Tantalizing Tasmania

The second leg of our Australian trip took us to Tasmania. By far one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. The land is gorgeous. The people friendly. The culture fascinating. And the food delicious. Tasmania was a joy.

Day 1

Our flight from Melbourne landed in Hobart without any problem and we were soon on our way in our baby blue Toyota Corolla to our hotel apartment in the Battery Point neighborhood of Hobart.

It was a quick journey to the hotel and we were soon in our lovely apartment. Once we had settled in we decided to go for a late afternoon walk around the harbor.

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We first walked around Salamanca Place, which is a neat area of restaurants, pubs, and local stores. We weaved our way through the different buildings and wandered around the different stores. From there we walked along the harbor. We saw a seal outside a floating restaurant and market waiting for one of the fishmongers to give it fish scraps. It was interesting to see the seal hold back the seagulls who also wanted some fish. After watching the seal for a bit, Jun and I went to a floating ice cream parlor and bought some delicious Tasmanian ice cream. We continued our walk around the harbor. We soon grew tired and decided to buy some food from one of the floating restaurants and bring it back to our apartment.

We had a delicious meal and a quiet evening. It was a nice way to start our stay in Tasmania.

Day 2

On our second day we went and explored the area north of the harbor in Hobart. We had brunch at the Picnic Café and was happy with our delicious savory waffles.

Once we were fully charged we continued to walk around the area. We then walked through the Queens Domain to get to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. These gardens were gorgeous. There were tulips, orchids, and a lot of native flora, such as banksia and waratah. We had a nice time walking around the gardens. Even when it rained for a bit, it was nice to sit in one of the lookouts and enjoy the gentle rain falling over us. It was a tranquil retreat.

After the rain had stopped, we walked around the gardens a bit more before we went back to central Hobart. From there we again went to Salamanca Place and went up Kelly’s Steps to Battery Point. We walked along Hampstead Road and saw some neat bakeries, stores, and restaurants. We saw an Indian restaurant that we decided we would try later that day.

We went back to the apartment and decided to take a drive up to Mount Wellington to see if we could get up to the summit. Unfortunately, we were only able to go midway to the Springs due to inclement weather. From where we were it was snowing! We walked a bit around that area before we went back down to the apartment.

Once back we rested for a bit and went to have dinner at Magic Curries. The food there was amazing and the family running it was lovely. It was a nice way to end our day.

Day 3

Today had us driving out of the city to Port Arthur and the Tasman Peninsula. Port Arthur Historic Site was the top place I wanted to visit in Tasmania. When I was working on my first master’s thesis, I did a lot of research on Port Arthur and it was great to actually visit the site.

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The drive to the Tasman Peninsula was simply beautiful. It was a quiet drive and we really enjoyed the journey there. Once we got to the site we spent a few hours exploring the area. It was fascinating to learn more about transporting and the convict history of Australia. The area was beautifully maintained and showed a lot of nuance in how the site has been interpreted.

After having explored the area we soon traveled to the Tasman Arch and the Devils Kitchen. The Tasman Arch was quite impressive. From there we went to see the Tessellated Pavement a little north of this area. This second area was really beautiful and interesting. The local geology had created natural groves into the rock that made it look like a brick laid road. There was also quite a variety of sea life there. Some of them were weird and creepy.

After spending an enjoyable time there, we soon were on our way back to Hobart. When we got back Jun and I had a lovely dinner at a restaurant called Blue Eye Seafood. The meal was delicious and a perfect way to end the day.

Day 4

Today was a mix of different things. Our first destination took us to Mount Field National Park. The drive through the Derwent Valley was absolutely gorgeous. The spring weather made the surrounding area seem vibrant and alive with renewed energy. It was a great way to start the day.

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When we got to the national park, we quickly got started with the hike around the lower areas. We first went to Russell Falls. The waterfall was beautiful and was surrounded by some wonderful trees. From there we went up to Horseshoe Falls, which was equally nice. We then continued our hike up to the tall Eucalyptus regnans trees. These trees are second in height only to the California redwoods. We then continued our hike towards Lady Barron Falls. From there we went back down towards the visitor center. Mount Field National Park was a nice way to start the day.

By the time we were done we were ready for lunch. We went to the nearby town of Westerway and ate at the Possum Shed Café. It was situated next to the Tyenna River and had a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside. Once we were content, we were soon on our way to our next destination.

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Being in Australia, we decided to go to the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary to see indigenous animals. The first thing we got to do there was to see and feed kangaroos. We were a bit hesitant at first, but then warmed up to the idea of being so close to them. We also were able to see Tasmanian devils, a variety of local beds, and more sleeping koalas. It was a nice getting to see so many different varieties of animals.

From there we took a quick drive to the historic village of Richmond . We walked around the village and visited the old Richmond Gaol, ate some ice cream, and went to some of the shops in the village. We also saw the oldest bridge in Australia still in use. By the time we had gone around the village, Jun and I were ready to head back to Hobart.

When we got back we rested for a bit before going out to dinner and calling it a day.

Day 5

Our last full day in Tasmania. We took a drive south towards Tahune Forest Reserve where we planned on visiting Tahune Adventures. The main attraction there is a steel canopy walkway that allows people to walk amongst the tree canopy. It was really neat to get to walk around the trees and see the surrounding area. It was breathtaking. As there weren’t a lot of people there as well, it was quite serene.

After the canopy walk we continued to hike the area around the river. That was also nice and we got to see a lot of the local flora. I especially liked seeing the different ferns there.

We then decided to go back to Hobart and have afternoon tea at Jackman & McRoss. It was a nice treat.

From there we decided to go back up Mount Wellington and try to reach the pinnacle. The weather, fortunately, cooperated with us and we were able to take the scary drive up there. It was worth it. The views from the top were amazing. You could see the city below us. And we were at the same elevation as many clouds. It was really a sight to behold.

Once we were done enjoying the view. We drove back to our hotel and had a lovely dinner at Mezethes Greek Taverna. The food there was amazing. And that was a fine way to end our day.

Day 6

Our last day in Tasmania and Australia.

The first thing we did after finishing packing and checking out was to walk down to the Salamanca Saturday Market. That was really neat. There were a variety of things to see, eat, and buy. It was really fun. We ended up buying a few souvenirs as well.

From there we went to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). The museum is built next to a winery and had spectacular views. The collections at the museum were really interesting. And the interior was designed in a way that created an interactive environment. Jun and I agreed that it was a stimulating way to design a museum. It was a great way for us to end our trip.

Sadly, from the museum we had to go to the airport. We ended up having an effortless travel experience. It was just a long travel experience of going from Hobart to Melbourne to Hong Kong to Shenzhen and finally to Guangzhou.

Overall, the trip was wonderful and we were happy that we had been able to spend two memorable weeks in Australia.

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Vivacious Victoria

Two years together! Two celebrate our second wedding anniversary, Jun and I decided to go to Australia. We chose to go to Victoria and Tasmania for two weeks.

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Our first week was spent in Victoria. We based ourselves in Melbourne and went around the surrounding area. It was a wonderful time there. We essentially fell in love with Melbourne!

Day 1

We arrived early in the morning and went through immigration without any problems. But when it came to getting our baggage we ended up losing one of our bags. So we had to go make a claim to see if our bag could be found. Fortunately the airline—Cathay Pacific—did find the bag and sent it to our hotel later that day. But it was strange since it was a direct flight from Hong Kong to Melbourne. Once the claim was made we went out to Hertz to get our car. We received a really nice Hyundai and were soon ready to head into Carlton to our hotel. I was a bit nervous about driving on the left side of the road, but it ended up being easy.

Once we found the hotel we were able to check-in and park the car, but had to wait for our room to be ready for later that afternoon. Jun and I decided to walk around central Melbourne and explore the area. We were both half-asleep from the overnight flight, but we enjoyed going around the city. Our favorite place was Victoria Market. It was a neat place with such a hodgepodge of things to see and buy. By mid-afternoon we were ready for a nap and went back to the hotel and went straight to our room for a shower and a nap.

When we woke up we were only up to going out for a walk to find some food to eat at our hotel. After finishing up eating we went to bed.

Day 2

On our second day in Melbourne we spent most of the day at the Royal Botanic Gardens. The gardens were gorgeous and had a spectacular variety of plants.

We decided to walk towards the gardens from our hotel. We walked around Carlton Gardens and went down towards Flinders Station towards the Royal Botanical Gardens. While on the walk we found one of the alley lanes with graffiti art in Melbourne. It was an interesting mix of styles and was a really neat sight.

From there the walk to the gardens was nice and relaxing and we were able to spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon there. We also stopped by the Shrine of Remembrance as it was next to the gardens.

Then we spend the rest of the afternoon doing some shopping. The last thing we did that day was to go to the state library. The library was really nice. The main reading room was neat. After that we went to dinner and called it a day.

Day 3

We had a road trip to Grampians National Park! The drive was beautiful and the park was amazing. We took a hike towards Pinnacle Lookout. The walk was amazing. There were incredible sights of the surrounding area. The closer we got to the lookout the rockier it got. We had to cross these large slabs of rocks. And went we got up to Pinnacle Lookout the sight from there was beautiful! It was wonderful.

On the way back we went a different route and saw the lake on the other side of the trail. This second trail had only Jun and I on it and we got to spend some wonderful moments in such a serene environment. Soon we were ready to go back to Melbourne.

The drive back was equally nice. On the drive back Jun was doing research on where we should have dinner, and he found an Armenian restaurant not far from our hotel. So we ended up having Armenian food! It was quite delicious and made me nostalgic for my time in Armenia.

The Armenian food was a great way to end the day!

Day 4

This day was one of animals. We drove down to Phillips Island where we saw koalas, wallabies, and little penguins.

We first went to the Koala Conservation Centre on the island. The place was really nicely kept. And it was fun trying to find the koalas sleeping in the trees. They were of course sleeping since they sleep for about 20 hours a day! Jun and I had fun trying to find them in the different trees. They were so cute. I really enjoyed just walking around to find the koalas.

From the centre we had an amazing lunch by the sea at The Cape Kitchen. The food there was delicious, and the view from the restaurant was breathtaking. We enjoyed it so much that we took a quick walk around the grounds before we left.

After lunch we went to Churchill Island Heritage Farm where we got to see what a historic Australian farm was like. It was a really neat place. And we got to see a variety of animals there. The most amazing animals there were the wallabies. They were more active than the koalas!

When we were done with the farm we drove towards the Nobbies and explored the natural habitat of little penguins. While it was gorgeous there, it was so cold and windy. I left my jacket in the car, and hallway in our walk along the boardwalk I was regretting my decision. Besides being cold in the sea breeze it was really beautiful. We also got to see the little penguin burrows along the cliff. There were also geese and rabbits in the fields as well. After the walk we found a café where we got some hot chocolate that was a nice relief!

By the time we were done with our drinks it was time to go to Penguin Parade to end our day learning about little penguins. We chose a guided tour and it was amazing! Our guide taught us a lot about the penguins and pointed out how the little penguins lived. It was really cool to see them come out of the water and head back to their burrows. They were so cute. And it was really neat to see them go through their rituals. We had such a wonderful time there.

By then it was late and we had to drive back to Melbourne. When we got back we had an adventure trying to navigate the city to get back to the hotel. After figuring out the streets of Melbourne at night we finally found our way back to the Eminence and went to bed.

Day 5

Having driven long distances for the previous two days, we decided to stay in Melbourne. More like I insisted that I needed a break from driving and convinced Jun to spend the day in the city. It was worth it though. We slept in and then went out to have brunch at Victoria Market. After a nice meal at Victoria Café we bought some seafood at the market for dinner that night. We returned to the hotel to drop of the seafood and then went to visit the Old Melbourne Gaol.

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The goal was really interesting. There was a play about Ned Kelly that was informative. There were a lot of interesting facts about the prison system in Melbourne—both historic and contemporary. We also got to experience what it was like to be arrested in Melbourne in the 1990s in a very interactive experience.

Once we were done with the museum we went for a walk along the Yarra River. And from there we went back to the hotel to cook our mussels and shrimp. It was an amazing dinner.

The final thing we did was to go the IMAX theatre near our hotel to watch Venom on a really large scene. The movie was actually fun. When it was over we went back to the hotel for the night.

Day 6

Our last full day in Melbourne and we took a road trip along the Great Ocean Road. We actually started by going backwards. We first drove to around the Twelve Apostles. We visited Loch Ard Gorge and London Arch in addition to the Twelve Apostles. All of them were amazing. They were gorgeous natural formations and we were glad we took the time to drive out there to see them.

For the rest of the afternoon we drove along the Great Ocean Road and stopped at different places to admire the view along the road. To be honest driving along the road was exhausting as there were a lot of curves along the road. The views, however, made up for the driving.

By early evening we had returned to Melbourne and had a nice dinner at a Chinese bistro near our hotel. The rest of the evening had us packing and getting ready for the second leg of our trip.

Day 7

We woke up early and checked out of the hotel. Then we went to the airport and returned the car. We checked in with Qantas for our trip to Hobart. Everything went really smoothly and we were soon on our way to Tasmania.

The first part of our trip had been amazing. Melbourne was so wonderful! Jun and I agreed that we could easily live in this city.

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Anniversary in the Low Countries

Celebrating one year as a married couple! It’s been a wonderful year with a lot of changes in our lives. We’ve had our ups and downs, and we’ve become closer in this last year. To celebrate that year together we decided to go to the Netherlands and Belgium.

Our trip started at the Shenzhen airport. We wanted to take the ferry from here to the Hong Kong airport to avoid the crowds. The first “interesting” event of our trip happened here. As I was washing my hands in the restroom, a little four year old ran in and pushed me aside and started to wash his hands. There was no excuse me or explanation for his behavior. There was no guardian with him. I asked him why he pushed me and then he flicked water at my face. At that point my irritation at this boy was at the tipping point and I flicked water back to him—I know juvenile. I scolded him and left, which he then subsequently ran after me and flicked water at me again! Jun at that point came to see what the problem was and cooled down the situation before things descended into a water fight.

After that incident there were no other issues as we got on the ferry to Hong Kong and waited for our flight to Amsterdam. There subsequently was just a lot of lines and waiting.

Day 1

We got into Amsterdam early in the morning. After the long wait in immigration we took the train to the hotel. We did our initial check-in, but because it was so early we had to wait until the afternoon to get our room. We left our luggage and decided to explore the central part of Amsterdam. We took the train to Amsterdam Centraal station. From there we started to wonder around the city. We first went through the Red Light district in the early morning. As we walked we saw a number of different bakeries; we decided to stop and get some cheesy bread. It was great to have so much choices in relation to cheese. With good cheese being expensive and limited in China, it was exciting to try so many different kinds of cheese!

Our walk continued through the city. We didn’t really have an intended destination, but we just wanted to wander and experience the city. We ended walking through some neat neighborhoods, such as the Begijnhof. We eventually found our way at the Rijksmuseum and got to see some impressive examples of Dutch masters and decorative arts. The museum was amazing! To see some of Rembrandt’s most important paintings was exciting.

By the time we were done with the museum it was mid-afternoon. We went back to the hotel to finish check-in. When we got to the room we were both excited to go and take a shower and to take a short nap.

Afterwards we took a walk around our hotel and to find a place for dinner. We walked through a number of nice neighborhoods and ended up at a seafood restaurant. After dinner we took the train back to the hotel and ended our first day by falling into a deep sleep.

Day 2

On our second day we first went to the Anne Frank House Museum. The museum is located in Westermarkt—a really nice neighborhood. The museum itself was sobering and beautifully executed. The museum tends to tell the story as is without embellishing the facts. The reality of it is that the truth of what happened to the Frank family is sad. That such atrocities can happen is painful to know, but the museum dealt with it well. We were impressed with the museum and left with a greater appreciation for life.

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From there we had lunch at a pancake restaurant. We had Dutch pancakes with different toppings. I was so excited to have these pancakes and enjoyed them immensely. They were great!

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Jun and I decided that from the restaurant we would take the train to Zaanse Schans. There’s a historic outdoor museum there. We traveled a little north of Amsterdam to see this outdoor museum. It’s a really neat place. If you’re not interested in actually going inside some of the buildings to see the inner workings, that’s fine because the outside area is actually free. It was just nice to walk around and see the place. There are a number of windmills there. These windmills come from all over the Netherlands; it creates for a fun sight to see the different types of windmills in one place. We also got a chance to try cheese and to wear clog shoes. It was a fun place. The autumn weather was crisp and cool; walking around it was enjoyable.

Afterwards we went to Zaandam, a town between Zaanse Schans and Amsterdam. We just walked a bit and admired the architecture. We also did a little shopping. We went a little overboard with buying tea. We were pleasantly surprised to find quite a variety and cheap prices.

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By then we were ready to have dinner. We went back to Amsterdam and found an amazing Indonesian restaurant: Indonesian Kitchen. Since Indonesia was once a Dutch colony, Indonesian cuisine has found a place in Dutch culinary culture. The restaurant was located in the basement of a building and was quite small. Only maybe thirty people could be seated at one time. The staff was quite nice her. We decided to have the chef taster menu. It was four courses of different Indonesian delicacies. With each course the staff would explain what it was eating. It was quite an enjoyable experience.

After dinner we went back to our hotel to end the day.

Day 3

On this day we decided to go see Muiden Castle. To get there we took a train to Weesp, the nearest station to Muiden. We were then going to take the bus over there, but when we got there we saw that the bus wouldn’t be coming for an hour. Jun and I decided to walk there. It was longer than we had expected, but we did get to see a bit of the Dutch countryside.

When we got to Muiden it was like walking into a postcard of a European village. It was a picturesque community. Also adding to the idea that it was a postcard was the lack of people that we saw. It was interesting to basically have the place to ourselves.

The castle itself was really nice. It’s not extravagant or big as some other European castles, such as Neuschwanstein in Germany. What it did have was charm. The gardens and the chambers of the castle were nicely done and the information was presented in a way that was fun. Some of the signs are designed for children. There’s a leading question that a kid may ask. My favorite was, “Are there sharks in the moat?” The response was cheeky and kid friendly. I really liked that the people in charge of designing the exhibits presented the information in a manner that would get children interested in history.

After the museum we had lunch in Muiden. We had typical Dutch/Western fare at a nice restaurant.

Then we went back to Amsterdam to visit the Van Gough Museum. Talk about a drastic difference from the castle. The number of people at the museum dwarfed what we had seen at the castle and the town. But the museum was amazing. To see so many of Van Gough’s artwork was just wonderful. It was quite an enjoyable experience.

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After that we took the train to Haarlem to walk around that city. It’s an interesting place that has some nice examples of Dutch architecture. We got to see Windmill De Adriaan along the Spaarne Riverhe, and we walked by the old city gate of Amsterdamse Poort. The city center had an amazing church, Saint Bavo Church, which was huge as well.

After having walked around the city, Jun and I were ready for dinner. Since our hotel had a kitchenette, we decided to go to the grocery store and make dinner ourselves. We bought a number of things that we couldn’t easily get in China and made ourselves a really nice dinner. It ended up being a nice way to end the day.

Day 4

Today we decided to travel south to Delft, The Hague, and Rotterdam. The weather overnight had been bad and caused some disruptions to train service. So we had to be a bit creative in figuring out how to get to Delft. It ended up not being an issue and we got to Delft in the late morning. Delft is such a cute city. The canals that go around the central area creates for some nice neighborhoods. And the city’s center was full of nice architecture.

The main reason we wanted to go to Delft was to visit the Royal Delft Experience and see how the porcelain was made. The museum was quite nice and we got to see people actually producing the porcelain. We got to see some nice examples of Delft ware for practical and ornamental purposes. We ended up buying a nice vase as a souvenir.

After the Royal Delft Experience we had lunch in Delft before we went to The Hague. At The Hague we went around the central area of the city. We walked by the Binnenhof, a government building that’s quite impressive. We saw the Peace Palace. I really enjoyed that since it’s been in so many television shows and movies. Then we walked a bit around the shopping areas of The Hague.

From The Hague we went to Rotterdam to have dinner at the Markthal. It’s a modern example of how art and architecture can blend to create a communal space. The building curves to create an open interior. On the interior wall is a natural scene of flowers and insects. And on the ground are different stalls selling fruit, cupcakes, nuts, sushi, and so many other things. It was a neat place. We ended up having dinner at a Greek restaurant. It was a nice way for us to end our day.

Day 5

On this day we took the Thalys high-speed train from Amsterdam to Brussels. It was a nice ride. I got done with some school work, and Jun was able to get some things done for work as well. When we got into Brussels our hotel room wasn’t ready. We went around the city to explore areas such as the Palais Royal and the Grand Place. As we were walking we had lunch at a Belgium tavern restaurant. From here we learned that mussels are something to be eaten here. So we had a lot of mussels for lunch, as well as shrimp scampi and cheese croquettes.

The best thing that we had on our explorations of the city was trying the different chocolate and waffles here. We tried different types of chocolate at places like Leonidas and Neuhaus.

By the mid-afternoon we ended up at the Basilique Nationale du Sacré-Cœur, the fifth largest cathedral in the world. It was a more modern example of ecclesial architecture; it was quite serene inside. Afterwards we went back through the central part of Brussels and had more chocolate before going back to the hotel.

Once we checked-in it was early evening and we decided to call it a day and just got some sushi for dinner.

Day 6

We went to Bruges on this day. It was a rainy day, but it created a relaxing and calm atmosphere as we walked around the city. We first went through Minnewaterpark before heading to Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk where we got to see one of the few example of a work by Michelangelo outside of Italy. “Madonna with Child” was a beautiful sculpture. The other parts of this museum were also quite nice. I even learned that people used to paint the inside of tombs.

From there we went to a small family owned restaurant and had more mussels and beef stew. It was quite good and the family was really nice and hospitable.

After lunch we went to the Belfry. We climbed the many stairs to the top and had some nice views of the city. We also got spritzed by the rain as it was quite windy up there. But it was nice to see the city. We also got to see the clock and chimes working inside the Belfry. On our way down we saw some different rooms. Apparently the Belfry was once used to house the city’s treasury and served as a type of attic for the city.

From there we went to see some different kinds of windmills at the outskirts of the old town. That was neat to see. Also from there we could see into the center. When I saw the Belfry and another church tower I was struck by how much it reminded me of the two towers in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Belfry was quite huge.

By then it was getting late and Jun and I decided to slowly walk back to the train station. On the walk we stopped to get some Belgium waffles. As we were doing this we got to witness a strange performance art piece that was focused on a car with a diver driver inside. As the car stopped it would shoot out water at the surrounding people. It was interesting and fun to see!

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Back in Brussels Jun and I went and bought some chocolate to bring back to China and had dinner at La Dolce Mia, this amazing Italian restaurant on Rue Haute. The owner was a nice guy who I kind of flummoxed with a bit too many questions in English. In the end our dinner was quite nice and we had a nice meal to end our trip in Brussels.

Day 6

This day was technically our last day in Europe, but it was mainly a travel day. We woke up early and took the first train from Brussels to Amsterdam Schiphol airport. Then we had to wait through so many lines at the airport before we were able to get to our gate. Our flight was delayed. When we got to Mumbai for our connection we had to run to our gate to catch our flight. Because the flight from Amsterdam to Mumbai was delayed our checked bag didn’t end up on that plane. In Hong Kong we waited for our bag to only discover it hadn’t showed up with us. We thus had to make a claim for our bag and hope for the best.

From the airport we went back to Shenzhen. We got home and took our showers and had a late lunch/early dinner. As we were eating Jun got a call from the agency dealing with the bag. They had found it and were delivering it to our apartment at that moment. So we were able to get the bag the same day!

And that’s how our trip ended…

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