Geeky Romantic Getaways

As any nerd can verify, there is nothing more romantic than sharing a passion with your significant other; staring deeply into each other’s eyes while raving over the latest Doctor Who episode. Or analyzing methods of surviving a zombie apocalypse – it is enough to get any heart wildly fluttering. Therefore, I thought it was only appropriate to highlight fun US travel destinations for nerdy couples who want a little bit of romance and a lot of geekiness.

Seattle_Center,_Space_Needle,_Experience_Music_Project,_Sci-Fi_MuseumFor a trip that is both romantic and genuinely fun, spend a long weekend in Seattle, a city that loves its geeks almost as much as you love each other. You can start your day off at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, the first museum dedicated to the subject. Inside this eccentrically shaped sheet-metal building, imaginations and conversations can be invigorated by a wild collection of aged posters, fun movies, fascinating props, engaging exhibits (like “Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic”) and more. Snuggle up together with a good graphic novel at the beloved comic book store, Arcane Comics, and people watch over a delectable cup of coffee at the buzzing Neptune Coffee where they hold amusing events like trivia and knitting nights. Picnic in the lovely Olympic Sculpture Park for a picturesque view of the glistening water and modern art. Plus, when walking down this metropolitan’s streets, you will see the pavement bursting with stylishly thick frames and other trademarks of grunge and geek chic.

When many of us think of Chicago, what comes to mind are sports, pizza and gangsters. However, this American city is a treasure-trove of forward-thinking creativity and futuristic architecture. Geeky honeymooners can combine natural beauty with a touch of science fiction at Millennium Park; a stroll through Lurie Gardens contrasted against the silvery skyscrapers is perfect for photographs, and no trip would be complete without a promenade over the windy, ultramodern BP Pedestrian Bridge. Plus, the park’s various buildings will prove to be fascinating with their progressively ecofriendly technologies. Couples can make the city’s twinkling stars a little brighter when standing in Adler Planetarium’s Atwood sphere, which reveals the night sky without the city’s light pollution. An attraction that is bound to call to your inner-children is the Legoland Discover Centre, a space in which you can both play with Legos and behold masterpieces.

It’s remarkably simple to book a trip to Chicago and experience some of these forward-thinking architectural marvels. Just go online and set up the date and location of the hotel. Perhaps you could spend some time online planning the trip (what places you’d both like to see, etc.) and book a hotel closest to those locations. Even if Chicago isn’t that far away from you, it can still make for a fun little weekend getaway. There are plenty of geeky landmarks in the area that will be sure to have you both talking about the trip for months afterward.

Of course, a certifiable-geek could not visit Chicago without making a pilgrimage to the Museum of Science and Industry; here, couples will see new industry innovations and biology presented in ways that you will never forget!

Austin, Texas – the city that prides itself on “keeping it weird”. This laid back community has plenty of quirky charms and offers up generous amounts of live music, bicycle paths and computer companies. There are plenty of cool sites to witness; for instance, as the sun sets, lean over the beautiful Congress Avenue Bridge and watch wave upon wave of bats fly out and head towards the dusky skies. Another unique experience that puts Austin on the map is the Barton Springs Pool, a naturally heated spring that overlooks the woods of Zilker Park. Self-expression takes a front seat in the Texan capital, which results in vibrant museums and the never-ending procession of talented musicians that take the city’s countless stages.  Carouse the eccentric boutiques, colorful murals and friendly bars of South Congress Avenue and mingle with the medley of hipsters, hippies, suited workers and geeks galore. Whether it is sharing a cone at Amy’s Ice Cream, touring the streets via Segway or nuzzling together over a beer and movie at the iconic Alamo Drafthouse, there is plenty of personality in this youthful city to keep any nerdy couple entertained.

For those couples that are fascinated with extraterrestrial life, a trip to Roswell should be at the very top of the list. This small, New Mexico town has a fascinating International UFO Museum  that explores its famous 1947 crash, and many summer events are structured around the notion of aliens, like the June Film Festival & Cosmicon, as well as July’s UFO festival. However, Martians are not the only thing this community provides, as the local art center’s works by Georgia O’Keeffe and local hiking opportunities will add splatters of simple splendor. Plus, let us not forget about the dreamy backdrop that is the New Mexican landscape – a visit to the Bottomless State Park will reveal breathtakingly blue waters surrounded by dramatic cliffs.

Four Foods I want to Make in their Home Countries – Part 2

As soon as I got done the first part about food I want to make, I immediately began part two because… well… I’m hungry now and far too poor/impatient to actually do any of this. Take a look at the next four foods I’d love to learn how to make in their home countries and begin salivating with me.

Oh… and probably check out part 3 which will likely follow this incredibly shortly!

Gumbo – Louisiana, USA

I have made gumbo many a time but no matter how great I think it is, I know it doesn’t hold a candle to the ones served up down in the bayou. To be fair, gumbo isn’t that much different then soup but it’s the dirtying up of the vegetables that adds the extra element that makes it unique. Just like making chilli or some sort of marinade for ribs or chicken wings, gumbo recipes are heavily guarded secrets – so wouldn’t it be fantastic to learn some of the tips from the pros?

Bread – France

The French have a sensational culinary history but it’s their baked goods that seem to be in a realm of their own. Fresh, hot bread can be made by anyone with a bread maker or the patience to make it themselves in the oven, but I’d like to see how the expert French bakers, the ones who spend their lives making it in a wood stove, do it. Then maybe I can come back home and put everyone else to shame with their store bought stale loaves.

Really, any of this would be amazeballs

Really, any of this would be amazeballs

Tom Yum Soup – Thailand

Thai food is another one of those types of cuisine that I really have no clue which one I would prefer over another but seeing as everyone would likely say pad thai or spring rolls, I’m going to go with my personal favourite – Tom Yum soup. It’s a spicy, sour soup that warms the soul and has more distinct flavours than my tastebuds know what to do with. I’ve never attempted to make it at home as it feels like sacrilege, but if I had the right pointers, maybe I would.

Curry – India

There are so many curry dishes I enjoy that I really have no idea which one to start with. I think what I would like most to get out of learning from the curry professionals is what goes into making a good curry base? I recently started making my own pastes rather than buying them and I’ve noticed the quality in the cooking has skyrocketed to the point of I almost don’t feel any need to go out for it anymore – the only thing holding me back is an inability to make proper naan. Such is life…

Italy for the Frugal Traveller

Travelling can be a pretty pricey hobby if you go overboard or delude yourself into thinking you need certain luxuries but you would be amazed how affordable great culture can be if you are smart about it. Of all the top tourist destinations in the world, Italy is always high on everyone’s list but maybe avoided due to misconceptions about it being outrageously expensive because of all the museums and standard of living.

The truth is, Italy is great for anyone to visit regardless of budget but there are a remarkable number of fantastic things to see and do in this country that won’t cost you anything. When paired with a discount flight from a number of destinations around the world, you might spend less on a trip to Italy than you would on a vacation within your own homeland! For more on cheap holidays to Italy click here.

Here are a list of a few of the free things to do in the major cities of Italy:

Rome

Often thought of as a tourist trap and the bane of the frugal traveller, you might be surprised to learn Rome has a number of free things to do that don’t make you feel like you’re missing out. In the old quarter, walking around the Coliseum, Forum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps won’t cost you a thing and to be honest, this is all you really need to do to enjoy them! In the Vatican, it’s free to enter St. Peter’s Basilica and the square empties completely after 6pm making it excellent to wander around at your own pace. Finally, an evening in Trastevere, soaking up the pulse of the city’s nightlife won’t cost you anything – unless you decide to crack open a Peroni, and even that will only set you back a Euro or two (and is totally worth it!).

Florence

The city of Michelangelo’s David and the Renaissance is a sight to behold but it is also heaven for those who hate spending money. Yes, the real David will cost you about a dozen Euros to see, but his numerous doppelgangers will not and they are all around the city (a great way to see the city is trying to find them all!). Walking over Ponte Vechio will not cost you anything, unless you decide to buy some of the jewellery inside, but the hands down best thing to do in Venice is gazing out on the city from Piazele Michelangelo, particularly at sunset – and it is absolutely free.

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Venice

A tourist trap in every sense of the word, Venice can be outrageously expensive if you partake in any of the three things the city is most famous for – glassware, the casino and of course, a Venice gondola ride. Many people think a trip to Venice doesn’t count unless you do at least one of those things but that is ridiculously untrue. Crossing the Grand Canal can be done at a few junctures, negating the need for a water taxi and looking at the glassware and masks doesn’t cost you anything. Gondolas are expensive, particularly at night and honestly, after walking around for a few hours you won’t want to take one after being harassed by the cheese ball gondoliers. So what is there free to do? Everything else. Wander the alleys, hang out at St. Marco’s, cross the Rialto Bridge and just take in the magic of this one of a kind city.

Escape to Gran Canaria

If the hectic pace of the daily grind is getting you down, consider taking a vacation to Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. A favourite spot among travellers from all over the world, Gran Canaria will make you forget about the stresses of work and the obligations of life and just let it all melt away. You owe it to yourself to have a break, so why not check out all that Gran Canaria has to offer?

5Everyone has a different idea of what makes a great holiday. For some it might be relaxing on a beach with a good book and a stiff drink; for others it may be taking in natural beauty that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world. The good news is all this and more can be found on a Gran Canaria holiday and it’s been right under your nose all along. If you’ve been here before, you know exactly what I’m talking about – but if you haven’t, you’re missing out!

Take a look below at a few of the reasons to visit Gran Canaria this year. You’ll be glad you did and you’ll be sure to make it a regular occurrence.

Not That Far Away!

Coming in from London (or various other locations throughout the UK or Europe), Gran Canaria is an unexpected oasis that seems too good to be true. Flights from the mainland to Gran Canaria only take a few hours, making trips here possible to commence within the same day – great for week long holidays or weekend breaks. In addition, deals are always available at various times of the year, making it never a bad time to head to Gran Canaria.

Great Weather

Unlike many of the other islands in the Canary Island chain, Gran Canaria is home to some pretty bizarre weather. While most tourists tend to spend their time in the south where the warm African air hits it, the rest of the island can be unpredictable and varied, especially for the size of it. Nobody wants to be rained on while laying on the beach but sometimes a break from the heat is just what a great vacation calls for!

Amazing Natural Beauty

Gran Canaria is home to a large number of protected areas that are renowned for their natural beauty and biodiversity – and some are just incredible to look at. While you may spend most of your holiday on the beach or barely mobile, it is nice to walk the archipelagos or explore the sand dunes if the mood strikes you.

Relaxation at its Best

At the heart of a Gran Canaria vacation is taking it easy and not letting things from your home life bother you. If you’re worried about cost, it’s not hard to find cheap holidays in Playa del Ingles. A holiday on the beach may be just what you need to do this and it can be as simple or as busy as you want it to. Admittedly, the crowds do pick up around peak season in the cold weather months when everyone is clamouring for a holiday but this doesn’t mean you can’t still get your relaxation fix in – it just means you need to book early to avoid missing out on the holiday of your dreams!

Top 4 Luxury Hotels in Bangkok

Bangkok hotels are great places for those who want to live in luxury and style. If you appreciate the finer things in life, you may want to feel well wherever you go and for this, you need a five star sanctuary, just like these hotels are. Even if it is hard to make one place better than the other, these top 4 luxury hotels in Bangkok can be seen as the best when it comes to luxury:

1. Sofitel Sukhumvit

With three hundred forty five rooms, Sukhmvit has its name from the road on which was constructed. The hotel is placed in a financial district and is surrounded by luxury shopping areas. The city views from its windows are amazingly beautiful. The building is close to the airport, at thirty kilometers. The way to the Suvarnabhumi International Airport can easily be accessed, as there are the underground and skytrain stations nearby. Other important features are: awesome dining options, pool, ballroom, spa, lounge and luxury accommodations.

2. W

This hotel has the largest number of rooms of all four: four hundred and seven. The service called Whatever/Whenever ensures nonstop care for customers. The hotel is in the heart of the city and is surrounded by nightlife, street markets, restaurants and top shops. One of the main features of this building is the entertainment fully wired technology. The whole building is full of wonderful lights. The hotel has everything, from creative dining features, to luxury beverages and latest technologies. Other common features are: a fitness center, a living room and extraordinary amenities. One of the unique characteristics of this hotel is the W signature on the beds. The building is close to the Chong Nonsi BTS skytrain station making easy to get around town.

st.-regis-bangkok-43. The St. Regis

You can find the plendid St. Regis hotel on Rajadamri road, near Ratchadamri BTS skytrain station. Refined luxury and plush furnishings are everywhere. People can explore a wine cellar, enjoy exquisite gourmet styles in the restaurants, relax and replenish forces in the spa, or participate to events in the function rooms. The large windows and the unobstructed views allow people to have a breath-taking perspective of the city. The decors are a combination of artistry with a dramatic contemporary style. Customer service is assured twenty four hours a day by signature St. Regis butlers. There is also a business center available.

4. Renaissance Ratchaprasong

Renaissance is situated in the most popular business and shopping district of the city. The services offered are good for business, but also for weekend getaways. When people arrive at the hotel, they will have to pass a two hundred meters landscaped driveway with water, which is surely a unique experience for many. The number of rooms is three hundred and twenty. The perfect amenities and the over-sized windows will offer enough luxury to please anyone.

No matter if a person wants to relax, spend time in a luxury environment or just wants to do see how five star amenities are, these top 4 luxury Bangkok hotels can be perfect for them. For each of the four environments, the experience will surely be unique. Check out a specialist Travel agent such as Trailfinders to find out more about luxury accommodation in Bangkok

Reasons to Explore the UK by Caravan

Anyone who has spent some time on my glorious site knows I enjoy a good road trip (and if you have no clue what I’m talking about, check out my most excellent adventure on New Zealand’s South Island), and there are no shortage of fabulous destinations to explore in this manner. Virtually everywhere there are roads and vehicles to drive on them, there are great road trips just waiting to be discovered!

I cast my attention this time on the United Kingdom, which is just teeming with holiday ideas for road trip minded travellers the world over – especially for the locals. Getting out and seeing the countryside is a great way to discover the rugged and magical terrain that is Great Britain, but as was true for my New Zealand adventure, you really need to rent a caravan to make it worthwhile. You don’t want to miss any of the natural wonder by having to stay in a city, making a caravan your home away from home on wheels wherever you choose to stop, and The Caravan Club is a great place to start.

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Here are a few of the main reasons why this kind of travel can’t be beat when it comes to seeing the countryside.

Rural Route Centric

You may decide to stick to the main motorways if you’re heading out across the land but you’re not forced to by any means and can deviate to your heart’s desire. There is nothing keeping you from staying out of a city for your whole trip and only taking the unsealed roads or the ‘scenic route’ turns on route across the country. Many campsites where you can park for the night and plug in for power are not in urban settings which in turn makes for a very different trip than those city break ones!

All the Comforts of Home

The great thing about caravans is they can be as decked out or simplistic as you want them to be – either to match your living or to offer a much needed contrast. Depending on your budget and comfort level you can get everything from full kitchens, dining and bathroom facilities with multiple sleeping quarters and flat screen televisions. Wake up when you want and leave when you want, or just spend the day doing… whatever you want. It’s hard to beat this method of travel!

Laid Back Pace

Most of all, the reason people travel by caravan is for the easygoing nature of it. The people you meet on your travels will be like minded individuals as well, creating a real sense of community as you cross country and maybe even run into them along the way! You’re not tied to the main routes which can cut down on traffic and you can travel virtually any time of the year, thus avoiding peak season stresses. It’s a remarkably simple way to travel that more and more people are discovering as an alternative to the high stress packaged vacation kinds. You won’t regret a caravan vacation!

Four Foods I Want to Make in their Home Countries

One of my favourite things about travelling is eating, which is why it’s surprising that I’m not larger than I am because as a substitute for the former I tend to do the latter. For places I have been to, it’s a chance to revisit the feeling I had while being there and for those I haven’t been, it’s to dream up future excursions.

With this in mind, it isn’t enough just to eat the food in the native country but to learn how to prepare it properly. It’s not hard to pick up a cookbook on international cooking or watch a cooking show and get the knowledge that way, but there’s something very different about learning how to do it right at the source. Wouldn’t that make a great memory in itself?

Below is a short list of some of the food I’d love to make in the country that it’s known for – keep in mind, I will probably make a second edition of this topic as there are a lot of things I want to make and eat!

Yes please!

Yes please!

Sushi – Japan

When I spent time in Japan, I never learned how to make sushi – something I only kind of regret. The reason I didn’t and only partially regret not doing it is because sushi is so highly valued over there and it’s so plentiful that it was better to just buy it then to butcher it. If I could get the chance to study with a sushi master and skip the 10-year dish washing apprenticeship part, I think that would be an excellent experience.

Meatballs – Sweden

Despite all the jokes about horse meat in the meatballs at IKEA (which, in many countries around the world, isn’t a big deal), I’d like to see what goes into making the Swedes such experts at making these seemingly simple creations. Is it the sauce? The aging? Is there some secret ingredient that I might as well give up trying to find? I must know!

Lasagne – Italy

It’s fair to say the Italians wrote the book on great food and deciding on just one thing to make is an exercise in futility, but I think I’d like to see how to make a great lasagne. I’ve had some fantastic ones in my day and also some watery, soupy, bland disasters. What is the key to a perfect pasta dish that likely isn’t as terrible for you as most would think it to be?

Poutine – Quebec, Canada

I have to be region specific with this as poutine can be found almost everywhere in Canada but it originates from the French province of Quebec. For those of you who don’t know what poutine is, it is french fries, cheese curds and gravy – and is just as fantastic as  it sounds. Sometimes you can even get smoked meat on top of it, thus earning it the title of ‘heart attack in a box’. Unless the cheese squeaks, it’s not fresh enough and if the gravy comes from a powder you should hang your head in shame – there is a method and I must learn it one day.

New Zealand Road Trip – Part 9

(This is part of a multi part series – to check out the previous entry, click here!)

Epilogue

It’s hard to know how you’re supposed to feel when you leave a place, especially if you feel like you’ve really had a life altering experience during your time there. On one hand it’s sad to see it go because you’d like to keep on enjoying yourself, but on the other hand you know all good things must come to an end.

Just before we were about to leave, we stopped in to the Kiwi House in central Christchurch to see one of the namesake birds in a zoo-like habitat (it’s very hard to see them in the wild as they’re skittish, keep to the woods and are threatened) – such a cool thing to see. While staying in Christchurch we saw a lot of amazing architecture and beautifully designed buildings. The old history that New Zealand holds is written within the walls of ancient temples and churches. You can visit several of these sanctuaries all throughout the city. We took advantage of plenty sightseeing opportunities on our vacation here. Travelling down the streets we stopped at the vendors selling hats, coats and “touristy” souvenirs. We also walked by the Christchurch Cathedral – which not six months later would be virtually destroyed by an earthquake.

It's really too bad it was damaged not long after this...

It’s really too bad it was damaged not long after this…

The thing about travel is you never really do know what you’re going to see and you don’t know if it will be around forever. There are no shortage of things out there that can blow your mind if you only get out there and look. I guess that’s what I like the most about travelling, is this sense of being a part of the story of these places and how they weave themselves into your own little narrative. For me, that’s the meaning of life.

I’ve said this many times to people – if there was a country I could move to and settle aside from Canada, it would be New Zealand. The people were incredible, the landscape was humbling and I enjoyed every minute of my time there – even struggling to figure out a standard camper van, I realize now, was a character building exercise. I have never met someone who had a bad thing to say about their time in New Zealand, and that’s surprising because even some of my other most cherished trips have had dissenters.

Hands down wins the award for best camper van ever

Hands down wins the award for best camper van ever

In total, we drove 2000 km from start to finish over 6 days of travel and were kind of glad to see the end of our camper van. I would love to revisit the south island again, maybe this time in the summer, and maybe in a rental car instead. The campsites along the way offer places to traditionally camp, park your vehicle and even stay in little rooms – talk about accommodating! It’s hard for me to take a road trip again when I think about what New Zealand has because from infrastructure to scenery, it’s not a fair competition.

Anyways, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my road trip through the south island of New Zealand. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and whether you have done the same. Take care!

New Zealand Road Trip – Part 8

(This is part of a multi part series – to check out the previous entry, click here!)

There and Back Again

It was going to be hard to top the last day, or any of the days for that matter, but we were bound and determined to make the most of our last full day in New Zealand.

It served us well.

It served us well.

Something I haven’t mentioned so far is what the nights were like in a camper van. First, it was surprisingly comfortable to sleep in and chill out in for the two of us with the only drawback coming from getting out to plug it in or run to take a shower at the campsites. Yes, we had toilet and shower facilities in the van, but seeing as most of the campsites along the way were decked out with all the luxuries of a first rate hostel and it was included with the $30 we paid each night to plug in for power, we didn’t see the need to use our own toilet/shower. Plus, that saved us having to clean it out later and fill up the water – we think ahead!

One of the most magical things though about being there in the winter is all the things you miss out on by travelling in the summer. For one thing, the crowds are minuscule both at the campsites and on the road. This made for some great driving and opportunities to pull over and take pictures. The other great thing about travelling in winter was just how many stars you can see in the sky at night – both because of the lack of light pollution where we were and because winter you’re further away from the sun’s light. Little things like that aren’t the reason you take a vacation but they’re nice bonuses.

The last thing we really did before heading back to Christchurch was stop by Lake Tekapo, which was something on my list of things to see just because I heard a lot about it from other travellers. There’s not much there – just this little church beside a lake, but I kid you not when I say it was one of the highlights of the trip. Something about how simple it all is, set against the mountains, the frozen lake… it was a sight to behold. We could’ve spent all day there if it wasn’t so cold (and the Japanese tourists were kind of taking it over!), but we had to get going so as to get back to Christchurch in decent time.

Can't imagine a better setting...

Can’t imagine a better setting…

A few hours later, we arrived in Christchurch and went back to the same campsite we stayed at the first night we arrived – a strange sense of deja vu. It was hard to imagine that the next day we were heading out, possibly never to return to this amazing land. While it wasn’t the longest trip nor even the most startling experience I’ve ever had travelling, it definitely left it’s mark on me and for that I am eternally grateful.

Next up, the final thoughts.

New Zealand Road Trip – Part 7

(This is part of a multi part series – to check out the previous entry, click here!)

Free Falling 

Skydiving was one of those things I said I wouldn’t mind doing but the opportunity never really presented itself. Finding myself in New Zealand, I was about to find out if I could actually go through with that claim.

The very plane we went up in

The very plane we went up in

Supposedly, SkyDive Lake Wanaka is one of the best places in the world to jump out of a plane because of two reasons – the scenery and the staff. It made it onto a few ‘Must-Do Before You Die’ lists and this seemed to me reason enough to go through with it. Luckily, the campground we were staying on that night was kind enough to call and see if they had any spots for us that morning – sure enough they did – and we were off to throw ourselves out of a plane.

The only problem was… it was super ridiculously cold.

I’m used to pretty chilly temperatures so it wasn’t really that bad on the ground, but it’s another thing from way up in the sky. On the ground it was -10C, so up high it was about -20C, which from what I was told by the staff was the coldest they will fly at because any lower and the instruments in the plane have problems. I mean, I know we were going to be bailing out anyways but in a controlled situation such as that, I’d really prefer not to have the unexpected happen.

Thankfully, nothing bad happened. We jumped out – with me going second (which I’m told is the worst because watching someone fall out of a plane can be a little traumatic!), and had 45 seconds of free fall on the most incredible landscape I have ever seen. Snow capped mountains, picturesque lake, light dusting of snow over everything. What more could you ask for? Oh, aside from your gums virtually flash freezing every time you opened your mouth to yell out. Still totally worth it.

After packing up and getting back into our van, it was crazy to realize it was only 11:30 and we had accomplished so much already! Needless to say, the rest of the day was very difficult to come down off that high – I definitely recommend it to anyone who has the chance to do it! The instructors were awesome, chill dudes who seemed to love their jobs. The one I was strapped to (we could’ve done solo, but you have to take a special course and… I’m not brave enough for that), said he had done over 7000 jumps in his life. Wow. I wonder what the life insurance premium is like on someone like him?

Gotta love the sheep...

Gotta love the sheep…

We headed north and just kinda chilled out for the rest of the day, taking our time driving and reflecting on the scenery and how insane skydiving really is. With all the crosses we passed on the side of the road (25 in total by the end of the trip), it really made us think about our own mortality and how experiences really are all that we have.

Up next, the last leg of our great road trip.