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Yellowstone – What a Gas Hole!

We came to Wyoming to see the world’s first National Park. Permanently set aside in 1872, Yellowstone is home to two-thirds of all the geysers in the world…
Permanently set aside in 1872, Yellowstone is home to two-thirds of all the geysers in the world… 
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Buffalo at beautiful Yellowstone National Park

Vast expanses of open range stretch as far as the eye can see, the deer and the antelope really do play in America’s West.

The lack of a gold rush back in the 1800’s left Wyoming sparsely populated, with just over half a million cowpokes in all. Thirty-three cities in the U.S. are more populous than the entire state of Wyoming.

That’s a boatload of land per person.

Buffalo at Yellowstone National Park

We had come to Wyoming to see the world’s first National Park.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Permanently set aside in 1872, Yellowstone was named for the bright colors of the rocks on the walls of The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

The river flows north from Yellowstone Lake, cascades down over four hundred feet in two magnificent waterfalls before cutting a spectacular nine hundred foot deep gorge through yellow and orange volcanic rocks on its way to meeting up with The Missouri River.

Without a doubt this is the ultimate place for a traditional camping trip.

Wanting to see the colorful canyon from every angle possible, we gathered our hiking gear and traipsed the semi-strenuous trails along the rim and around the Upper Falls.

The jaunt took some time, and energy, so we were glad that we carried some snacks, and of course a good water bottle with us.

From the falls we discovered Uncle Tom’s Trail. This trail provided an absolutely mind-blowing view of the Lower Falls — we just scampered down a bit over three hundred metal steps along the sheer canyon cliffs.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Uncle Tom's Trail in Yellowstone National Park

Getting BACK up up the 300 steps, that was quite another story altogether.

Ah yes, feel the burn.

Uncle Tom was quite certainly a masochist, especially since back in his day they didn’t have the stairs!

The falls, canyon and lake would be more than enough to warrant setting aside this area as a National Park but — wait — there’s more!

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

As breathtaking as this portion of the Park was, at least we felt we had our feet solidly on planet Earth.

Things were about to take a most drastic change.

We were about to enter an other-worldly world, and it’s next to impossible to describe the bizarre sights, sounds and smells of the place.

Oh yes, the smells are a huge part of the Yellowstone experience.

Two-thirds of all the geysers in the world are within the borders of Yellowstone National Park

Two-thirds of all the geysers in the world are within the borders of Yellowstone.

Superheated water gushes hundreds of feet into the air from some while others spout tiny bursts of steam.

In some spots, boiling springs and pools of sulfur-rich water dwell next to pits of bubbling mud called paint pots, all reeking like rotten eggs.

See all of our adventures in America’s Wild West!

Two-thirds of all the geysers in the world are within the borders of Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park

We mounted our trusty bikes for a ride through The Upper Geyser Basin, home to the most famous of Yellowstone’s geysers, Castle, Grand and of course, Old Faithful.

We waited with eager anticipation as a crowd gathered for the scheduled eruption of the ancient trustworthy fellow.

Right on time, he did not disappoint.

The Sapphire Pool at Yellowstone National Park

Cycling our way up the path from the visitors center to The Sapphire Pool, we were awed by the Mars-like terrain around us.

Eruptions by a couple of the less-than-faithful fountains, The Grotto and Spa Geysers made the out-of-this-world
experience even more present.

Geyser at Yellowstone National ParkAdditional snaps to The National Park Service for making the whole area remarkably handicapped-friendly.

The Emerald Pool at Yellowstone National Park

From the Upper Geyser Basin, we took an easy bike ride over to the Black Sand Basin.

The basin is named for the obsidian glass sand covering parts of the ground and is best known for its colorful hot springs, The Emerald Pool and Opalescent Pool.

It is also home to The Cliff Geyser, named for the wall of geyserite along edge of Iron Creek formed by its eruptions. We had the good fortune to experience one these eruptions with forty feet of boiling water shooting skyward and then splashing with a cloud of steam into the creek.

Bubbling mud in Yellowstone National Park

One of David’s most vivid memories from his childhood visit to Yellowstone was the simmering, colorful mud in the paint pots.

Small wonder that a giant boiling mud-puddle would stick in a kid’s mind. He had to see them again.

There are several examples of muddy geothermal pots in the park but the two standouts are The Fountain Paint Pot and The Artists Paint Pots. The Fountain is just a short hop north of Old Faithful in the Lower Geyser Basin so we hit it first.

Yellowstone National Park

There are two sounds that dominate this area, the thick bubbling splattering of boiling mud and the jet engine like roar of steam blasting through fissures in the ground.

The viscosity of the mud in the paint pots varies depending on the time of year. Thin and runny with the Spring rains and melt, thicker after a hot, dry summer. By our visit in Autumn, they were a gooey goop of gaseous gunk.

Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park

The Artists Paint Pots are up the road a little way in the Norris Geyser Basin.

Home to the world’s largest geyser, Steamboat Geyser, that can spray over three hundred feet in the air on the rare occasions that it erupts.

These were not as impressive as mudpits go, but the walk along the loop trail of the area was fantastic.

Let’s just say that walking beside a nearly boiling little mountain stream is not an everyday experience for us.

A geyser in Yellowstone National Park

Everywhere we looked on our jaunts through the geyser basins something was either boiling, bubbling or steaming.

The very ground was hot in many places because Yellowstone is actually a huge volcano, known as a supervolcano, one of the biggest in the world.

This massive caldera erupts catastrophically every six to nine hundred thousand years, covering the entire continent in darkness and ash — basically killing every living thing for thousands of miles around.

It won’t be pretty when it happens again and oh, by the way, the last time was around seven hundred thousand years ago soooo…

Retro geyser warning sign at Yellowstone National Park

Retro buffalo warning flyer at Yellowstone National Park

Warning signs are posted all along the trails in an attention grabbing effort to keep tourists on the safety of the paths and boardwalks so as not to get parboiled. Don’t be like this kid!

There were several other warnings to heed involving wild animals — avoiding getting gored by a buffalo, trampled by an elk or mauled by a bear.

Somehow we managed to avoid all these pitfalls and made our way to the relative safety of Montana.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in America’s Wild West!

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8 Things Not to Miss in Prague

The heart and soul of the Czech Republic, as well as traditional Bohemia, are inseparably wrapped up in the amazing cultural confluence that is Prague.

There has been a settlement on the site of the city for over twelve hundred years, so there is plenty to do!
Here are our favorites… CONTINUE READING > >

The heart and soul of the Czech Republic, as well as traditional Bohemia, are inseparably wrapped up in the amazing cultural confluence that is Prague. There has been a settlement on the site of the city for over twelve hundred years.

Be Enchanted by Old Town Square

Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic

It’s like stepping inside a fairy-tale picture book. The plaza seemed especially huge because of the contrast with the narrow streets leading into it. But size alone is not what makes the square so impressive, that task is accomplished by the remarkable architecture enclosing the space. Standouts are the Old Town Hall, with the world’s oldest working Astronomical Clock on its tower, and the Týn and St. Nicholas Churches. More Old Town Square

Have the “Time” of Your Life at The Astronomical Clock

The Astronomical Clock of Prague

Every hour, on the hour, a huge crowd gathers as this mechanical marvel breaks out quite a conglomeration of characters — including Death, Avarice and Vanity — to commemorate the passing of another sixty minutes. Created in 1410, the clock shows time in four different variations, as well as the date, times for sunrise and sunset, the position of the sun in the zodiac, and the phases of the moon. More Astronomical Clock

WATCH: Inside, outside and topside of the Astronomical Clock!

Eat lots of Delicious Carbs

Delicious Czech Dumplings!

A big part of Veronica’s desire to see Prague was to find the origins of her childhood dinners. Generations of her Bohemian ancestors had passed down traditional dishes, now we could experience the originals, almost all of which include dumplings. Dumplings are the undisputed heavyweight champions of Czech food and we found them answering the bell on almost every plate. More Czech Food

Take the Trip to Kutná Hora

St. Barbara Cathedral, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

In a bygone era, Kutná Hora rivaled Prague as the main city of Bohemia, and several kings took up residence. Silver was coming out of these hills in massive quantities during the fourteenth century and the town was rolling in dough. And, as we know, kings like dough. St. Barbara’s Cathedral dominates Kutná Hora from a hill overlooking the city and is certainly worth the short trip from Prague. In 1388, miners began an enormous project to build this Gothic masterpiece, replacing their chapel that had occupied the site for nearly a century. More Kutná Hora

Get Chilled to the Bone at Sedlec Ossuary

Macabre Human Bone Church of Sedlec, Czech Republic

Words – not even pictures – can begin to explain what it’s like walking through the doors of Sedlec Ossuary. The bones from tens of thousands of people adorn the walls and ceiling, in inexplicable formations. Stacks, pyramids, signs, crucifixes, candelabras and a coat of arms surrounded us, all made from the skeletons of the long deceased. Strings of skulls and femurs of the dearly departed hang like garlands over the arches and doorways. The creepy centerpiece of this macabre masterpiece, a massive chandelier containing at least one of every bone in the human body.
More Sedlec Ossuary

WATCH: You won’t believe the macabre “artwork”

Visit the Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter in Prague, Czech Republic

When the Nazis invaded Prague during WWII, it was expected that they would destroy the Jewish Quarter, known as Josefav, but instead they decided to preserve the cemetery, town hall, ceremonial hall and several synagogs as an “exotic museum of an extinct race.” Fortunately, their plans were foiled. The area has gone from settlement, to walled ghetto, to near extinction, to tourist attraction through the ten centuries of its existence. And then, there’s the tale of the Golum… More Josefav

Hike up to Prague Castle

Prague Castle From Charles Bridge

From its hilltop perch the Prague Castle looms over the city and has been home to Kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors, and presidents of both Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic since the first fortress was constructed here in the year 870. Heralded as the largest castle in the world by the The Guiness Book of World Records, it feels more like a walled city with two huge cathedrals along with countless palaces and halls within the ramparts. More Prague Castle

Vow to Return to Prague on the Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge at night, Prague, Czech Republic

From the earliest days of Prague, this bridge across the Vltava River has been the focal point of the city. King Vladislaus II built the first bridge in 1170. In 1342, when the original structure was washed away in a flood, King Charles IV replaced it with the version that stands today. More than just a bridge, it’s a history lesson, a performance venue, a shopping center and a place of supernatural phenomenon. St. John of Nepomuk was martyred here and, by rubbing his likeness, you will be certain to visit Prague again. More Charles Bridge

Bonus! Be Blown Away By the Street Performers

Street performers abound in Prague, our favorite was an astounding musician using water filled brandy snifters as his instrument. He played outside the Opera House with the skill of a concert pianist… perhaps he should be inside the hall.

Watch: The incredibly talented (and hysterically funny) Peter! He even performs a special serenade to Veronica!

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in Prague!

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There’s No Denying Denali is Da Bomb! Alaska’s Beauty at its Best

Scenery that’s just too spectacular to be real!

There’s no place like it on earth. We skirted precariously along cliffs, hiked among magnificent mountains, and learned how to react when we came upon a grizzly in the wild (this goes against every human fight-or-flight instinct!). Oh, and there’s that bit about the town that has a cat for a mayor… CONTINUE READING

The GypsyNesters in Denali National Park in Alaska

In what may be becoming an regular trek up to Alaska to see The Boy again this summer (we haven’t summoned the fortitude to venture up in the winter yet), we decided to take in some of the state’s boundless beauty with a visit to North America’s highest peak, Denali, and the National Park that surrounds it.

View from Flat Top Mountain in Anchorage, Alaska
Right before things went terribly awry on Flat Top Mountain, so climbing Denali is probably NOT the best idea!

Seeing it from afar last year when we climbed Flat Top Mountain only whet our appetites, we felt that if we were to do the massive mountain justice we should get an up close and personal introduction.

From Anchorage, our homebase, we headed toward Wasilla (a different path from our previous travels down the fabulous Seward Highway and our visit to the extremely remote Native Villages in the tundra).

Setting out in the evening, after The Boy and his lovely girlfriend finished work, we stop for an overnight in the town of Talkeetna. This quirky-quaint little outpost is used as a base camp for climbers, since it is the nearest civilization to the southern route up Denali’s summit.

Talkeetna, Alaska

Several air taxi services shuttle mountaineers to base camps, and take sightseers on flybys or glacier landings, in fact the tiny town has two airports.

Since we’d learned our limitations whilst climbing Flat Top, we weren’t interested in getting into further trouble climbing the ginormous peak. Enjoying the the frontier atmosphere of the village was more our speed.

A local watering hole in Talkeetna, Alaska

Talkeetna’s downtown area is so darn quaint, and authentic, that it is classified as a National Historic Site.

Though it was getting a little late, we wandered Main Street and stopped into a couple of the local watering holes.

Summer solstice in full swing—and being so close to the Arctic Circle—meant that it was not going to get dark that night.

Just to be certain, we waited for twelve o’clock and a dose of midnight sun. If there ever was a time that we wished for blackout curtains, this was it.

Nagley's General Store, home of the cat mayor, Stubbs, in Talkeetna, Alaska

The next morning, which looked pretty much the same as the night that preceded it, we set out for Nagley’s General Store to pay a call on Mayor Stubbs.

The Honorable Mayor Stubbs - he's a cat - of Talkeetna, Alaska
The Honorable Mayor Stubbs has his own swag.

We were hoping to be able to give him a little scratch behind the ears, oh, wait, perhaps we should explain that Stubbs is a cat.

Full discloser: he is also only the honorary mayor.

The town has no real mayor, so there is no truth to the legend that Stubbs won a write-in campaign, but he has been holding forth with huge approval ratings since 1997.

That’s almost twenty years!

He started out as barely more than a kitten but, obviously, he’s getting a little long in the tooth, and wasn’t feeling up to greeting his citizens (or his legions of fans) that day.

Luckily, Nagley’s is a landmark in its own right; over one hundred years ago this was one of the original buildings in Talkeetna and more than a store, it served as the Post Office and District Territorial Headquarters too.

Talkeetna Alaska's famous spinach bread!

Feeling sad that we missed the mayor, we soothed ourselves with some of Talkeetna’s famous spinach bread (cheesy, garlicky, gooey goodness) and took a walk down to the Susitna River to hopefully get a peek at the mighty mountain that was shrouded in clouds the day before.

Unfortunately, Denali is so large that it creates its own weather, so it is hidden from view at least two thirds of the time.

This morning fell into that majority.

Mountain view from Talkeetna, Alaska

We did end up with a fantastic view of Mount Foraker, the third highest peak in North America, but looking out across the rushing water only the bottom half of big Denali was visible to the right of Foraker.

Loading up the car and hoping for a break in the clouds, we drove north to Denali National Park.

The drive to Denali National Park, Alaska

Along the way we played peek-a-boo, catching passing glimpses, but never a clear view of the entire mountain.

The road to Denali National Park, Alaska - stunning!We were more than happy to take in the “regular-sized” humongous mountains on the endless range. Each one more stunning than the next.

As we traveled on, it was surprising to find that we had passed the summit completely and ended up on Denali’s north side where the entrance awaited us.

We settled into our cabin in Denali Village and drifted off to sleep with dreams of a clear day ahead.

Instructions on how to survive a grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

Up for a bright-and-early morning, our first stop was a quick trip to the visitor center.

It was there that we learned how to handle grizzlies.

Memorizing what goes against everything our fight-or-flight human tendencies warned us, we vowed to give it a shot were we so (un)lucky to find ourselves near a grizzly bear.
The bus through Denali National Park

There is only one road through the park, so for safety and traffic control it is restricted to park vehicles only.

That means the only way to get into the interior of the park is to take a bus.

Our driver, a vivacious woman who couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds dripping wet, drove on paths so narrow that much of the time we could only see a sheer drop while we peered aghast from our windows.

The crazy road through Denali National Park, Alaska

We went deep into countryside that normally could never be seen without days of hiking under heavy backpacks.

The crazy cliff-clinging road through Denali National Park, Alaska

Snow on the mountains in Denali National Park, Alaska

As we went along our driver regaled the history of the park, which in turn explained why we were not going to see the summit, even if the clouds broke.

The concept of the park came from conservationist Charles Alexander Sheldon, who pushed for National Park protection of the region from 1906, until 1917 when Woodrow Wilson signed the bill creating Mount McKinley National Park.

Signs in Denali National Park in Alaska are fitted with spikes so the bears refrain from scratching themselves and knocking them over
Signs are fitted with spikes to deter bears from scratching their backs on them and knocking them over.

Sheldon’s idea was never focused on the big mountain, which he called Denali even back then, but on preserving the incredible wildlife and beauty of the entire area.

In fact, the summit of the peak wasn’t even within the original park boundaries.

The rest of the mountain wasn’t officially protected until President Jimmy Carter named it Denali National Monument in 1978.

Two years later the Monument was added into the Park, and the Alaska State Board of Geographic Names officially changed the name of the mountain to Denali.

The sheer cliffs off the road through Denali National Park in Alaska are crazy!

The name had been a source of controversy from the beginning, and even with that change the federal government continued to consider the official name Mount McKinley.

The situation of different state and federal names lasted until 2015, when President Barack Obama directed Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to rename the mountain Denali, which means “the high one” in the native Koyukon language.

Denali National Park, Alaska

Now that we had the notion of seeing that one particular mountain out of our heads, we were freed up to stop looking, and enjoy all of the other amazing mountains that were surrounding us.

We could also beginning to focus on spotting some of the vast array of wildlife that calls the park home.

Dall sheep frolick in Denali National Park, Alaska

Our first encounter didn’t take much effort to spot, as a herd of Dall sheep ran right across the road.

Coming to quick, sharp stop, freaking out our driver because in her twenty years here she had never seen them so up close.

They are normally quite shy and stay high up on the hillsides.

Not much farther along we got a good sense of what she meant, and just how good at spotting animals she was, when she pointed out several caribou up in a snowfield high on a ridge.

Without her guidance we never would have seen them, or known that they were rolling in the snow to get rid of pesky insects.

Polychrome Pass in Denali National Park in Alaska - where the mountains explode with color!

As we climbed up the aptly named Polychrome Pass, the colors of the rocks exploded into a rainbow of earth toned hues.

This is due to the localized volcanic events, in contrast to the vast majority of the mountains which rise from tectonic activity as the Pacific Plate slowly crashes into the North American plate.

It’s actually a part of the same fault system that created the San Andreas Fault thousands of miles to the south.

While riding through this spectacular scenery was incredible, we really wanted to get out in it, so we asked to get off at the next stop.

The buses make numerous stops along the road just for this purpose, as hikers and campers make their way in and out of the wilderness.

Black bear warning sign in Denali National Park, Alaska
According to our driver and the warning at the vistor center, black bears behave quite differently—we frantically double checked that we knew the difference.

We weren’t going to get too crazy, just wanted to take in the wide open expanse of the Toklat River Valley and maybe explore over a ridge or two. So we grabbed our hiking gear, and after strongly warning us to beware of bears, the driver pulled away in a cloud of dust.

Hiking through Denali National Park in Alaska

For the next couple of hours we bashed through the brush and squished our way through the spongy tundra.

Good thing we didn’t plan on going very far because it is pretty tough terrain.

Bet we didn’t cover more than a couple of miles the whole time.

Hiking through Denali National Park in Alaska

Not that we could notice from the amount of daylight, but it was starting to get a little late so we hightailed it back to the road to flag down one of the last few buses headed out of the park.

We certainly didn’t have any desire to make a survivalist camp for the night… even if it wouldn’t get dark.

A grizzly bear in Denali National Park, Alaska

A grizzly bear eating in Denali National Park, Alaska

Just after getting back on the bus our driver slowed to a stop to give us a good long look at a grizzly feeding just a few feet from the road.

Two things came to mind.

First, how lucky were we to get this amazing chance to see this deadly combination of teeth and claws in his native habitat?

Second, O. M. Geeeee—how close was this guy when we were out rambling around?

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in Alaska!

YOUR TURN: Are you as happy as we are that we didn’t get eaten by a bear? Isn’t Denali stunning?

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Create a Glowing Celebration with ManhattanNeons

Whether it’s the classic signs in Las Vegas, or the local theater, restaurant, or corner bar and grill, for as long as we can remember the bright glow and flashing colors of neon lights have always been an indication of good times to come… CONTINUE READING >>

Whether it’s the classic signs in Las Vegas, or the local theater, restaurant, or corner bar and grill, for as long as we can remember the bright glow and flashing colors of neon lights have always been an indication of good times to come.

What if you could capture that feeling and electrify your next party, wedding, or any big event? That would certainly add an air of excitement to the festivities, and it’s sure to make any celebration more memorable.

Good news! It is actually very easy to pull this off with a little help from your friends at ManhattanNeons. Now your soirée can have all the flash and fun of a night out on the town.

They have an incredible variety to choose from with impressive, festive illuminations that are perfect for everything from birthdays, to weddings, graduations, to anniversaries and any other occasion that calls for a good party.

But if none of these tickle your fancy, or you just feel like expressing yourself in your own distinctive style, they invite you to design your very own original sign that captures the essence of your special occasion.

This way, when guests see your vivid Happy Birthday or Wedding Neon Sign it will certainly be a first time special experience. We all want our affair to be one to remember, something above and beyond the ordinary, and this will certainly help to make that happen.

Without a doubt, neon has enthralled folks for over a century. Soon after the discovery of the gas back in 1898, it was also discovered that if it was trapped in a glass tube and electrical current was sent through it, a wonderful light would appear. French inventor, Georges Claude, demonstrated this to everyone’s delight at the Paris Motor Show in 1910. People loved it and in almost no time a huge new industry had emerged.

Businesses quickly realized that these bright, colorful displays could do a bang up job of attracting customers. So soon almost every theater had an impressive marquee featuring the lights. Then smaller establishments, began to jump on the bandwagon until, as we said, Just about everybody who saw them loved them.

These eye-catching displays became a big part of our lives and people became completely captivated by their brilliant and colorful shine. We would say that they have achieved an almost mythical status. In fact, there are even several museums dedicated to the beauty, craft, and kitschy appeal of these bright, tubular bulbs and the fantastic creations that have been fashioned out of them. We have visited the one in Las Vegas and can highly recommend it.

However, the process of blowing and shaping glass tubes, and filling them with a variety of different gasses that each reveal their own individual color when high voltage is applied, was difficult and time consuming. It was also quite expensive. But like so many things, modern technology has changed all of that. New neon signs can be created much faster, and for a lot less money. They also use much less electricity.

This means that all of us can now have access to creating our very own amazing neon sign! And they are not just for special occasions, imagine including one in the personalized décor of your home. What a great way to light up your family room, den, or patio.

Or maybe give the old man cave an upgrade so it feels like a vintage lounge from back in the Rat Pack era.

I don’t know, we might never leave the house again.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Lest we forget, the American Cemetery in Luxembourg

In honor of Memorial Day we take a look back at our visit to this historic site a few years ago….
CONTINUE READING >> 

In honor of Memorial Day we take a look back at our visit to this historic site a few years ago.

The Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial

At Hamm, technically we returned to the United States when we visited the hallowed ground of the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial, which is officially American soil.

Luxembourg presented the land to the US in perpetuity in appreciation for helping free the country from Nazi occupation.

The Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial

The Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial

In 1939, Luxembourg declared itself neutral as war broke out. Germany had other ideas, invading on May 10, 1940, then occupying the country and sending the duke and government into exile.

Two years later, the Third Reich formally annexed the duchy and declared Luxembourgers to be German citizens. At that point they began drafting thousands of men to fight in the war.

Strict rules — including a ban on speaking French — were imposed. A resistance movement formed, but opposition to German rule was severely punished.

Passive resistance was most common, with refusing to speak German at the top of the list. Many Luxembourgers returned to the old Luxembourgish, and, in the process, most likely saved the language from disappearing.

U.S. forces liberated Luxembourg in September 1944, but were almost immediately engaged in the Battle of the Bulge and parts of the country fell back into German hands.

The allies ultimately prevailed, which was instrumental in ending World War II, and many of the soldiers who lost their lives in that combat are buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery.

We somberly walked the grounds where over five thousand soldiers are interred.

One of them is General George S. Patton, who survived the battle only to perish in an automobile accident a few months later.

He was originally buried alongside his troops, but in an effort to keep the surrounding graves from being trampled, he was moved to the forefront of the site.

Scott DeJardins, superintendent of Luxembourg American Cemetery

As we were leaving, we met the cemetery superintendent, Scott DeJardins, who lives at the site.

He explained to us that because of the unique position of this — and the many other United States Military Cemeteries around the world — as American territory, there is always an American caretaker.

Headstone of a Jewish solidier at Luxembourg American Cemetery

Mr. DeJardin is happily serving his fifth assignment in the last nine years, and is headed to Normandy next.

It’s a job he clearly loves, in fact he said “I’d tell my boss I’d do it for free, but I’m afraid he might take me seriously.”

A welcome bit of levity in our very solemn visit.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Travel is Better with Peace of Mind

We’ve been almost everywhere and have been very lucky with no big health problems so far, but we know that there may come a time when we need to turn to some real experts for help. That’s why we are so happy to have found Emergency Assistance Plus… CONTINUE READING >>

Ever since Veronica and I set out as empty nest nomads, you might say GypsyNesters, fifteen years ago, one of the first questions that many people ask us is, what will we do if we have a medical emergency. Since we are who we are, we usually say something silly like “we never go anywhere that we wouldn’t want to be stranded in” or “we hear the hospitals are great in Timbuktu.”

And we can get away with that because so far, we have been extremely lucky and no big health problems have popped up while we have been gallivanting across the globe. But that doesn’t mean that our luck will last forever, and we shouldn’t be prepared for anything and everything that might arise.

For example, a few years ago I had a heart attack. Luckily, it wasn’t severe, and we were at home, about three miles from a good hospital. So, after a bit of a scare I had a stent in me within a few hours. But what if it had been serious and I had been cavorting with the llamas at Machu Picchu, or climbing The Great Wall of China?

To be honest, we can’t really say how that would have played out. The scenario is way outside of our expertise. Of course, the first thing would be to get to a hospital for medical attention as quickly as possible, and travel insurance can certainly help with medical bills, but then what?

Insurance is fine, and everyone should have health coverage, but that very often does not cover some of the biggest expenses in the case of a major emergency. Not only that, but those insurance providers don’t offer much, if any, help in dealing with the logistics and details of getting you safely home while receiving the care that you need should an emergency medical evacuation be found to be medically necessary.

With that scare behind us, now we know that there may come a time when we will need to turn to some real experts for help, and a membership like Emergency Assistance Plus can literally be a life saver. Their response team is on call all day, every day with one goal, to get you proper medical attention and get you back home as quickly and safely as possible.

Accomplishing that requires a response team made up of a global network of highly skilled medical professionals, including an internal medicine team of rescue nurses and doctors who specialize in flight physiology should you need to be returned home on a commercial flight or via an air ambulance. They are also supported by an extensive group of coordinators and operations specialists, all fully trained to deal with every aspect of a crisis or medical emergency.

And don’t worry, the transportation services aren’t limited to only you. They also extend to your spouse or travel companion, dependents, and even your grandchildren traveling with you can be brought home safe and sound. Even more, translation services are included, along with assistance in case of lost luggage and even an emergency cash advance if needed.

But it is a good idea to remember that emergencies don’t only happen in far off places, so Emergency Assistance Plus will deliver the same comprehensive services even in case something should happen while traveling closer to home. In fact, they will even make sure that your RV or vehicle is returned to your home. Now that’s what we call peace of mind.

OK, so we can almost hear the next question right through our laptops, how could we possibly afford a service like this?

Well, first of all, Emergency Assistance Plus is not insurance, so it doesn’t have all of those costs. It is affordable for an annual, paid membership program with hundreds of thousands of members enjoying the contentment of knowing that any emergency medical evacuation and transportation services will be taken care of while traveling. And like us, most Emergency Assistance Plus members are between the ages of 65-85.

So, we have one more question, “is it really a vacation if you can’t relax and forget about worrying?”

We don’t think so, and Emergency Assistance Plus is a small price to pay for that peace of mind.

Learn more at: EmergencyAssistancePlus.com

David and Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Three Camino de Santiago Routes To Try

Camino de Santiago is a popular holiday choice for someone looking to get active whilst getting away. It offers you the chance to explore, disconnect and reconnect… CONTINUE READING >>

Have you been looking for an activity-based holiday and come across a Camino de Santiago? A Camino de Santiago is a popular holiday choice for someone looking to get active whilst getting away. It offers you the chance to explore, disconnect and reconnect. It’s the perfect way to gather your thoughts and feel refreshed on your return.

If you aren’t sure where to go on a Camino de Santiago, there are many routes that you can choose from. You can enjoy a Camino Portugues Coastal Route from Porto, a Camino Portugues Coastal Route from Baiona in 8 days or Complete Camino de Santiago Frances from St. Jean which is 36 days long – it comes down to how much you are willing to spend and if you have enough days off. A lot of people will use their sabbatical when taking on a 36-day adventure.

To help give you some inspiration, below we have put together three Camino de Santiago routes for you to try.

The Complete Camino de Santiago Portugues from Lisbon

We mentioned a sabbatical above, or if you are retired and looking for a challenge, then you may be interested in this Complete Camino de Santiago Portugues from Lisbon which takes place over 30 days. During your adventure, you will get to see Santa Iria de Azoia, Porto, Barcelos, Padron and more. It’s a grade 2 of 6 and you will be travelling around 611 km, so be prepared to see many wonderful landscapes on your travels.

Camino de Santiago from Sarria in 6 days

For a shorter breakaway, this 6-day Camino de Santiago may be the one for you. On this trip, you will start by exploring Sarria before travelling 33.2km to Ventas de Naron. From here you will head to Melide, A Rua and finish your adventure in Santiago de Compostela. Along the way, you make several stops and see some key sights, like a visit to the A Magdalena Chapel and explore Melide, the geographical centre of Galicia. The grade of this Camino de Santiago is 2 of 6 and the total distance travelled will be around 111km.

The Coastal Camino de Santiago from Porto

Have you ever been to Porto before? It’s a beautiful city with so many wonderful architectural styles. It’s also a great place for foodies and people who enjoy seeing some magnificent churches! This Camino de Santiago from Porto takes place over eight days and you’ll travel 136 km in distance. On this trip, you will enjoy the infrastructures that you will get to see, the most beautiful landscapes and the climate is very favourable for a hike.

There are so many different Camino de Santiago routes that you can choose from that it can be confusing. We hope our guide has given you some insight and food for thought. What are your thoughts on the three Camino de Santiago’s that we have included in our guide above? Will you be trying one of them or is there an alternative one you are going to try?

Only One Day in Paris? Here’s What to do!

We are headed back to Paris next month so we decided to offer some tips for travelers who only have a short time for a visit. How could you see all of the highlights? We have the answer! Find out how we saw  Paris’ most famous landmarks – in one day… CONTINUE READING >> 

Straight up from under the Eiffel Tower! GypsyNester.com
Looking straight up from the bottom of the Eiffel Tour.

Paris sits near the top of almost every traveler’s must-see list.

While we had checked that box many years ago, having been in our 20s and crazy enough to drive around the city in a little rented Fiat, most of what we saw was blurry and had a slightly fearful aura attached to it.

By far the bulk of our attention was devoted to avoiding an accident while not getting hopelessly lost. We didn’t really get to check out all of the Things To Do in Paris.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris

Now that we are older and wiser — and knowing we’d be jet-lagged — we decided that hitting the highlights with a guide was not a touristy cliché to be frowned upon, but a stress-free way to visit some of Europe’s most famous landmarks. It also struck us as a great way to scout locations for our upcoming week in Paris. A private tour would be ideal, but expensive, so we contacted Viator and booked their Best of Paris Tour.

David aboard the boat of our Seine River dinner cruise in Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles near Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

Our small band of eight curious travelers from around the world made the outing more interesting and entertaining than a solo excursion, all the while maintaining the individual attention we would have lost in a large group.

Instead of dozens of people in a huge bus, we spent the morning riding throughout the city in a van, sans the anxiety of being behind the wheel.

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

The initial part of the tour was a whirlwind overview of the history and geography of Paris starting with a cruise along the Champs-Élysées, and a couple of laps around the insanely traffic-filled circle that surrounds the Arc de Triomphe.

Our guide and driver, Sabastian, who was the perfect combination of comical and informative, mused that an accident occurs in the circle every twenty minutes.

However, having impeccable timing, he limited his lapping to fifteen minutes, therefore beating the odds, and allowing us to escape unscathed.

In contrast to the crazy congestion at the Arc, we proceeded to the narrowest street in Paris, Rue du Chat-qui-Pêche or Street of the Fishing Cat, no doubt the only one in the city without a single vehicle on it!

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

Periodically the van stopped for a quick look-around, giving us a chance to hop out and snap a few photos.

Our first opportunity came at the square in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, where we had a chance to crane our necks up for an eye-to-eye with the gargoyles peering down at us.

Gargoyles and statues on Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

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.

Not part of the original design, as construction progressed the grand scale of the building required additional support, and a buttress or two was the perfect solution.

Check out more about Notre Dame Cathedral

View from a window of the Louvre in Paris, France

Back in the van, we took a spin through the nearby grounds of the Louvre and, while seeing the famous pyramid was cool, it only made us more detemined to go back and explore the great works housed inside.

We passed the Palais Garnier, generally known as the Opéra de Paris, or Paris Opera House.

The Paris Opera House

We knew it as the home to the Phantom of the Opera, but that is only a small part of why this may be the most famous opera house in the world. The amazing architecture could be more responsible for that stature.

The golden-domed Hotel National des Invalides in Paris, France

Our next stop was the golden-domed Hotel National des Invalides, that is said to have been an inspiration for the United States Capitol building.

The complex was initiated by Louis XIV as a hospital and retirement home for war veterans, and it still serves that purpose today.

It is also home to several museums and monuments related to the military history of France.

Many of the country’s heroes are laid to rest here, including Napoleon Bonaparte, whose tomb is beneath the dome.

The best view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, looking across the Seine River from the Trocadéro Gardens

We set out for what is often considered the best view of the Eiffel Tower in town, looking across the Seine River from the Trocadéro Gardens.

Even shrouded in fog, Tour Eiffel stood out as the most impressive emblem of Paris.

Crossing the river for a closer look, we discovered yet another reason to love this tour, no lines.

Lunch at the Eiffel Tower, le 58 Tour Eiffel in Paris, France

Instead of waiting behind the hundreds of eager tower visitors, we walked right on to the elevator and rode up to the first observation level to take advantage of our lunch reservations.

The restaurant, le 58 Tour Eiffel, provides attentive table service fifty-eight meters high on the most recognizable landmark in Paris, and more memorably, a seriously cool way to hang out high above the city.

See more photos of this seriously cool eatery and our antics at the Eiffel Tower

View of Paris from the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

Gustave Eiffel designed and built his tower in 1889 as an entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair.

Even though it was the tallest man-made structure on earth, at over a thousand feet high, he probably had no idea that it would become the enduring symbol of La Ville-Lumière, the City of Light.

Long lines at the Eiffel Tower - learn how we skipped the lines! GypsyNester.com
And, again, very grateful we got to skip the lines!

After our meal we hit the stairway and climbed to the second observation level, just over a third of the way up.

From this vantage point the panoramic view of Paris was spectacular, and since the top was hidden in the clouds we didn’t see any reason to go any higher.

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

Our Viator guide of Paris, Sabastian

Instead we met back up with Sabastian for an afternoon of opulence at the Palace of Versailles.

After the short drive out of the city, we once again bypassed the waiting crowds and walked right in.

The Palace of Versailles from the gardens near Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

The Château de Versailles became the royal residence in 1682, when Louis the Fourteenth moved out of the Louvre in favor of the country house and gardens that had served as a hunting lodge since 1624.

Of course, major renovations were in order, one can’t rule properly from a hunting lodge.

The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles near Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

It seems that the redecoration was quite a success! No wonder Louis is known for his furnishings.

We were particularly enthralled by the Hall of Mirrors, and the artwork on the ceilings, but every room made it quite obvious that it was good to be king… that is… until there is a revolution.

Inside the Palace of Versailles near Paris, France

But the rise of the republic did not vanquish the palace, even though many of the furnishings were hauled off by angry mobs — no cake for them — it has been restored to its previous glory.

Versailles continues to play host to political functions by hosting heads of state in the Hall of Mirrors and housing meetings of the Sénat and the Assemblée whenever revisions or amendments are made to the French Constitution.

The garden at Versailles near Paris, France

Nearly as impressive as the interior, the grounds have to be seen to be believed as well. After all, what is an emperor’s country château without a garden? We wouldn’t have to answer that question, because Versailles has the backyard to end all backyards. Even in late autumn, we were easily engulfed by its lovely, lush repose.

Fountain of horses in the gardens of Versailles near Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

Almost two thousand acres of trees, flowers, fountains, ponds, statues, and perfectly trimmed hedges forming designs and mazes, all with string quartet music perfectly piped throughout.  No kidding, no matter where we walked it always sounded like they were right behind the next tree.

The gardens of the Palace of Versailles near Paris, France

Over time the gardens fell into a state of overgrowth, but now the Petit Parc – Louis XIV’s pleasure garden – is being restored to the same condition that it was in at the end of his reign in 1715.

See more photos of Versailles – there’s so much more over-the-top royal stuff to share!

The Eiffel Tour in the fog at night in Paris, France

We returned to Paris at the base of the Eiffel Tower to embark on the last leg of the tour, an evening cruise along the Seine just as darkness was engulfing the City of Light.

The backdrop could not have been better for a romantic meal.

If we were looking for a sure-fire way to improve on the ancient adage: “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou” we would have been hard pressed to find a way.

The food on our dinner cruise on the River Seine in Paris, France

The Bibliothque Mazarine at night during a Seine dinner cruise - GypsyNester.com

Slowly sailing past illuminated landmarks, while enjoying a three-course dinner, was the ultimate end an exquisite day.

Seine River Dinner Cruise in Paris, France

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

DELVE DEEPER:
See where we stayed in Paris
See our antics at the Eiffel Tower and learn a few things about her that you didn’t know!
Follow us to Versailles – there’s so much more over-the-top royal stuff to share!
Want more Paris? Click here!
Check out all of our adventures in France!


Big thanks to Viator for providing this mind-blowing adventure! As always, all opinions are our own. See how you can take Viator’s Best of Paris Tour yourself!

YOUR TURN: Is Paris at the top of your must-see list? Or have you already checked it off? What would be YOUR first stop in Paris?