Sunday, August 30, 2009

E anche Federico & Germana si sono sposati...

Pictures, videos, and stories will be posted in the coming days...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Another plane...

Another taxi-ride to the airport, another check-in, another plane... Matteo is leaving to Italy (L'Aquila) to attend Federico and Germana's wedding (yes, another wedding as well!). Mathilde remained in DC to guard the property.

Below, a photo from an old inventory. Title: "Before our weddings - when we were young and handsome (and in good shape!)". This is our baseline: we check in five years to see how life (marriage?) will have changed us...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cartagena de Indias

Cartagena has definitively its charm. Well maintained colonial houses, perfectly preserved churches and palaces, imposing stone-walls surrounding the town. But also fancy restaurants, trendy cafes, stylish boutiques…

However, as a beautiful woman who rejoices at her beauty, so we found Cartagena a bit too “self-aware” of its charm…

Cartagena is definitively a jewel, and we would certainly recommend visiting it. But after five days of silence, solitude, and sublime beauty of nature, we felt a bit out of place here…

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Casa Barlovento

We can’t conclude the account of our stay in El Parque Tayrona without describing the posada where we slept first: casa Barlovento.

Casa Barlovento is a private home, now converted in posada, with three open-air rooms (meaning without walls or windows) just on a deck above (literally ‘above’) the sea. Sleeping there is an experience, with the ocean breeze as blanket, and the sound of the waves crashing on the beach just under your mattress as soundtrack.

We have slept in many hotels, hostels, bad-and-breakfasts, cheap, expensive, breakfast included, breakfast excluded, silk blankets, bring-your-own blankets, bathroom inside, bathroom outside, no bathroom at all, etc. around the world. But few - if none - had the charm of this posada…

(Check a short video at:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

El Parque Tayrona

White, blue and green. This is El Parque Tayrona.

White as its sandy beaches. Blue as the waters of the Caribbean Sea that washes its coast. And green as the lush rainforest that from the beaches of the Park climbs up the steep slopes of la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Luxurious nature is dominant here, and the only thing you have to do here is to enjoy it. And we did.

Not far from the coast, hidden in the tropical jungle on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada, there are the ruins of one of the settlements of the Tayrona people, the pre-Colombian indigenous community who used to live in this region centuries ago: El Pueblito.

El Pueblito, built around 450 BC and abandoned around the year 1600 after the Tayrona were decimated by the Spaniards, is considered to have been one of the Tayrona’s major settlements. Unfortunately not much of the ancient town has remained, apart from some terraces, stone-paths, and house basements. However, the journey to this ‘lost’ city is really worthwhile...

From the beaches of the Park, a trail brings you uphill in the heart of the jungle following one of the ancient routes of the Tayronas. Made of stones, some of which massive, this path is believed to be part of an extensive network of stone-slab trails that were used to link about 300 Tayrona settlements scattered over the Sierra.

The path is indeed scenic, offering some beautiful scenery of the tropical forest, and breathtaking views of the ocean behind you. But, above all...

Walking on this stone-paved road - in the middle of the jungle - towards the ruins of a lost city - that belonged to an ancient civilization - now disappeared, you really have the feeling of being Indiana Jones in "the Raiders of the Lost Ark" (or Laura Croft in "Tomb Raider", it depends). You would in fact cautiously walk carefully looking around expecting at any moment the assault of fierce indigenous protecting their territory and their treasures…

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Wayuus

Used to the often annoying presence of individuals who want to sell you everything during our trips, we appreciated the discreet presence of the Wayuu people in the Guajira.

Known to be dangerous, hot-tempered, smugglers, as people ‘better not to be met’, the Wayuus are on the contrary gentle, hospitable, and extremely pleasant to talk with.

(Special thanks to Ramona, our travel-mate in this trip to the Guajira, for sharing her pictures…)

Monday, August 24, 2009

M&M in Colombia: la Guajira

Since my first trip to Colombia in 1999, I always desired visiting la Guajira, the thin peninsula that from Colombia dives into the Caribbean Sea.

It was perhaps because of the suggestive image of the desert meeting the ocean. Perhaps because of the romantic idea of reaching the continent’s northernmost point - a sort of South American ‘North Cape’. Or perhaps because of the legends surrounding the feared Wayuu, the fiercely indigenous people living in the Region, known for living by their own rules, indifferent to the Colombian or Venezuela’s administrative borders and laws…

After about 10 years, I finally fulfilled this old dream.

The trip took us in three days from Riohacha, the capital of the region and gateway to the wild North-East, to Punta Galina, the spectacular tip of the continent, passing through the salt mines of Manaure, the remote Wayuu fishing village of Cabo de la Vela, the rocky cliffs of Ojo del Agua and Pilon de Azucar, and Playa Taroa, where the ochre dunes of the Guajira desert collide with the turquoise waves of the Caribbean ocean.

Our only companions were the wind and the sun during the day, and the starry skies during night. The prevailing feelings during these three days were peace, solitude and a sense of space - which unfortunately our pictures could not capture and reproduce (*).

(*) But have a look at these two short videos: (Playa Taroa), and (the view in front of the Wayuu's village)

We left la Guajira aware to have enjoyed a still virgin, almost untouched corner of the world. But with an inconvenient question: how will this place look like in ten years from now?

This place remained unknown to global tourism until very very recently. However, since it has appeared on the June 09 edition of the Lonely Planet, more tourists have come in the past two months than in the whole previous year. It is not an ‘easy’ destination: there are no infrastructures (we slept in hammocks hosted by the local families and showered with bucks of water), and getting there is far from being easy (there are no roads and no means of transports).

But still, without being rhetorical or naïf, here it comes the inconvenient question: what will the future of this place be? …

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Matteo & Mathilde are back from Colombia

Matteo and Mathilde are back from Colombia with tons of pictures and stories.

Pictures are available at: - vote your favorite one!

Stories will be posted in the coming days.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Queridos Renato y Carito...

Renato y Carito,

Es un honor para mí compartir con ustedes, con sus familias, con sus amigos, este día especial.

Es un honor porque puedo decir haber sido testigo de sus historia, de cómo su amor nació, y como se consolidó.

¿Cómo conocí a Renato? Bueno, acababa de llegar a Washington, no conocía a nadie, necesitaba socializar, y, de pronto, recibí un email que me invitaba a jugar a volleyball. No sabía bien qué hacer, pero tan solo cinco minutos después recibí otro email de “rnardello” que decía: “He visto tu nombre en la lista de directionnes de correo; ¿eres italiano? Hola, me llamo Renato…”

Y así empezó nuestra amistad. Una buena amistad, que tenía su ápice en las que llamábamos “nuestras noches ‘gay’”, durante las cuales normalmente nos salíamos a cenar, y hablábamos de todos: la vida, el trabajo, las mujeres…

Así nació y se consolidó nuestra amistad. En Renato encontré en verdad más que un amigo: mi hermano mayor.

Nuestras noches ‘gays’ eran divertidas, pero después de unos meses, faltaba algo… bueno (obviamente) ¡las mujeres!

Y casualmente (o no) fue el mismo volley que nos hice encontrar que nos llevó a Carito.

Carito era sin duda la más hermosa de nuestro grupo de volley. Hermosa, si, pero inalcanzable, y ganar su corazón era, en verdad, una impresa casi imposible.

Y bueno, tenemos que dar crédito a Renato que con su perseverancia más china que italiana, consiguió conquistar el corazón de Carito.

Y ahora que estoy aquí de testigo de su amor, buscaba unas palabras para brindar a sus vida juntos.

Y espero que mi amigo Jorge (Caledon) me perdone si me apropio de las palabras de una de sus canciones, la canción que Renato prefiere, para brindar por Renato y Carito.

¿Qué es entonces una vida junta? Es ‘tener siempre alguien que nos quiere, siempre alguien que nos cuida’.

Brindemos entonces por la vida juntos de Renato y Carito: ¡que la quieran, que se quieran!

Renato y Carito se casaron!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Les M&M’s go to… Colombia (!!!)

… to attend Renato & Carito’s wedding.

Bogotá, Colombia’s vibrant capital, over the week-end: el Museo del Oro, la Candelaria, la salsa, el merengue… Then to the coast: la Guajira: the thin peninsula at the border with Venezuela, a sort of Colombian far west: massive dunes, wind, solitude, sea… and bandits! El Parque Tayrona: a stretch of Caribbean coast with white sand beaches and “lost cities” in the middle of the jungle. And finally, Cartagena, an old Spanish colonial city, now one of Unesco’s world heritages.

Matteo and Mathilde will be back on-line on Aug. 23, with plenty of pictures to show and stories to tell.

And with the answer to the quiz: what have les M&M’s decided to do, India or not India? (Do keep on participating to our competition, see previous post)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guess what les M&M's have decided...

Les M&M's have made their mind. Participate to our quiz:

(1) guess what - in your opinion - they have decided,
(2) post your best guess under "comments",
(3) check in a couple of days the correct answer and see how well you know them.

The choice will be revealed soon...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

It has (finally) arrived!

It took a while. Several consultations with friends and IT gurus (better a PC or a Mac? better a 2.1GHz 800MHz FSB or a 2.0GHz 1600MHz FSB processor? better a 320GB 7200RPM or a 500GB 5400RPM hard-drive? better more RAM or more memory???). And then several nights spent on internet learning on technical details, comparing different models and brands, reading customers' reviews, searching for special offers... Then the final choice and the long wait: six business days for custumizing it, five business days for shipping it (purchased in the US, shipped from China)...

But finally, yesterday evening, here it was, waiting for me at the reception, my new 'baby' (even if Mathilde prohibited me to call it like this), my new companion, my new toy, which replaces my old Acer (contingent 2003) who well served for almost six years - particularly during the times at LSE, but that with his 19GB memory has sadly become obsolete, passed by faster and more “spacious” models…

Sad is life. Au revoir Acer Aspire 1600, and welcome HP Pavillion!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mission accomplished!

Mathilde is back, after having accomplished her mission (finding the lost gorillas...)

While I am debating on whether to go to India or not, I am wondering (if these are Mathilde's missions) whether I should not apply to CI and stay in DC instead!

Monday, August 3, 2009

The storm is approaching...

One week to give an answer... the storm is approaching...