Our Wedding - The Wedding Deck on top of Aspen Mountain
13th January
2019
written by bob

Hello Friends!

Our apologies.  It has been WAY TOO LONG.  4+ years too long!

I’m going to keep this post short.  Suffice to say, a decision was made back in May 2014 and we did not end up moving to Singapore (a future blog post) and, instead, ended up moving back to the US and the great state of Colorado!

Denver, CO

Denver, Colorado skyline with the beautiful Rocky Mountains in the background.

Life is pretty busy at the moment with full-time work, part-time contract work, Miss G’s schedule of hockey & swimming, and making time for our love of skiing/riding in the nearby mountain resorts.

I will attempt to make a better habit of writing more blogs in the future.  It kind of fell off our radar once we moved back to the US as all of our friends and family were back here.  However with all of our NEW found “European” friends and followers may made while abroad, I (we) need to blog more so they can keep up with our new adventures.

That was the original intent of our blog; to keep friends & family abreast on what we were up to and how our lives were going while living abroad.  Our travel has not ceased since moving back and I will detail that in future blogs for you all to enjoy!  Please feel free to comment and let us know what you all have been up to as well.  We’d love to hear from you!

Bye for now, my friends.

22nd April
2014
written by bob

We recently passed our 3 year anniversary of living on the Cote d’Azur this past March. To be quite honest, I still remember the day we arrived and all the excitement and anxiety that went with it. Our lives have changes immensely since that day and I have to say we are better people for it and we are stronger because of it.

And…so the time has come that we have to make another important decision in our lives. Our time in France will end soon and we have to decide our next stop. About 1.5 years ago, the potential list of a next city to move was: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok. Neither of us have spent much time in Asia. In fact my first trip was when we lived in Bangkok for an entire month in 2012 that included a few side trips; don’t miss our unforgetable ferry ride from Phi Phi Island to Phuket!. The global company we both work for is currently conducts an extensive amount of work with companies in Asia and, thus, they have a need for more representation in this part of the world.

Our current opportunity presented? Singapore…just named the most expensive city in the world to live for 2014. Hell, I would say that the Cote d’Azur is just as expensive so I wouldn’t say this is a concern! You certainly pay for the beautiful scenery in this area while living on the Mediterranean Sea. Don’t forget, this is France and let’s just say you are taxed out your wah-zoo here. However, I can assure you, living on the Cote d’Azur is truly AMAZING! It’s not called the Cote d’Azur for nothing. Travel here and you will soon realize what I’m talking about.

Nice, France on the Cote d'Azur.

Nice, France on the Cote d’Azur.

On the other hand, we also have the possibility to returning to the US; in particular, Denver, Colorado. Denver has been at the top of our list of US cities to move. We love Colorado. We were married on top of Aspen mountain. There are few places in the world that you can live that are truly desirable for many reasons. I really believe that Arizona, Colorado, and the Cote d’Azur share a common link, sunlight; 300 days a year of it! All 3 have quite amazing weather.

Decisions are upon us. Where will we go from here? We aren’t exactly sure yet however, we are quite sure this will be our last summer in the Cote d’Azur. It has been an incredible experience to live abroad, embrace a new culture, learn a new language, and explore a new continent (or 2). While everything has it’s pros and cons, we wouldn’t change a thing. All 3 of us are richer people from everything we’ve gained during our time abroad.

Stay tuned to find out where we decide to take our travels next. Right now, it’s decision time.

Au revoir, mes amis!

15th April
2014
written by bob

This post is long overdue. Yep, my bad…AGAIN. I’ve been slacking…

Over Christmas we enjoyed a family vacation in the southern French Alps. We have skied 2 of the other ski resorts, Auron and Valberg, in the 2hr drive from Cannes. The last one of the 3 we have not skied, Isola 2000, was our destination of choice for this Christmas ski trip. As we were heading there for a week, Miss G requested to go to ski school for every day. GREAT IDEA, G!

For skiing & snowboarding is something that we LOVE (almost as much as hockey for this Canadian)! We want Miss G to learn to ski as quick as possible. Family ski trips are the one thing that we look forward to and we have started G early with ski lessons. She had her first lesson when she was 3. Technically, she “should” have been 4 yrs old BUT since she was as bigger than most 5 yr olds in France, no one questioned it. Miss G enjoyed her week of ski school and improved to being able to use the tow rope and perform “pizza” braking. Two steps closer!

Christmas Day in Isola 2000.

Christmas Day in Isola 2000.

On Christmas eve, we had dinner at one of the local restaurants. Dinner continued into tobogganing for Miss G outside the restaurant. The conditions were perfect; lightly snowing with a healthy blanket of fresh snow already covering the ground. As it was Christmas eve, Santa was scheduled to make a stop-over in Isola “apres le Decente de Flambeaux”. Neither Katherine nor I have ever seen this event but it looked incredible! And just then, at 19h30-20h00 in the dark of the winter night, a line of torches from the right side of the mountain began descending from the top. The line grew longer and longer. It was quite amazing to see! Then, all of a sudden, a second line of torches were ignited and began a second descent from the left. As they descended further and further down the mountain, they were getting closer and closer and eventually joined into one line to become one super-long line. From mid-mountain onward, the line of torches lit the trail all the way to centerville. It was absolutely AMAZING to see and experience this “Decente de Flambeaux”!

Following closely behind at the end of the “decente” was Père Noël. Miss G was soooo excited to see Santa that she began shouting loudly, “Père Noël, Père Noël”! Within the large crowd around Santa and Miss G on my shoulders, all of a sudden candy was flying in every direction. I bent down and managed to grab a couple pieces from the snow while G balanced on my shoulders; quite well I might add.

Enjoy the video of the Christmas 2013 Decente de Flambeaux in Isola 2000.

Au revoir, mes amis!

10th March
2014
written by bob

A family vacation. That sounds good. Wait, a family vacation in Positano, Italy along the Amalfi Coast. Ahhhh yes, that sounds incredible! With Grandma, Aunt Holly, Katherine, Miss G, our au-pair Jess, and myself, all enjoyed this seaside paradise.

It was fantastic! Who wouldn’t want to vacation here?

Positano is simply an amazing place to visit!

Positano is simply an amazing place to visit!

If you have never been, we highly recommend it. We love Italy! Just make sure you are ready to do some walking AND some stair climbing! You will certainly get a workout in Positano! This past August in Italy was great; weather, food, wine, and family. This was the first vacation that we pretty much HAD to book our accommodation EARLY! We started looking in April/May for a place and at that time, there wasn’t a lot of places left. Positano is THAT popular! Our criteria for a place…large terrace, 3 bedrooms, and in town. We finally settled on Villa Balda. The terrace alone makes this place worth every penny! See for yourself, Villa Balda has everything you could need, a HUGE terrace, 3 large bedrooms each with its own full ensuite bathroom, a sitting area, dining room table, a large laundry room with washer, TV area (if you cannot live without although we never watched it), and an incredible, modern kitchen (with dishwasher). We enjoyed cooking from the kitchen (thank you Aunt Holly & Grandma) on two occasions as there are a few small markets nearby in order to take in a dinner on the terrace while enjoying the sunset view of the sea.

Arriving on a Saturday evening in Mid-August, we had pre-booked a walking tour of Positano first thing Sunday morning with Christine Cuomo owner of . A local in Positano for the past 8 years, Christine was extremely knowledgeable about the history and way of life there. She introduced us to local shop owners who have been pillars in the community for many years including Pepito’s. Incidentally, Christine married a local Vincenzo Cuomo, a qualified sommelier and they have created “Discover Wine Emotions”. You will learn about their wines (DOC & DOCG), the unbelievably flavourful dried meat, and excellent cheeses. We enjoyed this experience tremendously and would highly recommend both.

Looking for great, long-lasting clothes? Head over to Pepito’s (at Via Pasitea 39). This family run shop has been tailoring great, linen designs for the past 50+ years!

Us in Positano, Italy.  I just love Miss G's dress.

Us in Positano, Italy. I just love Miss G’s dress.

You might be thinking that linen isn’t that stylish or fashionable and to that I say, “You haven’t been to Pepito’s!” Pepito’s changed my perception. Their clothes are fantastic and the linen is superb. Both men and women can easily find something they like. Try something on and you’ll soon realize how incredibly soft their material is. While I wanted a large selection of the men’s clothes I found, restraint from breaking the bank was a constant forethought.

We spent LOTS of time at the beach. Positano beaches are covered with rentable lounge chairs and umbrellas. Prices range from 8€-20€ depending on which beach you decide to visit. There are a few beaches off the main beach where you can catch a free boat shuttle to them. Typically, each one has a restaurant right there at your finger tips on the beaches. So one day out of our seven, Katherine and I ventured out on a free boat and enjoyed a kidless day, snorkeling and soaking up the sun. The temperature of the water couldn’t have been more perfect for swimming. I even climbed a nearby cliff and jump from a couple different levels into the blue water below. It was AWESOME!

While in Positano, or Italy in general, it’s impossible not to enjoy the food and wine. Of course we ate at many different restaurants and the food was great. One place in particular, that we had an amazing dinner was a restaurant called Next2. Wow! From the moment we sat down, the restaurant’s ambience dictated the how the rest if our evening transpired.

Dining at Next2 was simply amazing!

Dining at Next2 was simply amazing!

The service was absolutely exceptional! And, the food, was simply incredible! We enjoyed a couple great bottles of Italian wine with our dinner, Classico Rosso Futura Reservi and Classico Rosso Futura. Then came dessert and it was SPECTACULAR! I’m not really one for peaches but when it comes with vanilla bean ice cream layered with thin, crisp, square pastry and topped with drizzled raspberry puree, sign me up. Delectable! If you choose to enjoy an evening at Next2, be sure to speak to Michael; he will take exceptional care of you along with the rest of his staff. On a side note, it was so good we enjoyed Next2 twice while in Positano. It’s that good. PERIOD.

Another fantastic restaurant was Hosteria il Pino in Priano a town just 10 mins up the road. Owned by Mr. Baldaserra, whom also owns Villa Balda. If you stay at his villa he will provide free transportation to/from his restaurant so you can enjoy an evening with fresh fish, pasta, a lemon shrimp risotto, and a fabulous wine, Francesca, named after his daughter and produced from the grapes harvested from the property. The first thing you notice at Hosteria is the absolutely spectacular view; one of the best on the Amalfi Coast!

Sunset view from restaurant Hosteria il Pino in Priano.

Sunset view from restaurant Hosteria il Pino in Priano.

Hosteria offers a picturesque view looking back at Positano and its nearby islands with even seeing Capri in the background. How amazing was that? In addition to incredible food, Mr. Baldaserra also produces his own olive oil which, by the way, is just as incredible as everything else you will enjoy at Hosteria il Pino. You will not be disappointed! To top our evening off (besides sipping Lemoncello), there was an amazing sunset view while we enjoyed an amazing dining experience!

One of the best days we enjoyed while on our honeymoon in Bora Bora, we renting a guy and a boat, literally. So, why not do it again while on the Amalfi Coast? Through one of the booths at the pier, we were able to set up a boating day with our own agenda touring the seaside along the coast. Our driver, Andreas, was great! A local, he highlighted the points of interest along the way including hotels, grottos, celebrity houses, amazing castles, turrets, and great swimming/snorkel spots complete with caves! We basically had the boat for 6 hrs that day and, with that, towels and drinks (coke, water, beer, Prosecco) were provided. Along the tour we stopped for lunch at a seaside restaurant that only seemed attainable from the water. Judging from the number of boats anchored in the small bay, it’s a popular place. With perfect weather that day, the private boat tour did not disappoint us. It was another incredible day!

We rounded out our vacation with a side trip to Capri, a view of Mount Vesuvius, watching the procession of the Black Madonna during the Festival of Our Lady of the Assumption complete with fireworks, and enjoying the incredible evenings on the patio at Villa Balda where numerous bottles of wine met their fate. Positano was, for us, an amazing place to visit – life is simple, the people are so friendly, and, of course, the food and wine, to die for! This was one family vacation that will not soon be forgotten.

Grazie, Positano!

Au revoir, mes amis.

8th March
2014
written by bob

Who in their right mind would turn down an opportunity to visit the Italian wine region of Piedmont? Well, certainly not us! Especially when you have three great, long-time Canadian friends coming over to visit and partake!

This past June saw Katherine’s birthday and what better way to celebrate than with great friends enjoying incredible wine and the unbelievable tastes of the Piedmont region.

Great friends & great wine in Piedmoint Italy.

Great friends & great wine in Piedmoint Italy.

This trip also marked the first time that Katherine and I got away on a “Mommy-Daddy only” getaway since we had Miss G. It was long overdue! Mind you, it was only for three days BUT…a “kid-less” three days.

Mike, Lisa, and Sue arrived on a late Saturday afternoon to a pool party we were having with a bunch of our close “France” friends. BBQ’d food with some cold beer and rose wine along with a nice dip in the pool, makes for a fine afternoon in sunny Cannes! Mid-Monday morning we were off, driving to the town of Alba, Italy in the heart of Barolo country. Following an easy 3-hour drive, we arrived at Villa La Favorita, an amazing (and reasonably priced) Bed & Breakfast in Alba, Italy. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the friendly staff and Roberta, the owner. Roberta was fabulous for us during our stay. Very knowledgeable of the area, she had no problems recommending restaurants for great food and booking wine tours for fine tastings. Roberta even produces her own wine with the grapes from the property!

Alba, Italy - Barolo country!

Alba, Italy – Barolo country!

In nearby Barbaresco, we took in the sights of this small, quaint town with the discovery of a tasty winery. An elderly woman offered samples of the wine she was selling. It was decent. We tasted vintages of 1998, 2003, 2007, and 2010. The best was the 2003 whereas the 2010 needs a couple more years to age before it is ready for sipping. We nicknamed this winery, “Two dogs & an Old Lady”. (To this day, I would still have to look on the labels in “la cave” to tell you the actual name of the winery!) On the way back to the car, a L’Enoteca fancied our tastebuds and we entered to taste a few more varieties from this local area.

Did I mention how well Roberta knows Alba and the Piedmont region? Like the back of her hand. She grew up here and she is very well connected in the area. When we informed her that we had a couple of wineries on our list that we wanted to tour, she took care of setting up the reservations for us. First, we toured the Pio Cesare Winery. Pio Cesare was one of the oldest wineries in the area and was located near the center of town right along the river. It was an old school winery that was started in 1881 with the cobwebs to prove it. We toured the under-city wine cellar, tunnels and rooms that age this fine wine. There were bottles that were soooooo old that I have a hard time thinking the wine in them would be any good. It wouldn’t be but the fact that they still have them was pretty cool! Large, old school casks were preparing the next batches of wine soon and one cask, in particular, had to be at least 4+ meters tall! (Decanter, please!) Our tour ended with a tasting of 2 of the Pio Cesare wines. This was a little disappointing considering they have some great wines to showcase to people. Pio Cesare came up short on this tour. We felt like we never really got a chance to know and taste their wines which was pretty unfortunate. I mean, come on, hook me with some wine and I would have wandered to the local sommelier for a few bottles just tasted. Overall, I would say the wines were pretty good but nothing to write home about.

Our next wine venture was held on-site at the Paolo Scavino Winery. This modern winery used more modern technological processes for creating their wine.

La Cave a la Paolo Scavino winery.

La Cave a la Paolo Scavino winery.

While the winery was started in 1921, they had recently finished a new building addition. We toured the new and old parts of the winery and our guide was extremely well versed in the winery’s historical roots, the processes for making each and every varietal they sell, as well as the tasting notes on each. Our tour guide took his time to explain everything and answer all our questions unlike the rushed feeling we got while at Pio Cesare. In the caves, the Paolo Scavino winery keeps samples of every wine they bottle – forever. The number of bottles kept depends in the harvest and bottles are kept in a very dimly lit cave with only a tag label to define it. And, most impressive, the caves were kept very clean! Following our tour, our guide brought us back to the tasting room where we sampled six or seven wines, including the only white wine they produce. Each wine was fantastic in it’s own way. Our favourite was the Barolo Monvigliero; so much so that we purchased 2 of these before we left. In addition we did not leave without adding a bottle (or two) of Barolo Cannubi, Barolo Bric del Fiasc, and Langhe Nebbiolo. Buying direct from the winery saved us more than a few euros. :)

Writing about visiting Italy wouldn’t be complete without mentioning how incredible the food was. Every single time we visit Italy, we NEVER come home disappointed with the food.

The L'Enoteca in Barbaresco.

The L’Enoteca in Barbaresco.

Seriously, the food is absolutely incredible! Be sure to dine at La Bovio Restaurant when in the area! From Katherine’s favourite dish of Asparsgus Black Truffle Risoto to my amazing Veal Tartare, it was all unforgettable and simply delicious! I normally wouldn’t venture to eat raw meat but I now live in Europe where this is perfectly acceptable. The tartare was out if this world! I would eat it again in a heartbeat. Though, being the animal lover that Lisa is, my dinner choice did NOT score any brownie points with her.

Italy and the region of Piedmont, we love you! A HUGE thanks goes out to Villa La Favorita – Roberta and her staff. Thank you for you incredible hospitality!

And, last but not least, thank you to our good friends – Mike, Lisa, & Sue for organizing the trip and inviting us along for the experience. We were so glad you all could come and hang with us this past summer! Let’s do it again, SOON!

Au revoir, mes amis!

31st December
2013
written by bob

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers!

Christmas this year is being spent in the southern French Alps at the Isola 2000 ski resort. Spending the week here for Christmas, we’re hoping for some great skiing and lots of fun in the snow. I was a bit worried the week leading up to our departure as there wasn’t much for new snow (for the past 2 weeks). Isola only had a base of 65cm. Not bad, but certainly not great. We were booked Saturday to Saturday and, unlike our last couple of local ski trips (Valberg & Auron), this time we drove rather than take the bus. The weather was perfect for driving and we arrived after a quick 2 hr trip.

This was probably the first real weekend for skiing since there hadn’t been too many snowfalls prior to this weekend. Where to stay? We were booked in the New Chastillon Hotel. Over the last 8 months, it has been completely renovated into a more modern hotel. It’s prior history did not have very good reviews. However with a new look, our first impression was that it appeared quite nice although they seemed to be still scrambling to get things in order upon our check-in; which incidentally took probably 45 minutes. Not a good start; especially if you want to improve your public perception and online reviews! (More on this in a future post.)

Miss G's Chateau Neige.

Miss G’s Chateau Neige.

Sunday was a day full of super-fun stuff to do! A fresh blanket of the “perfect packing snow” had fallen last night and awaited Miss G’s plans for a snowman! We ventured outside to explore the hotel surroundings. While I went to get G’s new, blue sled, G and Mommy rolled a few large snowballs for G’s first snowman. It was about as tall as her. We found a small hill for Miss G to sled down and after a few trips down the hill, we explored more of the area around the SkiPass Ticket building. G found some fresh, un-trampled snow where she could lay in the snow and create a couple of snow angels. Then, it happened. A family snowball fight! At first, it was every person for them self although G was taking the brunt of the flying snowballs. On the downside of a hill, G and I took cover from mommy. We stamped the snow for a floor and build a small wall to keep hidden from mommy’s barrage. Initially what was supposed to only provided cover, turned into 2 hours of snow engineering to produce a LARGE snow fort for Miss G. As time passed, the walls continued to be reinforced and built higher. Once complete, our “Chateau Neige” incorporated a lookout, an ammunition (snowball reloading) hole, and an underside entrance. People started to walk over, observe, and compliment us on our masterpiece. It had especially caught the eye of 2 younger boys that were nearby though they never came over. One gentleman, even went so far as to ask us if were going to build a roof for it? Ummm, not today! That 2 hours created quite the appetite!

Christmas Eve 2013 at Isola ski resort.

Christmas Eve 2013 at Isola ski resort.

After lunch, it was time to go collect our ski rental equipment. Miss G informed us that she wanted to attend ski school for 5 days this trip. Now enrolled, we need to go get her gear at InterSports. The shop was pretty much beside our hotel and following a quick 2 minute walk, we met Jean and his staff. With G taken care of we discussed a small problem we had with Katherine’s equipment. In the flurry leading up to our departure, we accidentally booked Katherine’s skis from the Auron store and not Isola. After 2 emails to InterSports to correct and clear up this honest error, no one replied to help us out (not surprising). At this point, we just figured that talk to the people a InterSports was the best solution. That was when we met Jean, the manager of the InterSports shop in Isola. Jean listen attentively to our situation and explained that it could be an issue since we paid for the equipment online and the money was with the Auron store. Ouch! However, Jean told us to sit tight and he would see what he could do. He would call the “big” boss and explain what happened. Ummmm, what? Actual customer service in France!? True story.

After a few minutes, Jean came back and informed us that it would not be a problem to collect Katherine’s equipment in Isola. Jean and his boss would work out getting the money from the Auron shop. Wow! We were amazed. In all the time we have spent in France, no one has gone out of their way like that before. Most shops/people we have dealt with would have just said, “too bad” and we would have had to double rent with no chance of refund on the mistaken gear. That is the typical French way. Jean and his staff are great! We HIGHLY recommend Jean and renting from InterSports when you visit Isola! Jean will take the greatest care of you when you aren’t expecting it! Merci beaucoup Jean.

Au revior, mes amis!

31st December
2012
written by bob

So during Christmas 2011, we missed out on an amazing Christmas deal; to take a helicopter ride via HeliAir Monaco and tour the city of Monte-Carlo from above. In 2011, it was sold out, however, not in 2012 though! We contacted our very good friends and asked them if they would be interested in a tour of Monaco as well. Carlos, Rita, and Bea happily obliged! At 30€ per person, what GREAT deal and an awesome way to close out 2012 with only a couple of days to go!

If you have seen Madagascar 3, you might pick up a small glimpse of what this helicopter ride was like. Albeit, the movie does a fantastic job of rendering Monte-Carlo in it’s present day form; pretty much to a “T”. However, nothing beats the real thing.

Enjoy the slideshow of Monaco – from above!

Au revoir, mes amis!

6th January
2013
written by bob

So this past weekend was the last weekend of our Christmas holidays coming to an end, Katherine and I decided on a ski weekend in Valberg. Located in the southrn French Alps this quaint and scenic town was quite impressive.

Booking such a trip at the last minute, especially, during school holidays, we were lucky to find a place to stay. However, after some painful (day long) internet searching we were able to locate a place the had accommodation with room that could sleep more than 2 people. Hotel Le Chatellan was a great little place to stay. This family-owned and run hotel was a perfect getaway retreat. The family is very nice and extremely helpful in providing an all-around excellent experience. From a “welcome” smile at reception to dinner in the main room complete with large fireplace to holding your luggage and ski equipment even AFTER checkout, our stay was great!

Getting to Valberg is quite easy. We opted not to drive ourselves and take the bus although we met a few people that drove themselves. Either way, it’s about a 2-hr trip from Nice. We got up before dawn on Friday 0500h, caught the 0624h train from Antibes to Nice Ville station. Once here we boarded the #770 Snow Bus, operated by Lignes d’Azur, departed for Valberg at 0715h, and arrived in Valberg around 0930h. Train tickets and bus tickets were under 40€ total. There is no way that we could drive our car, find parking for 3 days, and return home for that price! No driving worries for us was perfect!

Valberg from the top; Miss G ready for her first ski lesson; G lovin the snow!

Valberg from the top; Miss G ready for her first ski lesson; G lovin the snow!

Settling in we found the local shop to sign Miss G up for ski school. Then it was off for rental skis, boots, and a helmet. Check. Now time for lunch at Hotel Chalet Suisse. We tried to book this place to stay but unfortunately it had no vacancy. At lunch we were greeted warmly by Christophe; who was also our waiter on a subsequent lunch on Sunday. Christophe was an excellent waiter and understands customer service. His attention to customers is what I’d expect when dining in a restaurant. We highly recommend visiting him for lunch when in Valberg; he will take great care of you. As for the food at Hotel Chalet Suisse, it was delicious and there was a good variety of choices. All too often in this region you see menus that are always geared towards tourists where they are all basically the same. Not the case here. The food was excellent but, honestly, what made our dining experience most pleasant was Christophe’s service. It goes without saying that he wasn’t French…but South African. Quite frankly after our “service” conversation, it was clear he didn’t understand the French’s lack of customer service either.

Let me provide an example. Across the street was another restaurant/bar called “G”. On Saturday evening while Miss G wanted to play in the snow, we decided to sit on the outside patio and relax with a drink. After sitting for 20 mins, I decided to go into the bar for drinks. Once I ordered and only then did the staff offer to bring the drinks to us. Ummm really? Haven’t I done most of the work at this point? Then they asked me where we were sitting and when I informed them, they told me they couldn’t serve me there. Quoi? I was told to go to the restaurant area to be served. REALLY? I have $$ in my pocket and I choose to spend it at “G” bar, they don’t want it, and tell me to go buy drinks somewhere else? I kid you not, true story.

Ski school was very successful for G. By the end of the 2-hr class, Miss G was ski down the small slope all on her own. She did amazing! Saturday wasn’t so successful for ski school as G decided right at class time, she didn’t want to attend. Oh well…maybe another time but she did have lots of fun the day before. All three days, we rented a toboggan sled, you know…the kind with the pull-handle brakes? Miss G enjoyed being pulled up the hill and sent down by herself. While she didn’t know how to use the brakes (except when being pulled up hill), Mommy & Daddy became the crash pads at the bottom of the short hill. As for being in the snow, Guilliana LOVED it! It’s not the first time G has seen snow but living in Arizona and now the Cote d’Azur snow makes a very rare appearance.

Our weekend wasn’t quite so full of skiing but that’s okay. Getting G taken care of and ready to ski is a bigger deal. Katherine and I love to ski & snowboard! I we would like it to if Miss G would join us on the slopes. So far, all indications are looking in that direction. Yeah, baby! All in all, we had a great 3-day trip and where Miss G was bit by the ski bug. Now to catch that snow bus, provided by Lignes d’Azur, let leave the driving to someone else!

Au revoir, mes amis!

25th December
2013
written by bob

This is a blog I have been meaning to write for quite a while now.  Today’s the day.

In the wave of security and privacy concerns over the past 2-3 years, I have become more and more disturbed by the number of tracking scripts, beacons, etc. that websites have employed to watch our every click on the Internet. From Facebook to Google to your favourite news site and online shopping site (ahem…Amazon), they’re all watching everything we do.

BEFORE blocking update(s).

BEFORE blocking update(s).

AFTER updating blocking on JumpTime.

AFTER updating blocking on JumpTime.

Do I have anything to hide online? No. BUT, that is not the point. Personally, I believe everyone should be able to surf the Internet without worry that everything click or mouse movement is being tracked/recorded by who-knows-what-site. It’s not exactly anonymous but at least it would be “some” privacy. While there are several great services that you can pay for such as numerous VPN sites which will help you surf the net anonymously, most people do not necessarily want to shell out $6-12 (USD) per month just to do so. (Incidentally, I also use a VPN especially when I’m force to use public wifi however, that is another blog for another day.)

Enter Ghostery.

Ghostery is a browser plugin that allows you to view all site tracking scripts. It’s really an eye opener to see how many there actually are. I had always know of a few mainstream ones BUT you would be surprised by the number of other smaller trackers. Ever heard of Gravatar, New Relic, or Quigo AdSonar? Exactly, me either. As Ghostery states, “it sees the invisible web” – all the things you do not see visible to your eye. Ghostery is quite easy to install in any of your favourite browsers (Chrome, FireFox, IE, etc). Just follow the install instructions on their site. You can control blocking of EVERYTHING and you also have the option of “whitelisting” sites. Whitelisting allows you to specify a site or tracker is okay to be enabled and you allow the beacon to run. Inadvertently, blocking some trackers could possibly interfere with some site features (pictures, videos, etc) however whitelisting trackers will alleviate such issue. Ghostery really gives you the control you want and not the control the site “tells” you, you want. Here is an example of the number of trackers/beacons from just 1 site (I don’t remember which one):

This is one website.  Looks how many trackers there are here.  I have blocked almost all of them!

This is one website. Looks how many trackers there are here. I have blocked almost all of them!

I have been using Ghostery for the better part of 2 years and I have no issues with it. It works as promoted. And…it’s SIMPLE! Did I mentioned Ghostery is anonymous? It is. This is probably one of the best features they provide. No information is exchanged unless the user opts in to enable GhostRank. You can read more about GhostRank on their site. Regarding privacy for Ghostery (taken right from their site):

PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY:
Ghostery is built and maintained for users that care about their online privacy, and is engineered with privacy as a primary goal. Ghostery use is anonymous. No registrations or sign-ups are required. The Ghostery plug-in does not place session cookies into your browser. Neither the Ghostery application nor Evidon receives any data from Ghostery users unless the user opts-in to participate in GhostRank. GhostRank data is anonymous, it is NEVER used for advertising targeting purposes, and is only shared in an aggregated, non-personal, statistical form.

Finally! A company that understands privacy from the customer’s point of view and not their “self-imposed, you-do-privacy-our-way” bullshit. Thank you Ghostery. You actually “get it” and you are looking out for people and not the corporation.

Au revoir, mes amis!

29th August
2012
written by bob

After 3 weeks in Bangkok, we decided it was time for a little side trip. Where? Well…from everything we have heard from friends, it sounds like Phuket & Ko Phi Phi Don Island is a tropical paradise not to miss. So, a couple of plane tickets later on Thai Airways, we booked 3 days at the Westin Siray Bay in Phuket and another 3 days at the Holiday Inn Phi Phi Resort.

We arrived late on a Thursday evening after an uneventful flight (which is exactly how we like to fly). After a good night’s sleep we awoke for breakfast and figured we’d do a little resort exploring. Unfortunately, we discovered that breakfast ended at 1030h and us late risers missed our chance. We didn’t have to wait long for lunch through and once finished we were off to don our suits and hit the negative edge pool & pool bar! While mommy and daddy sipped a cocktail sitting in the pool Miss G swam/floated around like a little duck with her water wings on. There was no getting her out of the pool, she loves the water!

G lounging at the pool in Bangkok.

G lounging at the pool in Bangkok.

And then, it rained. Wow, did it POUR! It totally reminded us of the monsoon season in Arizona. Ok, so a “little” rain got Miss G out of the pool albeit only for a brief moment. After the short downpour and within 20 minutes we were back out in the pool once again looking out at the bay and enjoying the view of the islands. That night for dinner, we took G to her first sushi dinner. We love sushi and and soon discovered so does G! It was hit! She has such a palette; eats all kinds of things I would never touch as child; broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and spinach. Not only that but she loves fish, lentils, smoked salmon, red pepper hummus, and seaweed sheet snacks (from Thailand). The great thing is, she’ll try everything once and that’s all we ask. If she doesn’t like it, just leave it BUT at least just try it.

Three days flew by and we were on a ferry ride to Ko Phi Phi Don Island for a few more days of serene sun and beach bliss. The weather was clear, sunny and warm; a perfect day for a boat ride! It was a calm 1-hour ride to Tonsai Pier with a view of numerous islands along the way. After a brief 20 min docking, we were on our way to the northern-western tip for our stay at the Holiday Inn. Approaching our resort, we noticed that there was no dock for the ferry. Turns out that long boats come out to the ferry and taxi people into shore. Once on shore, we were greeted with fresh tropical drinks while we waited for check-in completion.

Time for some relaxation. The next 3 days were all about spending time sunbathing on the beach, building sandcastles with Miss G, and swimming in the Andaman Sea. The weather for the next couple of days was amazing! Hot and sunny with clear skies wasn’t a bad forecast to have when you are in tropical paradise, right? Could you relax here?

Mommy and MIss G enjoying the serene beaches of Phi Phi Island.

Mommy and Miss G enjoying the serene beaches of Phi Phi Island.

We explored quite a bit of the beach and walked along the shore past a couple other resorts taking in periodic swims and some seashell searching along the way. On the walk back, we figured we could plan an excursion to a couple of the nearby islands? In talking to the concierge, we wanted to spend some time at Monkey Island where “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed. Unfortunately, due to the time of year and the rough seas on that side of the island, our boat visit wasn’t going to happen. In the end, we had to cancel our half day excursion to Bamboo Island and Mosquito Island due to rain. The problem was the rain kept coming. It hadn’t stopped since last evening as today was our island departure date to head back to Bangkok for one last week of relaxation. Once packed and checked out, we headed down to the beach where we waited for the ferry to arrive. It began to rain harder. Long boats shuttled us out to the ferry. It was raining quite heavily and the wind was very strong. We were receiving the tail end of the typhoon that was slamming Korea! I didn’t have a good feeling about this. With everyone aboard, the captain headed for Tonsai Pier to pickup passengers there before making the 1-hr trek back to mainland, Phuket. The 20 minute boat ride to Tonsai took 40 mins and the waves were only getting larger. Not good. Fortunately, when we boarded we asked the deckhand where a good spot to sit was. He directed us to have seat in a spot where sea-sickness would be at a minimum. Perfect choice, not that we get sea-sick BUT, as I mentioned, the waves were HUGE and…you never know!

Passengers in Tonsai boarded. And boarded…and boarded. People just kept getting on! Then, it happened; “THE” thought. You know…the one that all of a sudden makes all the ferry capsizing stories in the news make sense? Yep, that ONE! I never really completely understood how I could read in the news that all these ferries had capsized in places such as this. It was now WAY TOO clear. Did I mentioned in a previous Thailand post that safety seems to be a secondary concern here? It is. Just check out the wiring strung across building fronts, no seat belts in taxis, etc.

This ferry had too many people on it. There was not enough seats for everyone and people were standing wherever they could find a spot. My stomach was churning one big knot. I mentioned to Katherine that we need to know where the life jackets are and be able to get them on quickly “IF” anything were to happen on the boat ride back. Fortunately, every seat had a life jacket on it. Unfortunately, all the jackets were snapped closed from behind the seat! I’m quite sure there were not enough life jackets for everyone. We departed Tonsai and less than 15 mins into the ride back the staff were handing out puke bags. In fact, people were requesting them and not for the “just-in-case” BUT for the NOW. The sea was THAT rough! Sadly, the only thing that kept going through my mind was our escape route. If something happened, I was making sure we were getting off this boat. The waves were so large now that the port holes that normally come with a great view of the sea are now just consumed by crashing waves on the glass. The swells were higher than the main deck of the ferry! I praised the captain for having the brains to NOT go full throttle back to the mainland. It would suck to miss our flight but there were others.

I am not kidding when I say this…during the boat ride I was scared like I have never been scared in my life. I feared for Katheine’s and G’s lives as well as my own. I prayed the ENTIRE way back on the boat. For the next 2 hrs, I prayed…and prayed…and PRAYED. I prayed that we make it safely back to Phuket. I prayed that this ferry did not become a headline like you read in the news, “Ferry Capsizes in the Andaman Sea”. I now have a full understanding of how ferry capsizing can happen! AND…I’m SOOOOOO thankful we made it back to Phuket safely without issue.

I have never been so thankful to reach mainland and if we didn’t have a taxi waiting for us at the dock to whisk us off to the airport, I probably would have kissed the ground! Normally that ferry ride takes 1 hr and a bit BUT the storm made our trip 2.5 hrs AND I was okay with that. Fortunately we made our flight with a few minutes to spare. Our flight was uneventful, thankfully!

Regardless of the ferry experience, I still love Thailand!

Au revoir, mes amis!

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