European Tour Wishlist: Italy

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Wow, with England and France done at this point of the Euro Tour, this will probably be one of the busiest legs of the trip! There’s just soooo much to do in Italy. Every city has something unique about it that is a must-see. I can’t wait to see Rome, Venice, Pisa, shoot… I could go on and on!

 
 
 
English: A 4x4 segment panorama of the Coliseu...

The site of bloody gladiatoral duels, mock naval battles and ancient army clashes.

What:
 
Coliseum, aka Amphitheatrum Flavium
 
Where:
 
In the heart of Rome, Italy
 
Why:
 
This is perhaps the greatest work of the Roman Empire’s engineering. Built by Emperor Vespasian and finished by Emperor Titus, both of whom had the same family name, Flavius, where the coliseum derived its name from. This is a must-see during my trip, and as NWA knows well, I need to punch him in order to cross off an entry on my bucket list
 
 
 
 
 
English: Cathedral of Pisa (Duomo di Pisa), Pi...

The Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Duomo di Pisa.

What:
 
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
 
Where:
 
Pisa, Italy
 
Why:
 
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is famed around the world. It’s one of those pictures that says “Yep, I’m in Europe.” This bell tower of the nearby cathedral is also the source of many comedic pictures employing a bit of forced perspective by trying to push the tower upright. You can bet that we’ll be trying our hand at getting a funny shot of this.  
 
 
 
 
 
Venice

A Venetian Canal.

What:
 
The Canals of Venice
 
Where:
 
Venice, Italy
 
Why:
 
These gorgeous (and possibly smelly) canals are legendary. I  remember a couple of James Bond flicks that took place here. I can’t wait to drive down the waterways! Ooh! And I totally have to get in a gondola too (preferably with one of the cute locals.) 
 
 
 
 
 
English: The Pantheon in Rome, Italy

The Pantheon houses all the Roman gods and goddesses.

What:
 
Pantheon
 
Where:
 
Rome, Italy
 
Why:
 
Since I probably won’t get a chance to visit the Parthenon in Greece this time around, I think it would be a good opportunity to get a little taste of what I’m going to be missing out on by seeing the Roman Pantheon. The difference between the two temples is easily distinguishable. The Greek Parthenon is dedicated to Athena, goddess of Wisdom and War while the Roman Pantheon is dedicated to all the Roman gods and goddesses.
 
 
 
 
 
English: Michelangelo's David (original statue...

The Statue of David.

What: 
 
Statue of David
 
Where:
 
Florence, Italy
 
Why: 
 
Possibly the most famous statue in the world. Created by Michaelangelo. I’ve seen the duplicate at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas… but somehow, I don’t think that one’ll stand up when compared to the real thing.
 
 
 
 
Presumed course of the Rubicon

Rubicon derives its name from the latin 'rubico' meaning red. The river gets its red color from mud deposits.

What:
 
Crossing the Rubicon
 
Where:
 
Between the towns of Rimini and Cesena
 
Why:
 
As a huge enthusiast of history, particularly of the Roman Empire, I’d like to get some insight as to what Gaius Julius Caesar must have felt when he defied his enemies and crossed the red river with his legion, effectively initiating the Roman Civil War and taking him down his path of glory. The term “Crossing the Rubicon” has forever after become an idiom for “Passing the Point of No Return.” 
 
 
 
 
 
Italian Souvenirs of Choice
 
 
For La Signora:
 
 
A tasteful Venetian Mask will allow the ladies to feel like they’ve been to a Renaissance Masked Ball and bring out the charm and grace in them (we hope.) It’ll be a very elegant centerpiece reminding you of the sights and sounds of the Italian Peninsula.
 
 
For Il Signore:
 
 
Well, I know for a fact that my buddy, NWA, is planning to get a suit tailored for himself. While I have my concerns as to how much this will end up costing, I really do want to get one for myself also, so long as it doesn’t drain me of my adventure fund, that is. Besides, getting a suit tailored for yourself in Italy is like learning to woo women from Casanova himself. And if this doesn’t pan out, you could always go for that Ferrari Key Chain…
 
 
 
 
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Quotes to Live By (March 2012)

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Tomorrow marks the Ides of March, a festive day in ancient Rome dedicated to Mars, the Roman god of war. It was during this festival that the citizens of Rome would enjoy military parades and the like. If you’re American, think of it as a sort of ancient Memorial Day. The Ides of March is also notorious for being the day that the famous Julius Caesar was betrayed and assassinated.

It is only right that we should quote Gaius Julius Caesar, the great Roman general and dictator whose influence has spread through time and through many different cultures.

Caesar, Gaius Julius.

Gaius Julius Caesar has influenced all manner of things from his eponymous salad to the Czars of Russia

Even before becoming a dictator of the senate, Caesar had achieved victories in various military campaigns in Gaul (modern day France and Germany) and at sea against pirates in the Mediterranean (the so called Roman Lake.)

In 49 BC, by crossing the Rubicon on the borders of the Roman frontier, he officially rebelled against the senate who wanted him prosecuted for irregularities during his term as imperator or governor of Spain. Julius Caesar would go on to become one of the most famous people in history… but before that, while at the Rubicon river, he was facing his moment of fate. There was an air of uncertainty as to whether he should rebel or submit. It was then that he was quoted as having supposedly said “Alea icta esto.”

“Let the die be cast.”

My friends, I sincerely believe that we have only one life to live. And while making hard choices and facing uncertainties, much like Caesar did, lead to the unknown, let us strike out and grasp that which we cannot yet reach. Let us take some risks! Let us step out of our comfort zones! Let us seek out the best in this life! Take the steps to achieve this. Alea icta esto! Let the die be cast!

Lesson #2: The Basics

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I once read a study where they offered to give children some candy but in this manner: If the child was willing to wait for a period of ten minutes before taking the candy placed on the table in front of him or her, the child would be given another candy. The more ten-minute periods the child could wait, the number of candies given would double. I wish I could find a copy the study online so I could link it here, but it turns out that children who could delay their gratification would later on be more successful in life. Children who could not control the need for instant gratification didn’t get very far in their lives.

Candy at a souq in Damascus, Syria.

I want candaaaaaaay! I want caaaandaaaaay!

Last week, during Lesson #1, we explored the history of money and what it actually is. The takeaway from that was the understanding that if we want to be wealthy or at least financially stable and debt free, we should be acquiring things that retain or increase its value over time and not the reverse. Unfortunately, the dollar (or any other currency for that matter) does not fall into this category.

Here in the U.S. there are so many factors that deny your money a chance to grow unless you convert it into something else. For the average person who is employed, he or she is taxed upon earning that paycheck (Income Tax). Taxed again when spending that paycheck (Sales Tax). Taxed again when saving that paycheck (Taxes on Earned Interest). Inflation will also come into play and diminish the remainder of the money you have managed not to spend. Oh and don’t forget the so called Death tax (Federal Estate Tax). In the future, we will discuss how to legally pay as little in taxes as possible.

Now before we go any further, as a disclaimer, I don’t pretend to be a professional in this matter. I am not licensed to give out money advice nor do I do this to make a living. I am simply sharing what I’ve learned and what has worked for me. I challenge you do to your own research on what I am sharing. Please feel free to email me your thoughts, questions, or (constructive) criticisms.

Okay, with that out of the way, you may be asking “So, what can we do to be financially stable?” The basic concept behind the answer is simple. Collect assets and avoid liabilities.

Cover of "Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Ri...

Written by Robert Kiyosaki.

As I’ve learned from the lessons of Robert Kiyosaki and his series of educational books and games (Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Cashflow Quadrant, Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing, et al,) assets are things that gain or retain value and put money into your pocket and liabilities are things that lose value or take money away from your pocket.

Sounds simple enough that any kid could do it, right? Well, you’d be surprised at how many people out there can’t grasp this commonsensical attitude. People still dive into debt for an expensive car, not realizing that it is perhaps one of the fastest things you can own… that loses its original value.

This really isn’t anything you don’t already know. Similar to my recipe for losing weight, in order to gain control of your finances, two things or some combination of both must happen:

1) You make more than what you spend.

2) You spend less than what you make.

English: Albert Einstein Français : portrait d...

Professor Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist.

Today’s world can seem overly complicated, but as Einstein has reputedly said, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”

So try and keep things as simple as possible that still fits your needs. Try to trim off the fat. Cut off the bills that you can live without. Live beneath your means. Don’t play the ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ game, as it is a never-ending game with no clear definition of when or how to win. Sell off some of your stuff. Downgrade what you can that isn’t essential. Learn to embrace the minimalistic way of life. Collect experiences, knowledge and memories, not appliances, cars and things. But most of all, if there’s just one thing you take away from all of this, I hope you’ll remember the study I was telling you about earlier, before we began the lesson. Learn to delay your gratification… Don’t take the candy just yet!

I hope you learned something new from all this. Next time, I’ll give out some tips on what you can do to gain control of your finances. Until then, have a happy Monday!

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Guacamole Lettuce Wraps with Sun Dried Tomatoes

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Guacamole Lettuce Wrap with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Starving but want something healthy? Try these! Fresh, organic guacamole with some mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes.

So I’ve been losing weight pretty steadily. It’s just been a matter of focusing on two simple things.

1) Spend more calories than you take in.

2) Take in less calories than you spend.

For the most part, I’ve simply stuck to eating organic, healthy fruits and vegetables during the week and combining it with light exercise. During the weekends, I either visit a good restaurant or I have a little bit of meat and sweets to satisfy my sweet tooth.

One of my favorite dishes these days is the Guacamole Lettuce Wrap with some sun dried tomatoes.

It’s pretty easy to prepare. You’ll need:

2 Avocadoes
Some lime juice
Some salt and pepper
Some chipotle chili powder
Some minced garlic
Some chopped up red, green, and yellow peppers
Some chopped up onions
2-4 Lettuce Leaves
A handful of white mushrooms
Some sun dried tomatoes
 

Now then, I mash up the avocadoes and mix in the ingredients, except for the mushrooms and onions which I caramelize on a frying pan.

After caramelization, I toss them in with the guacamole and spread thickly on the lettuce leaves.

Voila! The perfect summer dish! Simple, easy, and done in minutes. Enjoy your meal!

European Tour Wishlist: France

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I’m definitely more of an anglophile, so I don’t have a whole lot planned to do in France for this leg of the Euro tour. Franky, (*snicker* Frankly – get it? Franc… nevermind…) I’ve heard a lot of negative stereotypes about the French. That, being the rudeness towards and dislike of [ignorant] Americans, and general distate of English speakers. Not to mention their strict, martinet sense of etiquette. While I tend not to discriminate others as I have had the awful experience of being discriminated against, the pragmatic side of me has set down a low expectation; one of caution, so that if France exceeds the expectations, I can be pleasantly surprised and report here on the misconceptions, if any, of said stereotypes.

All in all, I promise to enter their borders with an open mind.

Despite my (admittedly) conservative attitude towards what to expect, here are the few things I wish to do in the City of Love:

 
 
 
Français : La Tour Eiffel, vue du Champ-de-Mar...

Is a caption really necessary?

 
What:
 
Eiffel Tower
 
Where:
 
Champ de Mars, Paris, France
 
Why:
 
For years since its construction by Engineer Gustave Eiffel, this has been one of the most prominent symbols of France. Movies often feature the tower to establish the fact that it is taking place within the country. You simply can’t go to France and not take a picture near the famous tower. Also, I can’t wait to eat at one of the restaurants on the lower levels of the elegantly tall, La Tour Eiffel. That would be quite an experience!
 
 
 
 
The Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph), at the ...

Arc de Triomphe by night

 
What:
 
Arc de Triomphe
 
Where:
 
Place Charles de Gaulle, Paris
 
Why:
 
This Iconic French Monument is a remembrance/tomb for those who died in the French Revolutionary War as well as the Napoleonic Wars. One thing I can appreciate from the French is the trait of not bowing down (anymore) to any King or Monarch. Liberté, égalité, fraternité for all!
 
 
 
 
English: Richelieu wing of the Louvre museum F...

Louvre Museum, home to many famous works

 
What:
 
Louvre Museum
 
Where:
 
Palais Royal, Paris
 
Why:
 
It is perhaps the world’s largest and most visited museum. Oh come on! Don’t you want to see the Mona Lisa with your own eyes!? I sure do! Even waaaaay before Dan Brown (Damn you! >.< ) made the museum a highlight of his novel, I sat in my classroom dreaming of the day I could see the famous paintings (printed in black and white on my workbook) in full color with my own wide-eyed amazement. I know Leo da Vinci won’t let me down! 🙂
 
Must-see exhibits are The Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, The Winged Victory and Madonna of the Rocks.
 
 
 
 
 
French Souvenirs of Choice:
 
 
For the Monsieur: 
 
 
Languiole Pocket Knife. It’s small enough and comes for different functions, you could even get one that looks like a cheese knife. Might as well buy some cheese. France should be the best place to shop for cheese, considering they have hundreds of different varieties…
 
 
For the Madame or Mademoiselle:
 
 
France being a leader in the world of fashion, I figure it would be smart and trendy to stick with this category for gifts. However, I’m down to two choices and can’t seem to decide what to get the ladies in my life. Perhaps you can help a guy out? Should I be getting a Parisian Pocket Mirror or a French Shawl? I will probably end up getting both, but let me know which would YOU prefer to receive? Merci!
 
 

El Morocco: An exotic Adventure near San Francisco (Restaurant Review)

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She winked as her graceful body hazed by, whirling and turning like a desert dervish. The explosions of colors swept right by my eyes leaving little trails of dazzling light. She was wearing devilishly red silks and satin harem pants, a crimson flower playing in her long curls. Her skirt rebelled around her, its golden beads flickering in the light of a dozen lamps, each with their own shade and variety and temperament. Her hands weaved and waved a thousand ways, while her hips jerked from side to side in motions too mesmerizing for my thoughts to comprehend. Her feet glided as if she were dancing on the water of a desert oasis. 

And for much more than just a moment, I was there, inside the tent of some wealthy caravan trade prince, the guest of honor, feasting… laughing… Living!

El Morocco

El Morocco

What: Moroccan Restaurant
Where: 2203 Morello Ave. Pleasant Hill, CA, USA
Phone: 1(925)671-0132
Open: Tues – Sun 5:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Price: $29.95 for a 5 course feast or about half that for à la carte entrées.
Be sure to: Mention if it’s your birthday, they’ll give you a red fez to wear!
Try the: Lamb braised in Honey Sauce with Almonds, hold the raisins. Magnificently gratifying!
Web: www.elmorocco.net 
 

I hope you enjoyed my little narrative. That is exactly what it feels like when I’m over at my friend Fadil’s Moroccan restaurant located in the pleasant hills of, well, Pleasant Hill.

I have a lot of respect for Fadil, who was a musician before he became the proprietor of this amazing establishment. He is truly a magnificent host and unlike most restaurant owners, he is at El Morocco every night greeting its guests at the door, initiating the party for anyone celebrating a special occasion, and introducing the guest bellydancer of the night. Did I mention the bellydancers!?

Almost every night at around 7 pm and again at around 9 pm, a special guest bellydancer comes out to the dining area to place the guests under an exciting, sensual trance (appropriate for all ages, this is a family restaurant!) as they dance to the tune of lively and exotic Middle-Eastern music. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a captivating performance from my friend, Zahara, who performs here occasionally. Please don’t forget to tip them (In the Middle East it is customary for the male to kneel before the bellydancer while placing the tip on her waist. Warning, she may continue to bellydance making a game of it as you attempt this.)

Zahara

The enchanting Zahara, an award winning professional bellydancer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, performing at El Morocco.

As you are sitting there enraptured by the show and awaiting your 5 course meal, you get the feeling that you’re inside a giant tent at a banquet held in your honor. The low tables are brass, round, Moroccan designs accentuated by a peregrine candle lamp. There are expensive Persian rugs and carpets all over the place as well as Moroccan poufs, which are round leather seats, to emphasize the festivities going on around you. As you sit (or lay) there, surrounded by a motley of vibrantly hued pillows, your supper binge begins…

Dining Table

Exotic dining table at El Morocco.

The servers bring out a basin and wash your hands in refreshingly warm water. Any meal such as this that you can eat with your hands must truly be deserving of your attention!

The 5 course feast starts off with some Harira, a traditional Moroccan soup with tomatoes, lentils, herbs and heartily spiced for flavor. Dip it in bread or drink it off the cup, here you are the sheikh!

Afterwards, you are served with a selection of choice Moroccan salads, including a mix of tomatoes, green peppers, parsley and eggplant puree with cabbage slices to use as scoops.

Next up, comes out the Bastilla, a flaky dough pie baked with Chicken, eggs and almonds and served sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Scoop up bite sized pieces with your hands and experience the sensation of flavors you never knew existed!

I hope you’ve built up some appetite, because at this point comes out the main course. You have an ample list of options to try your taste buds on, including chicken prepared in unique ways, lamb braised in honey sauce and topped with almonds, couscous which is a very fine cracked wheat served with meat or vegetables, or how about some hearty shish kabobs to fill your belly?

Time to eat!

Time to eat!

If that’s not enough for you and you’re feeling really adventurous then perhaps something unique such as Cornish hen braised with onions, lemon juice and green olives? Or why not braised hare in a lemony tomato sauce served with olives?

Ah and finally, for dessert some scrumptious Moroccan pastries with freshly brewed mint tea.

A delectably mouthwatering dinner, spellbindingly entertaining belly dance performance, loads of laughter and fun, and all for about thirty dollars. No wonder I feel like a king whenever I’m at this gem of a food and show palace!

Just being here has inspired me. I really need to add Morocco on my bucket list of places to travel to for my quest.

Thank you Fadil, for running such a wonderful place. You can bet your red fez I’ll be back often!

Let the vibrant lights, foreign sounds and exciting smells of El Morocco take you far, far away!

Learn to belly dance (or just get a better view!)

Lesson # 1: Understanding What You Have in Your Hands

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I was recently talking about the difference in the value of money, comparing the pesos in the Philippines with the dollar here in the U.S. Ever since immigrating to the ‘Land of Milk and Honey’, it has been a non stop learning experience for me. Getting culture shocked was simply the beginning. Today, I have been through numerous ups and downs, thicks and thins, and summers and winters than I care to recount. I’ve had businesses succeed as well as fall apart, properties fall under on the one hand and incredible bargains sealed on the other.

I think I am very fortunate to be where I am standing today, almost entirely debt free. A fully paid for residence, no more car loan payments, and very little in the way of credit card balances. I mention this, not because I want to brag (though I assure you, I am quite vain and proud, bordering on arrogance even.) Rather, it is my objective to share with you the summation of the lessons I’ve learned about money and finance from my humble virtual platform with the sincere intention that you can make good use of this knowledge and avoid the pitfalls I blindly walked into.

That brings us to lesson number one, understanding what you have in your hands.

You see, understanding is key. If you want to become a doctor, you have to understand medicine and the ways your body reacts to it. If you want to become a lawyer, you must understand the law and how it affects the people around you. Want to be an engineer? You had better get a good understanding of physics and mathematics. If you want to be wealthy, or at the very least, financially stable, the first step is that you must have a good grasp of what money is.

Go ahead. Take your paper currency out and look at it. Have you ever asked yourself why a printed piece of paper has as much value on it as what it says?

A gold-standard 1928 one-dollar bill. It is id...

A United States Bank Note printed in 1928 indicates that the bearer of this certificate or note is entitled to gold from the U.S. Treasury equivalent to the amount of one dollar

For thousands of years, majority of civilizations have used some type of precious metal to be their form of money. In most cases, this was usually gold. Money was necessary, simply because bartering was cumbersome. Trading chickens for bread, for example may work just fine for some, but what if the baker was allergic to chickens? No trade between the two commodities could occur unless a third commodity came into play that the baker would accept in place of chickens. That is essentially why money was invented. It had to be compact, valuable, divisible, durable and universal. Gold fit these criteria perfectly and so, it has and probably will always be a valuable form of money.

Gold Key, weighing one kilogram is used to acc...

Gold or Aurum is still highly valued up until today

Early paper money, China, Song Dynasty

Early Paper Money from the Song Dynasty

What about paper money? Well, that came from the Chinese Dynasties during the Middle Ages. During long caravan voyages, instead of carrying around precious gold that could be stolen or lost, a merchant would approach his family bank, turn in or deposit his wealth and receive a sealed certificate. He would travel to the next city, present his certificate and withdraw the same amount minus a small fee. This would prove to be a much more practical way of doing business.

It was from here that paper currencies evolved. Merchant caravans would bring the practice further and further west. The Islamic sheiks closest to China began to adopt the practice. Jewish pilgrims would carry this further west into Europe.

I remember once, I saw a very old British Note. It said on it “Bank of England. I promise to pay the bearer of this note on demand, a sum of ten pounds.” That is what it essentially was, a certificate indicating that you had that much gold in the bank. So, for my fellow Americans, the dollar that you and I carry around, used to give you the ability to walk up to the Treasury office and exchange that $100 bill or note for $100 worth of gold. But that all changed.

In August 15, 1971, President Nixon took the U.S. off of the Gold Standard. That meant, that you could no longer change your paper money to the pegged rate of $35 per ounce of gold. It meant, that the dollar was no longer backed by how much of this precious metal our government held. The dollar was merely backed by promises of what its value is worth.

In short, my friends, the cherished time we trade for the paper money that becomes less and less valuable as more and more of it is printed out is a plan doomed to end… well, NOT in your favor. Sooner or later, people around the world will not continue to accept it, since it isn’t supported by anything of value (other than the promise that we will continue to credit it, and from what I’ve seen lately… a really poor job of debt management is being done.)

Regardless of whether you believe any of this, the lesson underneath it all is, instead of collecting something that is losing its value… start collecting assets that retain or increase value over time.

To achieve my goals of seeing at least 80% of the world and to be able to live anywhere it is currently summer, I have aimed at having a residence that I can easily rent out for a profit, portable freedom businesses that generate trickles of income, stocks and other paper assets that provide dividends regularly, and commodities such as gold and silver that retain or increase their value especially as paper currencies become worthless. And in the doomsday scenario where the dollar should ever fall apart and a new chicken currency arises, I would still be able to survive by charging my renters for chickens…

Food for thought.

Japanese Hamburg Steak

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My little brother paid me a surprise visit today (okay so he’s not so little, but he’ll always be Lil’ Bro to me, haha.)  I had to prepare something especially good.

Now, being a bachelor, one of the best side effects this kind of lifestyle has brought out in me is having to learn to cook for myself. In situations like this, I turn to Runnyrunny999 whom I can always rely on for good ideas.

Lil’ Bro, today we’re eating Japanese Hamburg Steak!

It is not really complicated to make and fortunately, I have all the ingredients available. Less than an hour in the kitchen, and voila! We feast!

Hamburg Steak

Savory Japanese Hamburg Steak pan fried with olive oil and topped with home made gravy sauce, garnished with butter sauteed carrots and boiled garlic broccoli.

Special thanks to Runnyrunny999 for making me look like a pro to my Lil’ Bro!

European Tour Wishlist: United Kingdom

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Since I’m traveling with a group of friends, and since our trip is quite flexible, we’ve decided to put together a wishlist of things we personally want to see in every country. We’ll get to compare our lists and if two or more people share something on that list, it takes priority. This way, we get to maximize the efficiency of the trip and not waste too much time. The plan is to start off in England and spend a day, perhaps two, in the surrounding areas.

 
English: The Clock Tower of the Palace of West...

 
What:
 
Big Ben
 
Where:
 
The Palace of Westminster, London
 
Why:
 
It’s one of the most iconic buildings in England and perhaps the world! It’s also something that pretty much screams “Look at me, I’m in London!”
 
 

 
 
English: Stonehenge, Wiltshire county, England...

What:
 
Stonehenge
 
Where:
 
Wiltshire, England
 
Why:
 
Ancient calendar system or alien landing pad?
 
 

 
 
What:
Troops of the Grenadier Guards on guard at Buc...
 
 
Changing of the Queen’s Guard
 
Where:
 
Buckingham Palace
 
Why:
 
To harass the guards while they stand at attention, why else? Oh come on! It’s in all the movies… You know you’ve always wanted to do it too…
 
 

 
 
What:
English: Front view of the Natural History Mus...
 
 
Natural History Museum
 
Where:
 
Exhibition Row, South Kensington, London
 
Why:
 
London is among the most historical cities in the world (Rome, Paris, Barcelona, etc.) Their exhibits ought to be amazing! 
 
 

 
 
What:
The remains of a fort on Hadrian's Wall near H...
 
 
Hadrian’s Wall
 
Where:
 
Northern England
 
Why:
 
If we still have the time, I’d love to see “the most important monument built by the Romans in Britain.” Think Great Wall of China, but a bit smaller and older. Not much of it remains these days, however the remnants are still evident. It used to mark the northernmost territory of the Roman Empire when Octavian declared Pax Romana. Later, Emperor Hadrian ordered this wall built to protect against the wild north.
 
 

 
 
What:
English: Chateau de Vincennes keep, Paris संस्...
 
 
Stay in a castle, any castle!
 
Where:
 
Anywhere!
 
Why:
 
Seriously… who asks the question “So, why do you want to stay in a castle?”
 
 

 
 
What:
English: Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh North wal...

 
 
Scottish National War Memorial
 
Where:
 
Edinburgh, Scotland
 
Why:
 
If there’s still time, I’d love to see it. I have heard amazing accounts of this place. It is an amazing War Museum, housing the names of Scots who have fought and died in World War I and World War II as well as conflicts that followed. It is a constant reminder of the tragic costs of war as well as the reasons we fight these battles.
 
 
 
 
 
English Souvenirs of Choice
 
 
For the Ladies:
An early Victorian tea set on display in the B...

 
 
Tea set. Why not get one from a land famous for its tea time? A genuinely British tea set would be an excellent conversational piece as well as a classy way to advertise your travels in the isles, not to mention it simply goes hand in hand with that Earl Grey you have brewing. Don’t forget a squeeze of lemon!
 
 
 
For the Gents:

Jóannes Eidesgaard smoking on his pipe.

 
A Smoking Pipe, think Sherlock Holmes… I believe this would make a quintessentially English trinket or keepsake. Small enough to travel with and totally awesome when we get to sit in a cigar bar and smoke while reading the London Times and having a Johnny Walker Blue, neat, of course. Cheerio!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Countdown for Europe!

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I’m getting anxious.

I’ve got an amazing trip to Europe planned out that they’ll sing about in ballads… and it’s only 23 days away!

Never having been on that continent, I don’t really know what to expect other than what I’ve read about. What I do know is that once this trip is under my belt, I’ll be at three continents down with four to go!

Percentage of the World Seen by Summerchaser

So it's a work in progress, alright? I know this one girl who has never been outside her birth city...

The voyage will commence in jolly good ol’ England and finish in the “Venice of the North”, the global city of Stockholm; whilst everything in between will be completely flexible.

We’ll be flying into London, spending a day or two to get our bearings while we see the sights and sounds. Afterwards, we’ll be renting a car and driving *under* the English channel (I know, right!?) towards Paris, which they call the City of Light (Even though it isn’t really the brightest city on Earth at night.)

TOURIST TIPS: If you wish to try something like this, be sure to apply for an International Driver’s License. It’s really easy to apply for one and you’ll get it in a matter of days.

Next stop, the Iberian Peninsula to meet some relatives. Then, we’ll cut across France towards the former City-States in Italy: Rome, Venice, Milan, Pisa among others… I expect we’ll spend a lot of time here as there is (relatively) a lot more to see, smell, hear and taste. Just the thought of spaghetti, pizza, and lasagna is making my appetite file a complaint for not flying there right now.

And then, we go North to Switzerland and Germany. I’m excited to meet an old friend I haven’t seen in more than a decade. She and I will have to set aside some time to catch up on everything that’s gone on.

This leg of the journey will be really interesting for me. Have any of you seen the movie A Fish Called Wanda? Remember the effect the Italian or the Russian language had on Jamie Lee Curtis’ character? Well… for whatever reason German has a similar effect on me, though perhaps a little less… dramatic. Heh, I can’t really explain why or how this came to be. It simply is, but like I said, it will be really interesting.

If there’s still time after all that, I hope to see more of Eastern Europe. I’d like to see Poland and the Czech Republic specifically. We’ll be meeting more friends to show us around town. I’ll have to check with the rest of the group, but I do believe we’ll be at a wine and cheese tasting event.

TOURIST TIP: Traveling with a group minimizes the likelihood of being victimized by criminals. Not to mention being able to save some money by pooling resources and splitting costs. So, find some people you trust and start planning a trip!

Last but hardly least, we’ll be in Scandinavia and hopefully it won’t be too cold. We all know by now how wind chill and I get along, right? The Scandinavian nations are said to have the happiest and most content people people in the world. Their fairly liberal and progressive society is advanced in many ways, quite possibly the closest thing to most people’s idea of a Utopia.

This trip is going to be so awesome that I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep in the coming weeks! I keep thinking about all the stuff I can start crossing off the bucket list. It should also significantly raise the percentage of the world I’ve already seen.

I’ll be posting my wishlist for this trip soon along with some recommended souvenirs from each country. Stay tuned!