Switzerland and Austria: the crossroads of Europe

clock tower tall pointy church zurich switzerland

With all the times I’ve visited Europe, I’ve actually never been to Switzerland and Austria. Well, except for airport transfers and one brief rental car mishap. So as I was heading to Prague to meet up with Chris, I decided to go overland through these two beautiful countries. With such multi-faceted cities and ages of history within each, I barely had time to get more than an overview of the places I visited, and make a list of things to see next time I’m there. Here’s my favorites for each.

History lurks behind every corner here in Switzerland


Continue reading “Switzerland and Austria: the crossroads of Europe”

Monaco in One Day

picture frame monaco yachts harbor

Monaco is the second-smallest microstate in Europe, but is still the most densely-populated country in the world- is it possible to visit for just one day and see it all? Of course not. But you can see the highlights, even if you’re on a budget. Here’s how.

The Port of Monaco

Where to Stay

Unfortunately, Monaco does not have very many budget hotels. The Hotel Forum, literally on the border of France and Monaco, Continue reading “Monaco in One Day”

Reality check on the Camino de Santiago

Boots cairn peton Camino Santiago Spain

I had a few weeks’ time to fill in May, so I decided that I would hike the Camino de Santiago across Northern Spain. My husband Chris had done it two years ago, and he said it was great, I’d love it, after our Nepal hike it would be a breeze. So I flew to Madrid and took a bus to Burgos and got started.

A dawn start from Burgos with my new friend Araceli

The Camino can be started at almost any point in Europe- some paths start from Germany, France, or even Rome- although generally peregrinos Continue reading “Reality check on the Camino de Santiago”

My solo trip to Machu Picchu, Peru

Panorama of Machu Picchu Peru

“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges- something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!”- The Explorers, by Rudyard Kipling

I decided on Machu Picchu for Spring Break this year! Super excited to head to Peru, I was understandably worried Continue reading “My solo trip to Machu Picchu, Peru”

Solo Travel to Togo, Burkina Faso, and Ghana

Deah sitting on back of crocodile sacred lake at sabou burkina faso africa

First, a big thank you to Joy, for being my first visitor to come see me in Chad!  It was great to have Joy visit us for a week and show her around town, and totally cool that on her last day, we took a boat ride on the Chari River and saw a HUGE herd of elephants drinking at the river!

Chobe river three elephants playing in water Botswana
Elephants in the Chari River

With Chris in the US visiting family, and Joy back to Sudan for work, I took off for Togo and parts unknown.  As soon as I landed in Lomé I could see the ocean and smell the salt- and feel the humidity!  The first two nights I stayed in a small hotel above a bar, called Le Galion, unfortunately in a non a/c room- big mistake.  West Africa sure is sweaty!

palm trees and ocean lome togo africa
Lome, Togo

I tried to visit the Lomé museum but it was closed, and after visiting the big marche, there wasn’t much else to do in town (except enjoy being out of Chad).  So I hopped on a bus and went north to Kara, the gateway city to the Tamberma Valley.  I met up with three Belgian volunteers and we hired a car and driver for the day to take us to see the traditional villages out in the hinterland.  Very interesting architecture, but it made me sad to see the way the people live in the village- they seemed malnourished and out of step- and not in a good way, just listless and unprepared for the world around them.  The next day, the four of us had the same taxi driver take us to the Burkina Faso border (a seriously bad road).  After paying a whopping $190 for my visa, I entered Burkina and the four of us got a bus to Ougadougou.  We arrived late at night and they invited me to stay with them at a friend’s unfinished house that night.  We slept under the stars in what was to become a surprisingly chilly night!

Tamberma Valley togo thatched roof mud huts
Tamberma Valley, Togo
outdoor camping in unfinished home ougadougou africa burkina faso
Camping outside in Ougadougou

The next day I dropped off my passport at the Ghanaian embassy for a visa, and took off for Bobo-Diolasso.  I liked it better than Ouga- a bit quieter, more manageable.  But both cities have this quality of a dusty, dirty, run-down city.  I guess nothing on the edge of the Sahara desert stays pretty looking for long.  I loved my little guest house, Villa Bobo, and sampled some great cuisine, especially a totally delicious local yogurt with honey.  Mmmm.  Had it three times.

sand mosque in bobo dialassou burkina faso white mosques with sticks poking out
Sand mosque, Bobo-Dialassou, Burkina Faso

Back to Ouga to pick up my passport and visa, and I stopped at the village of Sabou along the way to see my volunteer friends.  We visited the sacred crocodile lake (animists in the village believe the crocodiles are the reincarnated souls of the chief’s ancestors) and we actually paid a visit to the chief himself, as one of the volunteers was new to the project and the chief likes to meet anyone new to the area.  That night we slept outside again, as the volunteers’ house has no electricity.  Living rough in Africa!

I stayed in Ouga for two days after that, recovering from some unfortunate stomach distress, at a beautiful little garden pensione called Jardin de Kouloubra.  A great place to recover.  Finally I was feeling ready to take the 8 hour bus down to Tamele, Ghana, where I spent the night at  a Catholic guest house, then another bus to Kumasi (hello, humidity; I remember you!).  There I visited the Asante palace and museum and learned a lot about the Asante culture.  From there it was an easy bus ride to Cape Coast, where I finished up my trip with some visits to the beach, the slave castle, and a few good restaurants.  The history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade was pretty interesting and very moving to see the actual places.

From Cape Coast, I skipped right over Accra and took my flight back to Chad.  Although I’m really glad that I went, because I had really wanted to visit West Africa before we leave the continent, I found the whole trip a lot harder than I had anticipated.  The infrastructure, the (lack of) hospitality industry, the huge amounts of trash everywhere- all of it is just not ideal for easy tourism- definitely not for the faint at heart.  The fact that Togo and Burkina both speak French, and even in Ghana, most people spoke a native language more than they really spoke English, made getting around and getting things done just that much harder.  In the end, I felt like West Africa didn’t have the amazing animals like Kenya and Tanzania did, the fascinating culture like Ethiopia did, the stunning scenery like Rwanda and Uganda, or the general together-ness like Namibia and South Africa.  West Africa has a lot of ground to cover if it wants to have tourism be a big draw for their economies.