Friends in Switzerland

Thursday, October 27, 2016

I've always envied people who had friends or family overseas. If you have a cousin or former roommate in Germany or Spain, how could you not go visit them?!? I've never had someone to visit in a foreign country. Until now. 

One of my best friends in Seattle met a Swiss man in Peru, married him, and decided to make Switzerland her new home (bummer for me, but who could blame her?). Visiting them in their home together was the best way to start our Europe trip. 

A couple years ago, we traveled to South America with Zhanna. She was our beloved third wheel. So when she found a cute Swiss guy with a French accent in our group on the Inca Jungle Trek, I thought, "oh good, she has someone to keep her occupied". I thought it was a harmless crush and she'd never see him again. Much to my surprise and horror, at the end of our travels, she bought a one-way ticket to Switzerland with Gary, and decided not to come home.  

I never thought I'd see Gary again, just like I thought Zhanna would forget him in a week, but here we are, staying in his home on the other side of the planet from Peru, in a small town in Switzerland. One of the first things we did was a small hike with a killer view of the town and lake below, the perfect place for a picnic lunch of cured meats, cheese, and bread—my favorite food. We took it easy the first day or two, stopped by a castle near their home (how is that possible?!), drove though a few small towns, enjoyed home cooked meals, played boardgames at night, and ate Swiss chocolate with every meal. It was amazing not to have to google anything and not feel like you're missing something. We went where they took us, and we were happy. Having a personal guide and translator everywhere we went was such a treat.

Zhanna and Gary dedicated a week to showing us around, and we'll share more from a snowy trip to their mountain chalet and climbing up rock faces in the next few posts. Though I lost a friend in Seattle, I gained two friends in Switzerland. 

- Julia

P.S. I didn't realize until later just how much I was shooting with my phone and Moment lenses, so a handful of the images below are from my phone.

Let's Roadtrip Through Europe

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Oh hey. It's been a while. Anyone still around these parts of the web??? We have some dusting to do around here. 

Updating our travel blog has been on our to-do list for about a year now. The more time that passes, the bigger of a project it's become, and we just couldn't prioritize it this past year.  If you follow us on Instagram (Yuriy / Julia), you know we're still our usual selves, still living in Seattle, still traveling when we can, just not sharing as much here. Last summer I finished design school and started doing design full time for a startup. The past year was an adjustment as Yuriy took over more of the photography business and I poured most of my time into my new work. After being in school and super busy for a while, if I had any free time this past year, I wanted to spend it with friends, not on the computer. 

I miss this. Blogging helps us to go through photos instead of letting them rot on a hard drive, forces us to reflect on a trip, and document memories more thoroughly than on Instagram. As things slow down with photography, I'm excited to spend this fall and winter going through tons of travel photos and updating the blog. 

Earlier this year we spent a month roadtripping through Europe to celebrate our five year wedding anniversary (yeah, already!). Even when we traveled for 6 months after our wedding, there was so much that we missed in Europe. This time we visited France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and Belgium, and the only place we revisited was Paris. Everything else was new. And we wished we had more time. 

This post marks the beginning of our roadtrip. We flew into Paris, rented a little Fiat for the month, and drove straight to our good friends' home in Switzerland, about a five hour drive. After a red eye flight and with Yuriy behind the wheel, I fell asleep immediately, so not a single photo here is mine. Yuriy is a lover of roadtrips, and couldn't resist stopping in all the small towns along the way. Later in the trip, we wouldn't have stopped so many times, but when you first arrive in a foreign country, everything is beautiful and awe-inspiring. How could you not stop for a photo?

Yuriy woke me up with his hands full of food—perhaps the best way to wake up. He stopped by a gas station on the side of the highway, and came back with a couple of amazing sandwiches on really good bread, fresh chocolate croissants, and coffee. In the States, you want to stay far away from gas station food, so we were pleasantly surprised with the random find. From that first bite of ham and cheese sandwich, I could hardly wait for all the meals to come in the next month. 

Hope you enjoy a glimpse of French countryside on our way to Switzerland. Tomorrow I'll share some photos from our time in Switzerland with good friends.

- Julia

Peru + Bolivia iPhone video

Thursday, August 27, 2015

During our three weeks in Peru and Bolivia, I recorded small video clips along the way with my phone, which resulted in this video. This was my first time filming a video with my iPhone, and I'm definitely going to be doing it more often. There's something about motion that takes you back to a place in a way photos can't. I wish I could have filmed more, but I was super short on iPhone storage and traveling without a computer ( I have since solved that problem by upgrading my phone from a 16gb to 128gb... such freedom!).

Filmed entirely with an iPhone 5s, pieced together in Final Cut Pro, and edited in Lightroom with VSCO.

In other news, we are absolutely blown away to see our blog nominated for Best Travel Blog of 2015 on the Blog Lovin awards! We don't make money with our blog, don't have a strategy, and don't post super regularly. All content is our own, so we just post when we travel. This blog is a fun personal project we started during our honeymoon almost five years ago (time flies!). We've had so much fun connecting with other like-minded travelers on this blog and in person when we're out and about, and hope to keep it up for awhile. We are so honored to be included among some really solid travel blogs, and among top blogs in other categories that I've been reading and loving for years.

If you care to cast your vote, you can do so HERE, now until September 13, 2015.

Last stop: Lima, Peru

Monday, August 3, 2015

With one full day in Lima, Peru at the end of our trip, we packed our day full. Things we saw in one day:

Historic Center of Lima
  •  Plaza de Armas - the heart of Old Lima; the bronze fountain in the middle is the only thing that has survived several earthquakes and dates back to 1650 
  • Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco - historic church that's known for its catacombs, which contain remains from 70,000+ people

Barranco neighborhood
  •  Mate Museo Mario Testino - amazing photography museum containing the work of Mario Testino, who is from Lima
  •  Pacific Ocean - we walked along the rocky beach and watched paragliders fly over the city

Miraflores neighborhood
  • Choco Museo - cute little bean-to-bar chocolate factory with free tours

First we had to check out the historic center of Lima, which was basically one huge plaza surrounded by gorgeous buildings and churches and lots of tourists. Next, we took a taxi and public transportation to get to some of the waterfront neighborhoods. We walked a lot of Barranco and Miraflores, which are right next to each other. We stopped by a couple of museums, marveled at the beautiful waterfront homes and boutique hotels, bought lots of chocolate to take home to our families, and sat on the rocky beach watching waves crashing and paragliders sail over the skyline. 

It's wild that we live on the Pacific coast as well, but so far away, both physically and culturally. Here the beach is incredibly filthy with litter, at home it's pretty spotless. Here there are palm trees, at home there are evergreens. Here we're tourists, at home we're citizens. Here it's winter, at home it's summer. That's what had us aching to be back. There's no place like summer in Seattle.

And that wraps up our South American trip! I shot a little iphone video while abroad, and want to share that next before moving on to our next trip.

- Julia

La Paz, Bolivia | Stolen Camera + Passports

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Coming back to La Paz wasn't as bright and happy as the first time, when Zhanna and I had a dance party in the taxi while driving into the city, falling in love with it before we ever stepped out of the the car. 

The second time we drove into La Paz, after our Southwestern Bolivian expedition in Uyuni, we were on the worst bus ride of our lives.  Twelve hours through the night in an old bus on the bumpiest road you can imagine, where for the first few hours, I would fly into the air so high that landing back in my seat felt like getting punched in the stomach. So bumpy that I needed to pee for hours, but didn't think I could walk down the aisle and make it downstairs to the restroom without splitting my head open. So bumpy that things in the overhead compartment would tumble out, like a water bottle that landed in my lap while my eyes were closed, startling me so bad that I jumped up. 

When I finally got some shut eye, I held onto it with all I had. I wanted nothing more than to sleep through the rest of the miserable bus ride and wake up in La Paz. And we did eventually sleep, probably because the roads got better closer to the capitol city. When I woke up, everyone on the bus was standing and shuffling around, packing up their belongings and getting ready to get off the bus. We had a small backpack in the overhead compartment, and when we didn't see it right away, I figured it had just slid forward during that crazy ride. The bus slowly emptied out, along with everyone's belongings, and Yuriy and I were the last ones on the empty bus, looking underneath seats, panic growing. After I realized the backpack wasn't on the bus, I was sure that someone took it by mistake and would bring it back. Eventually reality set in, and I realized that someone most likely intentionally took our backpack, along with our professional camera, a coupe of lenses, a full 32gb card of photos we took during a week in Bolivia, and our passports. I sat down on the curb between buses and cried so hard. 

The worst bus ride ever led to the worst day ever. We circled around the bus terminal, looking for the backpack in people's arms, checking trash cans (in cases someone took the camera and threw everything else away), looking at faces, and wondering what person could do such a horrible thing. If we left the bus terminal, it felt like we were accepting the loss and never seeing it again, so we went around and around. 

We couldn't spend all day mourning our lost camera and photos, because we were planning to leave the country shortly, and had no passports. I always wondered what would happen if you lost a passport in a foreign country, and now we got to find out. On a day when I wanted nothing more than to shower, sleep, and take it easy after roughing it in the wilderness of Bolivia, we got none of those things. 

The following was our series of events to replace our passports: 
- bus terminal police
- bus terminal tourist police 
- La Paz tourist police - must get new passports before we can file a report
- U.S. embassy 
- go take passport photos
- check into a hotel to drop off our bags
- U.S. embassy to get new passports
- immigration
- go take Bolivian passport photos
- La Paz tourist police - file report
- immigration 
- go take more Bolivian passport photos because they were the wrong size
- go to a bank to pay for a visa
- immigration - wait for hours, even after closing, because they ran out of stickers for the passport

This mad dash from one place to another lasted from 7am until about 5 or 6pm, and most of the time we were taking a taxi between locations because the city is massive. Getting the new passport at the U.S. embassy was actually the easy part. Getting a new visa from the Bolivian immigration office was the real hassle. We had already paid $140 for a visa when we entered the country, but we had to buy a new one when we lost our passports. We were in the immigration office after all the workers went home for the day. It was Friday, so if we couldn't get our new passports/visas that day, we couldn't leave the country on Sunday and would have to wait until Monday. Lucky for us, there was another American there who had his passport stolen on the same bus ride from hell (though probably a different bus), and he was a loud and demanding New Yorker, which helped us find one employee at the immigration office who spoke some English and tried hard to help us. Everyone else didn't give a hoot about us. After everything was paid and filled out and ready to go, the office ran out of stickers to put in the passport. Someone had to travel to another office during rush hour traffic to pick up a sticker for us. I felt like I was on a reality show or some sick scavenger hunt. 

Having to spend the day desperately trying to get new passports and visas actually took our minds off of losing all our photos. We ended up getting a nice hotel for a couple nights and bought a plane ticket to Lima instead of taking a bus and traveling a little longer, like we originally planned. We were just done with traveling and ready to be home. 

After the ticket was purchased and the passports replaced, we spent a couple days exploring La Paz again, and documenting it with our Fuji X100s (a much smaller camera which wasn't stolen, but was hardly used throughout the trip).

Biggest lesson learned:
While traveling, take the memory card out of your camera and put it in a safe place. If your gear gets stolen, it's much easier to replace than the photos from your trip.

When we were still traveling, every time I thought of our stolen things, I had to try really hard not to cry. Finally the stuff that happens to other people was catching up to. Once we got home, the pain of losing the photos really melted away. I realized how lucky we were to be happy, healthy, together, and completely spoiled in America. We have everything we need. The camera was easily replaced, the passport was somewhat easily replaced, and the memories associated with the photos are still safely in our minds.

Hope you enjoy these photos of La Paz, the city of endless markets. All images were taken on a Fuji X100s. 

- Julia

Bolivian Expedition Part 3: Geysirs + Hotsprings

Friday, June 26, 2015

On the last day of our Southwestern Bolivian expedition, we drove through an area with a lot of geothermal activity, which was clearly visible above ground with bubbling mud pools and steaming cracks in the earth. Some of the steam was blowing out so forcefully that it sounded like a whistling tea kettle. The sight and sound and rotten egg smell was overwhelming on the senses, especially after driving through barren nothingness to get there. Walking through the steam felt like walking on another planet. It was incredibly captivating and also terrifying, because nothing was fenced off, and it seemed so easy to step into a boiling mud pot and get cooked alive, especially when the steam enveloped you and you couldn't see a thing. Throughout our expedition, we kept thinking this is like Iceland but in the desert. 

One of the best perks of geothermal activity is the natural hot springs we soaked in on our way out. 

This concludes our Bolivian expedition. From here we headed home via La Paz and Lima. We have a couple more posts coming from those two cities. 

- Julia  

Bolivian Expedition Part 2: Flamingo Lakes

Friday, June 19, 2015

I didn't think the second day of the expedition could be better than the first day with the salt flats, which seemed like the main attraction, but it was. This time we drove further away from civilization, weaving through the high desert on unmarked dirt trails that cars before us left behind. There's no way you could do this trip without knowing where you're going. We were surrounded by colorful volcanoes on all sides. I kept trying to capture it with my phone but the surreal watercolored looking hues just didn't come across. 

The highlight of the day was coming upon the first lake with flamingos. I wanted to run and shout and swim with them. It was the most amazing feeling to "stumble upon" a lake in the middle of the desert, filled with big pink birds that look like lawn ornaments. I could have sat and watched them all day. It was one of the most unreal sights I've seen. 

Throughout the day, we stopped by three salt water lakes that are homes to flocks of flamingos. The last lake, Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon), is supposed to be bright red in color, but it wasn't as brilliant as photos we had seen. It must not have been the right season. It was also not the season for flamingos. In high season, there are hundreds if not thousands of them (so we hear). Apparently in the winter, the old and weak are the ones who can't make the trip to warmer climates and stay behind. Well the old and weak ones sure impressed me.

- Julia