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Our 7 Questions with Fins to Spurs

What if you could try another career? Even for a short time, would you try a different job just to see what it could be like? We would like to introduce you to a traveling couple that not only tries a new job every few months, but does it in another part of the world! Please meet Christine and Adam of www.finstospurs.com.  We put our seven questions to these two wandering workers:

Blog:  www.Finstospurs.com

twitter:  @finstospurs

Instagram:  @finstospurs

 

First off, tell us a little about yourselves?  How long have you been a traveling couple?  How did you meet?

We have been together for about two years now, most of which has been on the road!  We are from completely different backgrounds, Adam from a rural community in Nebraska, Christine from just outside Seattle, Washington.  We both moved to Kona, Hawaii to work on scuba diving boats and met while working at the same dive shop!  Our passion for adventure and travel drove us together and we quickly teamed up to start our latest tour of the world in August 2014!

Christien West, Adam Maire, Fins to Spurs, Nicaragua

Christine West, Adam Maire of Fins to Spurs in Nicaragua

1)   You two are on such an amazing adventure!  Tell us about one of your best and worst experiences?

He Said: When Christine and I were working as ranch managers in Nicaragua, one of the local ranch hands was incredibly talented, wanted to help in every way, but was very young.  At 16, Ariel was trying to learn as much as possible, but we needed someone who could not only work at the ranch but travel to other parts of the community.  Ariel needed to learn how to drive.  One of my favorite experiences was teaching Ariel how to drive a manual–in my terrible Spanish!  He was hilarious and joking the whole the time (I think?!) and we had a blast together!  The worst experience?  A 12-hour bus ride in the same area with “travelers stomach” in the dark on a bumpy road with a bathroom that had no light and a broken door.

She Said: Just recently Adam and I went to Ubud, Bali and visited a monkey sanctuary.  We are incredibly lucky travelers sometimes, and we just happened to arrive at the sanctuary as a MASSIVE celebration of harmony with nature and animals was beginning!  Hundreds of locals in formal dress were giving offerings, music was playing, the monkeys were excited and seemed to be so interested—it was amazing.  We listened, watched, were so overtaken by the beauty…all because our yoga class was changed and we had extra time that day.  Which brings me to the worst experience of Bali: Adam and I are extremely new to yoga and were trying some different styles of yoga in Ubud…it just seemed like the fun thing to do!  The class that we really wanted to try was cancelled, so we signed up for Partner Acro Yoga.  When we arrived, things were fine for about two minutes and then the next moment I saw people around us getting ready for what looked like a collective wheel-barrel race – one that we were losing!  It was all too much FAST—our hung-over teacher was late, the space was small, every move seemed upside down and WAY beyond our skills in life…We slipped out of class on minute 9 and ended up going to the monkey sanctuary!  Worst experience is never that bad J

 

2) 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: Pretty much anyone who is hilarious!  Maybe Will Ferrell or Ryan Reynolds.  I just want to be able to laugh my though any mildly bad situation.  Will Ferrell is always so obscure that anything could be fun and I can really appreciate Ryan Reynolds sarcasm. If you know any other comedian that is usually pretty positive I am open to suggestions!

She Said: Oh I agree with Adam 100%. Being able to laugh is mandatory for me.  But my vote is more for Ryan!!

Adam from Fins to Spurs

Adam from Fins to Spurs

3)One of our fave posts is about your volcano hike.  Tell us, what it as exhausting as it looked?

He said: Oh my God YES!! I spent 6 years in the Infantry where we hiked EVERYWHERE with overloaded rucks.  I thought I was pretty tough but that hike nearly killed me.  Our guide was 7 feet tall and nearly ran up the mountain!  It is all straight up, very few switchbacks in the beginning and the first third is through loose, soft gravel.  We earned every foot of elevation we gained!

She said: First, the weather was everything! We were told it was going to pour rain all day so we thought we should bring double clothes. It never did rain, by the way.  We carried over 40 lbs. straight up that loose dirt and ash volcano!  I kept adjusting the straps on my backpack but I have so little experience, it was ALL so heavy!  It was insanely awesome, I would do it again, but way less in the pack.

traveling couple Guatemala

Acatenango, Guatemala

4)  If you had to eat one last meal, what/ where would you eat?

He said: I try to eat every meal like it is my last, I usually finish half of Christine’s food too!  I love Indian and Thai food so much but my favorite is Mexican.  When we lived in Guatemala, Christine made these killer smothered burritos that were the size of a small dog, all in our little apartment.  I would have to make that my last meal but I would eat it on any beach with a GREAT sunrise and a Black Butte Porter!

She said: You know, I spent two years teaching in Istanbul, and Turkish food was introduced to me by my students.  I liked it in the beginning, but then over two years I grew to LOVE IT!!! I would have an Istanbul street food feast with pide, doner, yogurt, lahmacun, sutlac and all with raki! Yum!!!

1000Fights:  YUM!

5)  What advice would you have for a couple that is considering following your path and working around the world?

He said: GO and DO IT!! We aren’t trying to sell quit the 9 to 5 or permanently abandon your current job, just take a little more time off, find a job or volunteer opportunity, and travel!!  This life isn’t easy.  We don’t have the stress of normal work but a job is a job.  Whatever the job is you still have co-workers you don’t love and long hours.  We just want everyone to know that you can stay longer in these locations and learn SO much more about them than just a few days here and then moving on to a new location.

She said: I think my advice would be to start slowly.  I started working abroad when I was 19 years old as a bartender in England.  Your first job abroad is rough, then you finish that one and you think, that was SIMPLE AND FANTASTIC, so you do it again.  You take more risks, you challenge yourself with more languages, locations and different types of jobs…it gets more and more adventurous.  As a couple, you will do this together!  Your experiences get more memorable, more life changing, more inspired.  Is you ease into this process with your partner, maybe starting with vacations combined with work/volunteer opportunities, your relationship has a chance to be EVEN CLOSER, with this completely different experience as something only the two of you really know about.

traveling couple

Fins to Spurs at Karon Beach, Thailand

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

He said: Our lack of care for nature.  If humans don’t stop using up our resources we are going to wake up one day with no Earth to call home.  The shark finning and destruction of coral reefs is forever changing our oceans for the worse.  We recently hunted one of the species of rhinos into extinction just for its horn and another species only has four left… in the entire world!  Global warming is destroying our poles year after year and spreading FAST!  The human race is going to have to unite to conserve what little bit of nature we have left!

She said: If I could “solve” one thing, it would be living in extremes.  I wish people could live with more balance.  For example, the internet is great, it has the ability to forward education for people who would never otherwise have access. However, people can’t spend ALL DAY online.  Go outside!!  See other people in real life!! Eat, smell, and see other places!  Or food: I absolutely love amazing food, but you can’t eat everything and anything all the time.  The goal in my mind to live a balanced life, integrating more patience into every activity in your day.

 

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

She said: Travel is tough sometimes.  Adam is my favorite travel partner in the world.  No question.  However, our rare disagreements do happen.  I remember when we finished 9 months in Central America, our flight flew through Seattle, my hometown that I hadn’t been to in years.  And we only had two hours in Seattle before we flew to Alaska, but in this airport there is an Ivar’s, the BEST restaurant for clam chowder in the world.  I WANTED THIS CHOWDER!  I was dreaming about it for more than a few weeks.  So, when we arrived in Seattle, we bee-lined to Ivar’s.  But when we got there,  Adam wanted all this other stuff like fish and was spending WAY too much money and we had this tense moment over the food (it was stupid)…and because of the fight…I didn’t want my precious chowder anymore.  It was a fight over the bowl of soup…medium or large.  It was an argument over  $2.  It’s hard to understand, but after 9 months of spending, it seemed like too much.  I guess that’s travel for you, you sort of lose it all (your mind) and gain it all at the same time!

He said: In my defense, I wanted the large bowl of soup so she got enough, and I could finish what she didn’t want.  It was really more about 24 hours straight of flights, car rides, and fast food that really put the stress on the situation.  I still feel bad I ruined the soup for her.  We really do get along pretty well, but we both HATE being cold.  On the few occasions we have worked in the cold it has become the blame game and a small spat.  You know, the typical: “working in the snow was YOUR idea!” and “That’s it!! You NEVER get a say in the job choice again!!!”  A warm coffee and a heater and it all just goes back to normal!

Now those two know how to fight! We are very impressed. A huge thanks to our friends Christine and Adam for graciously answering our 7 questions.  Give their blog a follow!

2

The Fighting Couple’s Holiday Gift Guide

The trouble with travelers is they are so hard to shop for!   The Fighting Couple comes to the rescue. We have put together the perfect gift guide for your wandering colleagues. Trust us, a few of these items under the tree will have your traveler beaming like they just avoided a long TSA line!

The Perfect Pillow

Travelers are always dreaming of the lovely locations they have visited. Their homes are filled with pictures of the Colosseum in Rome and selfies at Machu Picchu. Ok… maybe that is just us… Regardless, the first stop you should make on your traveler shopping quest is to Finch and Cotter for a Custom Travel Pillow.   There you will find a great selection of travel themed throw pillows. We get lots of comments on ours! It lists all of our favorite places. We can’t count the number of conversations that have started when our friends looked at the pillow. Each destination is a memory to us. Be a traveling friend’s hero! Simply start your customized pillow by listing at least seven of your favorite destinations.   Finch and Cotter can make custom pillows in a week! How cool is that?  Facebook: Finch & Cotter

Pillow talk

A Little Pillow Talk

The Traveling Pouch

Travel these days takes a bunch of stuff: Passport, ID, itineraries, phones, Visas, boarding passes, ect, We have found the perfect solution. The Leather Travel Wallet from House of LH.   This handsome and useful travel folder keeps all of your travel goodies sorted and organized.   They are the perfect size to handle your cards, papers and even a special pocket for your passport. There is even room for one of Mike’s spreadsheets! This handy item is a must have. They are handmade out of real leather so they are tough enough to hold up any traveler’s demands.  Bon Voyage!

Leather Travel Wallet

Leather Travel Wallet

 

The Tough Bag

One of the most embarrassing situations we have had while traveling was our trek into the Amazon jungle in Peru. We were trekking novices. We showed up at the river bank with our roller bag suit cases. (Don’t do this.) Did they get wet? Yes. Did our clothes smell musty and river-ery? Yes. Were we happy about that after a week in the jungle? No. Since then, we have discovered the Dry Duffel from Lewis N. Clark. This handy bag looks small, but it is huge! There is plenty of room for your entire trip’s wardrobe. The best thing? It’s completely water-resistant. This bag is perfect for trips where weather can be an issue. Headed camping or in our case “glamping”? This bag is going to be your new best friend. While you are on their site, they offer loads of great stocking stuffers. We highly recommend a toiletry pouch. It is one of those TSA friendly bags that every traveler covets. Twitter: @lewisnclarkgear

Dry Gear Duffel

Dry Gear Duffel

 

A Tale of Two Cities

Just because you are traveling does not mean that you have to look scroungy. The challenges for every traveler is what to pack? You want to pack light, but you still want to look good. Actually, you want to look better than good, you want to look fabulous. One of the requirements we have for our clothing is that they serve more than one purpose. We give you the Book Scarf from Storiarts   Not only does this little number make you look smart, you actually are smart! Each scarf displays a passage from a classic novel. Luci picked the Tale of Two Cities, which is her favorite book. Again, this is another perfect conversation starter. These are easy to pack, easy to wash. and can be worn with different outfits. The perfect compliment to your traveling wardrobe.  Twitter:  @storiarts

book scarf

The Classic Book Scarf

The Gnomes

One of the hardest parts of being a couple on the go is the times when you are apart. Yes, we miss fighting with each other.  Both of us travel a lot for our day jobs. Recently our friends at Gnoments asked us to give a Gnoment a try.  Ok… at first we were a little bit skeptical. A talking gnome is a little out of the ordinary. I am sure the TSA agent that went through all of our unmentionables was wondering why in the world we were smuggling gnomes?   So this is how it works. With your smart phone, you create a message, pictures, or even a map for your loved one. Next step, hide your gnome when only your lover will find it (suitcase, briefcase, car, ect). Once they find the little gnome, they scan it with their phone and up pops your message. Cool huh? This is the perfect gift for couples that spend time away from each other.  Twitter: @gnoments

They created a little video on how it all works:

The Perfect Print

The traveler’s home is a museum of their adventures.   We are always looking to surround ourselves with inspiration from our previous adventures.   We recently added a new print to our “palace”: A World Travel Map Print from The Oyster’s Pearl.  The thing we love about this little shop is that it is run by a husband and wife team!  (Wonder if they fight?)  Their work has been featured in: Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Southern Living, Country Living, Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine, Buzzfeed & more!  They can do custom prints of just about any state. Isn’t that cool?  What we love most about their store is that everything is custom designed.  We love gifts that are personalized just for us.  Be a winner this season and have something unique made for your loved one.  Twitter: @theoysterspearl

Adventure print

Follow your own adventure!

Aren’t these some amazing ideas? This time of year is a wonderful season for friends and family. A thoughtful gift to your traveling loved one will mean more than you know. A word of warning. Many of these items are handmade and are in short supply. We strongly encourage you to not delay your order. We would love your feedback on any and all the items above!

A number of the items listed above were supplied for us to review. Does this affect our honest review and impressions? Not one bit. Happy Holidays!

1

The Blitz: Exploring How WW2 Changed London

There’s a million things to do in London. Most people tick off locations on their top 10 lists like the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. But you can’t appreciate modern London without realizing how the Blitz changed what you see today.

I wanted to know more about the Blitz, so I contacted my friends at Context Travel. There isn’t a blog post long enough to tell our readers how much I adore Context Travel. We’ve taken walks with Context all over the world and each is small and full of unique information. There’s nothing I loathe more than a hundred people trailing behind an umbrella. But at Context you get a small group, usually less than 6 people, lead by an expert.

My friend and I met Philippa, an Oxford educated expert, outside the Museum of London, a free and often overlooked museum close to St Paul’s Cathedral. Going on Context’s Blitz Tour was one of my top-to-do’s on my recent girls trip to London and I was anxious to meet our guide. I’ve been fascinated by the Blitz and had watched a documentary on Netflix called, “The Blitz: London’s Longest Night” and wanted to walk and talk to an expert to learn more.

Our tour began with us ducking quickly into the Museum of London. Philippa wanted to give us a solid understanding of the risk of fire in London.  This is one of the many things I like about Context Travel; they live up to their name. They provide context to their tours with educated guides who actually know what they are talking about and they usually live in the city where they work. You don’t get shallow tour guides, who are more interested in playing comedians and who can’t answer questions.

We walked quickly through the Museum to the Great Fire of 1666 Exhibit. “Part of what I love to teach children when I go on tours is to teach how to look,” she rattled happily, “It’s a life skill. When you look for layers in buildings it reveals the past.”

The Great Fire began in a bakery when someone forgot to put out the daily fire. Fire was one of the greatest fears, explained Philippa, “Even the word curfew originated from the couvre-feu or to cover your fire.” The city was largely made of wood houses some with thatched roofs that spread the fire like a terminal disease. The result was almost the entire city burned to the ground, including St. Paul’s Cathedral and more than 80 other churches. The Great Fire had a dramatic effect and changed how London looked and worked in the future. Almost 300 years later, the Blitz would have the same history altering effect.

We followed Philippa out of the Museum onto the London Wall where she painted the scene of London 1940. We stood looking at the high rises, condominiums and churches. The area looked differently 75 years ago. It was working warehouse district with a few shops, and almost no tenants.

British citizens hadn’t been targeted by the German Blitzkrieg or lightening war. That changed in September 1940. Just before 5 p.m. on September 7, close to 1000 German bombers flew across England and started bombing London and it continued consequently for months during both the day and night. It wasn’t just London. Other cities like Liverpool, Portsmouth, even the historic city of Bath were bombed.

“This changed the British experience,” Philippa remarked. “The British knew about what the Germans could do in cities like Guernica in the Basque Country which were absolutely destroyed,” she paused. “In preparation, the government ordered a million coffins. Children were being evacuated from the city with a toy and only a few clothes…a million children were sent to the countryside. Some children didn’t see their parents for five to six years. People would go to the Tube Station to sleep.”

We walked further across the London Wall, enjoying the sunshine, but also trying to wrap our heads around the gravity of the London war experience. Over the course of the war, a million houses in London were destroyed. Miraculously, despite the constant bombardment, the death toll never reached the expected seven digits. Although, 20,000 people died in London and another 20,000 died in other areas of England due to the Blitz.

Philippa stopped. “One of the things the bombings did was uncover London’s history.” Looking down from our perch, she pointed out pieces of Roman Wall, unseen prior to the bombings. “Remember, London was the utmost region of the Roman Empire. It was a strategic area. Suddenly through the rubble, you could see these old, ancient walls.”

IMG_7999

Ancient Roman wall preserved in a parking garage minutes away from the London Museum. The Blitz uncovered Roman architecture and is not preserved even in the most unlikely places.

Not only were scattered pieces of wall to the human eye, but also as London began to be rebuilt more pieces were found. We snaked our way down to a parking garage where Philippa enthusiastically showed us another part of wall that was visible wedged between parked cars and motorcycles.

As we walked to our various tour points, I found Philippa both gracious, and easy to talk to. I felt like she was someone I would be friends with. As a life-long Londoner, she was able to give a unique perspective on the diversity of the city, the ever-rising real estate prices, and where to find the best curry.

We darted across a few narrow streets to a quaint park. It was framed between a narrow road and a tall building with some stacked stones throughout the garden. College students were sipping java. It was quiet for London. Philippa lead us to a plaque at the end of the patch of grass.

Context Tour Guide Philippa Owen shows what an incendiary bomb looks like. Thousands of these bombs were dropped first to create a path for German bombers.

Context Tour Guide Philippa shows what an incendiary bomb looks like. Thousands of these bombs were dropped first to create a path for German bombers.

“The Blitz was a deliberate attempt to smash British morale. But it didn’t work. The Government tightly controlled the images of the devastation to show courage, not to show people in pain. Churchill mobilized the English language and sent it into battle,” Philippa said.

Where we were standing once stood St. Mary Aldermanbury Church. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and rebuilt by famous architect Christopher Wren and gutted again in the Blitz. What was left of the church was shipped to the America, to Fulton, Missouri and rebuilt in honor of Winston Churchill. It also happened to be the place where Churchill gave his famous “Iron Curtain” speech.

We ended our tour at the overpowering St. Paul’s Cathedral. Churchill was determined to save the famous and symbolic symbol at all costs. On the night of December 29, on the 114th Blitz, the area around St. Paul’s was the target. As a warehouse district without a lot of people, fires could spread easily without humans living nearby. The Germans dropped incendiary bombs to light their targets. Then another wave of bombers would drop the bombs,” explained Philippa.

Remarkably, St. Paul’s survived, despite bombs falling all around it, including a bomb that dropped right in front of it, but didn’t detonate. “Once it was detonated outside of London, it created a 100 foot crater,” said Philippa.

Shrapnel marks on St. Paul's Cathedral, scars of the Blitz.

Shrapnel marks on St. Paul’s Cathedral, scars of the Blitz.

I started the tour with the knowledge I had read on the Internet and what I saw on a documentary. I ended the tour having walked the Blitz, felt inspired by the resilience of the British population and having learned to recognize Roman remnants throughout the city. I was educated about a topic that my generation can’t relate too, but certainly sees the relics in every corner of London.

The next time you are in London, understand the past so can appreciate the present by taking Context’s Blitz Tour. Context also offers 40 tours from architecture and gastronomic walks, to drawing workshops to history tours including family tours.

This tour was complementary by our friends at Context Travel.

IMG_8048

My new friend Philippa from Context Travel. My tour was like a walk-umentary.

 

 

 

4

Our Secrets to Scoring a Lovely Late Check out

Visiting a upscale hotel in New York is often an exciting experience, although sometimes the rules can really dampen your weekend plans and throw your itinerary off. However, many people don’t realize that hotels can, and often do, give out extra benefits to customers who simply request them politely. One such service is the late check-out, in which you can enjoy an extra hour or two in a luxurious room rather than waiting in a coffee shop or uncomfortable reception area. However, these benefits are seldom offered to rude customers, which is why we would like to offer some tips on how you can courteously get extra benefits when staying at a hotel in New York.

do not disturbA Few Tips to Score some Extra R&R

The following are some tips offered by Megan Wood, who works for a company that reviews and rates hotels and has more experience than most with hotels and staff. These will help you enjoy the late check-out time you need without causing a hassle for any members of staff.

  • Always be polite: Staff and managers are more eager to go out of their way for customers who treat them with respect and dignity. While it’s understandable that long trips can be draining and even small irritations can get on your nerves after a long drive or flight, they are still human and not simply staff at a hotel.
  • Choose your days wisely: You are far more likely to be allowed Late Check-Out at a Hotel with HotelsByDay in New York if you are staying during off-peak times. This is because, during NYC’s off-peak times, the staff don’t have to rush around to ensure each room is clean for the next guests who might already be waiting. They can rather plan to clean your room last and afford you an extra hour or two to snuggle in some high thread-count linen.
  • If you have a loyalty card or visit often, make sure to let the staff know: Although this doesn’t guarantee you a late check-out, it will certainly help. Hotels don’t want to lose loyal members, so they often tend to accommodate them more. If you aren’t a member, see if you can sign up for it. Many hotels offer free memberships, which are ultimately mutually beneficial.

hotel bedAlways Remember – the Desk Agent is King

Because keeping the customer happy is a top priority in the hotel industry, you will almost never find front desk agents who are rude, snotty or seemingly against you. However, this is because they have far more control than most customers think, and don’t have to be rude to you to make your stay uncomfortable. So remember this before you raise your voice or demand more than you actually deserve, as the agent giving you your room knows precisely which rooms have cold drafts, broken curtains rails and television remotes with low batteries.

In an interview with a true veteran in hotels and hospitality, Jacob Tomsky shares some real insights on the matter: “At the front desk, I am a god of instant karma.” He explains that he has many “weapons” at his disposal, such as replacing rooms that include beautiful views with less exciting rooms, placing customers in room 1212 – the dialing code for New York – or the more complicated key bomb: dual initialized keys that ultimately get you locked out of your room.

So remember next time, the desk agent you are speaking to is just as human as you are and deserves some respect and courtesy – especially if you are thinking of asking for favors such as a late check-out.

Two Sides to Every Coin

While it’s always fantastic to receive more than you bargained for, you need to also remember that there are two sides to every coin. A benefit that you enjoy may lead to a drawback endured by someone else. Therefore, it’s courteous to never push the limits of a late check-out, as you may be simply causing other people to lose out on their fair share.

However, there are times when a reasonable request on a late check-out is fair, as featured in an article on Forbes with Michael Forrest Jones: “If you overstay your check-out, and we don’t know ahead of time, you drive everyone nuts.” Nevertheless, further down the article he goes on to state “If you call first and ask for the extra time, we can accommodate you if your request, the extra time you need, is reasonable; the housekeepers can plan around that contingency, and everyone is happy.”

So don’t hesitate to politely request extra time if you need it. Perhaps you didn’t notice the time while enjoying the high thread-count sheets in your king-sized bed overlooking Central Park, or perhaps your next meeting only starts at 3 p.m. and you aren’t overjoyed by the thought of having to spend a few hours waiting in a coffee shop. Regardless of your reason though, hotels in New York can be very accommodating at most times and all it takes is a small amount of courtesy and planning to make your travels so much more enjoyable.

5

Romance on the River: Natchez, Mississippi

One of the crown jewels of the American south is the charming town of Natchez, Mississippi.   Perched on the bluff above the mighty Mississippi River, Natchez is host to a collection of some of the most stately and dignified mansions in America. This little enclave of southern charm is truly one of the most photogenic places we have visited in our travels. It is the perfect getaway for couples.

Stanton Hall, built c. 1858

Stanton Hall0 (ca. 1858)

The Natchez Story

The history of Natchez begins exactly 300 years ago. It was founded by a group of French traders in 1716, making it one of the oldest settlements on the Mississippi River. Its location made it an important stop on the river. In a bit of geographic gerrymandering, the city reverted to Spanish control after the French and Indian War.  It later become a part of the westward expansion of the United States. It once served as the capital of the state of Mississippi, until the city of Jackson replaced it.

Rosalie (ca. 1832)

Rosalie (ca. 1832)

The Natchez Pilgrimage

The pilgrimage to Natchez has become an annual right of passage for the high style southerner. Each spring, and now since it has grown in popularity, each fall as well, the entire town throws open it doors to the public. If dressing up in Antebellum attire, riding in coaches and greeting fellow tourists with “darling” and “kind sir” are your bailiwick, the pilgrimage is just your thing. The pilgrimage is your one chance to get inside one of the amazing manors. The challenge is taking a picture of the homes without throngs of people doing exactly the same thing. A great website for all things pilgrimage is http://www.natchezpilgrimage.com/

Monmouth Plantation (ca. 1818)

Monmouth Plantation (ca. 1818)

Natchez for Couples

Without a doubt, visiting Natchez with your lover is a dream come true. Strolling the main street, or picnicking on the grounds of one of the homes that are open to the public is simply romantic perfection. There are some incredible eateries in town with a focus on both French and southern comfort food. In the evening, a number of horse-drawn carriages can give you and your beau a great tour of the town.

Beautiful Natchez

Beautiful Natchez

Day Trip

We highly recommend the Fighting Couple’s “Oh Brother, Where art Thou” adventure as a day trip.

Natchez for Couples!

Natchez for Couples!

Getting There

The city of Natchez is situated at the end of a beautiful 90 mile drive from Jackson, Mississippi or drive up from Baton Rouge will take you a little over two hours. We chose to drive down from Nashville along the Natchez Trace historic byway. (Highly recommended!)

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7

How to Spend Two Days in Kuala Lumpur

Visiting Kuala Lumpur (KL) was an afterthought on a journey through Asia. We visited the city on a 48 hour lay-over in KL. What we discovered was this capital city is a traveler’s dream. It’s affordable, the food is  fantastic, and there’s plenty of eye-popping sightseeing.

butterfly

Butterfly Park in KL

Butterfly Kingdom

Getting there: Take a taxi! Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park is situated within the Lake Gardens area and its main entrance is along Jalan Cenderasari.

Website: http://www.klbutterflypark.com/

Perhaps our biggest surprise on our visit to KL was how much we enjoyed the butterfly exhibit. As mentioned above, it’s a little difficult to find so definitely take a taxi. Taxi options are very affordable in Malaysia. The butterfly garden claims to the largest butterfly collection in the world. That is a pretty bold claim, but it is definitely the largest we have ever seen! Upon entering you walk into a humidified Garden of Eden! The place is massive! It covers over 80,000 square feet. There are ponds, rivers, caves, and secluded walking paths throughout the plantation.

Butterflies! As you would expect there are literally hundreds of thousands of butterflies all around you. Every shape, color, and kind are floating on the gentle breeze. It is a photographer’s wonderland. Our only challenge was that our camera kept fogging up due to the humidity inside the gardens. Take a lens cloth in with you. Butterflies aren’t the only thing that you’re going to see. Each of the little rivers are stocked with Koi fish, turtles, and other aquatic life.  They’re even beautiful waterfalls that make forget that you’re in a controlled environment. The natural flowers also make for lovely pictures.

Singapore 2014 122

Petronas Twin Towers

Getting there: Cant miss them!

Website: http://www.petronastwintowers.com.my/

One of the icons of Kuala Lumpur is, of course, the Petronas Twin Towers. You must take your traditional photo in front of the towers. We strongly recommend taking them at night when it is completely lit up in white light. There is a park a few blocks away from the Towers that is perfect for taking your Christmas card shot.  The view from the top of the Towers is not to be missed on a clear day. You will need to shell out a few dollars get to the top.

Fun Facts:

  • Both buildings are 88 stories tall. A fortuitous number in Malay culture.
  • The Petronas Towers were the tallest buildings in the world for six years, until Taipei 101 was completed in 2004.
  • The two towers were built on a former horse-racing track.
  • Contractors built Tower Two straight. However, Tower One was leaning 2.54 cm off vertical. So, to correct the problem, the next 16 floors were slanted back 0.2 cm.
  • Scenes from the movie “Entrapment” with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones were filmed here in 1999. Do you remember that suit she wore? Wow!
Jojoba Spa KL

Jojoba Spa KL

Spa

Getting there: Jojoba Spa, 15th floor, East Wing Tower, No.1 Jalan Imbi, 55100, Kuala Lumpur

Website: http://www.jojoba.com.my/

If you follow the Fighting Couple, you know we never travel without hitting the spa. Our Kuala Lumpur visit was no different. By far our favorite was the JoJoba Spa. Yes, it is really that good. It is located in an upscale hole right in the center of the city. You must block out a couple of hours for your visit.

The spa menu reads like a food menu with names like “Lovely Chocolate, Jojoba Red Wine Special, and a Dragon Fruit paradise.” Are you hungry yet? We elected for the “Royal” couples massage. Which we highly recommend for every Fighting Couple!

Malay food

Malay food is amazing!

Food

A highlight of visiting Malaysia is of course the food. Malay cuisine is a fusion of Chinese, Vietnamese and Indian. Needless to say, in a city the size of KL, you are bound to find the perfect meal for any taste. The first place to start your foodie quest is along the famous Bintang Street.

During our recent visit, we met up with our friend Danny Chen with http://www.eatsingtravel.net/. He literally wrote the book on eating Malay. His guide entitled: Train2Eat, highlights eateries that are near metro and train stations around the city.

Masjid Jamek mosque

Masjid Jamek mosque

Temples

Getting there: Masjid Jamek (Muslim): Nearby is the Masjid Jamek LRT station that is served by the Kelana Jaya Line, Sri Petaling Line, and Ampang Line. Taxi is recommended.

Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamek_Mosque

The Masjid Jamek mosque is the oldest Muslim temple in Kuala Lumpur. Built in 1907 and dedicated by the Sultan of Selangor in 1909, it was the official national mosque until the 1960s. The structure was designed by Arthur Benison Hubbock, a British architect employed by the city government.

This mosque is a good place to get a primer on the Islamic faith. In order to visit the mosque, you need to be dressed appropriately. There are long robes that you can borrow if needed. We took a short tour of the property. Candidly, there is not much to see on the inside, but it is interesting to learn about the history of the faith in Malaysia.

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple

Getting there: Sri Maha Mariamman Temple (Hindu), The temple is located within Chinatown, near Petaling Street. If you are coming by metro, just exit at the Pasar Seni LRT station.

Website: http://sreemahamariamman.org/home.html

What the Muslim temple lacks in pizzaz, the Sri Mahamariamman temple more than makes up for it. Located in the Chinatown area, this Hindu temple is loaded with color, activity and art. The temple was constructed in 1873 by K. Thamboosamy Pillai. It is the oldest hindu temple in Malaysia, although it went through a near complete renovation in the late 1960s.  The vibrant and active temple is filled with intricate detailed sculptures depicting historical and spiritual scenes.

Kuala Lumpur has earned a place in our hearts.  We found the vibrant city inviting, easy to navigate, and extremely friendly.  Have you been?  If so what are your fave activities?

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Graceland for Beginners

All along my journey to Graceland, I kept feeling that I was a stranger in a foreign land. Many Elvis Presley disciples travel on long distance pilgrimages to pay homage to the “king.” Take the gentleman that I was sitting by on the tour bus rolling up to Graceland. He was decked out head to toe in Elvis garb. He was adorned in the blue suede shoes, slicked hair, and he actually looked like Elvis!  For me, Graceland was a place I’ve heard of, but tears weren’t going to stream down my face once I stepped on the Jungle Room green shag carpet. Despite my lack of Elvis sensibilities, I like Graceland. It’s a definite must see in Tennessee.

Elvis

Entrance into the Mansion.

Here’s a primer for those who want to see Graceland, but are not willing to start wearing leisure suites with glitter.

Elvis Aaron Presley, born in 1935, was one of the most successful recording artists of all time. He claims the moniker of “King of Rock and Roll.” Presley dominated the charts with mega hits like: Heartbreak Hotel, Love Me Tender, and the Fighting Couple’s fave: Can’t Help Falling in Love. To this very day, his adoring fans still pay tribute to his immense success in music, movies and pop culture. Every year on the anniversary of his demise, they host a candlelight vigil. Elvis grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi and later moved to Memphis, Tennessee.  He would use Memphis ,with is soul food and music, as a center for operations for the rest of his life.  After his passing at Graceland in 1977, at the age of 42, his body was interred at his beloved Graceland.

Graceland

Elvis’s palatial estate was acquired by the king in 1957. It was located a few miles outside of Memphis and offered the crooner a private place to relax and refresh when not on his demanding tours. The name comes from the previous owner’s daughter who name was Grace. The property is roughly 14 acres and has a number of different structures on the premises besides the main home.

Visiting Graceland

The mansion is located at 3765 Elvis Presley Blvd., Memphis, TN.

You must know that Graceland is second only to the White House in terms of annual visits to a private home. This is and continues to be an extremely popular tourist destination. There are a number of different tours that you can take. We elected to take a Viator VIP tour. This gave us access to the complete grounds, Elvis’s car collection, a tour of the mansion and entry to another museum just off the side mansion. Needless to say, this insider view of the entire property comes highly recommended from us.

Get your tickets.

The Graceland ticket office is open 8:30 am till 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 9:30 a.m. till 4 p.m. on Sunday. From November through February, the ticket office hours are 9:30 am till 4 p.m.

A shuttle that picks you up in front of the ticket office will take you on the short ride across the street to the mansion. An audio guide is extremely helpful in seeing the home and around the property.

The Mansion

The first stop on the tour is the mansion. Greek revival exterior columns, white washed lions and giant vases welcome you the entrance.  Stepping in the front door, you are walking into the grand foyer. From there you have access to all of the first level living quarters. You will see the dining room, the music room, and the living room. Everything you see harkens back to the late 1960s and 1970s.

Elvis Jungle room

Welcome to the Jungle Room

The Jungle Room

Perhaps one of the most famous rooms in the entire house is the Jungle Room.   The entire room is lined with green shag carpet, including the celling! Elvis loved Hawaii, and many of the chairs are carved in an island manner.   The room is complete with waterfalls on the walls.

graceland

The Pool Room in the Basement

Basement

Walk down the stairs and you will find Elvis’s man cave. Complete with a movie theater, pool room and lounge, this was where all the fun happened.

The second floor of the property is not opened to tourists, many of the rooms there are still used by family members on occasion.

Taking Care of Business

Once you walk outside the mansion you can take in the business office. Elvis’s father, Vernon managed much of the crooner’s personal affairs from this office. Here you can see where fan mail was received and responded to. Just outside the office you can see a small room that was used to shoot handguns.

Racquetball

One of Elvis’s passions was racquetball. He had his own court built just behind the home. Today is houses an impressive collection of his awards, costumes and memorabilia.

The Meditation Garden

The Meditation Garden

The Meditation Garden

The final stop on your visit to Graceland is the Meditation Garden. This is where Elvis and his family are buried. There is a monument to his twin brother that was stillborn.

Enjoy your visit to the mansion!

Our visit to the Graceland Mansion was sponsored by our friends at Viator. Does this change our opinion of this incredible experience? Not one bit.

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Luci Learns to Hula

If there was a Black Belt in Hula or Hula Emmy, Leihi`ilani Kirkpatrick would have it.

For 60 years, Leihi`ilani has danced this ancient art form that enthralls Hawaiian visitors. Leihi`ilani is a professional hula dancer. She has traveled the world, dancing the hula and teaching students of all ages. She had just returned from Singapore, where she taught an international group of women to hula, when she agreed to meet me.

Hula dancing hawaii

Learning Hula!

Meeting one of the Island’s most celebrated hula dancers seemed completely out of my realm. My dream of learning to hula started as a child. Like many, the movement of the dancer’s hips and arms, that make this form of dance so exotic, mesmerized me. I had never seen hula in person until Mike and I’s trip to Hawaii.  As part of my bucket list, I wanted to learn to hula. So, after searching the web, I found Leihi`ilani.

We met at the Lyndgate State Park in Lihue, on the island of Kauai. I was nervous and worried that Leihi`ilani would think I was the most uncoordinated student ever. I have no rhythm. This coupled with my lack of flexibility made me wonder if I my hula technique would like a chicken trying to two-step.

At age 64, Leihi`ilani has a timeless elegance about her. When she got out of her car and we greeted one another, I felt at ease. She emulated a humble confidence and peaceful spirit.  To get started we sat on some mats she brought with her laid carefully on the sand. She presented me with a homemade lei made by her granddaughter. I felt more like a close family friend, than a stranger.

She began to tell me her story, the story the islands as told through the gentle sway of hula.

“Hula is our library books,” she shared. “We didn’t have a written language. It was through hula that we told our stories.”

According to Leihi`ilani, in the early 1900s, there was a revival of Polynesian culture as tourism flourished in Hawaii. This included the establishment of Hula schools. Leihi`ilani was talented enough that she was sent to one of these special hula school.

“Hula entertains, heals, and is a wonderful way to express the hearts of Hawaiians. It also has many physical benefits including strength, balance and coordination. Most of all you learn discipline in hula. When I went to school it was very strict, but also loving. Hula was part of my family. My mother danced as well as many of my relatives,” Leihi`ilani explained.

Hula dancing

Luci learning the Hula

Once, we discussed the history and the true meaning of hula, we began our lesson. Leihi`ilani had a simple dance for me to learn.

While hula looks uncontrolled at times, it is a meticulous way of dance.

  • Posture is number one and bending the knees. Leihi`ilani taught me that bending the knees is what gives the hips the flow hula is famous for. Your shoulders should be aligned with your hips.
  • Now for the arms. Arm movements should be even with your chest bones. No hip hop arms! Don’t shimmy your shoulders. They should be relaxed.
  • Legs should be bent and flow with the movement of the hips. Point your toes.
  • If you want a  brief lesson, check out this short tutorial featuring Leihi`ilani. http://hawaiianhulatutorial.com/hawaiian-hula-tutorial-part-1/

For a girl from eastern Idaho, learning the hula seemed like something I would never get to do. Not only did I learn the basics, I met one of the best hula teachers in the world. I checked off a bucket list goal. But it wasn’t just the hula, I learned from Leihi`ilani. After meeting her, I wanted to be the type of person people meet and feel peace. Talking to Leihi`ilani, she exudes love and goodwill. She explained that people gain balance, strength, and coordination. But most importantly, hula has a spiritual element to it – as you become more in tune with your body, the ancient stories, and the peace you feel from expression. She left me with a Hawaiian kiss or honi, an ancient tradition where friends touch foreheads. I left her a better person and a little more coordinated.

Luci learns to Hula

You can learn more about Leihi`ilani from this documentary: http://hawaiianhulatutorial.com/hula-teachers/.

Better yet, go to Kauai and take a lesson or catch up with her wherever in the world you may be, as she travels the globe. https://halaukaleikukuihiilani.wordpress.com/

 

 

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The Perfect Summer Fling

Finding the perfect summer fling can be a bit of a challenge. What makes a perfect summer fling anyway? Is it poolside with a cool drink? Or lounging at some remote beach with sand and surf? Or is it an alpine getaway? The Fighting Couple has the perfect suggestions to solve either of these flings.

Let’s start with the sand. Our favorite beach location is in southern Thailand, A little place called Ao Nang. What makes this location perfect for a summer fling is its laid-back approach to life, outstanding cuisine and of course, incredible water. This little part of paradise is located just north of Krabi, Thailand. It is a lot less known than its overcrowded cousin Phuket. What you will love about this place is that it doesn’t have high-rise hotels, overpriced chain restaurants or hordes of tourists. What it does offer is a friendly smile, a few T-shirt shops, and perfect beaches.

The Ao Nang Fling

Let’s talk about your itinerary for your summer fling to Ao Nang. The first step is to find and book one of the many boutique hotels in the area. Trip Adviser makes this quest incredibly simple. Research and find one that matches your pocketbook and pretenses. We like to book our hotels away from the water. Many of the hotels in the areas offer great pools and views of the mountains and water. Most offer a generous breakfast and shuttles back and forth to the water. We stayed at the Aonang Phu Petra Resort and highly recommend it!

The next step is to go and book your boat. There’re number of vendors that are available along the water. Don’t forget to negotiate the best price… this is Thailand after all.

Thailand islands

Anchors away to paradise.

Spend the entire day on the water. We paid $40 for the day for our own boat and captain. You are the boss of your day. You determine how much time you spend at each beach. The boat will take you from island to island to find the perfect beach matching even your most exotic dreams.  Avoid the big islands like Phi Phi and Railai, although Railai can be very nice in the late afternoon. There are many little islands with amazing beaches. If one becomes too crowded, have your boat captain taken to the next. Pack a well-stocked picnic basket for the day and just enjoy the beauty of Thailand.

On your return back to shore, make reservations at the best restaurant in town. It is called Lae Lay Grill. It is special. Very “fling” worthy. Give them a call and they will even pick you up from your hotel and take you back after your meal. Order the fried rice that comes in a pineapple husk. All of the pineapple sweet juices blend in with the rice making it a succulent treat. Order the daily special and watch the chefs cook in the open kitchen. This is what we loved most about the restaurant, besides that incredible view!  The open kitchen and the chefs’ tricks are worth the night out. Very entertaining.

The islands of Thailand!

The islands of Thailand!

The grand finale of your fling will definitely be a moonlight stroll on the beach. A perfect day. The perfect summer (or whenever) fling!

We almost forgot, there is one thing that you must do before you book your fling. Stop over at our friends at www.3wishes.com and pick out a floral lace lingerie teddy. What would a fling be without something to fan the flames?

The Alpine Fling

Living in the western United States, we sometimes take our beautiful Tyrolean environment for granted. The crown jewel of alpine settings in the American West is none other than Lake Tahoe. Mike grew up visiting the area and can give you an insiders guide on crafting the perfect summer fling. Mike and Luci also honeymooned in the area, but that’s another fight…

Getting to Lake Tahoe

First off, getting to the Lake is a little tricky. The nearest airport of any size is in Reno, Nevada.  Southwest Airlines flies there, so if you are west of the Mississippi, you can likely find an affordable flight into Reno. You are definitely going to need a rental car. The area is ideal for going topless…. convertibles or course! The drive from Reno to Tahoe takes about an hour. In our opinion, Reno isn’t much to look at, so head straight to the Lake. There are two ways to get there: head south from the airport, or take a more scenic route and head for the California line then turn south at Truckee.

Pure blue water of Tahoe

Pure blue water of Tahoe

Lake Tahoe has some of the clearest water we have ever seen. The mountains surrounding the Lake frame an incredible setting. Lake Tahoe is divided between two states: California and Nevada. On the Nevada side, gaming is allowed. Most of the upscale hotels and restaurants are located in South Lake Tahoe, on the Nevada side. We much prefer and we strongly recommend renting a bed-and-breakfast or even a small rental home on the California side.

There are many things to do and see in and around the Lake. A great place to start your fling is by hiking down to Vikingsholm. This castle/lodge is located right along the water on the California side. Take the 30 minute hike and tour this intriguing and eclectic home. Towering Ponderosa evergreens line the path down to the home. There are picnic benches around the home, perfect for a lovely lunch.

If you’re looking for something for your active lifestyle, Lake Tahoe beckons you. There’re many day hikes, walking paths, and state parks in the area that are just waiting for you and your lover to explore. We highly recommend visiting one of the Forest Service offices to get updates on local conditions and ideas. If golf is your game, there are a couple of world-class courses along the banks of the Lake.

The colors of Lake Tahoe

The colors of Lake Tahoe

The one “must do” we highly recommend is taking the gondola to the top of the Heavenly Ski Resort. They have some great little cafes at the top.  The vista from the top is priceless.  Watching the sunset from the top will seal the deal.

We hope that one of these two ideas will spark interest on creating your own summer fling. These two are favorites, where do you recommend?

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The Do’s And Don’ts of Thailand

First, I’d like to thank the Fighting Couple for hosting my post here. I’m a big fan and I especially recommend their article on International travel. You’ll love the tips they have there. Thailand is really welcoming and understanding to foreigners. Most will forgive you for your mistakes without you even knowing. This does not mean you should go around without a care for their culture. Taking the time to learn even just a few polite gestures will help you go a long way in this loving country.

Do’s

-Learning to smile all the time. Thailand is known as the “land of smiles”, and for a good reason. Smiling does not mean the Thai people are in a good mood, it is just a cultural gesture so please take that into consideration.

-Travel insurance is a must when traveling to Thailand or anywhere in the world. Having insurance for your goods and health will be beneficial for you in the long run. World Nomads is a very secure travel insurance agency.

Thailand is paradise!

Thailand is paradise!

-If you ever see a monk, please treat them with the utmost respect. All monks in Thailand are well respected by the locals and should also be by tourists.

-When visiting temples or shrines always take your shoes and hats off before entering any temple. Even if there is no sign in English or other languages, you can take a hint from watching the local’s actions.

-Be conservative when dressing, cover your shoulders and knees. This goes for men and woman. Wearing clean clothes is considered a respect to society. Thai people would not understand how a foreigner with enough money to visit their country cannot afford clothes in proper condition.

-When visiting others, always bring gifts, especially when visiting them at their home. The Thai people really like receiving flowers, sweets, and liquor.

-Buddhism is practiced by most of Thailand and it is generally important to respect this. It is even practiced in law and you can be arrested for disrespecting Buddha.

-If you take pictures of Buddha in a temple or anywhere in general, you must take it discreetly and from a kneeling position. Upon taking a picture, it is polite to leave a donation at nearby boxes.

-Show respect to the king and his family. This means you need to show respect to absolutely everything that has the king’s image on it. Altering images or playing around with objects with the king on it can cost you if you’re caught.

-When waving taxis or other types of public transportation down make sure you hold your hand up horizontal with your fingers pointed down.

-Introduce yourself to others by stating your first name. You will hear the prefix “Khun” a lot because this equal to Mr, Mrs, or Ms.

-Being open is a natural thing in Thailand. Do be open about yourself to others. You will be getting questions about age, marital status and even income. This is just a way of socializing for the people of Thailand.

-Spending time in Thailand as a tourist, it is important to care for your own safety. When looking for tour guides and apps on your phone, or even bank information, try to keep things even more private by masking it from others. As cybercrime is on the rise, you should install a VPN program to your phone prior to your arrival. This will encrypt your connection for protection and also anonymize your surfing to keep your activity private from government censors or network administrators.

-While eating out in Thailand you might have to do something you are not usually used to. Leaving food behind is actually a good thing here. This lets the host know you are leaving full and satisfied. If you do not leave any behind, the host might think you are leaving hungry and could possibly order more for you.

Don’ts

-Never touch others without permission. It is really disrespectful to touch others on the head.

-You do not shake hands in Thailand. Thais tend to be shy and stray away from most physical contacts. Instead you will have to “Wai” to others.

-Do not “Wai” to children or others of lower status. This can cause you to embarrass them in public.

The Grand Palace in Thailand.

The Grand Palace in Thailand.

-Public display of affection is considered disrespectful to others and is looked down upon.

-The feet are considered the filthiest part of the human body so pointing your feet or showing the sole of your shoes can be extremely disrespectful and considered an insult.

-When out, try not to shout or show your temper, if you currently have one. In the eyes of the Thai you would either be insane or of poor upbringing to be acting that way.

-Do not be surprised if you don’t get handed some chopsticks with your meal in Thailand. It is actually common to use a fork and knife.

-When eating with hands never use your left hand. The use of the left hand is considered to be used for toilet paper.

-As you enter a building try to step over thresholds, Thais believe spirits protect their home by living in their doorsill. By stepping on them you will enrage the spirits and cause a streak of bad luck for the home and the family living in it. Take off your shoes before stepping over thresholds at temples and homes.

These tips should help you to make the most of your time in Thailand and fully experience the beautiful culture waiting there for you.

 

Hi, my name is Jess Signet. My parents were travelers since before I was born. Even in the womb, I was able to travel all over the place! Boy, did things NOT change as I grew older!

Knowing there’s more to the world than the bubble I live in made me want to travel even further. Traveling is my drug and I’m addicted. (Please, no intervention!)

 

@1000Fights  Thanks Jess for giving the rundown of the do’s and dont’s!  Well done!

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