Tag Archives | couple travel

The Do’s and Dont’s of Darwin

Known as Australia’s only tropical capital city, Darwin welcomes visitors with the best weather, beaches, and activities every adventure seeker would love.   Perched on the very northern coast of Australia, the area doesn’t see the attention of its sister cities Sydney or Melbourne.  This lack of attention is actually a good thing.   It is one of the few places that live up to what you envision the land down under being.

Visiting Darwin was our first visit to Australia, we learned a few lessons from our visit.  We want to pass on a few of the basic do’s and dont’s for the area to ensure a problem-free and enjoyable vacation.   We want you to have the insiders guide when going to the northern territory of Australia.

Do Plan for Adventure 

Darwin offers visitors plenty of activities they can do from daytime to nighttime.   There are two amazing national parks within driving distance of Darwin: Kakadu and Litchfield.  Both are must sees for any visit to the “Top End.”  There are many tours that leave from darwin and take you to on a day trip.   The tour we elected to take gave us passage on a croc viewing cruise and a day swimming in the waterfalls of Kakadu!  There are many multi day camping excursions into the national parks if you wish to get a more involved adventure.   For the history buff, there are many World War II sites in Darwin.  You can take a harbor cruse that highlights the different points of interest.  There is also a WWII museum which has many interesting exhibits just outside of Darwin.

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

Once the sun goes down in Darwin, the fun continues!  We highly recommend visiting the Mindil Beach Sunset Market.  It lines the beach with art, food and fun vendors.  We absolutely loved just people watching along the path.  You can also check out the Deckchair Cinema for an outdoor film viewing while resting in a reclining chairs under the stars.

Don’t Overspend on Accommodation 

There will be plenty of things where you can put your money in, and accommodation shouldn’t be one of it. To fully experience the authentic atmosphere of Australia’s Northern Territory, consider signing up for a house sitting instead. According to a popular house sitting platform Trusted House Sitters, many homeowners in the area are in search for a loving home sitters to look over their humble abode including their pets while they are away. You get to stay in their homes for free, while enjoying the rest of your trip in Darwin. It will save you plenty of cash that you commonly spend on hotels or inns. This is highly beneficial for those planning to stay in the destination for a long period of time.

We stayed at the Bromeliad Bed and Breakfast and had a great time.  The innkeepers are so kind and will definitely help you make your visit to Darwin an enjoyable one.

Do travel with insurance

Whether you are traveling to Darwin from another Australian location or internationally, the need to have a travel insurance will be highly helpful to you, especially when going on a trip with your family. A typical policy, based on the information shared by this travel insurance guide, can help you avoid any travel risk, such as:

· Hefty medical costs

· Airline and accommodation cancellation

· Lost, stolen or damaged items

· Legal liability

The same article also showed the ins and outs of making a claim, when the need arises, making it easier for you in case an emergency strikes.

Don’t Visit During the Wet Season

Given the plenty of outdoor activities you can do in the city, the best time to visit Darwin is during the dry season, which lasts from April or May until September or October. It’s the most beautiful weather to get around the city with clear blue skies, warm days and balmy nights. During the wet season, you have to endure storms that sometimes led to cyclones and floods. The temperature is less humid as it gets close to the wet season. The wet season starts around October to November, but rain falls more between January and March. According to resource page Outback Australia Travel Secrets, the wet season may still work for travelers who are more adventurous and flexible as it’s the time when wildflowers are blooming and waterfalls are raging.

Darwin’s geographic location made it a highly popular destination for travelers in search of peace of mind without the need to leave the city life. We hope this post presented you with all the preparation and safety tips you need before going to the capital city of Darwin. Feel free to add more tips to this list, by leaving a comment below.

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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!

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Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? In Mississippi!

The hayseed cult-classic, “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou,” starring George Clooney has long been one of our favorite films. The film is set and was filmed in the American south.   As the storyline loosely follows the Odyssey by Homer, it appeals to wanderlusters. During our recent visit to the south, we tracked several of the film’s most iconic locations.

Its has been a while since this film came out…. How about a quick review? Here is the trailer:

The Woolworth Store

George Clooney

The Woolworth Store. Luci said she would never kick Clooney out of her Woolworth.

Perhaps the only establishment that George Clooney has ever been banned from: the Yazoo City Woolworth. As the story goes, Clooney’s character Ulysses Everett McGill confronts his ex-wife and her new fiancé.  Yazoo City is located an hour north of the State Capitol of Mississippi, Jackson. Getting to the city is fairly strait forward. Take 49 north. The “Woolworth” building today is actually an antique dealership and is located right on Main Street. Location: 128 South Main Street, Yazoo City, MS.

Yazoo City is a unique place, with colorful buildings lining an active Main Street. Try Tom’s on Main Street for lunch. He makes a mean cheese burger.

Movie Fun Fact:  George Clooney practiced his singing for weeks, but in the end his singing voice was dubbed by country blues singer Dan Tyminski. -IMDb

 

Yazoo Bank

Just down from the Woolworth Building is old Yazoo City Bank. It makes an appearance in the film as the boys and George “Babyface” Nelson rob the Bank of Itea Bina. The structure is small, just as it appears in the movie.  There are Greek revival columns that frame the door. There is an engraved logo above the doors, that was whited out for the movie. The bank is located at the intersection of Main Street and Commercial in Yazoo City, MS.

Yazoo Bank

Yazoo Bank

WEZY Radio Station

The elusive WEZY Radio Station. Photo courtesy of http://martykittrellphotos.blogspot.com/

The elusive WEZY Radio Station. Photo courtesy of http://martykittrellphotos.blogspot.com/

The boys meet up with blues guitarist Tommy Johnson along the way, and form a signing group called the “Soggy Bottom Boys.” In an effort to make some quick cash, they head to WEZY Radio, where they “sing into the can” for a blind radio engineer. This was perhaps the most fun and frustrating location to find.   I say “find,” but I was never able to actually find the location. The scene was shot in Valley Park, MS, west of Hwy 61. From what I have been able to track down, the radio station itself was made for the movie and destroyed after. What remains is just the radio tower. I wandered around town (a few farm houses and a post office open in the afternoons.) If you have found it and can give directions, please leave a comment below.

Baptism

The Scene of the Baptism.

The Scene of the Baptism.

In Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, a baptism scene takes place at Alligator Lake located on Long Lake Road. The lake is located 20 minutes north of Vicksburg, MS. During my visit, the river was flooding, so I wasn’t able to get all the way in. The water was warm!

Movie Fun Fact:  All of the records shown in the film are turning at 33-1/3 RPM. In 1934, only 78 RPM was used. The first 33-1/3 RPM album was released in 1947. -IMDb

Theater

Every time I see this picture, I start singing, "you are my sunshine!"

Every time I see this picture, I start singing, “you are my sunshine!”

At the climax of the movie, George Clooney and his cohorts, The Soggy Bottom Boys, sing at a political function in a community hall. It is here were the Homer Stokes for Governor campaign makes a major misstep and Mr. Stokes is run our on a rail. The hall is filled with tables and features a stage at the front of the building. This scene was filmed in the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation Building.  Scenes from the movie, Mississippi Burning were also set at this location. Interesting thing about this location, as you watch the movie, and they are carrying Mr. Stokes out on the rail, the sound of them marching is very loud. The floor of the hall is wood and sounds exactly the same as you walk on it! Loud! This location is 1302 Adams Street, Vicksburg, MS.

Movie Fun Fact: Although Homer is given a co-writing credit on the film, the Coen Brothers claim never to have read The Odyssey and are familiar with it only through cultural osmosis and film adaptations.

Pappy’s Porch

The Governor's favorite porch.

The Governor’s favorite porch.

Governor Pappy O’Daniel, the flour magnate and proud governor, plots his re-election plans on the porch of a beautiful plantation. The plantation is one of many antebellum beauties in Natchez, MS. The plantation is aptly called, “Cedars,” and is located along the Mississippi River. A tree lined lane leads to the stunning home. It is privately held and there are heavy gates that block entry. We did our best to photograph the porch from a distance. The location is Cedars Plantation, 13688 River Road, Natchez, MS.

During out stay in the south, we elected to stay in Natchez and can highly recommend the area.  The entire city is filled to the brim with stunning well kept plantation mansions. We used Flipkey to book this amazing cottage . This house has a ton of history of its own, and has been lovingly restored.

Movie Fun Fact:  When Everett and Delmar are eating at the restaurant, Everett orders the restaurant’s “finest bottle of bubbly wine.” Though Prohibition was repealed nationally in 1933, Mississippi still prohibited the sale of alcohol until 1966.

River Sex Scene

The D'Lo Water Park

The D’Lo Water Park

Everett, Pete and Delmer’s harken to the Siren’s call. Three southern belles call to them along a trickling creek.  The boys participate in debauchery in one of the most beautiful settings in the south, D’Lo Water Park. It is here that Pete gets loved up and turned into a horney toad. The location is D’Lo Water Park, 135 D’ Lo Road, D’Lo, MS. It is 20 miles south of Jackson.

The KKK Cross Burning

The Coen brothers, the directors of this movie didn’t feel that it would be appropriate to recreate the cross burning scene in the south. They elected to use a sound stage in Hollywood.

Movie Fun Fact: The song recorded by the Soggy Bottom Boys (“I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow”) , contains the line “I bid farewell to ol’ Kentucky, the place where I was born and raised.” George Clooney, who played one of the Soggy Bottom Boys, was born in Lexington, Kentucky.

 

We hope that you enjoyed this behind the scenes peek at a great movie. Each of these locations are close together so you can hit all the sites mentioned in one day. Now go R-U-N-N-O-F-T.

 

Disclosure: On occasion we are offered items to review on this site.  Does this affect our honest review and opinion?  Not one bit!

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7 Questions with the Hunter and the Horsewoman

In our never-ending quest to introduce you to some of the best couple travel bloggers, meet Lina and Dave of Divergent Travelers.  We have found that every traveler brings a unique background to the travel trail.  These two are no different.  Join us as Divergent Travelers take on our 7 Questions:

Blog:  Divergent Travelers

facebook:  Divergent Travelers

twitter:  @divergenttravelers

How did you meet?

We met at the county fair in Superior, WI in 1998.  I, Lina, was showing my horse at the fair that week and so was David’s sister. During the fair, he showed up to help his sister with her horse and that is how we met.
Diving on the Great Barrier Reef

Lina and Dave Diving on the Great Barrier Reef

How long have you been together?  FOREVER. We dated a couple of times after we first met and ultimately got back together in high school.   We’ve been together ever since.  We’ve been married for 4 years though.
Why do you travel?
Because we LOVE IT. We both have an insatiable lust for the World and adventure. We both believe that life is too short to not follow your own path and for us, that means exploring as much of the World as we can.

1) What is the story behind you blog name? Divergent?

This story starts much the same as every other blog, I suppose. We were trying to come up with something catchy and different, yet modern. David gets the credit for coming up with it, we were shooting emails back and forth one day with various names and plays on words and he sent me that one and it just felt right. The definition of Divergent really hit home for us. Something divergent is moving away from what is expected. Divergent people are changing course- moving off the beaten path. It just seemed fitting as we were leaving the American dream behind to pursue a life on our own terms.

Have you voted for the Fighting Couple in the USA Today Couple travel contest?  Please vote for us?

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: Michael Weston, you know, the really cool spy guy from Burn Notice.
She Said: My two best friends, Meghan and Melissa. The three of us are like sisters and we are all Geminis, so we just ‘get’ each other.

Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

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

He said: Mexico, specifically the Yucatan. I love the culture and the easy way of living there. Plus, despite what Lina says, I want to live there someday.
She said: This question is SO hard, there are so many. But if I have to pick just one, I am going to say Peru. We did so many amazing things in that country and it was my first time getting a chance to really work on my Spanish, as I was taking classes before I visited that country. Machu Picchu is a given, but we also visited the Amazon which was mind-blowing and we already have plans to return to that same area and do some volunteer work at the Tambopata Research Center.

4)  Lina, we understand you are quite the equestrian talent!  Wow!  Tell us a little about your interest in horses.

My co-workers used to joke that when talking to me, nobody should mention travel or horses unless they had hours to sit and chat. I think that is still a truth!! (you didn’t know what you were getting into with this question!) I’ve been around horses my whole life and it is an absolute PASSION of mine. I love horses and I love the sport of show jumping. When I graduated from high school I spent the whole summer running a horse farm with show horses. For the next 2 years I spent my summers working for some of the top Olympic riders in the USA at Spruce Meadows in Calagary Canada as a professional groom and exercise rider. After I graduated college I spent a lot of time shipping horses coast to coast in America and working on the circuits for prominent riders and I would spend my winters living and riding in West Palm Beach.  After all that, I bought some horses of my own and started competing locally and before we left totravel, I showed all over the Midwest in class A competitions. When we left to travel, I sold all my project horses and kept just one horse. He is currently being leased so he can continue to show while I am on the road. While traveling, I have several plans (some already executed) for getting my horse fix.

5)  Travel can be tough on relationships.  How do you make it work together out on the road?

He said: Let her win.
She said: For the record, he’s a liar… he NEVER just lets me win! We try to make sure we both get to see and do the things we want. Sometimes we just need timeouts from each other too, which seems to help being together 24/7 easier at times. It certainly isn’t easy and you do have to work at it.
Sunrise at Mt Bromo in Java

Sunrise at Mt Bromo in Java

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

He said: Come up with a system that doesn’t revolve around money.
She said: I’d really love to see a trash disposal system in place for the third world countries. It is so disheartening for me to see these beautiful locations so littered with trash.

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

He said: We had some pretty good fights over where to camp with our campervan while road tripping through Australia! It would never fail that the sun would start to set and we hadn’t picked a place to camp. Knowing we had to make dinner and needed to find a safe, cheap (free) place to camp and make dinner was one sure way to light up the campervan!
She said: When David lost his wedding band in a raging river in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra! We had been swimming in a swimming hole that had currents on the outside of it, he got this bright idea that he was going to ride the current down the river and get out further down. I tried to tell him it wasn’t a good idea, but he did it anyways. Long story short, the current was strong and he had trouble getting out of the water. When I ran down to help him out of the water, he climbed out and showed me his hand…. No ring! While he had been grabbing onto rocks waiting for me, his ring came off. You can imagine how this went down… Lucky for him, the next day we told the guesthouse staff and after an hour of them searching the river with masks on, they FOUND it.  No joke, he lost and found his wedding ring in a raging river in the jungle.
A HUGE thanks to Lina and David for taking some time to share a little about their travel philosophy.   (If you are wondering David, letting her always win is a great ideas.)  Thanks for being one of the very best blogging couples out there.
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The Grand Mirage: The Playful Side of Paradise

Bali is a couple’s paradise.  With its inviting blue waters, friendly locals, white sandy beaches, spicy cuisine and fascinating cultural and religious dimensions, it has forever won a place in our hearts.

Inside the lobby at the Grand Mirage: a waterfall.

Inside the lobby at the Grand Mirage: a waterfall.

The Fighting Couple spent lot of time fighting about where to stay on our first visit to the Island of the Gods.  On one hand, the cultural and handicraft mecca of Ubud called out to us.  On the other, the remote northern part of the island seemed to offer off the beaten path peace and tranquility.  In the end we decided to spend the majority of our time in tropical paradise of Nusa Dua beach, in the lively village of Tanjung Benoa.

Our next task (see fight) was picking the right place to stay.  A location with outstanding ocean front views was non-negotiable. We also wanted a place that had everything: world-class accommodations, amazing food, and of course a spa!  Bali vacations fit the bill perfectly!

The Grand Mirage Resort offers a number of different stay options including a VIP all-inclusive, bed and breakfast, or lodging only.  Simply pick the one that best meets your budget.

The Grand Mirage has two sister properties in the area, the Club Bali Mirage and the high-end Samabe Luxury Villas.  The entire resort system offers a price point for everyone from a pensioner to a princess.

Getting There:

Nusa Dua overlooks the Indian Ocean on the southeast part of the Island and is roughly 30 minutes away from the airport in Denpasar.  You can easily take a taxi or arrange for a private transfer with the hotel.   This is Bali: almost everything is affordable with the favorable exchange rate from the States or Europe.

If you chose to drive, please check out our 7 Steps to Driving in Bali.

First Impressions:

One would be impressed with just the lobby of the Grand Mirage without ever looking at the turquoise saturated ocean, tropical pool area, or spacious and well decorated guest rooms. The open air, three-storied lobby with marble floors accented with intricate inlaid flower designs, anchored by a waterfall in the center of the building, is a showcase. When you enter, you know you are somewhere special. The staff is attentive and kind. In fact, there is more staff than rooms. We felt welcome at once. At the Grand Mirage, every need, every experience is ready to be met.

The Grand Mirage is its own community. You never have to leave the resort.  Board games, pool, indoor theatre for movies, karaoke, kids club where little ones can engage in fun activities sans parents, elegant spa, restaurants, are all on site. It’s a place to make friends or spend alone time as a couple. You literally never have to or want to leave.

A room with a view!

A room with a view of the pool and the ocean!

A Room With A View:

Our room at the Grand Mirage was nicer than our home. The corner room showcased two balconies with views of the ocean on each corner perfect to watch the sunrise and sunset. The rooms also overlooked the pool area. The entry way was framed with Balinese sculptures with low-level spot lights. There was a living room, bar area, and separate bedroom with two beds. Hooray for two beds on vacation! The bathroom hosts a giant soaker tub big enough for two and a mosaic tiled walk in shower.

I want a bathroom like this at my house.

I want a bathroom like this at my house.

Follow the Grand Mirage:

twitter:  @GrandMirage

Facebook: GrandMirageResort

Outdoor Activities:

During our stay, we enjoyed several of the activities. The entire Nusa Dua area is a watersports playground.  You can take out a sea kayak on your own or join one of the many sea kayak tours offered by the resort. (Don’t forget to pack the sunscreen!)  If sitting by the beach and enjoying the sea breeze is your deal, you will not be disappointed.  The resort offers lounge chairs and seaside cabanas with drink service if you wish.  These do tend to fill up quickly, you may want to stake you claim early, or have them hold one for you. Grand Mirage offers tennis courts, an aptly equipped workout facility, bike rental, yoga, beach volleyball and every water sport imaginable. Every day there is a list of activities for the guests to enjoy. Don’t know what to do? Just look at the activities menu! During our stay, Luci walked the beach, while Mike played tennis. Don’t worry if you don’t have a partner. The Grand Mirage has an excellent tennis player on staff who would love play with you!  Mike’s backhand has now been proven ineffective on two continents!

Mike lost again.

Mike lost again.

Pool Party:

Luci’s favorite part of the resort was the pool. Surrounded with lush vegetation, the pool is shaped like a figure eight with varying depths. The kids side, separated by a bridge, features a basketball hoop and shallow wading areas. The other side has a waterfall where guests can sit and feel the refreshing water fall upon your shoulders. It’s a perfect place to spend the day swimming, drinking, swimming, reading and basking in the Bali sunshine.

The beach view

The beach view

The Thalasso Spa:

We saved the best activity for last.  Connected to the hotel is a little part of paradise, the spa.  The entire spa menu revolves around the sea.  The hallway floors within the center are covered with sand and small stepping-stones lead the way to the 16 tastefully decorated themed treatment rooms.  Even the ceiling has an ocean motif.  The moment you walk in, you feel you are peacefully drifting on a warm wave.  The spa menu has both depth and breadth.  The highly trained staff offer a number of modalities including: Swedish, Balinese, and Thai.  Check out this amazing spa:  www.thalassobali.com.

Grand Mirage Spa

Entry into the stress free paradise!

What to Eat?

Buckle up!  There are a host of great food options.  The resort puts on a wonderful spread of breakfast items every morning.  They offer a wide array of fresh fruits and veggies, meats, salads as well as made- to-order omelets. The pancakes, French toast and four types of accompanying syrups were our favorite. There are five restaurants on property for every taste at any time. The Grand Café is where guests have breakfast overlooking the pool. Other options include the Jukung Grill which offers fresh seafood and Australian barbecue; La Cascata with mouth-watering Italian; eat at Chopsticks for Chinese or swim up to the Coconut Bar in the middle of the pool.

Couples Retreat:

Bali is made for couples.  The resort offers an on-site, on-beach wedding chapel.  Where you can tie the knot or renew you wedding vows.  There are even full-time staff members who can assist with all the details from securing a photographer to capturing the picture perfect moment to finding the freshest local flowers.  The Thalasso Spa also has as special room for couples!  Why not splurge for a couples massage or do like we did and try the couple water treatment? (Loved it!).   What is more romantic than a moonlit stroll on the sandy beach?  The hotel can also arrange a picnic lunch if you wish to head off on your own adventure.

Our short stay in Bali was truly made an impact on us.  We are counting the days till our return.  If you have questions about Bali or the Grand Mirage resort, feel free to drop us a line. We highly recommend it!

Lobby of the Grand Mirage

One more view of the lobby, because we loved it that much!

We partnered with our good friends at this Bali resort during our recent visit.  Does this change our opinion of their great service and rates?  Nope.  Not one bit.

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How to avoid shedding “pounds” in London

It’s no secret.  A recent article in the USA today, called out London as the most expensive city to visit in the world.  What is to be done?  No fear, the trusty Fighting Couple is on the case.  We have some helpful hints and tips that will make your British holiday less painful.

Mind the Gap

London is famous for its taxis. They are classy and the drivers well-trained. However, if you use a taxi to see the city, your wallet is going to be a lot lighter. London taxis are horribly expensive.  Use mass transportation instead. The “Tube” as it’s affectionately called is a wonderful, easy, and budget friendly way to the see the city. It’s well-organized, easy to understand, and safe. Most of the best sights in London have their own Tube sights.  Buy a pass. The seven day pass is the best deal depending on how far out of London you want to go, prices range from 24 Pounds to 81 Pounds.

buckingham palace

Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace

Changing of the Guard

Getting up close and personal with the royals is a unique opportunity in Britain.  We highly recommend the changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace.  Our advice is to get early and pick the right time when they do a full on parade and display.  It is really quite a pageant.  With the tall black hats and crisp red jackets it is a great photo op that does cost a single quid!

 

Big lunch, Small Supper

This is one of the Fighting Couple fave couple travel tips.  We load up on fine food at lunch.  Lunch menus are typically much more affordable than the evening meal.  Then for the evening meal, we hit the sandwich shop or grab a baguette and chips.  One other interesting trend is the increase in the number of street food vendors.  These can offer affordable eats at almost any hour.  During our recent trip to London, we found the best little crepe hut that offered the most delicious desserts.  They were a meal in themselves.

 

Shopping at Harrods

Shopping at Harrods

Window Shopping at Harrod’s

Now this is going to take some strong self-control… but window shopping at Harrod’s can be one of the most fun and free activities in all of London.  It can also be a fine place to do some old fashioned people watching.  Harrod’s was founded in 1834 and is one of the oldest continuously operated department stores in the world. You can find the world’s best brands there.  The Harrod’s motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique—All Things for All People, Everywhere.  If you are lucky to visit London during the holidays, their displays are flat out incredible. Harrod’s is beyond expensive. It’s definitely for the well-heeled of the world. I ogled a women’s business suit and it was $800. Buy a tote bag instead. It will cost you $75.

Take a stroll down Jermyn Street and Saville Row to take in the newest fashion trends.  Most have wonderful window displays that are artwork on their own.  Don’t forget to snap a selfie with patron saint of dandyism, Beau Brummell.

 Cheap Show Tickets

Of course any trip to London would not be complete without an evening at the West End.  Personally, we find London theatre even a cut above Broadway and many of the shows that eventually make it to New York City get their start in London. Expect to pay less for a ticket in London, but with the exchange rate it equals more. Just like in New York, London has its own version of TKTS. Scope out their website at http://www.tkts.co.uk/. The website shows what shows are selling and what you’d expect to pay at the theatre and what you’ll pay at TKTS. Bloody Brilliant! Know a couple of shows you want to see before getting to the counter so if they sell out before you get there, you have options. TKTS makes shows so affordable; you can see three shows instead of one!

 

Breakfast and Bed

Another strategy to travel on a budget is staying at Bed and Breakfasts.  We love staying with actual people.  We learn so much more about the place we are visiting.  In addition, they can offer budget saving suggestions.  Try Travelstay.com to find the best rates for Bed and Breakfasts.

london parks

Lovely parks in London

 

A Picnic in the Park

London has some amazing green space.  Take advantage of a romantic setting with you lover!  There are four major “royal” parks.  Each of these are located on former royal hunting grounds: Green Park, St. James, Hyde Park, and our fave Kensington Gardens.  Find a grocery store, load up on your favorite snacks and take along a large blanket, a book and enjoy the scenery.

That’s it!  Our ideas to make your visit to London on a budget less painful.  Enjoy!

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The Fighting Couple’s World Cup

The world is in a World Cup Fever!  This got us thinking….What if the “Fighting Couple” were to decide the outcome of the cup?  Forget the bad calls and last second scoring.  What if we based the group outcomes on how good their beaches are?  What if they scored points for having the best cuisine? Why not?

Let the games begin!

Group A:

Teams:  Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon

This is a tough one.  How can you not pick the odds on favorite, the host nation of Brazil?  Brazil’s beaches, jungles, and warm hospitality seems like a given.  Perched on the Adriatic Sea, facing the Italian boot, Croatia is one of the more understated paradises out there.  Mexico is also a strong contender.  Mexico offers traveling couples some of the most amazing coast line found on the planet.  Cameroon?  Never been…..Sorry….

The winner:  Croatia.  What we love about this place is the understated beauty.  One of our fave national parks has to be Plitvice Lakes.  The entire park is made up of crystal clear ponds and waterfalls.  You walk on a wooden boardwalk that takes you into some of the most picturesque and photogenic scenes in all of nature.  Goooooaaaal!!!!    Croatia, you win!

waterfalls

The wonderful waterfalls of Croatia.

 

Group B:

Teams:  Holland, Chile, Australia, and Spain

This choice caused a great deal of fighting between the Fighting Couple.  Three of our favorite counties are represented in this quality grouping.  We just returned from our first trip to the land “down-under” and were blown away with Aussie hospitality.  The diamond of the Med, Barcelona has a special place in our hearts.  With its Gaudi creations and delicious tapas, Spain is a contender.  Due to routing from the states, we have spent a great deal of time in the Netherlands, and Luci may have a crush on the tall Netherlanders that man customs desks at Amsterdam airport.  Although we have yet to visit Chile, the backbone of South America is high on our list of locales to visit.  A camping trip to patigonia is high on our must see list.

The winner:  Australia

OK, call it a fix.  Having just visited the country-continent, we may be a little biased.  Australia with its rough and tumble natives and amazing landscapes make it a great choice for anyone up for adventure.  The highlight for our visit was another water theme.  We loved Wagi falls in Litchfield national park.  The rolling water of the red stone is a sight to behold.

waterfalls

Florence Falls in Litchfield National Park.

Group C

Teams: Colombia, Greece, Japan and Cote de Ivory

This one will be a bit difficult for us.  We have only visited two out of the four counties: Japan and Greece.  The land of the rising sun has amazing Sushi. BTW-The Fighting Couple loves sushi.  With austerity measures in place…Greece couldn’t afford the bribe.

Winner: Japan. (Mmmmm Sushi.)

 

sushi

Did someone say Sushi?

Group D

Teams: Costa Rica, Italy, England, and Uruguay

These teams are all worthy in their own right.  Costa Rica with its inviting beaches, jungle canopy tours and great latin food, scores a lot points.  England, home to all things Jane Austen and Top Gear, olde England dominates the field.  Fighting Couple Travel Tip:  For all of you Englanders headed to Brazil for the real contest, fly out of Gatwick!  It is much more organized, faster and still has a great selection of flights.    Italy-oh how we love thee.  Let us count the ways: food, towers, hill towns, beaches, history, and architecture.  Uruguay?  Never been.

Winner:  Tie:  Italy and England.  It is like picking which is cuter Brad Pitt or George Clooney.  Tough choice.  Both of these locations advance to the next round.

England!

England!

Group E

Teams: France, Switzerland, Ecuador, and Honduras

Ecuador=Equator=too hot.  France-  Gertrude Stein once said: “America is my country, and Paris is my home town.”  We tend to agree.  Having visited the wonderful city a handful of times, we keep finding new places to explore and experience…and then there is the food.  Yum!  Switzerland.  Luci wants Swiss-land voted in just to keep Roger Federer happy.  Honduras… Wasn’t Moon over Parador filmed there?

Winner:  France!  Viva la France!  Our hands down winner.  For one of the most romantic evenings of your life following this recipe:  Dinner at a small café along the River Seine, then stroll hand in hand under the glittering Eiffel Tower, and cap it off by sitting on the steps of the Sacre’le Coeur for a wonderful view of the grand city.

french chapel

Viva le France!

Group F

Teams: Argentina, Iran, Nigeria, and Bosnia

Iran….I don’t think we are allowed to be Americans there.  Their loss.  Argentina is another country on our bucket list to visit.  We hear all good things.  Across from our jr high school growing up, we had a little Argentine lady that made the best pizza and bambinos.  So good!  Nigeria-We get daily invites to do banking over there for some lottery winners.  Nigeria, not gonna happen.  Bosnia is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth.

Winner: Bosnia.  This is one of the surprise upsets.  We added two days to our visit to Croatia to enter into the war torn county.  We ended up drooling at the countryside.  The county is putting its difficult history behind, and developing some great places to visit.  Bosnia has become a destination that we must revisit.

bosnia waterfall

Beautiful Bosnia

Group G

Teams: Germany, USA, Portugal, and Ghana

First off…Portugal is now owned by Germany…so I will include them in with the Deutsch.  Ghana…never been…So it comes down to a grand battle between Germany and the States.  Merkel vs Obama.

Winner:  Germany! (Proving we are not biased.)  Our recent drive down the Rhine area of western Germany has made us fast fans.  It really came down to which country lets you drive faster.  Hands down, Germany.

Rhine Germany

A great perch for viewing the Rhine.

Well those are our pics to get out of the first found.  Do you agree with our selections?  Please make a case for your top pick in the comments section below!

 

 

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5 Reasons to Go to Costa Rica Now

The Fighting Couple takes on Costa Rica!  Sure, it’s tropical, offers tons of activities, but it’s also cheap and you can buy chocolate at the source. Here’s the top five reasons to book your ticket today!

5. Chocolate

The Fighting Couple doesn’t go anywhere without chocolate. You can’t get any closer to organic chocolate than the cacao fields of Costa Rica. There are several tours for chocolate lovers, if that’s the priority. We enjoyed tasting the chocolate at local markets. Nahua Chocolate, one of the leading chocolatiers, was next door to our hotel and was our first stop. We enjoyed hot chocolate (I know, ironic in Costa Rica) and stocked up for the rest of the trip, while we watched the miracle of chocolate truffle creation. The comfortable and hip atmosphere coupled with the historical artifacts, makes this chocolatier a must see in San Juan.

Watch chocolate truffles being made at Nahau Chocolate.

Watch chocolate truffles being made at Nahau Chocolate.

4. You can be a beach bum or an adrenaline junkie

Top to bottom Costa Rica is teeming with beauty.   Take in its tropical mountains, sugary beaches, and 1000 Fights’ favorite: waterfalls! But the best part of Costa Rica is you can do whatever you want. Stay on the beach or zip line 600 feet in the air. Hike into the jungle in search of waterfalls, soak in natural hot pools, or swim in the hotel pool.  There are limitless activities.

Waterfalls are everywhere in Costa RIca!

Waterfalls are everywhere in Costa RIca!

3. Your Money Goes Further

Travel can be expensive. But Costa Rica isn’t. We paid around $700 round trip for our tickets from Boise or 60,000 Delta miles. Our hotels averaged $85-$100 an evening including a great spread for breakfast. That’s not to say there aren’t giant mansions you can rent or have your choice of upscale resorts. You can spend a lot of money, you just don’t have too. The most expensive part of the trip was the rental car. Get the insurance! It’s worth every penny. 

This is your view from an $85 a night hotel with breakfast included. Check out http://www.arenalmanoa.com/

This is your view from an $85 a night hotel with breakfast included. Check out http://www.arenalmanoa.com/

2. Food

The food in Costa Rica is good, really good. It’s also cheap. Our hotel breakfasts usually included a wide range of pastries, eggs, and beans and rice. A neighborhood Sopa usually charges around $5 to $7 for meat, rice, beans, and fresh vegetables. Costa Rica also has amazing steak houses. We paid $25 for a 12 ounce steak with all the sides. The beef was tender and the equivalent to any $75 NYC steak.

costaricafood

Steak at one of the many steakhouses in Costa Rica.

1. No jet lag!

Costa Rica is actually in the Mountain Time Zone. Yes. I will repeat. Costa Rica is in the Mountain Time Zone. Sleepiness is one a the sad side effects of jet setting it across the world. It makes you foggy, groggy, and sometimes mean. That’s what makes Costa Rica perfect for us United States west coast dwellers. You have traveled to a completely foreign place and yet your body clock things you are still in Boise, Idaho. We enjoyed getting off the plane and realizing we weren’t 12 hours forward or backward, but could Facetime and email in real time. Avoiding jet lag gives you more time to enjoy being in Costa Rica!

 We hope you'll enjoy the Costa Rican sunsets as much as we did!

We hope you’ll enjoy the Costa Rican sunsets as much as we did!

What’s your favorite reason to go to Costa Rica?

 

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How to Read a Travel Blog

Travel blogs are quickly replacing the trusty, but dusty Frommer’s or Rick Steves’ guides as the go to resource for the modern and savvy traveler.  Today’s travel blogging community has expanded to become a viable resource to suit just about any traveler. But be aware, there a number of pros and pitfalls associated with using travel bloggers to plan your trip.  With this handy guide, you will be prepared to make the most of the travel blogs out there.  Lets go!

couple on ocean

Take the stress out of your vacation. Use a travel blog!

Picking the Right Travel Blog

Step one is the most obvious, you need to find blogs that match your travel style.  There is an ever-expanding collection of sites to choose from.  Blogs are reflections of those that write them.  Example, if you are looking for a carefree and relaxing solo vacation with the best booze joints:  The Fighting Couple is not for you.  Our focus is off the beaten path, history focused sites from a couple perspective (and we don’t drink).  Surf a lot of sites.  Most travel blogs, including our,s have link love pages (here is ours).  This is a great way to quickly hop from one site to the next in your quest for the perfect fit.

The about me/us section are often helpful tools to quickly evaluate the site’s focus.  Granted a baby boomer can learn something from a 20 something blogger, but the perspective would be clearly different.  Let’s give it a try.

Go ahead and enter www.suzyguese.com

Click on the about section and give it a quick scan.

Here’s what we can quickly divine:

Female (redhead!)

Solo travel

Many mentions of Italy and Europe

25-35 age group

Simple huh?  After you check out the about section that fits your travel style, look for the site’s search button.  Type in the location you are looking for.  On Suzy’s site, I typed in Rome and quickly found a dozen posts on the city.  From there, you can quickly scan the headlines to find the post that best fits your travel needs.

Get Interactive

The best part of reading travel blogs are their interactivity.  You can’t ask a Frommer’s book a question, no offence to Mr. or Mrs Frommer.  Travel bloggers are passionate about travel and the locations they feature.  Most travel blogs offer a comments section where you can ask questions and interact with other readers.  Cool huh?  You can also share your experiences right there for the rest of the community.  Candidly, this is our fave part of travel blogging.  Join the discussion.   Travel bloggers are also adept at social media.  Engage them on Twitter or Facebook.   Ask your questions free of charge!  If that is not enough, most bloggers offer some form of a contact me section, where you can send direct questions.  Most will answer you right back!  Here’s a little secret: travel bloggers use other travel bloggers to find new and exciting locations, restaurants and hotels.  During our recent trip to Budapest, we sent out  shout out to help us find the best goulash.  In a matter of seconds our friend @confusedjulia pinged us back with an awesome recommendation: Kadar Restaurant.  It ended up being our fave meal of the trip.

travel blogging couple

Travel bloggers: The Fighting Couple fight their way through Peru.

Mix and Match

One of the fun things that blogs offers are micro niches.  Use a combo of different genres of blogs to plan you trip.  The fun part of using blogs is that you can read a foodie blog to plan out your gastronomic visits, then check out a fashion blogger to tell you where to snag the best designer deals.  One blog we follow, Beers and Beans offers great tips on taking really good travel pictures.  The travel blogging world is a virtual buffet of travel insights!  Best of all, its free!

Blogging is a lot of work.  Often the only payday we have are the kind comments of our readers.  If you find a blogger that you identify with, shoot them a quick line telling them how much their advice meant.  It also doesn’t hurt to give one of their ads a click.

A Few Cautions About Travel Bloggers

The old adage, “you get what you pay for”…  is true.  There are a few pitfalls to using travel blogs as your single source for travel planning.  But if you look past a few spelling errors and are aware of a few drawbacks up front, you will find your visits more meaningful.

warning sign

Warning!

Challenge What You Read

I have heard it said that if you get 99 travel bloggers in a room you would end up with 100 opinions!  We tend to be a very discriminating bunch.  We strongly believe in our take on the world.  So much so, we broadcast it around the planet.  Our take on the world, a country, a hotel, a restaurant is jaded.  We view it through the lens of our own perspective.  Challenge what you read.  Look to more than one source.    Case in point: sometimes we get exhausted as we travel.  I know…it can happen to anyone.  After a grueling day, the last museum or church of the day might not get the rave review.  Someone else on the other hand, hit that one in the morning and it changed their life.  Challenge what you read.

Bloggers Travel on the Cheap

The life of a lonely travel blogger is difficult.  Except for a small handful, full time travel bloggers are barely making a living.  Sad, but true.  Travel blogging offers an exciting lifestyle, but no one is getting rich.  Many more, including the Fighting Couple do it part-time.  Most travel bloggers travel on the cheap.  More often than not, you will read hostel reviews 2 to 1 in the travel blog world.  We don’t stay in hostels…its not our thing.  Again, search out the blogger you identify with and your wallet can hang with.

Bloggers are Biased

Its no secret that bloggers are given free stays and free tours.  Destinations pay to bring in bloggers to review a resort or area.  Tourism is a business, a huge business.  Be aware that a glowing review of a resort that lacks any sort of critique might be a lame attempt by a blogger to keep their client “happy.”  Look for a sponsored tag somewhere on the post.  This can clue you in that there could be some editorial pressure.  Sponsored trips are not all bad for the reader.  Bloggers are often given inside advice and insights that would serve you well.  We always try to make it clear when we are “comped” and we always make it clear that we are going to be honest in our review.  We are the “Fighting Couple” after all!!

Where Blogs go to Die

Reality check: Most blogs don’t survive.  Every day new blogs are born and some fade away.   The blogosphere is littered the corpses of former vibrant travel logs.  Always check the date of the last post.  This will let you know if the blog has a pulse.  Don’t read dead blogs.  Too much changes over time.  A once great hotel or location can fall apart fast.  There is a reason that even Rick Steves in the “tree killing realm” updates his books every few years.  Too much changes.

Even with these drawbacks, blogs still offer the novice to the most advanced traveler an unrivaled peek at some of the best destinations on the planet.  Keys to effectively utilizing blogs: 1) Find a blog that matches your travel style. 2) Study the about sections to get feel of blogger personality. 3) Mix and match other blog genres.

We truly hope you find that best travel blog that matches your travel style.  Happy hunting!

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