Tag Archives | travel blog

Putting the Boom! in Boomer Travel

We are excited to introduce you to the next traveling couple in our 7 Questions series.  Meet the traveling “Baby Boomers” Wayne and Pat of Unhook now.  Wayne and Pat truly but the “Boom!” in Boomer travel.  So here’s their story:  after owning a business, teaching at the university level, they rented out their home and are spending two years visiting 100 countries!  They invite you come along and see the world through their eyes!  Candidly, Luci and want to be like them when we grow up.

 

baby boomer travelHow to follow these two:

Blog:  www.UnhookNow.com
Facebook www.Facebook.com/PlanYourEscapeNow
Twitter:  @wdunlap

Lets get to the questions:

1) Over 100 countries visited? Wow! How has travel brought you together as a couple?

Wayne said: “Travel has greatly improved our lives together with a renewed outlook on life. Traveling with only a suitcase has shown us that we do not need stuff to be happy. Now we find much more important the people, friends, and new experiences in our lives. Our travel experience has changed our life. Together we love to have more adventures, romance, learning, having fun, laughing, and waking up excited about the day.”

Pat Said: “Choosing to run away with my husband and best friend has been the most rewarding lifestyle change one can make. Life without routines is inspiring and renews your playful spirit and love of life. It’s brought us closer together.”

1000Fights: You two are incredible! 

 

Riding elephant2) If you had to travel with someone else besides your travel partner, who would it be? (this person can be living, historical or mythical)

Wayne Said: “Marco Polo – He was amazing traveling to an unknown world returning 24 years later. He met Kublai Khan and inspired Christopher Columbus and others. As a travel writer, I am impressed that his book about his journeys became one of the most popular books in medieval Europe and had great impact.”

Pat Said: “Besides my husband, hum… I guess it would be my long time friend, Diane, who is a great artist and sees the beauty everywhere we go. She is so much fun and we laugh.”

 

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

Wayne said: “We do a lot of research before we take off so we have been pretty lucky in having most places have something special. With so many wonderful places in the world with such diversity of customs, food, history, beliefs, and architecture, it is difficult to pick just one favorite. So here are some favorites – Italy with its amazing culture, beautiful cities, history, cuisine, and diverse scenery; the Greek Islands for the people, astounding beauty of the ocean and white architecture, winding stone streets of the old towns, trellis-covered tavernas, and food; New Zealand with the amazing beauty and laid-back people; and Thailand for its warm people of Buddhist faith, amazing food, and architecture.”

Pat said: “I also loved China’s canal city of Suzhou and the very modern city of Shanghai in China blow us away. Uruguay is wonderful for its natural beauty.”

 

Hiking glacier4) If you had to eat one last meal, what/where would you eat?

Wayne said: “With the large diversity of great food around the world, best is hard to pick. Here are favorites that come to mind: food and cheese in France, free-range beef in Buenos Aires, fish head curry and chili crab in Singapore, sukiyaki and okonomiyaki in Japan, and the authentic version of fish and chips wrapped in newspaper in an English pub.”

Pat said: “I would add lobster from U.S.’s New England and lobster pizza in Bequia in the Caribbean Grenadines, real pasta in Italy, Greek food in the Greek Islands, and padang curry in Thailand. This has made me hungry.”

1000Fights:  Ok…we are hungry!

 

5) Looks like you have taken a number of cruises. What appeals to you both about cruises? Is there a line that you prefer?

Pat said: “As soon as I step on a cruise ship I get a sense of immediately being on vacation and leaving worries and routines at home. The experience is a playground for adults and a fantasy. Cruises can take you to many interesting places, you can do as little or as much as you like, and there is no need to move luggage around, wait in airports, or worry about finding accommodations and transportation. We like Holland American Line for its value-price cruises, good destination itineraries, and great service and food.”

Wayne said: “What surprises many people is that cruising can be an economical way to travel. Especially during less popular weeks, many cruises can be a bargain when you consider they are all inclusive including lodging, transportation, great food (and more food), entertainment, shows, movies, lectures, shopping, activities, dancing, swimming, work out and other recreational facilities, and a relaxing enjoyable travel experience.

We include cruises on our travel adventures for many reasons. First, we like to have some downtime to relax and plan our future travel. Also, we will take a cruise that goes to a unique area we are not sure we would be interested in spending a lot of time exploring. On one of our trips through Asia, we included a cruise out of Singapore to see some of Indonesia and Malaysia. Sometimes a cruise to a unique area will entice us to go back. Our passion for the Greek Islands was sparked by a cruise (on our honeymoon).”

 

Thailand girls6) If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?

Wayne said: “We try not to live with regret or dislike. When it comes to world travel, we wish our government and news media would make less use of fear of the world when attempting to control people and sell media. You do need to use common sense and always be aware of your security but we learned that the world and the people you meet can be wonderful, generous, and lovely.”

Pat said: “I keep thinking about world peace. Everywhere we go people are kind, generous, and have the same problems we have. If people travel more, they will see that people around the world have more similarities than differences and hatred and war is not necessary.”

 

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

Pat said: “My intuitive sense of danger comes up once in a while that at first annoyed Wayne. We have never had any safety issues after traveling 100 countries together and he now appreciates the early warning system.”

 1000Fights:  Pat, you can travel with us anytime!  We need your talent!

Wayne said: “Spending all your time together for weeks can at times be overwhelming. I used to get disturbed when we would go to another shopping opportunity. So, we now occasionally split up and go your separate ways for a few hours or a whole day. This is great advice for couples. One might want to be active and explore while the other needs a rest and wants to read a book. One partner may want to go shopping while the other explores another museum or has a drink with friends. You can meet up later at lunch or dinner and will find your conversations lively as you share your adventures with each other.”

1000Fights:  Wayne, you and Mike are cut from the same cloth.

 

Wayne and Pat Dunlap are travel TV hosts (Plan Your Escape™) on the CW network and travel columnist for the Huffington Post. They have been fortunate to live their dreams and are members of the exclusive Travelers’ Century Club. In total, they have visited 100 countries and island groups on 6 continents as well as 44 U.S. states.

Thanks again to Wayne and Pat for sharing.  Please check out their blog at www.unhooknow.com.

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Our secrets for getting around Venice

 

It is always assumed that Venice is the ideal place for a honeymoon. This is a grave error. To live in Venice or even to visit it, means that you fall in love with the city itself. There is nothing left over in your heart for anyone else.  -Peggy Guggenheim

 

Ahhhh…Venice.  The sights, the smells, the romance…the endless hours of walking around trying to figure out where the heck you are!  While getting lost is a Venice pastime that we highly, highly recommend.  At times, you want to get to a certain place by a certain time.  We are here to help.  Let’s begin our Dos with a Don’t:

Car

Enter in one of the “Fighting Couple’s” biggest fights.  Mike Google mapped Venice, and said, “it sure looks like you could take your car over to the first island where all the cruise ships are landed.  While there, we will find a parking place for an hour or so, unload our luggage, catch a “boat” over to the hotel.  WRONG!  Please don’t try this.  There is not a convenient place to unload a car even for a few seconds.  In the off chance to do get unloaded, the trek to a “boat” to get somewhere else is a mighty hike up and down stairs.  Park at the airport and take the water taxi.  Problem solved and fight avoided.  Venice is not car friendly on any level.

venice bridgeWalking

We mention this first as it is really the quickest and most cost effective way to get from point A to point B in Venice.  There are a number of great mobile phone aps that help you navigate afoot.  Find a really good map and enjoy the adventure.  Venice is made up of two central islands with the Grand Canal in a snake shape dividing them.  There is another long string bean looking island underlining the two above called the Guidecca.  There are bridges back and forth from the first two.  You must find another mode of transport over to Guidecca.  Small islands dot the exterior off the main three islands.

Walking around Venice can be a little daunting and more than a little confusing.  One hint is to focus on the bridges to decipher where you are at. If you can find a bridge, you can likely find yourself on a map.

 

Water Bus (Vaporetti)

The water bus or the Vaporetti is second only to walking for both convenience and cost.  During our stay beside walking, we relied on the Water Bus to get around almost exclusively.  Your first voyage with the water bus can be a little confusing so we have some easy steps for you:

1)Figure out where you are. (easier said than done…)  Then find a water bus stop.  They should look like this (below).  Pick up a water bus map.  Find a “line” that goes to your destination.  They are color coded to help.  The station below you can catch the red 2, purple 41, and 42 as well as the blue N.

Venice water bus

2) Buy a water bus ticket.  Most are timed 1day, 3 days, week…ect.  Get your tickets at some of the water bus stops, as well as some newspaper stands, or little stores around the stops.  If you board without a ticket, directly find a uniformed crew member to purchase a fare.  If you are caught without a ticket, you will be forced to pay a hefty fine.  Ouch.

3)Scan your ticket before boarding the bus.  Find something that looks like this (see below).  Hold your ticket next to it.  It will give you a little beep.

water bus ticket

4)Board your boat.  There are seats inside and out, standing or sitting.

5)Enjoy the ride.  You are going to have one of the most iconic views in all the world.  Venice is made to be seen on the water.

 

If your stay is 3 or 7 days you can purchase a Venice Card.  They are available online or at the airport.  This handy tool includes buses as well as waterbuses in the area.  As an added bonus it includes free or reduced admission to a number of museums and cathedrals in Venice.  You can also include the water bus trip to and from the airport.  A great deal for sure.  More info can be found at www.venicecard.com.

 

Water Taxi

Water Taxi VeniceWater Taxi’s are just that.  Very similar set up as “turf taxis”.  Wave one down.  Give them the location you want to go.  They will either have a time meter or quote you a flat rate.  A word of caution: Venice Taxi’s are the most expensive taxi’s in the world.  Know how and what you will be changed before shoving off.  The beauty of Water Taxis is they are fast.  Very fast.  These are the standard wooden motor boats.  It is usually just your party 1-6 people.   Drivers typically know the city very well, speak “tourist” in a few languages and usually offer a covered cabin.  Taxis can be few and far between in the early evening.  A note of caution.  Water Taxi’s do not have access the entire city.  There are canals that the boats cannot enter.  Have a general idea where you are heading and question your pilot if you are taking a roundabout path.

 

Gondola

Venice ManGondolas are also known by their other name: “Gone dollars”.  These floating coffin shaped boats have been around since the 12th century.  Taking an evening ride through the Grand Canal and down past the opera is something that every human must do once in a lifetime.  With that said the gondola as a mode of transportation to get around the city is not a good idea.  They are just too demmed expensive.  They average $100 for thirty mins!  We hear that you can get a better deal before sunset or before 7pm.  Good luck.  We highly recommend finding your gondola at one of the “approved” gondola stands at the northwest corner of St. Mark’s Square.

Check out our post on a Morbid Side Trip in Venice.

Enjoy your stay in Venice.  Try one of each of the above.  (Skip the car one.)  Take in the sights.  Eat a lot of gelato.  Kiss your lover a lot.  Make memories that you will never forget.  Bon voyage!

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7 Questions with World Flavor

Rachel and Jeff are on a mission.  They are on a grand quest to seek out everything delicious and interesting in the world.  The duo runs a travel blog called World-Flavor.com.  The entire site is stuffed with amazing pics of food porn.  They lived and taught in South Korea,  if you are planning to explore Korea, spend some quality time with their blog.  So helpful.  Jeff and Rachel have graciously accepted our challenge to answer our 7 questions.
1) How many countries visited between the two of you?

We’ve been to 18, but after our upcoming trip it will be over 30.

girl climbing2) 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: I would travel with one of my three brothers. I already know I get along great with them. For all I know Einstein and Julius Caesar both snore and whine all the time about how much their feet hurt.

She Said: I want to travel to other countries with my mom. We have done plenty of within-the-US travel together, but she is afraid to fly. My dream has always been to take an exotic horse trek with her, so I guess I would travel with a version of my mom who isn’t afraid to fly.

Petronus tower3)What has been your favorite destination in your wanderings?

He said: I love when I find unique experiences that make me feel like part of the local community. For example, a friend of mine took us to a tiny rural village in Costa Rica. They were baking bread and had spent all day warming up the great big earthen oven in their backyard, the only oven in the town. This giant extended family welcomed us in and shared what they had, put us to work crafting empanadas, and let us hold their adorable newborn pigs.

She said: When I was in New Zealand, I was constantly amazed at how beautiful the country was. I kept thinking to myself “surely, nothing is more beautiful than this,” and there kept being other more amazing views around every bend. Also, I did a lot of high adrenaline activities which made it stick very firmly in my mind.

noodles with chicken4)  If you had to eat one last meal, what/ where would you eat?

He said: I would want a world famous chef like Ferran Adrià to cook me a 30 course meal. And, since we’re going all out, I might as well invite all my friends and family and hold it in space.

She said: Truffle mac and cheese and a plate of delicious Spanish cheeses (for example: Garrotxa, Idiazábal, and Queso de Varé) on the side.

1000Fights:  Ok…now we are really hungry!  YUM!

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

He said: My top two criteria for choosing places are expense and cuisine. We recently went to Malaysia largely because the flights were so cheap.It was also one of the best countries for food I’ve ever been to.I like to have a basic plan in place, but leave some flexibility to enjoy whatever opportunities arise when I’m actually there.

She said: I read a ton of travel blogs, and if some place captures my imagination, I add it to my list. I love lists – I’ve got a ‘where to go’ list and a ‘what to eat’ list. I enjoy planning, but only to a certain extent.

dancing by the sea6) If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?

He said: It’s hard not to answer this with something extremely general like, “I would solve the problem of everything not being perfect for everyone all the time,” but I’ll do my best to narrow it down a little bit. I would solve the problem of people and organizations making shortsighted decisions. Whether it be about health, environment, spending, or something else. Minimizing regrets seems like a good idea.

She said: I guess illiteracy. I know it might not help that much, but it’s better to be able to read than not, in my opinion.

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

She said: I can’t seem to decide…

He said: Generally when we fight it’s because we are both too indecisive about something and we get really annoyed that we’ve just been sitting around trying to get the other person to make a choice for, like, half an hour. I think that neither of us wants to feel liable if we choose to go somewhere and it ends up being terrible.

1000Fights:Rachel we think that is a bit of cop out!

 

What a great traveling couple!  Give their blog a look-see.  A word of warning…dont go there hungry!

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White Water Rafting for Couples

We love to promote the beauty of our home state, Idaho!   Our state has it all: gorgeous mountains, winding cool rivers, and adventure at every turn!  Visitors come from all over the globe to partake of the sacrament of splendor and majesty that Idaho has to offer.   All four seasons offer amazing outdoor activities.  Idaho is truly that special of a place.

One of our favorite activities as a couple here is whitewater rafting.  It is a wonderful way to see wildlife, practice a little teamwork, and have a grand adventure!   We are excited to share with you this rare opportunity from Middle Fork Rapid Transit that could actually save you up almost $2,000 on the trip of a lifetime!

The Middle Fork Rapid Transit offers six day river rafting trips on the most magnificent river in Idaho, the Middle Fork of the Salmon… and right now, they are offering a very rare Buy One Get One FREE sale, where you can get a two person package, for the price that they would normally charge for ONE person. Head on over to their website here to read more about this awesome deal. *Because this is a “space is limited” adventure, this deal will only be available to 5 people, sign up quick if  you are interested!

About: Welcome to Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Did you know that Idaho’s whitewater rafting is some of the best in the world! And Middle Fork Rapid Transit offers whitewater rafting trips on the most magnificent of them all: Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River! If you’ve found our site, you seek something. You seek an adventure, an experience that’s out of the ordinary, a vacation that you’ll enjoy and relive for years. You’re looking in exactly the right place. Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River is one of the premier whitewater rivers in the world. On this hidden treasure, you’ll feel the thrill of running some of the most exciting rapids in some of the most spectacular country in America, and you’ll have the time of your life doing it.

2012 Summer Trip Dates

PRIME TIME (Couples trips earlier to family trips later)

July 22 – 27
July 30 – August 4
August 7 – 12
August 15 – 20

LATE SEASON (Fly fishing enthusiast)

August 23 – 28
August 31 – September 5
September 9 – 14
September 11 – 16

If you are interested in outdoor adventure, then I highly recommend liking the Middle Fork Rapid Transit River Trips Facebook page. This way, you can keep up to date on the latest photos and adventures that take place along the Middle Fork of the Salmon, honestly…one of the most beautiful places on earth!

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7 Questions with Landing Standing

One of our favorite parts of hosting a couple travel blog is getting to know other like-minded couples.   We posed our 7 questions to fellow couple travel bloggers Meg and Tony of LandingStanding.com.  In January of this year, the brave couple left jobs, family, and friends and set off on a grand adventure to explore the world.

So what does exactly does Landing Standing mean?

Landingstanding

Land-ing Stand-ing: The act of leaping without looking, loving without fearing, and dominating anything life throws at you while never losing balance (well almost never).

 Give their blog a looksee!

www.Landingstanding.com

https://twitter.com/landingstanding

http://www.facebook.com/LandingStanding

 

1)  We loved your post “Traveling with Women-Why every man should.”  What have been the greatest lessons traveling with the opposite sex?
He Said: You run into a ton of problems when you travel, big and small. My instinct is to try and fix them or at least offer a solution… definitely NOT something that women are always looking for. After numerous attempts and failures to get this into my head, i’m proud to say that I now, almost always, actually  listen to Meg and just say, “I totally understand,” instead of, “here is what you could do.” Total travel relationship saver.


She Said: The biggest lifesaver for Tony and I has been assigning roles to each other while on the trip that work to each of our strengths.  I am not sure if this stereotypically follows specific gender roles, but he is much better with handling our money, passports, and important documents, while I am in charge of hotel reservations and directions to get us from point A to point B.  I am more detailed oriented and like having a solid plan when traveling to a new place, whereas Tony is cool going with the flow and figuring it all out when we arrive.

 

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?.)  Why?

He Said: Anthony Bourdain. But not as buddies (no way I could  keep up with his partying when he was younger and probably still can’t), but as a special guest on his TV show No Reservations. We watched 2-3 episodes of his show per weekend when preparing for our trip because it was at the intersection of our two giant passions… travel and food. Especially food.

She Said: Harry Potter. Broomsticks, portkeys, apparition, and Floo powder are much cooler means of transportation than coach class on an airplane!


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

He said: We’re in Berlin right now and have been totally stunned by how awesome this city is. Who knew? We are currently in the middle of a project to start our own business and Berlin has an incredibly vibrant entrepreneurial spirit. We have been to a lot of amazing places, but Berlin has skyrocketed to the top of our list of foreign cities we could live in after our travels.

She said: I hate to sound cliché, but Paris was pretty magical.  We used my hotel points to stay in a fancy Hyatt Regency in the center of the city and spent 4 days pampering ourselves and eating our way around the city.  Coming from Peru after just hiking Machu Picchu, this mini-vacation in the city of lights was much needed.  Plus, we celebrated our two-year wedding anniversary while in Paris.. amour!

 

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

couple travelHe said: I’m worried about Meg with this question… her brain might literally explode trying to pick just one location, let alone one meal… For me it is super easy and simple. Some amazing prosciutto and salami, some wedges of great cheese like pecorino, bleu, and camembert, and the freshest bread I could find. Then drive out to a cliff, with Meg, overlooking some great expanse of nature and just chow down.

She said: Ahhh too many choices!  Tony and I have had some AMAZING meals together, but traveling the world has also made me miss the comforts of home.  For my last meal, I would have to stick to my roots and choose my mom’s famous baked mac & cheese and my dad’s succulent Korean BBQ spare ribs… And of course finish the meal off with a giant bowl of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (Phish Food, New York Super Fudge Chunk, Half Baked… Any of those flavors would do!).  As far as where I would want to eat this last meal, it would be in my ultimate dream destination, Bora Bora, looking out over the Pacific Ocean in an overwater bungalow with my man by my side.

 

5) How has traveling brought you together as a couple?

She said: When we were back in the States, I travelled a lot for work and only saw Tony on the weekends.  We are now with each other 24/7, which has been both wonderful…. and eye-opening!  Yes, we sometimes bicker more than we ever used to back home, but we also have gotten to know a great deal more about each other during the past 6 months on the road and have become a stronger couple because of it.  There are some rare occasions where we want to strangle each other and put space between us, but every time I discover something new during our travels, I am so glad I have Tony there to share the experience.

He said: Still being attracted to each other after food poisoning in a Bolivian hostel = true love.

 

6) You guys have written a number of times about staying in hostels.  We have never been that brave.  What advice can you give to couples about staying in hostels?  How do you pick ‘em?  Seems like they cater to the single traveler crowd.  How do you find “couple” time?

He said: In South America you can definitely find cheap private rooms that are sometimes only slightly more expensive than the beds in dorm room. We always look closely at the ratings on the hostel booking websites before booking to make sure they rank high on location and cleanliness.

She said:  We actually haven’t stayed in a hostel for several months now.  We have become spoiled in Europe with apartment rentals, staying with friends, and leveraging my hotel points.  Hostels were a great option in South America – especially Patagonia where hotels were expensive (and often non-existent), but besides being a great place for meeting other backpackers, they can get old fast for a travelling couple.  Unless it was significantly more expensive than staying in a mixed dorm, we opted for private rooms and we always researched reviews on Hostelbookers.com and Hostelworld.com to find the most suitable hostel in our price range.

 

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

Couple TravelShe said:  It wasn’t so much of a fight as me being a complete bee-otch.  We were on the overnight bus from hell from Uyuni, Bolivia to La Paz.  The journey was supposed to be 9 hours long, but due to road floods, the bus had to go off-roading to get to La Paz and it ended up taking 15 miserable hours to get there. With little to no snacks packed, a bus seat that didn’t recline, and a broken window that blew freezing air into my face all night, I was devastated.  Hungry, cold, and tired was the trifecta to my perfect storm and Tony got caught in the eye of it.

He said: Very true. I think I blacked out from the sheer ferocity of it. Nail your windows shut and hide in the basement… Hurricane Meg is a once in a century storm!

 

1000Fights: That was a blast!  As you notice quickly when you discover their blog, in most of their pictures they are in each other’s arms.  You really get the impression that this is a strong couple.  Thank you Meg and Tony for sharing, and we hope we meet you guys out on the road someday.

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Open Love Letter to Istanbul

I Love Istanbul. Let me count the ways.

The People

Istanbul hagia SofiaOur love Fighting couple love letter to Istanbul must begin with the people. But before we start our overture, let’s say we accidentally fell in love. It was Luci’s year to pick our location for the annual big trip. We went back and forth on various spots around the world. Luci wanted a place with history, culture and food. I showed her a video of Turkey. In the next 24 hours, we booked a trip to Turkey. It happened so fast, she says I “Jedi-Mind Tricked Her.” She spent the next six months trying to get to Greece! But it turns out our “accident” in selecting Turkey was a dream come true. We fell in love.

Like most Norte Americanos, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of “Turkey” is the poor foul that gets placed in the center of the table in November. But Turkey is one of the most hospitable countries to visit.

We found Turks to be the epitome of kindness and generosity. On several occasions, Turks went the extra mile to show off their country and culture. As an example, once my subway card won’t work, and a man came up and swiped his. Whether we were buying a rug or a kabob, we were greeted with a smile and a “Welcome, my friend.”

The Shopping

Istanbul TurkeyShopping is one of our favorite pastimes. Shopping in Istanbul is a contact sport! If you can buy it, you can find it in Istanbul. Of course, you cannot visit Istanbul without a trip to the famous Grand Bazaar. It literally takes days to explore it from top to bottom. There is so much to take in, so many little dark alleyways leading to hidden treasures.

A friend recently asked if an hour would be sufficient, we laughed. An hour is sufficient to have lunch before even going in. The main attractions at the Bazaar are rugs. Prices range from a few dollars to hundreds of thousands. Part of the game is agreeing on the price. Turkey also sports some beautiful hand painted pottery and delicately designed ceramics.

 

Istanbul, Turkey

The Spice Market

 

The Spirit

Call to prayerOur exposure to Islam has been very limited. In preparation for our visit, we invested some time to learn more about the world’s second largest religion with 1.5 billion followers or over 22% of the earth population. A few of the keys to understand about Islam: Followers of Islam are called Muslims. Muslims and Islam are not different (common misunderstanding).

Muslims take their teachings from the Qur’an. They believe that the religion was revealed universally through prophets including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the last prophet Muhammad.

With a basic primer in Islam, we took in many of the famous holy places in Istanbul. Many of the historic mosques are now open to the general public to enter and explore. Again, we found the people of Istanbul more than willing to help us interpret what we were seeing. The artwork, carpets, stonework and the parishioners make visiting these places something special. Hearing the call to prayer at diverse times of the day added to the mystic of the city. We found the “quality” of the prayer caller to be dependent on the size of the city. Istanbul hosted the most beautiful prayer callers.

 

islamic call to prayer

Regardless of your religious bent, take the time to understand what you are seeing, what it means to the people and why. Most of all please be respectful of the buildings. Most mosques require conservative clothing, women’s heads to be covered and shoes removed.

The Water

IstanbulOne of the defining features of Istanbul is the water. It is magical. The city itself is dived in half by the Bosporus River. It is not like the wimpy canals of Venice. The mighty Bosporus is a powerful, choppy and colorful symbol of the city. The bridges that link the city and two continents are works of art in both day and night time. Also, check out the Basilica cistern with discarded columns underground that held the city’s drinking water. It’s another monument’s to the city’s dramatic water.

Istanbul….(or is it Constantinople?), we love you. We love your intense waterscape, spirited markets, your warm people, and your heart. We can’t wait to go back!

If you are looking for help booking your holidays to Turkey, look no further!

 

 

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Do Olympic cities really win gold by hosting the “Games”?

“The Olympics are a wonderful metaphor for world cooperation, the kind of international competition that’s wholesome and healthy, an interplay between countries that represents the best in all of us. “
– John Williams

 

During our recent trip to Barcelona, Spain I went on a mission to really see what the aftermath of hosting the Olympics really is.  The answer I found truly shocked me.

First off, you must know, that both Luci and I are huge fans of the games.  I remember fondly of donning my PJs to watch the games on our little black and white tele, watching the games.  Names like Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Mary Lou Retton are linked with my view of the games.  Victors of the games become national heroes overnight it seems.  Needless to say, I am bias when we start to talk about the games.  One must not overlook the international unity that the games create.

But what happens after all of the gold is given out, the spend-happy tourists have been lightened of their coin and the lights are dimmed?  Then what?

Barcelona an Olympic Story

From the start of the games with its dramatic torch lighting display, there was something magical about the Barcelona games:

 

The before and after picture of Barcelona is just as dramatic as one of those cheeky weight loss pictures where a huge hulk of man is turned into a bantam weight string bean.  The Olympics certainly changed the face, the mind, the strength, but certainly not the heart of Catalonia.

Barcelona 20 years after the Olympics

The Olympics have long been a huge endeavor for the cities that win the bid.  The sheer expense of building venues, building infrastructure to get to and from the events not to mention the efforts to attract the patrons that help pay for all of the above.

Here are the quick facts:

Expense:

Installation and prep for facilities ($460 million usd)

Services to Olympic Family ($370 million usd)

Telecommunications and electronics ($240 million usd)

Competitions ($100 million usd)

Commercial Management ($10 million usd)

Ceremonies and cultural acts ($90 million usd)

Image and promotion ($80 million)

Security ($40 million)

 

Key Revenue:

Sponsors:  $580 million

Television Rights: $635 million

 

Bottom line:  It is estimated that the direct investments related to the games of Barcelona from 1986 to 1993 reached over $8 Billion.  Staggering.

Source: http://olympicstudies.uab.es

 

Infrastructure Legacy

The Olympic Stadium

The entire area of Catalonia is dotted with improvements.  The stadiums and venues, primary located in Montjuic, Diagonal, and Vall d’Hebron, are a lasting tribute to the games.  A lion share of these venues are still in full use today.  Transportation improvements were significant.  The improved ring roads of the city, improved mass transit capabilities made the city much more easier to navigate for come lately tourists like myself the and millions that call Barcelona home.  There was an increase in new sewage systems of 17%, new green zones and beaches increased a staggering 78%!  The results of these key infrastructure investments continue to pay mighty dividends today.

One of the infrastructure highlights is what has been dubbed, “the Most Beautiful Dive Pool in The World”:

 

Seeing the Olympic side of Barcelona today

Start your visit at the Joan Antoni Samaranch (The father of the 1992 Games)  Olympic Museum.  Located right next to the amazing Olympic Stadium.  Wander around the many venues located on top of Montjuic.   Footstep of famous Olympians adorn the sidewalk outside the entertaining Museum.

The Olympic Museum in Barcelona

 

One of the many interactive exhibits at the museum

Money, Money, Money?

Over a third of the game’s infrastructure improvements came from private hands.  This is impressive by any standard.  The Spanish state, regional authority and local municipalities footed the remaining 2/3rds of the bill.  The build up to the games and influx of investment caused a boon for those involved.   The population employed in construction grew 72% from 1985 to 1992.  The consumption of cement rose 74%!  The trickle down effect of this massive influx of investment spread across the entire region.  Average family incomes as well as tax receipts increased dramatically.  (http://olympicstudies.uab.es/pdf/od006_eng.pdf)

What might be one of the most telling reflections on the Barcelona Games is the number of cities submitting bids to host their own.  The total cities submitting bids went from 6 to 12.

Back to our original question asked at the begging of the post, do the games really help cities?  In the case of Barcelona you must say yes.

 

 

 

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The Man’s Guide to Traveling with a Woman

 

5 Things Every Man Should Know About Women…While Traveling.

How do you travel with a Woman?  Not long ago we did a post relating little know secrets about how to travel with men.  We have now turned the tables and offer you hommes a few insights on how to travel with the fairer sex.  While every person has their own travel style, and we certainly don’t want to paint every woman into a box, there are a few helpful general tips, that if understood, can help couples find greater harmony on the road.  So here we go:

Keys to traveling with a Woman

Miramare Castle, Triste, Italy

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!

 

Cleanliness is next to Godess-ness

I don’t know how many times I have said…for men…the world is your urinal.  Traveling, as we have in third world countries, the facilities are not always ideal.  No problem.  But there is a clear and bright line between rustic and disgusting.  Third world or first world, some truck stops are dens of disgusting.  Men take this little hint, when the facilities are sub par,  DON’T ARGUE.   Try saying things like…”Let’s find another place” or “There is a hotel just down the road, lets go over there.” My hero!   One option we highly recommend is skipping the hotel and renting a vacation apartment instead.”

 

man-taking-photoPictures are the best souvenir

Its all about the social media and the Christmas card.  Deep down, women are vain.  We really are.  Men could care less how their outfit looks or if their makeup is smudged.  OK maybe most men don’t care about their make up.  For us frau-lines, we truly want our vacation pics to look really good.  Why do we take vacation pics?  To show them off to all our friends on Facebook!   Our photo shoots might take a little long.  Guys, take it from me, you want us to look hot for these pics, it will make all of your old girl friends # jealous!

 

The whole flowers thing

This is likely the hardest concept for men to understand.  Women like cute things.  Cute things can come in the shape of purring cats, daffodils, teacups and cutie-bug kids.  We are going to take pictures of them, we are going to cuddle them, we may put an entire tour on hold to take pictures of a bunny.  I can’t tell you how many pictures we have of the dafodills in front of Jane Austen’s house!  They were incredible!  Guys, this is really going to test your patience.  Take a deep breath.  Count to 10.  Trust me, if you make a big deal about this, you will be removed from our “cute” list.  This will not bode well for you later.  Girls can I have an “amen?!”

 

Dinner in Venice ItalyA little more talk and a little less action

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.

If communicating together isn’t your thing, join friends you meet on the tourist trail for drinks before/after/during dinner. Meeting fellow travelers is one of the most dynamic experiences that can create lifelong friendships and maybe a few Facebook friend requests!

Gentlemen, these are a few little hints for keeping us gals happy whilst on the road.  Every women is different, but take these ideas into consideration and know your travel partner.

Gals, did we miss anything?  If you could tell you guy just one thing that would make life a little easier out there, what would you tell him?

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Get Ready….Get Set….

We get asked:  so what do you guys do to get prepared for your trips?

We are going to give you a behind the scenes view of our trip prep.  We take one big trip a year and put a bunch of effort into it.  On average we spend 8-10 months planning our adventures! Crazy huh?  We have divided our planning regimen up to a few areas:  tickets and tomatoes,  the Fons (background in Catalan), keeping the homefires burning, and our favorite:  depth charges.

Tickets and Tomatoes

This is probably the one step that we do the same as everyone else.  Buying your flights and finding the hotels, hostels, and the perfect mom and pop linguini joint in Tuscany.

Amazon Jungle Trip PeruFlights

We are credit card points addicts.  We admit it.  Typically we don’t have the same “points card” at the same time.  This forces us to fly on different carriers.  We love the reaction we get from people when we tell them that we rarely fly together.  Trust us…it is much better that we don’t fly together.  The fights would fill up 20 blogs!  We are both window seat people.  Luci is a talker…Mike is a reader.  Two very different approaches to long haul flying.   Each year we take turns picking the location of our “big” trip.  Once a location is identified and vetted with the other, we start the arduous process of getting points to fit the destination.  This can be extremely difficult.  At times we have taken short hops via Southwest to get to a departure city that fits within our points budget.  Then we attempt to get the flights to land around the same time.  So far we have been successful.  We have had some harried convos with airline’s customer service.

Hotels

Once the destination is decided we come up with a draft list of things/areas that we want to visit.  From there our first step is to look for Hiltons.  Luci and I are Hilton disciples.  We both travel a ton for work and rack up some nice point totals.  They also treat us really good as we are members of their “Diamond” class.  It’s not unlike us to spend half of our vakay in Hiltons.

Wanna learn more about some great hotel deals?  Just like our Fighting Facebook page and we will give your some great ideas!

Finding hotels

One of the best tools we have found for finding research on hotels is Tripadvisor.  Love the TripAdvisor!  If your are not familiar with the site, basically is a free forum of travelers to post their reviews on hotels.   Basically what you are looking for is a hotel with reviews in the top 10(small city) or top 100 (large city).  Don’t get too caught up if you see one or two bad/terrible reviews.  This is likely the competition being a bad citizen or a person that is really grumpy.  Hone in on the tone of the entire collection of reviews.

Rental Cars

Just a quick word about rental cars.  When traveling into another country, always buy the insurance.  Trust me.  If you are lucky enough to need a car hire in Ibiza, look no further.

Finding Food

We are planning nerds.  We know.  Go ahead say it!  We typically find two or three interesting places we want to try in areas we are staying 3-4 days.  If it is just a day, we don’t bother.  Find something when we are “on the ground.”  By far our best dining experiences has come from advice of the locals.  We do use tripadvisor and urbanspoon.  We typically eat breakfast in the hotels we stay in or grab some bread ect.  We have had some awesome experiences with hotel food.  At a little family run hotel we stayed at in Selchuk, Turkey, we hung out with the owners and had some great conversation watching soccer.   We don’t get too hung up on having an amazing meal at every sitting.

Picture of me in the shower

Actual picture of our shower!

The Fons (background in Catalan)

Warning: this section contains obsessive compulsive confessions.  (if you actually have a “life” skip this section.)

This is the part where we are a little different than most travelers.  We do a ton, and I do mean a ton of background work on the places we are going.  We learn the language.  What works for me is a list of vocab words in the shower, and then listening to how the words are said in the car on CD.  We learn the religion.  We learn the history.  We took a college course on Turkish Culture before our trip there.  We read not just the Fodors, but novels and histories of the places.  I am reading Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” in prep for our upcoming trip to Barcelona.  When we set foot in a country, we really want to have a context for what we are seeing.  We want to drink deep.  Never rely on a tour guide.

Keeping the Home Fires Burning

We have kids.  They don’t travel with us on our annual big trip.  We do involve them in our prep.  They learn the language with us.  They learn about the places we are going to see.  On our return, we share with them our experiences, make presentations to their classes at school, and engage them on global issues.  When we leave, typically for two weeks, we leave them with games that trace our travels day by day.  They have to figure out trivia questions to get points and of course they get points for good behavior for grandma or the nanny.  We generally travel when they are in school, limiting the disruption to their routine.

 

 

Depth Charges

We saved our best preparation technique for last.  I really hate the term “off the beaten path”.  But I have not been able to come up with a better description.  We look for sites that  go below the surface and are truly explosive.  Our recent post about our visit to the Marquis de La Fayette’s grave was a great example.  We spent hours researching the site and the history.  We want to know what happened at given place, how did it impact the world.  If we don’t know more than the average tour guide, we have failed.  The beauty of the internet is the access to information and people.  We engage other bloggers that specialize in an area.  What is so cool about these depth charges is that you walk away from traveling a more “deeper” human being.  You did more than visit the cell where Mandella was jailed, you understand the why.

That’s it in a nutshell.  We really do our homework on the places we visit.  There are many out there that specialize in “slow” travel.  Our focus is on “Smart” or “prepared” travel which can be slow or fast.  Its not for everyone.  So tell us, how do your travel?  What kind of preparation do you put into your trips?  What has worked for you?  Leave us a comment below.

 

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Why Do We Do This?

“Life throws so much at you: bills, pressure, work, stress, kids, “real” life, drama, mother-in-laws, mortgage payments.  The day in and day out battle of life slowly drains the love out of our relationships.”

 

An enlightening question from a friend this week….”So, why do you blog?”  My first automatic response was something like, “To share our travel ideas, to be a part of the travel blogging community, give encouragement to others, to get out and see the world.” Yada, yada, yada. Blah, blah, blah.

But the real reason we travel blog, is YOU.  Boil it all down, we want others to find happiness in their relationships.  Luci and I have our struggles that’s for sure and as our “catchy” blog name reflects…our relationship is far from perfect.  We fight.  A lot.  But it’s ok.

cote adzurWe count ourselves blessed to have visited some incredible places together during our 15 years of marriage.  But when it comes down to it, these places don’t really matter.  (We are totally serious!)  What matters most to us was that we did it together as a couple.   The number of stamps in our passport doesn’t matter.  What matters is what is stamped on our souls.

We set out our blogging journey with a simple mission:  Encourage other couples to leave the kids with the grandparents for a week and go somewhere together.  If you don’t have the $$$ to do it today, set a goal.  Don’t be stupid and put it all on a  credit card.  BAD MISTAKE!  You will make things worse.  Trust us, a vacation that you saved and scrimped for will be sweeter.  Work together.  Save.  Sacrifice.  Then do it.  Most importantly don’t let the time together be wasted.   Savor every second.   Talk to each other.  Renew.

Life throws so much at you: bills, pressure, work, stress, kids, “real” life, drama, mother-in-laws, mortgage payments.  The day in and day out battle of life slowly drains the love out of our relationships.   It happens to us.  It continues to happen.  A loveless relationship loses hope.  You become roommates.  Then bad things happen.

So why do we blog?  What keeps us going?  It is you.  You on the other end of this Internet.  We hope that there is something that we write that inspires you to make a change.  If you could find one thing to work together on.  Just one thing…maybe something as simple as planning a trip together.

Change is hard.  Life is hard.  You need a friend by your side to face it.  We hope you have/find/love that special someone.

Bon voyage!

Mike and Luci

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