Tag Archives | couples

101 “Other” Things to to in Holland

One of our fave European cities is the “AMS” (Amsterdam, Netherlands).  Amsterdam is a collage of different feels-old and young.  After our first visit, Luci commented:  “this is the youngest oldest city I have ever been.”  She could not be more right.  Despite the fact that the architecture is so historic, the population of the city is decidedly dominated by the 25-35 set.  AMS loads of fun at all hours.  We recently did a post on great layover plans for the city.

Many travelers today taint their view of the country based on two vices: Pot and Prostitution.   Unlike other “escape” locales like Las Vegas, with AMS take away the “SIN” and you are left with an amazing “CITY”.  Holland has depth.   Holland has a multicultural, vibrant and rich history and tradition.

In part to counter the unsavory image being projected to the world, legislation was introduced recently to prevent foreigners from patronizing the “coffee” shops.  To counter the notion that all  the Netherlands is good for is a “weed-cation”, the Netherlands Board of Tourism enlisted  New York comedian/filmmaker, Mark Malkoff to show Americans that there’s way more to do in Holland than smoking pot in coffee shops!

Here a four short clips from youtube  that are hilarious!!!  Watch every one, they are sooo funny!



 

 

 

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Shhhh….Our Secrets to Discount VIP Travel

John and Yoko suite ams hilton

Image by 1000fights via Flickr

We thought we would let you in on a few of our VIP travel secrets…

Ask for the Moon

Have you ever asked for the Honeymoon Suite? It never hurts to ask.  Most hotel managers will tell you the premium suites are vacant most of the time. During shoulder seasons especially– just asking often opens the door to some really nice rooms. High inventory cities are also prone to willingness to upgrade you if it is an “off” weekend, or better yet a weekday.  “Large inventory” areas like Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Miami, Paris, ect are an easy target.

Getting an upgrade at a discounted rate can be cheaper than a standard room due to the amenities that come with. Upgraded rooms often have access to free: wifi, bottled water, hospitality rooms, ect.  Don’t ever expect to get upgraded…Grandma’s rules apply: a little bit a honey goes a long way.

Another place to ask for the upgrade is at the rental car desk. We have friends that always book economy and play the upgrade game at the desk. This approach can be risky if the desk is swamped, they are out of cars, or if you find “Mr. NO!” behind the counter. Always ask about your options.  Negotiate a price.  Most rental car companies put a ton of miles on the economy and mid-size cars. They need to put some miles on those Cadillacs and Audis.  For those that are a little fearful to ask: just say…”what else do you have?”

Trust me, those counter agents get asked all the time.

Book Early or Late

If you are catching the train to the airport then you might be able to afford to go first class if you book yourself a ticket early enough. Train and air lines often have early bird deals on their website, it might take a little bit more planning as they often require you to book your ticket some time in advance but it can be worth it if you get a first class ticket for negligible extra cost.

An old Chinese Proverb goes: Empty seats make no money.  Again, during certain times of the year the best seats on trains and planes go empty.  There is a load of websites out there that offer great bargains on last minute travel.  This is certainly not for the faint at heart.  For crazy planners like Luci and I, this option would never work.  The fact remains there are deals to be had on last minute travel.  Give it a try.

Airline Perks

The three words that strike fear and loathing to avid travelers: LONG LAY OVER.   They are the bane of our exsisitence.  How can you travel VIP if you have to sit in an airport lounge for hours on end?  Enter the airline club rooms.  Worth every penny for long layovers.  Food?  Yep.  Newspaper and popular mags?  Yep.  Comfy chairs?  Yep.  A little privacy?  Yep.

Back to rule one, why not just ask the desk, tell them that you have a long layover and do they ever offer discounted entry?  If you happen to be female, entry barriers seem to be lessened if you find a bored gate attendant.  They are often eager to help (wink).

Valet Airport Parking

We have found the way you start and end your trip make all the difference.  If you are driving to the airport then you have a think about  Airport Parking the options that are open to you.  If you don’t want the bog standard park and ride service then you might be able to find a good deal on valet parking or even treat yourself to the most VIP option which is a chauffeur service.  Valet parking can really add a touch of class to your journey as your own driver will meet you at the airport when you arrive, all you need to do is hand over your vehicle and your keys and they will take your car to a secure place for the duration of your stay.

On your return they will meet you when your flight arrives and have your car waiting for you right outside departures.  It truly is how the other half travels.  Prices are surprisingly affordable.

We hope these tips and tricks are helpful.  Do you have any secrets to getting the VIP experience?  Leave a comment below.

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Adventures in Chinatown

 

I love Chinatowns.  I really do.  I am an egg:  white on the outside and yellow on the inside. Some of the best places to discover in our major American cities are their Chinatowns.  Chinatowns offer an affordable visit to another culture and country.  Taking a stroll down the busy streets offers the sights, sounds, tastes and flavors of the orient.  It is not to be missed!

Some of our favorite Chinatowns: Washington DC, Seattle, Vancouver, BC, San Francisco, LA, and Lima, Peru?!

To really enjoy Chinatowns we put together a few helpful hints:

1) Learn some Lingo

2) Check out the Art & Music Scene

3) Bings! (Chinese Dessert)

4) Hang out with the old guys!

5) Gwa-lious! (Our secrets to navigate a Chinese Fruit market)

Learn some lingo:

How to say hello in Chinese
Hello!

Learn some Chinese!  I can’t tell you how many times, flashing a little of my mandarin skills has gotten me some great authentic grub.  At one establishment in DC, I engaged the waiter on the quality of koi fish in the tank at the entry in Mandarin.  After seating us in a preferred section of the establishments, I attempted to order a fish dish. My selection was promptly rejected. “Something better for you”. That little clue to what I was presented to eat was an understatement.  So good!  A little preparation can result in a huge surprise. After engaging waiters and owners of establishments, bills have discreetly disappeared.  It is a Chinese tradition.

Some key words to help:

Hello- Ni Hao

Goodbye–sye gian

Tastes very good- Hen Hao Chur

Thank you– xia,xia

Art and Music

One of the greatest attractions in Chinatown is the art and music scene.  The Asian genre of art is 1000s of years in the making.  Chinatown festivals include “double ten” day (Oct. 10th), Chinese New Year (early spring), and many, many other regional celebrations.  These are great chances to expose yourself to Chinese Music and Art.

Wall art

Chinese pastorals of falling water, green steeps, and animals are amazing:

Ever wonder what those little square red things are on Chinese paintings?  They are the artist signature, as well as his teachers, as well as his teacher’s-teacher.  You get the idea.  Paintings with many red marks is a really good sign.

Pottery

Don’t know who Ming was or how he was awarded a dynasty, but they apparently made some really amazing pottery.

Music

Chinese Music started at the dawn of Chinese civilization with documents and artifacts providing evidence of a well-developed musical culture as early as the Zhou Dynasty (1122 BC – 256 BC). Today, the music continues a rich traditional heritage in one aspect, while emerging into a more contemporary form at the same time.  (Wikipedia)

Take a quick listen to some of the most haunting Chinese Folk music:

Bings

Chinatown is a delight to all of the senses!  Not just sight and sounds, taste too!  We could delve into the many delicant dishs that you only find in  Chinatowns…but desserts are rare. With that said, there is one really good exception, “the bing.” Bings are pretty simple: shaved ice, condensed sweetened milk, and some fruit flavors syrups. In the more authentic dojos, you can get real fruit! A passion fruit bing on a hot day is nectar of the gods!

Have your ever tried one?

YUM!

 

Chinese Chat

I really love to talk to old people. I love to chat with stringy bearded, glassy eyed gentlemen. They typically hang out in parks, around a board game, or they surround a small table with an elaborate tea set. Some of most meaningful conversations I have had in my life have been with these wise stewards. Conversation topics have ranged from expected topics: Sino-American relations, contrasting the traditional Chinese method of education.  We also covered some remote topics including the healing power of green tea, the long term harm that comes from drink beverages with ice(?????) and a particularly long and involved discussions of the virtues of breast milk.  Travel slow. Take a hot afternoon to sit in the shade of a with one of these fellows and the world will be opened to you.

The fruit

Asian fruit is so good! Some of my faves: yellow watermelon, yu longs, mega grapefruits, passion fruit. Some of these are available at different parts of the world, but there is nothing like an Asian fruit market. While living in Southern Taiwan, every morning we headed to the fruit markets for breakfast. These farmers markets offer fleshy fruits that are difficult to describe. We must offer a warning…fruit markets are usually adjacent to meat markets. These stands are not intended for the faint in heart. If seeing various family pets, snakes, and rodents displayed for purchase in non-living status, this is not the place for you.

 

Chinatown on Twitter:

 @sfchinatown  (SFO)

@312Chinatown (Chicago)

@scidpda (Seattle)

@OurChinatown (New York)

@LondonChinatown (London)

What is your favorite Chinatown?  What makes it special to you?

Leave us a comment and let us know.

 

 

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The Mystique of Savannah vs. the Luxury of Hilton Head

Savannah and Hilton Head are the perfect duo for a week in the South. While Hilton Head offers the view of the rich and retired, Savannah with its lush trees and dripping Spanish moss, offers a peek into the old South. Only an hour apart by car, you can easily see both places on a weekend or weeklong getaway.

Savannah- The mystery

“I recall my fleeting instants in Savannah as the taste of a cup charged to the brim.” — Henry James

Few locales have enchanted us like our visit to Savannah. Although our stay was  brief, the impression it has left on us is long-lasting. Savannah packs a powerful punch for types like us, who love places steeped in history, impressive art, and architecture offerings. But the best part about Savannah is the food! Savannah is truly the crown jewel of the Low Country. It’s best to start with what most folks know about the town. The city was the setting for “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” a book penned by John Berendt.  The book was transformed into the big screen in an adaptation directed by none other than Clint Eastwood.  The book (movie) highlight the best and seedy underbelly of the place. Many of the places featured in the book are now tourist traps luring those, like us, toting the book from square to square. Fortunately for you, the novel has long since fallen off the best seller lists, so the good news is Savannah is slowly sinking into the lesser known finds. A word of warning to you “Book Toters.”  The “Bird Girl” statue that adorns the cover is no longer situated at the cemetery outside of town. It now is one of the exhibits at the Telfair Museum of Art. The Museum is a must see. So what is on the must see list?

Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace (The birthplace of Girl Scouts)

Mercer House Carriage Shop & Museum

The Telfair Museum of Art The Davenport House

The Cockspur Light House

Owens Thomas House (For La Fayette lovers like us, this house hosted the Marquis de La Fayette on his visit to America.) It also has the coolest staircase that crosses over the house. For real.

Dining

The Olde Pink House

We asked our concierge if he had one night in Savannah, where he would eat. He suggested the Olde Pink House. Situated in a historic home, the Olde Pink House is like stepping back in time and the food is just as authentic. Yes, the house is really pink! If you like crab and seafood, this is your kind of restaurant. Dessert is always on our list when we eat and the Olde Pink House’s handcrafted praline cup filled with ice cream with a hint of raspberry sauce on the side still haunts Luci’s dreams.

The Olde Pink House on Urbanspoon

Mrs. Wilkes

Simply put, Mrs. Wilkes is an institution and is a must eat in Savannah. The restaurant is only open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. We got there at 10 a.m. to wait in line and it was worth it. Guests sit family style so if you don’t like people, you’ll struggle with the seating. We sat next to a family who drove to Savannah from New Jersey. The menu is all southern cook’n all the time. We ate fried chicken, corn bread, mac and cheese and any other carbo-licious, fattening item that was served to us. Go here. Your tummy will thank you. Your waist will not.

Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room on Urbanspoon

Hilton Head-Playground of the rich and retired

The best place to start our review of the Island is on the links (man lingo for golf courses.) The Hilton Head Island area is one of the nation’s foremost golf meccas. Is it any wonder that Golf Digest readers named Hilton Head Island No. 10 on its list of the world’s best golf resorts? Some of the very best holes in golf lie just a stones throw from each other. There are a number of affordable golf packages you can purchase on-line. The packages bundle a number of different course over a few days. It is perfect. One word of warning…if the ball goes in the “drink,” follow the words of John Lennon, “let it be” (see croc warnings). Another strong appeal to Hilton Head is its sandy beaches and warm water. Yes, the water is warm! For us west coast dwellers, warm water is the best! Hilton Head sports 11 miles of soft sand and gentle lapping waves. While Mike golfed, Luci walked the beaches. If you are up for adventure, one of the best pastimes it taking out an ocean kayak. We signed up for a bay tour that highlighted the flora and fauna and a bit of the history of the Island. We also saw dolphins jumping in the waves.  In addition, to wildlife, we  saw some of the massive secluded mansions. Really cool! Just make sure that your camera is waterproof.  Why not live like the locals? There are so many affordable options, there is a place to fit any budget.  The nice thing about this option, is candidly, we never really found a restaurant that we loved.  The self cater option lets you cook on your own. (See saving money! Yay!) Take on the mystery of Savannah then relax in the sun and sand of Hilton Head.  The perfect combination.

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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!

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10 Reasons Why I Suck As a Travel Girlfriend

–A hilarious blog post at http://www.nomadicchick.com/.   A must read!

There could be good reason why I’m single.

  1. I always pick nonsensical, dangerous destinations where you could be decapitated or kidnapped for ransom.
  2. I snore.  So loud you’ll open your eyes expecting a 300 pound truck driver next to you.  It’s ten times worse when I’m inebriated.
  3. I’ll always make you taste a dish first, in case of parasites or hair.
  4. If I even catch a glimpse of a rat, and let’s face it rats multiply across continents, I will shatter glass with my screams, thereby embarrassing the crap out of you.
  5. I’ll force you to carry the heavy gear.  Cause I’m cute and can get away with it.
  6. My sense of direction is tragically bad, which leads to hilarity and serendipitous encounters – NOT.
  7. My bladder is the size of a kidney bean.  Example: I demanded that a Thai bus driver stop in the middle of nowhere so I could take care of business during a precarious ride towards the Cambodian border.
  8. If you hanker for an erotic massage after a long day of traveling, forget it.  My ex use to call my fingers bone spurs.
  9. I tend to wander aimlessly in markets.  Welcome to two new emotions – annoyed and frustrated.
  10. Self-catering?  What’s that?
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