Babymoon in Italy

Amanda is 26 weeks pregnant with our little Mars and we’re off to Italy to celebrate, relax, and enjoy our peaceful time together while we have it. There isn’t a better place to do that than Italy! The baby weight gained on this trip was the most enjoyed pounds put on due to the delizioso pizza and pasta!

There are a few key differences traveling with a pregnant Amanda compared to earlier adventures: 1) she wants to sleep a lot more including being happy to join me in my constant quest for daily naps! 2) we walk slower and take more breaks which is a good reminder to take in the beauty and not rush from place to place.


Trastevere, Castelgandalfo, and Polambara Sabina

First stop Rome! We stayed in a lively, trendy, local-heavy neighborhood just on the west side of the Tiber River from all the tourist attractions in Rome. This cute little neighborhood was by far our favorite part of Rome. We enjoyed wandering around the winding cobblestone streets finding seemingly hidden cafes, pizzerias, and gelaterias. It was fun and interesting eating meals and walking through streets side-by-side with the local Romans.

One of many little cobblestone winding streets of Trastevere.
One of many little cobblestone winding streets of Trastevere.


I worked in the evenings in Rome to be online from early morning to just after lunch back home. I decided this would be lower stress for me than taking a full two weeks off as I feel like I have a lot to do before the baby comes to be prepared to take a low-stress paternity leave. It was fun to adventure during the day and then come back and work in the evenings in some ways taking a break to go get dinner. It felt like we were living in Europe! We could definitely do this one day with me working an odd but totally doable schedule.

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Amanda with her baby bump out snapping some good pics of the Coliseum
Part of the same “pretty pregnant lady taking photos” series. This time the Roman Forum.
We found our own private dock at Lake Castelgandolfo about an hour train ride south of Rome. It was a beautiful place for a picnic!

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I love olive oil! Since we couldn’t go wine tasting I convinced Amanda to go olive oil tasting with me. We had a fantastic experience getting a private tasting experience in a kitchen with an amazing view of Rome. There are some very good olive oils out there!
We ate a lot of pizza. This was one of our favorite spots called Pizzeria Marmi. We were the only non-Italians in the place and it was a very lively dining experience!
We took a cooking class in Polambara Sabina that was really fun! It is a small town about 1.5 hours northeast of Rome and the class was a girl and her grandma teaching us how to make several pasta dishes from scratch. We’re thinking we’ll make raviolis at the holidays with family from flour and eggs!
Rome was all about stair workouts for us. Lots of stairs! In case anyone was wondering, Amanda kicks your butt as a trainer. She seems to think I’m in better shape than I am and I can’t let her know I’m not in good shape so I just run up and down the stairs as much as she challenges me to until I feel like I’m going to die. These stairs had pretty art! There is tons of “street art” in Trastevere, most of it not nearly as pretty as this.

Amalfi Coast

Praiano, Praia, Nocelle, and Positano

The Amalfi coast is one of our favorite places. We came here together our first time traveling together. I met Amanda at the airport in Rome 6 years ago when we just graduated from Cal Poly and embarked on the several hour journey on trains and busses to the Amalfi coast. That trip was special and was really a turning point in our relationship.

This time it has been just as enjoyable!

In the Amalfi Coast we have really unplugged and relaxed for a week. We spent days laying on the beach, wandering around the cute towns, kayaking, swimming and cooking fresh Italian food. We also did a lot of yoga in the mornings – a perfect way to start the day together.

We spent time discussing how to be the best parents we can be and establishing and writing down family values to help steer our decision making around our family. I think we’re going to get these written down and hung on the wall in our home so you won’t have to guess what they are for too long!

We decided the Amalfi Coast is our second favorite vacation spot besides Thailand! We also found maybe our second favorite AirBNB ever in the spot we stayed in Praiano called Casa Dionisia. It had a cozy bedroom, easy-to-use kitchen, breathtaking private patio, and fun outdoor shower. Plus, our hostess Melinda brought us fresh fruit and eggs from her garden that were all delicious!

We spent three days in Praiano and loved how quiet it is sitting between the increasingly touristy Amalfi and Positano. Positano has about 4000 locals and grows to 50,000 in the peak summer months!

Swimming and hanging out on the beach in Praiano
Swimming and hanging out on the beach in Praiano
Enjoying the view of the coastline from our balcony
Enjoying the view of the coastline from our balcony


Dusk view off our awesome Praiano terrace :)
Dusk view off our awesome Praiano terrace :)
Our favorite little hangout spot in Praiano. Spectacular view and tasty lemon granitas
Our favorite little hangout spot in Praiano. Spectacular view and tasty lemon granitas (aka slushy)
From that favorite spot, Cafe Miramonte
From that favorite spot, Cafe Mirante
I ran to the top of the town one morning to catch the sunrise with my dog friend I made. Very steep, lots of stairs. Worth it.
I ran to the top of the town one morning to catch the sunrise with my dog friend I made. Very steep, lots of stairs. Worth it.
Cute little "streets" in Praiano
Cute little “streets” in Praiano


In the main town square in Praiano. In the evening the kids would play soccer in this square in front of the church.
In the main town square in Praiano. In the evening the kids would play soccer in this square in front of the church.
This is Praia Beach basically in Praiano. Fun for exploring and swimming. There are some cool restaurants around the corner to the right here built into caves in the hillside.
This is Praia Beach basically in Praiano. Fun for exploring and swimming. There are some cool restaurants around the corner to the right here built into caves in the hillside.
Pretty impressive this 6 month pregnant lady is cruising around with this pack on with no problems
Pretty impressive this 6 month pregnant lady is cruising around with this pack on with no problems
She does like to fall sleep randomly though :)
She does like to fall asleep randomly though :)

After Praiano, we ventured to small town of Noccelle that sits in the very quiet hills above Positano. It was a fun location! You can only get to town by walking. To get up to our place you take a very local bus from Positano to the last stop and then walk about 5 minutes down a bunch of stairs. To get into Positano and the beaches it is an absurd probably 1000 stairs down to the coastline. It takes about 40 minutes and Amanda braves through all the steps with a smile even carrying little Mars along the way! (we could take the bus down if we wanted but that’s no fun)

Positano is a very cute little town. It is certainly picturesque. It is also full of tourists and is expensive. We found our favorite little areas that are more off-the-beaten-path. The farther, smaller Fernillo Beach is awesome. Better than the more popular main beach in every way: prettier, calmer, cheaper, more rocks to climb on and jump off, caves to explore, less boats, etc.

From Fernillo beach we kayaked out around the corner to the west exploring caves, a castle on the cliffside and lots of very pretty rock formations. It was a fun adventure!

Our AirBNB in Noccelle may be haunted and has very uncomfortable beds, rocks for pillows, and a fan in the bathroom that howls like a pack of wolves for minutes even after you’ve turned it off. We wouldn’t recommend it. Makes for a story though! However, it’s nice to wake up with the sound and smell of nature and an amazing view.

Amanda blending in on the local bus.
Amanda blending in on the local bus to Noccelle
Taking a break. This is generally a new concept for us!
Taking a break. This is generally a new concept for us!
Our small hillside town of Noccelle above Positano uses donkeys to take trash and other heavy things in and out as there are a lot of stairs and no roads!
Our small hillside town of Noccelle above Positano uses donkeys to take trash and other heavy things in and out as there are a lot of stairs and no roads!



We went to a couple fancy restaurants with beautiful views in Positano!
We went to a couple fancy restaurants with beautiful views in Positano!
Having a relaxing lunch at Da Ferdinando on Fernillo Beach in Positano
Having a relaxing lunch at Da Ferdinando on Fernillo Beach in Positano


This cave was below a castle build into a point protecting Positano. We're assuming this is a secret passageway to/from the castle.
This cave was below a castle build into a point protecting Positano. We’re assuming this is a secret passageway to/from the castle.
Eric's version of deepwater soloing. Did eventually make it up to the top of that rock and jump off!
Eric’s version of deepwater soloing. Did eventually make it up to the top of that rock and jump off!


What a great trip! You can see a bunch more of the photos from our trip to Italy on our new SmugMug account here.

A Few Months Starting a Nest in Muhanga, Rwanda

Between mid July and Christmas this year I spent almost three months in Muhanga, Rwanda on three separate trips of 3-4 weeks. The overarching goal for my time in Muhanga has been to start our first Zipline Distribution Center (or in internally lingo, our first “Nest”).
Its been hard being away from Amanda and the rest of my friends and family this much. Traveling about half the time away from home is certainly not sustainable for either Amanda or I. She has been incredibly supportive (as always) throughout the challenges and we have made sacrifices as a family to help achieve Zipline’s goals. Thankfully, we know even more that we have a solid support network we couldn’t be more grateful for.

Even though I only took one day off to do something fun in my 11 weeks in Rwanda, I feel like I understand the country and culture fairly well mainly thanks to the 18 Rwandese staff we have hired full time so far and hundreds of part-time contractors. I not only worked closely with this team, I lived with 7 of them in our first company house in Rwanda.

The Legacy of the Genocide

Rwanda is a peaceful and accepting country as the horrors of racism and violence are still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Rwandans are hard, tough people. The two locals I became closest with and also the only people I spoke in detail about the genocide about, Abdoul and Placide, both lost their entire families in the genocide. Abdoul was 3 years old and was left for dead when his older sisters and parents were slain in their home. He has a scar on his head from a machete mark left before his uncle found him in their home as the only survivor and then raised him as his own son from then on.

Current Political Situation

President Paul Kagame is a benevolent dictator. He got “elected” by 98% in the last election and recently changed the constitution to remove the term cap for presidents so he could continue to run for president. Two concerns I heard repeatedly from our local team behind closed doors:
1) There is no freedom of speech, you can’t say negative things about the government or else bad things happen. This didn’t explicitly bother everyone on our team, many just stated this like a fact without opinion: “we don’t have the right to express our opinion about the government”
2) The government has their hand in many “private” businesses. For example, the government will see someone starting to become successful in an industry, then they will approach them and make an “investment” to buy a bug part of the company. Now the government will use regulation and pressure to close down any competition to make sure this business is very successful.

Economic Divide

There is a big economic divide. If you just spent time in the capital of Kigali you would think the country was doing quite well. It’s clean, most people seem to have jobs and are busy during the day. However, out in the more remote areas many people aren’t wearing shoes, stand around all day without any work and have small gardens or goats to feed their hungry family and survive. Rwanda is one of the natural resource poorest countries in Africa. There isn’t much money or many jobs to go around.

This is a picture of our car crossing a bridge on our way out to a hospital we deliver blood to. You can imagine our Zip flying in a straight line at 60 mph gets there much faster than a car could on these roads.

Welcoming Culture

I didn’t get any negative attention being a Muzungu (what they call non-black foreigners) in Rwanda. In some cases it was because they saw me as a potential walking wallet, but in the majority of cases locals were just happy to see a Muzungu.

Another Rwandan I got to know well is the head of Rwanda’s Air Traffic Control, Kizito. He told me every time he sees white people in Rwanda it makes him proud of the progress his country is making.

I went on a lot of jogs through the rural village near the Nest in the outskirts of Muhanga. Three cute little kids about 2-4 years old lived a block or so down the road I lived on. Every time I went on a jog they would see me coming, run out onto the road with a huge smile and arms wide open and give me a hug – both on my way out and my way back. Honestly, this was probably my favorite part apart being Rwanda :)

A handful of other times on those runs, kids would just start running with me. Typically just a small group, but one time I ran by a school at recess when there were about 40 kids playing touch rugby. When I ran by the game stopped and I had a 40 kid support group on my run for probably two blocks before they turned back to school.

My Three Trips

Each trip had a different specific goal for me and really were very different experiences.

Trip 1 | Setting up infrastructure

The goal here was to go from empty leveled gravel pad and 17 crates going through customs to a fully setup Nest including:
– Getting a road from the main road to our gravel pad big trucks could drive on to deliver our equipment
– Weather protection: Big circus type tent we brought and three modified shipping containers we sourced from Kenya
– Getting water, internet, power on site
– Power system setup with generator and UPS (uninterruptible power supply) so we can operate without grid power
– Launchers
– Lightning protection towers, grounding rods, and copper cabling
– Two recovery systems to catch the planes out of the air
– Beacon tower and electronics setup to communicate with planes
– All the ground support equipment we use with planes including storage racks, preflight check stands, etc

Also, getting our living conditions livable. We arrived to a house with beds but no blankets, no internet, no backup power so power was on about 1/2 the time, no hot water and water only available about 1/3 of the time as there is one tank for the village that fills at night and when it runs dry for the day it’s dry.

This is our first crew that got to Rwanda with the shipment. We are trying to figure out where to put things and how to properly build a Nest. It was pretty rushed hitting out shipment deadline, so not nearly as much thought went into this before we arrived as should have.
How do you unload these crates with about 20 dudes that don’t speak your language and a tractor? That’s what we’re trying to figure out too. Some of these crates weighed over 4000 pounds. It was stressful, but it worked out!

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Trip 2 | Getting to first delivery

My second trip was spent getting us to and through our first couple dozen flights. For me, this was primarily:
1) Driving our relationship with the RCAA (Rwanda Civial Aviation Authority, like our FAA) to jump through the right hoops to have them let us start flying first within line of sight and then beyond line of sight.
2) Debugging issues with our newly setup ground equipment and reassembled planes getting everything working smoothly for first flights
3) Surveying the area around the Nest, the transit routes to our first two hospitals, and surveying obstacles at the hospitals after talking with the doctors about where they wanted the blood to land

This trip was the hardest on me personally. I was stretched very thin, didn’t sleep, eat or exercise properly, spent a lot of time dealing with regulators which I don’t like doing, and the rest of our US team was pretty burned out so morale was poor. When I left I felt the most emotionally and physically drained I ever have. I’ll never forget how it felt to have Amanda waiting for me at the arrivals gate at SFO though :)


This is the crew that made our launch event go off seemlessly (well this solid crew and some luck :)
That’s President Paul Kigame (known as His Excellency in Rwanda) standing next to Keller (our CEO) at our launch event, watching a plane land

Trip 3 | Getting the Nest operational without US-based engineers

My third and hopefully last trip for a while was mainly spent training and figuring out how to handle unique operational cases around blood ordering, handling, and delivery. We have a lot of experience flying planes, but very little experience handling customer service, time-critical orders, and blood.

I led training for our COO (Will, head of operations) and second in command in the operations team (Nick) to be “Nest leads” to know how to run a nest basically. I led training for one Rwandan (Abdoul) and one US based technician (Jon) to be “Technical leads” for the nest. That basically means they need to know how to fix most things when they break and communicate well with our CA engineering team when it’s a new technical problem that requires support.

Our 4 person flight operations team had already been heavily trained by mainly the team in Rwanda before me, but we definitely spent a lot of time finishing training for them to know how to make the planes fly safely.

Every time the plane flies over the town out beyond line of sight, I get a little freaked out.

Teamwork and my last day

Most of the work I mention above I led but had the incredible support of not only the US and Rwandan team in country but also a team of engineers back in California that I woke up frequently during the middle of the night for help.

On my last day we fulfilled an order to Kabgayi hospital of three units of children’s red blood cells. That made the struggle and sacrifice worth while.

We Found the Lost Coast!

In celebration of our one year anniversary we took an adventure into the desolate northern Californian coast. We were not disappointed!

After attending a fun wedding continued north further up the 101 than we remember ever being, into the land of meth heads, marijuana, bad food, and natural beauty. The people and culture were quite weird but the coast was amazing.

We adventured for three days and two nights from Shelter Cove up to The Big Flat along the lost coast and then back. There was lots of wildlife including seals, tons of deer, water snakes, a rattle snake, numerous blue belly lizards, whales (alive and dead), seagulls, crows (that stole some of our trail mix), squirrels, and cute dogs wearing shoes.

The entire hike was along the beach which was covered in jet black sand and rocks. Along most of the journey the beach was sandwiched between waves and a cliff with lots of trees over head. There were sections that required timing the tides or else they became impassable.

One of our favorite parts were the creeks that jetted out into the beach about every mile. They made for a great source of fresh water, nature, and entertainment. Rock hopping up the creeks quickly led to rain forest like gulleys. Buck Creek was the perfect place for us to wait out high tide by ourselves with a hammock by the creek.

One thing that really stood out is how unpopulated the trail was. We regularly wouldn’t see anyone for 5 or so hours in the middle of the day.

This was the perfect way to celebrate our first year of marriage! Just the two of us in the middle of nowhere for a few days with freeze dried food and a water pump.












A Night in China

Amanda and I spent 15 hours in Wuhan, the biggest city in central China. It was an interesting experience :) This is what happened, it’s a bit long but it was quite a night:

  • We arrived and made it through customs at midnight with a 24 hour transit visa
  • The only way to get to the city center an hour away at night was via taxi
  • Basically no one speaks English to help us find an ATM
  • Once we find an ATM it won’t read any of our cards and the money exchange centers are closed
  • We try to get a taxi to take us to a different ATM and to our hostel in the city center
  • They can’t read English characters which is how we have the address and name of our hostel written
  • We find a nice Chinese friend who used to live in America, she can’t translate the address into Chinese characters and doesn’t know where it is
  • We realize the free wifi works but just all Google websites and apps are blocked in China
  • We find our hostel on a map!
  • We find a different ATM at the other terminal! One of them eats my ATM card, but we get money with Amanda’s
  • We get a taxi, a gruff old Chinese man who knows zero English
  • I talk him down from 200 to 100 yuan, he’s not happy about it
  • We drive around for over an hour talking/yelling with the taxi driver and pointing at maps a lot without much success
  • We find our street! It’s dark with no businesses and lots of abandoned looking (but still lived in) apartment buildings, certainly no signs of a hostel.
  • So we have him drop us off at a Holiday Inn nearby we drove past
  • The driver demands more money, we give him the 100 yuan and hurry into the Holiday Inn as he yells at us
  • Thankfully there is a very nice receptionist who tells us they have rooms and also gives us directions to the hostel we have booked, he says we’re close!
  • We look for the hostel for 30 minutes with no success so we walk back to the Holiday Inn and get a room
  • We get to our room at 4am and pass out in the most comfortable bed we’ve stayed in in months
  • Then, we woke up, took some photos from our nice room view and jumped in a taxi to the airport which took about 90 minutes through traffic, showing us a glimpse into a bunch of the city

It was an adventure! We’re glad we did it but it could have worked out a little smoother. In general, the Chinese people were very friendly but the language barrier is intense. To a lot of people it seems like the English characters look just as foreign as Chinese characters look to us.



Exploring Laos

We spent a week in Laos and it was quite the experience. It’s definitely like stepping back in time compared to Thailand, which is a fairly developed country. I just looked it up out of curiosity and Laos’ GDP is $12B where Thailand’s GDP is $370B.

We traveled via local bus to the Thailand/Laos border which was awesome! A slow, open air red bus with way too many people and luggage than space. The Thai people are quick to slide over on their 2 person bench seats to make room for a new passenger and Amanda and I both were the third person on our two person bench seats with Thai ladies :)

Then, we crossed the border, spent one night and jumped on a packed slow boat down the Mekong river heading south away from nearby China and toward Luang Prabang. The two day slow boat ride was both Amanda and my favorite part of our Laos adventure. It was extremely pretty and peaceful. You turn a corner and there will be a handful of naked local boys playing on the beach. They get SO excited to see the boat and go crazy waving and jumping around. Very interesting glimpse into the rural life of an extremely undeveloped country. Check out the pictures of the boat ride:

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We sat next to an insanely friendly and bubbly Israeli man who taught us Hebrew and dance moves from Israel

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The only group of kids that tried to sell us things (smart parents I’d say!) at a “port” when we dropped off a Laos family on the side of the river in the middle of nowhere. A lady ended up buying some bracelets from her once she waded out up to her armpits in the water asking everyone on the boat. Powerful moment and great photography skills by Amanda

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Then we arrived in Luang Prabang which is the old capital of Laos but is still only a 30,000 person city. It sits between the Mekong and another smaller river and is a very pretty town with steep hills around as well. It was fairly touristy and expensive with a big French influence (Laos used to be a French colony). Also, there were Chinese people EVERYWHERE as it’s Chinese new year and they get two months off work and school. Many of them bus into Laos sort of like we go into Mexico it seems.

This waterfall a 45 minute motorbike ride out of Luang Prabang was our favorite thing we did there. It is breathtaking and is fantastic for swimming in the blue waters of the pools!

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Buddhist places of offering like this are all over the place in Thailand and Laos – even more than the number of Wats (Buddhist temples). I thought this one was awesome because of all the weird offerings people gave. Who knew Buddha likes fruit jello so much?!

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Dubai – Sand, Architecture & Glamour

We made it to and through the Middle East! It was awesome having a 24 hour layover on Emirates Air in Dubai. We did our 24 hours pretty big!

Desert Safari

We did a super fun “desert safari” which included getting picked up from our slightly ghetto hotel in a Land Rover, driving 45 minutes into the dessert and then the fun began! We got to ride a camel! It was really tall and slightly terrifying when it stands up and down – like a living roller coaster.


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Then, we went “dune bashing” which was 50x more fun than I expected. I’ve driven my old Jeep through sand dunes quite a bit, but this guy was a PRO. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Amanda giggle and scream more, it was a blast. We dipped, slid, and thankfully didn’t roll all over the dunes.



The last part of the “safari” was sand boarding down a huge dune standing or sitting on a snow board. It was pretty fun and fast! Amanda and I both ate it pretty good. We’re two feet athletes… not the best with our feet tied together.



Tiny Eric!

World biggest _______

We walked through the world’s biggest mall and saw a cool water fountain show in front of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, which is an awe inspiring 828 meters tall.

Dubai does it big. They have lots of money it seems and they like to have the biggest of things. At one point on our safari tour, the driver pointed out a big hill with a flat top. They are making their own mountain so they can turn it into a wild animal park on a mountain… why not?


Architecture and Bling

The architecture in Dubai is absolutely fascinating and amazing. It’s certainly the place with the most unique and magnificent buildings we’ve ever been. It’s insane and definitely worth visiting just for this alone.

They also like bright lights, shiny things, fancy cars, etc. It’s like Las Vegas but not as depressing and gross (and probably literally 20 times bigger).

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A few interesting notes:

  • Dubai is one of seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates
  • Only about 15% of Dubai’s population are from the UAE. It’s something like 40% asian, 20% Indian, 20% Pakistani



Frankfurt for a few days!

Hello! Here’s a quick update on Frankfurt, then next up a post about the holidays with the Nespors!

We spent a few days in Frankfurt and really enjoyed it! Frankfurt is a city that has a neat blend of really old, cool buildings with ultra modern skyscrapers. Eric and I both agreed that Frankfurt is not necessarily a city we would recommend to someone doing a short vacation in Europe BUT we thought it would be a great city to live in. There seemed to be a lot of jobs, especially in finance and banking, everyone was really nice and seemed to be enjoying life, and there seemed like a good amount to do in the city (mainly centered around beer gardens in the summer and hot apple wine in the winter). All in all, a good stop but nothing too special to note – except for the enormous Christmas market!! :)

At the Christmas market!


Lisbon: The Other SF

We spent a fun and culture-filled 5 days in Lisbon, Portugal. The city is A LOT like San Francisco. We arrived on bus from Lagos and crossed over the bay Lisbon lives on via a big golden/bronze bridge that has to be modeled after the Golden Gate Bridge. It looks identical. Amanda and I both had a weird deja vu experience entering the green, hilly city over the bridge.

The Lisbon 25th of April Bridge – looks just like the Golden Gate!

DSC_0224Lisbon is a beautiful city. It’s very hilly and has lots of districts with unique vibes to them. There is a mix of old and new areas sprinkled throughout. The oldest area (the Alfama) is basically the only place to have survived a 9.0 earthquake in about 1750 that wiped out much of the town with the quake, tidal waves, and fires. The areas directly around the oldest town are “European New” but still feel old to us! Then there are modern areas further away from the old town and city center.

Our favorite district is the Bairro Alto, which is on top of a steep hill (it’s name literally means tall neighborhood in Portuguese) packed full of bars and restaurants on the bottom floor and apartments above. At night it gets crazy there with college kids through people in their 30’s having a good time.

A cable car (purchased from SF!) going up, up, up!

We haven’t done much partying at all on our trip, so we decided we had to give the famous night life of Lisbon a shot! We matched with the true Lisbon timeline and left our cute little flat a bit after midnight… we didn’t go to bed until 7:30am!

In order to pull this off we took a nap from 9 – 10:30pm (I’m the king of naps) and then had a morning ritual before starting the party… I did a body weight workout and Amanda enjoyed yoga. We both had some espresso and then, we hit the town!

Espresso shots after midnight!!
Crazy packed streets!

In the Bairro Alto the streets were PACKED full of people. and this was just a typical Friday night. What they do is get a drink (1Euro beers and shots) in a little bar and then drink it outside in the streets with their friends. We’ve never seen anything quite like it.

We got to our club called “Urban Beach” at 3am(!) and it was just starting to fill up. There were a handful of rooms with different styles of music and a pool and beach outdoor area. We decided to call it a night at 6am after a ton of dancing and then headed back home for breakfast!

The next day was pretty much a waste :) totally worth it though.


We enjoyed Portuguese food in typical restaurants that feel more like German beer halls than cozy Italian restaurants. You get a lot of good meat and seafood pretty cheap in a social setting – it’s fun and tasty!

We also enjoyed our first European Christmas markets! We enjoyed people watching, mulled wine, Ginja, mimes, and more! We (especially Amanda!) can’t wait to find more Christmas markets in Germany.

Three other cool things:

1) We took what turned into quite an adventure to Belém to try tasty Pastel da Natas (egg pastries in flaky crusts) from their birthplace and also saw an old castle on the river that defended the Lisbon ports and a monument to the famous Portuguese explorers.

Pastel do natas!!
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A monument dedicated to the Portugese explorers

2) Our first night we wandered down to the main square from our really comfy flat to find a huge crowd gathered in front of a big countdown being projected onto Lisbon’s version of the Arch of Triumph. To our surprise, an awesome projected light show slash Christmas movie short played on the arches following the columns and design perfectly – it was really impressive and fun to see.

The “Enchanted Doors” light show!


This main square used to be the premier port in the world. The Portuguese were the first to explore much of Africa, India, Asia, and South America and to bring back the riches and sell them in the Lisbon port (that was unfortunately destroyed in the big earthquake).

3) We got to see a professional fútbol game! Go Benfica! One of the best teams in Portugal.

Go Benfica!!

We really enjoyed Lisbon. It’s one of my favorite cities for sure. We found a great cafe to work in and went on a few beautiful exploratory runs. If only the people didn’t speak such a funny language…

We are excited to be heading to Frankfurt, Germany and to see the Nespor family, they are meeting us there for Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Different Culture in Morocco

Being in Morocco was fascinating. Of the places we’ve been in our lives, it’s definitely the furthest departure from what we think of as normal. We stayed in the medina of Fés which is the walled old town and one of the biggest, oldest active areas like it. There are over 1 million people living in the medina. It’s not just a tourist attraction, it’s a buzzing old city that we got to peek into for a few days.

There are hundreds of little “neighborhoods” in the medina each with a fountain for water, hammam (bath house), mosque, and community bakery. It is also home to the oldest university in the world which has now been converted to only teach the islamic faith.

Morocco is the first area we’ve ever been that isn’t historically predominantly Christian. The native Berbers were peacefully converted to Islam when the Arabs arrived I think around 800AD. To the visitor, some of the differences of being in an Islamic country are:

  • Five times a day, at synchronized times based on the sun, every mosque has a man sing through a loud speaker notifying everyone it is time to pray
  • The people are incredibly friendly, welcoming, and hospitable – every single person we met
  • The definite majority of women wear lots of clothes, most of them covering everything but their face and some covering everything but their eyes
  • Zero alcohol

There are lots of other differences, but those four seem to be most directly impacted by religion.

Based on conversations we had with locals some more interesting things:

  • Unemployment is about 35% (wow!). There are lots of people wandering around aimlessly
  • Main industries are tourism, fishing, architecture, mining phosphate, and exporting crafts
  • Everyone speaks Arabic, most people speak French and lots of people speak Spanish and English too. It’s amazing how multi-lingual the country is
  • The immigrants into the country are “African” as they call them meaning from further south and are dark skinned
  • Moroccans look very middle eastern and so do the native Berbers, many of whom still live in the desert, hills, etc in tribes

I couldn’t help but think that it’s probably very similar conditions we’re fighting in in the Middle East: Arabic, mosques everywhere, densely packed houses in mazes of alleyways, multi-layered square houses with open courtyards, no windows, and used flat roofs. With the density and confusion in a medina like that it would be incredibly hard to find who you’re fighting and handle them. It is crazy to think about.

Oh, and the Moroccan food is unbelievable. Some of the best food we’ve had!

Visitting Morocco was an unbelievable experience. It was eye opening learning abut Islamic and eastern traditions, seeing a very poor economy up close, and experiencing over-the-top hospitality from every Moroccan we encountered.

The most important phrase to know as a white person in Morocco? “La shukraan” in Arabic or “No thank you” in English :)