Finding and Feeling France Like Never Before

NEW STUFF EVERYDAY!
In keeping with our relentless quest to see France every which way we can, by bikes, boat, car, at high speed, or lingering like locals, we are taking to the waterways again, this time as guests on the luxury barge Clair de Lune on the Canal du Midi. Check here for frequent updates or on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.… CONTINUE READING >> 

“Lafayette, we are here!” The exclamation may have first been made by Colonel Charles E. Stanton in a speech in Paris during the First World War, but we certainly feel the sentiment.

France is fast becoming a second home for us, ever since our eldest moved to Paris in 2017.

So in keeping with our relentless quest to see the country every which way we can, by bikes, by boat, by car, at high speed, or lingering like locals, we are taking to the waterways again, this time as guests on the luxury barge Clair De Lune on the Canal du Midi.

Not only will we be traveling like we never have before, with just a handful of cohorts aboard a vessel unlike any we have sailed on, we will also be discovering a part of France that we have never visited, the Occitanie region.

No wonder we are so excited!

The Canal du Midi was created from 1666 to 1681 as one of the greatest infrastructure projects of the time. Ultimately connecting the Mediterranean with the Atlantic across one hundred and fifty miles, this was an engineering feat to rival all others until a certain ditch was dug across the Isthmus of Panama several centuries later. Who knew?

We won’t be covering the entire route, but will discover marvelous Minervois wines and luscious Lucques olives while exploring the historic settlements of Lagrasse , Minerve , Narbonne, and Carcassonne as we stop along the route.

While we cruise we will be sharing all of our adventures on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram as well as posting daily updates right here on this page.

So come along and join us on this Bon Voyage!

Then check back here over the next few weeks for in-depth coverage of everything we encountered after our epic journey.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our previous adventures in France!

Follow along with us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

A big thank you to France Cruises for providing this adventure, as always, all opinions are our own.

Our Favorite (Lesser Known) Cities on Each Continent

For a trip down Memory Lane, and maybe to offer some ideas for summer travel, we decided to go back through our past few years of globetrotting and pick out our favorite metropolises along the way… CONTINUE READING >> 

For a trip down Memory Lane, and maybe to offer some ideas for summer travel, we decided to go back through our past few years of globetrotting and pick out our favorite metropolises along the way.

We didn’t want to just randomly select, and choosing them by geographic landmass seemed like a good criteria, so here we go…

Europe:

There is an intimidating list of fantastic choices in Europe, so picking one is a daunting task. Certainly Paris and Rome spring to mind, and Prague always comes up when we get asked about our favorite places, but for this recollection are looking to venture a little more off of the beaten path.

With that in mind we pick Wangen im Allgäu in Germany.

We stumbled upon this southern German gem completely by accident when seeking a night’s lodging on our way to Switzerland.  By the time we parked at our hotel we were immediately enamored.

The berg most certainly has a sense of humor, with fanciful fountains featuring whimsical sculptures scattered throughout, yet it also has maintained its authenticity as a picture perfect dollop of Deutschland.

The food and architecture could not have been more genuine, and we even happened upon the town’s weekly outdoor market when we ventured out the next morning. We couldn’t have asked for a better overnight.

South America:

Whenever the subject of South America arises our first recommendation is always to visit the Galápagos Islands, but since we are focusing on urban areas for this retrospect we will jump back over to the mainland and choose Cusco in Peru.

Perched over ten thousand feet high up in the Andes, this once capital of the Inca Empire now serves as the homebase for explorations of The Sacred Valley.

It is the perfect jumping off point for venturing into the mysteries of the ancient cities and ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo, and Machu Picchu.

But it would be a mistake to rush off to those ruins without indulging on the rich past and vibrant present that Cusco has to offer. The city has several layers to reveal as it was transformed from the ancient Incan, to Spanish, and now the Peruvian cultures.

Africa:

We have not travelled extensively across Africa, but we were able to collect lifelong memories in the village of Rau, on the outskirts of the city of Moshi in Tanzania.

Our time there became an experience that will live in our hearts forever as we jumped in to teaching and repairing the Lunguo Primary School. Our time with the vivacious students and dedicated faculty will bring us joy for the rest of our lives.

Beyond that, we were able to get a small taste of what day to day life is really like away from any tourist attractions or high-rise hotels.

Mixed in with our construction and educational activities, we also found time to meet and learn a few of the customs of the Chagga and Maasai people, and see an amazing array of African animals in the Ngorongoro Crater .

All under the powerful shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Asia:

Growing up as Cold War kids we never in a million years dreamt that we would ever have a chance to set foot in China. My how times have changed!

After observing the uproarious hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing, the work-a-day city of Dalian gave us a welcome glimpse into the life of Chinese people away from these massive urban areas.

Hopping aboard a creaking and clanking old wooden streetcar, we rode into the city with no particular destination in mind and discovered gleaming modern skyscrapers next to a marketplace of shops mish-mashed together that looked as though it had hardly changed in centuries.

We also indulged in perhaps the best street food we have ever encountered, as well as the worst thing we have ever put in our mouths.

No wonder we called it a city of contrasts.

Australia:

Even though we only had the chance to explore a small slice of the Land Down Under, we feel comfortable proclaiming Gold Coast as a pick.

It is aptly named, because this stretch of beach along the Coral Sea certainly is top notch all the way.

Spectacular hotels overlook the ocean while innovative restaurants serve up its bounty.

We even tried our hands (and luckily didn’t lose any) at surfing and feeding enormous, hungry crocodiles.

North America:

As hard as it is to arrive at a choice of a favorite on our home continent, after much debate we managed. Having traveled all across the US, actually making it to all 50 states, it was nearly impossible to narrow it down in our own country.

So we thought of Canada.  Among the many great places we have seen in our northern neighbor, Twillingate on the island of Newfoundland came to mind. In fact, we fell in love with the entire island and the fantastic folks there.

For those who do not live right next door a visa may be necessary for travel to Canada and we found a way to make getting one super easy with eTA Canada.

However, when it came to picking just one special town, we decided that Valladolid had to be it. Considered to be the most perfectly preserved colonial city in all of Mexico, it was hard not to be completely captivated while wandering its streets.

The combination of the Mayan and Spanish has survived so stunningly that at times we felt as though we had stepped into a time capsule and been transported back a couple of centuries.

Antarctica:

The bottom of the world is the one continent that we have yet to visit so we can’t pick a favorite.

Good thing it doesn’t have any cities so we don’t have to.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: What would your picks be? We’d love to hear.

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The Inside Scoop on Alaska’s Inside Passage

Join us for daily updates while we head north to Alaska for a celebration of David surviving sixty trips around the sun and a cruise through the Inside Passage. All of our young’uns, along with their significant others, will be joining us, so we are looking forward to lots of laughing, eating, and amazing sightseeing… CONTINUE READING >> 

We are heading north to Alaska for a celebration of David surviving sixty trips around the sun and a cruise through the Inside Passage.

All of our young’uns, along with their significant others, will be joining us, so we are looking forward to lots of laughing, eating, and amazing sightseeing aboard The Royal Princess.

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My new @ArcidoTravel Faroe backpack was perfect for a day trip up Mount Roberts high above the capital of The Last Frontier, Juneau, #Alaska. So far it has handled everything I could throw at it, Guess I’ll just have to keep going. #hike #travel #mountain https://t.co/1fOmtzImta pic.twitter.com/qC3Etapm1L

— The GypsyNesters (@gypsynester) May 29, 2019

From 16 decks up – #iceberg pile-up. The #glaciers are #calving like CRAZY! #Explore #Alaska with us as we #cruise the #InsidePassage! #travel #traveling #traveltips #vacation #ig_alaska #ig_usa #mytravelgram #instapassport #travelgram #instagood #igtravel #GlacierNationalPark #glacier #icebergs

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We had the remarkable good fortune to be on her maiden voyage across the Mediterranean Sea a few years ago and from that experience know just how fabulous she is.

Join us right here for frequent updates and fantastic photos of the incredible scenery that we will be sailing past along the way. We will also be posting fabulous photos and you can follow all of our adventure with us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

We begin by attempting to pack everything we will need for the journey in two carry-on bags. Are we crazy?

Probably, but it’s hard to say for certain…

Click here to find out if we pulled it off.

We will be too busy having shipboard fun, watching for whales, exploring the ports along the way, or gazing at glaciers to report all of our escapades in real time, but will certainly be updating as often as possible right here and across our social media channels.

So be sure to follow all of the adventure along with us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Then check back here over the next few weeks for in-depth coverage after the trip.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our previous adventures in Alaska!

A Potentially Preposterous Packing Proposition

We decided to challenge ourselves. Could we pack everything we need for a two week getaway in two carry-on bags? Adding to the conundrum is the fact that the trip includes a cruise to Alaska (where temps may dip down to near freezing) with a formal night… CONTINUE READING >> 

We have decided to challenge ourselves.

Can we pack everything we need for a two week getaway in two carry-on bags? Adding to the conundrum is the fact that the trip includes a cruise with a formal night.

That means this ain’t a throw a few tee shirts in a bag kind of a journey. On the other hand, we are loath to check a suitcase. So just how far will we go to avoid that?

Bagail Packing Cubes

Let’s find out.

Luckily, in our endeavor to make this happen we got some help from the folks at Bagail. They asked us to try using their system of Packing Cubes to organize and compact everything we will need.

Normally packing is not a problem for us; we do it all of the time. Depending on the trip, we just grab some jeans, shirts, and maybe some bike shorts or a bathing suit and we are pretty much ready to go. But this is journey will be a little different.

We are meeting up with our entire family, all three kids along with their significant others, for a cruise and sixtieth birthday celebration for David.

Here we go. How will all of this ever fit?

Not only will we need a suit and formal dress, along with the proper shoes, we are also going to Alaska. This means the weather could be anything from 30 to 80 degrees and sunny or pouring rain… maybe even a little snow, so we will be expected to have the ability to dress accordingly.

On a positive note, the ship does have laundry, so we can wash some things and won’t have to bring everything we require for the entire fortnight. That means we can get by with about half of some of the essentials that we otherwise would have needed for the whole time. Still, it’s a lot of stuff.

First we decided to lay out all of what we wanted to bring so we could eyeball it and develop a battle plan. Seeing it piled up, we were not feeling very optimistic about our prospects for success.

Everything for a two week trip has to go in these? Are we crazy?

Looking at the Bagail six piece system, which includes two of each large (17.5” x  13.7” x 4”), medium (13.7” x 9.8” x 4”), and small (13.7” x 5” x 4”) cubes, we were definitely apprehensive, but hopeful they could somehow give us enough room.

To provide a little more space, we also had two medium Bagail Compression Packing Cubes. These feature a dual zipper system that compresses the clothes to about half of their original size once they are packed inside.

Still we have to admit that we were more than a little apprehensive about our chances of fitting all of this stuff into our little rolling bags.

Our chances look even worse with everything laid out in the suitcases.

While we began to formulate our ideas of what might go where, we happily noticed that the cubes fit perfectly into our suitcases. The large ones precisely fill the bottom of our carry-ons, with the medium and small stacking exactly on top, since the size of those two cubes equals the size of the large cube.

That should certainly make things easier, so now all we had to do was start stuffing these babies like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Once we filled the large cubes things looked a little better.

We both started by filling our large cubes with a remarkable amount of said stuffing. David’s easily held a suit, jeans, ties, and half a dozen dress shirts while Veronica had no trouble with two dresses, jeans, cargo pants, half a dozen shirts, and some jammies.

She then chose two bulky sweaters, which are normally a real pain when packing, to load into one of the compression cubes and was pleasantly surprised that they squished down with no problems.

After stuffing the compression cubes we were getting downright optimistic.

Meanwhile, David fit all of his tee shirts and some flannel pajamas into the other compression bag.

With that accomplished we felt a rush of hope that we might just pull this off after all.

The medium sized cubes easily held two pairs of David’s pants, along with swimming trunks, shorts, a hoodie, and a heavy pullover. Veronica had no trouble putting three more dresses and, not to be caught off guard in case it gets pretty cold, a down parka in hers.

Looking good.. but wait… oh no, SHOES!!!

Socks and underwear all fit into the small cubes, so it looked like we got everything in, right?

Right.

But wait just a dad-blame minute. Not so fast there Gypsynesters.

Even with everything in the cubes, we were still faced with one last obstacle… shoes!

Turns out they fit nicely between the cubes.

Well it turns out that the cubes indirectly helped with them too. Individual shoes slid nicely between the cubes throughout our suitcases and much to our surprise everything fit.

We did it!

We have to say that so far we are loving the Bagail Packing Cubes system. Without it there is no way we could have managed to bring everything without checking a suitcase, which would break our One Trip Rule.

So, two thumbs up.

We did it!!!

Also, since these handy cubes are new to us, we will be learning more about them as we travel and posting updates along the way on our Instagram and Twitter pages.

Be sure to follow along with us while we cruise Alaska’s inside passage and celebrate David’s sixtieth.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

A big thank you to Bagail for providing the packing cubes for us to try and, as always, all opinions are our own.

A Space for Grandkids by Grandkids & Grandparents

What if you had a spare bedroom or space in your house that you could reserve for your grandchildren? Wouldn’t it be fun to make it more kid-friendly? Not just the decorations, but coming up with an activity that all of you can do together to really enhance the experience… CONTINUE READING >> 

When I was younger, my grandparents always went out of their way to make sure their home was as comfortable for me as my own. While it wasn’t necessarily “KID-FRIENDLY,” they tried their best to make sure that my brother and I kept coming back. I sometimes think back on my childhood and reflect on all of the great things that they did to help us thrive as children and mature into respectable gentlemen. My grandparents on both sides (maternal and paternal) really helped form the foundational building blocks of what I think has helped me get where I am today in life. That really had me thinking though about some of the things they could have done that would have made our time together more fun. (Don’t get me wrong, we had what seemed like countless toys and games.) What I’m talking about is the space that we hung out and slept in.

What if you had a spare bedroom or space in your house that you could reserve for your grandchildren? Wouldn’t it be fun to make it more kid-friendly? They might just want to spend more time with you, and creating a space that they (and you) really enjoy can help toward that. I’m not talking about just the decorations in the room, although that can be a part of the experience with your grandchildren—picking out curtains, wall paper, paint, comforters, pillow cases, etc. that match their tastes. I’m talking about coming up with an activity that all of you can do together to really enhance the experience.

The first thing that comes to my mind is creating a chalkboard wall (because we all know that kids like to write on walls and just about anything they can get their hands on, am I right?). There are tons of different ways you can approach this, but the point is that you can have your grandkids help you with the project

There are DIY kits available that you can purchase, or completely customize that room the way you like. We’ve found that the simplest method is to purchase high-quality chalkboard paint and go to town with it! There are infinite possibilities for this experience that you’ll be creating with your grandchildren. You want to make the room magical for them—and this is definitely a great way to start.

If you’re absolutely stuck trying to figure out how to paint a chalkboard wall in your spare room, there are many resources available for reference. We, too, have created one to help people like you, who want expertise and guidance from a professional. PlatoDIY.com has experts in painting to properly guide you through the entire process. At the end of working with one of our professionals, our hope is that you’ll have learnt how to properly paint and design an awesome chalkboard experience for your grandchildren.

There are infinite possibilities for your grandchildren’s room at your house. You ultimately have to choose what best fits your lifestyle and goals. We think that enhancing your property for your grandchildren is something that all grandparents should think about, because it truly can enhance your life in more ways than you actually think or know!

David Peterson, PlatoDIY.com

We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.