The John Deere Pavilion – Moline, Illinois

Our visit to the John Deere Pavilion was special to us because it was my birthday, and John Deere is my great-great-great Grandfather. I grew up knowing about this legacy, but without much knowledge of the machinery that bears my ancestor’s name. That was certain to change… CONTINUE READING >> 

The birthday boy at the John Deere Pavilion!

Our visit to the John Deere Pavilion was special to us because it was my birthday, and John Deere is my great-great-great Grandfather.

I grew up knowing about this legacy, but without much knowledge of the machinery that bears my ancestor’s name. That was certain to change.

The John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Illinois

The pavilion has everything from one of Deere’s original steel plows, to the most massive modern heavy equipment.

Veronica wanted pictures of me with all of it. So I stood beside antique tractors, gawked at earth movers, pointed implements, and marveled at a prototype concept machine for cutting trees that looked like it was straight out of Star Wars.

A John Deere prototype concept machine for cutting trees that looked like it was straight out of Star Wars

I even climbed into the high tech cab of a combine the size of a small town. Then, the moment I’d been waiting for, the birthday boy got to try his hand on one of the heavy equipment simulators.

The idea was to bulldoze dirt into a marked area, but my skills were less than up to the task, guess the ancestral skills didn’t get passed down.

I ended up digging a big hole, backing the dozer into the pit, and then trying to escape the construction area by plowing through a fence. Luckily the program was smart enough to thwart my attempt.

WATCH: David tests out (and wrecks) his grandfather’s heavy equipment. So much for this kind of stuff being in his blood!

The legacy of John Deere at the John Deere Pavilion, Moline Illinois

The John Deere Store in Moline, Illinois

Adjacent to the pavilion, The John Deere Store has all the green and gold any fan, or kinfolk, could dream of.

Tons of apparel, such as the classic hats and jackets, but also toys, collectibles, books, videos, posters and more.

I was immediately taken back to my childhood when I spotted a cast iron pedal tractor just like the one I used to ride up and down my grandmother’s driveway.

David, GypsyNester.com

Click here to see our full adventure down The Great River Road

Thanks to Enjoy Illinois for making this adventure possible! Our opinions, as always, are our own.

Care for the Caribbean

The aftermath from the deadly duo of hurricanes Harvey and Irma has left us overwhelmed. With so much destruction in Texas and Florida, it is also easy to overlook the truly catastrophic damage left behind in the Caribbean… CONTINUE READING >> 

Our beautiful island home before the storm.

The aftermath from the deadly duo of hurricanes Harvey and Irma has left us overwhelmed. With so much destruction in Texas and Florida, it is also easy to overlook the truly catastrophic damage left behind in the Caribbean.

Having lived on an island there for nearly a decade, we certainly feel for our former neighbors. We can hardly process the images of the devastation in the US Virgin Islands. 

Our home of St. Croix was fortunately mostly sparred, but St. Thomas and St. John were horribly ravaged and recovery is going to take months, if not years.

In light of this, NBA legend Tim Duncan, who is from St. Croix, has established the 21USVIHurricane Help Fund by personally donating a quarter of a million dollars and pledging to match donations up to one million.

He wrote an eloquent story about his experience of growing up in the islands and and what it was like after hurricane Hugo. That is why he feels so strongly about helping in this time of need.

Reading it really took us back to our old home. In fact, in a real blast of nostalgia, the neighborhood basketball hoop that they are playing at in the story is right across the street from our old house.

We understand that so many people are struggling right now, and we can’t possibly help everybody, but if you can please join us in extending a helping hand to America’s paradise, the US Virgin Islands.

Five Fabulous Favorites

Without a doubt the most common question we are asked about our travels is “What is your favorite place?” We always say that it is nearly impossible to pick just one, but this handful are usually among the ones that spring to mind… CONTINUE READING >> 

Without a doubt the most common question we are asked about our travels is “What is your favorite place?” We always say that it is nearly impossible to pick just one, but this handful are usually among the ones that spring to mind.

We present them in no particular order:

The Galapagos Islands:

While this volcanic archipelago is best known for the wildlife that Charles Darwin introduced the world to in his The Voyage of the Beagle, much of which is exclusive to these isolated islands, the landscape is equally awe inspiring and ever changing. Each island offered a completely new environment from lush jungle to harsh lava flows.

The giant tortoises, red and blue footed boobies, and myriads of other birds that reside in this variable habitat are completely fearless of humans so our encounters were definitely up close and personal. Under the sea brought incredible encounters as well, when we swam with sea lions, turtles, marine iguanas, and tropical penguins.

Machu Picchu:

We visited this wonder of the world on the same trip as the Galapagos which, while providing for a fortnight of supreme sensory overload, made up the trip of a lifetime.

The inexplicable ruins more than deserve their stature as a bucket list must see, with their inexplicable architecture and sensational setting high in the Andes mountains, but there is much more to the area than the famous lost city, the entire Sacred Valley had us amazed at every turn.

Newfoundland:

We haven’t been everywhere (although it seems like it sometimes), but this might just be the friendliest place on earth! Although we were obviously “from away” we were welcomed with open arms at every stop.

We even got Screeched in, making us honorary citizens, better known as Newfies.

After our adventure we are convinced that the best way to see this amazing Atlantic outpost is by RV since, despite the fact that it is an island, we drove to Newfoundland.

Queensland, Australia:

Veronica is crazy for animals, any animals, so with the opportunity to hold a koala, pet kangaroos, see Tasmanian devils, walk by wallabies, cross paths with a cassowary, watch wombats, get to know kookaburras,  touch an echidna, and even feed crocs, Australia was an instant favorite in her book.

Add to that the chance to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef and its no wonder we rate Queensland near the top of our list.

Cajun Country:

We wouldn’t want to overlook the good ol’ U S of A, and we don’t because we always include the unique culture that occupies the land of south Louisiana known as Acadiana in our tally of top choices.

This is not New Orleans, although we love the Big Easy too, Cajun Country has a history all of its own that traces back to Canada over a century ago.

So those are our most prevalent picks, but since we could hardly limit ourselves to only five destination we will add honorable mentions to Tanzania and Shanghai.

Wait, also Alaska, and Italy, and Prague, and so on, and so on, and so on…

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

A Gypsy Daughter Moves to Paris (and leaps out of her comfort zone)

As a young woman, I never imagined I’d move to France. I had no girlhood obsession with Paris, no special feelings for French culture, no Eiffel Tower prints in my college dorm room. I didn’t even like cheese…. CONTINUE READING >> 

(This is a guest post from our daughter, who recently restarted her life on a new continent and launched a website chronicling her experience: Am I French Yet?)

As a young woman, I never imagined I’d move to France. I had no girlhood obsession with Paris, no special feelings for French culture, no Eiffel Tower prints in my college dorm room. I didn’t even like cheese. But I fell in love with a Frenchman, and we all know how love can completely change the course of your life.

Now here I am in my 30s restarting my life in a foreign country and learning my first foreign language in earnest. I am aware that my current situation is a privilege, and a bit of a dream for many Americans. I also know that I have a leg up in many ways: I have a French husband (and his family), I have the means and time to focus on learning a language and to discover my new country daily through its world-renowned food, culture and landscapes.

However, demolishing your former life and restarting in a foreign land is not always a picnic, no matter where you move. Learning a language means embarrassing yourself daily as you pick up words and phrases bit by bit. Navigating the bureaucracy of another country (in a tongue you barely speak no less) to access banking, visas, and education can be demoralizing.

You lose a lot of the autonomy that naturally comes with being in your native country, speaking the language perfectly and never having to question whether you belong. It is an exercise in challenging your self-esteem and determination.

When deciding whether to move to France this spring, I came across a quote that really resonated with me: “There is no growth in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the growth zone.” (Side note: I searched for the attribution to this quote and found everything from anonymous to a member of Def Leppard, so let’s just say it’s unknown.)

Sitting in my New York City apartment, I thought about how this quote applied to my situation. NYC is not a city known for being particularly warm and snuggly, but I had carved out a relatively comfortable life there after 11 years. I had a decent apartment (no small feat), a job I was proud of and a social circle of people I adored. Was I ready to give that all up? Did I really know what I was in for moving to another country?

I ramped up French study sessions with my husband. I imagined myself without my family and friends close by. I imagined restarting the career I’d built over the past decade. I tried to prepare myself for the difficult aspects as much as I could without actually standing on French soil.

But I also let myself dream. About finally speaking French comfortably with my in-laws. Introducing my future children to my favorite gardens and museums in Paris. About the experiences and lessons that can only come from taking a big leap out of your comfort zone.

So we did it. We moved to Paris. Now three months in, I’m definitely still out of my comfort zone, but I’ve also expanded it greatly. There have been tears and moments (okay, entire days) of frustration and questioning my decision. But there have also been language breakthroughs, a bottle of 50-year-old wine shared with new and old friends, moments of disbelief I get to live in such a gorgeous place, and the gift of being re-introduced to my husband through his own country.

I started my blog, Am I French Yet?, for a few reasons. First, I want to share the many-sided experience of becoming an immigrant with friends, family and anyone else who was interested. Second, I couldn’t find much practical information about navigating the immigration process in France and figured if I was looking for it, many others must be as well. And finally, because I want to remember these early months and how they feel. Hopefully I’ll be able to look back in a year or five and be proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone and building a new life, en français.

Charli James is a journalist, writer and GypsyNester daughter currently living in Paris, France.

Padstow Proves to be Practically Perfect

For the first two days of our Cornish explorations we made the charming town of Padstow our homebase. This little fishing port on the north coast of Cornwall was perfect for an introduction to this part of the United Kingdom. The first evening we walked around the harbor… CONTINUE READING >> 

For the first two days of our Cornish explorations we made the charming town of Padstow our homebase. This little fishing port on the north coast of Cornwall was perfect for an introduction to this part of the United Kingdom.

The first evening we walked around the harbor and got a feel for the town, then enjoyed a fabulous meal at restaurateur Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant.

After feasting on fresh scallops and lobster, we didn’t have far to go to settle in at the inn because our accommodations for the night were actually part of the Restaurant.

The next day found us crossing the bay to the town of Rock where we began our walking tour. With that introduction under our belts, we were ready to move on, on foot of course, to St. Ives the following morning.

The route would take us on a tightrope type of walk traversing the edge of the cliffs that jut above the Celtic Sea along Stepper Point. But before we reached the perilous part of our journey we got a little warm up by walking along River Camel leading out to the open water.

As Padstow disappeared behind us, we came to a Celtic Cross overlooking the city. This was erected as a monument to the soldiers lost in The Great War, or what became known later as World War I. The poignant tribute stands in a beautiful setting, and we learned as we traveled across Cornwall that nearly every town has one.

From the memorial it was just a short walk to the high point on the edge of the bay formed by the river, where we noticed a lookout post perched above us. As we curiously, and cautiously, worked our way up toward it the two men inside waved for us to come on in.

They were happy to have the company it seemed, but they were also performing a part of their duties as volunteer members of the National Coastwatch Institution. Besides watching for trouble at sea, the patrollers take a description of every hiker that passes by to aid in search and rescue should it become necessary.

The crew of NCI Stepper Point Lookout Station was glad to explain their mission of watching over the entrance to the Camel estuary and the port of Padstow and, perhaps most importantly, keeping an eye on the notorious Doom Bar. This sandbar that blocks the entrance at low tide has caused over six hundred vessels to wreck or run aground so a close watch is of primary importance.

Local legend has it that the Doom Bar was created as the dying curse of the Mermaid of Padstow. Some knucklehead supposedly shot her when she refused to marry him, so she cursed the harbor with a “bar of doom.”

No matter the folklore, navigation has been tricky in these parts for quite a while, as evidenced by the stone tower near the coast guard station. Known simply as the Daymark, this navigation tower was built centuries ago to help guide ships around this treacherous point. It was originally lime-washed white to make it visible out to sea, but most of that has long since faded away.

From the tower we excitedly proceeded along the South West Coast Path, England’s longest and perhaps most scenic long distance trail. Onward to the cliffs!

The shoreline dropped off nearly straight down about one hundred feet, making it a little disturbing to get too close to the edge. However, there were a couple of places where we just couldn’t resist going in for a closer look.

The first of these was Pepper Hole. This collapsed sea cave has become a small arch, but it takes a bit of daring to get a good look at it. Coping a careful squat allowed for a peek at the ocean through the hole.

Ambling along a little farther we exchanged intrigued glances with several sheep and learned to climb over the old stone fences that keep them in.

Most of the time we kept a healthy distance between us and the sheer drop off that ran along the coast, but before long we spotted another formation that had us headed for the edge once again.

The rock pinnacles at Gunver Head insisted on closer inspection, so we inched our way over to the precipice for some cautious consideration of the formation.

These cliffs are made of Devonian slate, a sedimentary rock which is extremely brittle and breaks along its layers leaving large flat surfaces.

This characteristic is why this coastline is so craggy and, in the case at Gunver, the crashing surf has created sharp peaks that stand like sentries along the shore.

While we gawked the wind began to kick up, making our precarious perch feel all the more dicey. Before being blown over, we decided to get moving toward the town of Trevone.

When we reached the seaside village, we were wind-blown and ready to take a little break. Spotting an ad for tea at a tiny beachside café, we knew that the time was right, even if it wasn’t officially teatime.

In Cornwall the classic British afternoon ritual is called cream tea, because clotted cream is a star of the show. This butter-like whipped cream is liberally laid out on scones that are lighter than most, in fact they reminded us of good ole southern biscuits.

It is proper to plop a good dollop of strawberry jam down on top of that delicious combination, then wash the whole thing down with hot tea. While we partook the rain did not materialize, so we headed back out and while we walked along the cliffs relented.

The steep coastline gave way to a sandy beach at Harlyn Bay while the sky once again took on an ominous tone. The threatening skies didn’t discourage the handful of surfers and small crowd of beachcombers though, still we made the call to proceed on to our final destination by bus.

When we jumped off at our stop in Constantine Bay, the sky opened up and chased us inside the Treglos Hotel for our second tea of the afternoon.

We inquired as to the lack of etiquette involved with partaking in a double feature when it comes to taking tea, and were assured that it was allowed as long as one was on holiday.

Still, we were fairly certain that this is not what they mean when they say tea for two.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See more from our Cornwall walking tour here.