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This website chronicles our trip around the world in 2006. It has lots of photos, videos and stories. We invite you to come in, relax and enjoy the scenery.

~Lee and Sachi LeFever

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A Dispatch is a report from our trip. Browse via keywords or global map.

Meeting Malcolm Gladwell

By: leelefever on November 17, 2006 - 9:43am

Sachi and I were just minding our business at a cafe in the Barri Gothic of Barcelona, just off the Ramblas on Ferran. I looked out the window and glanced up at a hip-looking guy with a bag slung across his shoulder and a head of huge curly hair.  In knew in an instant that it was Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker writer and popular author of The Tipping Point and Blink.  Being one of my favorite authors and a blogger, I knew his look and seemed nearly unmistakable as he walked by.  Then, just as I mentioned to Sachi that it looked like him, he came into our cafe and sat down across the room from us.

How random! How often could that possibly happen - even in New York? But in Barcelona it was almost surreal. I had to investigate.

After we finished lunch I walked over to him, a bit nervously and feeling a little intrusive and said "Are you Malcolm?"  He smiled and said "yes!" and I introduced myself and Sachi.  We talked a bit about why he was in Barcelona (a speaking engagement at a conference) and our trip.  He was surprised that Sachi and I are still on good terms after nearly a year. I tried to resist the urge, but I ended up doing the ultimate fanboy action and asking for a picture with him - I just had to.  Malcolm was completely gracious about it and seemed like any other nice guy you'd meet on the street - in Barcelona.  Good guy that Malcolm.  After a bit of small talk we left him with his hand written notebook and coffee.  I couldn't help but wonder - is that his next book?  Maybe it's about chance meetings.

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How We Do It Video: Blogging As We Travel

By: leelefever on November 17, 2006 - 2:40am

We've been asked many times about our process and technology for keeping this site updated regularly.  So, we decided to shoot a short video showing all the tools we use (hardware and software) and our process.  We're not sayng it's the best way - it's just how we do it.

In the video we mention a number of resources. Our camera is the Pentax Optio WP.  Our computer is the Sony VGN-T350.  This site runs on the Drupal platform, which is hosted and supported by Bryght.  Our graphic design was done by Rain City Studios. We share our photos using Flickr.  Oh, and the post we created on the video is here.

 This post doesn't account for the mobile blogging, where we use the Palm Treo 650 to send a picture and story to this site via Flickr.  Oh, and our video camera is the Sony DCR-PC 1000.

Barcelona Beach

By: leelefever on November 16, 2006 - 4:21am

Just sharing a quick photo from our day at the beach in Barcelona - yes even in November.  This post was created during the filming of this video about travel blogging.


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On Spanish Time

By: leelefever on November 15, 2006 - 3:37pm

From the roof of the Gothic Cathedral La Seu in Barcelona 

We're pretending we live in Barcelona, sort of.  We've rented an apartment and stocked it with food and drinks and made ourselves at home as much as possible.  Along with this comes trying to adjust to the Spanish lifestyle, which is decidedly time-shifted.  The Spanish seem to take the day and shift everything a couple of hours later and throw a mid-day break into the mix - the siesta.

This is surely one of the only times I've posted something close to 1am.  That's because we ate dinner at around 11 and will sleep late tomorrow. Being a morning person, I'm having a hard time adjusting. Getting up after 10am makes me feel like the best part of the day was wasted and I might as well give up on the rest of it.  In reality, the morning hours I missed are just appended onto the end of the day - I'm writing this post in on borrowed time from early this morning.  So, it's a matter of perspective I suppose.

As for the rest of the Spanish lifestyle, we'll see.

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The Sad and Sometimes Beautiful State of European Graffiti

By: leelefever on November 15, 2006 - 2:05am

The graffiti people should be hanged” – that is what I heard from a business owner in Lisbon, where graffiti is starting to take over nearly every inch of space in the Barrio Alto area of the city.  Walking through the Barrio, the graffiti is so dominant that it starts to blend into the look of the streets as if it is a mélange of paint and shapes.  In some ways, it gives the Barrio a unique and atmospheric feel while at the same time being messy and senseless.  Mostly it's messy and senseless.

And so it is for a lot of Europe from our experiences.  In nearly every city we have been saddened by the amount of graffiti sprayed onto walls with aerosol cans in languages that we mostly don’t understand – except the popular “Bush” reference.  Some locals don’t really mind – it’s as if it is a part of living in the city.  Indeed, it seemed that they had stopped noticing it and accepted it as normal and acceptable.  For me, it is mostly not acceptable even realizing that graffiti has been around since the ancient Roman Empire.

I have enough of a counter-culture lean to like some forms of graffiti. It is an art form and there are incredibly talented people who do their work with aerosol cans and public walls.  Unfortunately, these are the exceptions.  99% of the graffiti we’ve seen is not an attempt at art, but what appears to be late-night scribbles by disaffected individuals that wish to state publicly their discontent with politics, football, the environment, their personal lives, etc.  This is the sad and ugly graffiti that plagues Europe.

There is of course, a beautiful side as we saw in Paris and Lisbon.  Stencil graffiti, works done by spraying paint over a pre-cut piece of paper or cardboard,  can produce artful, beautiful and interesting visual experiences.  This is the graffiti I respect.


Jef Aerosol,  in Paris has been doing stencil graffiti in Paris for a few years and we ran across some of his works just off Rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter


In Lisbon we saw a few pieces that I really enjoyed – particularly this one of the painter covering himself. 

A few others struck me too.

In Seattle, where graffiti is also a problem, there is a city law that business owners must cover graffiti within a set amount of days or face fines.  As it turns out, Europe has similar laws and Britain has led the way with the Anti-Social Behavior Act of 2003 which was is similar to a piece of potential EU legislation with the aim to:

…eliminate dirt, litter, graffiti, animals' excrement and excessive noise from domestic and vehicular music systems in European cities, along with other concerns over urban life.

The sad reality from our perspective is that graffiti appears to be taking over the walls of Europe’s cities.  Art, beauty, or not, I hope that something can be done because the experience of the visitor to these historic places is being altered in a way that reflects a feeling of degradation or mis-care.  It appears that some cities are taking on the look of a “bad neighborhood” and nobody wants that.

Sometimes though, graffiti has a way of stating something that just wouldn't be as appropriate any other way...

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Loveable Lisbon

By: leelefever on November 13, 2006 - 10:30am

Grilled fish and local cheese – that’s what we heard we should experience from people like Nancy White and local Bev Traynor before visiting Portugal. They were right – within a few hours of arriving we asked our hotel about a non-touristy restaurant and they sent us to a place they described only by the address “#94” and an assurance that it wasn’t “touristical”.  The first thing to hit the table in the flourescent lit room was a small wheel of delicious goat cheese that was followed by grilled “Rockbass” – surely the best grilled fish I’ve had.

But Lisbon is not just about food, but atmosphere. The sidewalks of the city are absolutely covered by black and white 2 inch square cobblestones in every imaginable pattern, all placed by hand.  This makes the city appear to be a giant mosaic.


Most of the atmosphere of Lisbon must be felt, smelled or experienced – things that photos cannot capture. It is the sort of city that is perfect for wandering and letting the winding streets and scenes of real life seep into you.  You need not visit a single museum to see the best of Lisbon – it happens every day on the streets and in the stand-up cafes.  

Alas, we did take a lot of photos and these are some of our favorites…

This is a panorama taken while looking down a long set of stairs Lisbon Castle:




Albert Einstein is HUGE is Portugal...


 These kids lost their ball on this balcony, so they pushed the little guy up to get it and let him dangle until he dropped.  He was not happy with them.



 One of our last photos from Lisbon as we waited for the Aerobus to whisk us away to the Airport at Restauradores.

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A European Sort of Foreigness

By: leelefever on November 12, 2006 - 3:47am

One of my friends recently sent an instant message that said “France seems boring compared to the other places you’ve been on the trip J”. He was only kidding and it was a compliment in some ways, but I know what he is talking about.  I wasn’t too excited about Europe.  I had been twice before and it seemed a little boring and easy compared to Mongolia or China for instance.

Fortunately the reality has been much different.  I have enjoyed and been captivated by Europe more than I ever expected.  Despite being very much on the beaten track, I’ve found it to have an authenticity that I didn’t find as much in Asia, or at least it is more cleverly disguised. 

One of the major factors in the difference between Europe and Asia is the degree to which travelers live in the world of the locals.  I have found that the more I can experience the world of the local, the more interesting a place seems.  I’m not talking about hanging out in a Vietnamese pool hall or a Chinese cockfight – I mean the everyday reality of grocery stores and coffee shops.

For example, in Asia, being a white foreigner is an inescapable part of the experience. Because of the way we look, we are treated a different way.  Our world is governed by what the country has learned about dealing with tourists.  From their perspective, we only want to eat certain food, stay in certain hotels, use certain toilets and see the important temples.  This forces travelers into a bubble in places like China where the experience is well planned and every need is accommodated for.  For travelers like us, this is disappointing because if you don’t work to get out of the bubble, you’ll never see the real world.  Vietnam without a little struggle for the foreigner is not the real world Vietnam.

This is also true from an economic perspective.  The average Thai person cannot afford to experience the world of the western traveler inside Thailand.  This enables Thai tourism to focus on the western experience instead of trying to accommodate both Thai and western tastes.  Few westerners visit Thailand and stay in places that are frequented by Thai locals.  So, the experience is a westernized bubble version of the real world Thailand. Wonderful still, just not the real world.

Turning to Europe, the situation is very different for us.  Coming from very similar backgrounds and socio economic classes, we blend in with the European travelers – we stay in the same hotels, eat the same food and use the same toilets as everyone else.  The locals usually have no idea where we are from or what expectations we may have for service or facilities. We often get questions as if we *are* locals. This makes Europe more foreign than Asia in many ways.

When we visited the very familiar-seeming Germany, we found that many of the basic everyday facilities were more foreign than we encountered in Asia.  Remote controls, window blinds, showers, heaters, elevators, door handles were different in a uniquely German way.  Further, while the people often speak English, few public facilities cater to English speakers. Germany never had to create an environment for tourists from another hemisphere – they never built the bubble to make travelers feel safe. 

Without the bubble, the experience is more real.  We experience Germany, an economically similar country to the US, in the same way that the French, Japanese, Chinese or Brazilian travelers do.  The Germany we experience is the real Germany and it seems to be a uniquely foreign experience that we didn’t find as much in Asia where every country has learned how to cater to the westerners.

In short, Europe has been surprising because the reality of the traveler’s experience is so much more closely matched to the reality of the local world.

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Changes On a Dime

By: leelefever on November 10, 2006 - 3:49pm

Changes On a Dime, originally uploaded by LeeLeFever_TwinF.

Yesterday at 4pm we had a plan for the next morning - we were going to catch a 7 hour train to Tavira in Southern Portugal. Then, we would use busses and trains to make our way to Barcelona via Granada and Valencia over a couple of weeks (quite slowly as it takes forever by train).

Long story short, tonight we are near the French border in the coastal village of Cadaqués, Spain, northeast of Barcelona - very far from Portugal (in fact a flight, train and bus ride from Portugal).

In a few short hours our plans changed completely when we realized that the prospect of more day-to-day travel sounded a bit too much. We've been rolling through cities every few days for months and we need a vacation from the constant travel if we're going to make it to Christmas. So we bagged our plans, got flights to Barcelona and rented an apartment for a couple of weeks. We "move in" to our Gothic barrio apartment on Sunday which gives us a weekend in Costa Brava and Cadaqués - the home of Salvador Dali.

We're both excited about Barcelona and some time to take in a city for more than a few days. We'll have a kitchen, washer and dryer and the closest thing to home we've seen in a very long time. Aahhhhhhh.

(The photo above is a Spanish guitarist we just saw perform tonight in Cadaqués).

The US Elections from Portugal

By: leelefever on November 9, 2006 - 2:56pm

The above headline in Portuguese reads: "Democrats oblige Bush to look at what he has done in Iraq."

It has been rather strange to watch the mid-term US elections from Portugal. On the morning of the 8th, I got up early, like a kid on Christmas, to see the early results and went back to bed with satisfied thoughts of a Democratic House and the defeat of Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania. Since then, we've been checking in on the headlines, but I think we both miss the analysis (which I imagine most Americans are already sick of). More than anything else, I want to be able to watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart right now and experience something close to the moment we all hoped for in 2004. I'm sure he has a lot to say.

The election is of course huge news here too. One of the guys that runs the hotel here said it is the top story on the radio, newspaper, TV, etc. From what we've heard many, many times on the trip, we think this election will make some sense to the Europeans. Most of our friends in Europe were completely baffled by Bush being elected a second time. They often say that it seems impossible because they have never met an American that likes him. Our response is usually something like "Well, remember that something like 80% of Americans do not hold a passport".

We both will take some satisfaction in returning home to a government with a different agenda and with a not-so-subtle message having been sent to W from our countrymen. Home is looking better all the time.

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Lisbon with Locals

By: leelefever on November 9, 2006 - 7:31am

Lisbon with Locals, originally uploaded by LeeLeFever_TwinF.

Sometimes things just come together in the most timely ways. Yesterday we stopped by an Internet cafe in Lisbon to check in on the mid-term US elections (Yay!) and found an email from our friend in France, JF Groff. JF had contacted his friend Andre in Lisbon (whom he met at a tech conference) and alerted him of our arrival. In turn, Andre contacted us with an offer to get together in his hometown. I got Andre's phone number and within a few hours we went from being alone and wandering to experiencing Lisbon with Andre and his girlfriend Batixa in their 4 door Smart car.

From their favorite pizzeria to gourmet desserts and a bit of nighttime sightseeing, Lisbon became a different place for us - and all we did was check email.

Andre and Beatrice, thanks so much for taking the time to hang out with us for a night - we had a blast and count you as great friends. I'll remember too that Portuguese dogs say "Ão! Ão!"

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