Old Stories of European Adventures

Now that my web site is up and running, I thought I would share some old stories. Our first trips to Europe in the 21st century.

Europe 2005, at last

In 2005, shortly after Hayden moved to London to be with Elisse, we visited. That was my first return to Europe in twenty-five years and it was exciting. We visited friends in England, Germany, France and Italy. We also toured Spain – not knowing how it would enter our lives at a later stage.

4-Bruce and Thea at Vernazza

Adventurous in 2007

After our first journey, it was time to venture to other places. In 2007 we returned to Europe to visit Hayden and Elisse who by now had moved to Barcelona. Then to Russia – St Petersburg, Moscow and the historical Golden Circle. This was an escorted tour. Whilst we loved what we saw, we hated the constraints of the tour. We finished our travels in Prague, Warsaw and Vienna.


Celebrating in 2008

It was Bruce’s idea to visit Denis for his 60th birthday celebrations in 2008, so we invited ourselves to his party. Fortuitously, Hayden and Elisse were still in Barcelona and Evan was touring, so we all got together in Barcelona and then Andora. From there we went to Switzerland, then on to Hungary, Slovenia and a little bit of Italy. We stayed within the 40th parallel.


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stainsbyte.com is back in action

It has taken a while, but finally stainsbyte.com is back in action.

All my photos are back, all my pages are back and all my posts are back.

And I have just finished publishing my stories on Finland where we visited Helsinki twice, Rovanimie and Santa, lakes and castles around Savonlinna, the rapids at Imatra and the lovely wooden village of Porvoo.

I still have a lot of stories to tell, returning to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, visiting Hayden and Andrea again in Berlin before making our way to England.

Sadly, our English journey was interrupted to return home and farewell my gorgeous brother Phil.

We made a brave return to England then onto USA, before beginning a magical tour of South America.

Yes, so many more stories to tell.

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Welcome back to stainsbyte.com

It’s been nearly two months since we arrived home from a wonderful long journey that took in parts of USA, north-eastern Europe, South America and Antarctica.

Following a disagreement with the people who hosted stainsbyte.com (HostSailor), after they ‘lost’ my website, I have been trying to rebuild it.

HostSailor offered me a free month of hosting to make up for loosing my web site – that simply wasn’t enough. I am now back hosting with Dreamhost, and just hope it works for me.

With 146 blogs, nearly 400 pages, 470 galleries of photos, it has turned out to be a long slow process.

But I am slowly getting things together. The blogs and pages are there, but not all the photos. So excuse the ‘no images were found‘ at the end of my stories – it isn’t permanent.


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stainsbyte.com is taking a break!

I recently visited Antarctica. It is a pristine, unspoiled place without the trappings of shopping malls and internet access.

In the nine days of my journey HostSailor sent me an invoice to renew the hosting of my web site, two reminders, three overdue notices, and then suspended my account.

Finally they deleted my virtual server and don’t have a backup. 

I paid my account, 4 days late, and in the meantime they have ‘lost’ my server. 

I guess I have two choices:

  • don’t visit remote parts of the world
  • don’t use HostSailor

I will be working to rebuild my web site with another host, when I return home in March.

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End of the Baltics, End of Summer

Friday 28 July to Tuesday 5 September

As we depart the Baltics we also watch summer disappearing. Trees are showing golden leaves, wildflowers are turning to seed, stork nests are empty, fields are being mown. 

Apart from poorer than expected weather, it has been a wonderful experience. So we knew it’d be cool, but it’s been a little too grey, much to the frustration of many summer attired holiday makers who were also expecting better weather and our photography. 

From our first day visiting the beautiful island castle of Trakai, to exploring forests and lakes, sand dunes and beaches, we have seen a lot and learned a lot. 

Not really part of the Baltics states, but our visit to Finland was amazing.  From the liveable city of Helsinki, an overnight train to the Arctic Circle with a visit to Santa, to the historical Lakeland. 

We saw the Soviet influence on the eastern borders of the Baltics, stayed in a Soviet hotel in Ludza, explored the university city of Tartu, where Estonia’s famous IT expertise is born. We chilled out in the lovely forest of the Lahemaa National Park, before receiving a drenching in Tallinn. 

We explored beaches in less than favourable conditions, slopped around in bogs munching on wild berries and explored ancient castles by candlelight. We loved the old cities, especially those that the cruise boats can’t reach. Our legs were weary after a day on cobblestone streets.

And the berries – such variety, sweet and sour, red, black, yellow and white. The markets were full of them. They are served with salads, meat dishes and of course ice cream. 

Berries are free, as our mushrooms, you simply go into the forest, to your favourite place and pick them. We’d often see people waiting for buses on a forest road, with a basket or bucket full of their pickings. 

Playgrounds were truly impressive. Children are agile and confident. Parents sit and watch, but as long as the child can walk with confidence they are free to use the playground on their own. As well as the normal swings, slides and merry go rounds there are lots of climbing frames and Tarzan style rope courses to challenge them. 

Another outstanding sight was the quaint wooden houses, of all colours, often intermingled with Soviet style apartments. 

The legacy of wars was interesting, being pulled back and forth by Germans, Russians, Swedes, Danes, especially for the timber, an important building material. 

Forests have been devastated both in ancient times and more recently during Nazi and Soviet occupation. 

One surprise for us is how extensively English is spoken. We have only had one or two occasions where communication was tricky. From decent hotels to tiny coffee shops on the road we were able to order coffee, wine, and a city guide. Perhaps because all the languages are so different, English is common. 

Finland and the Baltics – what a treat to visit you.

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For those who like statistics, here are some…

11 May to 9 August 2017

It is 90 days since we left home and we have reached the farthest north on our travels in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland.

We have spent quality time with both our sons and their wives -Evan & Steph in New York and Hayden & Andrea in Berlin.

In USA we travelled 3753 miles (6044 kilometres) for 43 days, slept in 17 beds and journeyed through 8 states – New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland.

In Europe we have travelled 4754 kilometres for 47 days, slept in 26 beds, including overnight plane and train and journeyed through 8 countries – Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland.

And photos? Well Bruce has taken 3,629 and I have taken 5,555 to date.

We have more time and many miles yet to travel.

I am slowly updating stories and pictures of our travels under the menu Wanderers 2017-1018.

You will see Bruce’s photos on his blog – look out for the link in each story, or just browse the Photography menu, starting at the bottom.

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Spain – it’s all about a wedding

Andrea & Hayden. Granada, 3 September 2016

Andrea & Hayden. Granada, 3 September 2016

We spent five weeks in Spain, arriving in Barcelona in mid-August.

Of course the most important event was Hayden & Andrea’s wedding in Granada. They had met whilst studying at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and developed a beautiful relationship during their study years.

With PhDs completed and jobs found in Berlin, all was set to tie the knot. So we gathered in Granada for a wonderfully happy and beautiful ceremony.

We used the opportunity to explore more of Spain, heading south to Malaga then to the Pueblos Blancos, Gibraltar (not really Spain), Cadiz, Mérida and Toledo, before flying out to Southern Africa.

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Evan’s Dailies

First a curious image appeared on Facebook, posted by Evan. And the next day another one appeared. And the day following there was another image.

Evan explained that this was a project he had long planned and suddenly, living in New York, there was the time to execute it. The challenge was to create a new image each day, exploring features and tapping into his skills in digital design. He told me that some images took an hour to create, others longer. Mostly he uses a program called Cinema 4D, but he also explores features in other digital design programs such as After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator.

In fact, he told me that some days he can’t get to his computer, so he does them on his phone.

So as the weeks went by I started to check Facebook daily and sure enough, he has not missed a day, and has created 58 Dailies to date, starting on 21 September.

I also found his Dailies on his web site www.the-silent-partner.com/dailies and on Instagram https://instagram.com/evanstainsby/

The anticipation of tomorrow’s daily is now great.

And I have a bet with Bruce that he won’t keep it up until Christmas…

Dailies on The Silent PartnerDailies on Instagram

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USA on wheels – part 2

Our second journey on wheels in North America took us across the north from Seattle to New York, crossing into Canada at both the western and eastern coasts.

This journey took us from Washington State to British Columbia, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ontario, Quebec, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York.

And for the statistics.

In 30 days we slept in 16 different beds.

Because our journey took us through Canada as well as USA, the distances and fuel consumption was measured in miles/gallons and kilometers/litres, so some conversion was necessary. We travelled 4846 miles (7799 kilometers), averaging 161.5 miles per day (260km per day). We used 529 litres of fuel at an average cost of $AUD1.22 per litre.

It was grey and cool in Seattle, but the weather cleared as we drove north to Vancouver.  We enjoyed Vancouver so much that we extended our stay there. We then drove to Whistler for brunch and continued through the Fitzsimmons Range, admiring the pine forests and lakes, then turned south along the Fraser River to Lytton and Hope.

We drove east along a mining corridor of Canada, past Copper Mountain to Crawston where we stayed on a vineyard run by a German family, and we drank some beautiful crisp white wines.

Travelling south, we crossed back to USA and headed to the Grand Coulee Dam and through the wheat belt, on long straight roads to Missoula. From there we crossed the Rocky Mountains to Wyoming.

There were bike riders everywhere as we visited Little Bighorn – the site of Custer’s Last Stand. We had reached South Dakota with a million bike riders who were there for the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

We joined bikers when we visited Devil’s Tower, Crazy Horse rock carving, Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug and the Badlands.

We continued east across the prairies of South Dakota and Missouri, crossed both the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and passed acres and acres of wheat and corn crops.

The land greened and became undulating in Wisconsin, where we visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s warehouse for AD German in Richland Center, and then continued to Chicago to see more FLW houses.

Next stop was Detroit, where we marvelled at Henry Ford’s vision and saw the emptiness left by the demise of the USA car industry.

Back to Canada – to see the amazing Niagara Falls set amongst glitz that rivals Las Vegas, then to the cities of Montreal and Quebec for a little French-Canadian culture.

We followed the Freedom Trail in Boston, learning about the beginnings of ‘Western civilisation’ in the Americas.

We popped into Rhode Island for lunch then onto Milford in Conneticut before the last few miles to New York.

Evan & Steph were ready to greet us in New York and show us the city they had just made their home!

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USA on wheels – part 1

We have just finished part 1 of USA on wheels. An anti-clockwise journey in the western states.

Our journey took us through the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and we ‘touched’ New Mexico.

For those who like statistics, in 32 days we slept in 21 beds, drove 4909 miles (7900 kilometres) averaging 153.4 miles per day (246.9 kilometres per day). We used 126.51 gallons (478.9 litres) of gas (petrol) at an average cost of $USD3.38/gallon (approx $AUD1.24/litre).

After exploring Los Angeles prior to returning home for Ev& Steph’s wedding, and with a lot of good advice from our good friend Ian, we hit the road in a Nissan Versa with a dodgy speaker system.

First stop was the glitz of Las Vegas. From there we drove Route 66 to visit a friend from Honeywell days, Ruby and see the Frank Lloyd Wright’s West Taliesin house in Scottsdale near Phoenix.

We drove through the amazing Red Rock Canyon and beautiful Oak Creek to the even more amazing Grand Canyon, and then to Monument Valley, a place held sacred by the Navajo Indians.

We touched the Four Corners, states Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado before spending time at the ancient houses of the Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde and then watching 4th July celebrations in Durango.

We then toured the amazing Arches National Park and walked miles over rocky formations.

Changing our focus from outdoors to indoors we visited Salt Lake City for an insight into the Family Search Center.

We travelled through lush farmland to reach the famed parks of Wyoming, Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

We crossed the dry harsh potato land of Idaho and followed the Colorado River to Portland where we did some city sightseeing and refreshed ourselves each evening at the craft breweries.

A quick stop in Oregon’s wine country, for coffee, and then the long 1360 mile drive down the coast through rugged coastlines, tiny fishing villages in Oregon and old red gum forests in California.

We did taste wine in the Napa Valley and we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, before viewing the calmer coastline to Los Angeles.

It’s been hard keeping our blogs up to date. Long tourist days and a plethora of decent craft breweries in the evening combined with surprisingly poor internet in many places have made it difficult to get stories written and pics uploaded. So now we will make an effort to update our sites as we embark on phase 2 from Seattle to New York, on an as yet unplanned route.

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