Tag Archives | United States

Our Day of Decadence in SFO

Move over wine, there is a new industry in the Northern California: one that is creamier, cheaper, and won’t get your fired if you keep it in your desk drawer and partake all day.

Chocolate.

Sure, San Francisco is known for Ghirardelli; A chocolate so popular there is an entire city square named after it. But if you think Ghirardelli is the only chocolate maker in town, you will be missing out on the city’s emerging industry. Just Google artisan chocolate in San Francisco and you’ll get more than 200,000 hits!

The Bay area is quickly becoming the United States gourmet chocolate heart. Fueled by technology moguls who have given up buying vineyards and making wine with their millions (that’s so 1993), many of these dotcom wonders are turning to creating the next best thing: chocolate.

Chocolate San Francisco1000 Fights got an up close and personal tour of the city’s best chocolate stores and chocolatiers. As part of Gourmet Walks Chocolate Tour we got the 411 on the city’s best chocolate while learning about how chocolate is made and why you should eat it (not a problem for us). As part of an intimate tour, the group only had seven people. Now the Fighting Couple are very particular about tours. We don’t like big tours and we expect someone who knows their stuff. We got just the right kind of experience with the Gourmet Chocolate Tour. It was a small tour and Beth knew a lot about chocolate, but more about San Francisco. That’s the benefit of a tour, you get the chance to interact with locals, asking your questions and get a different perspective.

Our tour guide Beth began with some chocolate education by showing us what chocolate comes from: the cacao bean. We got to touch, smell and worship the bean. Beth explained the entire chocolate miracle: from the bean to production. We even got to taste the cacao nibs, which are cacao beans that have been roasted. It’s the rawest form of edible chocolate. We also learned why 1000 Fights loves white chocolate. It’s the fat of the bean. Yes, white chocolate is the cacao butter and unfortunately, doesn’t have the same health benefits as milk and dark chocolate. However, it won’t stop us from eating it.

How to eat ChocolateOur walking tour started at Justin Herman’s Plaza and moved into the bustling Ferry Building Market Place. We started at the self-proclaimed chocolate mecca, Scharffen Berger, where we got a first of many tastes as part of the Gourmet Walks. Just like fine wine, we were told to enjoy the chocolate experience. Instead of popping and chomping on the chocolate immediately, look at it, feel it, smell it and enjoy it. Let the taste sink into your palate and close your eyes. Absorb the chocolate and decipher the flavor. Does it taste of fruit, woods, milk or cream? Remember, wine and chocolate are some of the world’s finest substances, savor them.

The tour continued to Recchiuti’s, local chocolatier where we enjoyed spring Jasmine Tea Chocolate: Jasmine blossoms and green team infusion blended with pure dark chocolate and Burnt Caramel Chocolate: smoky burnt caramel infused in fresh cream with 70 percent dark chocolate paired with spring water. Recchiuti’s is gourmet chocolate on steroids. Just walking into the shop, makes you feel swanky. Even the walls are covered with its descriptions of chocolate heaven-including Lavender Vanilla Chocolates and my personal favorite, Lemon Verbena with organic local lemon verbena steeped into whole cream and blended into decadent chocolate ganache.

Next we continued through the Ferry Building to LaCocina, a local company which specializing in giving local food entrepreneurs a leg up. We had the opportunity to eat the up and coming NeoCocoa truffles including Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Truffle with Hawaiian black lava sea salt and the seasonal Pumpkin Spice Truffle. If you go to San Francisco, check out the Ferry Building Marketplace. There aren’t just chocolates there. While we were on the tour, we found  ourselves wishing we had more time to come back and take it in a bit more.

ChocolateAs Beth led us out of the Ferry Building, we started towards Fog City News. In true San Francisco style, we saw a protest. Free Tibet! Locals will say if you don’t see a protest or someone scantily clad or less, you haven’t seen the true San Francisco. As we snaked along the city, we stopped in on Fog City News. The news stand and chocolate shop carries any magazine from any country you want and the chocolate to go with it. The staff personally tries every chocolate offered and I interrogated them, “What does this taste like, do you recommend it, what else would you buy?” The staff knew the answers! You can get chocolate from the world at Fog City News as well as local Northern California favorites. I bought Maison Bouche’s Fleur de Pecher (that’s a peach blossom chocolate for those of you in Lake Woebegone) and Ginger Elizabeth’s Vanilla Been Toffee Almond Desert Bar.

LeonidasAt every stop on the tour, we tasted the incredible offerings, including hot chocolate (at Leonidas) and the opportunity to buy chocolate. The tour even offered a discount card. It made a dent into the $80 worth of chocolate I bought along the way. Beth told us to pace ourselves with the chocolate. I did well until the sixth stop and by then I couldn’t fit anymore chocolate in my stomach. Luckily, we could take it in our “to go bag,” that included Swiss Chocolate maker Teuscher’s famous champagne truffles, obsessed by celebrities including Oprah.  One of the biggest takeaways from the tour is that unlike wine, fine chocolate won’t run you hundreds of dollars. The most expensive chocolate in the world is a fraction of the price of the world’s most expensive wine. For a couple of dollars, you can get a piece of chocolate flown in from the capitals of Europe or better yet, Northern California!

White ChocolateThe three hour tour ended at the Piece de Resistance: CocoaBella Chocolates in the Westfield San Francisco Center for even more tasting and explanations of the chocolate industry. CocoaBella carries designer chocolates from around the world. If it’s not beautiful and tastes amazing, CocoaBella doesn’t carry it. I couldn’t resist buying the Vanilla Cupcake Chocolate made with sweet cream and vanilla frosting ganache mixed with tiny cake pieces from Norman Love, a chocolatier in Florida or Turin Italy’s Guido Gobino’s Peppermint Infused White Chocolate. I bought the most chocolate here, including CocoaBella’s Hazelnut Toffee with Alaea Hawaiian Salt. Luckily, I have hid it where no one in my family can find it.

There’s no better way to spend an afternoon in San Francisco than walking around the iconic city and tasting the mind blowing, marriage altering, moan inducing chocolate of the town. We highly recommend Gourmet Walks. We can’t wait to go back and check out their other tours. After all we, left our heart and more chocolate we’d like to taste in San Francisco.

 

A special thank you goes out to our friends at Gourmet Walks who provided this experience.  Check them out next time you are in San Francisco.

2

A Math Genius and a Russian Beauty?

What do you get when you combine a math nerd (Harvard-Applied Mathematics Degree) and a Russian-born business guru?   AcoupleTraverlers.com of course!   (Luci says that they are going to have smart kids…not sure what that means.)  In this week’s installment of our 7 questions series to get to know other couple travel bloggers better, we want you to meet Dave and Vicky.  They set out to backpack, wander and eat their way through the back roads of Asia and Europe.  And the best part is, you are invited along for the adventure.

Blog: www.acoupletravelers.com

Twitter: @coupletraveler

Facebook: Acoupletravelers

One of our fave parts of their blog is of course their Pinterest page.  Check out the food pins!  But don’t do it on an empty stomach, you may end up licking you screen.  Not a good look for you.

Lets get to know them a little better:

Russian beauty1)     Tell us a little about yourselves.  How long have you been together?  How did you meet?

We met way back in high school, in the library of all places (He said: haven’t been in one since). One thing led to another (she said: I liked his taste in books) and we ended up fighting…I mean dating for 1.5 years. Until college that is. Then we were actually just fighting so we broke up albeit stayed in touch over the years, to wind up back together senior year. Just in time to move into an apartment together in DC. Since then we’ve been dating for 3 years and looking forward to another 3.

1000Fights:  Love it!  You guys are getting a great start.

backpack airport2) If you had to travel with someone else besides your travel partner, who would it be?  (this person can be living, historical or mythical?.)

He Said: Hercules would be pretty cool. I always remember watching that tv show as a kid and really enjoying the adventures as well as the battles. Maybe he’d introduce me to Zeus? Here’s to hoping Vicky writes Xena…

She Said: Ariel the mermaid. I used to love watching the Little Mermaid cartoon and movie when I was little and would dream about discovering the seas with her. She would definitely make a great scuba diving partner, to say the least!

3) What has been your favorite destination in your wanderings?

He said: I go back and forth between loving nature or wanting to be in the cities. It’s a bit of a grass is greener mentality that I’m working on. Still, favorite city has probably been Tokyo, Japan. It was dynamic but also tame in a way. On the other end of the spectrum maybe Jiuzhaigou in China for it’s peace, tranquility, and spectacular landscape.

She said: So far favorite destination has been Japan, for the sushi alone. Oh, the fish! The delicious, fresh fish. Best meal of my life hands down has been with our couchsurfer in Tokyo at his favorite sushi restaurant. Japan as a whole was incredibly modern, efficient, and beautiful with polite and friendly people the whole way through. It was our first stop on our trip and we had some amazing experiences with our couchsurfing hosts.

4)  Harvard-Applied Math and Boston U-Business.  Holy cow you two are smart!  What has travel taught you?

He said: The biggest thing I’ve noticed with travel is the amount of downtime I have, which results in a lot of reflection. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life but travel is enabling me to sit back and think for a minute instead of being so distracted all the time and moving from one day to the next without even time to process. Overall I think I’m realizing how independent I can be and what I can accomplish on my own. I have no regrets about opting to take time off and am very confident in us being able to support ourselves through our own ventures.

She said: Travel has taught me that it’s definitely possible to get out of the daily grind of the 9-5 office life and still be learning and developing your skill sets. You don’t need to be in a classroom or office environment to learn, you can learn by observing the people around you and the different experiences you have. It has taught me to be more patient and go with the flow more. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and let things go. Got on the wrong bus? We can get out at the next stop. Missed our train? There will be another. With more free time travel has shown me that you can be happy almost every day, especially when you are making all the choices and do not need to systematically get up and do anything.

Japanese man5) We love your buck-list!  But there is one item on your list that we are really curious about: take a vow of silence for 5 days?  Explain?

He said: As I mentioned before some of my best travel moments are just spent reflecting. This is aided by removing distractions such as belongings, long to do lists, and technology (I have no phone, no tv…). Taking this to the extreme would be to removing communication and simply try to meditate for a bit. At the very least, it will keep Vicky from nagging me for an entire 5 days.

She said: This would be the most difficult thing to cross off a bucket list – no talking for 5 days – that would be intense. On the other hand, I do believe that it could be a unique way to reach peace within yourself and have time to reflect on everything in your life. I don’t imagine it would be easy but it could be a really interesting experience.

6) If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?

He said: Cliché but going to go with world hunger. How could I not? It blows me away that some countries are obese and others are malnourished and NEITHER is living a healthy life style. How does this make any sense? Why are we not shifting food from one part of the world to the other…there’s plenty to go around.

She said: Going in the same direction as Dave, I would go with solving the problem with the shortage of water in this world. In the US we’ve have huge 6 Flags water theme parks in plenty of states with kids just throwing water around and sliding right into huge pools of it, yet there are people in other countries with barely enough drinking water. It just doesn’t seem right.

7) You knew it was coming….What has been your greatest travel fight/disagreement?  We heard something about a forgotten credit card?

She said: Oh boy, don’t even get me started on that credit card situation! I completely lost my cool and flipped out. It was pretty terrible. There was a lot of screaming involved until I finally calmed down and tried to think rationally about how to fix our crisis (He Said: I believe it was me who thought rationally…this little interjection is why you always should be the last one to edit an interview). It’s not so much huge fights anymore as much as constant bickering. Dave has lost our map a handful of times, and somehow he always manages to leave our water bottle everywhere. Not the biggest deal, just annoying.

He said: It’s true several years back right before our big Italy group a credit card, through which we had booked all our hotels on, may or may not have escaped my wallet. That would have been a good time for a vow of silence. In more recent news, I lost our map for the third time. At the end of the day it’s more like 1000 travel bickers than any one big fight. Kind of like a volcano letting out some steam to avoid the big eruption.

 

Aren’t they fun!  We truly hope that we come across them in person during their travels!  Give their blog acoupletravelers a look.  Thanks again to Dave and Vicky for sharing with us a little more about their grand adventure.

Are you a couple traveling together?  Would you like to be asked probing questions and have all of you secrets posted on the Internets?  Just contact us!

6

Airport-ing: How to Keep Your Clothes on

Tell us if this has ever happened to you:  You are late getting to the airport, a line of cars cue up to get into the parking garage.  Once you get in the door dragging you suitcase that has one wheel that doesn’t work right.  Then you line up at the airline ticketing, get to the front, only to find out that you picked the domestic/international line… Turns out you need to go over there.  Then your luggage is overweight,  you are forced to spread eagle your Samsonite right in the center of the airport and of course your leopard print unmentionables are going to be right on top.  Enter a frisky pat down in security, a split coffee, and then a late flight.  Ahhh the joys of air travel!

The time has come for the Fighting couple to reveal our super “secrets” to getting through the TSA regulations/customs/check in quickly and without doing a strip tease for a hall of complete strangers.  Our only warning, please use these new found super powers wisely.

 

Packing1) Prep and Pack-One of the keys to getting through security fast begins long before you set foot at the aeroporto.   Strategic packing can and will take much of the stress and hand-wringing out of the entire experience.  Taking a little time to prep three key things

Poundage-The male in our relationship is the guilty one of over packing.  He readily admits it.  Guilty as charged.  Knowing what your bag weighs can save you so much time.  If in doubt, weight it before you leave.  Stand on the scale…scream and call it a liar.  Step back on with the luggage in hand and subtract the two.

Parking and Petrol-One of the little known secrets to smooth airport-ing is parking.  Read the signs as you drive in, understand the value of short term vs long term parking.  It may be cheaper and quicker to park in long term for the short term.  Crazy huh?  If you are returning a rental car, time your approach to the airport to hit a gas station a few miles away from the tarmac.  This will save you some hard earned pesos and you will avoid the line of other Chevrolet Malibu renters as they overpay for their petrol.

Chems-By now I am sure even the novice traveler is aware that you must place everything you own in a tiny plastic baggie.  Many airports are not even offering complimentary bags now, you must bring your own.  We check our baggage.  Sign up for the credit card that gives you one free bag and forget about all the bags, leave your chems in checked luggage.

Airport2) Be Kind– Take your yellow highlighter and circle this super power on your computer.  One of the most effective ways to get through security fast and efficiently is to just be nice.  We spend an inordinate amount of time in airports.  We have never seen a situation where someone gets testy with TSA/Customs Office/airline personnel and it makes everything magically go smoothly.  Usually these situations escalate and bad things happen.  Don’t let it happen to you.    The next time you get a pat down, give them a smile and say thank you.  Move on.

3) Be Smart-Our tip for smart “Q-ing”.  Books have been written and wars have been fought about standing in line.  There are some cultures that do well at cueing and others not so much.  Our secret is when in Rome…do as the French.  Mimic what everyone else seems to be doing.   Keep your eyes open for new lines opening.  Most importantly check with those around you to confirm you are in the right line.

A few more tips for smart airport-ing:

1)  Double check your expiration of your Identification, passport, ect.

2) Smart people check in online.  Why stand in line when you don’t have to?

3)  Give the TSA webpage a quick look-see once a year to stay up on TSA regulations.

Airport shopping4) Shop!   Long gone are the days when airports were these long halls of boredom.  For the most part, airports have become shrines to capitalism.   These temples of temptation offer every food, fashion and overpriced item your heart could desire.   During our recent trip to Thailand we flew through BKK (Bangkok Airport).  We were amazed at the shopping!  Show up to the airport early on purpose.  Wander through the overpriced duty-free shops, hit the quirky souvenir shops and take in the chic boutiques.

5)  Travel Aps-with the advent of the smart phone, the entire airport experience can be a lot less stressful.  Here is a list of a few that might help:

TripIt-One of those catch all aps.  Simply forward your travel (air, hotel, and car) reservations and it captures it all on one readable place.  Cool huh?

GateGuru-What gate is your flight changed to?  Need a map for of the airport?  Get the Guru.

iTranslate, Babelingo-She said what?  Get a good translation ap.

iTrans, HopStop-How to get to and from the airport via public transport.

This post was sponsored by Holiday Hypermarket.

What are your secrets to getting around airports?  What did we miss?  Leave us a comment below, we would love to hear from you.

1

Three Things That Will Ruin Your Vacation

The Devil is in the Details

At times, on our blog and others “we” glamorize travel.  Our posts are dripping with pics of white sandy beaches, dense lush jungles, and wild and crazy adventures.  We kind of like it that way.  But at times, we must take a step back and fill you in on some the more “boring” yet practical details of travel.  We hope that these “Devil is in the Details” posts help.  Let’s dive in:

customs visaVisas:

Some countries want to make it as difficult and confusing as possible to get into.  Other countries want to collect half of their gross national product by charging unsuspecting tourists for the “privilege” of coming to their country.  One of their best tools in inflecting this pain and suffering is the almighty VISA.  Sheepish tourists land sleep deprived and loaded to the gills with cash to spend on trinkets to take home to prove that they have been somewhere.  They are herded through a zigzagging maze to the Visa window.  At this point in your adventure, a stuffy uniformed attendant lightens your wallet.  Nothing says, welcome to our country, like taking your money.  (Some more interesting visa charges: Bahrain: $280, Russia $150, UAE $250, but Angola takes the cake with a whopping $600. Ouch!)  Don’t say we didn’t warn you.  Hey Angola….enough already.

Visa requirements are one of those know before you go details.  Every single county is different.  Some countries require you to purchase the Visa weeks or even months in advance.  One of our friends neglected to look into this detail, and tried to board a plane to Vietnam.  Bad idea.  Vietnam requires a Visa that takes weeks to get.  Once you pick you destination and book your tickets, seek out info on the all-important Visa.  Regrettably, we couldn’t find a website that had all the requirements of every country in one place.  We would recommend your own due diligence and look it up the old fashion way-one country at a time.

The Checks in the Mail:

One of the key details you should never neglect is mail collection.  Sounds like a boring detail for sure, but life can get really interesting if you neglect it.   Make arrangements with friends, family, or a service to regularly check your doorstep for deliveries.  Better yet, arrange with the major package delivery companies to hold you items.  Put your regular mail service on hold.  If you live in the States you can do that HERE.  Nothing says, “We are not home, here are some packages you can steal, and feel free to come back and break into the house because we are gone,” than a stack of goodies on the doorstep and mail gushing out of the box.  Bad form.  You might also be at further risk of identity theft if a Baddie takes your credit card bill out of the box and goes on a shopping spree in Angola (granted they have $600 to get into the country).  Really bad form.

moneyMoney, Money, Money:

In the immortal words of AC/DC:  “money talks.”   We could write an entire post on the topic of travel money.  Let’s keep it simple.  Step one is to have good credit cards which means – ones that don’t charge horrendous fees and interest.  That is a given.  Step two is to let them know where you are planning to travel.  Turn the card over, call the 1-800 numbers and give them all your details.  Ask about exchange rates on the card and fees.  Take at least three different types of cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc.  Time and time again we have found that one card didn’t work at one ATM or hotel while another did.  Compare the benefits and don’t keep them all together.  Each traveler should have their own card.  Leave copies of each card, your passport, and medical card at home.  One little suggestion that we always do before departure is buy some foreign currency before we leave from our local bank.  We do this for a number of reasons.  It avoids stress of finding an ATM right out the gate.  More importantly, it helps you acclimate to what the new currency looks like, and what denominations are available.  Some currency is different sizes and colors.  Having some of the new cash in hand creates options for you.

Thailand beauty

What if something happens abroad and you need currency quickly?  While we have yet to face this challenge, learn more about international money transfers.  Accidents, robberies and other “stuff” can happen whilst abroad.  Knowing a few of your options is never a bad idea.  We get asked a lot about traveler’s checks.  We don’t believe in them.  They end up being more of a problem than a solution.  During a visit to Israel a number of years ago, I struggled to get them cashed in a pinch.  This search cut into my get out and vacation time.  Credit cards have become the payment tool of choice in most countries. Nothing says, “I don’t travel and I have no idea how to function in the 21st Century,” like buying travelers checks.

Heed these three details and you will have a much better trip.   Never neglect the so called little things.  Now go back to looking at the glossy pictures of pristine beaches and green jungles…this stuff is no fun.  Happy travels from the Fighting Couple.

Did you neglect a “detail”?  Did it impact your travel?  Drop us a line below in the comments section and tell us about it!

5

7 Questions with World Flavor

Rachel and Jeff are on a mission.  They are on a grand quest to seek out everything delicious and interesting in the world.  The duo runs a travel blog called World-Flavor.com.  The entire site is stuffed with amazing pics of food porn.  They lived and taught in South Korea,  if you are planning to explore Korea, spend some quality time with their blog.  So helpful.  Jeff and Rachel have graciously accepted our challenge to answer our 7 questions.
1) How many countries visited between the two of you?

We’ve been to 18, but after our upcoming trip it will be over 30.

girl climbing2) If you had to travel with someone else besides your travel partner, who would it be?  (this person can be living, historical or mythical?.)

He Said: I would travel with one of my three brothers. I already know I get along great with them. For all I know Einstein and Julius Caesar both snore and whine all the time about how much their feet hurt.

She Said: I want to travel to other countries with my mom. We have done plenty of within-the-US travel together, but she is afraid to fly. My dream has always been to take an exotic horse trek with her, so I guess I would travel with a version of my mom who isn’t afraid to fly.

Petronus tower3)What has been your favorite destination in your wanderings?

He said: I love when I find unique experiences that make me feel like part of the local community. For example, a friend of mine took us to a tiny rural village in Costa Rica. They were baking bread and had spent all day warming up the great big earthen oven in their backyard, the only oven in the town. This giant extended family welcomed us in and shared what they had, put us to work crafting empanadas, and let us hold their adorable newborn pigs.

She said: When I was in New Zealand, I was constantly amazed at how beautiful the country was. I kept thinking to myself “surely, nothing is more beautiful than this,” and there kept being other more amazing views around every bend. Also, I did a lot of high adrenaline activities which made it stick very firmly in my mind.

noodles with chicken4)  If you had to eat one last meal, what/ where would you eat?

He said: I would want a world famous chef like Ferran Adrià to cook me a 30 course meal. And, since we’re going all out, I might as well invite all my friends and family and hold it in space.

She said: Truffle mac and cheese and a plate of delicious Spanish cheeses (for example: Garrotxa, Idiazábal, and Queso de Varé) on the side.

1000Fights:  Ok…now we are really hungry!  YUM!

5)How do you pick the places you visit?  Spontaneous vs. planned?

He said: My top two criteria for choosing places are expense and cuisine. We recently went to Malaysia largely because the flights were so cheap.It was also one of the best countries for food I’ve ever been to.I like to have a basic plan in place, but leave some flexibility to enjoy whatever opportunities arise when I’m actually there.

She said: I read a ton of travel blogs, and if some place captures my imagination, I add it to my list. I love lists – I’ve got a ‘where to go’ list and a ‘what to eat’ list. I enjoy planning, but only to a certain extent.

dancing by the sea6) If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?

He said: It’s hard not to answer this with something extremely general like, “I would solve the problem of everything not being perfect for everyone all the time,” but I’ll do my best to narrow it down a little bit. I would solve the problem of people and organizations making shortsighted decisions. Whether it be about health, environment, spending, or something else. Minimizing regrets seems like a good idea.

She said: I guess illiteracy. I know it might not help that much, but it’s better to be able to read than not, in my opinion.

7)You knew it was coming….What has been your greatest travel fight/disagreement?

She said: I can’t seem to decide…

He said: Generally when we fight it’s because we are both too indecisive about something and we get really annoyed that we’ve just been sitting around trying to get the other person to make a choice for, like, half an hour. I think that neither of us wants to feel liable if we choose to go somewhere and it ends up being terrible.

1000Fights:Rachel we think that is a bit of cop out!

 

What a great traveling couple!  Give their blog a look-see.  A word of warning…dont go there hungry!

2

White Water Rafting for Couples

We love to promote the beauty of our home state, Idaho!   Our state has it all: gorgeous mountains, winding cool rivers, and adventure at every turn!  Visitors come from all over the globe to partake of the sacrament of splendor and majesty that Idaho has to offer.   All four seasons offer amazing outdoor activities.  Idaho is truly that special of a place.

One of our favorite activities as a couple here is whitewater rafting.  It is a wonderful way to see wildlife, practice a little teamwork, and have a grand adventure!   We are excited to share with you this rare opportunity from Middle Fork Rapid Transit that could actually save you up almost $2,000 on the trip of a lifetime!

The Middle Fork Rapid Transit offers six day river rafting trips on the most magnificent river in Idaho, the Middle Fork of the Salmon… and right now, they are offering a very rare Buy One Get One FREE sale, where you can get a two person package, for the price that they would normally charge for ONE person. Head on over to their website here to read more about this awesome deal. *Because this is a “space is limited” adventure, this deal will only be available to 5 people, sign up quick if  you are interested!

About: Welcome to Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Did you know that Idaho’s whitewater rafting is some of the best in the world! And Middle Fork Rapid Transit offers whitewater rafting trips on the most magnificent of them all: Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River! If you’ve found our site, you seek something. You seek an adventure, an experience that’s out of the ordinary, a vacation that you’ll enjoy and relive for years. You’re looking in exactly the right place. Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River is one of the premier whitewater rivers in the world. On this hidden treasure, you’ll feel the thrill of running some of the most exciting rapids in some of the most spectacular country in America, and you’ll have the time of your life doing it.

2012 Summer Trip Dates

PRIME TIME (Couples trips earlier to family trips later)

July 22 – 27
July 30 – August 4
August 7 – 12
August 15 – 20

LATE SEASON (Fly fishing enthusiast)

August 23 – 28
August 31 – September 5
September 9 – 14
September 11 – 16

If you are interested in outdoor adventure, then I highly recommend liking the Middle Fork Rapid Transit River Trips Facebook page. This way, you can keep up to date on the latest photos and adventures that take place along the Middle Fork of the Salmon, honestly…one of the most beautiful places on earth!

1

Finding the Marquis de LaFayette

Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette

Whats in a name?  A lot if your name is: Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette.  One of the unsung heroes of the American revolution is a young Frenchman commonly known as Maquis de LaFayette.   Being a student of history, and an unashamed admirer of the founding fathers of the United States, we sought out the famed burial site of LaFayette during our recent visit to Paris.  Luci calls me a LaFayette fanatic…  Our quest to find the final resting spot of the Maquis was an adventure in itself.

Our quest started off back in the states, I had read a few blogs that had made mention of some of the folklore surrounding the burial place.  Some of the tales are indeed true, most are not.  Many of the blogs that I had read mentioned difficulty in finding the cemetery.  This proved very true!

Armed with a few of the accounts on how to find the location, a metro pass, and a quarter (we will explain later), we set about our journey.  The grave is located in the Picpus Cemetary in the 12 arrondissement of thecity of Paris.    The first step is fairly easy.  Take the sea green line and get off at the Picpus stop.  The entrance to the cemetery is at 35 rue de Picpus.   This is where we ran into trouble.  You will be smack dab in the middle of housing developments.  You will ask yourself, how can there be a cemetery here?  Signage is limited.  There is a large cement wall with a heavy wooden door. Once you get through the door, there is a small church, the Chapel of Our Lady of Peace.  Behind the church is the small graveyard.

Our timing was poor, by the time we found the right place and figured out that we were supposed to go through the big door into the church yard, it was 12 pm.  Cemetery closed.  We walked up to a care taker explained our situation in limited French.  He said, no, we are not open in perfect English.  We open back at 3pm.  We were devastated.  We had come all this way to see the grave, we had such a hard time finding the place, and we were turned away!  Cue fight!  We went and dejectedly sat on the steps of the church to plan what to do.  We couldn’t stay here for three hours.  We were starving.  What to do?  As we sat “discussing” what to do next, the curator came over and asked us in French if we were from the states.  We said “qi”.  Why was he talking in French now?  He went on to say a bunch of stuff that we didn’t understand, but one word we heard that we did catch was, “l’exception”.  Yay!!!  We thanked him in three of four different languages and headed behind the chapel.

Picpus, Paris, France

 

Regardless of what country you are from, when you are in another country, and you see your homeland’s flag, it is special.  From across the small graveyard we saw the stars and bars.  It sent tingles down our spines.  The American flag has flown over the grave since his burial.  Even during the Nazi occupation!  As a tribute to his service to Washington, visitors leave an American quarter dollar with George Washington’s image on his grave.  In light of what the dollar is worth compared to the Euro, it is no wonder no one bothers to grab them!

One of George Washington’s wishes was to have Lafayette buried in the United States.  He wanted to have a large tribute made to honor his service to the US.  Lafayette refused.  He wanted to be buried in his family’s plot in Picpus.  In light of this desire, arrangements were made to send barrels of Virginia topsoil from George Washington’s estate at Mt. Vernon.  Lafayette was buried in American soil.

Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge

A little history lesson for those of you wondering who in the world we are taking about.  From our friends at Wikipedia:  “In the American Revolution, Lafayette served as a major-general in the Continental Army under George Washington. Wounded during the Battle of Brandywine, he still managed to organize a successful retreat. He served with distinction in the Battle of Rhode Island. In the middle of the war he returned to France to negotiate an increase in French support. On his return, he blocked troops led by Cornwallis at Yorktown while the armies of Washington and those sent by King Louis XVI under the command of General de Rochambeau, prepared for battle against the British.”

The American people owe a debt of gratitude to the French people and particularly to the Marquis de Lafeyette.  Bring a quarter and take a great side trip in Paris.

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My Glen Ivy Escape

The words Glen Ivy SpaLos Angeles Spa makes me go weak in the knees. Located only 60 miles southeast from Los Angeles in Corona, Glen Ivy is an oasis of spa heaven. I first discovered Glen Ivy 10 years ago when I escaped to Los Angeles for the weekend to get away from my husband and children. My friend took one look at me and said, “You need Glen Ivy.” Boy did I ever. I was a working mom in my mid-20s with two kids, a heady job, and dirty house. (Now that I think about it nothing has changed in 10 years, except my age.) I needed a break or mid-life crisis. I opted for the break.

When my friend told me we were going to a spa, I figured it would be in a strip mall with mediocre massages, shag carpet, and maybe a free glass of water if I was lucky. Not even close. As we drove up the entrance it was clear to me Glen Ivy wasn’t just a spa; it was a complex, so vast it would make a Vanderbilt or Kennedy blush.

We walked up to the admittance office and then I beheld what I was to experience. The attendant handed me a map. A spa that needs a map? Yep. It’s that big. We walked into the area and I was as doe-eyed as a five-year old’s first trip to Disneyland. There were signs to the mineral baths, Roman baths, lap pool, the hot pool followed by the cold plunge pool. Fourteen pools total. We hit the mud first.

Mud? Yes. Your admission gets you access to every pool plus Club Mud. There’s an entire area dedicated to mud. Not just any mud, but Glen Ivy mud, a red clay mixed with the natural hot springs that will tighten your skin. Plopped on giant wheels, you grab a handful and  slather the special mud on your body. Let it dry in the California sun and then wash it off. Your skin will feel soft and revitalized.

I liked the Club Med, but I really liked the Grotto. For an extra fee, you can experience absolute soft skin. You walk into the Grotto area and then go down an elevator and enter a cave aka grotto. Your attendant will take a paint brush and paint you with a light green cream. It smells divine because it’s made of aloe vera, shea butter and coconut oil. Go deeper in to the grotto and sit in the “hydrating chamber.” You’ll feel like you are breathing butter, but the longer you sit the better your skin will feel. Then go rinse off. My hands felt soft and subtle days after I returned to the desert of home.

Los Angeles SpaA visitor to Glen Ivy could spend all day just drifting from mud to grotto to roman bath to mineral bath to sauna, but Glen Ivy also has traditional spa treatments. On my first visit, I was treated to scrub, wrap and massage.  Heavenly. Since, I have tried other Glen Ivy’s treatments including the clarifying facial.  Check out their pedicures and manicures as well. A massage or facial will cost roughly $100 per treatment.  On my last visit, I discovered the Glen Ivy Getaway package that included your choice of one 50 minute Swedish massage, 50 minute Glen Ivy facial, or a 50 minute body treatment, as well as grotto admission, and lunch for only $139. Admission is extra and will cost you $46 or $59 depending on whether you are there on the weekdays or weekends. If you buy a service that’s 50 minutes or longer, your admission is discounted.

Plan your day wisely. I like to get my treatments early in the visit, then eat lunch and spend the rest of the day vegging by the pools and ending the day with grotto. You’ll be wasted by the time you leave so expect to be in a fog.  Don’t forget to go to the gift shop. I like to pick up a container of mud and the grotto paint. That way when I’m back home, looking at my dirty house, exhausted from my job, frustrated by my mediocre mothering, I can open up the container, breathe deeply and let Calgon, I mean, Glen Ivy take me away.

Los Angeles has so much to offer!  If you are looking for a great Los Angeles accommodation to go with your spa visit.   Look no further!

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A Day with Dancing Horses

Are you looking for an affordable couple travel destination in Europe? Look no further than the tiny country of Slovenia. Located just hours from crowed Venice, Italy the quaint countryside of Slovenia offers a contrasting tranquility. One of its hidden gems of this small country is the Lipizzaner stallion stud farm. The famed riding school and breeding facility is located in Lipca. The drive to Lipca from the north or the south offers is a tour of greenery and mountain vistas that have no rival.

What to See

The Lipca Stud farm has turned into a tourist and recreation heaven for the horse lover and nature lover alike. It is the perfect place for fighting couples! The main attraction is of course the performances of its classical riding school, which are held on certain days in the afternoon. Show up early for a good seat toward the front. Otherwise your video will include a survey of European hairstyles.

Performances of classical riding school take place from April to the end of October.

Timetable:
Tuesday, Friday, Sunday at 15.00

Additional performances:

  • Easter Sunday and Monday
  • 1st May
  • 15th August
  • 30th December

Price: 18.00€  (the price includes guided tour of the stud farm)

There are a number of reasonable priced hotels in the area.

Would you like to see more pictures of these amazing animals? Just visit our facebook site and friend us there?

Lipica, sloveniaThe Tour

In 2010 the Lipica Stud Farm celebrated its 430th anniversary! The Stud farm offers tours throughout the day of the boarding, breeding and training facilities. You will see the animals up close and personal. The buggies and wagons of yesteryear are also on display. Of course one of the favorite stops in the tour is the foaling corral. The foals are so cute! The young Lipizzaner’s are born black/brown. As they age they molt to a white/grey tone. Toward the end of the tour, you will enter the barn of the past champions. Each of these champions are housed in their own quarters, their proud lineage is on display as well as their performance accolades.

Horses at Work

The Lipica Riding School is not just a tourist destination; it is a working university for World Cup dressage. The talent performing in the arena, both rider and steed are championship grade! Horse men and women travel from the four corners of the earth to train and be trained with these fine animals.

Slovenia About the Horses

So…what makes a Lipizzaner a Lipizzaner? The Lipica Stud was established by centuries of breeding. Early developers mated the local mares (female horses) from this area called the Karst region with the finest Vienna horses and later Arab Stallions. The Lipizzaner’s are unique in color, shape, gait, and of course their most defining feature their incredible intelligence. These unique animals have the distinguishing ability to learn. You will sit in awe as they put their unique talents on full display in the arena.

The US connection

“In April 1945 the heroic efforts of the 42nd Squadron of the United States Army’s 2nd Cavalry were responsible for the rescue and the ultimate preservation of the Lipizzans. The rescue of the horses was conducted under the order of General George S. Patton.” -this according to http://www.lipizzaner.com We made the mistake of asking about this rescue during our tour of the stables. The tour guide, a little miffed at the story, said that the Austrians had stolen many of the horses from Lipica and the US helped “liberate” the horses from them. Not sure the whole story. We wouldn’t recommend asking. Needless to say, the breed is alive and well today.

For the horse lover, this place is mecca. For those seeking to just learn more about the storied history of this amazing animal, you will also not be disappointed. And for those of you just looking for take a break from the rigors of vacation, looking to relax in a tranquil setting, you will not be disappointed. We highly recommend Slovenia and the Lipica riding school.

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The Best and Worst of the Fighting Couple 2011

This year was a great one for the Fighting Couple!  We traveled to some amazing places and some duds!  As we bid 2011 adieu, we wanted to offer you our best and worst of the year:

Lets start with the numbers:

Nights on the road: 65

Countries visited: 7 (Italy, France, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Canada, Austria)

Pastries eaten in Paris:  15 or so!

Most expensive water:  15 euros per bottle! (Italy)

Ugly American travel moment:  Mike-Ironing his Brooks Brother shirt with Evian water while staying at a hotel on the Versailles property.

Best Fight:  So many to choose from!  One of the best was our “Sticker” fight.  As Mike drove us across the border into Slovenia, to our surprise the toll booths were unmanned.  Mike took this as there was no need to pay tolls.  (Don’t make this assumption.)  Mike drove on throwing caution to the wind despite strongly worded objections.  This decision would end up costing us big time!  We had to pay a huge fine at the border leaving the country.  You must buy a “sticker” when entering Slovenia.  In the end, “lively” discussion followed.

Bloggers that we were able to get to know in 2011Traveling Cannucks (Cam and Nicole), Jouneywoman (Evelyn), Bohemian Trails (Megan), Couple of Sports (Jakie and Mark), Our Tasty Travels (Erin and Brett).

Fave Location Mike:  Easy.  Bihac, Bosnia, hands down.  Did we stay in a four star hotel? Nope.  How many thought provoking tours did we take? Nada.   Luci and the other couple traveling with us really humored me on going to this border town.   Bihac was the nucleus of the war.  The first and last shots fired were in the area.  Our adventure to Bosnia began at the border.  The border agent was a little surprised to see American passports.  It took a little convincing to explain that we were tourists coming to his country.  Bosnia, what little of what we saw of it, was lush and green.  As we drove along, we saw the bullet ridden homes along the way.   We stayed at charming little hotel called the Hotel Opal.  We ate at the little riverside restaurant in the hotel.   Food was surprising good!  What made this my fave is the blatant tourist nature of Bosnia, pristine beauty, storied history, and its rough complexity.

Fave Location Luci:  Lake Bled, Slovenia!  Lake Bled is girls’ fantasy camp. It looks like a fairy tale and the Lake’s famous dessert is worth every calorie. Lake Bled is a mountain lake nestled in the heart of the Julian Alps. Slovenia is the cheap man’s Austria. While it’s on the Euro, prices are at least a third cheaper. What else could a fairy tale want? Goregous lake. Yummy cake. Cheap. For a perfect fairy tale moment, spend the day at the lake.  In the middle of the Lake Bled, is an island topped by a church.

Lake Bled

The Church on Lake Bled Island, Slovenia

Rent a row boat for less than 10E and make your spouse row you across the lake. Once you reach the island, make him carry you up the steps to the church. If your spouse makes the 99 steps, you’ll have a happy marriage. If you don’t, well, you’ll be like 1000 Fights. Ring the bell the church bell and a wish will come true. Guys, if you don’t want row, you can get in an oversized gondola called a plenta and someone will row you along with 10-12 other lazy tourists. After visiting the church, visit one of the many lakeside restaurants and dive into famous kremšnit. The cake has a layer of whipped cream followed by vanilla custard and topped with filo dough. As someone who loves, anything creamy, the cake is heaven in every bite. To see pictures and more see:

Rab Island, Croatia

Leaving Rab, Isand.

Worst Location Mike:  This is another easy one for me.  I really dislike Rab, Croatia.  Dislike perhaps is not a strong enough word.  I just want to give them a benefit of a doubt…Being the crazy planner that I am, I had everything planned out.   The first thing you need to know about Rab is that it is a desert island.  It is not attractive.   Three months prior to our arrival, we had reserved a boat to rent for the day.  It was going to be a blast.  We were going to hit a couple secluded remote beaches.  Sounds like fun huh?  Well it took an hour to find the boat dock.  We approached the proprietor, made small talk and once we asked about our boat reservation, the “gentleman” forgot English, and there was no longer a reservation, regardless of the 3 emails I had in hand to the contrary.  The day only got worse!  We decided to drive to one of the public beaches…in route we were following three cars following a tractor.  The tractor driver waved us all around.  So I passed on a flat and straight patch.  All of the sudden: Lights and Siren!  We were pulled over and ticket for passing in no passing zone!  No sign!  Following other cars!  I really dislike Rab!

Worst Location Luci: I hate Las Vegas. The food is expensive. The shows are pricey. The museums are over rated. There are ads of naked women everywhere. The free things to see in casinos are so buried deep inside you need a map to get out. I don’t drink or gamble so what is there for me to do? Nothing. I could never go back and be happy.

Big Winners!:  This year we ran two contests.  The first was our famed Hottest Travel Blogging Divas and Hunks.  We highlighted 3 gals and 3 guys that are travel bloggers.  It was a little tongue in cheek but it gave us a chance to highlight some incredible travel bloggers.  Just in case you missed it, Keith from www.traveling-savage.com was crowned King and the lovely and talented Lillie of  http://www.aroundtheworldl.com/ was crowned queen.

The Kahle's Winner of our Mistletoe Moment

Our other contest was our Mistletoe Moments during the month of December.  We asked couples to submit their best magical moment together during the year.  We were stunned by the response!  There were so many touching stories of couples finding love at home and abroad.   The response really has inspired us.  The winning moment came to us from the Kahle’s at http://www.wanderlivin.com/.  Congrats again!

TBEX-This year we decided to attend the annual travel blogger revival called TBEX.  We are so glad we did!  TBEX this year was hosted in scenic Vancouver, BC, Canada.  For those of you that have not attended, it is a two-three day affair, with travel bloggers from across the globe.  Luci was skeptical about attending at first, but it really turned into a funfest.  Presentations were given on different travel and technical topics.  It was wonderful meeting the faces behind the Facebook pages.

Waterfalls i Croatia

Waterfalls in Croatia

We want to thank each and every one of you our readers.  Thanks for your comments, thanks for your interest in our crazy fights.  Stay tuned we have some exciting stuff planned for you in 2012!  Buckle up!

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