We have said many times that every trip is special in its own way and we certainly can’t pick a favorite. Some are great for adventure, some for history, or culture, or because of the people that we met. As we enter our 5th year of hosting this site, we thought that we would take a quick moment to reflect on some of our trips that have been memorable for many different reasons. Having visited so many wonderful countries and cities, there were many to chose from, but these stood out to us.
New York City – As much as we love traveling to foreign locations, visiting New York City was definitely a wonderful trip. Walking through Central Park, going to the Top of the Rock and the observation deck at the Empire State Building, the emotional experience at the 9/11 Memorial, and seeing a Broadway play were just some of the things that made it memorable.
Chennai, India – The first trip that took us completely out of our comfort zone, which has had a lasting impact on the way that we travel. Visiting the temples, learning about the culture, and tasting the amazing food were just part of the experience. The highlight of the trip was having dinner at the house of a local family and is a memory that we will always cherish.
Southern Spain – We saw so many interesting places while spending a couple of weeks in Southern Spain including Seville, Granada, Ronda, Gibraltar, and even a day trip to Morocco. We went to a wine tasting, toured the largest bullfighting ring, and seeing the Alhambra Palace and Fortress were some of the many highlights of our time there.
Ecuador – With such a diverse ecology, it was almost as like combining three trips into a single visit. We stayed at an ecolodge in the Amazon where we paddled boats through the jungle, climbed to the top of the rainforest canopy, and saw wildlife everywhere we went. While we were in Quito we took time to visit two very different volcanos, hiked in the Andes Mountains, and stood on the equator.
Our First Trip to Europe – It took us longer than some people to get to Europe, but have obviously been there many times and even lived there since our first trip. We were definitely tourists and not travelers during that trip to Paris, London, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Manchester, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable. Walking the streets of Paris, staying in a flat in London, and seeing an EPL (English Premier League) soccer/football match made the trip truly special.
Egypt – Taking a cruise down the Nile River, seeing the Great Pyramids, climbing into tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and walking through temples that are thousands of years old is something that we’ll never forget. Obviously the history and amazing scenery were completely amazing, but the people that we met also made the experience one of our favorites.
Clearly these trips are just the tip of the iceberg and we have many other memorable experiences. We are also looking forward to creating many new experiences in the coming months as well. With busy lives and seemingly always planning an upcoming trip, it is good sometimes to sit back and reflect on how fortunate we’ve been to see some of the things that we have.
With the birthplace and gravesite of Shakespeare, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and historic Tudor buildings, Stratford-upon-Avon is a wonderful town in England to visit. It gets its name because it is located on the River Avon and is sometimes simply referred to as Stratford. Located in the county of Warwickshire, there is also the Warwick Castle nearby, which is definitely worth visiting as well. Although it is definitely a tourist destination, we went during the off-season and enjoyed sharing the streets with more locals than tourists.
Obviously, seeing the birthplace of Shakespeare is a highlight of any visit to Stratford-upon-Avon. The house where Shakespeare was born in 1564 is located on Henley Street, which is part of the historic section of the town. The timbered house has been restored and looks very much today as it might have in the 16th century when Shakespeare was a child. There is also the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre where performances still occur throughout the year, but especially over the summer months featuring many famous actors. With over two million visitors per year, Stratford-upon-Avon can be quite busy.
We were in Stratford-upon-Avon during the holiday season, so there was a Christmas market and the town was decorated for the holidays. We also were there to watch the mayor kick off the holiday season as people gathered around the town hall. There were also many stores that featured holiday gifts as well as other typical shops selling items for tourists. Perhaps even better were the various pubs that were offering mulled wine to keep us warm on a cold autumn evening.
We spent a couple of days in Stratford-upon-Avon visiting the historic town and seeing the impressive Warwick Castle before catching a train to continue on to Manchester. Seeing the English countryside and the historic buildings was certainly one of our favorite parts of our trip to England several years ago.
When traveling, we always try to have the most authentic experiences as possible. There are times, however, when a tour that we take includes something that is there just for tourists. They are often a photo opportunities that locals believe that the people visiting want to take home with them, but often they aren’t realistic to the actual culture. More often than not, when we end up doing one of those types of things, we literally cringe when we see what we’re about to do. It doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy them, it is just that we realize that it is a staged activity done just for tourists.
We have actually ridden camels twice, once in Morocco and then again in Egypt. It wasn’t as if we were riding a camel to get from one place to another, it was just us on a camel while someone walked us around. It wasn’t as if we saw people riding camels, although we know that they do in the desert, so it is just something that people have come to expect to do when they visit those countries. Another thing that we did when in Morocco was to see a snake charmer. Interesting as it was, it was still just a planned stop along the tour for us to take photos and tip the snake charmer in order for him to make a living.
When we were in Prague, at the end of the tour, we went to what was supposed to be a medieval restaurant, complete with cobwebs on the ceiling and waiters dressed in garments from the period. Having a meal at a wooden table in a dungeon, while fun, is probably not the way it would have been hundreds of years ago. When we visited Warwick Castle in England, one of the towers was set up as a torture chamber. It was basically a haunted house experience with people jumping out at you. Again, fun, but not anything representative of turn of the century Europe.
When we were in Cabo, we swam with dolphins in a large aquarium. It would be quite fascinating to swim in the wild with dolphins, but that would be a completely different experience than swimming with a dolphin that has been trained to do tricks. We took a cruise on a pirate ship in Puerto Vallarta where they put on a show and entertained the guests throughout the tour. Clearly these activities are a little different, but still very touristy. Obviously it is hard to completely avoid all of these types of activities, so when they happen it is best to just role with it and have fun. The camel rides were probably the most touristy of all of the activities that we’ve done. What is the most touristy thing that you’ve done when traveling?