The heart of a nomad-where to go next?

It´s a year to the day that I have moved into my little place in Torrevieja on Spain´s Costa Blanca. Small but cozy, the ideal writer´s den, just steps from the beach. I can contemplate the sea from my balcony, enjoy warm weather year around and have made many new friends, Spanish and otherwise.

Beach in Torrevieja

Beach in Torrevieja

Considering, that I am on the right side of 70 but only just and am still laboring with the aftereffects of a cracked spine, my sensible angel who lives on my right shoulder, tells me, that it´s time to grow roots, to stop looking for greener pastures and to be happy where I am now.

The promenade

The promenade

BUT, there is the little travel devil which sits on my left shoulder. That one wears boots and always carries a small suitcase on wheels. The world is big, he whispers. There is so much yet to do and see, new cultures to explore, nature to marvel over, museums to visit. You aren´t an old age pensioner who is happy to just sit on a bench in the sun, you aren´t in a wheelchair and restlessness starts rising to the surface.
I have to acknowledge that I am a nomad at heart and after a year or so, feel the urge to move on. I am fighting an eternal battle between wanting to settle down and being compelled to move on. That urge isn´t satisfied by just traveling, I need to live in a new country, to become local.
I have done that all my life. So far I have lived in Switzerland, the UK, Miami, Turkey, Beirut and now, for the second time, Spain. My stays covered a period of anything between six months and 5 years and I loved every day as much as I love the prospect of going somewhere else.

London

London

In Beirut

In Beirut

Fasnacht in Basle Switzerland

Fasnacht in Basle Switzerland

View from my window in Miami

View from my window in Miami

Cappadocia/Turkey

Cappadocia/Turkey

The downside is that I don´t feel comfortable in rented accommodation which would be much more suitable to a nomadic lifestyle. I need a place of my own, just in case the sensible angel wins out in the end. So there is the hassle of selling, followed by the pleasure of house hunting. You see, there is always a balance. I also don´t accumulate possessions, they are only an encumbrance when the time comes to move on.
The question is: where next? Decisions, decisions. Right now I am inclined towards Italy. As a preliminary step, I have started to learn Italian, one never knows and another language always come in handy. But for once, I think I´ll be sensible and make forays into different parts of Italy over the next year, still keeping my base in Spain. Is that a sign of advancing old age, I wonder?
Whatever, the battle is raging on, but deep down I know who is, sooner or later, going to win.
I´m sure there are other nomads at heart around and I´d love to hear their stories and feelings.

My favorite boat trips

I love to travel by boat;  day trips, night trips, ferries all is welcome. I am not that fond of cruises though because after a while I feel trapped and bored, I even walked off one because I couldn´t stand it any longer, causing quite an uproar as you can imagine.
Therefore here is a selection of the best boat trips I have been on in very different countries.
Sunset trip Muscat/Oman
And the winner is…. Yes, this unforgettable sunset trip on a dhow, following the coastline of Muscat. It can´t be beaten for romantic, exotic and breath taking, white rocks alternating with black rocks, spits of sand in between and lounging on the cushions and carpets of the gently swaying dhow.

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Paddle steamer on the Chiemsee
Chiemsee is a lake in the south of Bavaria/Germany, surrounded by mountains and with two islands in the middle. Herrenchiemsee is the location of King Ludwig´s last dream castle and Fraueninsel holds a famous monastery. The paddle steamer of the Fessler Chiemsee fleet is sooo wonderfully old fashioned.

fleet

insel

starnberg
Ferry Vigo to Islas Cies/Galicia
Vigo is a big port town on the Atlantic Ocean in Galicia/Spain. Located several miles off shore are the paradisic islas Cies, a nature reserve with the whitest and finest beaches, lush vegetation and an abundance of hiking paths when you are finished with sun bathing and swimming. The ferry ride is only about half an hour but it´s pretty to see the twin islands rising up out of the water.

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Miami River tour with Dr. George

Surprisingly, not that many visitors to Miami know that there is actually a broad river flowing into Biscayne bay. The Miami river comes from the Everglades, is regularly dredges do allow the traffic of container ships and the tour, offered by the Historical Museum of Southern Florida in Flagler Street, leads along historic landmarks, expertly explained by a historian only known as Dr. George.

aligator

miamiriver

tug

Where to go for your honeymoon?

The honeymoon trip is probably the most important vacation of your life. Wedding stress over, it`s a time to send your marriage off to a good start, to be remembered and cherished over the years, often to be repeated either to renew the vows or to rekindle romance when the marriage has hit the rocks. Get your decision of where to go wrong and it can have dire consequences not like any other trip where reality did not meet your expectations.

The choice of your destination depends (apart from the budget) entirely on the taste of the newly weds and their ability to agree. I have divided my suggestions in three ´themes´so to speak, Luxury and Glamour, Adventure and Romance. And I have added a forth, which, although often a favorite, can, in my very personal opinion lead to an early divorce.

Luxury and glamour

My favorite for that category is Miami in Florida. You can´t beat the glitz and glamour of South Beach, the plethora of clubs for entertainment at night and the fabulous shopping in Lincoln´s Road by day.

There is no shortage of 5 star hotels for the vacation of a lifetime in South Beach either, although my favorite remains the time honored Delano. There are less expensive hotels too , all along Ocean Drive with the added advantage that some of them are located in the famed art deco buildings.

When you have enough of lounging on the beach or dancing the night away, you may want to head for Downtown Miami, polish up on history at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida in Flagler Street, visit the Bayside Market of the Mary Brickell Village and have the best  (biggest and cheapest) steak in Miami´s oldest pub: Tobacco Road near the Miami River.

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Talking about that, many visitors to Miami do not realize that there actually is  a river, a big and busy one at that. You can take a boat trip along the river and learn more about Miami history along the way.

Another trip not to be missed is  a ride on an airboat in the Everglades. And if you want to venture further afield, drive across the bridges with stunning views all the way to watch the sunset in Key West.

Adventure

The choice for adventure trips is huge, you could actually honeymoon all year long to catch them all. Few will have this luxury, so my suggestion is Jordan.

Not to be missed is a visit to Petra, the rose colored ancient city discovered by chance. Arrive early in the morning before the tourist buses descend, make your way on foot or horseback along the narrow gouge and alight with an ‘ohhh’ of admiration on your lips when you catch the first glimpse of the stunning treasury.

Petra

Petra

But there is more to Jordan than Petra. Rent a car and venture out on the highway leading through the desert, but watch out for wild camels which cross the road at their leisure. Visit the best Roman ancient site  and temples outside Italy in Jerrash and the castle of Ayun.

Temple in Jerrash

Temple in Jerrash

Dip your toes and cover yourself in healing mud at Amman Beach, a Dead Sea resort, or relive the stories of the bible by a trip to Mount Nabo where Moses first caught sight of the Holy Land.

Amman beach resort

Amman beach resort

If you want truly adventure, book a trip to Wadi Rum. This is something you cannot do on your own as guides and 4x4s are required to reach the wild, wild destination where you will camp and sleep under the stars. As you can see, a touch of romance is added to the adventure.

Romance

Why not head for Europe if you chosen honeymoon  theme is romance? In particular to Salzburg in Austria, city of Mozart and Sachertorte. Maybe my association with romance and Salzburg results from the fact that on my fist visit I happened upon a lavish wedding in one of the many parks, complete with sunshine and horse drawn carriage.

Wedding in Salzburg

Wedding in Salzburg

Salzburg invites to leisurely strolls through the old part of town rather than physical exhaustion unless  you decide to make your way to the impressive Festung Salzburg on foot. You can easily take the cable car and enjoy the view from the top.

And then of course, there is the world famous Café Sacher and the chocolate cake called Sachertorte. Sit  and look at the wall of fame and the river Salzach which flows at your feet.

Cafe Sacher

Cafe Sacher

Visit Mozart´s birth house and the museum and if you don´t happen to be there at the time of the Festspiele you can still listen to concerts  year around.

If you feel like an excursion, you might take the train to Munich or the Chiemsee to look at King Ludwig´s last (and unfinished) castle Herrenchiemsee.

The people of Salzburg have a soft spot for honeymooners. Just mention the fact and you´ll find that you´ll  get even better treatment  including a few extras than you would get anyway.

 The danger choice: cruises

I know that what I have to say about cruises will probably invite controversy. However, I am only expressing my personal experience and what I thought of this choice as a honeymoon destination at the time.

It sounds fabulous, gliding across the sea on a swimming palace, never to have to deal with luggage, food no end and at any time of day or night and your every whim catered for by countless  stewards and maids.

This is of course all true, but…..after two days I started to feel claustrophobic. By then you have explored every nook and cranny of the boat and there is nowhere else to go. Your ability to live together as a married couple is tested to the limit. The same applies to your co-passengers. It´s always the same people you happen upon, whether you like them or not. You share the same table  unless you opt to eat a la carte or use the self service facilities , gym space and deck space is also limited.

Sure, there are land excursions  but unless you decide to go off on your own, as I did, it´s guided tours and, again, the same people all the time.

Cruise ship in St. Thomas

Cruise ship in St. Thomas

From start to finish you are tagged and processed, there is little room for individual freedom and all of this may put a strain on a brand new marriage and, in the worst of cases, lead to an early divorce!

I´ll be interested to hear your opinion if and how I am wrong.

 

 

 

 

Enjoying Cultural Dining in Miami

Who would have thought that a managing director for an RV rental company turns out to be such an excellent food writer? Meet Joe Laing and see what he has found out about ethnical food in Miami.

Enjoying Cultural Dining in Miami

By Joe Laing, El Monte RV

When you are traveling, eating should be a part of the adventure. In our melting pot of a country, one of the joys of hitting the road is enjoying the palates of cultures in various places. Fortunately, Miami, Florida has its share of ethnic food offerings, and there are many options that diners can experience during a visit to this fascinating city. You can enjoy so many varied cuisines, from Cuban to Peruvian. Here are some wonderful choices.

Traditional fare may be your preference in which case Tobacco Road in Brickell is the perfect choice. With live music that is sure to please, you can find lunch or dinner specials for extremely reasonable prices. Their herb roasted chicken is superb and the King Cut Prime Rib is to die for. Wednesday nights provide some wonderful live jazz for you jazz lovers.

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For Cuban cuisine, nothing can beat Versailles in Little Havana. A very authentic menu, with sugary Cuban coffee and delicious Cuban bread, will make your meal that tasty kind which you never forget. Double fried tostones are a favorite as well as the plaintains. News media frequent this restaurant in order to get social commentary from the local Cuban population.

Love Italian food? Then Casa Tua should be your choice for dinner. In South Beach, this spot can put the romance back into any relationship as well as feed your appetite with stone crab, lamb chop or other Northern Italian cuisine. You can sit in a cozy nook and savor fine wine and take in all the sounds, sights and marvelous smells.

French cuisine is at its best at Le Bouchon du Grove in Coconut Grove. The ambience will make you think you have come across a little restaurant in the heart of France. This is a warm and friendly atmosphere that will make you feel at home. Savor the French onion soup as an appetizer then order salmon for a special treat.

It is said that the Greek food at Mykonos is the best in all of Miami. Is this something you feel the need to explore? Head to Mykonos on Coral Way and order the lamb, the Chicken Gyro Platter or Vegetarian Mousaka. To satisfy a raging appetite, Mykonos will provide the best Greek cuisine imaginable.

If you are on the go and need to pick up some take-out, great Mexican food is awaiting you at Los Tres Amigos. You will find them on NW 20 Street and NW 10 Avenue. You can call ahead and have it ready for you. Tripe and beef with Mexican herbs may be your choice, or perhaps a Green Mexican Salad. Try the Pollo a la Parrilla, which is grilled chicken, served with rice and beans.

Peruvian food is a new experience, and El Meson del Paraiso is the place to go for the best. You won’t find any fancy dining, but you will find delicious Ceviche de Pescado (fish under finely sliced onions and drenched in lime juice). You may wish to order a seafood plate then lucuma ice cream for dessert. This is a small spot where you can go with no reservation and enjoy a meal like you have never had before.

Don’t miss the Akashi Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar for some excellent food. The quality is of the highest kind, with a quiet place to dine and reflect. The sushi truly is the best in town, with amazingly artistic presentations. Try the salmon, shrimp or yellowtail. Drop in while on vacation, as the dress style is casual and the staff friendly and helpful.

North Miami offers a surprise with Caribbean cuisine at Moca Cafe and Lounge. Creole Chicken is one of the favorite dishes to order. You will find entertainment as well, to make your evening complete. There is nothing like tasting the island flavors and seasonings.

Indomania is the choice for the original taste of Indonesian cuisine. Some of the dishes you may not know how to pronounce, but the translation is on the menu and you can just point. Try the chicken in mild coconut curry, the sweet and sour cucumber or the shrimp crackers. You can also order vegetarian.

Miami is a true revelation for terrific eating experiences and the choices are abundant. This is just a start to your culinary vacation in this modern, melting pot of a city. When you visit Miami and try each restaurant above, you are basically traveling the world right here in southern Florida. Enjoy!

About the Author

Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV, your nationwide source for RV rentals. El Monte RV also sells used motorhomes through eight different locations across the United States. For more information on purchasing a used motorhome see http://www.elmontervsales.com/home/.

Miami’s Mary Brickell Village

In 1871, William Brickell and his wife Mary moved to Southern  Florida from Ohio. There, they joined another pioneer, landowner and entrepreneur, Julia Tuttle. Between them, they are considered as the founders of what, today, is Miami.

Reportedly, Julia Tuttle managed to persuade hotel and railroad magnate Henry Flagler to heavily invest too, by sending him – on ice and by courier – a freshly plucked branch of orange blossoms – in December.

William and Mary owned land which stretched from Coconut Grove to the Miami River. Mary became one of the first real estate developers and managers and, in her memory and honor ,a part of the land has, some years ago, been converted into a small shopping, food and recreation paradise, called Mary Brickell Village.

Right in the heart of Miami’s downtown financial district this is an oasis of fun, relaxation, nightlife and up market retail ‘therapy’  which is a major, and often overlooked, Miami attraction.

Miami’s financial district in the background

I am of course a particular fan, because I live close by on the river. No Saturday and Sunday morning goes by without a visit to Mary Brickell Village. I do my shopping at a particularly nice Publix, then have a coffee either at Starbucks or another café, where I can sit outdoors and enjoy the flowers and fountains.

Fountains next to Starbucks

Several of the shop owners are my friends, among them Claudia, who owns a fabulous fashion boutique cum gallery, called Green Grass. Being from Colombia, she sells hand made ethnic clothes as well as high end bags, shoes and swim wear.

Claudia and I holding the signature ‘Green Grass’

Renowned painter, Amparo Garzon, who also hails from Colombia is another friend. Her paintings are becoming more and more famous and she has exhibitions as far as China. We spend many an hour discussing art, literature and the various forms of yoga.

One of Amparo’s paintings

Then, there is my favorite cosmetic shop, owned by descendents of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Frida only used natural products for her skin care and the owners continue this tradition with a range of fabulous products. They also carry scented candles and small works of art from Mexio. As you can see, just about anything has an artistic touch to it. Including a cigar shop where you can watch how Monte Cristos are made. That’s an art form too.

Rosa Mexicana and Grimpa steakhouse cater to a grumbling stomach and at night, Blue Matrini with life music and countless variations of Martinis invites until the early hours of the morning. Mary Brickell Village is a great alternative to the better known attractions of South Beach and, as I said, often overlooked by visitors to Miami.

Christmas in southern Florida

 

A square in Mary Brickell Village

Orchids in the middle of winter