In Honor of President’s Day

In these days of crazy political partisanship, we thought it might be a good idea to honor our presidents from the past that we almost all agree were among the greats.

No place can bring out a feeling of patriotic awe like… CONTINUE READING >> 

In these days of crazy political partisanship, we thought it might be a good idea to honor our presidents from the past that we almost all agree were among the greats.

No place can bring out a feeling of patriotic awe like Mount Rushmore. The grandeur of the setting matches the achievements of these historic leaders.

For an inside look at the life of a president, it’s hard to beat the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York.

It was Roosevelt’s hope that by donating his home and all of his papers he could leave a library that would become an important research center, as well as a preservation of the history of his time in office.

He was certainly successful, and created a precedent where all of the presidents that followed him would also build libraries to preserve their legacies.

Perhaps a slightly less dignified tribute stands along the Interstate Highway in Kankakee, Illinois.

This Ginormous Abe Lincoln stands a whopping 40 feet high, doubling the size of his likeness sitting in the memorial in Washington, D.C.

From up there he can really keep an eye on the Land of Lincoln.

Our guess is that he would also ask us to put aside our differences, at least for his day, and celebrate this great country that we all share…

…and the leaders who shaped it.

David and Veronica, GypsyNester.com

London Travel Tips

London offers a wealth of art and culture, trendy shops and global dining opportunities on both sides of the River Thames. Its thriving entertainment scene ranges from theaters and concerts to clubs and comedy venues. When the excitement gets too much, London’s parks are ideal for relaxation… CONTINUE READING >> 

London offers a wealth of art and culture, trendy shops and global dining opportunities on both sides of the River Thames. Its thriving entertainment scene ranges from theatres and concerts to clubs and comedy venues. When the excitement gets too much, London’s parks are ideal for relaxation.

London

London’s West End takes in Oxford Street and Regent Street, with their busy shops and department stores, and the entertainment hubs of Leicester Square and Shaftesbury Avenue.

Also in the West End are buzzing Soho, with its gay pubs and funky cafés, and majestic Trafalgar Square, graced by Nelson’s Column and twin fountains. From here, you can walk down Whitehall to Westminster, the political heart of the country.

Across the Thames are South Bank and Bankside, the location of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Moving eastwards from Trafalgar Square gets you to The City, where gleaming skyscrapers rub shoulders with historic buildings. To the north of the West End are literary Bloomsbury and leafy Regent’s Park.


Image via Flickr by mangMangW

Top attractions in London

The National Gallery collection spans from the Middle Ages to the early 1900s. If you prefer contemporary art, Tate Modern, a former industrial complex across the Thames, houses rotating exhibitions.

Further down the Thames at Tower Bridge you can enjoy great city views from a glass-floored walkway high above the river. Nearby, the Tower of London gives an insight into British royal history.

If you’d rather be outdoors, Covent Garden has street entertainers and a lively covered market. The Changing of the Guard takes place at 11:30am outside Buckingham Palace, or you can head to St. James’s Park to see the pelicans being fed.

The concierge recommends…

  • Visiting the British Museum – not only for its world-class collection, but also for the Great Court, an airy indoor piazza designed by Sir Norman Foster.
  • Catching a riverboat service to Royal Observatory, Greenwich, where you can straddle the Prime Meridian – that is, the imaginary line dividing east from west.
  • Taking a spin on the London Eye, a large Ferris wheel on South Bank, for views over London.
  • Browsing the latest fashions at Camden Market. If your interests run towards food, Borough Market is not to be missed, while Portobello Road Market is your destination for antiques, vintage clothing and bric-a-brac.

Hotels in London

London has a wealth of accommodation options, from boutique hotels in leafy neighbourhoods to large establishments in more urban areas. An efficient transport network means you don’t have to stay in the West End to enjoy all the city has to offer.

Thanks to its proximity to The City, East London appeals to business travellers. From here, it is easy to reach Shoreditch, where there are many sleek bars and ethnic restaurants in which to relax after closing a deal.

With attractions such as the Natural History Museum and Science Museum, plus the open spaces and activities at Kensington Gardens and adjacent Hyde Park, Kensington is a magnet for families. It’s a short bus or Tube ride from here to Knightsbridge, home of the famous Harrods department store, or to King’s Road with its stylish boutiques.

Eating Out in London

Visitors to London can try local British specialities – such as jellied eels or pie and mash – or take a gastronomic trip around the world, whether it’s burritos from a street-food stall or sushi at a fine-dining restaurant.

Once the go-to area for Indian food, Brick Lane still has plenty of curry houses. It has now opened up to other ethnic restaurants and gourmet burger joints. Nearby Spitalfields Market has lively cafés and eateries to suit all tastes and budgets, as does Soho.

Both The City and Mayfair offer sophisticated dining options, including several restaurants run by celebrity chefs. Mayfair also has many charming venues in which to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea.

In addition to stalls selling charcuterie, cheeses and baked goods, bustling Borough Market also has sit-down establishments offering global bites such as tapas, stir-fries and oysters.

No trip to London would be complete without a visit to a pub, where you can sample real ale – and a real slice of British life.

The chef recommends…

  • Pie and mash: Typical of London’s East End, this dish consists of beef mince encased in pastry and served with mashed potatoes and a green parsley sauce known as liquor.
  • Jellied eels: Another East End speciality, these are chunks of freshwater eel boiled in a fish, vinegar and herb stock. When left to cool after cooking, the eels naturally develop an outer jelly layer.
  • Sunday roast: This meal traditionally features a few thin slices of roast beef, served with roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables, gravy and a horseradish sauce.

Shopping in London

At the cutting edge of fashion, music and the arts, London is a retail paradise. You can find anything your heart desires in its charming independent shops, glitzy flagship stores of international chains and well-stocked department stores. London’s antiques markets are treasure troves of one-off pieces.

Bond Street, Sloane Street and Knightsbridge have a high concentration of luxury French and Italian boutiques. More exclusive products – from watches and cashmere to lingerie and upscale toiletries – are for sale in Mayfair’s elegant Burlington Arcade.

Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Shoreditch and King’s Road are good bets for casual and affordable clothing.

Charing Cross Road is great for books, with both second-hand shops and Foyles’ flagship store, while Soho has a number of independent record stores.

Music lovers can also head to Shoreditch, where Rough Trade East often organises record launches and intimate in-store performances. While in Shoreditch, you can also browse for vintage fashions.

Best indoor shopping

  • Decorated with chandeliers and gilding, the food hall at Fortnum & Mason is worth a visit even if you’re not in the market for its premium range of preserves, chocolates and cheeses. Harrods has a similarly breathtaking food hall, with a tiled ceiling and Art Deco details.
  • With its contemporary decor, Harvey Nichols is a reliable destination for the latest fashions by world-renowned designers such as Michael Kors, Maison Margiela and Paul Smith.
  • Westfield Stratford City in East London has more than 300 stores covering all price points, plus restaurants, cinema screens and bowling lanes.


Image via Flickr by Alan Perestrello

Culture & Nightlife in London

London is abuzz with cultural activities, and there is something for everyone happening every night of the week, whether it’s a play or a gig by a touring rock band.

Stage productions in London’s West End span from musicals to drama. Fans of the Bard will not want to miss a performance at Shakespeare’s Globe on Bankside. Just up the road is the National Theatre. The adjacent Southbank Centre is a cultural complex where you can enjoy world-class concerts.

Boasting a vast dance floor, Ministry of Sound has put Elephant & Castle firmly on the map, and venues like Corsica Studios have helped cement the area’s reputation as a clubbing haven.

The choices in Soho include karaoke bars, burlesque clubs, dimly lit cocktail lounges and the live jazz temple that is Ronnie Scott’s. At the end of the night, Bar Italia provides the perfect pit stop before heading back to the hotel.

Best live music venues in London

  • Camden Town is a hub for indie and rock music, with venues like The Roundhouse, with its industrial Victorian architecture, and KOKO, housed in a former variety theatre and featuring a gigantic mirror ball.
  • As well as hosting gigs by national and international acts, Kensington’s Royal Albert Hall is the main home of the Proms, a series of classical concerts that takes place every summer.
  • High-profile bands tend to play at The O2 arena in Greenwich. Located in the distinctive Millennium Dome, this venue can hold as many as 20,000 people.

Visiting London with a Family

There is no shortage of family-friendly activities in London, and many of them – museums, parks and city farms – are free of charge. Dining out isn’t a problem, since many restaurants provide children’s menus, and some positively welcome pint-sized patrons.

The Science Museum and Natural History Museum in South Kensington provide hands-on displays and child-orientated workshops. Both museums run a “spend the night” scheme, which allows participants to get up close and personal with the exhibits and enjoy special activities.

South of the Thames, animal-loving kids will enjoy a visit to Vauxhall City Farm, which is home to goats, pigs and other farmyard animals. Riding lessons are available, too. Battersea Park Children’s Zoo has small mammals like lemurs, meerkats and chipmunks, plus an interactive play area.

Best family-friendly restaurants in London

  • The Rainforest Cafe recreates the Amazonian jungle with lush greenery, animatronic creatures and special effects such as periodic thunderstorms.
  • At Tom’s Kitchen Canary Wharf, kids eat for free at weekends between 10am and 4pm. An activity room and supervised crafts sessions ensure that parents get to relax as well.
  • Bringing together food and bowling, All Star Lanes supplies bumpers and extra-light bowling balls for a child-friendly experience.

Just in Time for Valentine’s Day – Travel Pick-up Lines!

When Lonely Planet put out the word that they wanted submissions for clever Travel Pick-up Lines we were all in.

We love us some puns. The more corny the better… CONTINUE READING >> 

GypsyNesters

When Lonely Planet put out the word that they wanted submissions for clever “Travel Pick-up Lines,” we were all in. We love us some puns. The more corny the better.

You’d think after thirty years of marriage we’d be a little rusty, but they were flowing out of us so fast it was hard to get them written down. Frankly, it was a bit disturbing how un-rusty we were.

Here are our winning submissions:


Here are some of our favorite entries:

Haven’t had enough? See all of the winning pick-up lines here!

YOUR TURN: Which is your favorite? Would you use any of these? Do you have one to add?

A Basque Border Crossing to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France

The quaint little seaside resort town is très French, mixing with its Basque heritage. In the fifteen hundreds it was home to a fleet of fearsome corsairs… CONTINUE READING >> 

A big thank you to VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations for providing this ritzy adventure in Saint-Jean-de-Luz! As always, all opinions are our own. See our full adventure from the beginning here.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France

While most of our experience in Basque Country was on the Spanish side, we did get to spend a day across the border in the French portion.

The region has traversed the international border likely longer than there has been a boundary, dating back at least to Roman times. Through all of the trials and tribulations that defined the nations of Europe, the Basque people remained ensconced in this part of the Pyrenees Mountains.

Old town Hondarribia, Spain from the water

This meant that our journey would take us to a new country officially, but culturally not much would change.

To make the crossing we decided to catch the ferry across the Txingudi Bay from Hondarribia, Spain to Hendaye in France.

This was not for lack of a road, or even a train, it was just because it was a fine way to get a different perspective on both of the towns. It also gave us a feel for the history of these two settlements as ancient fishing villages.

The boardwalk in Hendaye, France

Once we set foot on French territory we walked for a little over a mile along the beach, watching as surfers tried their best to catch a ride on what appeared to be not quite big enough waves.

The beach in Hendaye, France

A beautiful waterside promenade lines the shore where surf shops, night clubs, restaurants, and high-rise hotels look out over the Atlantic.

From this esplanade we headed into the woods and were quickly greeted by a big surprise. As we entered a clearing we were astonished to find a perfect medieval castle that looked to be straight out of the pages in a fairy tale looming across the meadow.

Château of Antoine d'Abbadie in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, FranceThere is a good reason that the  Château of Antoine d’Abbadie is in such pristine condition, it is actually quite a bit newer than it appears.

It also lacks any royal roots. The Irish born Antoine d’Abbadie, a notable explorer, geographer, linguist astronomer, and ethnologist built the estate in 1864. As a part of his studies, the château included an extensive library and an observatory.

A walk through the French Basque woods

As a part of his heritage, his father was born in the area, he developed a deep interest in the Basque culture and worked for the recognition of the Basque language by publishing grammatical studies.

He went on to establish the Basque Games in the nearby village of Urrugne, and even became mayor of Hendaye from 1871 to 1875.

When Antoine d’Abbadie passed away in 1897, he bequeathed the castle to the Académie des Sciences of the Institut de France with the stipulation that they compile a catalogue of at least a half-a-million stars within fifty years. They obviously succeeded because they remain the owners to this day.

Hiking to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France

After gawking at the castle for a few minutes we turned back toward the shore and walked another couple of miles along the coastline.

A walk along the French Basque coast

The gathering storm clouds didn’t stop us from pausing for some amazing views of the rocky seashore along the way, but it did get us to pick up our pace on the path to Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France

The quaint little seaside resort town is très French, mixing with its Basque heritage. In the fifteen hundreds it was home to a fleet of fearsome corsairs credited with capturing over one hundred ships.

Fisherman's bounty in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France
Fisherman’s bounty (seriously delicious)!

Sometimes considered pirates, the corsairs were more like mercenaries because they were authorized to conduct raids on behalf of the French crown.

Before that, Basque fishermen sailed from the port as far away as Newfoundland in search of cod.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz, FranceThe harbor still dominates the town, but even more impressive are the three huge seawalls protecting the village from the never ending onslaught of the Atlantic Ocean.

Homes in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France

Church of St. John Baptist, in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France, King Louis and Maria Theresa tied the knot sealing the deal of the Treaty of the Pyrenees

But Saint-Jean-de-Luz’s main claim to fame harkens back to the days when imperial marriages were arraigned in order to form political alliances.

With that goal in mind, a huge wedding took place here in 1660.

French King Louis XIV and the Spanish princess Maria Theresa tied the knot, which sealed the deal on the Treaty of the Pyrenees, and peace reigned across the land… at least for a little while.

Church of St. John Baptist, in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, FranceWe stopped in at the Church of St. John Baptist, where the nuptials took place, for a peek at history.

This is the largest Basque church in France, but has an obvious odd quirk; the main door has been seal off.

No problem, we made our way in through the side entrance.

There are two legends regarding how this came to pass. One is that the door was closed to signify the closing of hostilities between France and Spain. Could be, but perhaps a more likely theory is that Louis XIV ordered the door sealed up so that no other couple could walk into the church to be married in the same manner that he had.

Statue of Mary in St. John the Baptist Church in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, FranceTo us it seemed like an odd place for a royal wedding, but then it looks as though the affairs were more of a political nature than those of the heart.

At least, considering the surroundings, they didn’t have far to travel for the honeymoon.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in France!

A big thank you to VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations for providing this ritzy adventure in Saint-Jean-de-Luz! As always, all opinions are our own. See our full adventure from the beginning here.

Prairie Palace Constructed of Corn in South Dakota

We have to say that we were surprised, to say the least, and impressed by the sight of this improbable landmark in this farm town.

The building looks like it may have been transplanted from Moscow or St. Petersburg… CONTINUE READING >>

When making the seemingly endless drive across the prairie of South Dakota an excuse to pull off the super-slab for a diversion is not only welcome, but a good idea for avoiding highway hypnosis.

So on our way to see Mount Rushmore, and the amazing geologic formations of Badlands National Park, we were more than happy to make a quick pit stop at The World’s Only Corn Palace in the small city of Mitchell.

We have to say that we were surprised, to say the least, and impressed by the sight of this improbable landmark in this farm town. The building looks like it may have been transplanted from Moscow or St. Petersburg.

It is also not every day that we get to see the world’s only anything; it’s a pretty big claim to make, so we were duly excited at that prospect. We later learned that as far as corn palaces are concerned, this one couldn’t always make that declaration.

In the late eighteen hundreds, several towns across the Great Plains erected “crop palaces” or “grain palaces” as a way to promote their harvests. The big idea spread and found a home several places, including Gregory and Plankinton in South Dakota and Sioux City, Iowa.

In 1892 Mitchell joined the craze, building a wooded structure on Main Street. This included a stage for entertainment and served as a gathering place for a fall festival. That tradition still continues with the annual Corn Palace Festival held in late August each year.

But the original hall was fairly short lived, and like the others might have become nothing more than a memory, except that the town council had other plans.

A big reason Mitchell’s maize mansion thrived long after the others disappeared was that the citizens were dedicated to civic advancement. In 1905, the townsfolk made a play to become the state capital, attempting to wrestle the honor away from those uppity big city dwellers up in Pierre.

Their big idea? Build a new, bigger Corn Palace… that’ll show ’em!

Even though the political effort failed, the new palace was a big hit. Renovations continued over the decades, adding the Russian-style onion domes and Moorish minarets that we found so oddly out of place on our visit.

To make the whole scene even more surreal, the whole building is covered with stalks, shocks, husks, and ears, of corn, along with other grains and native grasses to create the self-proclaimed agricultural show-place of the world.

The walls serve as canvases for murals all depicting scenes from a new theme each season. Artistically placing kernels from thirteen different colored varieties of corn is an activity that the corn crazies on the palace council consider worthy of coughing up $130,000 each year to pull off.

They just might be right too, since over half a million curious consumers stop off in Mitchell every year to take a gander at the cornucopia castle.

When we went inside we found out that the Palace doesn’t just sit around doing nothing while wearing its corn coat. We discovered that this is home to more than just an annual harvest festival; this is also a basketball arena.

In fact, it has been hailed as one of the finest basketball venues in the upper Midwest and USA Today named the Corn Palace as one of the top 10 places in America for high school basketball.

The praise is fitting, since one of the first events held in the current version of the corn coliseum was the 1921 South Dakota state high school basketball tournament.

The arena also serves as the home court of the Dakota Wesleyan University Tigers and the Mitchell High School Kernels teams.

We were sad to miss a game, and even more so the Corn Palace Festival or the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo, but most of all we were nearly distraught to find that we were not in time for the Corn Palace Polka Festival.

OK, Just kidding… sort of. Actually, that would be pretty sweet to see. After all, this is polka country. Lawrence Welk Played the Corn Palace at least five times over the years.

As we were leaving, it occurred to us that as surprised as we were to find this anachronism just off the interstate, we were equally intrigued by the lack of other corn celebrating venues in the region.

What’s up Nebraska? Aren’t you the Cornhuskers?

Then it struck us. Maybe another nickname for the Corn Palace – the World’s Largest Bird Feeder – has something to do with it.

Perhaps it was just too difficult to keep chasing off the barrage of squirrels and feathered friends looking to make a meal of the tasty structures, so we should be glad that one remains.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in South Dakota!

Going Ground Hog Wild

Even though our visit didn’t coincide with the big day, we didn’t feel that we could pass through Pennsylvania without a stop at the town that decides our frozen fate every February… CONTINUE READING >> 

Punxutawney Phil in Top Hat

Even though our visit didn’t coincide with the big day, we didn’t feel that we could pass through Pennsylvania without a stop at the town that decides our frozen fate every February.

Are they crazy about groundhogs in Punxsutawney? You betcha. The place is (wood) chucked full of them.

Not counting groundhogs (real, wooden, fiberglass, bronze, or welded metal) the town of Punxsutawney has a population of a bit above 6,700.

Legend has it that the town got its odd name from a defeated Native American sorcerer who was killed in combat. The ashes of his burnt body turned to sand fleas or Ponksad and through these lovely fleas he continued his harassment of man. Ponksad-uteney means The town of the Sand fleas.

Punxutawney Phil as Lady Liberty

We saw neither flea nor sorcerer on this trip, so we?re assuming the town has rid itself of these pests. Or maybe we were just lucky that the vermin weren’t out and about in December.

Like a lot of folks, we learned about Punxsutawney from the movie Groundhog Day, which celebrates the town’s annual tradition of yanking a large rodent out of a stump to predict the weather.

This occurs every February 2nd, right smack between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, in a tradition that dates back to the ancient European holiday of Candlemas.

Even though both holidays include springtime predictions, the Europeans never seemed to discover camping out, tailgating, or the shadows of furry prognosticators.

All they did was look up to see if it was sunny or cloudy and predict then, as now, sunshine meant six more weeks of winter.

Pantall Hotel Punxutawney

Back in Pennsylvania, the first whistle pig was held high above the now famous Gobbler’s Knob in  Punxsutawney in 1887. It’s doubtful anyone at the time expected this humble hill to become the epicenter of seasonal forecasting.

Now the sole keepers of those long-held secret weather rituals are a handful of top hat bedecked Inner Circle members of the Groundhog Society.

Should a person be so lucky as to be ensconced among the elite few of the Inner Circle, an aisle at the local supermarket will bear his name — a high honor indeed.

Strolling through the Tree Circle in the town square to see the beautifully lit trees decorated by local schools and community groups. Hand in hand, we wondered in the crisp, winter air when suddenly a sharp screech broke the silent night.

Punxutawney Groundhog Glockenspiel

We spun around just in time to see a jolly family of chucks dashing back into their hole on the top of the tree-clock-glockenspiel in front of the Fraternal Order of Eagles lodge across the street.

Venturing out to see the rest of the town by the light of a grey winter day, our first stop was the town library  where the famous woodchuck himself resides.

Punxsutawney Phil, and his wife Phyllis, spend everyday but The Big One in their climate controlled den. The hutch can be viewed from either outside or inside of the library. Our viewing was a tad anticlimactic, since the stars of the show seem to do a lot of sleeping.

Our next stop was The Wizard?s Workshop and it turned out to be a must-see. The proprietor, Randy “The Wizard” Rupert, is an ice sculpting champion and now uses the same chainsaw technique on various sized parts of trees.

Punxutawney Phil the Groundhog

With our usual snarky attitude, we entered past the sign that read What wood you like for Christmas? and Come see what I saw — expecting a hoot, but instead walked into a true master’s den.

Oh, the joys we found there. Randy, the only true link we found to the movie in the entire town, was the guy who taught Bill Murray how to pretend ice sculpt.

The angelic ice carving in the movie is his, ditto the electric chainsaw Bill used for the movie. The saw is prominently displayed in the store along with a VCR tape and poster of the celebrated flick.

The Wizard's Workshop Punxutawney

The most charming aspect of the workshop is Randy himself, who jawed with us for quite sometime about his art, the movie, and the quirks of Punxsutawney.

Oh my.

Off the beaten path was a slightly disturbing groundhog and we did quite a bit of blinking as we stood next to it — trying to chase out the image that was forming in our heads.

“Phil Your Dreams with Butterfly Wings” outside the hospital is meant to represent new life emerging from a cocoon, but from most angles, it sure seems to represent something else entirely. If you bring your grandkids, it might give you a good chance to explain just where new life really comes from.

Putting that image out of our minds, we knew we couldn’t leave without a visit to the famous Gobbler’s Knob. It’s easy to find, just follow the whistle pig prints up Woodland Avenue to the center of the weather forecasting world.

Gobbler's Knob Punxutawney

The Knob is festooned with signs and art dedicated to the most famous seer of them all, Punxsutawney Phil, including the greeting Can you believe it, we’re at Gobblers Knob.

Believe it or not, we could.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

A Happy New Year Present from The GypsyNesters and VBT

To welcome in 2017 we have a great gift for all GypsyNester visitors.

VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations has been kind enough to offer discounts worth up to $300.00 per person off of their great vacations.

We’re not talking about just any old getaways here either, just look…CONTINUE READING >>

vbt

 VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations  has been kind enough to offer this big discount to everyone of our visitors here at GypsyNester.com. Just use the special code below to receive up to $300 off a fantastic VBT tour.

We’re not talking about just any old getaways here either, just look at the fantastic adventures we have had with VBT.

Last year we joined them for an amazing walking tour of the Basque Country of Spain…

…and in 2015 we were introduced to the VBT style of up close and personal travel on an incredible bicycling tour of Sicily.

View all of VBT’s Bicycling and Walking Vacations here.

Here’s the scoop:

For a limited time, GypsyNester followers can save $300 per person off any of VBT’s fantastic International Bicycling and Walking Vacations, or $150 per person off a  Vacation in the U.S.

The offer applies to travel through June 30th 2017 and must be reserved by Thursday, March 9, 2017.

Call VBT’s Tour Consultants at 1-800-245-3868 to reserve your 2017 tour. They’re available Monday-Friday 8:30am-6:30pm EST, Saturday 10:00am-3:00pm EST.

When reserving, first-time travelers must mention the following code to receive this exclusive offer: INET857.

Disclaimers:
Note: This offer is for first-time VBT travelers and new reservations only and cannot be combined with any other offer, including their Group Program and Travel Agent Commissions. You must reserve by March 9, 2017 in order to receive these savings. Standard terms and conditions apply. Visit www.vbt.com for more details.

About VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations:
VBT offers over 55 deluxe, small group bicycling and walking tours in 25 different countries, including destinations throughout Europe, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Peru, Chile, South Africa, and the United States. Each trip includes all accommodations, many meals, two expert local Trip Leaders, unique sightseeing and cultural activities, free use of VBT’s custom bicycle and helmet or walking poles, and on-tour vehicle support. Unlike other companies, VBT also includes roundtrip international airfare from over 30 U.S. cities and select Canadian cities for all overseas vacations. VBT has been rated by the readers of Travel + Leisure among the “World’s Best Tour Operators” for six years.

We are happy to provide this offer and are not being compensated.

Extra! Extra! Read All About It! New York Times Picks GypsyNesters as Travel Experts!

We hesitate to call ourselves experts at anything beyond being goofy, but The New York Times Travel Show has asked us to participate in their Meet the Experts on Saturday January 28th… CONTINUE READING >> 

logo-vert

Yes, The New York Times Travel Show has asked us to participate in their Meet the Experts on Saturday January 28th at the Javits Center in the Big Apple.

As part of the Largest Travel and Trade Show in North America everyone is invited to: “Stop by the Meet the Experts area where travel connoisseurs are available one-on-one to offer advice, insight, tips, information and inspiration on a variety of travel topics.

gypsynesters-ohareWhile we would hesitate to call ourselves experts at anything beyond being goofy, we’re glad the Times declared our expertise. We guess traveling to forty countries and covering half a million miles might just qualify as qualifications.

But mostly, who are we to argue with The Gray Lady, the national “newspaper of record” since 1851?

We will be joining over 250 travel industry speakers and experts, and participating in a forum entitled: Oh, the Places You Can Go Over 50!

While we certainly hope folks join us for this fun question and answer session, but there is so much more to see and do at the show.
From Friday through Sunday attendees can join the over 40 destination specific seminars focused on topics from Cruising to Family Travel, or take in some of the more than one hundred cultural presentations from around the world.gypsynester-africa

There are also over five hundred Exhibitor booths from across the globe to visit on the convention floor. All will be filled with useful information, and many with great deals on wherever globetrotters want to gallivant off to this year.

Hope you can join us!

When: Saturday, January 28th 12:00 pm – 12:45 pm

Where: The New York Times Travel Show Booth #933 Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 655 W 34th St, New York City

More Info:http://nyttravelshow.com/general-information/meet-the-experts/

David & Veronica James, GypsyNester.com

Skiing Southern Style

Where in the world could we ski all day and make it back to the hotel in time to catch some rays by the pool? Only at America’s southernmost ski area… CONTINUE READING >> 

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The day was the kind that draws snowbirds to Arizona, warm, sunny and dry. The sort of mid-winter day that we could spend by a swimming pool, but we had a different idea… skiing.

No, not water, but snow. How could we do that on an eighty degree desert day? By driving the short stretch up Mount Lemmon to America’s southern most ski area, Ski Valley.

ta9Even though the slopes are high enough in the Santa Catalina Mountains to get several feet of snow each year, the ski area only opens when conditions are right.

They don’t make snow, usually it is not cold enough, so Mother Nature has to provide the flakes.

Fortunately for us a big storm had just dumped about three feet of the white stuff up on the mountains a few days ago. So much fell that the road up to the ski valley had to be closed, but we, and a bunch of other enthusiasts from nearby Tucson, finally did get a chance to get to the fresh trails.

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The drive up Mount Lemmon was gorgeous, going from sizzling arid desert to frigid alpine winter wonderland in less than an hour. At the top, the views were nothing short of spectacular. From this perch it seemed we could see  hundreds of miles stretching out before us.

ta8While that would have been worth the trip, Veronica could hardly wait to revisit her fear conquered skiing prowess. That is, until fate threw her a curve ball.

At 9,000 feet above sea level, it can be a little tough to breath.

Never having done too well with high altitude, before she could finish her first run down the bunny slope she was dizzy and seeing stars… in broad daylight. She decided that working the snow bunny angle, complete with a toddy by the fire, at the Iron Door lodge might be a better idea.

David, who grew up at over 8,000 feet high, didn’t seem to notice the altitude at all and took directly to running down the slopes. It’s a small area, just one main lift and a half dozen trails, so he had covered the entire mountain in time to join Veronica back at the lodge for a late lunch.

mtlemmon3The Iron Door takes its name from a legend that a stash of gold mined from the mountain was hidden by seventeenth century Jesuit missionaries somewhere in this vicinity. They supposedly buried it in an underground vault secured behind an iron door.

The treasure has never been found, but we did find some pretty good soup.

After our meal David took one more schuss down the slopes before we headed back down the mountain and returned to the summer-like climate.

It was like passing through all of the seasons in one day.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Plan Ahead by Applying for a Turkey Tourist Visa Online

Turkey has been at the crossroads of civilization pretty much since there has been civilization.

One thing we learned on our visit is that a visa is required to enter the country, and the last thing we wanted to do was wait in a long line… CONTINUE READING >> 

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Turkey has been at the crossroads of civilization pretty much since there has been civilization. Istanbul, first known as Byzantium and then Constantinople, sits at the gateway between Europe and Asia and has a long history as one of the world’s great cities.

Having served as the capital of the Byzantine, Roman, and Ottoman Empires, we found incredible historic sites at every turn. Since this was the city of the Emperor Constantine, religious landmarks were at the top of our list. Some of Christianity’s earliest churches were built here.

Hagia Sophia could be one of the most impressive structures we’ve ever seen. Not only is the building spectacular, but this massive cathedral was built in the year 532, and finished in only five years. The Emperor Justinian wanted to build the largest church in the world, and succeeded.

istanbul-viewCenturies later, under the Ottomans, the city became of great religious importance to Islam.

The Sultanahmet Mosque, better known to us as The Blue Mosque, embodies this. Built in 1609 by Sultan Ahmed I, it is considered the pinnacle of two centuries of Ottoman mosque development.

Istanbul has long been a marketplace of more than religious ideas between continents. The Grand Bazaar – the granddaddy of all malls – embodies this cultural commercial intersection with products from all across the globe.

istanbul-grand-bazaarThis is one of the oldest, and certainly largest, covered markets in the world with around 400,000 visitors each day. As we wandered the sixty-one covered streets inside, it was hard not to feel like lab rats looking for cheese.

Beyond Istanbul, Turkey has also played a huge role in the spread of Christianity prior to the time of Constantine.

The ancient Greek city of Ephesus may have been famous for its Temple of Artemis, which was recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but the apostle Paul truly immortalized the city when he was a resident for several years around 50AD.

One thing we learned on our visit to Turkey is that a visa is required to enter the country, and the last thing we want to do if and when we return is wait in a long line after several lengthy flights like we had to the first time. The solution is simple, get a visa prior to the trip.

The entire process can be handled online. No sending passports through the mail (which always makes us more than a little bit nervous), no visits to the Turkish Embassy, no photos to take, no delays, and best of all… no lines.

This electronic tourist visa for Turkey is truly one of the easiest things ever when it comes to planning an international trip. An eVisa is available from the Turkish Government for most countries including the USA, U.K., Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, Spain, and Holland as well as many, many more.

Apply online for your tourist visa to Turkey here.

What is the Turkish Electronic Tourist visa and how does it work?
To apply for the Turkey Tourist Visa simply complete an online form.
Fill out the details as shown on your passport.
Pay with a credit card or Paypal account.

After receiving a confirmation email you will be sent a second email with the official visa attached in PDF format. Then simply print the PDF document and off you go on your magnificent trip to Turkey.

It is important to note that the Turkey tourist visa will be linked electronically to your passport, so any errors on the application will require filing a new application.

What do I need to apply online for the Turkey Tourist Visa?
1. Passport valid for at least 6 months after your entry date.
2. Credit card or PayPal account.
3. Computer, laptop, or smartphone to visit www.iVisa.com

How long is the Turkey eVisa valid?
The Turkey Tourist Visa is valid from 15 to 90 days depending on your nationality and typically comes with single or multiple entries. Visit www.iVisa.com for answers to any questions.

Apply for your tourist visa to Turkey today!

 Thanks to eVisa for sponsoring this informative article. As always, all opinions are our own.