared to Prague where we were in shirtsleeves most of the time.  We were bundled up!  Right outside our apartment was St Charles.  We tried to find a place to eat and ended up eating at this chain Italian place, which we ate at several times after, easy and delicious.  After dinner we walked over to St Stephen’s, it was being renovated, but we got to see the  cool steeples.

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The next morning we headed out to Schonbrunn Castle (the Summer Castle).  It was beautiful, and the crowds were far less than Versailles, truly beautiful inside.  There was also a great Christmas Market right outside the castle.

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Our next stop was the Imperial Butterfly House.  The girls loved it, though Hattie was a little wary of all the flying butterflies.

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The next museum was the Kunsthistorisches, it had so many great pieces of art.  And the building was pretty amazing itself.

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The next day we headed to the Imperial Treasury, which had all the royal robes, royal religious artifacts and a giant narwhal horn!  It was one of my favorite museums during the trip.

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We walked around the city and eventually ended up at the Haus der Musik.  The girls enjoyed playing with all the different things and we all enjoyed learning about all the different Austrian composers (there are a lot).

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The girls wanted to ride the ferris wheel, and we ended our night walking by the Votive Church.  Gorgeous churches everywhere!

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Eastern Europe- Christmas 2015: Part 7- Prague

One day I will finish blogging about this trip so I can finally catch up!  The problem of a picture filled vacation!  We arrived in Prague Christmas Eve and spent some time eating delicious Italian food and then looking for Christmas Day supplies!

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We celebrated Christmas Eve with a live Nativity performance from the girls.  We got to open pi’s and drink some seriously delicious hot chocolate.

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The next day we had presents and pancakes before we headed out to hit the town.  We hiked our way up to the top of Prague Castle, and even climbed the several hundred stair tower.  The views were great, but man, that was tiring!

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Our fancy pants Christmas dinner was held at Jeff’s dream location, Hard Rock Cafe!


The next day we visited the St Peter and Paul Basilica in Vysehard.  It was in the middle of a large fortress that used to be the city center of Prague.

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We walked all along the water and saw a bunch of views, and sate right on the water over looking the castle.

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We could have easily spent more days in Prague, but we are glad we got to see what we could!

Eastern Europe- Christmas 2015: Part 6- Dresden

We only got a day in Dresden, which, after arrival turned out to be disappointing, as that city is gorgeous!  But we made the best out of our time there.  We wandered around town for a while, and found several Christmas Markets all within 5 minutes walking from our hotel, as well as a bunch of gorgeous buildings and things to see.  We got a quick snack of fresh potato chips and a variety of sauces.  Yum!


We also found a delicious burger place for lunch which made Jeff super happy!


While Jeff, Gerry and Hattie napped the rest of us headed out to the Panometer.  We arrived hoping for an exhibit showing Dresden right after the bombing, but got a different exhibit.  We were disappointed at first, but it was pretty cool.  We ended up seeing a display about Dresden in the Baroque period.  The sheer size and scope of the artwork was amazing, and at the top of the scaffolding in the center you could just look around the whole town, it was so cool.


That night we wandered around the Markets, and ate more delicious food, including some good Middle Eastern food (Violet devoured the lamb with figs) and a baked apple that turned out to be much more dessert than dinner.

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The next morning we had to leave the hotel by 10, so Mom, Dad, the girls and I headed out to see the water and a few sights we had missed.  Man, that city is just beautiful!

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It was such a beautiful place, we might have to visit again!  Off we went to the next stop: Prague!


Eastern Europe- Christmas 2015: Part 5 More Berlin

Our next day in Berlin got even more exciting because the other set of grandparents arrived!  We started by heading to the Topography of Terror exhibit.  It was an exhibit about the Gestapo in WWII, but it was right next to an area with a stretch of the Cold War, super interesting juxtaposition, and the exhibit was FASCINATING, so many different interesting stories and small details of the war and its effects on the city.


We walked over to the market we had visited the night before, the girls were so excited to take OGO sledding with them… so we took OGO and Gramps and tubed our way down the fake hill!

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We visited another Christmas Market far at the edge of the city next.  This one was billed as having a live nativity with animals!  Yay!  So exciting!  Until we showed up and realized it was a mannequin nativity with a couple sheep outside… seriously.  The rest of the market was nice, and the girls got to ride a ride, it was quite a large market, and had a lot going on, we tried to take it all in.


That night we headed to our last market in Berlin, they had some street entertainers, and we had to pay an entrance.  They had continuous choirs and groups singing on stage and SO MANY PEOPLE.  But, it was very nice, and there was a lot of good food, including melty cheese on bread with bacon and waffles for the girls.  In addition, I had a delicious pizza with sour cream, green onions and bacon… drool!

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Three markets in one day!  We were rock stars!  We were super tired… such a fun day!