Author Archives: James Ward

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From the majestic Alps to the Italian Riviera

We are finally in the place we were most looking forward to…Cinque Terra… and it is even more beautiful than we thought!  Since we last wrote, we enjoyed two more days in Argentiere and then took a series of telepheriques (cable cars) over the Alps and into Courmayeur, Italy.  The views that day were so amazing!  We were lucky to see Mont Blanc when the clouds cleared for a few minutes.  Through a telescope we were able to see climbers near the top.  James wished he could have joined them on the summit…maybe some day. 🙂  The greatest part of the trip over the Alps was the telepherique that went across La Mere de Glace (a huge glacier).  From our little gondola we had panoramic views of all the peaks around us.  It was like being in the middle of a postcard or painting…it didn’t look real!  Our stay in Courmayeur was fairly uneventful, but restful for us.  We walked around town a bit enjoying the views and the charming buildings, but didn’t do any shopping (not even window) because it was outrageously expensive there.  Yesterday, we left Courmayeur and headed by train to Monterosso, where we are now enjoying the sunshine, the beach, and the colorful buildings and people all around us.  So far today, we have just gone to the beach.  Thanks to Greg Fuchs we knew about the one beach around here that is free, so we didn’t have to pay 20 Euros (about $25) for a spot.  We are looking forward to hiking to the other villages and possibly taking a boat ride around the area.  We’ll be here until the 31st, then we take a train to Zurich, stay the night there and then fly home.  We wish we could stay in Cinque Terra much longer…we plan on coming back some day for sure…but hopefully in the off-season!  Thanks for reading our posts!  We miss you all and hope to see you soon.

Awestruck in the Alps

Wow…  things probably can’t get much better.  We had a truly wonderful time with the Fuchs family last week and then on Monday we travelled by train to Argentiere, France (At the base of Mont Blanc, near Chamonix).  This place is absolutely amazing!!!  I can’t wait for you all to see the pictures.  It is like we are in a fairy tale.  Unfortunatly the pictures do not do this place justice.  The alps sore over us as if hung from the sky.  Yesterday Jenny and I went into Chamonix.  It is a nice town, but too many people.  We prefer Argentiere because it is cute, not crowded and has pretty much the same views.  Every other shop here is a gear shop and the rest are restaurants and souvenir shops.  The place we are staying, "Chalet Le Marti," is a short walk from the main street and has a beautiful view of the Argentiere Glacier.  Today we got our first glimpse of the summit of Mont Blanc.  We had incredible views of all the surrounding Alps as we hiked out of the valley towards Lac Blanc.  We climbed nearly 1100 meters (in total elevation gain) to Lac Blanc and just sat in awe for over an hour.  Almost 360 degrees around us rose the Alps.  The sky was almost cloudless this morning and we took lots of amazing pictures.  We have just 2 more days here before we (hopefully if the weather is good) will take cable cars over the mountains into Italy.  Life really couldn’t be much better.  I am in the Alps, enjoying Stella Artois beer, and my cell phone doesn’t have service here.  😉  I just wish you all were here with Jenny and I.  We will write again from Italy.

Peace and Chaos in Germany

The last few days we have been on a rollercoaster which ranged from extreme chaos to quiet and serene. Here is what’s been going on…
Last Saturday we flew from London to Zurich, Switzerland and then hopped on a train to Basel, Switzerland. At the train station Greg Fuchs (The guy who married Jenny and I. He has lived in Germany with his wife and 3 boys for the past 2 years) met us with a smile on his face. He drove us to his small village in Germany called Tannenkirch (I think). It is an old town with lots of working farms and really charming houses with colorful flowers lining the porches. A beautiful vineyard surrounds the whole village and on a clear day we’re told you can see the Alps. Only 900 people live here and everyone pretty much knows everyone else. I think everyone in town probably knows that there are some new Americans in town. Many of their friends have lived here their whole lives. We love it here! It is so peaceful and simple. The first day here, we went with Greg and the boys to get milk from the lady down the street, which came from the metal cylinder near her house. It was probably milked from their cows that day! Crazy! The schools are only a 3 minute walk from here and there are always old German men and women out working in their gardens or driving tractors through town. In a couple minute walk you can be in the black forest, one of the many beautiful vineyards, or in a grove of cherry trees. There is no fast food, no wal-mart, and only a couple fruit stands that are set up whenever someone feels like selling something. There are also a couple of restaurants in town, which we hear are great. The food we have been eating every meal is spectacular! Lots of fresh fruit and fresh vegetables all the time. We love the yogurt and this amazing salad dressing that tastes good on everything. It is now cherry/raspberry season here.

On Saturday night we got to go to Greg’s friend Andy’s concert. He is a conductor for a couple wind instrument bands in this area. We actually knew half the songs they played and we made friends with one of the trumpet players by buying him a beer. On Sunday we went to church where we didn’t understand anything accept the two English songs they sang. I played solitaire on my phone the whole time. After church we went to some hot springs that were not really that hot, but it was still fun. The last few days have been somewhat of a blur. Mostly we have been helping Greg and Barb pack all their stuff because they are leaving to move back to CO on Tuesday. Today especially was a moving day because tomorrow we will paint and we had to get most everything out. Last night though, we got a break and went to Freidberg, Germany for Jenny’s birthday. It was a really amazing city! Some of the building were built in the 1300s and there is this huge cathedral there. We might go spend Saturday there walking around the city again. Anyway, last night with Greg and Barb was great! We got to spend time enjoying their company, eating sushi as an appetizer and then had an Italian dinner. The waiter brought us all Secht (what they call champagne here because unless it’s from Champagne, France it’s not considered champagne) for Jenny’s birthday…so nice! Then we had some ice cream for dessert. Greg tells us that it is not nearly as good as the ice cream we’ll get to enjoy in Italy soon. We can’t wait. Other than that, we have mostly just spent time taking walks, running through the forrest (Jenny and Barb), picking cherries, picking up Stien at kindergarten, playing legos with the boys, and playing cards after dinner. It has been good to relax and we have enjoyed helping the Fuchs’ move. Since there is really nothing left in the house except stuff they are trying to get rid of, we may be staying with their friend Regina and her family because she was very excited to offer us a room. The Fuchs’ will be staying at another apartment in town that belongs to a friend’s dad. By the way, the German beer is great! Greg treats me to one every day! So, we’ll be here until Monday, then we’ll take a night train to Chamonix, France.

The Fuchs’ move has been very hard on them, so if you think of it, say a little prayer for them (especially Barb) that their adjustment will go well and they will enjoy their last few days in this great place.

Cheers for now from Germany!

The Dingle Way

Well, we are alive and travelling around southwestern Ireland.  Since our other backpacking trips were cancelled, we will be on vacation for the next few weeks.  Currently we are in Kenmare, Ireland enjoying the quainte town, which in some ways reminds us of Aspen.  Tomorrow we fly to London and the next day to Switzerland.  Yesterday we got to drive around the Ring of Kerry, which was really beautiful!  James had fun getting used to driving on the left side of the road…no accidents yet.  Since you may want to know about our backbacking trip around the Dingle Penninsula, we will give you an overview:
Day One
We left the grapevine hostel and drove to Brandon Bay on the north side of the Dingle Penninsula.  We started hiking up over a pass near Brandon Mountain in the rain.  We hiked, it rained, we hiked more and it rained more.  The further up we went the harder it rained.  When it finally stopped a bit, we decided we should eat some lunch, but after setting up one of the rain flies, it started to pour along with crazy wind.  That was probably the worst part of the trip.  We cooked outside and handed tomato soup to the freezing campers who hudled in the tent.  We think we were all experiencing the first stage of hypothermia.  However, once we reached the top of the pass, the bad memories were behind us and we had an incredible view of the sea, rolling hills, and cliffs.  We hiked down and eventually reached a little pub.  James went in to see if they might be watching the Czech vs. Greece game that night, and fortunately they invited us to join them and camp next door on their lawn (for free even).  People here are extremely nice!  So, while some drank a guiness, we watched Czech lose on a big screen tv.  The Czech students were disappointed, but promised it wouldn’t affect their attitudes for the rest of the trip.
Day Two
We woke up to lots of rain, but had to continue hiking anyway.  By now we were all getting used to being wet all the time.  As we neared the coast, the weather cleared up a little bit – enough for us to have a nice lunch on a pier while we watched the waves crash against the rocks.  After lunch was everyone’s favorite section of the trail.  To our right were cliffs that dropped to the ocean and for the next two or so hours we admired the amazing views.  Along the way, we stopped and layed on our stomachs to look over the cliffs and watch the waves hit the really beautiful black rocks.  The wind was blowing pretty hard and sometimes foam from the sea would blow up over the cliffs.  It was pretty incredible. 
Day Three
We woke up to rain, but it turned out to be a nice day and we could finally take off our jackets.  We hiked from the north side of the pennisula to the south side.  Along the way we got to see some of the ruins on the penninsula.  The coolest was a very old oratory (we don’t know what that means) that looks like a stone hut, which was built by monks.  It was made  completely of rocks with no mortar and is still water tight.  Once we get our pictures on here, you’ll get to see it.  We ended up on a small beach.  Since the weather was nice, we played for a while.  Some of us built a sand castle/fort thing.  We set up camp on the dunes near the beach, our best campsite of the trip.
Day Four
We hiked through lots of vegetation over a small pass and reached the outskirts of Dingle, where we camped at the Rainbow Hostel.  The Czech students wanted to hike a bit more, so they climbed a hill near the hostel that overlooks the town of Dingle.  We had our first night without rain there, which was great!
Day Five
James and I walked into town to get breakfast for everyone, and when we had finished eating, we packed up and walked back to the Grapevine Hostel.  It was great to take a shower and walk around town a bit.  We all had dinner together that night and stayed up late talking.  The next day we went to the airport with Barb and the students, said goodbye, got our rental car, and went back to Dingle where we got to walk around town really for the first time since all our time there before was filled with trip preparation.
Trip Reflections:  Overall, it was a very different trip than what we are used to doing in Colorado.  Czech students are much different than American students in how they relate to us as guides.  Another difference was that they wanted to hike much farther each day than we had planned, but we weren’t able to go as far as they probably wanted to because of the content we had to fit in (life stories and reading the Bible).  We enjoyed getting to know each of them…they are all very unique and really great to be with.  We also enjoyed getting to know Barb, their leader.  She is an amazing person!  We hope this trip had a lasting impact on them and we look forward to following up with Barb to see what happens in the future.

Czech meets Dingle

Today 7 kids from the Czech along with their leader, Barb, arrived at the airport.  We got there an hour early, so we wandered to an internet cafe to make our Cique Terra reservations for the last part of our trip.  We picked the kids up in a taxi/van after greeting them and headed back to Dingle.  The kids were very excited to stop at Inch Beach along the way (many of them had never seen the ocean until today…they were beyond excited).  Tomorrow morning we leave for our 4 day trek along the coast.  We will be back on July 5th.  Sorry we haven’t posted pictures yet…we will have time to try to do that when we get back from our hike.  We love the Czech kids!  They all speak English really well (Lukas and Vera especially).  They all have great personalities and we are looking forward to getting to know them over the next 5 days.  Can’t wait to tell you more when we get back.  Make sure to root for Czech against Greece in Euro 2004 tomorrow night!  We will try to find a pub tomorrow when we set up camp so the kids can watch it…it may be a sad trip if they lose.

Here in Dingle…

Yesterday we ended up wasting away most of the day sleeping in until 1:30pm.  Wow!  That jet lag is a killer!  Once we got our barrings, we walked to downtown Hertford for lunch.  Downtown Hertford is a quaint town full of inviting restaurants and a surprising number of salons.  At night we went to a church service with Jenny, which was only a 2 minute walk from her house.  We really enjoyed it!  It was great to worship with people from a different country.  We then went to an Italian restaurant in town and enjoyed Jenny’s company while eating a very good meal.   We got up at 4:30 this morning and hopped in a taxi to the Stanstead airport.  After an uneventful flight, we arrived at Kerry County airport in Ireland around 9:00am.  Greg met us around 9:30 and drove us to the small and charming town of Dingle.  We checked into the Grapevine hostel, where we will be staying for the next 3 nights.  The buildings here are very colorful and full of life and people are delightful!  We are enjoying soaking in the sights, walking around town, eating lunch, and catching up with Greg.  This afternoon we drove to the spot where we will be dropped off for our trip with the Czech kids, who will arrive on Wednesday morning.  We saw many sheep and beautiful grassy hills along the northern coast of the Dingle Penninsula on our drive.  On the way back we picked up a couple from Spain who now live in Germany and are on vacation here.  We are almost ready for bed.  Tomorrow we have to buy our food for the week, find some fuel for our stoves, and wrap up some other details.  Hopefully we will have a chance to upload some pictures of this beautiful place tomorrow.  Thanks for your comments!  Jason…no more rubbish (aka trash) posts…we know it’s you!

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Well, here we are in Hertford England!  We arrived at the Heathrow ariport a little past noon London time after an uneventful 9 hour flight from Denver.  Just as the flight attendent had said before we arrived, the weather was "dull."  After retreiving our 3 backpacks and giant North Face bag, on our second attempt, we made contact with Jenny, a Young Life intern from the states who lives here.  The first of our treks began after Jenny gave us the name of the train stop where she would pick us up.  With all our 200 pounds of gear we headed for the Tube (London’s underground subway).  At the Tube we stood clueless of how to get from the airport to "Hertford East."  Two nice people gave us tickets to use on the Tube, but that didn’t solve our problem.  We resorted to buying another ticket at the ticket counter so that we could get the needed directions.  (Later we relized that we don’t need to buy a ticket to get advice.  Oh-well.)  So we hopped on the Tube and headed for Hertford.  After an easy switch to a different Tube line we arrived at a train station where we boarded yet another train which actually stops at Hertford East.  Everything went smoothly and we arrived at Hertford East.  A few minutes later Jenny picked us and our 200 pounds of gear up.  Good thing she had a big (on European standards) car!  She drove us to the place where she lives with a Young Life comittee family and showed us where we will be staying for the next two nights before we head to Ireland Monday morning.  After a shower and a nap we got to eat a wonderful dinner with Jenny and her friend Sarah.  Things are good.  Tomorrow we might go see some sights.  Check back tomorrow for (possibly) some pictures.  It’s 11pm London time (4pm Denver time), so good night.

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

Tomorrow at this time we’ll be weaving our way through the London tube trying to find a place to stay. We’ll be meeting up with a Young Life leader named Jenny and then flying to Ireland Monday, the 28th. Our first, and possibly only, backpacking trip will be on the Dingle Penninsula beginning July 30th. We are taking 7 kids from the Czech Republic (4 girls and 3 guys) and their Young Life leader, Barb. From what we’ve heard, most of them speak decent english, but we will try to brush up on our Czech just in case. We will have 4 extra days in Irleand due to a small ticket booking mistake, but don’t know yet what we will do…probably just explore Ireland. July 10th, we fly to Zurich, where Greg Fuchs, the brains of Eurotreks, will meet us and take us to his home in Germany. From there we may head up to Poland to help with a camp (we don’t know too much about this yet). Then, we will get to spend some time resting in Italy for a little over a week…at least that is our tentative plan. Keep checking our site for updates!

Europe 2004!!!

This summer Jenny and I will be embarking on our first adventure to Europe.  We will primarily be guiding backpacking trips for Young Life in Ireland, Switzerland, and Portugal.  These trips will be around 4 days long each and have European kids on them.  We will be leaving June 25th and returning August 1st.  From Europe we will be updating this web site with news and pictures.  Stay tuned!!!