Keeping Our Feet, and Wheels, on the Ground

While our bucket list may never be completed, we have learned a few things about getting there along the way. Perhaps our biggest discovery was that traveling at ground level can be much more enjoyable than flying. Why miss all of the sights and experiences while going from one place to another? CONTINUE READING >> 

We’ve all heard the old adage that the thrill is not in the destination, but in the journey. Well the more we travel, the more we have come to realize the truth in that statement.

It’s not a new idea, even for us. Decades ago when we lived in Nashville and David was writing songs between concert dates all across the globe, he wrote one called It’s In the Getting There with just that sentiment.

So while our bucket list may never be completed, we have learned a few things about getting there along the way.

Perhaps our biggest discovery was that traveling at ground level can be much more enjoyable than flying. Why miss all of the sights and experiences while going from one place to another? Busses offer a much more visual, and relaxed mode of transport.

Watching the world go by has become a big part of our travel technique these days, and that’s where a service such as ComparaBUS can really make a difference.

With one search on their easy to use webpage we can find the best fare on busses to all sorts of destinations all around the world.

So whether we are looking to go from the sophisticated sights and sounds of The City of Light in Paris to the serene countryside of Provence, or a big city jaunt from bright lights of The Big Apple to visit the patriots in Boston we can always see where we’re going.

Honestly, we can hardly imagine criss-crossing the great American West way up in the sky. We want to get up close and personal with the mountains, valleys, prairies, and canyons as we make our way from one amazing landmark to another.

We would hate to miss all of the desert and mountain scenery on the trip from LA to Vegas. From 35,000 feet in the air the canyons just look like cracks in a sidewalk and the peaks like anthills, but at ground level they become an experience not to be forgotten.

Without a doubt some of the most memorable moments of our travel lifetimes have come aboard busses. One reason for that is the fact that they can often go where no other method of mass transportation can.

An example jumps to mind from our trip to Machu Picchu in Peru. It is possible to hike up to the historic Lost City of the Inca but it is up the side of an incredibly steep mountain. For that reason most everyone, including us, takes a bus, but that terrain makes for one harrowing ride.

On the other hand, the views were unmatched by anything we have ever encountered in our vagabond exploits across the globe.

Sometime those journeys have taken us to regions where a bus is the only form of public transport. That was the case in Mexico’s Yucatan when we rode a remarkably comfortable motor coach across the Peninsula from Cancun to Valladolid on a trip to see the Mayan ruins at Chichén-Itzá.

Not only are busses the best way to see the countryside while traveling, they are almost always the most economical way to go from place to place.

Another great reason to choose the bus is that they are eco-friendly. Each mile a passenger travels aboard a bus creates less than one-fifth of the emissions that are produced by an airplane. That sure makes us feel better while we watch the world go by.

Of course, sometimes the bus is just not an option. For instance, try as we may we have found it extremely difficult to cross oceans in them. Also, the fact of the matter is that sometimes saving time is more important than seeing the sights.

In that case a quick search on ComparaBUS will also show great prices on air fares, trains, and even car pool options.

So no matter where we are going we know ComparaBUS will be our first stop.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

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

Courir de Mardi Gras in Church Point, Louisiana


Chicken chasing, colorful costumes and dancing on horseback? It’s Courir de Mardi Gras in Church Point! You’ve gotta watch the video to believe it…it’s, well, just watch… CONTINUE READING >>

You’ve gotta watch the video to believe it…it’s, well, just watch.

In our search for Mardi Gras celebrations that don’t involve any over exposure, we discovered a long held rural tradition of Cajun Country, Courir de Mardi Gras, in Church Point. It translates to Fat Tuesday Run and traces its origins back to medieval France and the fête de la quémande or feast of begging.

Runners, known as Mardi Gras, ride horses or wagons through the countryside stopping to beg at farms for ingredients for a communal gumbo to be made after the run. The most common offering from the farmers is a chicken which then must be chased and captured by the Mardi Gras. (click here to find out more on Mardi Gras outside of New Orleans)

Men dancing on horses, Church Point Louisiana

Several people told us that one of the most authentic of these Runs still in existence takes place the Sunday before Fat Tuesday in Church Point Louisiana, so we knew where we were headed.

Traditional costumes of the Mardi Gras

As luck would have it, the starting point for the festivities, The Saddle Tramp Club, also serves as a campground, so we picked a spot, braved Saturday’s torrential rains, and waited for the madness to ensue.

At 5 AM we were awoken by the beginnings of the revelry. Horses started making their presence known and whoops and hollers filled the early morning air. The staging area was already a sea of mud.

Coon skin hat

We watched curiously while the participants – who by tradition must be male, over 14 and in costume – registered, drank, saddled up, drank, greeted each other, drank, got geared up, drank, played music, drank, danced, and oh yeah, drank some more.

Costumes are imperative to the tradition in that the identity of each Mardi Gras should be kept secret, allowing behavior that would never be acceptable any other day of the year. This also dates back to medieval times when costumes were used to mock the wealthy nobility during the fête.

Courir de Mardi Gras

After a couple hours of carousing, Le Capitaine and his co-capitaines organized the troops and prepared to lead the mounted participants out. In addition to the riders, wagons filled with more costumed Mardi Gras runners fell in line. The roads outside the Saddle Club were lined with hundreds more merry makers on floats but not actually participating in the run. (click here to find out more on Mardi Gras outside of New Orleans)

Dancing while standing on a horse

We weren’t really sure how we were going to observe the proceedings, but during the mustering of the troops we finagled a spot on the beer wagon where we could view the madness from in amongst them all.

This seemed like a great plan until Le Capitaine rode up to inform us that Veronica could not stay since strict tradition dictates that no women are allowed within the actual run.

Throwing of the chicken, Mardi Gras

Somewhat miffed, but not about to buck tradition, her up-to-the knees-in-mud-dy self was escorted to the Queens Float with the pagent winners, which worked out fine since, by the time she had perfected her parade wave, they arrived at the first farm before the runners. She had a perfect view of the sneaking up, begging, and ultimately the chasing of the chickens.

Mardi Gras in the trees

It was absolute insanity, even a bit surreal, as the farmer tossed the bird in the air and costumed, inebriated Mardi Gras chased it all over. Much mud wallowing was involved.

The race is on!

After several stops with more chasing and wallowing, the entire procession made its way through town in the form of a parade. At this point it took on a feel of a typical Mardi Gras celebration as riders on floats threw beads and trinkets to the crowds lining the streets. Meanwhile the Run participants headed back to The Saddle Tramp Club for the gumbo.

The Victor!

Afterwards, the band fired up, Zydeco filled the air, and a good ol’ fais do-do rollicked on into the night. (click here to find out more on Mardi Gras outside of New Orleans)

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Delve deeper:
See our entire journey discovering Mardi Gras outside of New Orleans
Check out the authentic celebrations in Eunice and Mamou
Go hog wild at an old-fashioned Boucherie meat fest!
Watch dogs celebrate Mardi Gras at the Krewe des Chiens Dog Parade
Find out how to get booze at a drive-thru window
Join us at the parades in Jeanerette and Lafayette
Learn more about the Acadian, Canadian, and Cajun connection
See our thank you to the mysterious person at the Dog Parade who commited a wonderful act of kindness!

Searching for Serenity and Sunsets in Santorini

Santorini may well be the most famous of the Greek Isles. This is the home of the iconic whitewashed buildings and blue domed churches that we have seen gleaming in the sun against the backdrop of the deep blue Mediterranean Sea in every travelogue since we were kids.And lucky for us, the day we visited was like stepping into a postcard… CONTINUE READING >> 

Santorini may well be the most famous of the Greek Isles. This is the home of the iconic whitewashed buildings and blue domed churches that we have seen gleaming in the sun against the backdrop of the deep blue Mediterranean Sea in every travelogue since we were kids.

And lucky for us, the day we visited was like stepping into a postcard. Perfect sunny weather greeted us as we tendered ashore from our ship, the Aegean Odyssey. Even the short ride to the dock was awe inspiring because the trip was made in the caldera of an active volcano.

In fact, one of recorded history’s most violent volcanic eruptions created the unique crescent shape of the island when the bulk of the land here was blown away about four thousand years ago.

The explosion is thought to possibly be the inspiration for the legend of Atlantis and is also responsible for something about Santorini that we didn’t know until we arrived. An incredible archeological site, similar to Pompeii, was discovered when the town of Akrotiri was unearthed in the late eighteen hundreds.

The entire city was buried under layers of volcanic ash, therefore being almost perfectly preserved and providing a remarkable glimpse into everyday life from sixteen centuries before Christ.

Even though extensive excavations began in 1967, as we walked through the mammoth structure built to protect the findings scientists continued to carefully extract more artifacts. This way we could observe not only the past results, but how new finds are currently being preserved.

With the ash removed we could easily recognize the rooms, including bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms, along with beds, pottery, plumbing, and even artwork that have been uncovered nearly intact.

However, unlike its Italian counterpart, no people were caught up in the cataclysm, which leads researchers to surmise that they must have had some warning of the impending doom. Perhaps they had learned that earthquakes and smoke billowing from the summit were an indication of an imminent eruption and that evacuation was a very good idea.

The lack of victims frozen in time also led us to conclude that the overall experience was not nearly as disconcerting as when we visited Pompeii.

Still, it was something less than uplifting so we were ready for a bit of the scenery that has kept Santorini consistently named as one of the Top 20 Greek Islands.

So we made our way along the entire length of the island to the far northern tip and the town of Oia, home to all of those postcard pictures we were talking about.

This village is perched precariously on the very tip of the crescent shaped remainder of the caldera’s rim, so the buildings are packed tightly against each other. The blindingly bright whitewash is only broken up by splashes of blue on the domes of the churches.

Luckily, most of the roads within the town are closed to vehicles, but there was more than enough pedestrian traffic to make up for the loss.

After a few hours of wandering, and an ice cream to cool off, we were ready to make our way down the steep cliffs and back to our ship. Since this was not where we came ashore, we had to find a new way down to the sea.

This meant we needed to make our way toward the center of the isle and the current capital city, Firá. The name comes from the ancient name for the island, Thíra, being simply a variant of pronunciation.

Being the capital, this is also home to the main cathedral, the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. What the church lacks in name originality, it more than makes up for in unique whitewashed beauty.

So we lingered a while and moseyed around the myriad of shops along the tiny pathways nearby.

But we didn’t want to get left behind when the ship sailed, so we needed to hustle down to the docks. Unlike coming ashore in the morning, there is no road here.

For years, maybe centuries, donkeys carried folks up and down, but now there is a new cable car system to ferry us to the dock below.  There are still donkeys available, but locals tend to frown on using them anymore and no doubt their backs are thankful for the new found lack of customers.

Back onboard, the crew of the Aegean Odyssey knew that Santorini is also famous for one more thing, some of the world’s most vivid sunsets.

As our day came to a close the volcanic dust that still lingers in the air filtered the fading light into a masterpiece of colors across the western horizon while the disk of the sun settled into the sea.

It seemed only right to offer a toast to Helios and Apollo while we watched from the deck above the pool.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our previous adventures in Greece!

Thanks to Road Scholar for providing this lifelong learning adventure through the Greek Isles! As always, all opinions are our own.

Ten Things You Don’t Know About New York City – Even If You Live There!

Your GypsyNesters found the wild, weird and wonderful not-so-known sights, sounds and flavors of The Big Apple!

Even if you are a New Yorker –  we bet you don’t know most of these!..

CONTINUE READING >>

Your GypsyNesters found the wild, weird and wonderful not-so-known sights, sounds and flavors of The Big Apple!

Even if you are a New Yorker –  we bet you don’t know most of these!

The dirty patch on the ceiling of Grand Central StationThere is a dirty rectangle on the ceiling of Grand Central Station. When the ceiling of the main concourse was restored in 1994-98, a patch was left untouched to show just how filthy it had been.

It took us forever to find it, but now that we know it’s there, we can’t stop picking at it.

The lions in front of the New York Public Library are named Patience and Fortitude. This is Fortitude, and the easiest way to tell them apart is that Fortitude is closest to 42nd Street. Get it? 42/fortitude?

The lions in front of the Public Library have names – and a cool way to remember them: Patience and Fortitude are the two lions that guard the entrance to the massive archives. Fortitude is pictured above, and the easiest way to tell them apart is that Fortitude is closest to 42nd Street. –> 42=fortitude!

See more about our adventures at the NYC Public Library!

Governor's Island at the beach in New York City

There’s a “tropical beach” off the coast of Manhattan. We found a place to get our feet in the sand without straying far from Manhattan! We took the free ferry ride, rented bikes and spent the day in (relative) quiet on Governor’s Island.

The island boasts a fort, an outdoor art gallery along the bike and foot paths, laid-back attitude and a sandy beach — complete with a snack shack and plastic palms.

We discovered new sides of Lady Liberty and the busy heliport across the channel. A perfect tropical getaway in the middle of the city.

George Washington lived here: The first executive mansion was at what is now the base of the Brooklyn Bridge


The first “White House” was where the Brooklyn Bridge now stands:
After looking high and low, peaking through fences and around construction barriers, we got a peek at a decrepit old inscription marking the spot of the The Samuel Osgood House, our nation’s first executive mansion.

Yes, all that is left of the site where George Washington lived and worked as our first president is a dirty old marker on an abutment of the Brooklyn Bridge.

See more about what’s left of colonial NYC

NYC pizza tours

There are tours dedicated to the history of pizza in NYC: If there is one food that screams New York City from the top of the Empire State Building, it has got to be pizza.

How did this happen? We didn’t know, but we do now–because we took a pizza tour!

See all of our adventures in New York City!

40% of the NYC subway is above ground

40% of the subway system is above ground. And it’s LOUD. The trains rumble noisily overhead — setting off car alarms in their wake, but they’re still referred to as subways.

Other subway fun facts:
-Over five million people ride on an average day.
-There are 840 miles of track.
-The deepest station is on 191st Street in Manhattan at 180 feet below street level.
-Back when tokens were still in use, thieves would suck tokens from the turnstiles with their mouths. Yuck!

Arthur Avenue in the Bronx

Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Manhattan’s Little Italy is not the only game in town. The Bronx version might be even better. We love Saturdays on Arthur Avenue when the markets are in full swing.

Fight little old ladies for the best cuts and finest cheeses before settling down to some of the most delicious Italian food this side of the Atlantic.

Whispering Wall at Grand Central Station

The Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Station. Walk around Grand Central Station until you find the Oyster Bar Restaurant and a bunch of folks who look like they just got sent to “time out.” Were these folks exceptionally naughty? Nope, they are sending secrets to each other via the Whispering Gallery.

Whisper into one corner and a buddy can hear it behind you in the opposite one all the way across the hall! We tried it out — it really works! Kinda creepy, but fun.

The Library Hotel in NYC

There’s a hotel based on the Dewey Decimal System: Books are everywhere at the Library Hotel and, from the moment we checked in at the card catalogue-decorated front desk in the shelf-lined lobby, to the hundreds of titles in each room that correspond to its number in the Dewey Decimal System.

For example, our room, 905, is based on 900.005 in the famous library-organizing system, which is the travel and geography category. Absolutely a perfect fit for us, and we fell asleep blissfully reading of far-off places every night.

See more about our stay as Writers-in-Residence at the Library Hotel!

Batteries on the subway tracks

There are ALWAYS batteries on the subway tracks. A great mystery to us. Every station, every time. We always look and they are always there.

Why? What are they used for? Are they left over from back in the days when walkmans used AAs?

Is this where all of the “batteries not included” end up?

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

If you want to make your travel hassle-free and more fun, make sure to use  Vertoe which is America’s Leading Daily Luggage Storage Service with 300+ locations, Vertoe is America’s first highly rated daily luggage storage provider near you starting at $5.95/day/item. Book Luggage storage in NYC, near most happening places like Midtown, JFK airport, Port authority, grand central, Brooklyn, Penn station & more. Items are insured up to $5000. Also, read 10 tips for new york.

See all of our adventures in New York City!

YOUR turn: How many did you know? Did we stump you? Have you got one to share?

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Top 5 Reasons To Visit Midtown

Whether you’re planning to visit New York City for business or pleasure, the city that never sleeps has a lot to offer. From luxurious hotels to exciting attractions, Midtown Manhattan has something to suit every preference… CONTINUE READING >> 

Whether you’re planning to visit New York City for business or pleasure, the city that never sleeps has a lot to offer. From luxurious hotels to exciting attractions, Midtown Manhattan has something to suit every preference. Here are the top five reasons you should visit this bustling part of the Big Apple.

The Westgate

When you need to find the perfect place to stay for your trip, The Westgate NYC Hotel is an excellent choice. Not only is it within walking distance of many attractions, but it also features an in-house restaurant and plenty of amenities to keep you comfortable. As New Yorks Historic Midtown Manhattan Hotel, The Westgate provides 24/7 front desk service for guest convenience.

Times Square

Whether you want to get some shopping in or attend a Broadway play, a visit to Times Square can make your dream a reality. As a cornerstone of the city, Times Square is always crowded and well lit so you’re sure to find something exciting. If you’re planning a trip around the holidays, stop by the iconic New Year’s Eve celebration to ring in the new year with locals and tourists alike.

Fifth Avenue

Every shopping enthusiast dreams of having a spending spree on Fifth Avenue. From clothes and accessories to jewelry, the items offered on Fifth Avenue are luxurious and high-end. Manhattan’s shopping district is home to many stores, including those listed below.

Vuitton
Tiffany & Co.
H & M
Cartier
NBA store
Gucci

Empire State Building

Get a breathtaking view of the city from the top of the Empire State Building. Tour the exhibits on the second floor to experience unique history and culture and then began your ascent to the top. Stop at the 86th floor to see the partial views but make sure you go all the way to the 102nd floor to get the full effect. Afterward, make sure you visit our gift shop and Visitor’s Center for a souvenir.

Rockafeller Center

If you’re planning a holiday trip to New York City, you can’t miss the annual Christmas tree at Rockafeller Center. During the rest of the year, climb to the top of the observation deck to get a bird’s eye view of the city. The attraction features a variety of exhibits each year, so make sure you tour them to learn more about the history and culture of the city. Restaurants and numerous stores make this attraction ideal for families.

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