Week 2: Demolition Begins

Recap of Week 1:

  • Purchase and put our first 170 miles on it

Today’s accomplishments:

  • Repaired dry rotted power steering hose
  • Ripped out railing, stripping, fiberglass interior shell, cabinets, and started tearing up soft wood floor

Travel Diary: Copenhagen’s Disappointing Walking Tour

View from the SkyIt all started when we took a train to Copenhagen city center to do one thing: a free walking tour at 3pm.
We found the main square and waited for 20 minutes. It’s an oddly warm day in Denmark, so we’re sitting and sweating. I’m admiring the 2-story Burger King on the corner, and Mark is observing this guy as part of some kind of stag party doing really socially awkward things to embarrass him.

We’re looking for a guide that, per reviews, is wearing a green shirt with a green umbrella. 3pm comes and goes with no mass tour assembling and no green t-shirt tour guide. According to Google Maps, the pickup point for the walking tour was at the entrance of a hotel. We go to the hotel and ask the lovely gent at the desk where the meet point actually is. He tells us to go out of the hotel and turn left, then we would see the meeting point behind the hotel.

We follow his instructions into a narrow pedestrian way that’s filled with the sweet aroma of hookah. Our eyes scan both sides of this walkway, and we don’t see any signage pointing to a walking tour. I’m well past frustrated and teetering on embroiled.

Mark checks the reservation and it says to meet at the steps of town hall. We go to town hall and wait for over 15 minutes. The original tour has long departed. We decide to wait for the next one, at 4. We go get overpriced froyo, sit on town hall steps and wait.

4pm comes and goes. No gathering of tourists. No guy in a green shirt. I go so far as to approach strangers in green shirts and ask them if they’re tour guides. We wander around a narrow street and into a shop with blue and white tourist info sign and ask about the tour. She lets us know that there wasn’t a walking tour today. Color me surprised.

We decide to take the high road and instead of chew this woman’s ear off, to go to Malmö, Sweden instead, since we’re in the business of collecting countries and all.

She shows us the schedule of the coach times to Malmö and transit times. It’s an hour to Sweden and an hour back to Denmark. While we can get to Sweden before day turns to night, the last coach back from Malmö departs 2 hours later, at 6pm. That didn’t work because we had an early am flight from Denmark the next day.

 

Disappointed by the lie that was the free walking tour and the unusable coach to Sweden, we schlepped back to the AC Bella Sky and enjoyed two Scandinavian priced (read: unreasonably expensive) appetizers.

Summary: If you want the walking tour, find the tourist office first and ask if they’re even doing a tour. And if you want to do a day trip to Sweden, leave Copenhagen before 9am. It’s $10 each way.

August 29, 2015

24 Hours In: Things We Learned in Brussels

Bruxelles, a heavily blended capital city, location of the European Central Bank, and port of entry to the rest of Europe. With exactly 24 hours to eat, drink, and experience, these observations sum up our feelings about Brussels:

  1. In August, it’s hot. People said it was unusual, but it was so hot we decided to go out and drink instead of stay in our flat with no AC.
  2. Incredibly weighty French influence which no one in the UK or Ireland prepared us for. Totally caught us off guard to be greeted with a Bonjour/ Bon Soir. We expected a Flemish dialogue, some Germanic influence perhaps, but it was predominantly French.
  3. Drinking age is 16. While American high school students tweet about a drivers license, kids in Brussels are legally ordering their first brew with their parents. This is a limited drinking license as hard liquor is still prohibited for under 18s.
  4. Many embassy guards for the U.S. Frequent a bar called Roosters, which has two lovely bartenders – one named Kelly and the other Anna. They are incredibly funny and knowledgable about the area and their beers are reasonably priced too!
  5. I had a romantic fantasy that living above shops near downtown would be, in the words of Gretchen Weiners, so fetch. Early in the morning I’d wake up and head to the place right beneath my flat, grab a coffee, and begin my beautiful breezy day. The flip side of that dream is that at night, there are a lot of loud drunk people crowding the entrance to your flat, and you have to sneak in between them and open the door. It feels so odd having tons of complete strangers know where you live…
  6. Hardly anyone accepts American credit/ debit cards, even with a chip. We had to convert to euros because our cards kept getting declined. Come into Brussels with some cash, or find an exchange place, but please don’t exchange currency at the bus station,or airport. It’s a total rip off. 
  7. If you want to drink and talk to tons of people from all corners of the world, ask for the Delirium bar. It’s a narrow street with a dozen entrances to bars dedicated to one type of alcohol. There’s a tequila bar. There’s a vodka bar where you order a liter of vodka. All of them sell beer, but if you really want to prove your worth to yourself and all the strangers around you, order a two liter chalice of beer. Take time to wander upstairs, downstairs, around. You’ll find plenty of interesting things to see.
  8. The food district of Brussels is made of narrow streets crowded by outdoor seating and hosts standing in the walkway. As your eyes wander over to the menu, you’re immediately approached by someone and asked if you want to sit. I found this really revolting as they give you no time really to look at the menu, so we kept shaking our heads no and walked out of the restaurant district to a quieter, less pressure cooker type atmosphere.
  9. If you’re staying at an AirBnB here, please ask your host what floor they are on. We stayed on the top floor which I thought was awesome until we arrived and had to climb EIGHT, count them, EIGHT flights of stairs up and down to enter or leave this apartment.
  10. Want to make this known that I asked for tap water at a restaurant, was advised they “don’t do tap.” I told her bring the cheapest water, she brought me €6 mineral water. Sigh. 

If you’re planning a trip to Brussels, know that it’s a small capital city, and two to three leisurely days can cover the main attractions. If you have any questions about where to go, what to see, or what type of food to eat, send us a message! 

Mark and Melody

Giant’s Causeway: Worth the trip?

A popular day trip. A UNESCO world heritage site. Should you drive or take a tour? Most of the day trip tours from Dublin were coaches, about 45 to 60 euros per person, which yielded two hours or less at the causeway. We figured that’s not enough time if we wanted to see everything. Do it once, do it right! 

So we decided to drive. Driving on the left is a. It of a learning curve but becomes pretty intuitive. We were worried when the GPS keeps lost service. Fun fact though, so long as you load your map before you lose service and don’t exit the map, you’ll have it navigating. The roads in Ireland are much wider than Scotland’s roads, thankfully, and the drive to Belfast was an easy journey. 

Please note:

  • Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, which means
  • Speed limit changes from kilometers per hour to miles per hour. 
  • Prices are in pounds, not euros. 

Once north of Belfast (around Ballymena) the roads become much narrower and curvy. If you’re driving it, be kind to yourself and fill up your gas tank before you get to Northern Ireland. 

Be prepared for rain. It’s likely to come in five minute bursts so a raincoat with a hood is ideal. Hiking shoes are necessary as the land is quite wet and can be very slippery. 

We were more impressed by the hiking trails that the stones of the causeway. Yes, they are cool and hexagonal and it’s kind of fun to walk around them like stairs, but we would have been severely disappointed if that is all we had been able to do. To get the most out of the experience, you’ve gotta do a hike. 

We took the red trail, difficult, to the yellow trail challenging. Anyone in decent physical shape can do these hikes. If you can climb a couple flights of stairs, you can do these hikes. The best part of the hike is that it rained, because a beautiful rainbow formed from the cliffs over the ocean. It was absolutely surreal. The best part of being on the cliffs, overlooking the causeway and the ocean, was feeling so infinitely small. There is no greater reminde of how massive and powerful the ocean is when you’re looking down at its crashing waves. You know the water is freezing because you can feel the chill in the misting rain that’s coming down in bursts. It’s incredibly windy, so you know you’re pretty high up. We felt positively invigorated by the end of the hike. 

If you’re going to go, hear this to make the most of your trip:

  • To have more of the causeway to yourself, get there before noon or after 2pm to avoid the coaches full of people.
  • Want incredible scenery? Take the red or yellow trail. 
  • Bring a raincoat. 
  • Attempt to park at Giants causeway even if the parking lot is full. It’s much closer. If you don’t want to wait for a possibility, there is a parking area at the bottom of the hill that where you can park your car and take a shuttle. 
  • Wear shoes that are good in muddy terrain. 
  • Check out the gelato at the gift shop by the building where you pay the £9 entrance and parking fee. Super sweet woman runs the little place and she loves to chat. She also takes USD. 

Questions? Let us know! 

Choosing Your First AirBnB

AirBnB has been truly great to us and we can’t recommend them enough. Every type of lodging is available: tree houses, huts, beach cabanas, modern flats and castles! Search functions allow you to search for a private room, a shared space, or the entire home. The prices vary as much as the style, meaning there is definitely a listing for your taste.

For accuracy in prices and availability, put in the dates you’re looking to stay, even if they’re tentative because you may find a place you like that happens to have a flexible host. It’s no fun to get super attached to a listing only to find out it’s not available. 😦

Before booking, check the cancellation policy. Each listing has one: flexible, moderate or strict. Flexible means you can cancel no later than 24 hours before your intended stay for a full refund, which is best for more spontaneous bookings. Moderate means cancellation must be made five days (in host’s local time) before intended stay for a full refund.  If you’re planning to attend an event or you’re pretty sure you won’t change plans, this is an option. Strict is… Strict. No full refunds are offered for Strict cancellation policies.  Instead, a 50% refund will be given for cancellations made seven days or more before your intended stay.

We’ve found the hosts to be quite delightful and to ensure you get the most out of your stay without any misunderstanding, we always message the host before booking. We also crafted a template to familiarize you with the site and ensure you ask vital questions with a message like this:

Hello, My husband and I are traveling to London from September 23 to September 28- confirming you have these dates available. We are mainly looking forward to visiting Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, and Camden Market. We would like to prepare a couple small meals as well. We will be arriving from Heathrow at 7pm- would you be home at that time? What is the best tube route to your location? 

Thank you kindly. 

Most hosts respond within two hours as they are eager to confirm guests :). Generally, a more outgoing, interactive host will respond with a more detailed message. Ask for recommendations in their area. If you’ve any allergies, it’s good to note that so the host can accommodate. We had an instance where a review noted a pet but the host didn’t, so if pets are something you need to avoid, confirm before the booking. At a different stay, I was totally under the impression the host would be there, but he didn’t live in the area anymore; the house was a rental property. For a first time stay, you may want to ask if there will be other guests in the house.

For short stay travelers looking to maximize time, ask:

  • What do you find is the best way to get around?
  • Is Uber operating here?
  • What times do the trains/ buses run?
  • Additional charge on public transit during peak travel times?

For super savvy and aspiring long term travelers, ask:

  • How far is the nearest market and when does it close?
  • How far is the nearest pharmacy?
  • Do you have ample pots and pans, flatware and cooking tools?
  • Do you have a clothes washer if I bring my own detergent?

For families of four or more, we recommend:

  • Selecting “entire house” instead of one room as a search filter. More privacy, flexibility and importantly security.
  • Booking as soon as possible if you’re attending an event. AirBnB hosts will raise prices too, sometimes three months in advance.
  • Letting the host know the ages of your children, especially younger tots.
  • If you rented a car, ask where the car can be parked. 

Final note: Give a host with no reviews a chance. We did and had a lovely stay!

Have you had an experience at airbnb you’d like us to feature? Let us know! We would love to hear your travel adventures.

Mark and Melody

Our Backpacking Gear – What We Use

This details our first attempt to follow this sage travel advice: “Lay out everything you want to pack. Now put half of it back.”

It’s really difficult to do. I began to think of all the possible scenarios in which I would need my makeup bag, three different kinds of yoga pants because it might be cold, or it might be hot. I wanted to bring ten tank tops because I love to layer, and I wanted to bring athletic shoes, hiking shoes, dress sandals and a pair of casual sandals because I want to make sure I’m accessorized and equipped for any occasion I may encounter.

But I’m carrying all this shit around for five months and that puts things in perspective. If you’re packing and you can’t lift your pack with one hand, IT’S TOO MUCH STUFF. And if you think it isn’t heavy, walk around your neighborhood for thirty minutes and reassess. If I had done that I’d have about a third of the stuff I do now.

We used the Kelty Redwing 50L Backpack ordered using Amazon Prime. We picked these packs for the following features:

    • Carry-on compliant for Ryanair, AerLingus, Norwegian. Win.
    • Front zip so the pack unzips much like a suitcase
    • Functionally sized side and top compartments
    • Highly adjustable shoulder, waist and chest straps – paramount for comfort and avoiding injury!

 

Melody’s Clothing:

Outerwear: one fleece jacket from Poshmark, one waterproof North Face jacket (lost in Istanbul).

Tops: Four long sleeve, three short sleeve, two tanks.

Bottoms: Two Jeans, One Yoga Pant, One skirt, One Pair of Shorts.

Little things: Two bras, one sports bra, one bathing suit, ten underwear, 1.5 pair of socks*.

Shoes: Leather Sandals (Aldo), Merrell Women’s Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoe

These hiking shoes have walked through farm mud, forest mud, slippery rock faces, sludgy trails, and everything in between. They provide enough stability for the ankles for a moderate hike, up to six hours in length.

Mark’s Clothing:

I think he overpacked, but he was prepared. His pack weighed over 20 pounds before we even left.

Outerwear: 1 insulated Calvin Klein jacket

Tops: 5 t-shirts, 3 long-sleeve shirts, 1 button down,

Bottoms: At least four trousers plus work pants, 1 pair of athletic shorts

Little Things: 10 pairs of boxers

Shoes: Running shoes, hiking shoes, casual shoes, and flip flops.

However, when we were ten days between laundry facilities, I was the one re-using clothes, not him. I’m actually surprised he didn’t run away when I was on my second or third wear of t-shirts.

That was my world of traveling light.

Electronics:

  • 1 17″ Dell Laptop
  • 1  iPad Mini
  • 1 iphone 4s
  • 1 iphone 6s
  • 2 Apple charging blocks
  • 2 Apple USB cables
  • 1 Car charger
  • 3 power adapters
  • 1 power converter block
  • 1 13″ Macbook Air*
  • 1  Nikon D5200
  • 1 External Hard Drive
  • 6 SD cards with carrying case
  • 1 Digital Camera Tripod

What Weighed Us Down

Melody:

  • Leather gloves – total waste in damp climates
  • Chi flat iron – adorable that I thought between the farming and touring a city I’d flat iron my hair. Nope.
  • iPhone 4s  –  used to send departing texts from Ft. Lauderdale on July 7th and never again
  • iPhone 4s charger
  • Oversized messenger bag – doubled as daypack and purse
  • Bulky plastic water bottle –  for refilling at water fountains but there’s never one around
  • Makeup bag. I gave up with makeup somewhere in August in Finland.
  • Nikon D5200. No getting around this. It’s heavy.
  • Two textbooks for my online classes

Mark:

  • 17″ Dell laptop – I wound up carrying this
  • Aluminum water bottle – bulky and makes the water taste funny

What We Tossed:

  • Mark traded his Nike free runs & Sketchers dress shoes
  • 4s iPhone Charger
  • Dead iPhone / iPad Charger
  • International Power Converter from Brookstone. All we needed for the phones, iPads and laptops were a handful of adapters.
  • Plastic and Aluminum Water Bottles
  • Melody’s mascara, eyeliner, ‘cheap’ foundation
  • Bra
  • Pairs of socks that got irreparably dirty

What We Bought:

  • Mark swapped two pairs of shoes for these NorthFace  Gore-Tex Hiking Shoes found at a TKMaxx in the UK.
  • Digital Camera Tripod from a Kodak Store ($30)
  • Full-size shampoo & conditioner to refill our many empty travel toiletries
  • Travel journals
  • *Macbook Air
  • International Power Adapters
  • Awesome Feetures Elite Ultra Light Socks. These make any shoe instantly comfortable with a compression band built into the sock that supports the arch of your foot. Translation: With these socks, you really can walk 500 miles.

 

What We Wished We Had:

  • Wool gloves for cold days
  • Box of Earplugs
  • Airplane Sleep Mask – the best one is this Alaska Bear sleep mask
  • More hand and face lotion
  • Emergency snack kits that we made before 5, 6 and 7 hour bus rides.
  • Cheap flip flops to walk around hostel in or to the car.
  • Slip-on sneakers. Many countries in Europe have a custom to leave your shoes at the door, and it gets frustrating untying and retying your shoes every hour or so.

 

Takeaway: You need a lot less than you think you do, especially if you’re traveling  from America. We wore the same week’s worth of clothes for five months and you’ll surprise yourself with the mileage you get out of your stuff. Make all of your clothes the same color-scheme (pinks, reds, and oranges or blues, greens, and browns) and you’ll go quite a long way.

 

 

The Oystercard Doesn’t Get You to London Airports, and other London Travel Tips

More about the benefits of an Oystercard and why you should by one in London here, but it’s a little known fact that it doesn’t cover transport all the way to ANY of London’s major tourist airports: Gatwick, Heathrow or Standsted. Instead, each airport offers its own express train. 

For flying into London Gatwick, please note, it’s about two hours from London City Center, so please calculate an additional $70 USD/ £40 for two people for the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station. From there you can buy an Oystercard and get just about anywhere in London via the tube/ underground. 

For flying into London Heathrow, it’s about an hour from London City Center. The Heathrow Express travels to Paddington station in 15 minutes for about $30 / £21 if you purchase in advance. To buy the Express ticket upon arrival into an airport it’s an additional $8 / £5 per ticket. 

For flying into London Stansted, there are two public transport options to get near city center. For $14/ £9, a 55 minute bus ride will take you from the airport to Liverpool Street. For $27/ £18, a 45 minute Stansted Express train will get you from the airport to Liverpool Street. 

NOTE: once you get to Liverpool street, you can use your Oystercard to get anywhere else on the tube, the overground, or the bus system. 

If you’re traveling with a group or you don’t want to deal with inevitable crowds, a third option is a taxi from Stansted which costs between $120-150 (£80-£100), though I’ve never taken it. You’re better off downloading the Gett app and hailing a taxicab that way. 

This is important so I’m saying it twice: buy your Oystercard in London. Do not get a travel card. Do not buy one-way tickets.  And please look hard at the London Pass before subscribing. The Oystercard lets you travel like a Londoner through nearly all the zones and you can refill/ top up the card as you go. 

Happy travels! 

Your Survival Guide to Driving in Scotland

The scenery in Scotland is world class. Traveled to over a dozen countries and it’s truly some of the most majestic landscapes I have ever seen. Scotland deserves independent exploration, some time to get lost in the incredible greenness of the area. After some frustrating, laughable trial and error, we can give you this must know list to make driving in Scotland much easier. 

There are four types of roadway: M, A, B, and C. The M stands for motorway, and that’s your typical highway (ex, M6, M74). A is secondary road, a busy two or four lane road (ex, A735, A82). B and C are curvy, narrow, back country roads.

The speed limit on these roads are in MILES PER HOUR, not kilometers per hour:

M roads: 70 mph

A and B roads: 60, but sometimes required to slow to 40 or 30 mph

C roads: 30 mph

This was discovered when we were going 60kph (37 mph) on a motorway designed for 60mph. No wonder we were getting passed right and left! Speaking on passing…

Odds are if you’re visiting Scotland, you come from a country that drives on the right. Your highways have the slow lane on the right, entrance and exit ramps on the right, and the fast lane on the left, toward the middle of the highway. In the UK, people drive on the left. This means the slow lane is on the left, the entrance and exit ramps are on the left and the fast lane is to your right. If you need to pass someone, you will be moving left to right. 

Love roundabouts. Scotland uses roundabouts instead of stoplights, so your GPS will be prompting you to take exits off roundabouts with about the same frequency you stop at a light in your hometown. Some of them are quite large, while others are the size of an intersection in a suburb community. Enter roundabouts by turning LEFT. 

Signs approaching a dangerous curve or severe dip in the road will tell you to slow down but not tell you what speed to reduce to. Generally reducing speed by 5-10mph will yield a more comfortable turn. But if you’re in a sports car and you want to power slide or attempt to drift,  just maintain and you’ll get a good thrill.

Drive during the day only. In the summer, the sun doesn’t set until 10pm. Many of the A, B and C roads are without street lighting which can be very dangerous. 

Taking a car around Scotland has proven to be taxing on the body and mind, especially with a manual drive car. Nearly all rental cars in the UK are manual: automatic drive is about twice as much. However, the scenery is more than rewarding and more than worth it. 

Safe travels! 

Travel Plans Update

After much planning, lots of missed sleep, and a good bit of caffeine, we finally have some tentative plans for our trip!

Setting off on the lofty goal of visiting every country in Europe, we realized that our original plan to do it in a little over two months would be…less than ideal. Thankfully, with my new found freedom (and Melody being able to work from just about anywhere) we are not tied to specific dates!

Without further ado, we present our tentative trip:

July 7th Depart FLL to LGW, arriving July 8th

July 8th – 10th : Explore London and Surroundings

July 11th Depart LGW to BGO

July 11th – 15th : Explore Bergen / Fjord Tour / Northern Norway

July 16th – 21st : Home-Sit in Oslo, Norway / Exploration of Oslo

July 22nd Depart OSL to EDI/GLA

July 22nd – 28th : Explore Edinburgh and Glasgow

July 29th – August 4th : Explore Dublin and Surroundings

August 5th Depart DUB to FRA

August 5th – August 13th : Trains from Frankfurt, Germany to Stockholm, Sweden via Luxembourg, Belgium (Brussels & Antwerp), Netherlands (The Hague & Amsterdam), Germany (Bremen & Hamburg), Denmark (Copenhagen), Sweden (Gothenburg & Stockholm).

August 15th Depart ARN – HEL

August 15th – 28th : HelpX in Orimattila, Finland

September 12th – September 22nd : HelpX in Palamartsa, Popovo Bulgaria

September 26th – October 9th : HelpX at Rue Fons De Seix in Seix, France

October 10th – October 25th : HelpX in Argein, France

October 26th – End of year : Still up for decision.

If you have any ideas on places to visit or things to see / do, do let us know. We have much left to do before we depart, so now I’m off to work on pack fit-out.

Until next time!

Don’t be afraid to let the travel bug bite you.

Mark and Melody

Best of: Airport Moments

Mentioned in the previous post, I wanted to share moments I’ve witnessed or been a part of at the airport. This serves two points: 1) Despite a collective lust for electronics, people do still love to talk about themselves and

2) You honestly, truly, never know who you will meet. Could be a day changer. Or a life changer, as the first story shows:

#1: Meeting the owner of a five star resort

We went to Costa Rica for Mark’s birthday this October. International flights stir up all kinds of excitement for me, so I begin talking to the person next to me. It turns out he was traveling to Costa Rica with a group of 40-something other people. Mark and I find this amazing as we have been looking for a pod of people to jet set/ share stories with! We talk more and this gentleman informs us the owner of the resort the group is staying at is sitting a row behind us. Mark begins to converse with the owner and we learn the owner’s birthday is the day before Mark’s. Before the plane lands, the owner takes down our full names and tells us to swing by the resort at any time to check the place out.

We land and go our own way, separate from the group. Saturday evening rolls around and we are in La Fortuna, where the resort is. We drive up to the gate and the guard asks us for our names. (Let the record state that I was sure the owner had long since forgotten about us). Once Mark says that we talked to the owner, the guard nods in confirmation and lets us in.

Taken from the resort's website. This is the main building with the massage rooms, the multiple levels of pools, saunas and springs, the valet, and the restaurants. The rooms are toward the bottom of the hill and well insulated.
Taken from the resort’s website. This is the main building with the massage rooms, the multiple levels of pools, saunas and springs, the valet, and the restaurants. The rooms are toward the bottom of the hill and well insulated.

This resort is unbelievable. It’s the biggest, nicest resort I’ve ever been to. The level of hospitality was Level: Nirvana. I cannot put into words. It was as though every employee was just so dang happy to be there and it wasn’t annoying. Lux oozed out of every corner of this resort. The resort is riverfront and has kayaks and tubes available. There is:

  • Unlimited food and drinks for as long as you can take it
  • A rock wall
  • A wildlife preserve (panthers, toucans, et al)
  • Complimentary shuttle that will take you wherever you want to go
  • Live music

We go to the riverfront to get some food. Staff keep bringing us cocktails and beers. We keep expecting a check but the check never arrives. By the time the sun sets (somewhere between 6 and 7), I have been stupefied by Costa Rican cocktails. (They make this drink called a Pura Vida; pretty sure it’s made with Tang because it’s still sold in Costa Rica but the drink will get you sideways). We book a hotel room and are on our way to the hotel when Mark says…

Let me stop by the receptionist and see if by chance the owner set us up for a room for the night…

HE DID. Not only did we get set up with a room, it was the family suite (2 stories, sleeps 6)  because it was the last room available in the resort. Every other room was taken up by one of the members of the owner’s 40-something strong party.

Bottom line: We ate, drank, and slept in a five star resort at no cost just because we talked to a guy on a 2 hour flight.

#2: Meeting a fellow travel enthusiast in your home city

We have a fair share of travel stories but it’s not every day that we meet someone who is well traveled and captivating. On our redeye flight back from Seattle, we are seated next to a gentleman who has a position in shopping center acquisitions and a heavy travel palette. Mark and I expressed a great interest in traveling to Asia, and the three of us spent nearly half of the flight exchanging travel stories and places on our “must see” lists. Come to find out, this gentleman also works in downtown Miami, a slingshot’s distance from Mark’s office. A foodie, a traveler, and someone local? It couldn’t possibly be. Faith in Miami restored.

#3: Group effort to get a distressed woman on a plane home

Unfortunately, I don’t remember what airport this happened at. I was sitting at the gate, waiting to board, and I noticed a woman audibly crying. At this point, I’m not sure if she’s trying to silently cry to herself or if she wants someone to notice her. After a couple minutes of deliberating, I finally went up to her and asked her what was wrong. She had just gotten terrible news, an unexpected death in her family, and she needed to be home. This was the last flight going to her city, and if she didn’t get on the flight, she would have to wait until the next day. The flight she was supposed to be on was cancelled, so there was a standby list of about 12 people, and she was number six.

Other people heard her situation, and we all went into “let’s fix this” mode. Five people needed to give up their spots in order for her to get on the plane. Three of the people in front of her on standby told the airline employee at the desk to move her up on the list. The employee said he could not do that unless people began to give up their seats. I didn’t have to be anywhere fast, so I volunteered my seat. Two other people did too. However, the first two people on standby were less than sympathetic. Funny enough, the others who were sympathetic became quite upset at the first two who wouldn’t give up their spots. Unfortunately, the woman did not get on the plane, but by the time boarding began, she had stopped crying, and was grateful knowing that “nice people do still exist.” The airline employee felt bad about the situation she was in and had her moved to a different airline (free of charge) that was going out closer to midnight, so at least she would get home that same day.

The airport is a platform of opportunity. You never know who you’re going to sit next to, or who you’re going to impact.

#MarkandMelody

State Signs Tour: Part I

In a year and a half, we’ve logged over 12,000 miles traveling by car.

…WOW. That’s about the distance from Anchorage, Alaska to the Panama Canal and back. To answer the question that’s bugging you, yes we’ve talked about it and yes: driving the entirety of the PanAm is on the agenda.

Here’s PART I of our tour of the 48 contiguous United States via the state welcome signs. This was a personal goal of Mark’s we completed in just over six months. Most of our drives we spent the first day and night (upon landing at an airport) driving. About half of the pictures are in the daytime; the other half are at night. Without further adieu, our tour!

Snow in February - I didn't expect it.
Snow in February – I didn’t expect it.
Because you're the only ten, I see!
Because you’re the only ten I see!
Not a state sign - I get that. But A) Mark looks SO handsome and B) Look at the size of those icicles!
Not a state sign – I get that. But A) Mark looks SO handsome and B) Look at the size of those icicles!
I am going to Hulk Smash this sign, after you take the picture of course! Welcome to South Carolina!
I am going to Hulk Smash this sign, after you take the picture of course! Welcome to South Carolina!
It was near midnight, bone chilling cold. Little did we know what the night would hold.
It was near midnight, bone chilling cold. Little did we know what the night would hold.

Southeast Trip – February 2013.

Next up! The Northeast! We flew in to Baltimore (BWI) and after getting stuck in DC for about 2 (Mark will probably say 5) hours, we finally made it out and got on our way.

Virginia is for lovers, and I felt a lot of love here!
Virginia is for lovers, and I felt a lot of love here!
Scenic, yes. Pizza capital? No.
Scenic, yes. Pizza capital? No.
Zig zagging across borders and killing time.
Zig zagging across borders and killing time.
This is about where it starts to pour on us. Hard to see it, but it says "Delaware."
This is about where it starts to pour on us. Hard to see it, but it says “Delaware.”
Hi, my name is Melody. It's really cold out here AND it's raining. Also, seriously Pennsylvania? This is the best you can do?
Hi, my name is Melody. It’s really cold out here AND it’s raining. Also, seriously Pennsylvania? This is the best you can do?
Near accosted by a gentleman at the gas station when we went to pump our own gas. That's not allowed here. Also this is taken about 1am.
Near accosted by a gentleman at the gas station when we went to pump our own gas. That’s not allowed here. Also this is taken about 1am.
Anyone who has visited New York knows that this is New York. Where else could it be? Also, unfortunately, this is one sign that we missed. (Story coming soon)
Anyone who has visited New York knows that this is New York. Where else could it be? Also, unfortunately, this is one sign that we missed. (Story coming soon)
It's about 3am when we got here? I don't recall. I know I wasn't driving though.
It’s about 3am when we got here? I don’t recall. I know I wasn’t driving though.
Sun finally came up over Connecticut. All together now! "Awww"
Sun finally came up over Connecticut. All together now! “Awww”
Way to do it up, Rhode Island!
Way to do it up, Rhode Island!
We also missed Massachusetts despite driving through the state like four times. Check out this frozen waterfall!
We also missed Massachusetts despite driving through the state like four times, but check out this frozen waterfall!
Pleased to meet you, New Hampshire!
Pleased to meet you, New Hampshire! Wait, what? This is all I get?
Ah, that's better. Good on you New Hampshire.
Ah, that’s better. Good on you New Hampshire.
Brattleboro is such a quaint, adorable little town. Probably a good place to go see the leaves change come fall.
Brattleboro is such a quaint, adorable little town. Probably a good place to go see the leaves change come fall.

Sun setting over Maine. To head back toward Baltimore or stay in Portland and feast on lobster? Silly question. We feasted.
Last but not least, the sun setting over Maine. To head back toward Baltimore or stay in Portland and feast on lobster? Silly question. We feasted.

Northeast Trip, April 2013.

Stay tuned! The Central Trip will be coming up momentarily.

#MarkandMelody

Travel Diary: Waterfalling in Tennessee

Oh goodness, I love a waterfall. I will stay up for hours on end to get to a waterfall I can hike to.
Lucky for Mark, he likes them too.

On our way back to Miami, he asks what waterfalls are on the way back. Thanks to Pinterest, I found a pin for Cummins Falls. It’s part of a free state park where hikers can swim at the base of the falls, in the falls or hike behind them.

Needless to say, Cummins Falls fit the bill. It’s about midway between Knoxville and Nashville, a little over an hour from each city. The falls are off a very nondescript road: you have to be looking for them.

The hike down is scenic and nice. You are best off in some type of open toed hiking shoe but if you don’t mind getting sneakers wet then you will be fine.

It is free to enter and free to park your car. Relaxing hike down the mountain and in the river.

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We trekked along the river capturing all kinds of cliff shots. I had to ditch the shoes walking in the water and the water felt so good in the sun.

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Mark and I spent some moments hiking up the sides of cliffs.

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The falls get really packed in the afternoon, so try to arrive at 11am or earlier.
The falls are big and beautiful.

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You can climb as high as you want. Sit behind waterfalls. Swim up to them. The water is refreshing and clear! This experience is one of my life’s best moments. Bliss is what I experienced.

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Mark had a great time hiding behind the levels of waterfalls and showing me how a backflip is done.

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By the time we were done traipsing around the falls, we were pretty spent. It was a perfect way to spend a few hours in the summer.
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Beautiful place. Will visit again!

#MarkandMelody

Separate but Together

As I write this, I’m sitting at a Panera just outside Chicago. Mark is probably waking up just outside Los Angeles. He’s traveling for business, and so am I. Not without play first, of course. Here is his sunset picture at Redondo Beach.

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I spent the day exploring the bounty of Chi-town with my mom. We are meeting a contact for a move management meeting. It was a perfect day for exploring Millennium Park. And we happened upon the giant silver bean completely by accident.

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Flashback Friday, or How the West was Won

Working title. But last Labor Day weekend we decided to drive all the states west of the Great Plains. This ability to stay up for 40 hours may quickly disappear, but we took advantage of it since we are still “so young.”

We flew into Denver from Miami and arrived just shy of midnight. Picked up the rental car and took off for the Four Corners monument: that place where Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico all meet. The only place where you can be in four places at once. Amped on our travel high, we set off to cover the hundreds of miles separating us from our destination.

Mark has a really good way of switching driving responsibilities at like, 2am. He takes a nap and with the blessing of a black sky and a blanket of stars, we pull into the southwest corner of Colorado right as the sun comes up. Beautiful scenery. Everything I dreamed and a lot I didn’t expect.

We arrive at Four Corners right at opening – 8am. Surprising enough, there’s a line of cars we join. We pay the fee and walk to the four corners outlined neatly on the ground. It was too early for vendors, so we and some other early risers had the place while it was quiet.

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Maybe I was really that tired, but I felt a little underwhelmed by the experience. Certainly it’s something to cross off but the idea of it may be better than the actual place.

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Interesting enough, a fact finding father told us that the monument outlining the boundaries of the states is incorrect according to modern GPS, so I insisted on taking a picture with the right coordinates (according to this guy’s phone in the middle of zero township.)