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Are We Too Old to Save the Planet? Let’s Hope Not!


It’s not often that a book jumps out and grabs our attention. I mean how often do we read something that really has an impact on our thinking? Well, that is certainly what happened when we read Am I Too Old to Save the Planet? A Boomer’s Guide to Climate Action by Lawrence MacDonald…
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It’s not often that a book jumps out and grabs our attention. I mean how often do we read something that really has an impact on our thinking? Well, that is certainly what happened when we read Am I Too Old to Save the Planet? A Boomer’s Guide to Climate Action by Lawrence MacDonald.

I thought I would just skim through it on a flight from New York to LA, but I ended up reading every word in those 4 hours. I will say that there is a lot to digest in this book, and I have found myself going back to re-read parts several times, because there is so much information to take in.

With that in mind, I am not going to go through all of the points made in it, but rather highly suggest that if you care about the world we are leaving behind for our kids and grandchildren, you should read this book. It is packed with ideas on how we, as baby boomers, can help mitigate the changes that are already well under way.

I, instead, want to address another issue that jumped into my head while I was reading the chapter about traveling, flying in particular, and the effect that it has on our environment.

As travel writers, bloggers, influencers, or whatever we are called these days, we inevitably fly a lot. Certainly much more than most people, so how can we mitigate some of the damage that causes? Well, Lawrence MacDonald has some good ideas in his book which, without going into too much detail, mostly involve finding ways to fly less, and ways to offset some of the damage when we must fly.

The first part of that equation we are have definitely been trying to do more and more, like driving (hopefully a fuel efficient or electric car, ours is a hybrid) or taking trains whenever it is possible. But there are no roads or trains going overseas, so we do need to fly sometimes.

When we do, Lawrence suggests donating to climate groups as a way to compensate for the carbon the plane is spewing out. We like that idea, but once again suggest reading the book for a much better understanding of his thoughts.

One of his main points is that we can accomplish a lot of good by donating to groups with more aggressive approach such as Climate Defiance and Th!rd Act. This is because their more vehement and direct action is likely something that most of us have outgrown. They are on the cutting edge of the issue and are willing and able to get involved in ways we can no longer manage. But luckily, many of us boomers have saved a little money and can afford to help out with funding.

All of this led to another thought that came to mind while reading, how can we as travel influencers use our platform and visibility to help? So I decided to try to get in touch with the author to discuss this.

The obvious way for us to draw more attention is to write about it, just like this post. But we think that for our writing to have more impact, we need to be walking the walk so to speak, and be as proactive as we possibly can. With that in mind, I asked Mr. MacDonald about his book and any ideas we might be able to pursue, not only as bloggers, but as people who care about the planet.

Ah, the good old days in economy on a 747.

He had a few suggestions that are simple and pretty painless, such as flying non-stop and in economy class (this is not an issue for us since we have never coughed up the dough to fly overseas in anything but economy and vastly prefer nonstop) as much as we can, because those both use less fuel per passenger mile, which means less carbon in the air. In addition to those two concepts, we can stay longer in a place so that we really get to know it and, in turn, use less resources by not moving around so much.

This is sometimes called slow travel, but it is a style that we fully embrace. It is without a doubt our preferred way to travel, however, it is not often possible when doing the work of travel blogging. Generally, the sponsors want us to cover as much as possible in a short amount of time.

We can also help by giving our readers more resources to use for planning their travels before taking off on a trip. Hopefully that leads to less running around looking for things and better routing which, of course, uses less fuel.

A similar idea to this that we as writers can contribute to is what Lawrence called traveling without leaving home. This plays right into what we have been doing for the last dozen years or so, which is writing more in-depth stories than a typical social media or blog post and accompanying it with lots of photos and videos.

This way readers can enjoy a trip to far off lands without ever packing a bag. One possible advantage of this is that some travelers may decide that reading and seeing a destination this way is sufficient, so they won’t feel the need to travel there which will again reduce the use of fossil fuels.

We do want to point out though, we are not trying to discourage people from traveling. Seeing the world and connecting with the various people and cultures are invaluable experiences that can also have a positive impact by raising awareness, sharing ideas, and seeing some of the real world impacts of climate change first hand.

Margerie Glacier in Alaska.
Margerie Glacier in Alaska.

We learned very well over the past three decades how much this has influenced our thinking as we saw glaciers on three different continents all receding at alarming rates. We think that there is no better way to learn about climate change, or almost any other issue for that matter, than to see it with our own eyes.

So travelers of the world unite! Let’s do all we can to leave this wonderful world in a little better shape than how we came into it. That way it will still be around for our offspring to enjoy like we have.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Lawrence MacDonald is a writer, policy communications expert, and Boomer climate activist. After graduating from the University of California at Santa Barbara, he studied Chinese in Taiwan and worked as a journalist for 15 years in Hong Kong, Beijing, Seoul and Manila. Returning to the United States in the early 1990s, he worked as a communications officer at the World Bank and as vice president for communications at two Washington, DC, based think tanks, the Center for Global Development, and the World Resources Institute. During this time he became increasingly active in the U.S. climate movement, being arrested three times in civil disobedience actions to draw attention to the climate emergency.

He and his wife live in Arlington Virginia and have two grown children who are also active in the climate movement.

Empty Nest Easter


An empty nest Easter doesn’t have to be sad. Celebrate your Life After Kids and have a happy and healthy holiday!
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An empty nest Easter doesn’t have to be like this:

Our first empty nest Easter fifteen years ago.

Spring has sprung and life is good, so celebrate your Life After Kids and let’s all try to feel more like this:

Soaring over Machu Picchu.

Happy Easter Everybody!

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

The Mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs


enlarge video

Fish, turtles and even a manatee join the spectacular spectacle of The Mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs… CONTINUE READING >>

In the crystal clear waters of Weeki Wachee Springs there reside mermaids, seriously. We wouldn’t make up something like this.

As a matter of FACT, the Florida State Park Service is a leader in the preservation of these exotic rare creatures.

We were lucky enough to have the chance to observe their graceful antics in a natural habitat. Fish, turtles and even a manatee join the spectacular spectacle!

Where ARE these mythical creatures? Click here for more: https://www.gypsynester.com/mermaids.htm

Visit our GypsyNester YouTube Channel!

A Real Irish Pub Crawl (in Ireland, they just call ’em pubs)

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, your GypsyNesters take a look at some real Irish pubs, you know, the kind actually in Ireland—so we suppose that they’re simply called pubs.

We’re guessing none of these public houses would ever dare to ruin a perfectly good pint by turning it green… 

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Your GypsyNesters take you on a real Irish Pub crawl!

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, your GypsyNesters take a look at some real Irish pubs, you know, the kind actually in Ireland—where we suppose that they are simply called pubs.

Pubs in Ireland have been around for a thousand years and the name derives from “public houses” —the average joe’s drinking spot, as opposed to a private bar where folks were charged to get in.

Pubs are truly the places that Irish go “where everybody knows your name,” and that was quickly proved to us. Though we found ourselves in areas where tourists frequent, every bartender welcomed the locals with a warm greeting—by name—and pint of their favorite brew or spirit. Over the years many have sung the praises of bending an elbow, with some of these quotes becoming quite famous.

We’re guessing none of these public houses would ever dare to ruin a perfectly good pint by turning it green, St. Patrick’s Day or not.

Starting at the Source

The Perfect Pint Bar at Guinness Academy were we got school in the art of pouring a flawless glass of Guinness

Speaking of perfectly good pints, what better place to start our adventure than at the Perfect Pint Bar inside the Guinness brewery at St. James Gate in Dublin?

Not only did we get to indulge in Uncle Arthur’s world famous stout, we also received detailed instructions in the art of properly pouring the perfect pint.

Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse Brewery in Dublin, Ireland

St. Patrick's Tower in Dublin, Ireland
St. Patrick’s Tower was built in 1805 to grind grain, St. Patrick can be seen on top holding a cross.

From there we needed only to walk up a few flights of stairs for a visit to the Gravity Bar, high atop the Guinness Storehouse.

The panoramic windows provide some of the best views of Dublin anywhere, and they also look like the head on a giant pint of Guinness when seen from the outside.

See more about our visit to the Guinness Storehouse—including our video on how to pour the perfect pint!

Sticking with Tradition

McCann's Bar in Dublin was established in 1759

Our next stop was McCanns Bar, just outside of St. James’s Gate.

The pub has a long history dating back to 1759, when it was opened by Paddy Hannan, but even after all of these years its main claim to fame is that McCanns is the closest bar to the Guinness’s Brewery.

Location, location, location.

Inside, we were less than surprised to see which brand o’ brew was most prominent.

McCann's Bar in Dublin was established in 1759

But McCanns was also proudly advertising a new beer, Hop House Lager 13, which is also made by Guinness and only available in select pubs in Ireland.

Of course we had to try one, and found it night-and-day different from their renowned stout.

Made with Irish barley and double-hopped with aromatic hops, we would call it bright and lively, and definitely not green.

Bad Ass Pub in Dublin, Ireland
Some pubs have more colorful names than others!
Layering in Some Good Irish Grub

M.J. O’Niell’s Pub in Dublin, Ireland

When pub crawling, one needs to layer in a booze mop.

So we were glad to find that any pub worth its salt doesn’t only serve up the suds. In the fine old public house tradition they will feed a hungry traveler a rib-sticking meal as well.

For that we chose M.J. O’Niell’s in the Temple Bar section of Dublin. They came highly recommended, and lived up to their reputation.

Corned beef at O'Neill in Dublin, Ireland

We ordered lamb stew and a slab of corned beef, both with plenty of Irish potatoes, and of course, a couple o’ pints.

Picking our poison was no easy task at O’Neill’s, since they pour forty-five different brews on tap, and a bunch more in bottles, from all over the world.

Lamb stew at O'Neill in Dublin, Ireland

The Turks Head Pub in Dublin, Ireland

For comparison sake we should mention that we also had a meal at the Turks Head Pub (established 1760) a few days later.

The food, Beef and Guinness casserole and fish & chips, was classic Irish fare, while the decor was a wild mix of Turkish Bazaar and corner bar.

For a change of pace, we tried a Bulmer’s Cider to wash it down.

The Turks Head Pub in Dublin, Ireland

See a wee bit more of Dublin!

A Hero’s Beer

Crean's beer at Dingle Brewing Company in Dingle Ireland

Leaving Dublin, we drove across the Emerald Isle to the Wild Atlantic Way for a stay in the small town of Dingle.

On the edge of the village, we visited a little brewery that has recently created a crisp, clean lager and named it after a true Irish hero, the Antarctic explorer Tom Crean.

Even though Crean’s has only been around since 2011, it was a favorite, at least of the lagers we tried.

We voted it a fitting tribute to Tom, who during the Terra Nova Expedition in 1913 walked thirty-five miles across the Ross Ice Shelf to save the life of his fellow explorer, Edward Evans.

Our speculation was that the idea of naming it after him must have been because he would have wanted a refreshing drink after a trek like that.

David tries a Crean's beer at Dingle Pub in Dingle, Ireland. GypsyNester.com

Since we like both a beer and a good story, we set about asking for a Crean’s in every pub we popped into after that.

At The Dingle Pub, right in the middle of Main Street, they were proudly serving it, although Veronica opted for a retesting of the Hop House Lager 13. She felt it was important in the name of science.

Hop House 13, by Guinness, is only available in a limited amount of pubs in Ireland

This was our most rousing neighborhood pub experience of the trip, since a big hurling match was on the tube.

The 3,000-year-old game is hugely popular in Ireland and basically unknown elsewhere.

It looked to be a sort of cross between hockey and soccer, played on grass, where the players use sticks to try and hurl the small ball into the opposing team’s goal.

A real Irish pub crawl!
At halftime, the party takes to the street.

Much more study—and Crean’s—would have been necessary to begin to decipher the rules.

Sometimes the guys could run with the ball, and other times they seemed required to hit it, and sometimes players were allowed to completely knock silly the guy with the ball, but not most of the time.

Content that we had no idea what was happening on the field, the match gave the bar a raucous air that was good fun on a Saturday afternoon.

See a wee bit more of Dingle!

Drinkin’ in the Hardware Store

Foxy John's Pub in Dingle, Ireland is also a hardware store!

Across the street we discovered a very unique establishment.

On several occasions we had walked by Foxy John’s during the daylight hours and thought nothing of it, other than that it struck us as an odd name for a hardware store.

Then that evening we happened by and the joint was jumping.

The humble little vendor of housewares and hammers had transformed into one of Dingle’s hottest nightspots after the sun went down.

Foxy John's Pub in Dingle, Ireland is also a hardware store!

Foxy John's Pub in Dingle, Ireland is also a hardware store!

We went inside and the place was not only packed, but the crowd continued back through three rooms.

The little storefront occupied only about a quarter of the total drinking space.

As far as we could tell John had the most popular pub in town for locals to converse—and consume a pint or three.

Since our hotel was only a few doors down, we stayed for a nightcap before walking back. Later, we got to enjoy a number of tipsy serenades as the patrons filed out after closing time.

That’ll teach us to sleep with the windows open next door to an Irish pub… er, pub.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in Ireland!

A big thank you to Ireland.com for providing this yummy adventure. As always, all opinions are our own.

YOUR TURN: Are you game for a pub crawl in Ireland?

We Discovered Yoga Retreats in Spain and Morocco

Can we really visit amazing destinations while immersing ourselves in the peaceful relaxation of a luxurious yoga retreat? Yes, we can…
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The other day we were thinking about taking a little break to clear our minds, so we started looking at some yoga retreats near us in Southern California. Rather, I should say Veronica was looking. I’m not one for yoga.

It’s not that I have any deep seeded issues or problems with it or anything, I just can’t seem to make my body go into most of those positions. And if I did, I would probably never be able to get out of it.

Veronica, on the other hand, has been doing it for years and is very pleased with the benefits. So then it hit us, why not combine a yoga retreat with a visit to a wonderful destination?

Sounds like the best of both worlds to us. She gets all of the peace and harmony that yoga provides, and I get to visit an amazing location that we both can enjoy. I immediately thought of the Mediterranean, maybe Spain, so we began to look for a yoga retreat in Spain.

Turns out that the Spanish island of Mallorca is perfect for a retreat like this. The impressive landscape, with rugged mountains that come right down to meet the sea, couldn’t be better for enjoying magnificent outdoor yoga sessions. Especially in the late afternoon while the sun sinks below the horizon.

Of course it is not only the yoga that is so inviting, the island is outstanding for all of the scenery and history that is everywhere you turn. This gorgeous island holds fast to a treasure trove of ancient stories, having been ruled by The Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Moors, the Crown of Aragon, and now Spain.

Or we might want to take a break and get out on the water, because renting a boat is one of the best ways to explore Mallorca and the surrounding Balearic islands. Not only are the views spectacular, but the feeling of seeing the island just as the mariners from long ago did is astounding.

But then it occurred to us that we shouldn’t limit our options to just one place, so we decided to look for a yoga retreat in Morocco as well. Turns out that was a very good idea. We found some fantastic, lavish retreats just waiting for us to shed some of our stress in what seems to be about the perfect setting. And even better, since we have never been to Morocco before, we have the chance to discover a whole new culture.

An oasis of peace and tranquility awaits where we can combine the ancient art of yoga with the richness of all that Morocco has to offer. Between sessions we can take side trips to historic cities and visit some traditional markets, known as souks.

Of course we would want to experience a traditional hammams, or as we call them, Turkish baths, and maybe ever try out a Moroccan cooking workshop.

Can we really have all of this while immersing ourselves in the peaceful relaxation of a luxurious yoga retreat? Yes, we can.

It’s enough to make David want to take up yoga!

Well… almost.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Paris Underground: Digging Beneath Her Surface

Paris has long been heralded as the home of chic, hip, cutting edge trends, and that notoriety as an avant-garde hotspot is mostly associated with the Left Bank.

But sometimes you’ve gotta dig deep to find the fun — and weird — and creepy — beneath the surface… CONTINUE READING >>

Paris has long been heralded as the home of chic, hip, cutting edge trends, and that notoriety as an avant-garde hotspot is mostly associated with the Left Bank.

The former prison on the Seine in Paris, France

That could only mean, jet lagged or not, we were heading into the heart of it.

Man plays accordian on a bridge in Paris, France
Macaroons by the Seine - glorious!

Metro sign in Paris, France

We hopped on the underground to the neighborhood known as the Latin Quarter, said to epitomize the city’s Bohemian background.

The district is named for the language that the students of France’s oldest university, La Sorbonne, spoken back in the Middle Ages.

Le Quasimodo Cafe in Paris, France

Popping out of the Metro we found crowded, narrow streets — alive and vibrant — with bars and cafes, and somehow it seemed perfect.

We wandered aimlessly, as curious observers, while bells rang out periodically.

The Latin Quarter in Paris, France

Generally moving in the direction of the peals, eventually we came upon the Square René Viviani and discovered, tucked away and supported by a couple of concrete braces, the oldest tree in Paris.

Square René Viviani in Paris, France

The oldest tree in Paris

The venerable locust tree has been hanging in there since 1601, and still blooms every spring, even after taking a shot from a shell in World War I.

The square is also home to some old stones from Notre Dame Cathedral, which stands just across the river.

Notre Dame c’est magnifique!

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

(editor’s note: this is from a visit before the fire that damaged the cathedral.)

As we crossed the bridge, the massive church loomed before us.

In the dimming daylight we observed the structure from every possible angle, most likely with our mouths hanging open much of the time.

While the cathedral might be best known to us Americans for the bells we’d been hearing — and the odd little man who rang them — the gargoyles, rose window, and flying buttresses are what most caught our attention.

Point Zéro des Routes de France
Point Zéro des Routes de France sits in front of the cathedral and is the official center of the city.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

Built over the course of nearly two-hundred years, beginning in 1163, Notre-Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to incorporate the flying buttress as reinforcements for the walls.

Although they were not part of the original design, its size required the additional support.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris - at night!

As night fell we were thrilled by the various views we encountered, especially lit against the darkened sky.

Perhaps a soul with an unfortunate deformity was hiding in the tower under cover of darkness.

As the bells rang out once more, we knew we had to return the next morning for another look… and an assessment of the inside.

Close up detail of the devil on the facade of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

The morning light allowed us a better assessment of the facade, and the restoration that took place after most of the statues were beheaded during the revolution.

Moving our gaze up toward the spire, we may have hoped to spot Quasimodo climbing along the rooftop, but instead found the twelve apostles, captured in surprisingly whimsical poses. These were also added during reconstruction.

Gargoyles and statues on Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Walking inside, we experienced the temporary blindness that comes from going directly out of daylight into relative darkness.

But our eyes soon enough adjusted and the sun streaming through the stained glass windows filled the otherwise dimly lit sanctuary with muted colors.

Check out more Notre Dame CathedralRose window in Notre Dame Catherdal in Paris

The glow seemed to be the perfect lighting for such a refuge from the outside world, so we settled into seats to soak it all in for a while. That is our favorite way to absorb overwhelming spaces such as this, by sitting still we are able to observe and process the scope of the building.

Stained glass windows in Notre Dame Catherdal, Paris, France

Doubting Thomas inside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

Once we were accustomed to both the light and space, we took a lap around the entire interior.

Not to take anything away from the classic cathedral, but we’d have to say we were more impressed with the exterior.

Check out more Notre Dame Cathedral

There is no doubt plenty to see inside, but for outstanding artwork we decided we would do better a few blocks away at the Louvre.

After a quick bite, and a bit of a show watching crepes being expertly created…

…we walked a short distance along the Seine to the imposing gates of the former palace that now serves as one of the world’s premier museums.

Loving the Louvre!

The Lourve in Paris, France

Looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city, Louis XIV decided to move from Paris to the Palace of Versailles in 1682.

The Louvre did not immediately become a museum though; it was just over one-hundred years later, when the revolution replaced the royals, that the building was opened to show the collection.

Arriving just after midday, we knew it would be impossible to see the entire Louvre in one afternoon, so our plan was to hit the highlights, GypsyNester style.

View from a window of the Louvre in Paris, France

To enter the Louvre, we entered the famous/infamous (depending on who we asked) glass pyramid, and went underground.

We were immediately surprised to discover that a spot right near the entrance marked “New Acquisition” had been made ready for Veronica’s napkin masterpiece cover art sketch of Going Gypsy.

The cover sketch of Going Gypsy hanging at the Louvre in Paris

Unfortunately, we only had an ebook on our iPad (new media?) copy with us. The original is being held for safe keeping at Skyhorse Publishing, just in case it becomes really valuable — or pigs start flying — whichever comes first.

From that coveted position we made our way to the sculptures of ancient Greece, many of which we found to be downright bizarre. A few of our favorites included…

Boy wrestling goose at the Louvre in ParisBoy Delivering Severe Beat-down to Goose…

Weird art at the Louvre in Paris
Man Pulling Guts Out of Animal… Ancient Greek Dude Taking a Selfie…

Cupid riding a centaur in the Louvre in Paris, FranceCupid Riding a Centaur…

…and Supine Woman With Shocking Surprise on the Front Side (turns out she’s just one of the boys!).

Weird art at the Louvre in Paris

What Venus de Milo sees at the Louvre in Paris

Astonishingly, those were not the actual names. They are all remarkable, masterfully sculpted works of art, and heretofore we shall endeavor to display a modicum of proper decorum.

As if timed perfectly, the sight of Venus de Milo snapped us back to a state of appropriate awe.

<– Here’s what Venus de Milo sees

Named for the Greek Isle Milos, where it was discovered in 1820, she is Aphrodite, goddess of love.

Close up of Venus di Milo at the Louvre in Paris

Sculpted over one-hundred years before the time of Christ, she is considered a classic example of ancient Greek sculpture and, despite her loss of limbs, looks mighty good for her age.

What Mona Lisa sees at the Louvre in Paris, France

Leaving the marble masterpieces behind, we headed to the gallery of Italian artists on a quest to see Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous work, Mona Lisa.

To our surprise, a great many of the people gathered in front of the portrait had their backs to her.

Selfies in front of the Mona Lisa in Paris

Perhaps her appearance in the background of countless tourist selfies is what’s keeping her smiling these days.

Under the pyramid at the Louvre in Paris, France

Climbing out from underneath the pyramid, we returned to the courtyard of the Louvre and found a perfect view straight down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, or Elysian Fields, to the Arc de Triomphe.

Want to see our full collection of odd art at the Louvre?

Triumphantly conquering the Arc!

Next to the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe may be the most recognizable monument in Paris

Next to the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe must be the most recognizable monument in Paris.

Built in 1806 by Emperor Napoleon to commemorate the victory at Austerlitz, the massive arch has gained significance as a memorial for all of the wars since that time and houses the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

We headed back to the Underground, hoping to make it to the Arc in time for a sunset climb to the top.

The Charles de Gaulle metro stop put us outside of the insane traffic clogging the roundabout that encircles the arch, making it look as though it might be impossible to get to.

The tunnel under the street to the Arc de Triomphe

Luckily, there is a tunnel underneath the street that made passage possible without risking our lives, and we exited the tunnel just in time to see the changing of the guard at the tomb.

The tomb of the unknown soldier in Paris

Under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

The Eiffel Tower from the top of the the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

Impressive as the perspective was from the ground, we were more excited to climb to the top for an ultimate view of the city.

A few hundred steps later and a full 360 degree panorama of Paris spread out before us just as darkness was falling.

The vantage point was unbeatable, not only for photographing Gustave Eiffel’s handiwork, but observing the continuous chaos on the roads below.

A dozen roads converge at the circle, making the flow of vehicles look as if it was a living organism coursing through the arteries of the city.

For a final treat before we descended, the moon peeked out of the clouds just as the twinkling lights came to life on the Tour Eiffel.

Take a peek inside the Arc de Triomphe

See our antics at the Eiffel Tower and learn a few things about her that you didn’t know!

Fun poses with the Eiffel Tower! GypsyNester.com

Mon Dieu! Down deep into the Paris Catacombs

The warning sign outside the Paris Catacombs

The world's largest grave - the underground catacombs in Paris, France

The next day we had one more trip underground to take, but this was of an entirely different nature.

We weren’t headed for a subway, but the subterranean Catacombs.

We had heard that there can be quite a long line waiting to enter the Catacombes de Paris, but more than worth it, so we set aside an entire day for the visit.

It's a tight fit getting inside the Paris Catacombs

Glad we did too, because we hung around for several hours before finally heading down into the underworld.

We easily amused ourselves, and met some interesting people while waiting, but would still recommend using a skip-the-line tour if one is available.

The entrance to the catacombs in Paris: Stop! This is the Empire of Death

We proceeded past the warning, Stop! This is the Empire of Death, and entered to see for ourselves.

What we found was beyond extraordinary, it was downright bizarre.

Countless bones have been neatly stacked and arranged to form what seem to be endless hallways.

Bones are stacked in a decorative manner at the underground catacombs in Paris, France

The Catacombes de Paris

The tunnels and excavations were originally dug as a limestone quarry to supply building material for the world above.

Years later, when several of the city’s cemeteries ran out of room for any more burials, the remains of some six million people were moved into the Catacombs and they became known as The World’s Largest Grave.

Bones are stacked in a decorative manner at the underground catacombs in Paris, France

The Catacombs de Paris

There are miles and miles of these corridors, but visitors are only allowed to see a tiny portion.

That section is fortunately reasonably well lit, because wandering off into the maze of darkness beyond any of the blocked off pathways could easily end by getting hopelessly lost and ultimately joining the dearly departed.

Bones are stacked in a decorative manner at the underground catacombs in Paris, France

A lamp inside the Catacombs of Paris

We were so fascinated that we did our best to hang back from the rest of the crowd, and after a little while noticed that no one else was around.

It started to feel pretty creepy. At one point we weren’t sure which way to go.

We followed an arrow toward a door and found a sleeping guard blocking it. It was not the exit, and we didn’t want to wake him, so we pressed ahead. Truth be told, we were finding a tiny bit of perverse enjoyment out of our predicament.

Catacombes de Paris

Veronica even started mentioning things like, “wouldn’t it be cool if we got locked in here for the night?”

David was less than on board with that idea, so we kept moving forward, correctly assuming that the exit must be around somewhere.

Next thing we knew, we went through a door and out onto a small side street.

Funny souvenir shirt from the Paris Catacombs
We did find a souvenir shop nearby, but did not buy this shirt!

But after walking about a mile underground, twisting and turning the entire time, we had absolutely no idea where we were.

Our handy-dandy map was no help at all, so we walked toward the sound of traffic.

Once we hit a main thoroughfare we caught our bearings, made our way to the nearest metro station, and felt relieved.

Even though it meant going back underground.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Thanks to Paris je t’aime and Hotel Vic Eiffel for this adventure that made us exclaim Ooh la la! As always, all opinions are our own.

DELVE DEEPER:
See where we stayed in Paris
Want to see our full collection of odd art at the Louvre?
Head deep inside the Catacombes de Paris
Take a peek inside the Arc de Triomphe
Check out more about Notre Dame Cathedral
See more of our antics at the Eiffel Tower
Follow us to Versailles – there’s so much over-the-top royal stuff to share!
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We Had Our Heads in the Clouds in Lima, Peru

We had a BLAST in Lima!

A whirlwind tour of downtown, an amazing cooking class, a visit to the most unusual gardens, a romantic stroll along the parks of the sea cliffs.
Oh, and we even jumped off the cliffs along The Pacific…
CONTINUE READING >> 

Lima Peru

When we were making plans for our big South American adventure Lima wasn’t even on our radar.

Just a transfer point between our visit to two of the world’s most amazing places, The Galapagos and Machu Picchu, with a group from Road Scholar, and setting out on our own to tango our way around Buenos Aires.

A quirk in flight schedules stuck us an extra day in the Peruvian capital, but as fate would have it, what seemed likely to be a let down instead found us soaring through the sky.

Lima Peru

On our final day with our fellow Road Scholars, just before most of the group would catch their planes back to The States, the tour had planned a whirlwind visit to the downtown area and a farewell supper.

After a ride through the city we got off the bus at the main square, Plaza Mayor, for a walk around and a brief history lesson.

Plaza Mayor, Lima Peru

The Cathedral in Lima Peru

The plaza is flanked on one side by The Government Palace, and on another the Cathedral.

Both owe their existence to the conquistador Francisco Pizarro, who founded Lima in 1535 as Ciudad de los Reyes (City of the Kings). That same year he laid the first stone of the church and began work on the palace, where he lived until his assassination in 1541.

He was laid to rest in the Cathedral, and the palace, aka House of Pizarro, is still the official residence of the President of the Republic.

As interesting as all of this may have been, we had to admit that we were more excited about the meal.

Learning to Cook like a Peruvian

Not only were we going to sample several of Peru’s most famous dishes, we were going to learn how to make them. Lima is sometimes called the Gastronomical Capital of the Americas due to the wide variety of influences from Europe and Asia, so we were more than ready for a bit of a Lima Food Tour.

Cerviche Pescado at Señorio de Sulco Restaurant

From the plaza we made our way to Señorio de Sulco Restaurant for a lesson in Peruvian cuisine. First up, Ceviche Pescado. It is commonly held that ceviche originated in Peru and it is somewhat of the national dish.

Our chef and teacher, Ricardo, marinated filet of sole in lime juice, onion, chili peppers, salt & pepper, cilantro and leche de trigre, or tiger’s milk, which is made from fish sauce and more citrus juice. Served with boiled sweet potatoes (camote) and toasted corn known as cancha, we were off to an amazing start.

Causa Limeña at Señorio de Sulco Restaurant, Lima Peru

The next dish was Causa Limeña, delicious mashed potatoes prepared with lime, onion, chili and a little oil, layered with avocado and chicken salad, then formed in a round mold. Ricardo constructed this like an artist working on a masterpiece, after which we destructed it like hungry children.

WATCH: Chef Ricardo makes Causa Limeña – Oh. Yum.

For the main event chef Ricardo broke out a wok and fired up some Lomo Saltado. This is a marinated, sliced beef stir fried very fast at high temperature with onions, garlic, tomato and soy sauce, then served with rice and french fries. Simple and crazy delicious.

Lomo Saltado at Señorio de Sulco Restaurant in Lima, Peru

Do you love cooking classes like we do? Click here to see our classes from around the world!

Fetching Flowers

Because we couldn’t fly out until the next evening, we found a hotel in the area called Miraflores and explored some ideas for our extra day.

Originally founded as San Miguel de Miraflores, the district is known for shopping, not really a way either of us wanted to spend a day, and beaches, but mostly for flowers, as in flores.

Gee, that must be how it got its name.

Nazca Lines drawn out in flowers in Lima Peru

Even though the weather was wonderful, it wasn’t warm enough for the beach, so we asked at the desk about the flower parks and got the scoop along with a map.

There are about a dozen of the gardens that line the coastal cliffs in Miraflores, but one in particular caught our attention when we heard about it, the one with miniature versions of the Nazca Lines drawn out in flowers.

We knew where we were headed in the morning.

Nazca Lines drawn out in flowers in Lima Peru

We walked about a half an hour from our hotel to Parque Maria Reiche, which is named for the German archaeologist who dedicated her life to studying the mysterious pre-Columbian geoglyphs carved into the desert south of Lima.

As a tribute, several of the famous figures have been recreated using flowers and plants.

The view from ground level as we wandered through the park made the garden look like random large flower beds, but when we climbed up to the walkway above, the figures were revealed.

The whole scene was stunning, perched high on a cliff overlooking The Pacific.

Getting our Heads in the Clouds

Lighthouse, Lima Peru

Following the seacliff walkway south along the coast, we visited park after fabulous park.

Many were named for famous local and world leaders like the renowned Peruvian naval officer Miguel Grau, and the Nobel Prize Winning Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabbin.

Love tributes spelled out in rocks along the cliffs of Lima Peru
Dangerous Love: Tributes spelled out in rocks along the cliffs.

Paragliding in Lima Peru

Then, as we approached Parque El Faro — the lighthouse park — we saw something that changed our day completely.

We had noticed the paragliders soaring overhead all morning and now we had stumbled upon the launching area.

Veronica was unstoppable, breaking into a run to find out if it was possible to try it.

Lima's Parque del Amor from above on a paraglider

For those of us who feel there is no sensible reason to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, there is no way jumping off a two hundred-foot cliff can be justified.

I would have been perfectly happy to watch, but as soon as Veronica found out that passengers could be strapped on with an experienced glider, our fate was sealed.

We were both going over that cliff. Mostly because I would never live it down if I chickened out.

Getting ready to paraglide in Lima Peru

She could hardly be contained and volunteered to go first, but somehow my pilot got me lashed onto the contraption quicker, so Veronica got to watch as the wind dragged me along the ground and over the edge.

Granted, I was pretty busy trying to scramble to my feet each time the wind slammed me to, or lifted me off the ground, and all I could hear was my pilot yelling “run, run!” even though my feet were seldom touching anything, but I was reasonably certain it was not a textbook takeoff.

All of the people I watched before me were lifted gracefully into the sky. I went careening over the cliff dropping like a rock.

Then, just as I was visualizing multiple fractures, a current grabbed us and hurled us high into the sky. With the impending disaster averted the situation became incredibly cool, unbelievable even.

Click here for more photos of Lima from a paraglider – and hear Veronica’s side of the story!

We made several passes along the shore, drifting out over the ocean and then grabbing a gust and soaring high above the city.

I was actually beginning to relax when a realization hit me, I had no idea how we were supposed to land.

The language barrier between pilot and passenger was something akin to China’s Great Wall, so as we plummeted back down to earth my only instructions were to “stand up.”

Paragliding in Lima Peru

Turns out that was a perfectly good plan, I stood up and that was that. Safe and sound back on good old terra firma.

As much as I enjoyed my flight, it was nothing compared to the excitement Veronica experienced. She was practically babbling incoherently with jubilation after touching down.

WATCH: Veronica’s incredible flight!

I don’t think her feet had made it back to the ground yet as we walked on to the next park, Parque del Amor, The Love Park. We entered the park through a wall that features some of Peru’s most famous poet’s love verses written in mosaic.

It struck me as reminiscent of Antoni Gaudí’s Park Güell in Barcelona, but Veronica was focused on something ahead.

The Kiss in Parque del Amor in Lima Peru

The sight of a giant sculpture depicting a couple in full make-out mode seemed to bring her back to the present. This center piece of the park is called El Beso, The Kiss, by Victor Delfín, and has become a favorite meeting place for Lima’s lovers.

It was dedicated on February 14, 1993, and on every Valentine’s Day lovers gather around it for a longest kiss competition.

Seemed like the perfect place to plant a big one on my lover. Might not have thrilled her quite like flying through the sky, but hey, a guy’s got to try.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Cristal, the beer of Peru
Cristal: The beer of Peru.
Street food in Lima, Peru
Street food: Churros!

Click here to see our full adventure with Road Scholar – a not-for-profit organization – through Ecuador, Peru, The Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu and much, much more!

Valentine’s Day Customs from Around the World

Valentine’s Day customs from around the world may vary, but no matter where you go, the theme is the same: love. This is the day when you express your love, but you just might need to learn different ways of doing so… CONTINUE READING >> 

We live in a world where everyone is constantly on the move. With millions living and working abroad, some in countries with very different customs, you might want a Valentines Day guide on how to celebrate expat love.

Valentine’s Day customs from around the world may vary, but no matter where you go, the theme is the same: love. This is the day when you express your love, but you just might need to learn some different ways of doing so.

A Rather Unique Custom in Denmark

While much of the world celebrates Valentine’s Day by sending a bouquet of flowers to the one they love, Denmark has a unique twist on this custom. As a relatively new holiday celebration in Denmark, only being celebrated there since the 1990s, the Danes send pressed white flowers as a token of love.

That custom is sort of appealing in that pressed flowers can be kept forever, just like your love should be – forever. Expat ladies, beware. You might even receive a joke letter, so don’t be dismayed if your love sends you a hilarious poem in lieu of a card!

South Korea’s 60-Day Valentine’s Day Celebration

Some expats live and work in Asia and even with all the advice offered them, the one thing they may not be prepared for is a 60-day celebration of this romantic holiday that is typically celebrated on 14 February elsewhere around the world. The celebration begins in February like everywhere else, but once monthly again in March and April, young lovers will celebrate a ‘follow-up’ Valentine’s Day.

On 14 March, the day is called White Day, when men not only send a card, but they send flowers and a gift on this special day. The celebration culminates on 14 April when single young lovers mourn their still-single status by sharing a bowl of black bean noodles. Dark day, indeed!

Valentine’s Day Mass Weddings in the Philippines

Expats living in the Philippines might expect a marriage proposal in the months leading up to Valentine’s Day, with the wedding to be held on the 14th of February.

According to this International Valentine’s Day Guide About Expat Love, the Philippines is one of the top 3 countries for expats to find romance, and, non-surprisingly, Valentines Day is celebrated in much the same way as it is in the Western World.

However, there is one new tradition which is quickly sweeping the nation. This day of love is now being celebrated with mass weddings around the country, as couples gather en masse to make their vows. Typically, a mass celebration follows.

Valentine’s Day Australian Style (for us)

Jumping out of an airplane may not be for everyone, but it seems like it is in Australia. Most of the people we talked to either had already done it or were planning to soon.

Crazy as that sounds, it was a great way to celebrate… and the TV news even came out for a post jump interview!

So, as you can see, celebrating Valentine’s Day around the world has the same theme. It’s a day of love and expressing your love, it’s just that the way you express that love varies from country to country.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? We’d love to hear.