Eating Your Way Through Paris

Paris treats in delicatessen window

I’ve actually heard a few travel bloggers claim that food isn’t that important to them. What? Could that be? Is it possible that some people don’t travel to eat? That’s seriously hard for us to believe.

For Thomas and me, food is a BIG part of the experience. For Thomas, it is the BIGGEST part of the experience. He travels primarily to eat. Architecture is what he sees in the background while he is stuffing his face. And if you travel to eat, France is definitely on the short list of must-eat destinations.

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Sagada’s Cave Connection

Tony enters a chamber while spelunking in Sagada

Sagada, a cool mountain station in north-central Luzon, is a restful escape from the tropical heat of the Philippines. The destination offers up forests full of pines and tree ferns, exotic burial rituals, a once grand head hunter culture, and gorgeous slopes filled with extreme rice terracing.

Our principle reason for coming here was to bone up on our spelunking skills by doing the famous Sagada Cave Connection, a four-hour cave crawling tour linking the Lumiang and Sumaging cave systems. This tour requires its participants to repel down vertical shafts, crawl, squirm, dangle off of ledges, slip, slide, wade waist-deep through underground streams, and clamber over wedding cake cave formations – in other words, it’s serious food for your inner child.

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10 Highest Mountains in the World

Tony backed by Everest at the Gokyo Ri overlook

Can you name the top ten highest mountains in the world? You can probably name Everest, and if you are clued in, maybe K2. But can you list any of the others? Most people can’t. That quickly changes for travelers to the mountains of southern Asia.

Yes, when it comes to spectacular peaks, you really don’t have to scour the world to find them. In fact, you could theoretically complete your collection with a visit to just two countries, Nepal and Pakistan. Throw in visits to Tibet and India, and you can take in all the best views.

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India’s Bhimbetka Rock Shelters

Masterpiece cave painting at Bhimbetka

The Bhimbetka Rock Shelters, a collection of more than 600 prehistoric cave paintings, was one of the main reasons we wanted to visit Bhopal, India. Boasting the oldest traces of human presence on the subcontinent as well as cave paintings dating back to the Mesolithic period, this just might be the best contender for the title of “the birthplace of India.”

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The Guarani Missions of Argentina and Paraguay

San Ignacio Mini, a Guarani mission

A trip through South America, as spectacular as it is, can often feel like one long story of conflict and open war between the continent’s native peoples and European colonists. Even today, there is a very palpable tension between these groups.

So as we were passing through northern Argentina along the border with Paraguay on our way to IguazĂș Falls, we were happy to discover a slightly different story. In the 17th century, Jesuit missionaries entering the area took a rather unique approach to conversion. They set out to create what some have termed a “Utopian” blend of native and European culture in methodically constructed communities referred to as reducciones.

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Shades of Merzouga

Merzouga is one of Morocco’s top desert destinations. The sweeping dune sea, which has been featured in films such as The Prince of Persia and The Mummy, is where every visitor to Morocco comes to live out their desert dreams. Of course, we showed up in the middle of a series of raging sandstorms with blistering 105+ temperatures, so our desert dream felt a bit more like a very sandy, very hot hallucination.

Yes, we spent a great deal of our time in our hotel room watching the dunes push their way through the gap under our door. When the winds dropped a bit, we moved to the hotel restaurant and sipped mint tea with clouds of sand swirling around us as the hotel owner sat staring out an open door wondering aloud why his hotel was so empty. (Gee, I wonder why!) On two occasions, the wind stopped and we ran out the door into the Merzouga dunes to experience the Moroccan Sahara.

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Hagia Sophia – The World’s Most Amazing Building

Massive interior of Hagia Sophia

Not so coincidentally, my favorite building in the world is in my favorite city in the world. Hagia Sophia, consecrated in 537 A.D., is one of the architectural greats. Considered simultaneously the greatest construction of late antiquity as well as the Byzantine world, Hagia Sophia reigned supreme as the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years until the construction of the Cathedral of Seville. In reality, there was nothing in the entire world that could compete with it from an architectural standpoint. (And there still isn’t in my mind.)

The Ottomans did their best to out-construct the wonder sitting in their backyard. And if we are talking about exteriors only, many would argue they succeeded with the Blue Mosque. But nothing compares with the cavernous interior of Hagia Sophia. There is something magical about the construction and the light, which clearly comes through in photographs; it almost looks computer generated. The building fills me with awe every time I see it.

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Hiking to Potato Chip Rock in San Diego

Tony and Thomas at Potato Chip Rock

Potato Chip Rock is crazy, a little dangerous, and – much to the chagrin of locals – a darling of the Instagram crowd. Perched high above the arid valleys of Poway in Southern California, the very photogenic site repeatedly pops up in newspapers, blogs and social media streams around the world.

Hilariously, despite the fact that Potato Chip Rock is located 30 minutes from where I grew up, I had never visited. Considering the fact that Thomas and I have scoured the world for similarly unique locations, we thought it was about time we paid a visit. Continue…

Wildlife along the Kinabatangan River

The Kinabatangan River is both tragic and miraculous at the same time. One of Sabah’s premier attractions, the river flows through a stretch of surviving secondary and tertiary forest sandwiched between the industrial-scale palm plantations of the Kinabatangan region.

Perhaps the strongest testament to wildlife’s ability to survive and adapt under desperate conditions, I can personally say that, in all my travels, I have never seen such a boxed-in forest region with so much wildlife and such diversity – it is simply incomprehensible. Continue…

Plan your Visit to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper

Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper in Milan

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is arguably the second most famous painting in the world after the other da Vinci masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. The superstar 15th-century mural is probably the most duplicated painting on the planet. It shows up on posters, placemats, calendars, mouse pads and any other flat surface humanity can print a picture on. It’s everywhere, and it has become one of Milan’s most famous attractions. For that reason, The Last Supper tickets are in high demand. Unfortunately, many visitors never get to see this artwork.

Access to The Last Supper is strictly limited to protect the fragile painting. Entry is only allowed every 15 minutes with a maximum of 30 people at any given time. This means visitors must pre-book online well in advance to secure a spot to see it. Continue…