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    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    My Favorite Tapas of Spain

    Eating My Way Through Spain

    Location: Sevilla Spain

    It’s no secret I love to eat.  Our grand adventure involves a lot of food.  Travel is a conduit to cuisines of the world.  And I couldn’t love that more.

    I’ve been asked often what my favorite cuisine is.  It’s a tough question.  I love the comfort noodles of Asia, the rich stews and meats of the Balkans, the fresh seafood of the Mediterranean.  I adore any

    Anchovies

    cuisine made with the freshest local produce.  And I am also endlessly fascinated with the culture and history behind regional cuisine; pierogi of Poland; khao soi of northern Thailand; peka of Croatia, shopska salad of Bulgaria, tagine of Morocco.  These foods are both storyteller and palate dancer.

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Shrimp

    What could be more fabulous?

    Spanish Cuisine

    We’ve been in Spain now for more than a month.  Last year we spent more than two months in Spain.  I have learned to enjoy what is really a simple cuisine here in this country – locally sourced, simply prepared and not overly seasoned.  Although the many regions of Spain have their individual specialties, the focus of the overall cuisine of Spain is fresh and seasonal.

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Fried sardines

    My only complaint about Spain is how late they eat their meals.  Breakfast is barely a meal – just coffee and a croissant, maybe a tortilla (here in Spain ‘tortilla’ is an egg and potato dish, aka Spanish omelet) around 10am.  Lunch isn’t until 2:00pm and dinner rarely gets started before 9pm.  For this American, that is well past my bedtime.

    One of the reasons Spain eats so late is because they are in a crazy backwards timezone.  Ever since Franco wanted Spain in the same timezone as Germany, Spaniards have lived with a VERY late sunrise and a VERY late sunset.  So, they have adjusted their eating habits to accommodate.  Unfortunately my internal clock is not so easily adjusted.

    So the answer for me, when in Spain, is to live on tapas – the luscious

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Stuffed olives

    little dishes served all day long.  I have become a fan of tapas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    The Tapa Life

    We have enjoyed my favorite tapas of Spain in Madrid, Santiago,Leon and Barcelona.  But Sevilla loves its tapas bars (there are no tapas restaurants only bars – tapas are always served with alcohol) and the abundance of options is both fun and a bit overwhelming.  In fact many will argue Sevilla is the birthplace of the tapa. We studied up a bit on where to go, what to eat and some history, then we set out on our own little “tapear”, the Spanish word for tapas hopping. Time to find my favorite tapas of Spain.

    As we set out on our excursion we were happy to know there really wasn’t anywhere better we could be eating tapas than in Sevilla, and specifically in the historic Triana neighborhood.  Myths and legends abound about tapas. One of the most

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Cold tomato soup

    popular is King Alfonso the 10th, The Wise King of Spain, had once been stricken with a serious illness which only allowed him to take in small portions of food with small amounts of wine. After recovering from his illness, the king issued a decree that no wine should be served at inns unless it was served with food. (credit A Brief History of Tapas, Pita Jungle).

    My Favorite Spanish Tapas

    We did not have the opportunity to try every kind of tapa Sevilla is famous for, but we indulged in many and here is a list of some of our favorites both from our tour of Triana and our time throughout Spain (see photos and captions of

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Pork in whiskey with potata

    several throughout this blog); croqueta (very popular bite size fried cheesy nuggets often with jamon but we enjoyed it with duck as well as mint), montadito (tiny bite size jamon and pork sandwich), solomillo al whiskey (pork in whisky sauce), los pajaritos (tiny fried quail), patata (fresh potato chip), tortilla bites (egg and potato omelette), tortillita de camarones (fried shrimp pancake), espinacas con garbanzos (spinach and garbanzo beans), salmorejo (cold tomato soup), stuffed olives, thin sliced jamon iberico de bellota (acorn fed Iberian ham), pancetta frita (fried pork belly), grilled shrimp, boiled shrimp, sardinas ala parilla  (grilled sardines), mussels, pulpo (octopus), razor clams, fried calamari, boquerones (anchovies) on toast, sausages and rabo de toros (bull’s tail).  And those are just the ones I can remember.

    Simple, Cheap & Delicious

    It’s a wonderful way to eat.  But the great thing is, even if you are only stopping for a glass of wine with a friend, the bar will always set something to nibble in front of you (because the King said so).  It will

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Grilled sardines and grilled shrimp

    probably be a plate of olives, perhaps nuts or sometimes bread with ham and cheese or tortilla.   It’s said that the original tapas were probably bread with jamon, which was used to cover your drink (the word tapa means ‘cover’).

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Croqueta

    Despite the origin of the word, it now describes a cuisine unto its own.  Though southern Spain and particularly Andalusia claim it, the popularity of tapas has spread, particularly to South and Central America, Mexico and the United States.

     

    The day of our tapear we ate and drank (both beer and wine) for several hours at six locations.  And our total spending for the afternoon? Less

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Tiny fried quail

    than $50.

    We leave Sevilla and head next to Malaga – about 205 km south, on the Mediterranean.  We expect to continue our tapas exploration and enjoy

    a bounty of fresh goodness from the sea. Fabuloso and delicioso!

    Malaga here we come!

     

    Read my blog about food in Barcelona.

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    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    When in Porto…Port Wine Tasting, Porto Portugal

    Top Thing to Do in Porto

    Location: Porto Portugal

    I love wine, but honestly don’t know much about Port.  I generally shy away from very sweet wines, and that is how I have always thought of Port.  The only time I ever had Port in my liquor cabinet at home was when a recipe called for it.  But when in Porto…

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    Seal of approval

    I’m so glad we signed up for the four-hour port tasting tour with Porto Walkers in Porto Portugal.  Our tour guide Alex was sensational.  He really knew his stuff and I learned so very much.  We visited three different Port houses.  These houses are technically not in Porto, rather across the Douro river, in Gaia – they originally located there instead of in Porto because the taxes were lower!.  It was fun walking with our group of about twenty from the Porto side, across the Luis the I bridge (built in 1881) to the popular port tasting riverfront boardwalk in Gaia.

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    Grape plant in raised shale bed

    Only wine grown in the Douro region and produced here can be called Port.  Elsewhere it is known as fortified wine. The grapes are grown and processed in the demarcated Douro region. The wine produced is then fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content. (source Wikipedia)

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    Two fisted

    Our first stop on our tour was the amazing and historic Ramos Pinto House.  Located in a stunning riverside big yellow building, it’s clear on arrival you are seeing something special. Founded by Adriano Ramos Pinto in 1880, Casa Ramos Pinto rapidly became noted, at the time, for its innovative and enterprising strategy, including the first to bottle wine and the first to really market and brand their wine using some risqué advertising for the era.

    At Ramos Pinto we enjoyed a full 50 minute tour of the original offices of Adriano Ramos Pinto, the cellar filled with hundreds of port-filled barrels, and a display that shows the incredibly unique shale wall system used to grow the grapes.  After our tour we enjoyed a tasting of two of their Port Wines. We tasted a 7 year white which was very sweet (too sweet for me) and syrupy with notes of honey.  We also tasted a 7 year Tawny that was deep, beautiful magenta, and also quite sweet.

    Oak barrel

    Our next stop was Quinta Santa Eufemia.  Here we got a quick lesson on Portuguese cork as well as barrels used for the wine aging process before tasting a deep red Ruby Port which we accompanied with chocolate.  It was a perfect pairing.  I really enjoyed this port.

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    Roof top view

    Our final stop was Porto Cruz.  By this time our group was getting to know each other and getting loud and friendly after three glasses of port.  Pretty fun.  We started with a Rose Port.  This is fairly new on the market, conceived for a younger audience to help introduce them to Port.  I liked this light, sweet wine.  We took our Rose up to the roof top bar and enjoyed the music and the view while we waited as they prepared the tasting room for us.

    We headed to the tasting room where we tasted three more Ports.  Our guide Alex did an awesome job helping us taste and consider the “notes” of each glass.  The white was full of fruit flavors like apple, pear and pineapple while the Tawny and Ruby had notes of caramel, maple, chocolate and spice. We learned about terms like vintage and late harvest.  We tasted a White, Tawny, and Ruby in addition to our Rose (strawberry notes).  I enjoyed all four of the Ports from Porto Cruz.

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    The four kinds of Port

    When we signed up for this tour I thought four hours seemed a really long time, but it went by so quickly because it was both interesting and fun.  I highly recommend Porto Walkers and their Port Wine Tasting.  Only 25 Euros and worth every penny.  Ask for Alex – he was great.

     

     

     

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    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    It’s Not Greek to Me

    Location: Antiparos Greece

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Skid at Skala Restaurant in Santorini

    I’ve been to Greece before, and one of the things I was most looking forward to about returning here was the cuisine and enjoying my favorite greek foods and recipes.  Fresh, local and fabulous, it’s easy to see how healthy the Mediterranean diet is.  Copious amounts of olive oil, ocean to plate seafood, salty mouth-watering feta, and produce from local growers including gorgeous red and yellow tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, purple eggplant, greens, beets, onions, potatoes. Lemons, limes, pomegranate and other seasonal fruit figure prominently.

    What’s not to like?

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Dolmades so delicious and easy to make

    My favorite greek foods and recipes were enjoyed in restaurants on Antiparos, Mykonos, Paros and Santorini. I have enjoyed squid several times, it’s best I think when simply grilled with lemon and olive oil.  I’ve also had octopus with orzo (tasted very much like a risotto) and lamb souvlaki.  We’ve tried dolmades (I love these lovely little lemony pockets of deliciousness and have made these at home several times), anchovies, sardines and fried cheese called saganaki. We also enjoyed moussaka, pastitsio, rabbit stew and many choices of salads.

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Making Humus

    I usually like to take a cooking class in every country I visit.  But here on tiny Antiparos there is no such thing.  So instead I have set out to cook several Greek recipes I’ve found on  (where else) Pinterest.  Everything from sandwiches to salads to spanakopita has made its way out of our Airbnb kitchen these past three weeks.  So here are my successes (and one fail) from my self-taught Mediterranean Highlights Menu from Antiparos.

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes;

    Salads

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Greek Salad

    In most restaurants you can find many choices of salads.  Most popular are Eggplant Salad, Tomato Salad and of course, Greek Salad.

    Greek Salad is fairly simple and usually includes the following ingredients; feta, olives, tomato, red onion, capers and cucumber.  Sometimes it will have lettuce, but the Greek way is without lettuce.  The dressing is olive oil (of course), lemon, salt and pepper.

    Greek Salad Recipe

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Chickpea Salad and Eggplant Chips

    Chickpea Salad is also very popular.  Chickpeas grow in abundance in the mediterranean region. Chickpeas find their way into many recipes, not the least of all being hummus.  This salad I made included lots of delicious fresh veg as well as the chickpeas.  I had left over chicken from our Greek Chicken (see below) so I shredded that and added it to the salad.  It was delicious served with the fried eggplant chips.

    Chickpea Salad recipe

    Mezes

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Bujurdi

    In Greek small bites or appetizers are known as mezes.  You will often find mezes on menus to be served with a glass of wine.  You can also enjoy mezes before your meal.  We ordered several mezes when we ate out and especially liked saganaki (a fried cheese), octopus in vinegar, and bujurdi an incredible cheesy dip.  So I decided to tackle bujurdi.  It’s amazing.  Try it.

    Bujurdi Recipe

    Light Meals

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    My homemade spanakopita

    Spanokopita has always been one of my favorite Greek dishes.  And it is so easy.  Don’t fear the filo! It is very easy to work with.  Spanakopita has simple ingredients; filo (purchase it ready-made fresh or frozen), spinach, onions, feta and dill.  Bake and enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

    Spanakopita Recipe

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Greek Sandwich

    For lunch one day we ate the most delicious, and very filling, Greek Sandwich.  This sandwich could easily be dinner, with a side salad or dolmades which is how I served it.  It’s a very tall sandwich, so be sure to get nice fresh bread that can hold up to the numerous ingredients.  I will definitely make this recipe again.

    Greek Sandwich

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Olives at every meal

    At most of our lunches we ate very simple mezes of canned sardines (so many choices available in the store) or fresh anchovies in oil and lemon along with pita, hummus, feta, olives, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber and fruit. A very simple and easy meal and totally satisfying.  Here in Antiparos we have really fallen in love with lemon hummus.  Bright and nutty and delicious.

    Delicious Dinners

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Greek Roast Chicken

    Most any country you travel to you can find a version of roast chicken, and since we were blessed with an oven in this Airbnb I was well prepared to try this recipe.  We purchased a beautiful plump and organic locally grown chicken and with some simple herbs and lemon, created a fantastic dish. We had left overs for two additional meals. I served the chicken with a warm potato salad with feta.

    Roast Chicken

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Moussaka

    I’ve always been one to experiment boldly in the kitchen, and I tackled a full Greek meal for guests when I was just 23 years old and we were first married. This was my first attempt at moussaka.  It was a smashing success and I have made it many times over the years (35 years since!). So cooking it here in Greece seemed appropriate, even though we had enjoyed it in a restaurant. This recipe gave us lots of left overs.

    Moussaka

    Dessert

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Baklava

    I didn’t make any desserts but I must mention how much the Greeks like their sweets.  Fortunately (or unfortunately I’m not sure) the little village here in Antiparos has an amazing bakery…which we visited several times.  Of course you know baklava, but there are many other cookies, pastries, custards, pies and amazing bread available fresh every day.  We made a point to partake – of course all in the name of research!

    The Big Fail

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Seabream fail

    I love seafood, but I admit, it can be difficult to cook.  I wanted to grill a whole fish on our BBQ, but the wind has been so high we couldn’t use the grill.  We bought a whole fish, frozen, because the fishmonger has closed for the season.  I think that was our biggest mistake.  It just didn’t smell or taste fresh.  Despite the deliciously fresh herbs (dill and parsley) and lemon and garlic we stuffed the fish with – we hated it.  I didn’t even eat mine. I think the recipe isn’t at fault here – or the cook for that matter.  The fish wasn’t fresh and so it was a fail.

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Saganaki fried cheese

    We haven’t eaten out much during our time in Antiparos, and now many of the local restaurants have closed for the season.  But we enjoy creating in the kitchen, and we have learned a lot about the local cuisine in doing so.

    So there you have it! My favorite Greek foods and recipes. Fabulous Greece.  Fabulous Food.  Fabulous Life. Opa!

    Check out some of our other blogs about Fabulous Food Here!

     

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    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    The Food of Poland – Pierogi and So Much More

    Location: Poland

    We have spent the past two weeks eating our way through Poland.  If you had asked me about Polish food before arriving, I would have said “well they eat pierogi and drink vodka!”  I think many Americans know only this as well.  But as much as I love the pierogi, I have learned all about the food of Poland – pierogi and so much more.

    Poland’s tumultuous history is identifiable in their foods (history blog coming soon).  Over the millennia the region we know as Poland was controlled by Prussia, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Hapsburg Dynasty, Russia, Sweden, Lithuania, Germany, Soviet Union and others.  Watch this short video to understand how fluid the borders of this area have been. It’s fascinating.

    Poland’s Changing Borders

    So, of course that means for more than two thousand years the region has been influenced by the surrounding kingdoms and countries.  But also, and perhaps more importantly, Poland has endured a great deal of economic hardship, which means developing simple foods with simple ingredients seasonally available or what ever is on hand.

    And you will see that in the comfort foods of Poland.

    Soups and Meats

    The Foods of Poland

    Zurek Sour Soup. My favorite

    In Poznan I had one of my favorite traditionally Polish foods, a soup called zurek.  I really need to learn to make this delicious, bright, flavorful soup.  Often called Sour Soup because of the fermented rye used, it’s very difficult to describe but definitely not difficult to eat.  Want to try it?  Check out this recipe.

    The Foods of Poland

    Duck with beets and dumplings

    Soups are very popular in Poland, particularly in the long dark winter, and in addition to zurek we had tomato soup, seafood soup, beet soup (borscht) and another sour soup with fermented rye and dill called zalewajka. I loved that one too.  Want to try it? Check out this recipe.

    In Poznan and in Wroclaw we also enjoyed wonderfully prepared duck, traditionally served with beets and yeast dumplings.  We also had deliciously hand-made sausages and pickles served with mustard.  Another favorite was a beetroot and strawberry salad served with warm goat cheese.  A remarkable combination of simple ingredients.

    Pierogi and Cooking Class

    The Foods of Poland

    Fresh cured meats with pickles and mustard

    We stayed the longest in the remarkable city of Krakow, where we had time to really dive into the culture and food scene.  Here is where we ate the most pierogi, taste testing traditional favorites as well as a few new creations.  The Pierogi Ruskie is the favorite amongst the Poles, and I have to say that is my favorite too.  Simple ingredients of potato, cheese, and onion burst in your mouth, full of home cooked goodness.  Another favorite we enjoyed was duck pierogi – a more modern take on

    The Foods of Poland

    Duck pierogi

    the traditional food.  We also had mushroom and cabbage, spinach and cheese, blueberry, and raspberry.

    So much pierogi so little time!

    In Krakow I had a wonderful pleasure of spending half a day with Olga of Urban Adventures in her tiny communist era apartment, where we created some delicious pierogi, learning the nuances of preparation.  The dough for pierogi is as simple as pasta dough, just flour, egg, water and a little salt.  Hand mixing and hand forming is important to keep it traditional. Pierogi is always boiled, but left over pierogi is often pan-fried the next day for another delicious way to enjoy it.  And since you can’t just make a few pierogi, there are always leftovers. There are many ways to enjoy Pierogi.  Click on this link for a recipes for several of the most traditional ones, including Ruskie. I have also attached a pdf here with the recipe Olga so kindly provide.Pierogi receipe

    The Foods of Poland

    Forming the pierogi

    While spending the day with Olga we also visited the local Polish market where we learned to order the items we needed – in Polish – while the local merchants smiled and indulged our broken mispronunciation.  At the market we also learned not only about fresh meat and produce, but about the many kinds of popular pickles, pastries, cheese and, surprisingly, lard.  We ate bacon lard spread like butter

    The Foods of Poland

    At the market fresh eggs and a polish cheese called Golka

    on delicious fresh bread.  Who knew that could be so good?

    Christmas Traditions

    Our visit to Krakow also included spending four hours one evening with Delicious Poland, walking around the city and tasting so many delicious polish specialties.  Seriously I thought I was going to explode.  If you come to Krakow definitely do a food walking tour – but DO NOT eat lunch before hand.  So much delicious food.  Here is what we ate:

    Pierogi of course, at one of the city’s most loved family owned pierogi restaurants called Przystanek.  We learned that sometimes fruit filled pierogi is served as a main dish, and the mushroom and cabbage pierogi is always served on Christmas

    The Foods of Poland

    Ruskie Pierogi made in cooking class. The most traditional.

    Eve.

    Christmas Eve is a major holiday and the family gathers to make the pierogi together.  A traditional Polish Christmas Eve meal includes 12 courses, symbolizing riches, the 12 apostles and the 12 months of the year.  The feast begins with the breaking of a wafer and is followed by; red borscht, mushroom soup, carp, herring, mushroom and cabbage pierogi, sauerkraut, cabbage rolls, kutia (grain and candied fruit mixture), gingerbread, dried fruit compote, poppy seed cake.

    The Foods of Poland

    Poppyseed Cake

    Another wonderful Christmas Eve tradition in Poland is that every table is set with one extra seat.  Traditionally set for anyone who may be alone or needing a meal on Christmas Eve.

    Walking Food Tour Krakow

    Our food tour continued at Zalewajke in the Jewish Quarter, where we enjoyed the zalewajke soup and the borscht (mentioned above).  We continued to the Jewish Market square to try a more recent addition to the polish food scene, zapiekanka.  This open face sandwich is the favorite fast food in Krakow, developed in the communist era when burgers were not allowed because they were too “American”.

    The Foods of Poland

    Zapiekanka open face sandwich

    Trying local vodka at Hevre (a converted Jewish Prayer Hall) I realized I actually like vodka, if it’s the good stuff!  My favorite was the Bison Grass; so subtle and smooth.  Next we visited a very popular local brewery called Ursa Major with a woman brew master!  Here we enjoyed sausage and cheese with two beers – a no hop(!) summer ale (interesting) and a

    The Foods of Poland

    Enjoying the Bison Grass Vodka

    session IPA.  Unlike most places we’ve been, American-style IPAs are very popular here.

    So we are thinking we probably just have dessert left but no!  We continued on to Kuchina u Doroty where we ate more!  Two of my favorites of my time in Poland I had here – a delicious potato pancake covered in goulash called place ziemniaczane z gulaszem (try it) and a cabbage and sausage stew called bigos (try it) .  In addition we had golabki (cabbage rolls), beetroot salad, kompot (juice) and racuchy, a fried dough dessert that tasted a lot like french toast, covered with yogurt and fresh berries.

    The Foods of Poland

    Potato pancake with goulash

    About this time Arne plopped me in a wheelbarrow and wheeled me home.

    The Foods of Poland

    The women in my cooking class.

    Our time in Poland has been incredibly delicious and that has been incredibly surprising.  Poland is an underrated tourism destination, and now I know the Polish cuisine is also misunderstood and underrated.  I will take everything I learned about the food and culture of this incredible country and refer to it often.

    And someday, I will return.  To eat, to enjoy and to savor all this country has to offer.

    The Foods of Poland

    Arne enjoying some of the local microbrews

    Dziekuje Poland! Fantastyczny!

    Note – Traveling and eating in Poland is very inexpensive.  Some of our nicest meals with appetizers, main course, dessert, wine and beer only cost around $40.  As of this writing the exchange rate is 4 zloty to one USD.

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    Everything Else Fabulous  --  Food & Drink  --  Inspire

    Preparing to Travel Full Time – It’s In The Details

    The Grand Adventure

    Location: United States

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    Note – at the request of one of my friends, I have updated this blog, originally posted in November 2016, with fresh new information.  Enjoy it again.

    “How exactly do you prepare to leave the country and travel full-time?”

    As our departure day to leave the USA again grows near, this is the recurring question.  People we meet often show, interest, surprise, envy, jealousy, horror and confusion. But most of all they are curious. How exactly do you prepare to leave the country and travel full-time?

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Thailand

    So over the past couple of weeks I have been pulling together some details to share again. A lot of details.  In fact, I would answer the above question with a simple sentence.  “It’s in the details.”

    Before we embarked on the first phase of the Grand Adventure we spent several years preparing.  A younger person, like my son, can prepare more quickly, in a matter of months.  But for Fab Fifty rock stars like me and my husband, it took more time.

    For us about three years.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Morocco

    When the idea first sprouted, I knew immediately we would do it.  Without a question I knew it was right for us.  All while knowing it isn’t right for everyone.

    In fact, making a major life change like this should take some serious soul searching – are you cut out for a life of travel? What is your tolerance level?  Consider everything from beds to cultural customs when considering your personal tolerance for living outside of the United States.  Do you have phobias? Afraid of bugs? Snakes? Rodents or people not like you? Are you afraid of cultures where everyone isn’t white?  Are you willing to eat new foods, communicate in languages other than English and squat to go to the bathroom? Give it a think because, a life of full-time travel isn’t for sissies or intolerant people. You gotta be open, willing and fairly fearless while being smart, observant and adventurous.

    Once you know your tolerance level that in-turn will help you determine your budget.  Because if you are only willing to stay in upscale American style hotels, then your budget will need to look very different

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Vietnam

    from ours.  Our travels have us staying in primarily Airbnb’s that average about $70.  And honestly if you are only willing to stay in American brand hotels with 300 thread count sheets and someone to cater to your every whim – well, you should just stay in the USA. Because you will miss the most rewarding part of travel – getting out of your comfort zone and expanding your world view.

    We have a daily budget of $200 all-inclusive (transportation, lodging, food and misc).  This is plenty for most places and not enough for a few places, but we are frugal and hope it all evens out.  Because the

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Spain

    reality is if we can’t stay within our designated budget then the Grand Adventure will be over, sooner rather than later.

    Speaking of timeline – we don’t have one.  This of course would not work for everyone, but for us it fits.  We will continue the vagabond life as long as we are having fun.  As soon as it becomes anything other than fun, we will wrap it up.  But so far, 99% fun.

    So listed below are some “details” on how to prepare to leave the country and travel full-time.  Most of these things we have had to learn on our own – so if this list can alleviate any work for someone else considering traveling abroad full-time in retirement, use it well.

    PURGE – we started our purge process more than two years before we put our house on the market, as we let go of nearly every bit of fluff we owned, including house, cars, boats, trailer, furniture and more.  We have a 10×12 storage unit now that is holding what remains of our stationary lifestyle and life’s memories. During this same period we worked to purge my Dad’s house, remodel his place and get it on the market as well as move him to a smaller place.  It was a big goal to get him out of his large house before we left. It was a huge job but it needed to be done.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Cambodia

    DOCUMENTS – we updated our passports even though they were not expired, so we would not have any issues with needing to do that from abroad.  We also updated our Washington State Drivers License.  We will carry a copy of our marriage certificate with us but not our birth certificates because the passport is sufficient.  We have researched every possible country we think we might visit to learn the entry/visa requirements. We are carrying extra passport photos because some countries require obtaining a visa on entry with photo. We also carry International Drivers License, even though we have NEVER been asked for one.

    SPREADSHEET – we created a spread sheet, which is evolving constantly and we can access via Google Drive, to track all of our travel including air and ground transportation and lodging.  This spreadsheet includes notes regarding entry rules for countries. It’s also a fun tool for tracking so many things from miles traveled to beds slept in.  The data we have is incredible.

    MAIL – we are using a PO Box that belongs to my Mother-in-law, but we are trying hard not to receive

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Croatia

    any mail.  We have notified our friends and family not to snail mail us, we have contacted magazines and catalogs to eliminate junk (not very successful however) and we have changed all of our banking, retirement and property related mail to online only. I canceled my 35 year subscription to Bon Apetit.

    TECHNOLOGY – we have new smart phones, an iPad and my Brand new light weight Mac Book that will travel with us.  In addition we will bring our old flip phone.  For our smartphones (we each have an iPhone) we buy a sim card in each country for one of our phones to enable the phone to have a local phone number and data.  We then also use our iPhones with wifi for things like blogging, Facebook and Instagram.  The flip phone is programmed  with our old Verizon phone number from the states.  Although we don’t plan to use that number often, it keeps it active for emergency.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Seychelles

    We also have our Bose noise-canceling headphones and our Bose SoundLink Mini speaker that measures about 6 in x 3 in.  We carry this with us and it allows us to listen to music using Spotify and listen to Audible or other books.

    APPS – We have a few travel apps we like especially Airbnb, Expedia and Google Maps.  We also have a Google translate which is really cool.  You can point your phone at a sign or menu item in another language and it will show you what it says in English.  Love it.  We use WhatsApp, an app that allows you to make overseas calls via the internet, this is primarily the way we communicate with our kids.  To call our parents, who aren’t on WiFi, we use an app called TextNow which allows free phone calls from anywhere to the USA. We also use Kindle, Yelp, Uber, Get Your Guide and Trip Advisor.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure New Zealand

    CORDS AND CHARGERS – I honestly don’t understand why there isn’t a universal cord for all electronics, but alas wishful thinking.  So we have organized and sorted all our cords, charges and adaptors to travel along. We research ahead to make sure we know what adaptors we need in each country. We have one packing cube we use for all of these items.

    CREDIT CARDS – don’t you hate it when your credit card company announces suddenly that you are being mailed a new credit card because your card has been compromised?  Well that would really screw us up if that happens.  So we have FOUR credit cards.  One is our primary and three are backups.  Three cards have no foreign transaction fees (which is a killer).  We also have multiple ATM cards. All credit and debit cards are chipped.  VERY IMPORTANT is that we do not carry all these cards together in one place.  That way, if our wallet or purse is lost or stolen, we will have back up cards available in a different location.  We have contacted all of the card companies for both credit and debit and let them know we will be traveling abroad for an extended period.  We have put a reminder on our calendar to do this again periodically. We carry several hundred US dollar in cash for emergencies.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Portugal

    PRESCRIPTIONS – I take two prescriptions regularly.  It’s been a challenge to get enough of my meds stocked up.  My insurance company will allow, with a special doctor’s note, two 90 day vacation overrides.  I have been stocking up in other ways too, but it’s not going to be enough.  I will need to find access to these meds to fill the rest of the time, because we won’t be back in the US for a visit until next summer. Shipping prescriptions abroad is illegal. We have some people coming to visit us, so I may have them bring me my pills. But I am confident I can find the meds or an equivalent.  I will need to pay cash for those at the time.  I have also 12 months worth of contact lenses and we each have our glasses plus a back up pair.

    DOCTORS – during the three months we have been in the USA we have had a ton of appointments; family physician for full physicals, new prescriptions and precautionary antibiotics; eye doctor for new contacts and glasses; dermatologist for annual check up; dentist for cleaning and some work; gynecologist for check up; and annual mammogram. I had my updated yellow fever, and DPT shot and did a round of typhoid and got a two month supply of malaria meds.

    MEDIVAC INSURANCE – considering our age, we felt there was value in purchasing evacuation insurance.  This insurance covers expenses to transport us back to the USA in case of a medical emergency that can’t be handled locally.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Spain

    EXPEDIA AND AIRBNB – we love how these two
    online websites allow us to keep files of all your bookings.  This eliminates the need for printing and gives us easy access to our bookings.  We use them both frequently.

    DECIDING WHERE TO GO – After two years of non-stop travel we feel much more comfortable with our movement around the planet.  It feels natural.  We usually agree on where we want to go and make our decisions based on budget, weather, safety and interest. We love to go new places, but have a few favorites we return to. We take turns planing the itinerary, often taking a country each.

    Although we aren’t completely booked yet, we have a plan for August 2018 through June 2019 that includes; Denmark (visiting Arne’s cousins), Belgium, Germany, Poland, Romania, Greece, Egypt &Jordan (the only countries currently where we are doing a tour), Portugal & Spain (where we will walk our second Camino de Santiago), Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru & Chile (these five countries on a cruise with Arne’s Mom), Brazil, Costa Rica (joined by our friends from Washington), El Salvador, Belize (joined by our two sons), Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Cuba.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Tunisia

    GIRL STUFF – I’ve learned some things about myself over the past two years. Despite how easy it is to have long hair and wear it in a pony tail everyday, I just hate the look on me.  So the budget will need to include more haircuts.  Mostly I do my own nails and wear hardly no makeup, but I still like to have my eyebrows waxed from time to time. I have just a handful of earrings and necklaces I wear and of course the charm bracelet. I’ve just purchased a jewelry case that’s I hope will help my jewelry not take such a travel beating.

    The Grand Adventure Australia

    PACKING – this topic is by far the one most people ask about, and indeed one of the hardest.  We will continue to use two large REI rolling bags.  Arne will continue to use his backpack as a carry on. But this time my backpack will stay home and I just purchased a new rolling carry on. And packing cubes have changed my life.  Organized and categorized I love using packing cubes.

    It helps that we are traveling, for the most part, to warm climates or to areas during their warm season.  We may see cool and rainy in Portugal and Spain in the late fall. Honestly the clothing choice has been easier than the shoes.  And the bulkiest items are not clothes or shoes it’s toiletries and

    The Grand Adventure Namibia

    medicines. I just purchased a flat style toilette bag to replace the larger boxier cube style one we have been carrying. I’m hoping this will free up some space in the suitcase.

    Without a doubt I am bringing twice the clothes as my husband, but I have learned so much this past two years for what works for me and what is comfortable and easy to maintain.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Laos

    I threw out almost all the clothes I used the past two years and have replaced them with fresh, new and comfortable.  Watch for a blog soon all about my new travel wardrobe. I think you’re gonna love it.

    In addition we have our electronics and documents and toiletries, first aid and meds.  We have our Scrabble game, our hiking poles, a selfie stick, an REI titanium French press, a can opener,a small knife, collapsible small cooler and colander.  I have a new “butt cushion” to hopefully alleviate sciatic pain on long flights.  I’ve thrown in some pens and pencils, scotch tape and packing tape, a bungee cord, cloths pens, plastic bags (multiple sizes) our headlamps and some extra batteries.  Of course I don’t leave home without my Washington State University flag, my Seattle Seahawks flag and THE MUG.

    So there you have it.  The details.  I’ve probably forgotten something.  We feel more prepared and less anxious than when we left two years ago.  We are looking forward to this next phase.

    Ready to launch year three of the Grand Adventure! T minus 33 days.

    I welcome your questions.

    Fabulous!

     

     

     

    Food & Drink  --  North America Travel

    Being an Ambassador of Food

    And Remembering Anthony Bourdain

    Location: Gig Harbor WA USA

    I’ve decided I can be an Ambassador of food.  My new fabulous role.

    When we used to live in Gig Harbor (Washington USA) I started a cooking club of like-minded friends.  Usually I taught the class and it focused on teaching one of the cuisines I had learned while on a recent trip somewhere in the world.  We also met a few other times when other cooking club

    Ambassadors of Food

    The Gig Harbor Cooking Club

    members organized events such as wine tasting, and a class with a chef at a local restaurant.

    Our Cooking Club included 14 super fun people.  Our time together was always interesting and educational.  And always involved lots of food and

    Ambassador of food

    Enjoying cooking and eating

    wine.

    Since I left the USA the cooking club kind of fell apart.  But I returned determined to bring it back together, at least for one performance, while I was here in Gig Harbor.

    Yesterday eleven of our fourteen cooks gathered

    Ambassador of Food

    In the kitchen

    at the home of one of the members and I taught a class on Vietnamese and Thai cooking.  We had this on the calendar for several months.  But the suicide of my cooking, traveling, world ambassador mentor Anthony Bourdain weighed heavy on my mind – particularly since Vietnamese cuisine I knew was Anthony’s favorite.

    Ambassador of food

    Sharing

    I decided I wanted to talk to my cooking friends about how overwhelmingly sad I felt that Anthony Bourdain chose to take his life.  So that discussion is how we began our class.  Everyone felt the same lost and shocked feeling – all of us knowing it could have been prevented.  We talked a while about Tony and about suicide and about our country and its many troubles. And then to ease some of that heartache, we began to cook.

    It was fun, chaotic, delicious and exhausting.  I love to teach and this kind of event comes very naturally to  me, but it was tough cooking and teaching in someone else kitchen.  But we made it work, didn’t burn the house down, and had a great time. In Tony’s memory.

    Ambassador of food

    Combining the flavors

    I realize, through teaching new cuisines to open-minded cooks, that I am in my own small way, an ambassador like Anthony.  I’ve talked about this before – how I see my world travel as an ambassador role.  Showing people around the world what “real” Americans are like.  So it’s another way to open minds and hearts – I can bring cuisines back here to my friends, help them embrace new cultures and experiences and make the world a better place, one delicious mouthful at a time.

    It’s certainly not Parts Unknown.  But it makes me feel happy.

    I’m grateful to this group of cooks who enjoy the same things I enjoy and so I’ve given them a challenge – I promise to teach another class when I come back to the USA again next summer, but on one condition.  They must organize themselves and have at least one Cooking Club event while I am out of the country.

    Challenge on. Let’s make Tony proud.

    Fabulous.

    Food & Drink

    Top Ten Dining Experiences Around the World

    Our Favs From the Past 18 Months

    Location: Around the World

    We have been traveling now for nearly 18 months.  We stayed in a lot of places.  We have seen a lot of sights.  We have eaten – well – hundreds of meals.  Some better than others.  Most acceptable.  A few downright spectacular.  So we thought it was time to share our Top Ten Dining Experiences Around the World on our year and a half Grand Adventure;

    Lisbon Portugal– our number one most favorite meal of our top ten dining experiences around the world took place in Lisbon, where we seriously

    Top ten dining experiences

    Lisbon Portugal

    gorged ourselves on the best seafood meal I have ever enjoyed.  Thankful to have our son’s friend Salvador there to order for us, we ate non-stop for several hours at Lisbon’s famous Cervejaria Ramiro restaurant.  It’s memorable for many reasons, the most important the way Salvador managed the waitstaff, ordered food and beer at breathtaking speed and told stories of his growing up in Lisbon.  I would love to relive that meal again and again.

    The remaining top ten dining experiences around the world are in no particular order –

    Sofia Bulgaria – Hidden in a neighborhood behind a tall fence is the historic Sofia restaurant of Manastirska Magernista where we were introduced to Bulgarian cuisine.  Here we tasted for the first

    Top ten dining experiences

    Sofia Bulgaria

    time the warm crusty bread dipped in olive oil and a Bulgarian dry spice mix.  The slow roasted pork knuckle as big as my head and falling off the bone.  The fresh and delicious Shopska salad of cucumber, tomato and feta.  Staple foods of a cuisine we knew nothing about but now is one of our favs.  We ended up at this restaurant twice we loved it so much.

    Nesebar Bulgaria – Bulgaria is the only country to land two spots in the top ten.  But our lunch in the beautiful seaside town of Nesebar deserves to be on the list.  At Plakamoto we again had pork

    Top Ten Dining Experiences

    Nesebar Bulgaria

    knuckle, a huge piece of meat we shared with fresh yogurt soup, cucumber salad and cold frothy beer on a sunny day overlooking the sea.  Perfect.

    Piran Slovenia – fresh from the sea anchovies smothered in local olive oil and garlic still makes my mouth water thinking of it.  We ate two platters full in a tiny restaurant onboard a boat in the

    Top Ten Dining experiences

    Ladja Padlanika Restaurant in Piran Slovenia

    harbor called Ladja Podlanica, with about 15 other local Slovenians.  After we licked the platter clean we then ate a gigantic bowl of linguine con vongole (linguine with clams) in a perfect wine and garlic sauce.  We loved it so much we ate there twice, both times with our friends Marbi and Raymond. Tiny Piran is not a place you would expect to find one of our top ten dining experiences around the world.

    Asilah Morocco – one of our most favorite Airbnb’s and one of our most favorite local cuisines were combined during our wonderful ten days in Asiliah, Morocco.  Here we met Latifah, our cook and housekeeper who opened our eyes to

    Top Ten dining Experiences

    Latifah unveiling the tajine in Asilah

    the wonders of Moroccan food.  She cooked for us everyday, she taught us how to cook, she took us to the market, she smiled and enjoyed watching us consume her scrumptious concoctions – all while not speaking a single word of English.  We loved her and wanted to take her home.

    Top ten dining experiences

    Hoi An Vietnam

    Hoi An Vietnam – two separate experiences put the colorful city of Hoi An in the top ten dining experiences around the world.  First  I took an amazing cooking class here, in a beautiful cooking school called Miss Vy’s.  One of the most advanced cooking schools I have experienced, I learned so much about Vietnams cuisine and Hoi An’s local specialities, which I learned to both cook and enjoyed eating.

    Top ten dining experiences

    Hoi An cooking class

    Furthering our Hoi An experience was our bicycle food tour with Grasshopper Tours.  We headed out at dusk and spent three hours going from place to place eating our way through Hoi An and enjoying everything from Bahn Mi to Chicken Feet, Vietnames Pancakes to “Jumping Chicken” (frog), noodles to ice cream.  Loved it.

    Barcelona Spain – we had been a bit disillusioned about the food in Spain, since the cuisine on the Camino de Santiago was less than inspiring – until we arrived at Bodega 1900 in Barcelona.  We

    Top Ten Dining experiences

    Barcelona Spain

    began perusing the menu after we were seated but then the waiter arrived and whisked our menus away and announced the chef recommends a tasting menu of his choice, “is okay?”.  “Well, umm, okay”, we agreed reluctantly.  Arne’s eyeballs turning to dollar signs not knowing what we were getting ourselves into.  But not to worry – a gastronomic feast of a dozen small plates from olive oil blobs to sardines, from sashimi to squid and so much more.  A lovely experience at a reasonable price.

    Swakopmond Nambia – our favorite tour guide

    Top Ten Dining experiwnces

    Swakopmund Namibia

    Seven made sure we had a chance to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary in style.  He surprised us by making a reservation for us at Swakopmond’s best seafood restaurant, The Tug, overlooking the beautiful bay.  Here we tried for the first time two different fish – Kingclip and Kabeljou.  Both were prepared perfectly and absolutely delicious and a now a new yet hard to find favorite. It was a lovely evening.

    Luang Prabang Laos – We stayed in the beautiful Maison Dalabua hotel in Luang Prabang complete with a UNESCO World Heritage Lily Pond.  It was a lovely place and we dined at the Manda de Laos

    Top Ten Dining Experiences

    Luang Prabang Laos

    restaurant that sits over the lily pond.  The evening was warm and lovely and it had been a long time since we dressed up and had a nice dinner.  We enjoyed the local Laos cuisines including papaya salad, noodles, chicken and more, all served impeccably and presented with fresh flowers as garnish.  A top ten memorable evening and a top ten dining experience around the world.

    Top ten ding experiences around the world

    Peka in Dubrovnik Croatia

    Dubrovnik Croatia – Learning to make the local dish called Peka in a local families home outside of Dubrovnik was a wonderful experience for me – even though the dish is extremely complicated and not something I think I will ever make at home.  But I enjoyed it so much we made a reservation later to enjoy it again at Dubrovnik’s famous Konoba Dubrava restaurant high above the hills of the city.  Peka is a dish of pork, lamb or beef cooked with potatoes and vegetables in a giant metal pan (Peka) buried in the coals of a blazing hot fire.  It creates a sweltering kitchen with a mouth watering result.  A very memorable meal both times.

    Is it any wonder I haven’t lost any weight on the Grand Adventure?  LOL.  Life is fabulous!!  Fat and happy travels.

    Read more of our food blogs here