Tag Archives | fights

A Grecco Aussie Adventure?

In our never ending quest to introduce you to traveling couples that make the whole: relationship + work+ travel thing work, we want to introduce you to Bell and Alex of Wanderlust marriage.com.  Have you ever just wanted to pick the brain of a traveling couple, find out how they make it work?  Hear some great couple travel fights?  Now is your chance!

Here is how to follow them:

Blog: WanderlustMarriage.com

Twitter:  @WndlustMarriage

Facebook: Wanderlust Marriage

couple by ocean

Alex and Bell of Wanderlust Marriage

1000Fights:  Ok, start off by tell us how you two met?

We met over a decade ago (ouch!) in a dingy hostel in Brugges, we were bunk mates in a mixed dorm. Alex’s favorite line… “we were thrown into the same bed, it was meant to be!”

1000Fights:  Wow! Ok….enough info…..

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

We have been to 43 Countries! This travel thing is addictive isn’t it?

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: The Pope. I would love to ride in the Pope Mobile and get a keen insight into the Vatican’s wonderful fashion sense ;)

She Said: My dad, he passed away 20 years ago, but before that he loved to travel, camp, and take us kids with him into the Australian outback.

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

He said: Probably Thailand. Such great food, scenery, shopping and great value. Thailand holds a special place in our hearts because Bell and I met up there again after not seeing each other for 2 and 1/2 years. We got engaged 8 days later on the island of Ko Phangang, a day after the full moon party!

She said: Such a difficult question, probably Vietnam, such a beautiful country and just crazy, crossing the road there is truly a “leap of faith!”

4)  Looks like you guys have spent some time in Greece.  Many couple travelers have Greece on top of their list.  Tell us about your suggestions for couples.

He said: Over the years I’ve spent more time in Greece than Bell because my Dad is originally from there (born in Pyrgos, near Olympia) and through him I also have Greek citizenship, along with American. Greece can be one of the most hospitable countries in the world. It is a great trip for couples!  If you’re courteous when you’re out in restaurants and bars, you’ll surely get a few free coffees and spirits in your travels from staff or fellow patrons :) Particularly for couples: In Athens- find a nice roof top bar with a view of the acropolis lit up at night and enjoy some nice food, wine and traditional Greek music. I’ve seen a lot of Greece and there are loads of romantic spots on the islands and main land. Santorini is really quiet during the off-season but it’s so beautiful that couples can rent a car and feel they practically have the island to themselves, which is really special if you don’t care about swimming and lounging in the unique black sand beaches.

She said: It is really romantic to visit Syros in the off-season and rent a little apartment. We only had a few nights there, but I could have spent a week there relaxing and enjoying great food, wine and hanging with just Alex. Syros is a great island because along with being gorgeous, it’s the capital of the Cyclades, so a lot of Greeks continue living there year round and there is FAR more happening in the off-season than Mykonos.

couple under tree

Alex and Bell the creative couple behind Wandlust Marriage.com

5)  You guys have some great posts about how to live and travel abroad.  What are the keys to surviving as a couple abroad?

He said: We’ve been living in Europe 5 and 1/2 years now and I kinda feel like the 5 year point is where the term “expat” really sunk in for me. I currently find myself in a strange place ideologically…Couples should make sure to keep the adventure alive. Try and have a nice short trip booked semi regularly because when westerners move countries it’s often for adventure. If that dies the whole ship can sink.

She said: It’s a miracle we’ve not killed each other on a couple of occasions! It’s tough, we love our families and friends, so we both get some sort of “homesick” and can feel a little isolated at times and take that out on each other… The key, not sure, but trying to find some good friends in your new home helps a lot, and have a balance of people who are locals and expats. Expats are easy to get in with, but they are more likely to move and perhaps be unhappy about the country you’re in… try not to get caught up with that group, it’s too easy to blame small annoyances on *insert country* when the reality is there are similar problems everywhere.

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

He said: At the risk of sounding like a ditzy beauty pageant contestant world hunger. There’s too much discrepancy of wealth in this world. The first world lives off the backs of the 3rd world. Programs like the World Bank and IMF are meant to help bring people out of poverty but first and foremost they cater to Western interests, so often programs to 3rd world countries that provide loans have stipulations for poorer governments to actually cut programs for their people in order to re-pay the loans. It’s a tricky problem but it’s one that wealthy countries can do a better job at if they want.

She said: Education for everyone, if people are educated it helps to empower them, and while it isn’t a quick fix solution to world problems, I believe we have to stop thinking about issues with a short-term, quick fix mentality.

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

She said: We look sweet, but we can argue! Especially if Alex is tired and I am hungry, this is a recipe for disaster! We actually had to discuss which fight to talk about, but I decided upon a recent one on our last trip to Australia, my home country. We’d flown direct from a few days in Dubai with friends. Between the 2 of us I think we’d clocked about 3 hours sleep. Alex was drunk and I was tired, hungry and my usual emotional self when going back to Aus. It started when I woke Alex for breakfast (he’d asked me to). He was still drunk and now really tired and it started small, but by the time we arrived at immigration we were being horrid to each other, names were involved and this is all while standing in line for immigration. I’d actually filled in Alex’s slip because he wasn’t really able to and had accidentally left “job” blank, so when we arrived at the immigration desk after a scene in the line, the lady processing us was less than kind… we totally deserved it though and at least we did not get pulled aside! Advice -> take sleeping pills on long haul flights!!

1000Fights:  Great Story!

He said: The Aussie one was good! Another one was early in our marriage when Bell first moved to the US 8 years ago. We went to Las Vegas and we realized we could score truly free drinks by sitting at the hotel casino bars and putting a $10 note in the video machines on the bar. We would slowly play 25 cent hands and since we had 10 bucks in, we would get free drinks easily because the bartender is right there! But Bell hates gambling and when she went down only $5 after an hour she was complaining about it. I didn’t get it because that was paying for the drinks so she wasn’t even down. And it was only $5 anyways! We kept drinking and the annoyance built up on both ends. We eventually got into a huge shouting match on Las Vegas Bouvelard at 3am. Luckily there weren’t many people around because it was not very nice!

1000Fights:  Something tells me it wasn’t the first couple fight on the boulevard at 3am in Vegas?

We want to thank Alex and Bell for sharing a little about their traveling style and a couple of great fights!  Give their blog a look!

Are you a traveling couple?  Wanna be featured?  Share your best travel fights?  Send us an note.

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5

A Couple’s Survival Guide To Long-Term Travel

Guest Post by Sofia von Porat: Sofia writes forAsWeTravel, a travel blog sharing travel tips, videos, guides and inspiration from around the world – you can follow her at www.aswetravel.com.

Before you consider getting married, starting a business or moving in together – there is a way to find out how all that will work out: go traveling!

Traveling together on a round the world trip is the most effective way to figure out if you’re suited for each other – when you take your first long-term trip together, you will either break up, or grow stronger as a couple.  Nothing puts as much pressure on a relationship than the uncertainty and stress of traveling, which tends to bring out the worst in people.  But there are ways and secrets to make traveling with each other easier.

After years of full-time travel and running a business together, these are the 5 things that have helped us the most…

traveling coupleIf I Like You Today, I Want To See You Tomorrow

We believe that one of the things that have made staying together so much easier is a simple mindset about our relationship.  Every rule you have is like planting a landmine on the road in front of you, and laying out too many of them increases the risk of stepping on one and blowing up the whole thing.  The fewer rules you have – the fewer rules you will break.

When we first met, Nathan explained his thoughts on relationships in a simple sentence, one that we have lived by ever since: I like you today, and I want to see you tomorrow.   If a day comes when we no longer feel that way about each other, we know it’s time to go our separate ways.

Play On Each Others Strengths

We try to stick to what each of us does best, and play on each other’s strengths.

I usually do the travel planning, while Nathan keeps track of our budget – same goes for work, one of us usually does the writing, the other does the coding and so forth.

K.I.S.S.

Knowing and being strict about your core values is important, but make sure you get rid of the “fluff” and keep it simple.  One thing  many solo travelers say they enjoy is that they can choose what they want to do and where they want to go without having to discuss it with someone else first.  We’ve found that when we keep it simple and don’t get attached to everything those kind of discussions become less and less frequent.

One thing we try to always live by in every aspect of life – especially in relationships, is K.I.S.S – keep it simple stupid. ;)

travel loveDon’t Expect Anything In Return

Doing something that you might not enjoy for the sake of your partner is crucial in a relationship – but only if you don’t expect anything in return.  Compromising by saying “I’ll do this for you if you do that for me” might work in the short run but will build up resentment and create unnecessary fights.

Knowing that you make the other person happy is enough, besides, you’ll often find that you get more in return when you don’t expect anything back.

Ask Yourself “What Else Could This Mean?”

Anyone can be the most amazing person in the world when they’re relaxed and happy, but when we’re stressed, hungry and tired, the worst in us gets brought into the spotlight.  We do and say terrible things that we don’t really mean. Something which has helped us solve fights faster is to ask ourselves “what else could this mean?”.  When people get angry they tend to let the anger out on those they love the most, or sometimes whoever is closest to them at that moment.  For example, if a waiter is rude to you, it’s usually not about you at all but about something completely different – the same goes for your partner.

Try not to take anything personally, from each other or anyone else.

When All Else Fails…

… a handhold and a kiss will be worth more than a thousand words.

Sometimes, when the world is upside down and chaos surrounds you, it’s nice to let each other know that no matter what happens, you will be there to hold each other’s hands.

The best thing about traveling as a couple is that all your experiences are magnified when you get to share them with the person you love the most, and that handhold can make all the difference in the world.

1000Fights:  A sincere thanks to Sofia.  We especially like the last suggestion.  Sometimes a little tenderness goes a long way.  Please give their blog a look:  www.aswetravel.com .  Not sure we could survive traveling together long term…

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10

2012 The Year of the Dragon

According to Chinese tradition: “The dragon is a legendary creature in Chinese folklore. The image of dragon is blurred, strong, mystic, noble and untouchable. It is the symbol of power. Chinese emperors wore imperial robes adorned with dragon symbols.”

2012 truly was a “Dragon” of a year for us on  many levels.  It brought us Luci’s first trip to Asia.  It was Mike’s first attack by leeches.  So here it is, our Dragon year in a nutshell:

Key Stats: 

Biggest month in traffic:  June 2012:  19,604 unique visitors

Biggest day in traffic:  June 5, 2012:   1,921 unique visits (Thank you Google!)

Countries visited:  4  (Thailand, Cambodia, Canada and Spain)

Royal palace

The Royal Palace in Bangkok.

Number of posts written: 64

New Twitter followers: 2127

Number of travel photos taken:  1,653

Movie Stars spotted:  Jon Hamm (AKA Don Draper from Mad Men), Mathew Broderick, Ben Stein (No it wasn’t a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off convention.)

Number of blood sucking leaches removed:  1

Sponsored blog outings:

Prince Edward Island, Canada

San Francisco Weekend

Most rustic accommodation:  Our treehouse in the Thai jungle.

Most elegant accommodation: It’s a tie between the Waldorf Astoria in NYC and Hilton Millennium Bangkok Hotel.

Favorite Meal:  This one is easy.  It was our first taste of Cambodian Amuk Soup in Siam Reap, Cambodia.  It is a mix of ginger, mint, and other spices.  Soooo good.  The entire meal cost us $5 USD.

Most popular Google search terms:  Fontainebleau and Travel Ideas for Couples

Strangest Google search term:  Ways to meet Korean women (good luck finding that on our site whoever you are in Internetland.)

ice cream cone

COWS Ice Cream in Prince Edward Island

Best dessert:  COWS Ice Cream in Prince Edward Island.  We may or may not have went back 7 times during our three day visit.  Thanks to Cailin for turning us onto the delicacy.

Scariest moment:  It takes a lot to unnerve us whist we are traveling.  But while we were in Barcelona, we got boxed in during a protest clash between police and an angry mob with drums and chipmunk signs.  Not really sure what it was all about.  But both sides were fired up.

What books we read in 2012: 

Mike: The Night Trilogy by Elie Wiesel, Stand for Something by Gordon Hinckley, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy by Stieg Larsson, A Journey by Tony Blair,  A Moveable Feast  by Ernest Hemingway, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, Drive by Dan Pink, Built to Last by Jim Collins, Great by Choice by Jim Collins

Luci: Ghost Solders by Hampton Sides, Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia Fox,  1776 by David McCullough, Year of  Wonders: A Novel about the Plaque by Geraldine Brooks,  In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson, Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo

Travel Blogging Conference attended:  1  TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) in Colorado.  This was our second year attending TBEX.  We were not disappointed.  Candidly, we thought that it was even better than the first.  Both TBEX and 1000 Fights were a lot more organized this go around.  We made some great connections.  We also were finally able to meet in person two of our blogging buds:  Overyonderlust and Worldlillie.  We have decided NOT to go to TBEX 13.  We want to try a different blogging convention.  Any ideas?

Most popular Post:  This one surprised us a little.  50 Ways to Say I Love You.

Luci’s fave post of 2012:  My favorite post for the year is “Our Day of Decadence.” It was one of the best days of my life!  My day of chocolate.

Mike’s fave post of 2012:  I would have to say that our post on the Traveling Innkeepers is my favorite.  Dan and Becky were so gracious to us.  We loved our time in Prince Edward Island.

Angkor Wat

We are jumping for joy that 2012 is done. Now onto 2013!

We rarely give a peek into our “non-travel” lives on this blog (way too boring.)…but this year was a whopper for us.  Luci’s work was dominated by several pieces of legislation that she worked on tirelessly for two years to pass, only to be placed on a statewide referendum and repealed.  Major bummer.  Mike’s boss left the company early in the year and was replaced by two new bosses.  Despite the challenges we have faced, travel continues to be an escape for us.  Escape is not the right word, more like an old friend that we only get to see once a year, someone that strengthens and encourages you when you are with them.  Something like that.

Of course we had our fair share of good fights this year as featured in our many posts.

To all of those couple travelers out there, we wish you the very best in 2013.  Stay tuned to 1000 Fights, we have some pretty amazing plans for 2013!

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3

Passports with Purpose

How would you like to get yourself a $100 shopping spree and support a great cause?

lingerie christmas

If you had to make a list of things you could not live without, what would it include?  Wifi? Iphone? Diet Coke? Those are all worthy and necessary.  But how long could you live without clean water?  Not long.  That’s why we the Fighting Couple have teamed up with a community of travel bloggers called Passports with Purpose.  This year the group has elected to support Water.org.

For more than two decades, water.org has been at the forefront of discovering and delivering solutions to the global water crisis.  As a part of these efforts, Passports with Purpose has selected Water.org’s certified local partner: Haiti Outreach to build and rehabilitate wells in Boucan Carre and Mirebalais, serving more than 7,400 people with clean water, sanitary toilets and hygiene education.  Passports with a Purpose’s goal is to build five wells as a part of an 18 month program.  We can do it!

How would you like to win a prize AND help out a cause?: Win a $100 Shopping Spree.

So we thought long and hard on what we would contribute as a prize to our loyal readers that support the effort.  What do couples want most??? What brings them together?…. Yep.  That’s what we thought.  So we are offering up a lovely $100 shopping spree.  Buy yourself or your sweetie something wonderful.

beautiful eyes

A $10 donation will allow you to put your name in the drawing to win one of the awesome prizes our fellow bloggers have pulled together for this year. For every $10 donation, you get to nominate one prize to win (or put it all into one prize should you wish – every $10 gives you another chance).  Please give.

What to Do Next

  1. Visit the Passports With Purpose donation page.
  2. Choose the prizes you’d love to win and enter your donation amount. Remember, for every $10 you donate you get to pick another prize or gain multiple entries for your most coveted prize. It’s up to you!  Cool huh?  Please contact us if you have questions.

Other ways to support the cause

  • Follow Passports with Purpose on Facebook.
  • If you’re a fellow blogger with ad space to spare, host the Passports With Purpose widget on your site. It looks great and will help spread the word to your readers about this awesome fundraiser and all the fabulous prizes they can win with a small donation.
  • Promote the #PWP hashtag on Twitter and use the buttons for your Twitter avatar and in any free 125×125 space you have free on your site.

Passports with Purpose
Disclaimer:  1000 Places to Fight Before You Die is not affiliated with Water.org nor Passports with Purpose (They are super cool.)  Our site is the sole provider of described winning prize, which will be delivered as an online gift certificate.

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0

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Couple Travel

 

Traveling as a couple is rough!  We have been a couple for over 15 years, and traveled to 25 plus countries on 5 continents. One thing that we have learned traveling over this time is that traveling together can be the best and worst.  We thought that we would offer you some handy tips on how to travel together.

Traveling with a man-

“Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.”  -Joseph Conrad

Traveling with a man is truly a test of patience and will power.  We want to arm you with some tactics that will make your next holiday much more enjoyable.  So let’s start with the basics: Hunger.

1 Hunger-One of the intriguing features of male physiology is the constant need for…..food.  In the bible of understanding all men aka: The Godfather note when big decisions need to be made…food is included ie  “Leave the gun bring the cannoli.”  A little known fact is that 61 scenes involve food.  Why?  Men need Man Fuel.  It makes everything go much better.  Those little mini-meals they serve on long haul flights?  Not gonna cut it.  Ladies in order to combat this challenge plan your meals.  Make time for food!  A little planning goes a long way.

2 Directions-Just like the pitiful scene of Napoleon at Waterloo or Lee at Appomattox, asking a man to hand over his sword and ask for directions is just as humiliating.  Admitting defeat, even in the face of insurmountable odds, is next to impossible!  Instead, might we suggest that if possible you approach by using rule number one.  “Hey I am starving…is there anyway we could stop by this store/café and grab a quick bite?” (see rule #1)  At the same time… this will give you a chance to inconspicuously ask for some pointers on where the heck you are.  The invention of GPS has quite possibly single handedly saved our marriage.  It is now a travel must.

Traveling Couple Love

 

Traveling with a Woman

“The great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?”   -Sigmund Freud

It’s all about the journey, not the destination.  Men, for whatever reason have a “let’s get there attitude” when traveling and doing other things. As women, we tend to focus a little more on the path.  Men: build in a little extra time into your schedules.  Be flexible. Here’s an example from our recent trip to Venice which turned into another 1000 fights. We were driving from Triste, Italy to Venice.  We were looking through tourist books and spotted an amazing castle cradling the bay outside of Triste.  It wasn’t in our plan.  Mike had an Excel spreadsheet that kept a strict schedule with everything we were to see that day and the castle wasn’t on the list. He didn’t even know about the castle. Of course Mike was like, “Gotta get on the road, got to see Venice, got to obey the spreadsheet.” After a fight that resulted in zero pictures of Mike and I together at the castle (in fact, Mike wouldn’t even take pictures of me-our friends were the photographers), we went to the castle.  We ended up seeing one of the most incredible sites of our entire trip.  Mike admitted he was wrong three weeks after the trip, and I have a few pictures of a fairy tale castle in Italy. Guys take the hint.  Be flexible.  Slow down a little and enjoy the ride!

A little more talk and a little less action

Couple travelTalk.  Women need to talk.  We need to communicate.  We need to discuss.  Guys: a couple of different options for you.  Some of you are talkers as well, so no problem.  Some of you are good listeners, no problem.  If you are neither or your name is Mike, a few ideas for you.  Let your spouse known that you need some time to talk. You finally have some time together, and for women it’s all about communication. If you don’t know what to talk about, we suggest “The Book of If: Questions for the Games of Life and Love” by Evelyn McFarlane and James Saywell.  On a four hour drive through Croatia, we found out a lot about each other. Like, “If you could fire someone from work, who would it be,” or “If you could relive one romantic date from high school just as it was, which would it be.”  Some answers we had to plead the “fifth.” But overall, it’s a great way to get a conversation going.

Of course one of the most important part of a successful trip as a couple is the place.  Why not try one of the Club Med all inclusive resorts?  Sun, sand, and your sweetie what more do you need?

There they are, a few ideas to help you travel as a couple.  So get out there and explore the world together!

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4

I know what you did this summer!

We asked a few of our couple travel blogging friends: “so what did you do this summer?” We were stunned by what we got back! Everything from warm beaches of the Blue Lagoon Resort in Fiji to a scenic 12 mile “stroll” that ended in a couple fight! Yay! Granted, fall is quickly approaching for us on the top of the ball, its not too early to start your plans for next year. If you cant wait that long, at the bottom of the rock summer is just getting started!

 

Peter and Dalene

www.hecktictravels.com/

When boarding our flight to Brussels, Belgium, we waited in line behind a guy wearing a dog-collar with spikes, metal plates on his shoes and horns coming out of his nose. We started chatting to him about his city, and he immediately warned to be careful when going out at night – that Brussels was becoming increasingly dangerous.

A scary first impression, we thought. And after our first few days, we realized he spoke the truth – sort of. Brussels is definitely dangerous, but only for your waistline.

Apart from the beautiful architecture, Brussels is known for its gastronomy. We feasted on beer, their national dish of frites with mayonnaise, mussels, a wide variety of international cuisine, and of course, their heavenly chocolate. Never mind that when strolling through it’s streets, the aroma of fresh waffles is constantly in the air. It’s a foodie and beer connoisseur’s paradise!

 1000Fights: Ok, we are hungry now!  Those waffles look to die for!

 

Emanuele and Romana

www.thesiracusas.com/

When the summer kicked in in the northern hemisphere we were in Fiji. Technically it was winter time there, but as you can imagine you couldn’t tell, tropical weather is tropical weather, after all. The fijian trip was the final part of our 8 months round-the-world trip, so we were going there to take it easy, enjoy the tropical paradise experience, prepare psychologically for our homecoming and also celebrate our second wedding anniversary.

The quest for our dream island was over when we landed in Nacula, at the Blue Lagoon resort. Because of the amazing white sand, the beautiful crystal-clear waters and the friendly resort staff, we decided to stay at Blue Lagoon more than initially planned. The management also gave us a deluxe seafront villa (with no extra cost!) as a present for our second wedding anniversary. We were also given the opportunity to visit the local village and the school, getting an insight into the locals’ life. I can assure you, the day we left Nacula, and the Blue Lagoon resort, was a sad day!

 1000Fights:  Congrats on your second anniversary.  We wish you many happy years and fights as well!  The closest we have gotten to Fiji is drinking their water from the gas station.  Someday!

 

 

Erica and Shaun

www.OverYonderlust.com

Our favorite place that we visited this summer was Tulum, Mexico. We were blown away by some of the most spectacular beaches we have ever seen. This was also offset by the Tulum ruins which are placed on the sides of cliffs looking over the sea. The city is so incredibly laid back that we felt right at home. We even ended up hanging out there two separate times on our trip!

This location also rocks because we were also able to make day trips to to the neighboring Akumal, Mexico for our fix of the best fried fish tacos with fresh mango salsa we had ever had the pleasure of inserting into our mouths at Lucy’s Kitchen. About 50 feet away you can snorkel with sea turtles munching on sea grass right off of the beach. Bring your own gear and you can swim out to them yourself. Huzzah for free activities!

1000Fights:  Sounds amazing.  Lucy’s kitchen?  I think that is the only way we can get Luci of 1000Fights into a kitchen!

 

Betsy and Warren

www.marriedwithluggage.com

This summer we spent 5 weeks in Edinburgh, Scotland. We fell in love with the place, the people, and the real ale. Scots really do have more fun than everyone else, and we were lucky to make some good friends and have some fun adventures during our time there. We climbed munros, learned how to retell ancient stories to entertain a crowd in the dark upper room of an old pub, ate local specialties like shortbread and haggis and tasted the abundant varieties of whisky. We also had an epic fight during a 12-mile walk along a scenic canal – at the start, of course – and made some pretty good breakthroughs in our relationship during the remaining 11.5 miles. We’ll definitely return to Scotland to explore the Highlands and enjoy some real ale and whisky with good friends, but we will probably skip the haggis (and hopefully another epic fight).

1000Fights: DARN!!  Dont give up the fights!

 

Doesn’t all of these sound like fun!  Thanks you guys for sharing some great ideas for summer fun.   Couples take note, pick one of these or a place of your choice, put aside a little cash over the next few months.  Dont let another summer get by without going to place of your dreams.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.

“You can steer yourself any
direction you choose.”

You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll
decide where to go.

Dr. Suess

 

 

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5

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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Fontainebleau: “The Better Versailles”

Ok, the title of this post is a pretty bold claim.  I can see the anger boiling in Francophile “purists” calling us  names in French and waving their hands at us.  But before you say ‘off with your head,’  let us make our case.  The throngs of people who flock to Versailles primarily seek:

1)       Over the top opulence

2)      A location steeped in history

3)      A chance to do some “royalty” lusting

4)       Connecting with your inner Cinderella

5)      A stroll in amazing gardens

6)      A little bit of saucy intrigue

The grand entrance to Fountianebleau

The grand entrance to Fountianebleau

 

With these qualifications in mind, we guarantee that Fontainebleau  beats Versailles on every count. A Palace Primer: The Palace of Fontainebleau (named after a fresh water spring in the area) is located 55 kms from the center of Paris, is one of the largest French royal châteaux. The palace is the work of many French monarchs, building on an early 16th century structure of Francis I.

The building is arranged around a series of courtyards. The city of Fontainebleau has grown up around the remainder of the Forest of Fontainebleau, a former royal hunting park. (Wikipedia)  Besides being one of the most important royal palaces throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, it is also an absolutely exquisite example of French Renaissance architecture. Down with Versailles!  Let the games begin!

1)     Over the top opulence.

The entry into the Palace sets the tone for the entire Fontainebleau experience.  The Courtyard, called the garden of goodbyes, referencing Napoleon’s farewell message to his loyal military legions before his first exile. The art, sculpture, and design of the palace is breathtaking.  The palace introduced to France,  the Italian Mannerist style in interior decoration and in gardens, and transformed them in the translation. The French Mannerist style of interior decoration of the 16th century is known as the “Fontainebleau style” as it combined sculpture, metalwork, painting, stucco and woodwork, and outdoors introduced the patterned garden parterre. (www.arthistoryspot)

One of the greatest things about Fontainebleau over Versailles is you are really able to drink deeply of the opulence.  With Fontainebleau, you are not shoulder to shoulder with a bazillion other rude and smelly people.  At times you are alone, giving you time to imagine what palace life would have been like. On our visit in May, we saw only 30-50 people inside. Also, most of the pictures we had seen on the Internet did not show the magnitude and size of the palace. It’s huge.     The Trinity Chapel : Exceptional for its frescos painted under Henri IV by Martin Fréminet, one of Michelangelo’s little-known emulators, the chapel holds the memory of Louis XV’s wedding with Marie Leszczinska in 1725 and of Louis Napoleon’s baptism, future Napoleon III in 1810

The Library of Fontainebleau One of Mike’s favorite rooms in the entire palace is the famous library of Fontainebleau.  Massive globes run down the center of the room.  It is easy to envision Nappy and his crew planning world domination.

2)     A location steeped in history

Like Versailles, Fontainebleau  has been the center of both war and peace.  Highlights include:

  • Preliminary negotiations, held before the 1763 Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the Seven Years’ War, were at Fontainebleau.
  • Napoleon gave his famous “farewell” speech on April 20, 1814 on the steps before being exiled to Elba.
  • For the 1924 Summer Olympics, the Palace played host to the riding portion of the modern pentathlon event.
  • The Fontainebleau Schools started with the involvement of the United States in the First World War.  At the instigation of General Pershing — who wished to improve the quality of US military band music — Walter Damrosch, then conductor of the New York Philharmonic, was asked to organize a music school in the area.
  • During WWII Fontainebleau also hosted the general staff of the Allied Forces in Central Europe (Allied Forces Center or AFCENT) and the land forces command (LANDCENT); the air forces command (AIRCENT) was located nearby at Camp Guynemer.
  • In July and August 1946, the town hosted the Franco-Vietnamese Conference, intended to find a solution to the long-contested struggle for Vietnam’s independence from France, but the conference ended in failure.

3)  A chance to do some “royalty” lusting

In all, thirty-four sovereigns, from Louis VI, the Fat, (1081–1137) to Napoleon III (1808–1873), spent time at Fontainebleau.  Take that Versailles! Philip the Fair (who also died there), Henry III and Louis XIII were all born in this grand château.   Every queen and empress of France since Marie de Médici has slept in the gold-and-green Empress’s Bed Chamber; the gilded wood bed was built for Marie-Antoinette. She never slept here. She lost her head.  

Look for the Letters! The castle’s most famous room, the Galerie de François I both glorifies the king’s royal egotism and serves as a testament to his patronage of the arts. Peppered with “F”s, the royal fleur-de-lis, and François’s personal salamander emblem, the gallery boasts vivid mythological frescoes glorifying François’s line and French royalty. Meanwhile, Henri II’s legacy pervades throughout ballroom; note the “H”s for Henri, and the entwined “C’”s for his wife Catherine de Medici—(which could also be “D”s for Diane de Poitiers, his mistress.)  Think of the couple fights back then!  It was here that Richelieu was knighted and the Duc d’Orleans (Louis-Philippe’s son) was wed in 1837.  (Lets go guide) Take that Sun Palace!

Fontainebleau is most known as was a favorite retreat for Napoleon. Bonaparte had two bedrooms, though he rarely slept: the first, a monument to both his narcissism and eroticism, is sandwiched between two mirrors, while the second is more austere, containing a narrow military bed.  Napoleon, in all his humility, outfitted the Throne Room with maroon and gold.  Today it is the only existing throne room in France that is still furnished.

 

5)     A stroll in amazing gardens

Be prepared to have your breath taken away.  The gardens and grounds of the Palace may be a slight step down in their manicured status, but Fontainebleau makes up for it in so many other ways. Just steps away from the palace is a scene out of a romance novel.  In the middle of the lake you can see this royal pavilion.  You could just picture stepping back in time with royalty in their finery taking walks in the fine gardens and having afternoon tea admiring the beautiful gardens.  Luci and sat lakeside for an hour without seeing another soul.  Try doing that the V-Palace!   Highlights beyond the lake include the Queen’s Garden and the lovely English Garden.

6)     A little bit of saucy intrigue

What would a palace be but with a little court intrigue?  The Palace at Fontainebleau is different. Highlights:

  • Part of America started here.  The 1762 Treaty of Fontainebleau, a secret agreement between France and Spain concerning the Louisiana territory in North America, was concluded here.
  • The Pope in Prison.  On 20 June 1812, Pope Pius VII arrived at the château of Fontainebleau, after a secret transfer from Savona, accompanied by his personal physician, Balthazard Claraz. In poor health, the pope was the prisoner of Napoleon, and he remained in his genteel prison at Fontainebleau for nineteen months. From June 1812 until 23 January 1814, the pope never left his apartments.
  • Truth or Dare!  The artist Madonna refers in her song “Secret Garden” from the album Erotica to it being located somewhere in Fontainebleau.

No contest!  Fontainebleau is the victor!

Seriously, regardless if you are a Napoleon groupie like Mike or a principled princess like Luci, Fontainebleau is a must see on your next visit to Paris.  Have questions?  Wanna know any tips about seeing the property?  Wanna know what we did for an hour by the lake?  Contact us and we will tell you most of the answers! How to get there: We took the train from Gare de Lyon in Paris. It was a nice train ride, about an hour. We started to worry. Because the train stop doesn’t say Fountainbleu. We were about to get off and go the other way,when the announcer said “Fountainbleu” we followed some other tourists. You can take a bus that takes you into town and drops you off literally in front of the palace. While the area is touristy, it’s nothing compared to the trap of Versailles (which we also visited two days later.) There is a nice commercial district to eat and shop. We purchased the Paris Pass and got the zone 6 train ticket as well.   Would you like to see more of our pics of Fontainebleau?  Hop on over to our brand new FACEBOOK site and see some of the amazing pictures.

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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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