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Perfect Date Night In London

The city of London offers a cosmopolitan backdrop to any date – meaning it is the perfect place to explore with a potential new love, or to rekindle romance with an old flame.

With so much on offer in the UK capital, it is no surprise that couples flock to the city to spend some special time together and enjoy each other’s company. No matter what your preferences, style or budget, London is likely to have something available to help you make some special memories with that special person.


London Spots for a Great Date

Before deciding on a date in London it is a good idea to try and plan what sort of atmosphere you hope to create. Do you want a restaurant with an intimate ambience or would you prefer to offer your paramour a little London style excitement?

What message are you hoping to send to your companion? Do you want to stimulate their brain or to excite their senses? Whatever you want to achieve, London will have great date to offer. Why not consider one of the following:

  • Twilight Champagne on the London Eye: Take your date to the top of the world with a ride on Europe’s largest big wheel, the London Eye. Sip a celebratory glass of champagne as the sun sets over the city and enjoy the stunning panoramas stretching off from the South Bank and offering an exciting new perspective on the area.
  • London Dungeon: Want to get a little closer to your date? Why not consider a trip into the depths of the London Dungeon. This spooky visitor attraction provides the perfect opportunity to offer a protective arm and encourage your potential partners to snuggle up safely, although it is not a great spot for the squeamish.
  • West End Show: Want to wow your date with a real night to remember? Try taking in one the amazing shows on offer in the West End. Choosing one of the emotive and romantic musicals such as Les Miserables and Dirty Dancing to set the mood for a truly memorable time together.


Great Dates in the London Area

While the city center offers some exciting entertainment opportunities there are some great dates to be had outside this area as well. Consider taking up one of the great car rental deals available in the area to take advantage of spots in the suburbs such as:

  • The River Thames at Richmond: This borough to the west of the city center offers one of the most amazing spots to enjoy London’s trademark river Thames, with a wide selection of cafes, pubs and eateries giving onto the banks, from where you can see the scullers rowing the path once followed by the city’s steamers.
  • Picnic in Richmond Park: Heading for this Royal Park on the outskirts of the city offers a country style date in a cosmopolitan setting. Wander the park and spot the deer that live here in their natural habitat.
  • Skip the motorway and drive the country back roads to the mystical Stonehenge.   Take in the beauty of the English Countryside.

Whichever option you chose, London and the surrounds provide a great date night!  No fighting!


The GranTourismo!

This weeks feature on our 7 questions series is a couple that are taking an amazing journey: Lara and Terence of  Each week we try to highlight some of the great couple travel bloggers out there.  We ask a few questions, review their blog, and of course we ask them to share some FIGHTS!   Let’s get to know Lara and Terence:

First off, take a look at these stats!

365 days on the road

54,000 miles traveled

44 tours taken

499 blog posts

57,000 pictures taken

Amazing!  If you were to ask us what we want our blog to become, just take a peek at theirs!  What we admire most is not so much how many locations they visit…but how they travel.  They really  try to get to know the folks they meet on the road.  They interview people they meet.  They ask really thought provoking questions.  In addition, they also find time to do some kind humanitarian service.  Right from the front page of their blog their mission statement: “To make Travel More Meaningful”.  These are really great world citizens. (They also have really good playlists!)

Check them out:

@gran_tourismo, @laradunston and @terencecarter

7 Questions with the GranTourismo:

1) How many countries visited between the two of you?

He said: We’re not those kinds of people ;) but almost 80 countries I think.

She said: We’ve travelled almost everywhere together, since we first started bouncing around the planet together around 20 years ago. When we were two years old! ;) So as a couple we’ve been to just over 70 countries I think, but then I experienced another half dozen South American countries when I backpacked around there for a year when I did research for my Masters degree.

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: Marco Polo. I want to travel back in time with him and see if he really went to China and bought a white knock-off iPhone 4. And discovered noodles.

She Said: Philosopher Alain de Botton, as he’s the only other person I know of who seems to enjoy hanging out in airports as much as I do. Or travel writer Paul Theroux. I want to find out if he really travels as spontaneously as his writing suggests, jumping off trains at the last minute. Who really does that? Oh, actually we’ve done that once or twice…

Tokyo Skyline

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

He said: Tokyo.

She said: Tokyo. And Venice. And Damascus. Oh, and Buenos Aires, Mexico City, and Madrid, Barcelona, Bangkok, Beirut, and, um, Marrakech… You asked for 10 ‘favourites’, right? (Lots of cities starting with ‘M’ and ‘B’ there… do you think that means something?)

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

He said: I’d be in Vietnam for a good phở bo koh (Vietnamese beef stew with rice noodles), with an ice-cold beer on the side. I’ve probably done enough degustation menus for one lifetime. Marco will have the noodles too, but with a crisp Pinot Grigio.

She said: Some handmade pasta with whatever local seafood has been bought fresh that day from the Rialto Markets at a family-run restaurant we love in Venice called Antiche Carampane. And I’m going to have a crisp Pinot Grigio with that too. (The restaurant I’m talking about:

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

He said: Both. Dictated by the region we’re in and who has offered us a story. And dictated by Lara.

1000Fights:  Smart man!  Listen to Lara.

She said: As we’re full-time travel writers our work determines where we travel. If we’re heading to Bangkok to research a book, we know we might be there for 2-3 months, but while we’re there we might get a few magazine commissions to do stories in, say, Saigon or the Mekong, so we’ll do some spur-of-the-moment travel too. At the moment we don’t travel purely for pleasure, but, hey, some people wouldn’t call what we do ‘work’.

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

He said: Anodyne Top 10 travel lists or poverty, whichever is easier. I’m guessing poverty.

She said: I can tolerate Top 10 travel lists, and have been guilty myself of writing a few – travellers love them and they can be fun, so I’m going to go for poverty. It’s the cause of so many other problems: crime, violence, domestic violence, child abuse, drug and alcohol dependence… yep, definitely poverty. Oh, and earthquakes. But that’s two…

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

He said: Venice. I used to loathe it. Now I’ve been told I love it and want to return. Or at least that’s what the tape loop Lara plays every night when I sleep suggests.

1000Fights:  See advice from above!

She said: Cape Town. HomeAwayUK (, who sponsored our grand tour of the globe, wanted us to go to Cape Town for two weeks last year, but Terence didn’t want to go. We’d heard so many horror stories from South Africans over the years who’d fled to Dubai or Perth because they’d been robbed and experienced a carjacking, so Terence wasn’t looking forward to having his camera gear stolen. But, shhh…I had my doubts too. We did end up going and we stayed in a beautiful home owned by the loveliest family, with truly stunning Table Mountain views from our bedroom balcony (check them out here:, just two minutes walk from Camps Bay beach. We loved it. Just take a look at these pics and you’ll understand why: But we also loved the place for reasons we never expected to, for the resilience and spirit of the people we met for example… but that’s the beauty of travel, right?

Thanks for Lara and Terence for sharing with us.  You can really sense that these are really down to earth people that travel to gain perspective and understanding.   We salute them.  Visit their blog!  We do think that their fights is a little on weak side.  They need some work in this area.  Now if Luci and I could just find someone to sponor us for a trip around the globe!


Panic Packing

Avoiding Panic  Packing

Weight limits, per bag charges, Overweight fees: OH I hate thee! The Art of Packing is truly becoming more critical for the frequent traveler.  How do you get all of the must haves for an African Safari in tiny box the size of a lunch pail?  IMPOSSIBLE!  One of the biggest packing challenges we at face is our traveling tendencies.  We typically travel on the “shoulder” seasons (April & May or Sept. & Oct.).  Weather during these times is especially difficult to predict.  You need to be prepared for every possibility.  We put together a few tips and hints for your packing panicking!

Men vs. Women

The lines between how females and males pack are certainly blurred.  Take Mike for instance.  He is a classic overpacker (which tends to be a female trait).  He wants to be prepared for every fashion eventuality!  Luci on the other hand has a collection of cosmetics that would rival even the most humble Hollywood starlet.  Men in general tend to pack the old stand bys Jeans, tee-shirts and flip flops.  Women tend to stuff the case with every fashion combination imaginable.

Take direction from some of the best dressed travel bloggers out there:

>Vagabond Adventures– Lucie always finds the best sun dresses.

>Me and Frenchie–You can always go native.  Check out their rotating header.

>My Beautiful Adventures— How could we have this list with out Andi? How does she do it?

Hints for the Hommees

Ok guys, too many of us think that a tee-shirt and jeans are the ideal travel uniform.  Candidly, that can be the most comfortable for sure.  But why do you go on vacation?  To relax?  To see great sites? Nope.  You go to take pictures of yourself.  A word about shoes:  Pick good ones.   If you are looking for mens shoes look no further.  I am loyal to my Clarks Natureveldts.  Luci calls the old man shoes…but they are extremely well built, comfortable and go with jeans to jacket.  So…Guys, step your game up.  Pack a dinner jacket.  How about pants made of something other than denim?

Hints for the Femmes

A few ideas for a recent Ladies Home Journal article:

1. Assess your trip. Are you going to the beach or lake for a family vacation? The Caribbean for a romantic getaway? Europe for a sightseeing tour? Let your destination and planned activities guide your packing.

2. Accessorize! . Simple is sometimes better.  Pack a few all purpose scarfs to spiff it up a bit.


3. Choose mix and match bottoms. You can get away with wearing shorts, pants, or skirts multiple times on a trip. For a weeklong beach vacation, three pairs of shorts, one skirt, and one pair of pants should be enough.

4. Location. Keep in mind that some museums, religious sites, and even some reasterants have “dress” codes.  Pack accordingly.

5. Bring one dress. A simple style such as a shift in an easy shade (black always works) can be worn during the day with sandals and at night with heels. It’s particularly good to have if your plans suddenly include a dressy event.

6. Go Native. If everyone at the beach is wearing flip-flops and athletic slides, for example, strappy heels will look out of place — and stop you from feeling comfortable and enjoying your trip.

7. Keep fabric in mind. 100 percent cottons and linens wrinkle easily and require lots of ironing. Choose to bring clothing in fabrics blended with wrinkle-resistors like nylon or spandex, or pack pieces in knit and jersey.

8. Stick to neutrals. Clothing in black, white, and khaki, with a splash or red or denim thrown in, makes stylish dressing easy because it all matches, all the time.

9. Scale back on shoes. Most women bring many more pairs than they need! For casual vacations, one pair of sandals and one pair of sneakers is sufficient. Add a pair of dressy mules if you anticipate more formal evenings out.

10. Don’t forget one versatile purse. A small canvas tote can go from the beach to the boardwalk to casual dinners, and look appropriate in all places.

Backpacker vs. Luggage-ites

I am truly in awe at those folks who sell everything they own and pack a little daypack and head off to chase lamas in Peru.  Perhaps my obsessive compulsive side makes me want to have things around me.  There is a tiny piece of me that is jealous of those that forsake all and backpack, it goes back to my upbringing.  I have a very responsible mother.  So as I headed out to scouting adventures, my pack would be chock full of really helpful stuff: snake bit anti-venom, healthy snacks, rain poncho ect.  Other troopers with came armed with packs full of pop-tarts and Mountain Dew soda. #jealous.

We can learn a lot from our back packer buddies.  Focus on the basics.  A great travel packing list was put together by >Our Traveling Circus: Not sure I want to know what unmentionables they are packing, but it is a complete list for sure.  Great blog to checkout by the way.  What backpackers do best is identifying what is really needed.  Nothing too heavy is included.

Too many people leave the packing to the wee hours of the morning before departure.  Bad idea.  You are much more prone to forget something.  Pick socks that don’t match.  Take a little extra time and follow the advice above and you will be glad you did once you open your luggage.


Sprinter Life!

The Sprinter Life!

We have a number of first with this feature in our 7 questions project.  The first, first is this couple!  They are “awesomely crazy!”  So here is their story:  they tricked out a 2006 Mercedes Benz Sprinter Van and lived it and drove all over the globe! The run a blog called:  Be careful with this one…dont be drinking any kind of hot liquids when you go to open the page…you will bust out laughing.  You were warned.  The second first? is the use of color in their responses to our now famous 7 questions.  Kinda fits with this couple!  FUN!  The third first is, this is the first couple to pose in full star trek uniforms!  Scroll to the bottom of the post to check it out!  Tree and Stevie are the kind of folks the we hope to meet out there on the road!  Oh and best part yet, they car FIGHT!  So impressed.

Please check out their blog!

Follow them in Tweetland:  @Sprinterlife

1) How many countries visited between the two of you? 25 with many more to come

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

He Said: Sacagawea

She Said: Werner Herzog. Just once, I’d like to live in one of his bizarre documentaries.

1000Fights:  Mike LOVES Werner Herzog!  One of his most interesting moments was screaming:  “I want my Opera House!!!” on the edge of the Amazon river while in Peru!

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

He said: Cuba

She said: Cuba

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

He said: Stevie’s Eggplant Parmesan, on the beach with a bottle of St.Supery Cabernet Sauvignon.

She said: The Lamb Cannelloni from Pomodoro’s in Seattle- maybe two of them- with a bottle of Brunello and a piece of dark chocolate mousse cake with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream for dessert.

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

He said: I’m a planner. But planning only goes so far in nomad life. Let’s just say I’m always reworking plans, sometimes so often that it might appear to the untrained eye that our decisions are spontaneous, but make no mistake, I planned it, if only moments before.

She said: We know we’re going around the world, and we usually know which country is next and what general areas we’d like to explore, but our plans are loose enough to allow for Big Bang style spontaneous expansion. We meet locals and fellow travelers who make suggestions, one place leads to another, we get lucky, shit happens, something else amazing happens, and we wind up experiencing way more than we could have ever planned.

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

He said: I would solve the “you know what I mean” and the “are you even listening” problem

She said: Holy shit, only one? I’m going to have to paint in broad strokes here. I would solve the environment problem, BIG stroke, which would encompass solving overpopulation, the exploitation of natural resources (i.e. widespread destruction of our landbase), the unsustainable nature of modern civilization, pollution, ignorance, apathy, and greed. And just for good measure, I’d get rid of religion too. I’ve never met a river or a tree- or even a person for that matter- that actually needs it….you know what I mean? Hello? Are you even listening?

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

She said: The drunken iPhone fight. We were on a four month self-guided wine tour from California to Canada when Tree’s sister, bless her heart, thought she’d help us out by giving us an iPhone loaded with Google maps. The only problem was that every time Tree needed me to use the thing, I was drunk. The map was always either too close up or too expanded, and when I’d go to fix it, I’d lose our tiny tracking dot just as we were supposed to do something crucial like exit the freeway or make a sharp turn. Well, one day after a wine passport in Napa valley, that exact scenario played out, we got a little lost, and Tree flipped his lid and called me a bad navigator who didn’t even know how to read a map. I got so mad!!! Drunken woman mad.  I called him a sexist pig, hexed him with wrong turns and traffic jams for life, and went on co-pilot strike indefinitely.

He said: And that is why they invented the robot woman that lives inside your GPS unit. She doesn’t get drunken woman mad when she makes a mistake
***Live Long & Prosper Sprinter Life!***


7 Questions with The Cloud People

The Cloud People


Twitter:  @thecloud_people

Ready to read a fun couple travel blog?  Search no further.  Jess and Jaime are wanderers that know how to travel!  The best part of their blog are their pics!  Check out their Mayan Ruin pics, they are spectacular!

To get to know these travelers a little better, Luci and I asked them a few questions:

1) How many counties have you been to between the both of you?


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: Marty McFly from Back to the Future as long as I get a hover-board as well.

She Said: Anthony Bourdain, just as long as he promised not to slaughter any animals on our trip.

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

He said: Apart from Antigua and Guatemala in general, I definitely have a soft spot for Honduras having lived there for a while. I hope it can see some more prosperous times in the not too distant future. The people sure deserve them!

She said: I love so many different places, all for different reasons. My favorite beaches are those of Tulum and the cenotes there are breathtaking.  I also love Antigua, Guatemala because that is where Jamie and I met and both lived. It’s nice to visit a place where you already have a ton of amazing friends.

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

He said: Mum’s lasagna is pretty off the chain. But I’d probably have to say some Tasmanian oysters, freshly shucked, on the top of a mountain over-looking the ocean in the midday sun with a six-pack on ice.

She said: If it was my very last meal I would have to eat some sort of seafood and go against my vegetarianism. In saying that, spicy Tapado and many, many cold beers.

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

He said: We kind of pick an arrival city and a departure city and then fill in the gaps as we go, with only a very basic outline. We rely a lot on chatting to other travellers along the way, as well as getting some hot-tips from locals. We always like to throw in some volunteer work somewhere along the line and it is probably the most researched part of the trip. We want to make sure our efforts are going to the right causes.

She said: Of course we have to plan out the general location.  Although a lot of our eventual travel path is altered by what we hear along the road. Sometimes recommendations from fellow like-minded travelers are the best way to go.

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

He said: I agree with Jess on this one and would say education, and apply it not necessarily just to those living under poverty conditions but people all over the world. So many people in first-world countries have no idea about the conditions faced. Kids working in rubbish dumps, slave labour, etc. If people knew about things like this, they might be more inclined to take action, or even just more receptive and respectful of different cultures in their own homelands. I think its our job as travellers to try and educate people back home who choose not to travel.

She said: That’s a tough question. Unfortunately, humankind has so many problems that need to be resolved. A lack of quality education worldwide is something that desperately needs to be addressed. Education is the key to resolving many of our issues.   Violence, hunger, poverty, hate and destruction are often rooted in ignorance and inaccurate knowledge.

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

She said: We never have really serious fights.  I think every fight we’ve ever had has been over food.  There was the great “Sushi Fiasco” in Argentina 2009.  My side of the story: I had basically felt like shit ever since we had gotten into Argentina because while Jamie stuffed himself on everything steak related, I ate pizza or pasta.  Basically a diet of cheese and bread.  While said diet was delicious, it did nothing for me nutritiously and my breaking point was in Mendoza over eating carbs for the millionth time or switching it up for a nice Japanese treat.  Jamie was adamantly against eating Japanese food because they had white table cloths and instead of voicing his opinion he grumbled and stormed off like a large Baby-Man.  I blame my carb filled body for not dealing with the situation well and I’m still not sure what his excuse was :)

Ironically, we found an amazing veggie buffet in town the next day and had a romantic picnic at nearby park. Our lives really do revolve around food. Thank god we agree on where and what to eat 99.9% of the time.

He said: I agree it was definitely over the sushi. Other than that, I’m going to refuse comment after reading what Jess just wrote.

Thanks again to Jess and Jaime.  Check out



Capturing Romantic Olde England

Great Britain: Is a romantic couple’s dream! Castles, dramatic landscapes, vibrant cities, and best of all our cousins from across the pond speak English! The first time we traveled together to England, we ended up spending much of our time in London.  London rivals any city in the world. Not only can you catch some of London’s best attractions: Parliament, West Minister Abbey, Imperial War Museum, Churchill Museum, but some of the best theatre in the world!

London theatre

One of the most romantic things to do in London is to take in a dinner and a play in the West End.  Ticket for the performing arts are generally cheaper in Europe than in the US and frankly, the quality is MUCH better.  Luci is a theatre snob and you can’t beat London’s West End.  Go to one of the many ticket brokers and get same day tickets for at least half off.   We saw the age old standard of Les Miserable the “the bible coat story” as Mike calls it, also known as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.  Both were better than any Broadway production we’ve seen.  Walking hand in hand discussing the performance along London’s lively streets is unforgettable.  We found a street side vendor near the home of some of our friends that made marvelous crepes.  The chocolate banana caramel was to die for! Again, English food is bland and boring. Eat French and Indian and you can’t go wrong.

Of course in order to be a true romantic, you must make the trek out to Jane Austen’s home: see our (post) on our visit.

Castle Climbing in Wales

While London is generally one of Great Britain’s top spots, Wales is the most beautiful. It’s green rolling hills and friendly people make it a must see in Great Britain. Just be aware it’s almost impossible to pronounce anything on the signs. One of the most spectacular castles in the UK is Carreg Cennen.  It is just south of Llandeilo.  The castle sits atop a green hill that offers stunning views.

Take the moderate hike from the parking area and pack a lunch spend the day exploring the ruins and enjoying the commanding vistas.  There is a small gift/craft store and tea room at the base of the hill.  We hear that they have great ice cream.

While the exchange rate between the pound and the dollar is usually horrible. When we went to Great Britain, the pound was twice the dollar. We noticed that the prices weren’t necessarily that different but once you doubled it with the exchange rate it felt like we were spending monopoly money. So you have to be smart when you travel there. We were lucky and stayed with friends who were living there and were able to enjoy a lot of what GB has to offer.  But we also know folks who have rented a house. This travel technique was made popular by the chick flick, “The Holiday.”

Want somewhere fun to stay?

8 Old School, St Benedicts Abbey (rent this for a week!)

Ever wonder what it would be like to swap your digs for an English cottage like Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet in the chick flick, “The Holiday?”  This is your chance!    Who knows…maybe you will meet your own Jude Law?  This is such a great option for experiencing the real Great Britain.  Cottages are “self catering” so you cook for yourself.  (Great way to save some cash and eat better food. The

Inside 8 Old School, St Benedicts Abbey

English aren’t known for their cuisine.)  If you are traveling as a family or with multiple couples, this is a great solution and so much cheaper than a hotel!

The UK has so very much to offer the wandering couple.  We offered a few ideas, what is your fav couple site in Olde England?  96XKZ4PP77NE


Fighting the urge to Fight

A timely and insightful guest post from our friend Scott:

How to Avoid Fighting Abroad

It sounds funny, doesn’t it? A website dedicated to fighting with your spouse on holiday, and we go and commission a blog that’s all about trying to keep the peace between each other abroad. While going on holiday with your partner can be great fun, but it can also be very stressful, especially if things don’t go exactly according to plan, but there are ways that you can stay on good terms with each other whilst you’re on holiday.


“But we talk to each other all the time!” We hear you cry. Well, tough, you’re just going to have to talk some more to each other, and this doesn’t have to a chore, it can be surprisingly difficult to tell the person you love how you really feel, but it can also be very easy to spill your guts out to one another and tell them everything, but please, we all need everything in moderation; so quite simply, if you encounter a problem on holiday, such as losing belongings, talk or scream it out then and there.


Talking is half the battle, and we all know that if you’re talking but not being listened to, then you can feel like you’re speaking to a brick wall. Talking is no good if your significant other isn’t paying attention, so you’ll need to find a way to make them listen, the method is of course, up to you, but if you find a method that works for the pair of you, then use it, as long as neither of you have resorted to violence.

Have Fun

Travelling isn’t a right, it’s a privilege and no matter where you go, what you do or how long you’re going to be there for, it’s vital that you have some fun whilst you’re there. Look at what you both want to do and see if it’s possible to incorporate both your ideas into it, that’s right, it’s time to compromise. It’s also good to spend some time apart, so whether you’re on your dream Spain Holiday then do what you want to do for a few hours one day – you’ll be amazed at how much this works.

1000fights:  great ideas Scott!  You are so right, the key is communication.  So many misunderstanding come from couples not communicating effectively.  Cheers!


The Dead of Winter in the Japanese Alps

One of fav part of travel and travel writing is the great folks you come across on highways and byways, both real and virtual.  We would like to introduce you to our new found friends: Lori and Andrew.  These two are incredible!  Just check out the pics on their site, aren’t they amazing?  With the turmoil in Japan, a place we have yet to visit, we asked them to share with us their recent trip into the Japanese Alps.  Enjoy!  And visit their site!  The Unframed World.

Living in Japan, Lori (my fiance) and I (this is Andrew) have had multiple adventures around South East Asia. Some highlights include a beach hut resort in Indonesia, 10 days in Singapore, and an end to end whirlwind tour of Korea. As our bucket lists have been slowly growing smaller, suddenly other items start appearing. For me, the Japanese Alps have always been somewhat untouchable in my imagination. After reading a brief article in the Japan Times about a traditional looking town in the Hida Mountain range called Takayama famed for being a snowy Alps escape. I was sold.

Lori generally plans our weekend excursions within Japan so I’ll let her take the helm at this point –

I (Lori here ^-^) wanted to get a good ticket price and often if you ask at the train station counters there are deals on train tickets available. Thankfully this was the case here for our trip to Takyama. We rode the rails from Kitakyushu to Takayama by bullet train to Nagoya and then an express train up to Takayama and ended up getting a decent price because of the promotion. Once in Takayam we headed straight to nearby Shirakawa Village (I’m a sucker for UNESCO World Heritage sites) by bus and had a lovely time walking around in the snow and admiring the snow blanketed traditional farmhouses called “gasho zukkuri.” I found it interesting that they don’t use any nails and they shape not only distributes the weight of the snow well but also is modeled after a Buddhist monk’s hands in prayer.


-Re-Enter Andrew-

One reason I love Lori is because she always takes time to read the free literature about the places we visit. Although I want to know about where I am, I usually give in to the urge to snap several hundred pictures too many. We have found a good dynamic in this regard because she likes to share what she learned but doesn’t take many photos and I am an attentive listener and document the trip thoroughly.

After the wonderful experience in Shirakawa Village we roamed around picturesque Takayama for the rest of the weekend. Stand outs for me were the Miyagawa Morning Market and the well preserved old district called Sanmachi.

On our return, we managed in a quick stop in Nagoya to tour the famous castle there. Again, all part of Lori’s genius weekend planning.

We hope you enjoy the photos from our trip! There’s loads more from this trip and many others at our daily updated travel photo blog The Unframed World. Come check it out and say hi!

INTERESTING SIDENOTE: Lori and Andrew will soon be apart for several months soon as Andrew and two other adventurers embark on an end to end tour of Japan by Bicycle starting April 14th. It’s a charity fund raiser. Learn more and get involved here!


Turkish Take-aways from the Seven Churches

The Celsius Library, Ephesus

One of the beauties of travel is the insight gained on so many levels.  Visiting Turkey opened our eyes in so many ways.  We loved our stay in beautiful Istanbul.  The city on two continents.  Booking luxury accommodation in Istanbul is simple and plentiful.  We spent quality time there, but our favorite part of our Turkish experience was our visit to the Seven Churches of Revelation.  You certainly do not need to be a scripture historian or be an extremely religious person to enjoy following the path of these important cities.  Although so much more can be gained by looking to these with a secular and a sectarian view.

  1. Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) – the church that had forsaken its first love.

Far and away the most widely known and visited location of all of the Seven Churches.  Located on the outskirts of modern day Selcuk, Turkey.  The location’s vicinity to both international airports and cruise boat moorings make this one the popular stops for those taking in the western Mediterranean.  Ephesus used to be located on the harbor, but now silt and natural sediment has made the area landlocked.

Ephesus today is a collection of finely preserved ruins including a coliseum, extensive and finely preserved living quarters, a communal commode and of course the most recognizable feature, the Library.  Our advice is to visit Ephesus during the shoulder tourist season May or Sept.  This place can become cram packed with sightseers, especially those right off of a cruise.  Get there as early in the morning as possible, to avoid the throngs of people, and the light is so much better for your pictures.   Start at the top of the hill and work your way down.  The entire city is the shape of a giant L.

The two highlights for us were reading the story of Paul whilst sitting in the very coliseum that he plead to the idol worshiping throng.  Acoustics in the stadium are perfect.  Seats and stage are really well preserved.  The view from every seat was perfect, and sound really carries.  It is so easy to envision what it would have been like to listen to Paul, and the intimidating scene facing the thousands that were gathered there.

The other highlight was definitely visiting the Celsius Library. The façade has been restored and statues seen in the niches between the doors, are copies of the originals which were taken to Vienna during the years when the library was being excavated. As the inscriptions on the bases indicate, the statues symbolized the WISDOM (SOPHIA), KNOWLEDGE (EPISTEME), INTELLIGENCE (ENNOIA) and VIRTUE (ARETE) of Celsus.

Take Away-The biggest take-away are twofold.  First, the value of learning.  The center of this remarkable town was the Library.  A location to share knowledge and acquire the same.  Maybe there were some couple fights there?  The other thing that we took away was the courage of Paul.  He stood for his beliefs in the face of stiff opposition.

We spent a half day in Ephesus with our tour guide and then came the next day to get some more pictures. If you are there as a couple wait for the cruisys (our nickname for people who take cruises) to go by then continue to marvel while they are onto the next ruin.

2. Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) – the church that would suffer persecution.

Can’t finding Synrna on a map?  It’s because there is not much there.  Today, the bustling port city of Izmir was built over the historical location of the city.  We really didn’t get a chance to see any ruins at this location.  We stayed our first night in Izmir when we flew in.  The Hilton in Izmir has a commanding view of the ocean and city.  We highly recommend.

Of note in marking Smyna, one of its most famous citiziens, Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.

We learn of Polycarp:  Writing to Polycarp’s flock, Ignatius another bishop in Asia at the time, had called him a “godly bishop.” (Smyrnaeans 12:2.) In his letters Ignatius shared spiritual and practical advice, encouraging him to pray, be diligent, and individualize his attention for each member: “Not all wounds are healed by the same plaster.” (Polycarp 2:1.) Moreover, Polycarp was not to allow those who “teach strange doctrine [to] overthrow you; stand firm as a hammered anvil.” (Polycarp 3:1.) Polycarp’s life fits the metaphor. Martyred in the middle of the second century, he had borne testimony of youthful contact “with John and with the others who had seen the Lord,” thus sharing his personal knowledge of the apostles’ preaching and witnessing “about their miracles.”Learn more

Take Away- In the secular realm: Development happens.  The progress for the sake of progress. What was once a great city, with wise and progressive citizenry…now is  a completely  new great city with wise and progressive citizenry.  Spiritually, we take strength in the Bishop’s dedication and courage to face opposition and hold fast to our faith.

3. Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) – the church that needed to repent.

Truth in advertising…we didn’t get to visit Pergamum.  It was simply too far, and our time was too limited. But our tour guide says it’s a must visit.

Things were hear with visiting in Pergamum: the Temple of Trajan

Some impressive remains of this 2nd c. A.D. marble temple dedicated to the emperor have been restored.  It sits next to the library which housed 200,000 volumes and was the second largest in the ancient world after Alexandria.  Parchment was invented in Pergamum after relations with Egypt soured and papyrus became difficult to obtain.

Noteable cisizens include: Galen of Pergamon a prominent sceientist  and physician.

Galen was also a highly skilled surgeon, and he performed surgical operations on human patients. Many of the procedures and techniques that he utilized would not be used again for centuries. Of particular note are procedures that Galen performed on patients’ brains and eyes. In order to correct cataracts in patients, Galen performed an operation that was similar to what is performed by contemporary ophthalmologists. Using a needle-shaped instrument, Galen attempted to remove the cataract from behind the lens of the eye. -Wikipedia

Take away-We need to make another trip to Turkey!  Take away number two…we hate needles…just thought you should know.

4. Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) – the church that had a false prophetess.

Ok…this is the other church that we didn’t get too.  Again, sorry.  A few interesting facts and a little history about Thyatira.

Arch Bishop Gegorios

The city was known as “Pelopia” but it was named Thyateira by king Seleucus I Nicator in 290 BC because being at war with Lysimachus and hearing that he had a daughter born, called this city “thuateira”, from Greek “θυγατήρ”, “θυγατέρα” (thugaterthugatera), meaning “daughter”. In classical times, Thyatira stood on the border between Lydia and Mysia. It was famous for its dyeing and was a center of the indigo trade. Among the ancient ruins of the city, inscriptions have been found relating to the guild of dyers in the city. Indeed, more guilds are known in Thyatira than any other contemporary city in the Roman province of Asia (inscriptions mention the following: wool-workers, linen-workers, makers of outer garments, dyers, leather-workers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave-dealers and bronze-smiths)-Wikipedia

In 1922 the Patriarch of Constantinople appointed an Exarch for Western and Central Europe with the title Archbishop of Thyateira. The current Archbishop of Thyateira since 1988 is Gregorios Theocharous. The Archbishop of Thyateira resides in London and has pastoral responsibility for the Greek Orthodox Church in all of the United Kingdom. Cool huh?

Take away—Again, we need to visit Turkey again to see this location.  So another take away might be…we need to hear from you if you have been.  Tell us about it.

5. Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) – the church that had fallen asleep.

Fallen asleep? How can that be?!  The center of any visit to Sardis will revolve around the awe inspiring Gymnasium.  The Greeks and Romans strongly believed in the development of both the body and mind.  They would devote equal time to the development of both.  The folks from Sardis must have taken this a bit more one sided…with the construction of a two story temple to building the body! It is no wonder that they became great warriors.

Since 1958, Harvard University has sponsored annual archeological expeditions to Sardis. These excavations unearthed perhaps the most impressive synagogue in the western Diaspora yet discovered from antiquity, yielding over eighty Greek and seven Hebrew inscriptions as well as numerous mosaic floors.  These floors are simply amazing.  During our visit, we pretty much had the entire place to our self.  This is one of those sites that doesn’t make it on the mainstream tour agenda.  It is a must see.

They Gym at Sardis

Take away-our first tongue in cheek take away, is don’t leave your camera on a stone while climbing around on the rocks.  (It  can cause a fight and it did for us).  Ok serious again…the great gymnasium reminds us of the importance of developing both a strong body and a strong mind. Sardis was by far our favorite “church.” It’s literally in the middle of a field. It’s a stunning site and we were the only people there. Access to ruins in Turkey is far less guarded than in Europe. We climbed on columns and jumped off rocks.

The Arch at Philadelphia

6. Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) – the church that had endured patiently.

Prior to our trip, we invested a lot of time learning more about Islam.  As practicing Christians, living in the rural western US, we have had limited exposure to the Islamic faith.   Turkey is an incredible mix of religions.  We took a tour in Istanbul that began at a Muslim Mosque, went through the Jewish Quarter, and ended at the mighty seminary of the Orthodox Christian Church.  Our tour was led by a guide that was Protestant who was married to a Muslim!  How is that for a melting pot?  Nowhere in our travels with the contrast in beliefs as great as in Philadelphia.  All that remands of the huge church that once was located here are huge arches and a very interesting cemetery.  The entire church complex is surrounded by mosques.  While we were visiting, there was a call to prayer. The entire area was ringing with the chant.  Here we were, at the onetime capital of Christianity in the religion and the strength and dominance of another religious perspective.

Warning:  Getting this can take some time.  This is the furthest afield of all the 7 locations.

Take Aways- You don’t have to agree to get along.  You can disagree without being disagreeable.

7.  Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) – the church with the lukewarm faith.

One of our favorite sites out of all the churches was Laodicea.  The ancient city…now just a collection of stones is across the valley from the white cliffs of the hot springs of pamukkale.  Anciently the city received some of its water supply piped across the valley from these springs.  By the time the water arrived, it has lost some of it’s steam.  It was now lukewarm.  John in Revelations plays on this analogy, comparing the lukewarm faith of the believers in the city to the water that was made available for their use. You can see the hot springs from the ruins of site. Be aware that pamukkale doensn’t look like the brochures. It’s amazing to see but if you are expecting cascading water rushing over the hill, it’s just not there. Most of the thermal water has been piped away for local hotels.

Take Away- Don’t be mediocre!  Be someone great.  Live your life to the fullest.  Take pride in your work. Focus on what is important and do big and great things.

Take a visit to the Seven Churches.  So much is to be gain and “taken away.”

Our favorite quote from the Book of Revalations:

Revelation 22:17

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come.  And let him that heareth say, Come.  And let him that is athirst come.  And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.