~ Wednesday, September 11 ~

Mouthwatering Food Markets Around the World

Miranda Nelson

Borough Market

London, England

One of the largest and oldest food markets in London, Borough Market has been in existence well before its first documentation in 1276. Fresh fare and exquisite baked goods make this a MUST–GO for anyone living or traveling in London. The full market is open Thursday–Saturday, and for lunch Monday through Wednesday. The offerings are something special: Parma ham that’s been cured for over 24 months, unpasteurized buffalo mozzarella made and flown in fresh from the small village of Carpaccio, Italy the night before, and bakeries that catch your nose from a mile away… And there is more: organic fruit and vegetables, fish and seafood stands, spice stalls, preserves – a whole stand dedicated to olives – and then there are the cafes and restaurants that make your mouth water as you walk by…Not only is the variety of available delicacies staggering, they also offer kitchen demonstration events for those who want to learn a little more about the food-preparation behind the stalls. You will leave will a full and stomach and a happy grin on your face!



Newton Food Centre

Newton, Singapore

Opened in 1971 and then shut down in 2005 for a major renovation, Newton Food Centre reopened with a brand new face, summer of 2006, and has since popped up on bucket lists, all over the globe. Favored by locals and tourists alike, this market place is worth experiencing if you’re in the mood to eat like the locals. Offering a variety of mainly Singaporean food (a lot of seafood), one can find anything from fresh stingray, to soursop and many other local delicacies. Make sure to try the barbecued seafood and the famous aromatic chili crab – a favorite among, well, everyone! Newton Food Centre, with its many food options, isn’t just a place to venture to simply get your fill of yummy food. With over 50 species of flowers scattered around – including the pretty pink frangipani – you’ll enjoy the ambiance of the outdoor seating, whilst you chow down.



Brooklyn, New York

If you’re looking to experience something quintessentially New York and hip, Smorgasburg is a great place to spend a Saturday in the sun with good friends and great eats. But make sure to bring an empty stomach– there is a staggering selection of various cuisines to try, with names that will likely make you chuckle. Popular stalls include: Brooklyn Oyster Party, Crazy Legs (chicken wings), Cutie Pies (artisanal homemade pies), Bossa Nova Chicken Burgers, We Rub You (yes, this is the name of a delicious Korean Barbeque sauce!), and Handsome Hank’s Fish Hut. You will find an eclectic crowd of people from all boroughs, all eager to try the latest in Brooklyn’s finest. If you’re looking for something sweeter, the doughnuts at Dough are revered by fans that come every weekend to savor these local devilishly sugary delights that are, ‘fried in Bed Stuy’. Smorgasburg is open Saturdays in Williamsburg and Sundays in DUMBO at 30 Water St, from 11am to 6pm (through November 23rd), so make sure to check it out if you’re visiting The Big Apple. And if you’re a New Yorker who has yet to venture, do so this weekend without hesitation – your tummy will be glad you did!

Tags: Borough Market Newton Food Centre Smorgasburg food foodporn London Singapore Brooklyn
~ Tuesday, September 3 ~

How Not to Pack Like a Princess

- Miranda Nelson

Overpacking is overbearing. Your luggage weighs a ton, you start to get that unbearable ache in your back – and then, on top of all of that, you’re STILL charged with excess baggage at the airport! Somehow you’ve managed to convince yourself that every single item in your closet – which is now rolled, strategically folded, or just stuffed in your shoes to “make use of space” – is absolutely necessary. 

The funny thing about this is that conversely, when we aren’t traveling, and rather simply getting ready for work in the morning, or to go meet a friend, you’ve simply got nothing to wear! It’s a weird ‘girl thing’ that doesn’t make sense. (but, SHHHHH  – secret – guys do it too! Boys you know who you are…) But every time vacation rolls around, there seems to be too much material and not enough space. And depending on the type of vacation you take, what you need to bring is undoubtably going to vary. However, this needs to be fought! The excess baggage charges are too damn high!
So: regardless of the season or destination, we’ve compiled some foolproof tricks to make sure you don’t end up taking too many stilettos and sweaters on your next beach vacation – and avoid having half the contents of your suitcase simply along for the ride.
Source: http://blog.ebags.com 
1. Make a list. Lists are helpful in practically every aspect of your life, and traveling is one of them. Sit down and think about the holiday…where are you going? What kind of vacation is it? A rustic adventure in the jungle or a calm stay in a 5 star resort overlooking the beach? Think about everything that will be essential, from sunblock to your camera, to appropriate shoes and how many plain tees. Write down everything you would need, and don’t pack any extra!  For this: make outfits. It will help streamline your accessory choices and prevent you from reaching for that extra dress or pair of heels that you won’t wear. This is the part most people go back on, but as long as you didn’t forget any more necessary items, you won’t miss anything. Don’t forget – clearly you’re going to want to buy that extra souvenir, or entire new collection you just “had to have” because it reminds you of your time in Paris. Leave space for this! You’ll deal with your closet upon arrival.

You don’t need to bring this much makeup. Source: Retrograde Works, Flickr http://www.flickr.com

2. Don’t bring your whole beauty routine. This one is important, and probably the part that girls are worst at. It’s pretty logical. You do not need your whole make up drawer, nail polish collection, nail polish remover, self tanner, curling iron, straightening iron, hair spray, or hair volumiser, etc…the list can go on, but you just don’t. Bring the essentials (that may mean something to each of you), but to most: Sunscreen, deodorant, perfume, mascara, eyeshadow, concealer, and blush. Oh and toothbrush and tooth paste. Personally if I’m on a summer vacation, I tend to not even bring concealer or blush (The warm sun and relaxation will do wonders for your skin!). Trust me, wearing minimal makeup will actually make you feel more relaxed and less on guard all the time. You probably won’t be returning to this spot for a while, so who cares if the people on the beach or at the restaurant see you with no makeup on!

Mischa Barton knows how to style a sarong!  Source: http://www.instyle.com

3. Bring pieces that can be utilized in several ways. This is the key to packing light. Make sure you pack between 2 and 5 plain t-shirts. They go with everything, and if you can’t figure out what you want to wear, it’s always a good go to staple. Simple and quick. What do you normally wear? Are you a leggings girl? If so bring a couple pairs. Going to the beach? A sarong is in the holiday spirit and will do nicely – and can be used as a lunch outfit when wrapped around a suit. It can also be worn as a beach coverup, as a skirt, a dress, headscarf.. you name it. Denim wise, one pair of jeans, 2 pairs of shorts is as far as you should go. You’ll wear them often, but remember, denim takes a while to dry! Wrap dresses, billowy shirts or caftans. Only 2 pairs of jeans, then hard stop. Lean towards items that travel well, don’t require special laundering, and that resist wrinkles. Then, always pack a couple amazing accessories that add spice to every outfit – a chunky fashion necklace, or bright fashion lip – they’ll always help transform an outfit and make you stand out. (And they are small! That’s a plus!) On vacation, less is definitely more.

As long as you keep these rules in mind, the next time you’re packing for a vacation, you should find yourself enjoying the vacation more and worrying less about how you look, or if you packed the right pair of jeans. And remember: make-up, jewelry, medications, and other valuables always go in your carry-on luggage! A shirt can be replaced, but alas, your grandmother’s fabulous New Mexico silver and turquoise cuff cannot!
Happy packing!
Tags: fashion vacation fashion style packing overpacking tips American Excursionist
~ Tuesday, August 13 ~

NYC Fashion Week, Fall 2013 – IT’S COMING!


Source: Fashionwonderland.com

NEW YORK FASHION WEEK. The NYC Mercedes-Benz Fall fashion schedule is out! And come September, the electric vibe in THE CITY, is like no other during any other time of the year. If the abundant influx of foreign and local fashionistas flooding the city’s streets – and your Instagram feed – wasn’t enough to let you know that NYC Fashion week is ON as the official start of the global fashion season, then the fact that they’ll be stealing all the available taxis surely will. 

Exemplifying the best of the American fashion, designers like: Zac Posen, Michael Kors, Badgley Mischka, and Alexander Wang – all show at New York Fashion Week. All the shows held at Lincoln Center (formally at “the tents” as they were known as during in the Bryant Park years) have to be thought of as major Broadway shows. It’s a nice metaphor considering the New York connection and all, but it really holds true. The major designers are there, but also they do what is expected, in an almost too-organized kind of a way. Which means to say, like Broadway, there is also a fashion equivalent of “Off-Broadway,” known to the fashion world as the”off-site” shows. These are the alternative ones. The newbie designers, struggling and putting all on the line (not to mention maxing out their credit limit) to show during NYC Fashion season, do them there. 


Jonathan Simkhai. Source: New York Times 

Take up-and-coming designer Jonathan Simkhai, who recently was written up in the New York Times, by Ruth La Ferla with a profile on his upcoming show this NYC Fashion Week. It will not be hist first time showing, but it will be his debut at Lincoln Center – he showed his Fall 2014 collection at Milk Studios in February.

But it is not only the young (and some not-so-young) struggling designers that are forced to show off-site; there are also those that choose to do so. Take the great Marc Jacobs, for example, who for many years was the kick-off show of NYC’s Fashion week. His shows were THE shows and the most coveted of them all.


Marc Jacobs NYC Fashion Show, past season. Source: blogs.wsj.com

One of his favorite places to show is at the Armory on Lexington Ave. and 26th Street, quite a hike from his Columbus Circle counterparts. This is because it is a scene. He brings the party. But don’t even dream of getting in. Or, well, you can dream, but this is one of the hardest, if not THE hardest show to get into. 

It’s like a pilgrimage really for the likes of top fashion editors and icons like: Anna Wintour, Anna della Russo, Leandra Medine of the Man Repeller, Chiara Ferragni of the Blonde Salad, Scott Schulman of The Sartorialist and his lovely lady Garance Doré to name just a few. Then of course, there are the celebrities.


Lady Gaga, Marc Jacobs, Madonna. Source: AmericanFashionGuild.com

However, unlike the Marc Jacobs, off-site shows do typically allow for more sneak-age and are penetrable to those who might be considered fashion outsiders. 

But more than the shows, it’s the parties – the AFTER PARTIES – the nightlife, and the sidewalks full of long legs attached to fabulous red soles and clacking sky-high heels that are worth traveling to NYC to experience. It’s not so much the fashion, but it’s the time that top designers and top bloggers alike are OUT AND ABOUT. They are the true stars of fashion week and and that’s why it’s worth coming to the city during this time to mingle. 

However, if you do come and mingle, you have to look the part. These “off site” shows can be all over the city, which is actually why these poor fashion girls have to be given credit for the marathon they run across the island, all-the-while having to maintain their heels unbroken, make-up in check, and hair not looking like a hot mess. It is NOT easy

Right now, it’s all about the calf-length skirt or dress, and strong colors like rust, orange, mint, mixed with neutrals. And then there is a serious lean towards the monochrome look at the moment. In terms of skin, not only the hem-line has been lowered (albeit the high slit – we’re still keeping it sexy people), but also the bust line has been raised. Cleavage has gone into hiding and it’s all about sporty sweaters and it does look like we’re going back into our boyfriend’s/brother’s/father’s/gay-bestie’s closet for inspiration.  However the crop-top and cut-out trend is still out on parade, so if you show any skin, it should be the six-to-ten inches of the brassier to right before the belly button.

Or fine, just show your belly-button, work it.  


Colors! Source: Fabsugar.com.au


Thigh slits! Source: Vanessa Jackman


Crop-top + calf skirt length action! Source: The Sartorialist


Cut outs! Source: Senesense  


Man-spiration. Source: Whatthehellislomo  


Prints + Crop tops + sporty sweaters, oh my! Source: Alice Point  

Also on high alert: bold, brash, and cheeky prints. They may be florals, they may be photographically inspired designs, or the may be dollar bills, as shown above.

And then on the feet, there will always be the sky-high heels, but actually the Espadrille looks like it’ll be maintaining its staying power through summer and the jellies are also back from 1994. SO that’s a thing.


Source: Song of style


Source: Once upon an adventure  

(For more on trend highlights see: Fashiolista.com)

New York Fashion week is an experience that should be lived at least once in your life (or every season) – and it should be done well…Meaning: top show access, trendiest hotel accommodations, top restaurant and nightlife reservations, and fabulous, fabulous outfits. And American Excursionist can make all of that possible.

Yes, if that means we have to hire you a personal celebrity stylist that will ensure you’re street-ready for NYC’s concrete outdoor runways. After all, you never know when you’ll run into a fashion blogger – or Bill Cunningham – around the corner. 


Bill Cunningham, an NYC + Fashion Week staple. Source: NYDailyNews

-Andrea F. Pagliai, Editor-in-Chief

Tags: New York Fashion Week NYC FashionWeek travel American Excursionist anna wintour chiara ferragni the man repeller Leandra Medine Fashion Week Travel fall trends fall fashion Marc Jacobs Fashion Shows Lincoln Center jonathan simkhai milk studios lady gaga madonna crop tops cut outs espadrilles instagram
~ Wednesday, August 7 ~

The Benefits of Scuba Diving

By Miranda Nelson

You may love the ocean so much you’ve recently moved to Belize to become a scuba diving instructor. Or maybe Curaçao? Perhaps you’re intrigued but wary about taking the plunge? This blog post is for all of you, especially those of you who scare easily at the thought of submerging yourself 30 meters under the oceans surface for a bit of leisure. Lying on the beach, I admit, does sound easier and cheaper. As someone who was once in that fearful mindset, having had a wild preconceived notion of the terrors of diving, I am here to tell you not to fear. Diving has often been given a high risk image by the media but the truth is just as many people are injured from diving every year as they are bowling. Now of course there are obvious dangers that present themselves. Nevertheless, if you pay attention to the instructor and stay calm, you’ll be fine.


Credit: Ilse Reijs and Jan- Noud Hutten, Flickr

The funny thing about my love for diving is that the danger aspect which initially turned me off is now one of the many aspects that excites me. At first I thought it unnatural and for a good moment, I was adamant that it simply wouldn’t happen for me. Moments before my first dive I was terrified and looked at it as something I had to get through. Once I realized what an amazing experience it was, I went on to achieve my Open Water Certification and my Enriched Air Certification. I haven’t looked back since and I highly recommend you do the same. Over the past 12 years since I first dived I have ‘hung out’ with manta rays, sharks, turtles, giant lobsters, schools upon schools of fish, clownfish, parrot fish, stone fish, gorgeous red lion fish, dolphins and octopi. But that’s enough about my experience with Scuba Diving… So here it is - Three reasons diving will benefit your life.

Me as a young diver

As we all know, water sports are particularly beneficial in getting a full body workout because of the added water resistance. Along with recent crazes such as Aqua spin (essentially a spinning class submerged in a pool), it’s clear water’s the way to go. Diving is probably the only workout that doesn’t feel like one. Throughout the length of a typical 45 minute dive, you will constantly be using and targeting specific muscle groups, particularly the back, legs, glutes and core muscles. On top of these benefits, scuba also happens to work your lungs more effectively than any treadmill can. After a few dives, you’ll notice the difference in your breathing and the duration in which you can perform physical activities. Now we know the amazing benefits your body receives, let’s talk about the mind.
Scuba diving has to be one of the best stress relieving sports available. If you’re having a hard time believing this, try picturing what it would feel like. No noise, just the sound of you breathing through your regulator. You feel weightless. Looking up, you see the surface of the water, the sunlight pouring through and creating a gorgeous shimmer. Maybe a school of fish decided to pass through the coral reef that is all colors of the rainbow. With only hand gestures to communicate, you’re forced to be quiet and enjoy the surroundings. It’s with this sensory deprivation that you’re allowed to fully appreciate everything you’re seeing. There’s no better stress relief, and studies have shown this to be the case time after time. I guess I really mean dive after dive. So if you’ve felt your stress levels climb over the past few months, take a second to sit back and think about that diving vacation you so desperately want to take.

In addition to being relaxing, scuba diving has to be one of the most social activities you can engage in. Whether you’re with friends, family, or in a large group, unless you’ve booked a private dive, you’ll end up on a boat with a dozen or so other people all passionate about the same thing.
For most people, Scuba diving is an incredible way to try new experiences, create incredible memories and meet some wonderful people. And maybe a couple of fishy friends. But as important as all of this, it’s about having fun. So if you haven’t had the opportunity yet, get online and see about some local scuba classes or start thinking about your next vacation. Hey, you could book it all through Excursionist!
Tags: Excursionist fish adventure scuba diving travel passions
~ Monday, July 29 ~

5 Foods Worth Traveling For

By Miranda Nelson, Excursionist Team

1. Prosciutto - Italy

Extremely delicate and mouthwateringly tasty, parma ham can be enjoyed on bread, pizza, salad, with cheese, and is oh so good wrapped around fresh melon. Travel to Parma to see how it is cured, carved, and specially served for those wanting to enjoy the Dolce Vita – via ham.

2. Rendang - Indonesia

A spicy aromatic dish originating from Indonesia, Rendang showcases beef that is slow cooked in a unique mix of garlic, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, chilies and coconut milk. Great to enjoy after a long day on the beach or after a long hike in Ubud – if you happen to find yourself in Indonesia any time soon, make sure to try this local and delicious delicacy.

3. Baklava - Greece

This classic Greek pastry dates back to the 8th century B.C. Made using thin, flaky layers of dough and spiced nut filling, sweet honey and syrup are then poured on top before this sweet delight goes into the oven. It is what gives this baked good it’s mouthwateringly unique flavor. Oh yeah, and they make it the best in Greece, so there IS a reason to travel there to satiate your Baklava sweet-tooth.

4. Penang assam Iaska - Malaysia

Poached mackerel, tamarind, pineapple, mint, onion, lemongrass, chili and noodles all come together to create this sinus cleansing broth. Packed full of immunity boosting nutrients, this dish is nutritious and considered a delicacy in Malaysian cuisine. (It’s just the trick for curing a travel-induced hangover… errr…jet lag, too).

5. Bouillabaisse - Marseilles, France

While perhaps not the obvious choice for those looking for a ‘safe’ dish while abroad, Bouillabaisse is the most pungent – and most savory – fish and shellfish stew around. Crammed with the freshest local mussels, octopus, spider crab, and herbs available, you’re sure to be in seafood heaven your first spoonful in. And once again, this dish is served best in the Port town where it was originally created, so book a flight, train, or horse and buggy and get there before any months without an “R” roll around! 

Tags: food foodporn travel Excursionist passion
~ Tuesday, July 23 ~

7 Spots Great for Traveling your Beach-Loving Passions

By Blaire Massaroni- Excursionist Team

We all know how badly the beach calls to us during the scorching heat of summer. But, if you want to do more than catch some rays on your next beach excursion, these are the best beaches to raise your heart rate, keep you fit, and most importantly, allow you to travel your passions – all while frolicking in the sand and sun!  


Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice seasoned at clinging to your soft top for dear life, Bali is the place to go for any kind of surf fanatic. The Southeast Asian tropical haven is known for its spectacular nature, inviting culture, and warm waters were waves range in difficulty, thus catering to all skill levels. Head to Uluwatu for a more advanced wave, but be prepared for territorial locals that come with the surf turf. Or, if you’re a beginner, head to one of the calmer beaches of Kuta, where good vibes and friendly locals will cheer you along as you learn to catch your first set!

Horseback Riding

Andalusians - bred since the middle ages in Spain’s southern region of Andalusia- have become famous all over the world for their captivating mix of grace and power. What better way to explore Andalusia’s stunning beaches than from the back of your native mount?! While your equine companion might not be able to help you roll the ‘Rrrrs’ in Castellano, he can certainly give you a leg up on immersing yourself in this particular aspect of Andalusian culture - all in a gallop down the beach!

Costa Rica

Hailed as the “most biologically intense place on Earth,” by National Geographic, it’s no surprise that many flock to Costa Rica to get their yogi on amidst some of the most spectacular natural beauty in the world. Luckily, with the surging popularity in both holistic health and tourism in general, it’s easy to find the yoga retreat for you in this tropical escape. Can you say, ‘Om’?

Wind Surfing

If the winding streets, laid-back beach vibes, and stunning cliffside views weren’t enough to draw you to Morocco’s enchanting city of Essaouira, then there just so happens to be one more thing that might tip your scale – but you’ve got to love the wind….Yes, the wind! Known for its high-knot wind conditions, this city is known to attract wind surfing aficionados and beginners alike. 

Sea kayaking

If you’ve dreamed of getting up close and personal with some serious ocean wildlife, paddling around Mexico’s Baja peninsula in an ocean kayak may just make those dreams come true. The Sea of Cortez, (or the Gulf of California) is home to blue, fin, humpback, sperm, short-finned pilot, minke and Bryde’s whales, as well as several dolphin species. Oh and don’t forget the sea lions sunning themselves on rocks as you cruise by! If you’ve got a thing for interacting with ocean wildlife at a mere paddle’s reach, then Baja is the place to make your next summer getaway. 

Stand-up Paddleoarding (SUP)

So we know Hawaii’s not exactly international, but its laid back culture, ancient Polynesian heritage, and diverse tropical landscapes make it feel a world away. Oh, and it’s also where stand-up paddle boarding first made its mark in water sport history. Head to the North shore of Oahu for calm, crystal blue waters and a protected bay at the south end of the shore that’s great for beginners. Get your full-body workout on!

Sun Bathing
Rio de Janeiro  

Maybe by now this article’s got your heart racing,  in which case now you’re definitely ready for some beachside R&R. But in case you feel like you’re missing out, you should know that sun bathing is a sport too! Well, in Rio that it! So bring your most scandalously-small water wear, or come ready to shop some of the world’s best, and tiniest bikinis. Rio’s hottest beach-side hangouts are the best places to workout (and avoid) those pesky tan lines. 

~ Thursday, July 11 ~

The Value of Traveling Dangerously

By Blaire Massaroni - Excursionist Team

imageBetween “The Goat’s Horns”. Svolvær, Norway. Photo: Prafulla.net

I’ve always been a fan of language. It’s not that I’m horribly good at it. I speak French well enough as I’ve spent quite a bit of time in France. But aside from that, I know teeny tiny bits of Portuguese, Spanish, and even less Italian. That is, the inconsequential phrases that get me from a bus to a train or a heaping plate of bacalhau and chips (i minimize the importance of bacalhau and chips here to make a point). The ones so easily forgettable, or worse, confusable, when going from one of their respective nations to another. But it doesn’t matter that I often arrive in a new place stumbling through the language, knowing just enough to mistakenly think I’ll be able to have, you know, an actual conversation above the ability of a toddler. That doesn’t stop me from trying to learn more and more little bits of those languages. And sure, someday they could lead to a tight grasp on that language, or maybe a few, and admittedly, that idea is pretty awesome. But even more, I think the thing I like most about language is every once in a while, you learn a word or phrase, that gives you a sneaky look through the keyhole at the context or history behind a culture.

For instance, take the oh-so-commonly-used French phrase, “Ça va?”, meaning everything from “how are you?” to “how’s that thing going that’s stressing you out?” to “it’s all good” and “I’m fine” with an appropriately removed question mark. Well legend has it that the greeting stems from the middle ages when you’d use “Ça va?”, literally, “It’s going?” to ask one of your medieval buddies if their bowels were up and running as of late. The thing is, with all the nasty plagues abounding during this time, you were essentially asking if your friend was healthy and safe from disease- basically, how they were doing. If this is true, these two little words give us a fascinating peak into this culture’s past, and shows how connected the average French person may be (even unknowingly) to their history, even if it does make you cringe and blush every time you ask someone French literally how it’s going.

Beyond that, and certainly on a less graphic note, language can leave you with a better understanding of a culture’s current context. In Brazilian Portuguese, I have learned that often times when you greet someone informally you say, “Beleza”, literally meaning beauty. Brazilians use the word ‘beauty’ to greet people in their everyday life! I love this! And it provokes me to wonder if the cultural significance of this term has something to do with the Brazilian joie de vivre, or perhaps even the cultural obsession with beauty. Either way, by uttering these tiny words I feel I have a deeper connection and understanding with those to which I am speaking.

This brings me to English. My mother tongue. Now, firstly I have come to appreciate the vastness of the English vocabulary far more since studying French and speaking with others about the “limits” (I quote limits as what other languages seem to lack in vocabulary - they make up for in feeling, or context- so they’re not really limiting at all) that their language holds. English isn’t the prettiest, but it may be one of the most technically expressive. But as I’ve learned those this-and-thats of other languages, I have found myself comparing and questioning certain phrases that may be used in English with those similar in other languages. Some of these are quite fascinating, and they dually illuminate some things about anglo- and American culture that I had taken for granted. The one specific to this post is appropriately:

“Safe Travels”

Safe Travels?

Let me first present the definition of these words as follows:
Safe- | sāf | (adj.)  protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost.
Travel(s)- |ˈtravəl |(noun) the action of making a journey, typically of some length or abroad

Now I think that definition of travel leaves a bit to be desired, but that’s for another post. In any case, I think that there is an inherent level of risk-taking in travel that is contradicted when you place the word “safe” in front of it. We all know the quote. The one about getting lost to find oneself. Well, if it’s getting lost that allows us to find ourselves, then how can we find ourselves if we “safe-ify” our travels so much so that we are unlikely to be, well, … lost? I’m certainly not suggesting putting oneself in harms way whilst traveling, however I think the true value of travel is the exhilaration you feel upon arriving somewhere new and relishing in the freedom and challenge of the absence of your comfort zone.

Exploring wind-blown hills along the coast. Salinas, Asturias. Photo: Blaire Massaroni

Contrarily, when a French, Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese person sends their loved one off into the world- they say it a bit differently. “Bon Voyage!”, “Buono Viaggio!”, “Buen Viaje!” “Boa Viagem!”.

Literally, Good Voyage, or Journey.

Now, having experienced the travel norms of people from all of these cultures, I think these phrases say a lot about the difference in how each culture perceives the purpose of travel.
I think it’s possible that the speakers of the Latin based languages have a whole lot more tied to the notion of travel than simply getting to and from a destination safely- essentially taking with them their comfort zone from the moment they board that plane to the moment they set foot back into their daily life. 

Let me also place a disclaimer on the rest of this post and say that I’ve met many a traveler on both sides of the spectrum with very different views on how to go about traveling. I’ve met travelers, both American and otherwise, who eat up the tourist traps and stay in accommodations that ostracize them from the local culture, and hang with exclusively others who have the same passport as they do. Contrarily, I’ve met travelers, both American and otherwise, who aren’t afraid to immerse themselves in all the intricacies of a new place and do the daring things that fill them to the brim with much more than they could ever have for the ride home than a suitcase filled with tawdry souvenirs.

However, I do think the difference in these two phrases, and the implications they have are applicable as they inform us on what the norm is within these respective cultures. How we will be perceived once we return from our journeys and what expectations those around us will have, no matter how much we decide to take the “safe” out of our “travels”.

That being said, I think it’s possible that latin language speakers recognize the importance of treating your travels as a journey (the exact translation of half of each of those farewell phrases, remember) that’s more than just geographical, but personal. That experiencing people, places, things, sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that bring you outside your notion of the safe and comfortable and transform your idea of reality upon your return to your own real-life life is really what you should hope to get from your voyage. 

Similarly, the “trip” in “have a good trip” sounds more as though you’re expected to have fun on the resort-secluded getaway oh so conveniently booked by your travel agent, spend a lot of time at the hotel bar and pool, and socialize with all the other Americans staying there. Because once you come back, it’s back to work and life as usual.

But in FrItalIgnolTuguese there seems to be an underlying expectation of personal transformation at the end of your trip that’s more than just a suntan. One where you may need to get a little lost. One where you may need to take some risks. To do big things and stretch the limits and bounds of your comfort zone so you know just who you really are, and what you’re really capable of once you step foot across the threshold back into your everyday. Sure, maybe your “trip” is a break, if you will, from your normal life, but isn’t that all the more reason to bring back with you something to enrich it- to make you change your mind about the world, or alter your views on what you and everyone around you back home holds as normal in the first place? I think so. 
Now, maybe I’m biased. And once again, I’ve met loads of other Americans that appreciate the journey aspect of “Bon Voyage”. And I guess it’s possible that all this is a load of nonsense and you can translate pretty much directly from “Safe Travels” or “Have a good Trip” to the FrItalIgnolTuguese versions. That there is nothing specifically idiosyncratic in any of those phrases that isn’t present in one of the others.

But still I reserve the right to request, that in the future, when you’re waving me away at the airport or bidding me farewell on my next adventure, as I turn from you, butterflies fluttering in my gut, my eyes on the verge of spilling with tears full of a mix of apprehension, joy, and excitement, that that words that last escape your lips have no hint of safe, and are filled with wishes of a good journey.

imageWandering the Sahara. Merzouga, Morocco. Photo: Blaire Massaroni

Tags: travel wanderlust excursionist travelyourpassions traveling travelwriting language bonvoyage
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~ Tuesday, March 12 ~

Top Ten Honeymoon Destinations That Don’t Require A Passport!

Stressed over your honeymoon plans?  That’s understandable.  With wedding plans, invitations, Uncle Harry’s seafood allergy and seating arrangements, maybe the last thing you have time to do is wait in line at passport offices, gather an assortment of documentation, and deal with the state department.  So skip it!  This is a gigantic nation that offers everything from glacial mountain hikes to tropical rain forests and everything in between.  So forget the passport, keep your dollars, and check out these top ten honeymoon destinations right here in the good old U S of A.  
US Virgin Islands
St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, Water Island, and more.  Thanks to a sale by Denmark in 1916, these Antillean Islands are a United States Territory, but their unique Caribbean calypso culture and food will make you and your sweetheart feel like you’re worlds away. Hike through rain forests, enjoy world-class snorkeling and scuba diving, explore sugar plantations and lounge on picturesque beaches for an unforgettably romantic experience.
Grand Canyon

What could be a more awe-inspiring beginning to your new life together than a visit to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World?  On the fine Colorado Plateau, raft the Colorado River, set off on a mule-riding adventure, hike, camp, glamp, or stay in a beautiful lodge.  And thank your lucky past presidents Roosevelt and Wilson for keeping it protected both for you and the kids you’ll be showing these photos to.
Baudelaire said, “A sweetheart is a bottle of wine.”  We agree.  You love wine and you love love, so why not go to Napa and celebrate the two?  Relax in the beautiful wine country, explore by bicycle, on foot, or with tours, and indulge in top-of-the-line restaurants, spas, and hot springs.  That’s romantic.
New Orleans

That streetcar was named “Desire” for a reason.  Spanish mossy oak trees, seductive jazz brimming up from winding streets, and a rhythm that pulses through the air itself make the Crescent City a surprisingly sultry destination for you and your partner.  Dine in the French Quarter, clink your celebratory glasses together, and dance the night away in the arms of your newly beloved for a memory that will last a lifetime.  
Key West
Call it “Margaritaville.”  Call it the “Conch Republic.”  Or simply call it “Paradise.”  Key West, the furthest of Florida’s keys, is famed for its stunning sunset celebrations and amorous atmosphere.  So visit the Dry Tortugas, indulge in the freshest local seafood, hop aboard a dinner cruise or glass-bottom boat, or relax on the beach in a destination that’s destined to please.

America’s most friendly city is a great place to start out the new chapter in your life with good vibes, culture, luxury, history, and relaxation.  Tour the historic city with its old school new-world charm, cruise to Kiawah Island, travel back in time on a horse and carriage, and indulge in delicious dishes in this South Carolina gem.
With unlimited adventurous possibilities and a rugged, unspoiled landscape, Alaska is the perfect place for a snuggle-moon.  Whale watching, glacial cruises, ,secluded lodges, fly fishing, trekking, and dog mushing are just a few of the options for the intrepid honeymooner.  For a truly unique experience that will leave you and your sweetheart reeling, venture out into “The Last Frontier.” 

It’s no secret that Hawaii is one of the top honeymoon destinations in the world, and with good reason.  Boasting beautiful beaches, dramatic volcanos, and relaxing waterfalls, Hawaii is living the dream.  Enjoy healing massages and traditional Hawaiian spa treatments, world-class surfing, snorkeling, diving, and paddle-boarding, and bask in warm, tranquil waters.  In Hawaii, love is in the air.
Puerto Rico  
Puerto Rico is known as “la isla del encanto,” or “The Island of Enchantment.”  From the vibrant culture of historic San Juan to El Yunque National forest, the only tropical rain forest in the US, there is something here for everyone.  Beach bums will relish in over 200 miles of beaches, such as El Rincon, where waves break over dramatic cliffs.  Bahia Fosforescente will lure honeymooners with its otherworldly glow.  And of course, there are a plethora of activities to choose from, from swimming in subterranean rivers to relaxing in top-notch spas.  
New York

Who hasn’t dreamed of coming to New York?  For thrill-seeking culture vulture couples, Manhattan is undoubtedly the spot to start of your marriage with a jolt of electricity and fun.  See the bright neon lights of Broadway, tour the distinct melting pot of neighborhoods, take a romantic boat ride in Central Park, or celebrate with a sunset cocktail looking over the indelible skyline.  In the center of the universe, the possibilities for romance, excitement, and fun are unlimited.  
Tags: honeymoon alaska hawaii keywest charleston nyc honeymoons nola neworleans
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~ Thursday, February 21 ~

Smazeny Syr- A drawn-out Affair to Remember


                          Tis the east.  And smazeny is the sun.

No matter what I’m doing or who I’m talking to or how long it’s been since my last meal, there is always a small space in the back of my mind that is reserved for food. Even during moments of passion, inspiration, or the most overwhelming depression; even after a Thanksgiving dinner that leaves my poor body immobile, that little part of me is conniving, planning, counting the minutes, greedily rubbing its greasy paws together in lustful anticipation of the next feeding time. 

Some people say that home is where the heart is. I say that home is where the meal is. 

I have no problem going out at four in the morning to run to the nearest all-night hot dog stand. I feel no shame when I wait for my nine piece McNuggets with barbecue sauce and honey mustard, large fries, diet coke, and if I can charm the cashier, a complimentary happy meal toy, all to-go, and bring it to my friends’ table in their favorite salad shop. I am a hungry person and if “fat” is a state of mind, then I am grossly obese.

                                              Canoeing the Vltava

As my friends and I neared the bitter end of a three day canoe trip down the Vltava river in the Czech Republic in September, the only thing that kept me going through those final brutal stretches of bone-chilling rapids was the thought of curling up with some tender, juicy, McLovin’. 

We beached our canoes at our final destination in Cesky Krumlov, dumped our belongings on the grass, and made a beeline for the snack bar. Briefly, I checked out my reflection in the window. I gasped: I was wasting away! I was emaciated! I had had far too much exercise. With stern determination, I opened the door and resolved to sacrifice the last contents of my wallet to right these unspeakable wrongdoings.

Of course, a meal is not a meal without first drinking enough whiskey to get a little cozy. It’s the tantalizing foreplay to the eruptive climax of that first quivering bite. Once I had had enough whiskey to confirm my belief that I was a fluent Czech speaker, I ordered two helpings of kielbasa as well as two helpings of some curious menu item which my friend claimed was a Czech specialty—Smažený sýr. 

Funny, we always find love when we least expect it.

The firm, crunchy exterior of my geometrically perfect square of cheese gave way to a juicy, soul-fulfilling filling, filling every nook of my mouth with awe and raw animal pleasure. I wanted to howl at the moon as it slithered down my esophagus and made its final plunge into my intestinal powerhouse, setting my digestive system into motion like never before. It was an awakening.

                  The little snack bar that changed my life.

Dazed, I lay in the grass and contemplated, puffing my cigarette. What had just happened? How could I ever eat mozzarella sticks again after this? Would I find smažený sýr again? When? Where? Was this fleeting? Would it be just as good next time?

Some weeks later, I found myself wandering through the maze of passages at the dimly-lit, mechanical bar, “Cross Club.” My stomach was speaking to me and my nose was leading the way. It led me straight to a sign that said “Smažený sýr.” A chill ran down my spine. 

Dĕkuji, nose, I whispered. 

“Uh, Smashenisky, prosím?” I eagerly asked the cashier.

Without missing a beat, he threw a hunk of cheese into the fryer while my friend laughed at me. “It’s Smažený sýr,” she snarled.

I wanted to punch her, but suddenly my hands were full of something. A sandwich. A SMAZENY-SANDWICH!

A roll stuffed with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise, ketchup, hot sauce, tartar, and best of all, smažený sýr! I was rabid. My friend glanced down her nose at me as the juices dribbled down my chin. 

Before long, I was getting my fix on a daily basis. I ate it wherever I went. Other foods slowly began to disappear from my culinary vocabulary. When people waved restaurant menus in front of my face, I eyed them with disdain before faithfully making my way to Wenceslas Square, where there are over ten Smažený Sýr stands to choose from. I took two hour long night tram detours to get it. I walked countless kilometers out of my way in the wee hours of the morning. I was determined to find the best Smažený Sýr in Prague. 

In the midst of this craze, I went to a new friend’s home one night and was forced to forego my usual smažený for an actual home-cooked meal. I joked with my friend, “Watch. It’s going to be fish.”

Note. I hate fish. I hate sushi. I hate eating anything with gills. I hate anything that smells like fish. When I eat fish, every morsel I eat for the following week tastes like fish. Fish ice cream. Fish hamburgers. Fish fries. No thank you.


                                     This is real, people!

When my host handed me my plate, I went pale. Fish curry.  I am always surprised at how much this seems to happen to me in a landlocked country. My friend and I exchanged glances. Sadly, I mouthed, “Smažený Sýr?” 

We both knew the seriousness of the situation. I only had two options: the destruction of my taste buds, or starvation.

I chose the latter.

When no one was watching and she had finished her fish, I succeeded in a clandestine plate-swap. She groaned—she was full—but I nudged her under the table and locked eyes with her in a desperate plea. She is a loyal friend.

Later in the evening, with all of the guests glowing happily from the little sea creatures swimming around in their red wine bellies, I slumped in my chair. I was hungry. 

Everyone took out and instrument and started to jam. Suddenly, someone started soulfully riffing to the following lyric:

You can eat my kielbasa, but don’t touch my Smažený Sýr!

I was inspired. Before long, I was jumping around the living room, singing my praise to Smažený Sýr, wailing about swimming in a bath of syr juice, and so on. “And when I get to Wenceslas Square, I’ll have the best—“ I sang, but suddenly someone interrupted me.

“Wenceslas?” inquired a Real Czech Person.

“Um, yes…” I trailed off.

 “The best Smažený Sýr in Prague is at Narodni Trida! Everyone knows that!”

I gasped. “Really?” I looked around. Everyone was nodding in agreement.

I felt the life returning to my body. My mission was renewed! 


                               Photo by Lindsey Matthews

Soon, I was making some excuse about having to get home before the night trams stopped running. Home is where the meal is. I hopped directly onto a tram headed for Narodni Trida.

I sipped whiskey as a preparatory measure to this monumental event. At Narodni Trida, I stepped off of the tram and looked around, wild-eyed.

There it was. A lonely, greasy little fried food stand. 

I approached, every step filled with purpose, and ordered myself a Smažený Sýr from the bemused woman behind the counter. 

I paid, took the delicacy into my hands, and licked my lips. I held it in front of my face and inhaled a deep whiff. I wanted this Smažený Sýr to be a holy experience.

And it was. From the first shy nibble to the final satisfied bite and every bit of chomping in between, I was enraptured.


by: L.T. Barcellona

Tags: cheese prague fried travel food canoeing vltava czech
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~ Monday, February 18 ~


“City of Ghosts”

High on the Ming Hill, Fengdu, the “City of Ghosts,” is situated at the northern end of the Yangtze River. It attracts tourists from all over and even many visitors from within China as it is the place to learn about Chinese ghost culture and the afterlife.

The city has been around for nearly 2,000 years, filling it with a spooky sense of the past. Its origin story begins back in the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), when two officials decided to run away to the area and live out their lives, where they eventually, the story goes, became immortal. Yin and Wang, the names of the officials, were combined during a later dynasty to mean “King of the Underworld.” Locals deemed this a gathering place for spirits. The Ghost City that developed is a complex of Buddhist and Taoist temples adorned with macabre demon statues dismembering humans as they guard the entrance to the netherworld.

Most of the popular landmarks in the City of Ghosts bear names that reference the afterlife: “Last Glance at Home Tower,” “Nothing-to-be-Done Bridge,” “Ghost Torturing Pass.” Covering the sites are statues and other artistic depictions of ghosts and devils, terrifying works that represent what happens to those who haven’t lived good lives after theirs is taken from them.

The giant face seen in the pictures is called The Ghost King, and it holds a Guinness World Records title as the biggest sculpture carved on a rock. At 138 meters tall and about 217 meters wide, The Ghost King can be seen from all around the city.

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