Do You Need an Actual Camera When You Travel?

With cell phone cameras getting better and better every year, it begs the question whether or not you should take up room in your bags for a camera. Even if we have a camera with us, we still use our camera phones in addition to using a traditional camera. On a couple of occasions we have decided not to take our camera with us at all, but in most cases we always take a camera with us. There are several reasons for packing our camera and extra lenses when traveling, despite the improvements in cell phone camera technology.


Monkey in Panama with a Phone


Taken with a Camera and Zoom Lens


Colosseum in Rome with the Camera and Zoom


Zoomed Using the Cell Phone

We have a couple of lenses for our camera, including a vibration reduction zoom lens. There are many times during a trip that we get the opportunity to have amazing views of a city or landscape. Having a camera with a zoom lens allows us to take photographs of objects in the distance and see them in a way that we couldn’t otherwise. Many of these photographs turn out to be some of our favorite photographs from a location. Another benefit that we find for taking photographs with a camera when traveling is that we can quickly focus on various objects as we walk through a location. Whether on a tour or just walking through a place on our own, we don’t want to stop every 30 seconds to take a picture and we find that we can get photographs of different objects without having to come to a full stop and playing with the zoom of a camera phone.


Quick Picture in the French Quarter of New Orleans


Same Shot from the Camera Phone


Florence Skyline from the Phone


Zooming in Really Close with the Camera

With that said, there are times when the cell phone camera is our preferred choice.  Obviously, there are the selfies, probably one of the biggest reasons that camera phones became popular. Also, when we are in a restaurant and want to take a photograph of our food, we’re not likely to pull out our camera and snap a few pictures. Depending on the lighting, we have also found that cell phone cameras work fairly well in low light situations like inside of buildings, churches, and museums. There certainly isn’t any doubt that camera phones continue to improve and they can produce high quality photographs.


Camera Inside of the Church in Nuremberg


Taken with the Cell Phone

We have included several similar photographs here, one taken with the camera and the other will the cell phone. Obviously, there are other factors that come into play regarding the results, but we found the comparison interesting. For the reasons previously mentioned, we’ll continue to take a camera with us, but that doesn’t mean that everyone should. Would you leave your camera at home on your next trip and rely solely on your cell phone camera?


Statues in Luxor, Egypt from the Phone


Same Statues with the Camera


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Homemade Corned Beef and Cabbage

Every year on St. Patrick’s Day, we cook corned beef and cabbage. Usually, we will just buy corned beef from the local grocery store and slow cook it with potatoes and cabbage, but a couple of times we have made our own corned beef. The name corned beef comes from the large rock salt, also called corns of salt, that are used to brine the beef. It takes about 10 days to brine the beef brisket and give it that distinctive flavor, but otherwise it is pretty simple to do. Not only is it a great dinner, but using the leftover corned beef to make Rueben sandwiches afterwards is almost even better than the original meal.


Brining Liquid


  • 3 to 4 lb Beef Brisket
  • 1 cup Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 6 tbsp Pickling Spice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Black Peppercorns
  • 1 tsp Dried Marjoram
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 8 cups Cold Water for the brine
  • 1/2 lb Potatoes (fingerling if possible)
  • 1/2 head of Green Cabbage

Slow Cook the Brisket, Potatoes, and Cabbage


In a large pot, combine the salt, sugar, 4 1/2 tablespoons pickling spice, peppercorns, marjoram, 2 bay leaves, and water. Heat on medium-high heat until the salt and sugar completely dissolves. Remove from the heat and let completely cool to room temperature. In a large brining bag or casserole dish, submerge the beef brisket and refrigerate for 8 to 10 days. We flipped the brisket daily in order to ensure that it brined evenly. When ready to cook, remove the brisket from the brine and rinse completely with cold water. Place the corned beef, fat side up, in a large Dutch oven and cover with water. Add the remaining pickling spices, bay leaves, and garlic. Bring to a simmer over medium heat on the stove and reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for 3 hours. Add the potatoes and simmer for another 30 minutes. Add the cabbage and simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes or until the cabbage is tender.


Brine for 10 days


Finished Meal


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Woodford Reserve Distillery Tour in Kentucky

Kentucky is known for horse racing and bourbon whiskey. During our trip to Kentucky a few years ago, we visited the Woodford Reserve Distillery. Located a little over an hour away from Louisville, Kentucky, the distillery is located in the heart of horse country in the town of Versailles. The tour starts with a history of bourbon in general as well as Woodford Reserve itself. Unlike some other distilleries that create thousands of barrels per year, Woodford Reserve produces a limited number of barrels per year. Even if you are not a fan of whiskey, the tour is fascinating and the scenery is beautiful.


The Start of the Tour


Barrels Stacked to the Ceiling

As you wait for the tour to begin, you can walk through the museum with the history of bourbon and its relationship to Kentucky. There are displays that include a miniature representation of the distillery as it existed when it was first built. The stone distillery buildings are hundreds of years old and add to the ambiance of the tour. Seeing the large copper vats and learning about the distilling process is very educational. From how the barrels are charred to create the unique color and enhance the flavor to the “angel’s share”, which is the evaporation of a portion of the whiskey, you will learn everything about distilling bourbon.


Standing Outside of the Historic Distillery


The Distilling Process

At the conclusion of the tour, you are treated with a tasting of some of the Woodford Reserve bourbons. We are not bourbon experts by any means, but we did find the Woodford Reserve to be extremely smooth. Having gone to other distillery and brewery tours, this is definitely one of the nicest tours that we’ve taken.


You Can Buy Your Own Barrel


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Saint Lorenz Church in Nuremberg, Germany

Located in the heart of old town in Nuremberg, St. Lorenz Church dominates the skyline. It is a medieval church that was built in the 1400’s, although it was largely damaged during WWII like many other buildings in Germany. Dedicated to St. Lawrence, the church has many interesting features, both in the interior as well as the exterior. St. Lorenz Church was built in the gothic architectural style and is the largest church in Nuremberg. Originally a Catholic church, the church was converted to Lutheran after the reformation.


Detailed Sculpture in the Choir Hall


Gothic Architecture of the St. Lorenz Church


High Ceilings


Stained Glass Windows


Medieval Artwork


One of the Towers of St. Lorenz Church


Ornate Stairs in the Church

One of the most prominent features within the church is the hall choir with its tabernacle. There is also some beautiful artwork that had been donated by wealthy citizens when it was first built and remains there even after the reformation. Like all gothic churches, the stained glass windows are also very stunning. With its high ceilings and large nave, the music of the organ and choir must sound beautiful inside of this wonderful church.


The Most Stunning Feature Inside of the Church


Walking Around the Church


Statue Up Close


Stained Glass and Plaques


St. Lorenz is the Church in the Background, St. Sebaldus is in the Foreground


Top of One of the Towers of St. Lorenz Church


Sculptures on the Columns in St. Lorenz

Although St. Lorenz Church is the most prominent church in Nuremberg, there is also the Church of Our Lady, which is another wonderful gothic style church in downtown Nuremberg. The mechanical clock on the front façade of the Church of Our Lady is one of the most interesting features of the church. We did not go inside of the Church of Our Lady, but we imagine that it is quite beautiful as well. There is also the St. Sebaldus Church, which has twin towers that look almost identical to those of St. Lorenz Church. When looking out from the Nuremberg Castle, both churches rise above the rooftops of old town. We definitely enjoyed our trip to Nuremberg and the St. Lorenz Church was definitely one of the highlights of our time in this historic city.


Church of Our Lady’s Mechanical Clock


Towers of St. Sebaldus


The Rear of St. Sebaldus Church


The Single Tower of Church of Our Lady


Walking Through St. Lorenz Church


Holiday Decorations Around the Altar


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Sun, Snow, and Ice

If you visit Iceland during the winter, as we did a couple of years ago, you will certainly be surrounded by some harsh conditions. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t beautiful, though, as we found so many sights that were absolutely stunning. There is something about the sun shining through the wintery clouds and then reflecting off of the frozen tundra that is hauntingly attractive. Having just gone through the “bomb cyclone” here in Colorado where we were buried with snow and ice, it definitely brought back thoughts of our time in Iceland. As we drove around the countryside, we were constantly amazed by the incredible scenery and could only imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have the comfort of a car to return to. Here are a few of our favorite photographs of sun reflecting across the icy terrain.


Sunglasses Might Be Required Even Without the Sun


Combination of Sun, Clouds, and Ice


Just Enough Light to Reflect on the Ice


Not Quite Frozen


Almost Surreal


A Perfect Moment


You Don’t Want to Get Lost Here


Almost Like Another World


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Our Traveler Evolution

Just like everyone else, the way that we travel today is no where near how we started out earlier in our lives. If we were able to go back in time and were to bump into our former selves on a trip, we’d likely shake our heads and laugh at ourselves. Likewise, we will undoubtedly change again as more time passes and more experiences are compiled. Just like human evolution, there has been a very distinct evolution of the way that we travel that has taken us from crawling on all fours to walking upright on two feet.

  1. Phase 1 – After we first met, our jobs and careers sent us to several different states in different parts of the US. During those days, our children were young and we would explore the places where we lived, but we wouldn’t actively seek out everything that a location had to offer. We would save up for a big trip here or there to places like Disneyland where everyone would have that experience. These were simply family vacations for the sake of getting away and spending time together.

    Picture with Mad Hatter

    Kids with Mad Hatter

  2. Phase 2 – As our children got older, we started going on what we lovingly call “education vacations”. We made sure that we took at least one trip together each year and the destinations were always one of important historic significance or one of the country’s many national parks. Although they were certainly enjoyable, it was all about making sure that we all had an appreciation for our rich history. We wouldn’t, however, see much more than the museums, recreations, and natural wonders.


    Mount Rushmore

  3. Phase 3 – We became empty-nesters and for the first time wanted to see more of the world than our own backyard and had a combination of actual beach vacations in places like Mexico or seeing parts of Europe that we’d always dreamed of. We’d pack up several suitcases, drag a variety of clothes and shoes, and go to places that were wonderful, but didn’t take us out of comfort zone. We went to large cities in countries that were familiar to us and, for the most part, people spoke English. We were still taking vacations.


    Eiffel Tower in Autumn

  4. Phase 4 – After getting our first taste of someplace exotic that challenged us in ways that we could have never expected, we gained a desire to see the world. The whole world, big places, small places, especially places where the people didn’t look like us, speak English, and the cultures were as foreign as the land itself. In our attempt to see more and go to places that aren’t always easy to reach, we learned to live out of a carry-on bag, only take what we need, and interact with the locals with respect and a true desire of understanding. We had become actual travelers.


    Our Trip to India

  5. Phase 5 – We told our stories to all of our friends and shared our photographs with them. With their encouragement, we started to share our experiences on this humble site. We had become travel bloggers. Now we not only seek out the experiences of our previous phase, but knowing that we’re going to write about the places after our return has caused to do even more research, learn more, and push us to go to even more places that challenge us, like jungles, frozen lands, deserts, and more.


    Paddling in the Small Canoe in the Amazon

  6. Phase 6 – Obviously we’re not here yet, so life will only tell what this next phase will bring, but we know what we’d like. Having enjoyed seeing many countries on 5 different continents and getting the opportunity to live abroad, we would like to live in countries throughout the world, especially ones that will challenge us. Spending two weeks in a place is wonderful, but to spend a year or two would provide an even greater experience. At that point we would graduate from a traveler to a world citizen.


    The Giza Plateau in Egypt

So, we started with family vacations, moved on to education vacations, then started to see more of the world, and have finally become what we would consider to be true travelers. Regardless of where our evolution takes us, we definitely appreciate the growth that we have experienced over the years. Some of you have probably been able to jump straight to being a traveler, but there is some nostalgia about having moved through each of the phases of our travel lives.

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The Food of Amsterdam

From the moment we arrived in Amsterdam during our trip there, it became obvious that we were going to be eating a lot of seafood. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the reason for this, sitting on the coast with canals running throughout the city, Amsterdam is a seafood paradise, especially when it comes to shellfish. That doesn’t mean that seafood is the only thing that you can find, cheese is also very prominent and a source of pride for the country. Don’t worry, though, you can find plenty of beer and fried food as well.


Seafood Tower


Local Beer


Sushi Appetizer

One of the first things that we saw as we walked from our hotel into the heart of Amsterdam was a fish monger selling a wide variety of fresh fish. We love the idea of being able to walk to your local fish market and being able to purchase fish that was caught that morning and then serving it for dinner that evening. There were so many choices to choose from, including a national favorite, herrings. Unfortunately, since we didn’t have a kitchen, we weren’t able to buy any fish for ourselves, but that didn’t mean that we didn’t get our fill of fresh fish.


People Buying Fresh Fish


Decadent Desert


Utensils for Eating Seafood

We decided to go out for a nice dinner during our long weekend in Amsterdam and decided to get the “seafood tower”. It was a massive collection of a wide variety of shellfish including oysters, lobster, langoustines, crab, and other items that we’ve never seen before. The restaurant also featured a large, saltwater aquarium with a variety of colorful fish. Although the fish were beautiful, it did feel a little weird to eat a large meal of seafood while fish swam next to our table. On another day, we ate some clams and linguini in a white wine sauce that recently inspired us to create our own white wine sauce and fish dinner.


Part of the Seafood Tower


Oysters on the Half-Shell


Aquarium Fish

Another interesting meal that we had during our visit was a platter of meats, cheese, and fried croquets. Perhaps not the healthiest of choices, but it was tasty and very filling. The type of meal that sticks to your ribs. We also ate some sushi and a meal of lamb medallions with cheesy potatoes one evening as well as indulging in a rich desert. Of course we had some beer (bier) including Jopen, which is brewed in Haarlem, Netherlands. For an appetizer, we ate a crab dip that was flakey and delicious.


Meat, Cheese, and Fried Food


Another Local Beer


Clams and Linguini

We only had a few days in Amsterdam, but we really enjoyed the meals that we did have while we were there. Seafood, cheese, beer, fried foods, and meat, nothing to complain about there. Hopefully on our next trip to the Netherlands, we’ll have time to get out of the city and try some food in some of the smaller towns and villages.


We Wish We Could Have Bought Something


Medallions of Lamb with Cheesy Potatoes


Flakey Crab


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The Historical Center of Lima, Peru

Old town in Lima, also referred to as the Historical Center, is probably most known for its colorful colonial buildings with their fascinating balconies, but there is certainly much more to see than just the architecture. To make the most of your time in the downtown area and we would suggest starting out at the Plaza Mayor or the Main Square and then exploring out from there. There are palaces, the cathedral, official buildings, and other churches in the area, each uniquely beautiful. It is very walkable and you will also find stores carrying tourist items as well as restaurants in the area. We stayed in the Miraflores district, which is by the beach, but it was only a short taxi ride to the Historical Center.


Intricate Balcony


Looking Up at the Cathedral


The Government Palace


Colorful Architecture and More Balconies


Detailed Facade


Fruit for Sale

The architecture is certainly the highlight of the Historical Center and the buildings are either colorful or covered with intricate details. There are several palaces including Government Palace, the Archbishop Palace, and the Justice Palace. Obviously there is the Cathedral Basilica of Lima, but there is also the Church and Convent of San Francisco as well as San Pedro Church. There is also the Palacio Municipal or Town Hall located downtown as well. Even with all of these buildings and monuments, your eyes will be naturally drawn to the intricately carved balconies that are on every street in the Historical Center.


Church Bell Tower


Crowded Streets


Inside of a Store


Pigeons Taking a Bath


Church and Convent of San Francisco


Cathedral Entrance

Being the heart of Lima, you can certainly expect to find plenty of crowds walking the streets with you. There are vendors selling food and drinks as well as shops to buy items made by the local people of Peru. Occasionally you will see indigenous people dressed in their authentic clothing with items to sell as well. As with many cities, you will also find an abundance of pigeons making the city center their home as well. During our time in Lima, there were guards and police plainly visible, which did provide an extra sense of security as there can be protests on a semi-regular basis. We’d recommend that you register your trip with the local embassy so that you receive notifications of any travel alerts in the region.


Casa de la Literatura Peruna


Colorful Clothing


Standing in Front of the Government Palace


Cathedral Basilica of Lima


Prepared for Any Trouble


Local Band Performing

Lima is certainly an interesting city and should not just be a landing place on your way to Machu Picchu or other destinations within the country. With wonderful beaches and a vibrant food scene, there is much to do within Lima, but visiting the Historical Center should definitely be at the top of your itinerary. The architecture, culture, and history make it one of the most interesting old town areas in South America.


Statue Downtown


More Details


Pigeons Trying to Find Shade


More Balconies


Another Local Peruvian


Walking the Streets of Lima


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How to Make the Most of a Trip to Ecuador

Ecuador is such a wonderful country in South America with so many different places to see and explore. It is a country made up of three distinct ecosystems from the coast, the peaks of the Andes Mountains, and the dense Amazon Rainforest. Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is centrally located, making it the perfect location to start any adventure. Ideally, any visit to Ecuador would last for at least two weeks, but if you don’t have that much time, you’re going to have make some difficult decisions. During our trip, we made sure to make the most of our time there, but we had to decide whether we wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands or spend time in the Amazon Rainforest as we didn’t have time to do both. For an ideal trip to Ecuador, here are the top places to see during your time there.


Front of the Basilica in Quito, Ecuador


Inside San Francisco Church and Monastery

  1. Quito – The city of Quito has a wonderful, old-world feel that will almost make you feel as if you are in Europe. There is the Basilica del Voto Nacional, San Francisco Church and Monastery, and an old town area that is very walkable. Even if you are heading the coast or the rainforest to see the wildlife, you should certainly allocate several days to spend in Quito.

    Scarlet Macaws in the Jungle


    View from the Top of the Lodge Deck in Ecuador

  2.  Napo Wildlife Center – For an experience in the Amazon Rainforest that you will never forget, staying at the eco-lodges of the Napo Wildlife Center cannot be beat. From giant river otters, hundreds of birds, monkeys, sloths, caiman, and more, there is so much to see during time in the jungle. Also, visiting an indigenous village as well as seeing hundreds of parrots at the parrot clay licks is extremely impressive. You will need to spend at least four to five days in order to really make the most of your time in the Amazon.

    Middle of the World Monument


    No Experiment, Just Us at the Equator 🙂

  3.  The Equator – Going to the middle of the earth is a fascinating experience and the Intiñan Museum at the true equator has a variety of interesting science experiments. It is fun for adults and children alike. There is also a very interesting museum, La Mitad del Mundo, that is at the location previously thought to be the equator and it can be seen during the same trip to the real equator.

    The Bottom of the Trail


    View of the Quilotoa Caldera and Lagoon in Ecuador

  4.  Laguna Quilotoa – Visiting this lake in the crater of a dormant volcano is one of the most spectacular sights within Ecuador. It is certainly worth taking the time to hike down to the lake itself or you can ride a donkey down and back up if you want as it is quite steep. You can also kayak out onto the sulfur lake, but you can’t go swimming.

    View of Quito


    Amazing Peaks as We Hiked Above the Teleferico

  5.  The Teleferico – Located on the outskirts of Quito, the Teleferico is a cable car that will take you up the side of the Pichincha Volcano with amazing views of the city. There also several hiking trails after the cable car drops you off at the viewing station. It is at a very high elevation, so it is wise to pace yourself if you do decide to go hiking. It is certainly worth the effort as the views are absolutely amazing.

    Driving Towards Cotopaxi Volcano


    Walking the Nature Trails Below the Volcano

  6. Cotopaxi Volcano – Hiking on an active volcano may not be on everyone’s bucket list, but is certainly a very interesting experience. At this time, you can only climb to the mid-station on the side of the volcano due to the fact that it is an active volcano and the risk for an eruption remains high. There is also a park with nature trails located at the base of the volcano that is certainly worth taking the time to hike as well.

    Sea Lion – Provided by Happy Gringo Tours


    Hammerhead Sharks – Provided by Happy Gringo Tours

  7.  The Galapagos Islands – Unfortunately we had to choose between spending time in the Amazon or going to the Galapagos Islands, so we’ll have to return at a later time to see the amazing wildlife that is there. The tour company that we used provided us an interesting article on the animals of the Galapagos that certainly has us wanting to return.

When we first decided to go to Ecuador, we were surprised at how little we actually had seen or read about this fascinating country. There is certainly an abundance of things to see in Ecuador and we used Quito as our home base for our time there. From an abundance of wildlife and dramatic scenery to the historic city of Quito, Ecuador definitely has something for everyone and is a gem of South America.

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Floors and Ceilings at the Vatican Museums

There are a few places where the floors, ceilings, and even the walls can be just as fascinating as the pieces of art or furniture that are in them. The Vatican Museums are definitely such a place where no matter which way you look there seem to be beautiful geometric patterns or murals painted directly onto the ceiling. Obviously there is the Sistine Chapel, but just within the Vatican Museums themselves there is much to see beyond the famous artwork that is housed there. There are certainly many other palaces that we’ve visited that have very ornate floors and ceilings, but these are definitely some of the most interesting and beautiful. It isn’t often that you find yourself taking photographs of a floor, but just because it is beneath your feet doesn’t mean it can’t be art. It is certainly a reminder to not only look left and right, but to also look up and down as well.


Individual Art Combining to a Cohesive Ceiling


Looking Up at a Dome


Every Hallway’s Ceiling is Unique


Beautiful Floor


Connecting Patterns


Mural on the Ceiling


Symmetry above a Doorway


Another Dome


The Floor is as Interesting as Everything Else


So Many Murals Inside of a Dome


3 Dimensional Walls and Ceiling


Another Ceiling with Artwork


Archway and Dome


Colorful Walls and Ceiling


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