Saturday, December 31, 2011

Which little old lady do you want to be? Hemingway edition

What a pitiful year 2011 was for my bucket list! However, my son graduated from high school,  was accepted in to his dream college on almost full scholarship and I graduated with my M. Ed. in Instructional Technology. So things were done and life was lived.

In November, knowing one of my 1/1/12 resolutions would be to spend 3 months getting my body in tip top shape I joined a fitness studio and worked out for 5-7 hours a week the whole month. In December, even though I increased my workouts to 8-10 hours a week I still ended up gaining 5 pounds from the food. But it was less than the past and I feel stronger and fitter.

Yesterday to cross off one (and only one) item off my bucket List I spent time with my friend Debby who works as Activity Director in a nursing home. The hours I spent with the ladies playing bingo and decorating the dining room for the New Year's Eve special dinner were fantastic and I'm thrilled I had a chance to do it.

Watching the ladies, I spent a lot of time trying to think of who I wanted to be. I can tell you it was obvious which ones were fit and healthy and which didn't take very good care of themselves. Which ones had good relationships with families and friends and which ones were bitter and mean. Which ladies had lived their lives happily and which were lamenting chances missed and lives wasted.

So as I drove home I thought about how I wanted to live my life so that when I'm older people look at me and say I want to live her life. Not because it's so perfect but because of the way I handled things that were handed to me. When adversity makes me stronger, not sadder.

It made me think of a Hemingway quote I recently saw:

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.

And then when finding that quote I found this one:

A man can be destroyed but not defeated.

I would call these words to live by!

Friday, December 30, 2011

A dilemma of stubborn proportions

I have a tendency to make rash decisions and stick with them come hell or high water. Years ago I realized I decided I didn't like chocolate cake or cheesecake and somehow this morphed into me not liking any chocolate or cream cheese. This is not necessarily true, but I've scraped far more chocolate and cream cheese off my tongue than vanilla or coconut. Discreet, I am not.

I've done this with pop culture as well. Best TV comedy? Never seen a single episode. It took me a decade to watch Reality TV. I had watched Real World in college and when it started to become a genre in its own right, I backed away sneering. This high brow elite would rather read a bad book than watch good reality TV (if such a thing exists). Until Real Housewives. This series was put here on this Earth to confound me. I don't know what other people do when they watch reality TV but I pass judgement. I watch to see mispronunciations. And who holds their wine glass by the bowl and not the stem. Who laments being so busy while 5 housemaids works behind them. The sheer number of entertaining points may be artificially created by editing but they are oh so fun to watch. Which Andy Cohen knows I'm sure! But other than the RH series I still eschew most reality TV. I'll watch with my family if they happen to like something (my kids adore Storage youngest has a crush on Brandy). But I don't record them or rewatch them over and over and over. {Cough} As I do for RH.

The same could be said about me and movies. Once a movie reaches a certain popularity I swear I will NEVER see it. Like Avatar. And Titanic. To this day I have PROUDLY never seen the movie. Imagine my chagrin when I decided to see all the Best Picture movies and there on the list was Titanic. ARGH. I might also make this a big deal, leaving the room when people are watching it. Did I mention my inability to be discreet?

Before bed conversation:

Andrea: I have a dilemma.

Craig (reading and not paying a lot of attention): What is that?

Andrea: I decided to watch all the Best Picture movies for my Bucket List.

Craig: Yeah? So?

Andrea: Apparently, Titanic won.

Long pause.

Craig: Ooooo. I'll let you make an exception for that one.

Le Sigh.

I wish I could do that. Oh how I wish. But instead I will put it off and when I am old and senile and won't remember it anyway I'll have my great-great-grandchildren set up the newfangled video player that I won't know how to use to watch it. I will put it off for the very last. I can be stubborn that way.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Travel with teenagers: a photoessay

What to expect when you travel with a teen:

1 A LOT of sleeping. In places not meant for sleep.

2. A lot of attitude shown by the slumped posture and folded arms (smile is rare):


3. Getting taken places that are probably not allowed. Or safe.


4. A lot of the being ignored and pretending that you are strangers:

5. But sometimes you get one of these that makes it all worth it!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The next blog link

Apparently, Blogger uses some sort of identification to find the "next blog" that I GUESS it thinks is similar to the one you are looking at. I think this is cool and after every post I go to the blog and see where the Next Blog links will take me. Today they took me to Sweden. EVERY SINGLE blog was in Swedish. I think maybe one was Estonian. IT was about Quilts. WHAT THAT HAS TO DO WITH MY BLOG??? I'll never know! IF you have a blog follow the links. Maybe you will learn something that a computerized compiler will teach you.

I'm meant for Sweden.

Bucket List primer and then some

Last night I got lost in bucket list mania. There are dozens of websites and blogs out there completely dedicated to people's bucket lists. I've had one for years and I'm not even sure if I had one before the eponymous movie came out. What I do know is no self-respecting travel lover is without one. You may have a bucket list and not love to travel but I think it's impossible to love to travel and NOT have a bucket list. That itemization of places you must see before you die. I have spent way too much time perusing other lists and working on my own and do this so often when my mother called last night to ask me a question about my accounting books for my company and asked what I was doing, the answer "working on my bucket list" didn't phase her or raise any other questions.

I take a little bit of time when I read other people's list thanking God for all the opportunities that He has afforded me to do so much. It's amazing how many things don't make my list BECAUSE I HAVE ALREADY DONE THEM! And then there are the ubiquitous listings like learning a new language, seeing the Aurora Borealis and sky diving. The bad thing about looking at other lists as it only makes your list longer! But thanks to Bucket List stalker Annette for all the work in compliling the lists here.

Looking at other bucket lists though taught me something about myself. While I have a 10 day travel limit imposed by my husband which makes some things difficult (like being a missionary for a month) my personal relationship goals have all been achieved. I met and married my soul mate. I have three beautiful, healthy children. So instead of lamenting the fact that I cannot achieve that which souls who are still searching can do, I am praising God that the hardest most difficult achievements have been taken care of for me!

AS I said before 2011 has been sadly lacking in bucket list cross offs. None of which are travel related. I have four more days and two things I want to complete. I'll post Saturday if they get accomplished!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Brazil, Morocco, London to Ibiza, straight to LA, New York, Vegas to Africa

I have mentioned before my penchant for inserting travel HAH's into conversations. It's an internal competition I really need to stop because, frankly, it's obnoxious! Even to me. Today while working out to On the Floor by Jennifer Lopez I counted the places I'd been. And then BANG another entry to the Bucket List is made:
Morocco (to be completed in 11 weeks ACK!)
London (done)
LA (done)
New York(done)
Africa (to be completed in 11 weeks and a cheat really since Morocco is IN Africa!)

So basically all I have left is Brazil and Ibiza. And yes I did rush home to make sure they were on the bucket list already (Christ Redeemer? Check!)

The video cracks me up. It's like one long commercial. I imagine creating travel videos with all these product placements!

Counting down to the cruise

This January we are travelling with the little ones (not taking the teenager) on a Caribbean cruise. This is their Christmas present, and frankly if I had my way travel would ALWAYS be our Christmas presents! It's only a 5 day cruise and we have two ports, Falmouth, Jamaica and Labadee, Haiti. It's hard to describe Labadee to those who have never visited and I was happy to find this youtube from Travel with Kids that helps explain it.

I would love to create videos and such like this about travel for a job. Writing off or getting paid to travel is becoming my life long dream!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad

The year is ending and soon I will need to revisit my bucket list which I believe has been sadly ignored in 2011. I did finish my masters so it's not like it was a complete waste! But otherwise my year has just been about fun and happiness and in my opinion sometimes we need that. Time. Joy. Reflection. Not that it has been travel free. I went to Las Vegas three times. Took Craig on a surprise trip to San Diego and a 9 day cruise to the Caribbean. My mother threatened that I would wake up one day with my feet glued to the floor.

I posted about Hands On volunteering which is a fantastic way to see the world and help others.

The Wall Street Journal suggested for other places for voluntourism and I looked in to a couple of them.

I wish I had known about this before. I love this part of the world but having been there several times I'd rather see other countries. But if anyone mentions the south of France to me I'll remember this one!

I warned Craig that I would take him on this trip someday and he told me he might not even fight me! I think my dad would like this too!

I am most likely however to go on this one. Opportunities abound all over the world. And I think I might be able to talk some friends in to joining me. Maybe THIS is what I want to do for my 40th birthday! I mean the choices are:
Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Morocco, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania and Thailand. Bold being places I want to visit!

However since Craig has limited my travel to 10 days away then I might have to limit myself to one of these countries with their Insight Abroad programs:
Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, Morocco, Peru, and Russia. All program fees are 100% tax deductible. Now it seems the biggest issue will be deciding which one!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Vegas you don't normally see

Kelly, Jake and Amy

This is the reason you don't ask the electrical guy for directions out of the convention center. Picture not taken: Us climbing a wall to get out of the parking garage. But fun was had by all!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Around the world tickets- bookmarked for future reference

Thanks Nancy, for informing me about these tickets. I knew it was something that Delta Skymiles offered. Now i'm thinking this might be something to save up for. 280,000 miles though is an awful lot. But for round the world Business class? I'm thinking!!!!

Forum description that is old but has lots of info

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Airplane safety of the germaniac kind

I can only post so many times about bed bugs before I can be classified as bugaphobic. But thanks to Yahoo I'm all freaked out over germs on an airplane. As it is I travel with clorox wipes for the remote control and phone in my hotel rooms. Now I think all extra bottles will be filled with anti-bacterial spray and gels.

So now I have a handy to do and don't list that will keep me from looking like an Asian tourist during the SARS heydey. If I could figure a way to travel with an breathing mask comfortably and fashionably I'd do it.

1. Avoid pillows and blankets from the airlines Yeah, been doing this for years. My phobias are not new.

2. Avoid seat-back pockets. This I hadn't thought of before. I tend to put crap there and leave it but every once in a while will store something there. NEVER AGAIN.

3. Use the air vest to block your face. Hah. Take that nasty germs. I'm all defensive on your ass!

4. Avoid sick travellers. The trick for me here is how to do it without a major event. Umm excuse me flight attendant I need a seat away from Typhoid Mary plase!

5. Hydrate. Although I only drink bottled water on planes and in foreign countries because bottled water offends the one tree-hugging gene I have in my body but the thought of the water siting whoever knows how long in those plane tanks offends me more. Also why I never drink plane coffee.

Vegas pics- HOOVER DAM(age)


Every time we go to Vegas we always talk about travelling outside the city to view the beauty and magnificence that is the desert surrounding it. At the very least visiting Hoover Dam. In April friends went to ride dune buggies but we didn't want to spend the $500 on that. Instead we dumped it at the craps table and maybe also got a massage. Honestly with the pool and the heat and the around the world drinking Tracie and I did that trip is a wee bit hazy.

ANYWAY. When Craig's uncle DROVE to Vegas this last visit to meet us there it afforded a perfect opportunity to take the very short trip to the dam. It's like 30 minutes away! Plus it kept us away from the tables which were bleeding us DRY! The Hoover Dam is now bypassed by the way with this bridge:


and finding the exit was a little more difficult than would be thought with three college-educated people in the car. It's not like the signs were in a foreign language. The bridge can be walked across but we were in a time crunch so we parked (for $8) and walked to the dam to get a view of the bridge we had just crossed (which is a marvel in and of itself) and then lean over the very short wall that protects you from certain death to take a picture of the full dam.



Tours are very expensive and we didn't have the time and we had already seen the inner workings with my dad but I would highly recommend them to others!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Shopping: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Because I had done my research beforehand I was determined to not leave San Juan without a purse. For a unique gift that no one else hed ever heard of I went to Concalma which is like shopping in a storage room. I have to admit it was strange. Some of the handbags hung from poles throughout the store and some were laid out on a table with no particular pattern. But the bags were exactly what I was looking for: handmade in Puerto Rico by a women's coop.

Then of course I shopped for a Parazul bag for me. Overall, my biggest memory of Puerto Rico is shopping :) Though the fact that the ship arrived at 7am and left at 2pm had a lot to do with that.

Also the fact that my other memory is my son calling to tell me he was in a wreck. Great thing about cell coverage is finding out what is going on at home. And then again. It isn't always good news :(

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

File Cabinet: Paris, Folder: Notre Dame

This blog really is becoming a large filing cabinet of travel information for me. Conde Nast Traveler has a list of things that are hidden about Notre Dame, kept here for posterity.

And because I'm worried that this link won't last forever here is the list copied here:

The Towers
Originally, spires were designed for the towers of Notre Dame. It's a mystery why they were not actually built. Money wasn't an issue, as construction of the cathedral continued after the towers were erected. Perhaps it was thought that the building was high enough; even without the spires it towered high above the houses that crowded close to the front.

The Sorbonne
Huge cloisters used to exist to the left of the front of Notre Dame, where there is now housing, but they were destroyed by fire in the 17th century. It was in these cloisters that the University of Paris began, as a theological school for training clergy. The University was born well before the present cathedral, and also before its predecessor, the Romanesque cathedral of St. Stephen, built around 1100. Nobody is quite sure when the school debuted, but it had to have been during the time of the much earlier Carolingian basilica that stood on the site. It was only in 1253, when Robert de Sorbon, the then-bishop of Paris, had an edifice built to house it, that the school moved indoors and took the name Sorbonne, in honor of the bishop.

St. Anne Portal
The cathedral's right-side doorway is an example of medieval recycling; you can tell because it is not a true Gothic portal. Notice the rounded arch marking what was the top of the door above the head of the Virgin Mary. It was the main portal of the Romanesque cathedral torn down to make way for Notre Dame, but it was reused here by setting it into a Gothic arch. A closer look reveals how stiff and stylized the figures are, compared with those on the other two portals dating from more than 100 years later. Another interesting point is that all the male figures depicted on the tympanum of this portal are wearing pointed hats. Why? Because these men are all Jews, and pointed hats were worn by Jewish men in medieval France.

Theophilus Narrative
There are fascinating representations of the Theophilus narrative, depicted twice on the north side of Notre Dame. It is a Marian miracle tale that is basically a medieval Faust legend. A clerk sells his soul to the devil to obtain a higher office, regrets his decision, prays to the Virgin Mary who then goes into hell to obtain his contract. Once she returns it to him, he lives a virtuous life and goes to heaven upon his death. Since the north of Notre Dame faced a cloister with canons living inside, it makes sense that this was an "anti-ambition" message that the men should stay in their place.

St. Thomas
The 19th-century restorers who worked on medieval churches and cathedrals loved to leave something of their own time and often of themselves. Viollet-le-Duc, who was in charge of the renovations, was no different. Rising up to the base of the spire, which, incidentally, is Viollet-le-Duc's ideal version of a medieval spire, you'll see four groups of three men in bronze, now green from oxidation. These are the 12 apostles. The top apostle on the south side of the peaked roof of the transept has his elbow in the air, with his hand shielding his eyes. This is St. Thomas, the patron saint of architects. But it's also a self-portrait of Viollet-le-Duc himself, looking up at the spire that he has built, no doubt admiring his own efforts.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Paris shopping (via context travel)

Context Travel's blog lists 8 things to buy in Paris. I feel the need to share here and comment (of course).

1. Chocolate. In the 6th there are a couple of my favorite places to buy chocolates: for gifts, for inspiration, for their artistry. Patrick Roger at 108 Boulevard Saint-Germain and Pierre Marcolini at 89 Rue Seine. I’m sure there are more and even better ones. Please add your ideas below.

2. Everyone knows that clothes are just better in Paris. Often more expensive, I’ll submit, but always higher quality, better style, nicer stores and displays. The same holds true for children’s clothing. In the Gap and Old Navy-filled US, the contrast to comparably-priced French chain stores is stark. My favorites are Du Pareil Au Même and Okaidi for jeans, stylish tops, and scarves for kids.

Um yeah only if you are size 8 or less. Which I am not. Nor have I been since 1985. When I was 10 years old.

3. In the same vein as item number 2, I’ll admit that I always buy my daughters’ underpants in Paris. Before you think I am really crazy, let me explain. I have three daughters, so those little bits of cotton and elastic get a lot of wear and the standard ones tend to fray at the waist and legs and split at the seems right around daughter number 2. There is an expensive brand that holds up impeccably through all three that can be found in boutique US shops. The brand is Petite Bateau and in Paris you can pick up 3-packs at your local Monoprix—French version of Target.

4. Garrice at 30 Rue de Rivoli. I never buy, but I love to look.

5. This one’s a little out-dated, but still on my list. Muji is a Japanese brand that is now found in most major cities (though not Philadelphia), but when I moved to Paris from Rome it was really only here and in Japan. Think Ikea, but small, high-end, and Japanese; then add clothes; then make them fit smaller people really well. You see why I like them?

6. Comptoir des Contonniers I do buy, here.

7. Fleur de sel. Yes, I know you can get it on Amazon, but I still pick up a package from the market in Paris.

Also I find Herbs de Provence and get them too.

8. The pharmacy. Any one will do. There are several in each neighborhood and they are chock full of things I need. I always get sunscreen here, usually Avène or LaRoche Posay. I get skin cream from Caudalie, shaving cream from Avène, and whatever homeopathy I can think of.

Had a HORRID experience once finding nail polish remover in a French pharmacy. They scare me.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A month of posts complete

I am proud that I finished the whole month of posts but don't really want the stress of it again! I need to have some plan though or I will go another 10 months without posting! So I want to commit to 2 posts a week at least.

So to start this week I will share a funny from our Vegas trip this past weekend. We went again for NFR with my brother-in-law and his girlfriend. Winter makes travel difficult and NFR means boots so we needed to pack an extra bag. But in reality we needed to check a bag anyway for (get this) Craig's DEODERANT. For whatever reason Craig has decided to use Arrid extra dry (BIL to husband "Um Craig, 1985 called, they want their deoderant back!")

So when I told him we had to check a bag because of his deoderant he told me I needed to stop hating on his Arrid. I love that man!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Close to home: Schokolad

Because I live here sometimes I forget that San Antonio is a tourist destination. The things that annoy me about this city other people like and appreciate. Like the fact that San Antonians have no pioneer spirit. Locals prefer chains, places where they know what to expect when they go out to eat. I shouldn't judge. I love me some chain food like Smith & Wollensky's or Pappsitos. I even love local chains like Taco Cabana and Bill Miller's. But I sat in judgement last weekend comparing Gigi's cupcakes (a clear national chain) to Betty Jane's (a small local bakery) and smugly proclaimed Betty Janes as better. I thought I had the ability to spot chain food from a mile away. A foodie of sorts.

I was wrong.

In the midst of errands my mother and I took my daughter to Schokolad. I made noises about being proud to support small businesses (which it is, don't get me wrong). And then when I looked for their website I found it is in fact a chain. A national chain. International if you count their ISRAELI store.

I've made clear that I'm not a fan of chocolate. Brownies and chocolate cake make me queasy. What I do like is marzipan (often covered in chocolate....dark is my preference) and anything coconut. I think I would eat pig teeth if they were coated in coconut. Typically I buy a 15 piece box with a mix of things the family loves and everyone knows which are mine to avoid. Their chocolates are fantastic and the owner of the San Antonio store is a sweetheart. If you are interested in supporting a small business with great delicacies, this is your place. If you are looking to find a non-chain store you can smugly claim to know (yes, yes I do this often) then this is not your place. I actually know of a place that is but have yet to visit there yet. Maybe that should be my homework. Sigh. If I have to!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Do I really want my wine intake regulated?

A fellow Paris traveller posted this restaurant on my facebook wall. TripAdvisor makes me think it's a love it or hate it type of place.

I'm thinking if I want fondue though I might try this place instead. OMG their website is precious! The English translation is EXACTLY how I picture my French sounding!!

At the restaurant bread wine cheese, all our wines are selected by Vincent Durand, oenologist.
While remaining accessible, the choice is done according to cheeses and of the dishes to the menu,
without forgotten some great vintage of Bourgogne, the area of Fred,
the owner of the places. (Gevrey chambertin, Puligny montrachet…)

If a bottle makes you of too, set out again with!

I have to say that again.

If a bottle makes you of too, set out again with!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Because I am only slightly joking when I say the government loves the internet to keep track of us!

The places I've been and want to go:

I don't know who these parents are but I wanna be their kid

So Frommers has this list of 35 places to take your kid before he or she grows up and yeah. I wanna go to these now. How do I adopt these people as parents who can afford the time and money to take kids to all of these in 18 years... That's two places a year, people!

I was pleased to see Columbia River which ALL of my children have seen. I feel like such an accomplished parent. Or I would if it weren't for the fact that my dad worked on the rivers in Washington. But hey I'll give them credit for getting us to Multnomah Falls and Vista House anyway!!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why did the chicken cross the road?

How could I not take a picture of the rooster that was rounding up his hens while we waited for our ATV on St. Maarten?


I wonder if iguanas eat chicken?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ubi o ubi est meus sububi?

The title is horribly bastardized Latin I was taught decades ago which means Where or Where is my Underwear? Can't imagine where this post is going, can you? Long ago I remember reading that you can pack less by only taking a couple pairs of underwear and then cleaning them in the sink as needed.

This seems very stupid to me. How big is your underwear that packing 3-4 fewer will save that much space??? For me this is one thing I always pack enough of if not extra! I use it to fill in shoes and boots to retain their shape in packing. I have used them to fill in breakables to prevent crushing in travel (yeah there is a crazy story about dirty underwear and French customs I'm going to have to share one day).

My friend mentioned that she tried to do this once not thinking about the fact that hotel rooms aren't often kept warm enough to dry out the underwear quick enough so she had to wear wet underwear one day and then dry them with a hair dryer the next.

Yeah, I'll pack fewer shoes or jeans, but never fewer underwear!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Bonus---Morocco email

A fellow Moroccan traveller forwarded an email from a friend that only gets me more excited about the trip!

You have made an incredible investment. Morocco was one of the absolute coolest places I have ever been. We went to Fez, only for about 4 days but there's a lot you can pack into a short period there.

Cities in Morocco and north Africa in general are incredibly old, so the way they are structured now is usually split into two parts. Every city has within it an Old City (the "medina," which in Arabic just means "city") and a New City. I don't know where you're going, but you'll likely be spending most of your time in the old city. These areas date back hundreds and hundreds of years, and are usually surrounded by an enormous wall with 3 or 4 main entrances, remnants of the ancient fortress city structure. There are also no cars or trucks allowed in the old city, mostly because even the main old city streets are often no wider than 15 feet (be warned if you are claustrophobic; some of the smaller residential streets feel like attic crawl spaces). The Medina in Fez, which used to be the capital, is the largest urban area in the world with no automobiles.

The Medinas are also more conservative, traditional areas. You have to go into the new city areas to find any alcohol, for example. And there are cats everywhere. In Morocco they are like pigeons for some reason.

The new city is pretty straightforward though: wide boulevards, grocery stores, gas stations, but still quite beautiful.

I don't know if you're going with a group or have some sort of tour package, but my advice would be to plan ahead to get some solid tour guides. Morocco has a huge tourist industry, so there are a ton of tour companies, big and small, that have guides certified by the government. When you're walking around the old city, every other Moroccan dude tries to be your guide. Don't let them. They will even follow you along for awhile. MOROCCANS ARE AGGRESSIVE. Don't get intimidated. Be firm. It's just an aggressive, bartering, market kind of culture.

But if you have a certified guide, the random street guys will take the hint and leave you alone for the most part. Without a good guide you will get lost in the old city. At least at first. There are no two ways about it really.

(The way it works, typically, is that the guides will have a set program in mind for you with cool touristy places to visit [like shops, tanneries, pottery kilns, tourist mosques, scenic areas, etc.]. Whether the guides are certified or not, they will probably get a commission from the places they take you, so just bear that in mind. This is a totally legitimate business practice [if the guide is legit], but it can be rather manipulative too.)

I've written way more than you wanted to hear probably. I loved Morocco though, so it's fun to give advice. Let me know if you have any more questions!

Morocco cooking class

Today is Thanksgiving so I figured a food post would be appropriate!

I'm debating on this cooking class in Marrakech. It seems pricey but i'll ask the other travellers what they think.

There seems to be a variety of options though. Dar Zaman's blog suggested these two:

This one is only 45 Euro.

This one is at a hotel that also has a hammam.

Iguanas are the armadillos of St. Maarten

People not from Texas think armadillos are the neatest animals. So strangely fascinating. Those who live in Texas realize they are a garden and lawn destroying road hazard. I hate the buggers. They are nearly impossible to get rid of when you have one rooting in your garden to make a den and they can ruin a yard looking for grubs.

Initially I thought the iguanas on St. Maarten were fascinating but when Craig let a golf ball go because he didn't want to fight THIS:

in the brush for it, I realized they weren't as cute as one would believe. Notice the thing's tail isn't even all showing. It had to be 5 feet long.

Not pictured: Craig's white face and fast walk back to the golf cart!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Angelina Tea Room

A friend posted on her facebook page a picture of hot chocolate at a Parisian cafe. I checked it out and sit here and wonder. HOW HAVE I NOT HEARD OF THIS BEFORE??? Chocolate is ordinarily NOT my thing but I'm willing to try it :) Will have to warn one travel mate though who is allergic to chocolate.

After a quick search I found this page at Bite of the Best which gives a personal account of travelling with children.

Places in France
had more background info and details:

Angelina was once known as Rumpelmayers and this tea salon was first established back in 1903 and was once a favourite of famous people like Audrey Hepburn and Coco Chanel, more recent Angelina was taken over by the Groupe Bertrand in 2005.

And although it is known as a tea salon, it does serve breakfasts, lunches and desserts, so is therefore more like a cafe. Plus their African hot chocolate served on a silver tray with cream separate, is what has made this place so famous over the years, and you will be hard pushed to get a hot chocolate anywhere near as good elsewhere.

The interior decor with its marble topped tables, gilded ironwork and mirrors makes for a really traditional stop to rest those weary legs after you have been trudging around The Louvre which is situated just opposite Angelina's and designed by the famous architect, Edouard-Jean Niermans, it combines elegance, charm and refinement.

This traditional Parisian café doesn't actually have air conditioning, so it can get rather stifling inside on a hot day and if you leave it until late in the morning, you could end up in quite a queue just to get a seat. But there is a lovely pastry counter near the entrance, so you could always purchase something from here and enjoy it within the Tuilleries gardens that are just across the street.

Located in the arcades of the Rue de Rivoli in the 1st Arrondissement of Paris they serve some excellent salads and quiches plus light dinners, but it is the chocolate lovers that flock here. And although it is popular both with Parisians and tourists, very little English is spoken, so it may be an idea to brush up on a few bits of French, like knowing that their signature hot chocolate is called chocolat L'Africain.

But this is still a very unique place to enjoy the famous hot chocolate and the incredible Mont Blanc gateau, with the old recepe still being a closely guarded secret along with the terrific decor.

Cafe & Restaurant Guide Key Points

Open daily from 8am through to 7pm

Angelina is situated near to the Jardin de Tuileries and to the West of The Louvre next to the Hôtel Meurice on the Rue de Rivoli.

Their famous hot chocolate is around 7€, with a bowl of chips approximately 6€ and also renowned for their pastries, an apple tart around 5.50€.

There is no particular dress code and casual attire is fine.

The closest Metro stations are either the Concorde or the Tuileries.

Address & Contact Details:

226 Rue de Rivoli

Telephone: 1 42 60 82 00
Fax: 1 42 86 98 97

Monday, November 21, 2011

Multi-city travel or the Hop Skip and Jump method of Travel

In the past I had always flown in and out of the same city. This made my multicountry travel much like a giant merry go round, only madly dashing to ensure that I ended in the right place at the right time to fly home.

There was no way I could do this when I wanted to travel with Stuart last year to Berlin and Prague. So I looked at the cost of flying in to one city and out the other and I was SHOCKED to discover it was cheaper to do that than it was to fly round trip to Prague. This is partly because Prague is so freaking expensive to fly to anyway.

So when I planned my Morocco trip and found that I would have a SEVENTEEN hour layover in Paris I figured this was stupid so I planned a stay there. So basically I use the AIRLINE to create my giant merry go round of travel. And by the grace of God this trip cost exactly the amount of points I had left to travel!!

Anyhoo, don't be afraid to mix it up when you travel. Don't be afraid to see more than one city much less fly in and out of more than one city. Most people only have one vacation a year (or less) don't shortchange your trip!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Terezin bus stop, the art of finding the needle in a haystack.

I always make fun of my friend Debby who takes so many pictures you can flip them like an action book. I take far fewer but my son still made fun of me with all the pictures I took on our trip last year. Stupid stuff. Like us sitting for a bus that kept passing us by.

We weren't completely stupid we did try to ask several people where the bus stop was and they would wave their hands and give us general directions. We walked all the way into the tiny town once. And I mean tiny. We learned a valuable lesson. Czech people outside Prague do not speak or understand English. Or Spanish. We tried both. So we walked back praying someone else would be going home. The day was getting late and the prospect of trying to find a hotel in Terezin was not appealing.

I tried to lighten the mood by taking a picture of us waiting for the bus that passed us by and wasn't stopping because we were obviously not waiting for him in the correct spot! Eventually we got up to walk back to the giant parking lot where they sold drinks and food and I noticed a small sign. As I got closer I realized this small unmarked sign was the bus stop back to Prague. And then immediately a group of Spanish women cross the street and asked us in heavily accented Czech if this was the spot.

My son explained in Spanish that we believed so and not long after a bus appeared and stopped. Now looking back I'm so happy I ended up with a picture of that crazy experience which to me makes travel all the more fun!

I love the older woman looking at us probably wondering why the heck we are sitting on this wall in front of nothing on the side of the street!:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On Location: Morocco

Apparently I really need to watch Inception. My son has been trying to get me to watch this for years and it's got several future travel places in it!

The Bourne Ultimatum
Green Zone
Mamma Mia! I can't remember where this was in the movie. I've seen it several times!
Sex and the City 2 (though really not wanting to see this one!)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Packing Cubes

On the March cruise to the Caribbean I noticed that Craig's cousin's children had all their clothes separated into days by Ziploc bags. I have done this before on a camping trip when I thought it would rain and obviously this would be difficult for people who are adult sized. I could maybe get one pair of jeans in one of those bags!

However, there are adult versions of this idea. They are called Packing Cubes and I love love love them! I have like 5 so far and plan to get more for my coming trips.

Here's a link to show what they look like. Cool Colors too!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Eurail: Don't leave home without it

Years ago when I travelled to Europe with Carrie the first time we got Eurail passes that allowed us to travel a set number of days during the time we were there. They were by far one of the best purchases we made. When I answered my former student's question I realized that what happened 20 years ago may not still be correct so I checked it out.


Create your own Eurail Pass: choose five bordering countries in Europe to explore. A customized pass that makes your dream trip a reality.

You can travel the five (bordering) countries in any order you like, and travel back and forth between them, too.
Adults travel 1st class. Youth under 26 can order the discounted 2nd class Youth Pass.Groups or families can use the Saver Passes.
Children age 4-11 get a 50% discount, and groups that travel together see great savings, too!

The tricky thing is that you have to by this BEFORE you leave the US.

For travelers who are younger than 26 (counted on their 1st day of travel).
The Youth Pass gives approx. 35% discount on the Adult 1st class fare.
Valid in 2nd class only. Youth who prefer 1st class can buy an Adult Pass.
Only non-European residents can use a Eurail Pass.
You need to activate your Eurail Pass within 6 months of the issuing date.

There is also a Global Pass which covers all 22 countries!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hostel Q&A

A former student sent me a question via facebook and I figured I'd save it here :) This is me talking my way out of ignorance!!

I have a friend who plans to go to Europe for a month after she finishes grad school so I've got tentative plans to tag along. This would be May of 2013. She wants to just backpack her way around and stay in hostels. I wonder what your opinion about that is. Horror movies aside I'm not gonna disappear if I enter one of these things am I? Haha. At this point in my life I'm kind of use to staying in pretty nice places, but I'm not apposed to packing light and staying places cheap. In this case the trip is more important than the accommodations, but I tend to be overly pessimistic

I personally have never stayed in a hostel for a couple reasons. I get all my money before I leave so I don't have to pay for transaction and change fees. This means I either can place my money in a safe at a hotel or carry it with me everywhere I go. Hostels are notorious for being open and allowing others into your room. I am particular about cleanliness and hygiene and I'm freaky about bed bugs. This might be prejudices on my side but I'm concerned about that in hostels more than hotels where the almighty dollar (weak as it is) can be used as a threat to get a better/cleaner room.

If you do decide to go this route, do your research. Look at reviews. You have enough time. DO NOT just drop in. Know where you are going and make sure it is the place you think it is. If you are travelling to different countries I would suggest staying on an overnight train. This way you go to sleep in one country and wake up in another and it's often cheaper than a hotel. Plus you don't waste a day on travel!

Are you under 25? Look into Youth hostels and the Youth pass on Eurail. When I went when I was your age we got a 7 day pass for all of Europe. This way you have 7 days of unlimited travel. They are relatively inexpensive and very reliable forms of transportation.

I am so excited for you!! KLM and Air France offer nonstop flights out of Houston to Amsterdam and Paris so you don't waste any travel time in the states. Ask me anything and I'll help if I can!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Halfway mark...

I'm pretty proud that my commitment to post every day in November is moving along. Thanksgiving days will be tough but I figured out how to schedule posts! That isn't cheating is it????

So for a bonus: How to Hammam

On Location: Paris

I think I will watch Bourne Identity again to get a feel for Paris. Other movies with Paris as a location (just a few because there are tons!!!) The Italicized ones I've seen before.

The Truth About Charlie

French Kiss


Le divorce

Inception (which we own and my son has been trying to get me to watch so maybe I'll give in!)

Monte Carlo


Think I will be renting Le divorce and Monte Carlo soon!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Every beating heart becomes a part of....Paris in the Spring

Lonely Planet Article

I need to research how these apps work in foreign countries...would hate to have a $1000 phone bill when I get home!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

So can I get a window seat?

A friend of mine calls me because she is brave and travelling to meet me overseas all by herself! But she has never been on a Transatlantic flight and wanted to know where the best place to sit would be. So I offered her a few tips:

1. Get a window seat! That way you can lean against it to sleep. BUT be sure to take some sort of pillow and a blanket or jacket of sorts. There is a larger space between the plane side and seat than you would think so it can get awkward!

2. Sit where it is only two seats. You will want to get up at least twice to walk around and get blood moving in your legs. This way you aren't crawling over several people to get to the restroom etc.

3. Sit in the middle or front. These are the places served food first. The faster you get your food, the faster you can fall asleep!!! Try to get as much sleep as possible.

4. If you don't mind a hum sit over the engine. I like this as it puts me to sleep but another friend thinks it keeps her awake. So pay attention to the plane layout to make sure you are sitting where you want!

5. ALWAYS no matter what GET A SEAT ASSIGNMENT. I am shocked at the people that show up to the airport with a ticket but no seat assignment. They are the first ones bumped! Get a seat and have a better sense of security that you will make on these often overbooked planes!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Racing travel

For the past two years I travelled to San Francisco to take part in the Nike Women's race. Unfortunately it is such a popular race there is a draft and we didn't get chosen this year. Instead my daughter and I volunteered at the Rock and Roll marathon here in our home town. The sheer number of people who come for this race is astounding. one guy told me this was his 18th race. He was working to make every city in the RNR series. the man was clearly insane so I tried to cut the conversation short!

As I was uploading some pictures to my phone I found some pics from my past races. I thought maybe I should post some here to make sure I kept a record of the times I finished half-marathons. That is 13.1 miles people!

I hear you sister:

Oh the people. Lot's of people:

The reason I walk at all...the tiffany necklace!!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Puerto Rico...tropical breezes or tropic diseases?

Prior to our March cruise, this is what would come to mind when I thought of Puerto Rico. America lyrics from West Side Story!

Puerto Rico

You ugly island . . .
Island of tropic diseases.
Always the hurricanes blowing,
Always the population growing . . .
And the money owing,
And the babies crying,
And the bullets flying.

BUT This is what I found when we actually went there!




This crazy mix of Caribbean and Europe. A friend of mine who was born in Puerto Rico told me the cobblestones in the picture above were counterbalance on the ships brought from Spain who would return home with tons of gold. The streets are older than America!

Needless to say, I plan on returning when I can spend more than 5 hours!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Comment of the day

From a friend in an email:

Oh YES, flip flops are a must have - my feet never touch the floor of a hotel.

YAY! Now I know she won't look at me strangely when I flip the mattresses in our room looking for bedbug feces!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Moroccan salesman or The Art of Guilt

My mother wants me to look for rugs in Morocco. Probably not realizing that this is likely a thousand dollar purchase. Or a emotionally trying experience I might perhaps need therapy for!

So I decided to do some research:

Dave's Travel Corner let me know some possible experiences I might have though the impersonal heavy-handed sales pitch is more likely for me. EBay taught me what to look for in Moroccan rugs. The girls who get around let me realize that more research would be necessary and shipping should be a consideration!

The moral of the story: I think my mother is getting a straw bag instead!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Save your Euros and spend it on FOOD!

Paris is notoriously expensive.And it's not just because the dollar is currently weak against the Euro. When it comes to supply and demand, there is just one Paris and millions who travel there every year. So when I saw Context Travel's Paris manager Lily Heise put together a list of five FREE things to do in Paris I wanted to note it (and share!) Conde Nast Traveler has a blog that Context contributes to and I will be following!

Art Gallery Hop in the Haut Marais
Check out the current art scene at the city's top contemporary galleries, such as Yvon Lambert, Thaddaeus Ropac, Galerie Perrotin, located on and around the northern stretch of rue de Vieille du Temple. The streets liven up most Thursday nights when art openings are held; pick up a glass of wine and rub shoulders with the hip crowd.

Groove to a Jazz Jam Session
Discover the next Miles Davis in the depths of the Caveau des Oubliettes cellar. For the cost of a drink (there's no cover), you can find the latest musical talent daily Tuesday to Sunday starting at 10 p.m.

Taste the Latest Trends in French Wine
Get a free sampling of wine and cheese, and maybe even meet the winemaker in person, at the wine shop La Derniere Goutte, during its "2 1/2 Happy Hours" every Friday evening from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

Witness Art in the Making
Since opening in 2008 in the former Municipal Funeral Service headquarters, Le Centquatre has offered a hip array of exhibits and happenings. Check out the creations of the artists-in-residence, experience performance artist or take in an electro-tango concert. While many evens here are free, some require tickets, so check the website before you head over.

Be, or Meet, a Modern Hemingway
Paris is a dream for literary fans and writers looking for inspiration—you'll find book launches and author appearances almost nightly at the city's anglophone bookshops, including Shakespeare and Company, The Village Voice, The Abbey Bookshop, and also at the American Library in Paris.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Cheapest time to travel

Here are some pointers about when you can travel for the best price. When to actually book the ticket for the cheapest flight can be found here.

1. Try to travel midweek. Tuesday and Wednesday are typically the cheapest travel days.
2. Travel the off-season. BUT it's the off season for a reason. Make sure you aren't vacationing right in the middle of the wet season with 40 inch rainfall total norms.
3. Try to stay a Saturday night. If you have to travel on the weekend, staying the Saturday night often means cheaper flights.
4. AVOID SCHOOL HOLIDAYS. Labor Day is a horrible time to travel because it's the last 3 day weekend of the Summer.
5.Look for trends. Know your location. If you are travelling to Vegas for a non-weekend visit. It is often cheaper to fly TO VEGAS on Sunday than FROM Vegas. Watch for planes they are trying to fill.
6. Book flights during the workday. Lots of people try to avoid missing workdays and using up holiday time so they take later flights out. Taking a mid day flight is often cheaper.

I realize that booking cheap tickets is an art form, but it is extremely rewarding!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Make time don't wait part II

So I mentioned before the awesome trip Kathryn and I had to Monticello in the rain. As it gets cold, I tend to think about my first trip to NYC two years ago. It was cold and snowy and I learned that the iphone needs warm finger to work so I spent lots of time blowing on my fingers to warm them up! I was determined to see the top of the Empire State building though and every time we tried to get a little closer to the top the people who worked there would try to turn us away. I think they just wanted a break in their day though.

This method must have worked had I not been so sincerely adamant about reaching the top of the tower. Apparently in my adamant state, I neglected to notice that my friend, Marci was not terribly thrilled with heights. But after I came out of my own little world and kept saying that Jesus would not let me travel all the way to NYC without seeing the view from the top she stopped protesting. Probably because she was now thinking she was climbing up a super tall building with a crazy person.

And when we first got out it appeared we really were the only people who thought there would be a view. It did however afford this once in a lifetime shot! (See Marci's shoulder the only other person up there in the bottom left!)


Then the clouds parted and we were able to see the whole city. All the way down to Macy's and Rockefeller Center. We could just make out the ice skaters. The pictures were too far away to do the view justice but this one of Macy's is nice.


And I learned yet again. Don't Wait. Make Time. Because when everyone else decides it's time to quit those offer the best pictures and experiences!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Best time to book a flight (as in time of day you buy the ticket)

I'm really surprised at how many people don't know the tricks of the airline industry. The know people are at work surfing the net for vacation plans and jack up prices during work hours. Also people have time to surf over the weeked so prices are high then too. I always find luck on Wednesday or Thursday nights. And I never buy the first flight I find unless it is such an awesome deal I'd kick myself if I didn't. This has happened exactly once for me.

So here are some helpful tips:

1. Check multiple times in the day
2. Try to look on Wednesday or Thursday evenings.
3. Get signed up for deal alerts from your favorite carriers. For me it is Delta and Southwest.
4. If you have time or are a night owl looking at the website shortly after midnight on Wednesday because this is when all the unbooked reservations.
5. First isn't always best. If you are willing to risk it you can find cheaper flights as the date gets closer and the airline is trying to fill the plane. My friend Kathryn is a master at this.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nothing like shaking naked tatas to send you to the gym

I've been praying for God to send me some self-control and motivation to get fit. Oh how He knows me so well! The abnormal medical test results didn't work. The lectures from the doctors (yes plural, my fat ass needs to get healthy) didn't work. But guess what has gotten my butt to fitness classes three days in a row???



For those who are unaware this is a HAMMAM, where as Top 10 Marrakech
puts it: Women go naked. That's right nekkid. It's all same sex but still! My white pasty, cottage cheese ass around all these thin, lithe tanned Moroccan women? Um, Weight lifting and Aerobic class anyone?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I shall celebrate by eating fake German Patty Melts.

Yesterday was my dear friends' last day in San Antonio. Today they fly out to Germany to begin a new chapter in their lives. I am happy yet sad. Already I've been thinking about things I want to try here in SA and realize my testing buddy will be thousands of miles away is just now hitting me! I am especially honored that the last person they had lunch with before they left is ME! I let them pick (which is never a losing battle because they have great ideas!) and they chose Bobby J's Burgers.

The staff is friendly and the food is fantastic. How could I possible pass up this???

Ok even though they aren't moving anywhere near Bavaria, I had to send a tribute to them by eating Saurkraut.

Ich liebe Sauerkraut!

Ich werde sie vermissen Cindy und Mike. Auf Wiedersehen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

By this logic I am also wanted in INDIA

In March my husband's cousin celebrated his 40th anniversary with a cruise. While this sounds fun in general it morphed into a 9 day excursion and ten missed days of work for my husband. (He mentions his lack of time off every month now so I'm pretty clear on the time he had to take off). Part of this is my fault because I unequivocally told birthday boy that I would not go on a cruise to Mexico.

I live in Texas. I live the Mexican culture every day. The idea of visiting Mexico is not appealing to me. I was apparently so emphatic in my refusal to go that my husband finally asked if I was in fact Wanted in Mexico for some crime.

Well, no. But it did make me realize that when people talk about vacations or places they want to visit on very seldom do I shudder and think No Thanks. Mexico is one of these places. India is another. The fact that both these places still have leper colonies is not to be overlooked, but I'm really not sure why I am so adamant about avoiding these places.

I'd take a vacation to Tehran and Kabul over Monterrey and Bombay any day!

Since I talked about a cruise, here is the requisite Cruise room Picture (more will follow in this month of postings!!)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Best laid plans and all that

So this was the year to take a vacation from travel and I have already completed one 9 day cruise, two trips to Vegas and a surprise getaway to San Diego. Additionally in a few weeks I plan to hit Vegas AGAIN for NFR. (Again.) So maybe my vacation vacation didn't work out so well.

However I did get my degree and I do feel a lot less stressed so overall life is good!

Last night I had a costume party bon voyage for some great friends that are moving to Germany. I am so proud of them for making this change and so very very proud that I was one of the first people they told! I'm glad they knew I would support them in this incredibly nerve-wracking time but C put it best when she said "The idea of staying here was more anxiety ridden than the though of moving" paraphrased somewhat because my memory only speaks like I do! And I wondered how many of my choices in life could be made by weighing what it would be like if I DIDN'T do it versus if I DID.

Deep thoughts.

This past year has given me quite a bit of new ideas to share here and I want to get them all out. November is NANOWRIMO which is the month to write a novel. I don't want to commit to this but I DO want to commit to writing every day for the month of November. Something. Anything. To get all these ideas from my head and onto the site for posterity. Plus I have some trips I'm planning now and I want to think through all my ideas.

So see ya Tuesday!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A travel vacation--A vacation FROM travel

Last year I was a travelling maniac. I went to Vegas (twice I think), San Francisco, Denver, New York, the Bahamas, and then to Berlin and Prague. I ended the year travelled out thinking I didn't want to take another vacation for a year. Which would be interesting considering I already had a Caribbean cruise booked for my cousin-in-law's fortieth birthday.

Other than that, I wanted to stay home. Nest. Spend my last year with my oldest son at home. And yet....

Yesterday I found myself looking up plane tickets. To Spain. I have a free round trip ticket to Europe and I'm torturing myself because I cannot and will not book another ticket until after I graduate from school in May. Then I can plan an awesome trip without stress. One I can make sure is paid for and doesn't have to compete for payments against my tuition. Although it might compete against my son's.

Well no tickets except for the trip to Vegas we scheduled. But that was for DH. I'm just along for the ride. And the free Love tickets :)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...