03 Nov Staying Healthy While Traveling

[caption id="attachment_2168" align="alignright" width="300"] If you'll be living somewhere for a while, maybe think about buying a bike![/caption] Changing altitude, people from all over the globe, different climate--OH MY! How on earth is a traveler supposed to stay healthy while roaming? Here are a few quick and very easy tips on how to keep your immune system in tip top shape while you are adventuring: 1. Drink so much water! Of all the tips we will talk about today, this is truly the most important one! Staying hydrated will help keep your body in balance, despite your new and changing surroundings. 2. Go for a walk, a run, a stretch, etc. -- Especially after sitting on a plane or train for who knows how many hours, make sure to stretch it out. Even while en route, walking the aisle of the plane or train is great for your circulation, especially on trips longer than a handful of hours. Your legs will thank you later! 3. Pack snacks...

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04 May Carry On Essentials – Don’t Get Carried Away!

We've all witnessed it: The gate agent calls Group 2. The young man (or woman) corrals their duffle bag and slings the strap diagonally across their body as the straps hold on for dear life - and subsequently make that squeaking noise that no one is able to find a solution for. Here comes the backpack - slung over the other shoulder. They're single-strappin' it like the first day of school in 1995. They don't stop there as they bend down, trying to grab their computer briefcase, as the aforementioned duffle and backpack slide from their shoulders - only to start the process over again.   We get it - you don't want the airline to lose your luggage; nor do you want to wait for you belongings at baggage claim. But remember, these are carry-ons! And regulations are pretty much the same on all airlines: one small roller bag (see airlines' specifications), one small duffle or backpack and one hand-held item (as in a small purse or table). Here's a tip to ensure that you don't lose your luggage and have room for your backpack in the overheads (best if it's a direct flight): Bring your one roller carry-on to the gate. Have the agent "gate check" your bag. They will offer to check it for free and bring it below to the luggage hold. The bag will be waiting for you upon arrival at either the gate (smaller vessels) or baggage claim...

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13 Apr Wandering through Wales, Part 2

[caption id="attachment_2352" align="alignnone" width="660"] Time to revisit the magic of Wales.[/caption] Ready to resume the trip through Wales? Having regained the energy lost exploring castles and the Caerleon Amphitheatre, it’s time to hit the road and explore the wilderness, both above and below ground. You’re off to Brecon Beacon National Park, the Big Pit National Coal Museum (located inside the mines themselves), and finally, Tintern Abbey, a gorgeous palate cleanser after the claustrophobic tunnels below the earth. Known for its rolling plains and scattered collections of waterfalls, Brecon Beacon National Park will have you mesmerized as you blaze along the trail. Appropriately, Brecon Beacons takes it’s name from the fires formerly lit atop the mountain range's peaks to warn villages and cities of invading enemies. This scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King visualizes the process perfectly. Driving through the National Park, you’ll find flocks of mountain sheep dotting the plains, as well as a few mountain ponies; proof that these lands are still as wild as in the past, preserved from industrialization. The Black Forest (Fforest Fawr in Welsh) sprawls across the path you’ll follow, and Black Mountain looms to the West. After braving the forest, you’ll briefly get a comforting view of the fields and pastures once again. Relish these plains because soon, you’ll be deep within them. It’s time to hit the mines. Upon arriving at Big Pit National Coal Museum, you’ll receive some training in proper...

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29 Nov Green With Envy: Chartreuse and Voiron

[caption id="attachment_2327" align="alignnone" width="660"] Who wouldn't want to live here?[/caption] Hidden in the Chartreuse Mountains, Carthusian monks have been producing a spirit since 1605 within the sacred halls of the Grande Chartreuse Monastery (established in 1084!). Although visitors are prohibited from entering the monastery, they can tour a museum dedicated to the Carthusian monks and nuns located just off the monastery grounds. In Voiron, you’ll learn the difficulties the monks have faced throughout the history of their order (including expulsion from France by the government, twice) and their struggle to serve both God and humanity. While Chartreuse may look pretty, it packs a punch. The standard “green chartreuse” bottle boasts a proof of 110, a solid 10-15% stronger than most commercial alcohols. It’s especially evident while tasting the spirit; many drinks call for a dash of Chartreuse due to its strong flavor. While the alcohol content contributes to the distinctive taste, it’s those 130 extracts that lend the zest, creating liquor that first tastes sweet, but soon becomes spicy. It’s difficult to describe, but impossible to confuse once you taste it. Just ask its creators, the Carthusian monks. After hearing the tales of the monks, it’s time to taste the fruits of their labor. You’ll be given a complementary tasting of their famous spirit. You can choose between the traditional “green” distillation, or a milder, sweeter “yellow” varietal, which gains its lighter color and mellower taste through the addition of cumin. While I certainly can’t tell...

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27 Oct Tuscan Treat

[caption id="attachment_2306" align="alignnone" width="660"] Cheers to chianti![/caption] Wine can be a snob's paradise. High priced bottles and eloquent labels elicit importance and supposedly good taste. At a recent wine tasting I tried five reds from around the world, all Cabernet Sauvignons. It was a blind tasting. We didn’t know the label or any information until all wines were tried. At the event’s end we compared rankings with fellow tasters. The $9.99 bottle from a very young cultivation of grapes outside of Florence bested the $50 bottle from a 2006 vintage (supposedly a snobs favorite year for wine). Point being, no label or fancy cork can fool your tongue. It’s your palate, your preference. Italy is second to France in producing what many call good wine. And what region covers the gamut of taste, color and price better than Chianti. Region! Region! Region! Italy is a small country with dozens of types of wine. With each wine unique and only (legally) made in specific areas spanning no more than a few miles each, knowing where to go is important. Lets narrow it down to make your day of tasting productive and enjoyable. Know where you are. And know the history of the area. You have the world. And from there the continent of Europe, then Italy. In Italy, to the west, is a region called Tuscany (kind of like saying, “Out in the Southwest United States”). And within Tuscany small cities like Florence and Sienna were founded....

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12 Oct Castles and ales, a fine Saturday in Czechy land

[caption id="attachment_2294" align="alignnone" width="660"] Such a nice little weekend castle.[/caption] Built and enjoyed by King Charles IV of Bohemia from 1348 A.D. until his death in 1378, the Karlstejn Castle was only known by men. Men and men only were invited by the King to the weekend lodge of sorts to hunt fox, drink beer, and talk dirty. Think of it as his Man Cave, but a gargantuan one with secret passageways and guards, spreading many acres. King Charles made the castle pilgrimage from his usual castle in Prague (one can’t have too many castles) to bring his revered crown jewels—en tow by dozens of nobles on horseback and carriage—to Karlstejn for safe keeping. Picture a cross between the pomp and circumstance of the palm waving Queen Elizabeth in limousine, and the hooting and hollering of a circus entering town. That was the summer trip from Prague to Karlstejn that King Charles made. You’ll take it too, but on train and with locals. The train chugs along and drops you, your Panrimo coordinator and fellow Panroamers off a little less than a mile from the castle entrance. What simplistic joy and connectivity to nature the mile walk to the castle elicits. I’ll leave visualization of the gargantuan rooms and the stunning crown jewels’ display to your own Internet searching. But trust me, this is a must see. --- “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” Ben Franklin is known to...

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15 Sep New France excursion: cave spelunking and a pound of fire-heated cheese

[caption id="attachment_2259" align="alignnone" width="660"] Vercors, France.[/caption] The ice age is back. No, not the movie. The actual time when temperatures dropped and the northern continental ice sheets enveloped most of the earth. You don’t need to bundle up to experience it, however. Vercors, France and its caverns and intricate cave system have preserved some interesting fossils from the period. A quick two-hour drive from Grenoble, France and you’re weaving through the Rhone-Alps region and its mountains, dodging tall, thin fir trees stretching outwardly from hillsides. The view soon turns flat like the cornfields of Iowa, and you think for a second you’ve been driving in the wrong direction. You weave around a slight bend and suddenly there it is: a gargantuan mountain range and below it the Vercors cave system, the largest cave entrance in all of Europe. 400 miles of stalagmites and 4100 feet at its deepest point, Vercors caves are an intricately connected system of crevasses, hidden entrances and wide, open rooms of limestone rock. And fossils. Many fossils from the ice age are perfectly preserved on the cave walls as you trek deeper into the system. The Vercors caves are not for the faint at heart. Rope, clips, carabineers, flashlights and a local guide are a must. The depth you can tumble to and the immediate darkness once turning the first corner make this excursion an explorer’s delight (Though to show the caves have a cute side, it does maintain a Facebook...

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