Tag Archives: travel

Oi, Brasil! Learning Portuguese.

Never in a million years did I think I would be learning not one, but two languages, but the time has finally come to start learning Brazilian Portuguese.

Knowing how lazy I am, I really needed to book an actual course and go to school to start learning. I need the pressure and I need the vocal help from teachers, so I booked a course with Migros Klubschule.Portuguese courses are limited in Switzerland, but offer the Brazilian variant more often than Portugal, simply because we have so many Brazilians and Swiss-Brazilians here. Still, they are only offered in 6 month chunks, and at over 1000CHF a pop, it’s quite an investment.

With our trip to Brazil coming up in December, it will be my second time visiting Kay’s family and I hope this time traveling as his wife instead of girlfriend, that I will be able to say at least some small things to his family. They are really sweet and loving and we communicate a fair amount via Facebook translating, but it’s always different in person.

Here’s to getting my tongue around the pronunciation hurdles!!

Carry-on and travel packs

You guys, I am a little obsessed with backpacks. Blame it on Kay. I had one when I met him and now I own three. He has like ten.

Thanks to Kay, I am always thinking about  getting more bags that fulfill needs that mine don’t quite meet. For the most part, I use my trusty Mystery Ranch bag for backpacking and overnight hikes or my handy Osprey for day hikes and weekend city trips, but there is always a reason to “window shop”.

Mystery Ranch Glacial: $349 69L

The Glacial bag is my first backpacking backpack. I bought it for $435 (ouch!) back in 2010 and it’s been going strong for five years already. It’s not perfect for me, but the carrying system of Mystery Ranch bags is phenomenal and you probably won’t find a more comfortable pack for long hikes anywhere else.

Mystery Ranch makes pretty industrial, military and firefighting oriented bags, so they are usually fairly basic and rough for a woman’s bag, but you really can’t beat the durability or comfort with a heavy load. I’ve used mine to backpack in Hawaii, Bali, Thailand, Oman, Australia, and soon Peru.

Osprey Sirrus 24: $120 24L I LOVE this bag. It is the perfect day pack size for a hike with camera, water bladder including ports for camelbak hoses, clips for stowing hiking sticks, an ice pick, integrated rain cover and more. It’s also wonderful for city trips because I pack light enough for 2-3 days that I can still fit my clothes, toiletries, camera, and jacket in here.

The mesh suspension system keeps me and my water cool, everything about the bag is really comfortable and built for female bodies, and I like the handy hip belt pockets and shoulder strap pocket for tissues and goodies to eat while carrying. The original bag was $99 on Amazon, but it looks like they have upped their prices recently with the more recent version. I got mine a little on sale for $79 in 2012.

My only qualms are that at 24L it’s perfect for a day pack, but I need [want] something a bit bigger for carry on for longer trips.

These are a few backpacks on my list that I would not mind having:

Mystery Ranch Big Sky: $279 49L

This pack says it would be just within the carry on requirements of Delta (22″ x 14″ x 9″) which makes it really ideal for maxing out your carry on, but Kay has their Sweet Pea, the smallest pack in this series, and it is definitely taller than their listed 45cm, leading me to believe that they are not taking into account everything here. It would be quite an expensive mistake to buy a pack hoping it will fit as carry on, only to have to check it, because then I might as well use my current 69L pack.

Mystery Ranch Snapdragon: $197 38LLike Big Sky, the Snapdragon pack is also bigger than Kay’s Sweet Pea, but again, I can’t be sure if this or the Big Sky pack are actually within carry on limits for most American airlines. There is very little information about owners using these packs as a carry-on in planes because they most often use them for hunting or local outdoor activities .

Mystery Ranch also mainly operates remotely, so it’s not like you would ever find these in stores in the States, let alone Switzerland. Although they are used in the Swiss military because they make fantastic packs!

Osprey Farpoint 55: 179CHF 55L (40L + 15L)In theory, this pack looks really cool and has tons of wonderful reviews all over the interwebs about using it for backpacking all over Brazil and Peru, which is exactly where we are headed later this year. The main bag acts a bit like a suitcase, opening up on the side, while the day pack clips off so you don’t need to carry everything with you when you are out and about. Sounds perfect!The reality is that even with tons of reviews discussing using this as a carry on and how it just slides by, the consensus is that this is NOT a hiking backpack and would be very uncomfortable to wear for several hours. That takes it out for Peru where we plan to hike for several days in a row and camp, so I don’t think it’s worth it to get this pack, even if all the other ideas it includes are great. A good harness for hiking is indispensable, and something I need.

Lo & Sons OG: $295 This is not a backpack. I know…. but so many friends have recommended Lo & Sons bags for carry-on and they are even reviewed across several sites as sliding by as your personal item, even as a large purse. The OG is the larger of the two I looked at and people even claimed they could use this for a personal item under their seat.

Expensive? Yes. Luxury? Yes. The bags look beautiful and chic, which are not usually words attributed to me during travel. I would use a bag like this on travel to see family or “hotel” travel. Weekend trips when I want to ditch my Lulu bag from Epiphaniebags that is falling apart at the seams.

Lo & Sons OG: $275 The OMG is the slightly (slightly!) smaller version of the OG. But that just might make it a little more plausible as a personal item on planes. Spoiler alert: I ordered it. 🙂

Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack: 37.50CHF 18LAfter I decided the Farpoint 55 was probably a bad idea for me personally, I wondered if I should just go with a packable day pack to stick in a larger, easy to carry bag like my Mystery Ranch. This looks so small and handy to have with you on trips. I often want a smaller bag for day trips while traveling, but would like something larger as my carry on.

Exped Typhoon 25: 85CHF 25LFor the more adventurous, there is the Typhoon series by Exped. Kay has a dry bag backpack like this from Exped, but his is an older model with some holes by now… so it wouldn’t be much help in a river these days. Something like this also looks packable, although a little less than the Osprey.

What you give up in flexibility, you gain in protection against the elements. The bag looks a little more durable than the Osprey, is obviously completely waterproof and submergeable, and unlike Kay’s pack, it even has water bottle pockets, which was something we missed on our trip to Brazil when it was pouring at Iguazu Falls.

Outlander Packable Lightweight Pack: $21.99 30LI had never heard of Outlander before, but this pack has wonderful reviews and is so darn cheap. It also has so many more pockets than other brands, but it’s not necessarily water resistant.

Sigh. There are always so many good choices. I splurged on the OMG bag, but after that I decided to be a little more budget conscientious, so I decided to just stick with my Mystery Ranch for Peru and go with the OMG and my Osprey as carry-on for Brazil.

What’s your dream travel bag?

Weekend Trips Continued

Like I mentioned in March, we had several short trips planned this year, which is only growing as the year progresses. I am on fire with the cheap airfare.


(Picture via Flickr Creative Commons)

This year Swiss labor day falls on a Friday, so I really wanted to take a long weekend somewhere. For a long time, I only found flights for 400CHF or more, but finally a few weeks before the weekend, I caught tickets to Athens for a good price. I’m really looking forward to visiting Greece for the first time this weekend! Kay has already been before, it’s where he met my design friend who introduced us, but I’m looking forward to a relaxed weekend exploring this old city!


(Picture via Flickr Creative Commons)

The same day I found tickets to Athens, I found tickets for another long weekend in May to Helsinki. We always get Pentecost Monday off, so we’ll head north that weekend for another long trip. We’ve already been to Sweden, Norway and Denmark, so this rounds out our Scandinavian countries.

Now we’ll just need to visit Iceland and see the northern lights somewhere at some point.


(Picture via Flickr Creative Commons)

Keeping an eye out for weekend trips for our birthday weekends, I decided to go ahead and book tickets to Luxembourg for my birthday weekend. We don’t have any public holidays then, but the flights are early and Luxembourg is small enough that I think we will see enough.

I’m not sure why, but I was always sort of interested to visit Luxembourg because it’s one of those really small European countries nearby. Usually the tickets flying there are 450-500, but I actually found them for around 200, so I figured it was worth going.



(Picture via Flickr Creative Commons)

Porto is another city that Kay has had on his list for ages for whatever reason, but the tickets are usually always almost 500CHF. I’ve been checking since January and finally found a weekend this year where the tickets are 250 and we are both here, so off we go!

Our calendar is starting to fill up and I’ve realised that we haven’t even booked any “real” holidays yet. I need to make sure we have enough money for that too with all this weekend traveling! We are also starting to be pros at weekend travel and have really streamlined our packing.

Now, off to Athens today!


Travel 2015 Quick Trips

Coming back from a three week world trip in January to grey skies in Zurich is always a bit bleak, so we didn’t waste any time planning our first weekend trips for the year. It’s time to visit some new cities!

1. Madrid

(Photo from Flickr)

A design friend is visiting Spain from NYC for a week, so we’re heading over for a weekend to visit her, another mutual friend living in Spain and Kay’s brother who is also living there at the moment. I’ve already been to Madrid when I was hosting some broadcasting Brazilians there during the 2010 UEFA Champions League final, but I didn’t see quite as much of the city as I wanted with all the broadcasting commitments, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of the important sights.

Kay has never been to Madrid and it’s been awhile since we’ve seen his brother, so he is also looking forward to the visit.

 2. Oslo

(Photo from Flickr)

Kay received an email from Scandic hotels about his points and vaguely mentioned that we could go to Oslo for Easter. We’ve already been to Stockholm and Copenhagen, so it would be another country. Then we’ll have seen most of Scandinavia.

Kay was a little surprised when I started looking for flights immediately, but ultimately I booked because I found a great deal. Normally flights over Easter weekend are 400-500chf anywhere from Switzerland, but these were around 200, which is a pretty fair price.

 3. Munich

(Photo from Flickr)

I realised that it was over 100chf cheaper to fly back from Oslo with a stop in Munich and then I thought, why not do a layover? Munich is really close to Zurich, but for all the German cities I’ve been to, I have never visited it.

Instead of spending time in the Munich airport waiting for a transfer, we’ll stop there Easter morning and spend the day there before taking the train home on Easter Monday. Since I found some supersaver tickets from SBB, it only costs us an extra 24chf to take the train home a day later.

The best part about these quick trips is that we don’t need to take any holiday for them. We are still plotting out big trips this year, so it’s nice to save up the holidays until then with these mini-trips to look forward to.

Do you ever do weekend trips in your area?


After making my list of 2013 travel destinations last September, our travel plans changed quite a bit when we decided to go to the US for Christmas and also are planning on visiting again for a friend’s wedding this year. But my sister and brother in law surprised me by planning an Easter trip to Rome, so even though it is an expensive time to travel there we went for seven days back in April!

To save money we all rented a condo together and ended up only paying around 33CHF per person per night, which was definitely not bad. All the hotels would have been over 150 a night just for two people! And to save money on flights, we flew out of Basel for the first time.

Rome is also an amaaazing city. I’m so happy we went… just look at all we saw!

The Pantheon… the Colosseum…


Rome at night.

The Spanish steps.

The Vatican… where, I kid you not… the heavens opened up and sunshine poured down on us ALL FOUR times we went there. For a rainy week, this was pretty spectacular.

We saw the pope too! He gave us a blessing and Kay stayed for mass before we went to the Sistine Chapel.

The Vatican at night…

But they did call for rain every day that week… and on our second day we encountered this:

Which pretty much soaked my sister and brother-in-law’s shoes completely. But I was pretty happy in my gortex rain jacket and hiking boots. Best shoe choice yet!

We saw more ruins… just scattered around the city.

We saw the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel and all around the museum. 🙂

Ate tons of gelato, mozzarella, pasta, pizza and wine.

Trevi fountain:

Spanish steps… yet again! 🙂

Some beautiful sunsets.

Colosseum at night!

St. Peter’s:

We also saw the catacombs with 2000 year old graves from Romans and early Christians. Between that and ALL the basilicas we saw, the Vatican, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum… I feel like we “did” Rome.

Now I am only feeling a bit guilty that we’re almost half way through 2013 and I’ve only been to one of the cities on my 2013 list. I’m not sure we are going to make it to Venice… but I’m hoping we can still manage London this year!