Day 16: Somewhere in Europe

Dateline: Santa Margherita Ligure - April 25

Saw a few teams in the last 24 hours…some in the lobby of the hotel heading out to parts unknown, some to nearby eateries, some to train station. Saw one team disembark train in Genoa to complete a few scavenges. We know a few teams are headed to Geneva and a few were in Nice already last night. Basically, teams are scattered between here and there—the there being Barcelona.  
 
First off…a point of personal pride and privilege: a BIG congrats to my daughter Petra who was accepted as a Junior transfer to UC Berkeley! We are all thrilled and happy that out of 96,100 fellow students attempting entry there—she was one of a few. Happy, happy…

Secondly…our hearts go out to the people of Nepal (we visited the warm wonderful place in 2008 and 2013) who have suffered a great loss in a 7.8 earthquake that will sadly probably get a lot worse once the rubble is cleared…we will be making donations through our Great Escape Foundation to help…we should all do what we can to help these poor people. Thank you!
 
Okay...Every year on the Euro leg we get to have some fun and sometimes hang with folks we know. Happened in Iceland a few years ago and I spent a great day a few years ago on the back of a motorcycle in Roma with our good friend Valentina…well last year during the 2014 event we Road Officials left Budapest for a little town 45 minutes southwest of Vienna called Krems an der Donau (aka Krems), Austria to stay with friends in their winery along the Danube River. It was in a word: wonderful. We almost called the movers…
 
This year, we grabbed a morning train from Milano Centrale for Genoa along the Mediterranean in the Italian Riviera known as Ligure…but we did not stop there, we went 30 minutes south to a town called Santa Margherita Ligure. I had visions of moving here back in 1999 when life as I knew it changed…and save for a small daughter (said Berkeley gal) who I could not be physically separated from…I would have. Santa Margherita is nestled in along the coast between over-the-top-picture-perfect Portofino and what is known as Cinque Terre—a string of five centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline that are complete with working ancient terraced vineyards, bobbing fishing boats and family run trattorias specializing in octopus and pesto. Yes blissful… But they are all missing a key element—population weight. You need a certain amount of population to have the energy, synergies and amenities required to have a full and rich life. That Goldilocks’s number in my mind lies between 75,000 and 150,000—not too small and not too big, just right for a diversity of art, schools, sports, restaurants and citizens. Santa Margherita is close to that number and just a great place to be with great local produce, good energy vibe, the nurturing smell of sea in the air and an easy walking place. We are there now spending the weekend with balcony on the beach and corniche…eating a lot and laughing too.
A few Italian photos…
 
Please friend/like us on Facebook... and YouTube. 
 
Finally, The Global Scavenger Hunt is not just about a great international travel adventure that ultimately crowns The World’s Greatest Travelers in the annual world travel championship, it is also about helping others help themselves. As avid passionate travelers we see the true plight of most of the people in the world and this event was created in the spirit of giving back through the GreatEscape Foundation’s work. This year, to celebrate the 11th edition of our event, our goal is to fund 11 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that— empowering both girls and boys. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small secure online PayPal donation during the course of the 2015 event, we know that a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we will thank you too…with a tax receipt. 
 ___________________________________________________
The 2015 Teams competing for The World’s Greatest Travelers™ trophy in the 11th edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt travel adventure competition:
 
Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey): 
Buns & Bird (Tania & Mickey): 
Savvy Scavengers! (Tamyra & Kate):
½ of the Odd Couple (Erik): 
Captain Marvel & PI Baby (Michael & Nita): 
Sydney Sisters (Fiona & Katrina): 
Tatakau Brothers (Ben & Jordan): 
NOLA Second Line (Betty & Jim): 
Hello World (Alan & Michael):
 

The European Leg Has Begun...

Dateline: April 24 – Milano, Italy

Bongiorno from Milano…
 
Hello all, we arrived in Milan after our rather odd flight path from Abu Dhabi yesterday afternoon. Teams were given the day off even though we arrived mid-afternoon at our hotel the Westin Palace here in Italy. (BTW: Despite our 5-star digs, both the understated rustic beauty of our boutique hotel in Bali and the nouveau riche opulence of our Emirates hotel, has quickly dissolved into global corporate branding and faded old world glory—read small rooms in old buildings.)  We all met on the hotel’s 8th floor terrace last night for adult beverages and appies to finish up the Middle Eastern leg and discuss the coming Euro leg while  watching the sun slowly fade into the nearby Alps…the city of Milan laid out before us and majestic Duomo dominating the Italian cityscape. 
 
Here is the latest news form the 11th edition of our little annual around the world circus we call The Global Scavenger Hunt (aka the world travel championship) (aka A Blind Date with the World) (aka the international travel adventure). 
 
We departed AUH international airport at 8:45AM local time yesterday headed for Milan. Normally a straight quick 5-hour flight heading northwest as the crow flies across Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter, over southern Iraq and then Syria over the Mediterranean Sea the Greek Isles, Adriatic and then Italy into Malpensa International Airport. What we got for those that noticed was a not so straight flight that first took us east into the Persian Gulf and Iranian airspace then due north to Iran proper and a sharp left (east) over northern Iraq (read Kurdistan) into Turkey across Bulgaria and Croatia into northern Italy. By my estimation an extra 1200 kilometer flight adding about 75-90 minutes to our flight time. Why you ask? Good question. Well, it seems that both Saudi Arabia and UAE are conducting bombing runs on two of their Arab brothers and neighbors—Yemen and Syria—and they have closed their airspace to flights to avoid issues. It is the classic Shia-Sunni civil war taking place around these parts where the Machiavellian mindsets of: the enemy of your enemy is your friend and the friend of friend is you enemy or there are known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns (aka the Middle East)…Now you know. 
 
Upon arrival at the Milan's Malpensa (MXP) airport, awkwardly located 30+ miles away from the city center, we boarded a couple of waiting vans for our transfer to the Westin Palace Milan hotel on the perfectly located Piazza della Republica. (BTW: Immigration and Customs formalities took seconds…unlike some other countries that will go nameless in North America!) Teams headed out for lunch or naps…some happily accomplished both. 
 
We had business to tend to, peer reviews to arbitrate and scores to tally. 
 
The urban Par 3 Abu Dhabi leg ended as the others have to date with the Sydney Sisters simply dominating the field that was left vulnerable with defending champs Lawyers without Borders not handing in a score sheet due to Rainey’s painful hip issues. In the end, the Sydney Sisters completed 50 scavenges (and 2 Bonuses) to earn a remarkable 2,050 points. Great job ladies and you have now completed five clean par legs in a row in the 2015 world travel championship—I think that is a record but I will have to confirm that!? It is a true testament to how keen these two are to avenge their 2013 bridesmaid roles and win this event with hard work, dedication and a great travel spirit.
 
The rest of the field had Buns & Bird showing signs of trying to keep up with the Sisters, also completing 2 Bonuses and earning 1,740 points. They were followed by the energized and happy Savvy Scavengers with 1,370 points in 3rd place followed closely by Tatakau Brothers with 1,330 points, Hello World with 895 points, and NOLA Second line…two teams did not submit leg score sheets: Lawyers without Borders (for the first time ever in 8 events that cover over 60 legs in 45 countries!) and Captain Marvel and PI Baby.
 
So, after five complete legs and 14 of 22 Par points earned, the top three teams in the 2015 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt are: 
In 3rd place: Lawyers without Borders with 52 leg points (remember lower is better);
In 2nd place: Buns & Bird with 33 leg points;
In 1st place: Sydney Sisters with a perfect score over 5 legs…14 leg points out of 14 possible. (Kind of excellent!)

So, we close the books on Leg 5 and move onto a rather challenging Leg 6 – Europe! It is challenging not because of true difficulty—let’s face it, Europe works! The transportation systems (city, inter-city and inter-country) here are all top notch and reliable. No, the real challenging aspect of the European leg is the human part—the expectations of our travelers and their desire to fulfill them: what will they do and where will they do it?! They have so many choices and options here, that some could become overly ambitious in their endeavors to win this critical leg that they make some strategic errors—take in one too many cities; try to complete one too many bonuses; take in one too many late night scavenges; get too tired in their frenzy of site-doing activities to make a simple miscalculation of their time. In a word: get too greedy!
 
The 2015 edition of our annual hard Par 5 Euro leg has our travelers beginning this morning at 8:00AM (it is Friday here) in Milan. All they have to do is get to Barcelona by Tuesday at 11:00AM. They have four full days to take what could be a simple 13-hour high-speed rail ride to the Spanish seaside… But of course that is not what will take place as they have over 200 scavenges scattered across six countries including 14 high value Bonus scavenges! They have choices…climb an Alp, open a Swiss bank account, crash a yacht party in Saint Tropez, visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa, obtain a casino chip from Monte Carlo, get a visa stamp in Andorra, take in a FC Barcelona futbol game, picnic in Provence and a hundred others in between.  Yes they have options…for many, too many options. And as we all know, too much analysis leads to paralysis. They will have to choose wisely. 
 
We shall see who prevails…and we will be off Tuesday to another continent before our final touch down in Miami next Friday evening. A week to go on the 2015 around the world travel adventure. It should be fun. 
 
We are off to try to resolve a existential question: Is it wrong to have a buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto sandwich for breakfast before a mid-morning gelato followed by a pasta lunch….? 
 
 
The Canals of Milano
 
Old School Religious Art


New Street...literally sidewalk art...


The Classic Duomo view...


Teatro Alla Scala...the home of rock n' roll...I mean Opera!
 
Later from somewhere else in Italy!

 

Transition Day to someplace new....

April 23 – Transition Day: Abu Dhabi to another continent?

 
Teams all checked in last night in the cavernous lobby of the Jumeriah Hotel at Etihad Tower. We have one team slowed by a pre-event condition, and we are all wishing Rainey of Lawyers without Borders a speedy return to his normal self. 
 
 
All the other teams checked with tales of their Arabian nights…that included side trips to sister Emirate Dubai, visiting falcon hospitals, drinking gold-laced coffee, enjoying the thrill of the “worlds fastest roller coaster”—some multiple times, soaking in the sun and surf at family beaches along the Persian Gulf, riding camels, smoking fruit-flavored shish, pricing out exotic fish species at the souk, and dealing with transportation options in a not public transportation inclined destination. It was indeed a buy, full and exciting two days here in Abu Dhabi from the sampling of stories we heard. 
 
And now we have reached the official mid-point of the 2015 edition The Global Scavenger Hunt…12 days down, 12 to go…5 countries down (Fiji, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and United Arab Emirates) and 5 to go! 
 
I will have more info, photos, peer reviews and scores in the next installment from Milano, Italy!
 
To be continued….
______________________________________
Please friend/like us on Facebook... and YouTube. 
 
Finally, The Global Scavenger Hunt is not just about a great international travel adventure that ultimately crowns The World’s Greatest Travelers in the annual world travel championship, it is also about helping others help themselves. As avid passionate travelers we see the true plight of most of the people in the world and this event was created in the spirit of giving back through the GreatEscape Foundation’s work. This year, to celebrate the 11th edition of our event, our goal is to fund 11 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that— empowering both girls and boys. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small secure online PayPal donation during the course of the 2015 event, we know that a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we will thank you too…with a tax receipt. 
 

One Minute Interviews from the Road

 

April 22 – Earth Day in Abu Dhabi, UAE
 
Here are a series of “One Minute Interviews from the Road” that we have taken but been unable to upload and post until now…enjoy
 
 
Tania & Mickey: Buns & Bird
 
Fiona & Katrina: Sydney Sisters
 
Allen & Michael: Hello World
 
Kate & Tamyra: Savvy Scavengers

T
eam Photo in Abu Dhabi
 
 
To be continued….
______________________________________
Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less if that is possible!?) and YouTube.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.
 
Finally, The Global Scavenger Hunt is not just about a great international travel adventure that ultimately crowns The World’s Greatest Travelers in the annual world travel championship, it is also about helping others help themselves. As avid passionate travelers we see the true plight of most of the people in the world and this event was created in the spirit of giving back through the GreatEscape Foundation’s work. This year, to celebrate the 11th edition of our event, our goal is to fund 11 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that— empowering both girls and boys. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small secure online PayPal donation during the course of the 2015 event, we know that a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we will thank you too…with a tax receipt. 
 ___________________________________________________
The 2015 Teams competing for The World’s Greatest Travelers™ trophy in the 11th edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt travel adventure competition:
 
Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey): 
Buns & Bird (Tania & Mickey): 
Savvy Scavengers! (Tamyra & Kate):
½ of the Odd Couple (Erik): 
Captain Marvel & PI Baby (Michael & Nita): 
Sydney Sisters (Fiona & Katrina): 
Tatakau Brothers (Ben & Jordan): 
NOLA Second Line (Betty & Jim): 
Hello World (Alan & Michael):
 

Marhaba from Abu Dhabi

Dateline: Abu Dhabi, UAE – 21 April 2015

It is day 10 of our 23 day around the world event and we have settled in a dry heat here in the Emirates.

A lot has occurred since we last reported in yesterday from the airport lounge…

First off, we arrived in Abu Dhabi last evening around 11:00PM local time picking up four hours of time from our Bali destination. Meaning that we were all extremely tired after 10 hours flying on two flights. But we made it and are fully ensconced in our new surroundings.

We are staying at the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, and it is a jarring juxtaposition from our last stop. (For those of you who have seen the mega-blockbuster Fast & Furious 7, our hotel is where the climatic last scene was shot…and the Lamborghini is parked outside the main entrance to prove it!) This is a lux place—although it conjures up memories of Vegas back in the day—and the amenities cannot be denied.

That said, we leaped not only oceans and continents, but also made a giant jump in destinations; from traditional, green, rural, artsy, homespun, walk-able, humid, sustainable, boutique-style…to none of the above. Abu Dhabi is not Bali! It takes some doing to accept our new reality and adjust according as all great travellers now.

The 5th Leg of the 2015 event began this morning with teams being handed their newest scavenger hunt booklets. They have two full days to tackle over four dozen interesting scavenges; including some rather challenging Bonus scavenges. Here they can rent cars for the first (and only) time during the event and may also team up with any other team to complete unlimited scavenges. (Whereas normally you can only team up for 5 scavenges within a 24 hour period.)  Teams will check in tomorrow evening, high above the fast growing Emirates at Ray's Bar located on the 62nd floor of our hotel…good luck all!

But of course I am ahead of myself as usual. (It is hard to slow down for us as organizers because we see the full schedule lying ahead of us clearly and our teams (and you followers) only see what is revealed one day at a time.)

…Teams handed in their Bali Peer Reviews before boarding our 2nd flight last night and Road Officials had plenty of time to check for inconsistencies and heard numerous travel stories. When the dust settled, it came down to the completion of Indonesian Bonus scavenges with the top two finishers a bonus scavenge away from each other.

In first place for the third leg in a row were the Sydney Sisters who amassed an incredible 2,490 points by completing 50 scavenges in 3 days, including three highly strategic Bonus scavenges. They were followed by Bird & Buns who completed 47 scavenges, but only 2 Bonus scavenges. In 3rd place were the defending champions Lawyers without Borders who also completed 2 Bonus scavenges. In fourth place with a gutsy performance were the Savvy Scavengers who completed 36 scavenges total—but only one Bonus. They were followed in order by: Hello World 5th, Tatakau Brothers 6th, NOLA Second Line 7th and Captain Marvel and PI Baby 8th.

Truly a good job by all, but special credit should be given to the top four finishers in the difficult, arduous and challenging Indonesia Par 5 leg…good job all.

So the Official Leader Board now looks like this: Sydney Sisters #1, Birds & Buns #2 and Lawyers without Borders #3…

As to the next set of scavenges they had to perform in Malaysia…as we mentioned yesterday we held an abbreviated 5-Hour Layover Challenge in Kuala Lumpur. Six teams participated and all performed their key tasks earning 1 point each. The big positive was that no team cut it so close as to miss their seven hour flight here to Abu Dhabi—meaning they could have maybe done more (note to self)!

So…here we are in Abu Dhabi for 2 days and 3 nights. A city (emirate, state or province really) of about
1.5 million. Abu Dhabi being the capital of UAE is the headquarters of numerous oil companies and embassies. But of those 1.5 million residents, there are only about 420,000 real citizens in the entire emirate—(and get this) each has an average net worth of 17 million dollars! Yes, I said that correctly!? Indeed, Abu Dhabi is the little fishing-village-that-could…Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies had nothing on these guys.  Abu Dhabi is reborn, relentless and over the top—but a tad more sedate than sister Emirates up the Persian Gulf coast Dubai. It is a case of the haves and have yachts. (When booking hotels here I was quoted over $1,500 a night for a simple hotel room many times!)

It does remind me a lot of Las Vegas, especially with the dry heat (the sun shines here for 350+ days a year and they get less than 20cm of rain per year) and high rises next to empty parcels of desert sand. It is truly a testament to capital formation that you can build anything if you have enough money—and they do!

Later…but here are some photos:








Our Hotel...

The Booklet...circa 2015.



More later....