Adieu to Ashland

The old adage that times flies when you are having fun is certainly true for folks lucky enough to spend time in the quaint and quirky town of Ashland, Oregon. Our three month house-sit is coming to an end. It’s time to say Adieu Ashland, it’s been great getting to know you.

Historic Ashland Springs Hotel in downtown Ashland Oregon

Historic Ashland Springs Hotel in downtown Ashland Oregon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hubs and I adopted the roving house-sitter lifestyle back in November. Our current plan is to explore as many of the cities and towns, historical sites and breath-taking natural beauty of this great country as we can while we’re searching for our next spot to officially call home. For now, home is wherever we unpack our bags and hang up our clothes. House-sitting offers us the opportunity to linger a while and blend in with the locals. So much better than a room at the Holiday Inn.

Ashland consistently ranks as one of the best places to retire in Oregon so when the opportunity presented itself to explore the area we excitedly threw our house-sitter hats into the ring and came up winners. Lucky us!

Our list of criteria for our next hometown is still very much a work in progress. And, it comes as no surprise that our must haves are as opposite as night and day. Hubs – opportunities to fish. Me – not too remote, moderate climate with lots of sun, walk to shops, restaurants, coffee if possible, arts and culture, educational opportunities (i.e. college town), low cost of living, easy airport access, friendly folks, good food/farmers markets, not a big city but near a big city…and the list goes on and on. Dream big and adjust as needed. That is my current motto.

So how does Ashland stack up? From our three months of totally random and non-scientific research here is my completely biased opinion.

What’s to love ~

1. Noble Coffee Roasters for great tea, hot chocolate, coffee and snacks like fresh baked raspberry scones. I will miss every one of the friendly faces behind the counter who greeted me each day with a smile and a chat. You guys are the best! Want to feel like a local right away? Find a great coffee shop and settle in. You’ll soon get the inside scoop on what’s happening all over town. Noble became my morning office, my afternoon break and the place hubs and I walked to on Saturday morning for coffee and a sweet treat (which we picked up up from Deux Chats along the way).

My Girls at Noble Rosters.

My Girls at Noble Rosters.

2. The Ashland Food Co-Op for good healthy food and the absolute best people watching. No day was complete without a stop at the co-op.

3. The Ashland Vibe. Bernie bumper stickers, Buddhas, fading prayer flags and yoga studios will always be top of mind when I recall our time in Ashland. It’s a community that definitely leans a little to the left. In a good way. Here’s how the pot boils – start with a few well-healed retirees, sprinkle with hard-working theater folk, artists and musicians of every ilk. Toss in a heaping handful of college students. Mix well. Flavor with a delicious blend of hippies – young, old and wannabe, local farmers and a few old timers who have seen it all and you brew up the heady sauce of interesting, intelligent, quirky, fun and friendly that is Ashland. It is a sweet elixir indeed. A century ago it was the lithia water that made Ashland unique, but I know for sure it’s the people that make it so today. Ashland Prayer Flags

4. Arts and Culture. It’s the home of the internationally acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival so Ashland has become a tourist town for sure, but the year round residents share a love of art in all its forms. Opportunities to explore your inner artist abound. I took full advantage at the Ashland Art Center’s classes where I played with clay and learned the art of needle felting. I also spent a rainy Sunday afternoon making croissants in a french bakery. Oooh La La! I could have done so much more if it wasn’t for that pesky thing called “working full time”.

Croissant making at Deux Chats Bakery

Croissant making at Deux Chats Bakery

DSC02526

I captured this view on an after dinner photo walk right by our house.

5. Nature and the great outdoors.  Hiking, (you are at an off-ramp of the Pacific Coast Trail), walking (beautiful Lithia Park or the streets of downtown), nature photography, fishing, and skiing can all be found less than 45 minutes from downtown.

6. Food Fabulous Food. There is no shortage of eating establishments in Ashland and hubs and I did our best (for research purposes) to check out as many of them as possible. A few became our go-to favs and we would recommend them highly if you have the chance to visit Ashland. *Standing Stone Brewery has an on-site brewery and outstanding casual food menu. They bake their own breads and many menu items come from their own 1-mile farm (yes it is a mile from downtown Ashland). *Pie and Vine for pizza, pasta and a delicious grilled romaine salad. *Morning Glory serves up an outstanding breakfast (there is always a wait) as does Brothers Restaurant (generally no wait). Hubs gave the hash at both places a big two thumbs up. Amuse, a tiny French bistro was recognized as one of the best restaurants in Oregon. Liquid Assets is a lovely little wine bar that is perfect for a Friday night Happy Hour and Sammich pretty much nails it if you are hankering for a sandwich piled high with house-smoked meat served with a side of Chicago ‘tude and Da Bears.

7. Things to Do. Life slows down in Ashland during the winter but come early spring, the trees start to bloom and The Bard works his magic once again. Restaurants that took winter breaks re-open, shops extend their hours and tour buses dot the once empty streets. Parking spots are nowhere to be found. Winter might be cool, damp and dark, but we had no lack of fun activities to keep us entertained. First Friday Art Walk is a great way to explore Ashland’s many galleries. Rain or shine, the entire town comes out to stroll Main Street on First Friday. How about a Festival or two? March found us indulging at the weekend long Oregon Chocolate Festival right in downtown and our inner cheese nerd led us down the road to Central Point for the Oregon Cheese Festival. Yes, we have both expanded our “love handles”. We are sad that we will miss both the International Film Festival and A Taste of Ashland coming up in April. For a wee bit of old-timey outdoor fun, mosey on over to the Ashland Gun Club for the Cowboy Shoot Out held on the third Saturday of every month. Yeehaw, it was an unexpected good time! Rainy Sunday afternoons are a great excuse to visit the Varsity Theater where you can munch a little popcorn and watch first run movies.

Hubs with his new friend Dakota.

Hubs with his new friend cowboy Dakota.

If you feel like exploring beyond Ashland there is plenty to keep you busy. A short scenic drive will take you to the historic town of Jacksonville, home of the fabulous Britt Music Festival and a great stating point for the Applegate Valley Wine Trail. Medford is 10 miles up I-5 from Ashland and offers big city amenities like a Trader Joes, REI and an indoor mall. It is the home of Harry and David who offer regular tours (we missed this) and has a small historic downtown (we took a self-guided walking tour using a map provided by the Visitor Center). Nearby Mt. Ashland offers skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. From cooking classes, to yoga classes, to wine tasting and lectures of every kind, you can be as busy and entertained and educated as you want to be.

And the Not so Much ~

While hubs and I really enjoyed our time in Ashland, we’re ready to move on. Here’s why.

1. It’s too expensive for us to live here on a small retirement budget. Housing costs, whether renting or buying, are out of our price range.

2. It’s too far from a major city. Five hours to Portland! Four hours across the Siskiyou mountains to Sacramento. I’m hoping for an hour or less.

3.  Flying in and out of Ashland is not easy or cheap. I learned this the hard way when I had to fly to Phoenix for work. I spent more time getting there than I did in the actual meetings.

We still have a few house-sitting gigs on the books (Washington and Mexico) and then in mid-June we’ll be loading up the SUV and heading from Portland to Colorado Springs, across the mid-west to Omaha and down through Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas. We will be checking out the towns and cities along the way. We are open for short term house sits so let us know if you or anyone you know might have a need. We’d love to hang out a while at the local coffee shop and get to know the folks in your town.

Learn more about us and our house-sitting experience at our website GlobalHouseSitPros.com

See you on the road!

Nancy

 

 

 

 

 

Top Baby Boomer Travel Blog 2015 Awards

And the winners are… pause for breath-holding… pause for envelope opening …

Well, actually there are 20 winners.  But I am beyond excited to be named one of FlipKey’s Top Baby Boomer Travel Blogs to follow in 2015.  There are some well-seasoned travelers and heavy-hitter bloggers in the mix.  And now me and Just a Backpack and a Rollie.

I’ll take it!

And hubs and I will keep on dragging our backpacks and rollies and sharing our adventures with you throughout 2015.  I’ve been busy applying for house sitting gigs all along the west coast from Canada to Mexico.  And we have some very interesting gigs in the works.

So please click on through to the wonderful post on the FlipKey blog and check out our fellow boomer travel bloggers.  They are all truly an inspiration to me.

And here is our little Award.  She’s not a gold statue, but I think she’s pretty cute.

Les & Nancy Global House Sit Pros ~ check out our new profile!

Hello, Hola, Bonjour, Ciao and Hej!

We are Les and Nancy aka the kitty whisperer (Les) and the chicken wrangler (Nancy).

Les & Nancy on the camino de santiago

Walking the Camino de Santiago

Les&Nancy2

We clean up pretty well too.

 

For the past 30+ years we have enjoyed rewarding and successful corporate careers, Les as an electrical engineer turned sales ninja and Nancy as an award-winning corporate meeting, event and travel manager. We’re retiring from the corporate life to focus on our new career as full time global house sitters.

Why House Sitting?

As long time homeowners with beloved pets of our own, we were delighted to find trusted house and pet sitters who cared for our furry family members, our house and our plants with such enthusiasm, respect and considerate care that we (finally!) felt free to go off on a vacation without worrying if a pipe might break or the plants turned brown. On top of that, our kitty (currently Mr. Ricky) could enjoy the comfort of his own home and a friendly snuggle or two.

Win. Win. Win.

It’s not always easy allowing strangers into your home, we know that. But, we also know from experience that once you make that right connection, communicate expectations clearly and develop a level of trust – house sitting will change your life. Whether you are the home owner or the house sitter.

We want to pay it forward and that’s why we started house sitting earlier this year.

Why Choose Us?

~ We are committed to being the absolute best house and pet sitters you will ever have.

~ We have an abundance of life, professional and travel experience and we’re very comfortable and adaptable in new surroundings and cultures.

~ We will confidently handle most emergencies with calm, quick-thinking action. If we can’t handle it ourselves, we’ll know who to call. That’s where our management and leadership experiences come in handy!

~ We will be respectful of your home, your possessions and your privacy. We’re homeowners ourselves and will treat yours as if it were our own.

~ We are excellent communicators. We will keep you updated as often as you like so you know everything is in good hands. We love to send photo updates!

~ We love animals of all kinds (sorry not snakes) and have shared our home with dogs, cats, hamsters, white mice, tropical fish. We’ve also learned the fine (and very fun!) art of chicken keeping through several house sits and home exchanges.

~ We’re fun, friendly, detailed oriented retirees with a zest for life, curious minds and and energetic healthy bodies. We welcome the opportunity to get our hands dirty in your garden, take long walks with your pups and keep your house in tip-top condition.

Our Skills and Experience – here’s why we are such a great team ~

Les was Director of New Business Development for a large exposition and trade show company for many years. He worked with clients from around the world to understand their specific needs and deliver their expectations on time, on budget and make it look easy. This required outstanding listening skills, the ability to communicate ideas and manage large, complicated projects. He has also been the president of our home owners association for the past five years leading our town home community through a major construction project. His vision and ability to lead both the board and the multiple contractors was key to the success of this project.

Skills Les brings ~
• handy/Mr. Fix-it
•enjoys puttering in the garden
•chief trash carrier and mail retriever
•good with a vacuum and a mop
•manager of home security
•family chef
•pooper scooper
•kitty cuddler
•extremely organized

Nancy is currently the Manager of Corporate Travel for a multi-national corporation. She leads a team that supports over 1500 corporate travelers, developing travel policy, negotiating hotel and airline agreements while ensuring the security and safety of every employee while on the road. Prior to becoming travel manager, Nancy managed corporate meetings and events. Her creative vision, team building and leadership skills combined with a focused attention to detail were crucial to her award-winning success in this arena. Nancy is also a published author with essays in two books on retirement. She blogs about retirement, travel and living the good life at www.justabackpackandarollie.com

Skills Nancy brings ~
•communication expert
•loves to garden and has a green thumb
•lead dog walker (Les always seems to tag along) and ball tosser
•keeper of schedules, lists and all other very important details
•chief bottle washer and laundry detail
•chicken wrangler, egg gather and coop scooper
•experienced with giving pet meds and care of aging pets

As a Team we ~

•believe that taking good care of your home is our most important responsibility
•are honest and reliable with local and state background checks
•work well together and with others
•appreciate the importance of maintaining a clean, well-maintained home and garden
•share house sitting responsibilities based on our individual skills and interests
•are grateful for the opportunity to travel and the wonderful new experiences that house sitting around the globe provides.

We are non-smokers who enjoy a great glass of wine and all kinds of food, we have excellent references, a strong sense of adventure and a can-do attitude.  We’re working hard to become the house sitters we’d want to hire!

If you are looking for a fantastic house sitting duo to care for your home and furry family members so you can relax and focus on your time away, please contact us.

A few of our furry and feathered friends stopped by to say Hi! and give us their stamp of approval. Pups on parade

This is the beginning of our new profile which will soon appear on our Global House Sit Pros website (in the works), and several house sitting referral sites including Trusted House Sitters. Housesit Match and Nomador.

I’d love your feedback on our “resume” and if you know anyone on the west coast (U.S. or Canada) who is looking for good house sitters, please let them know about us.  We’d love to connect with them.

This is getting really exciting!

Cheers,

Nancy

Traveling with our Taste buds ~

We love to travel.  We love to eat.  And these days we’re really into walking as a way to discover interesting places to eat. I call it traveling with our taste buds. It’s my theory that if I walk for food, I can pretty much eat whatever I want and not gain (too much) weight.

From farmers markets to cooking classes to sidewalk bistros and street carts, hubs and I have eaten our way across Portland, much of the U.S. and now we’re working on eating our way across the globe.  One tasty bite at a time.

Jamon - a staple in Spain

Jamon – a staple in Spain

A pop-up sidewalk bar just when you need one.

A pop-up sidewalk bar just when you need one.

Learning to cook Oaxacan style.

Learning to cook Oaxacan style.

Walking through a market is a must stop in a new city.

A farmer’s market is a great place to stroll (and sample) in any city.

Always try the local delicacies...at least once.

Always try the local delicacies…at least once.

Buys your tortillas by the kilo - fresh, hot and muy sabrosa

Buy your tortillas by the kilo – fresh, hot and muy sabrosa

Try it...even if you aren't sure what it is.

Be adventurous. Try it…even if you aren’t sure what it is.

We’ve got a lot of traveling ahead of us and a lot of great tastes to explore.  I’m sure some of them will be more interesting than delicious.  Let’s just say that my taste buds have a long way to go before I can truly call myself an adventurous eater.  I’m working on it.  What’s the most interesting food you’ve eaten in your travels?

Bon Appetit!

Nancy

Smitten with Chickens ~

Yep.  After a week on the farm, I am officially smitten with chickens.

chicken4

Especially the five ladies I’ve taken under my wing (so to speak) for this house sitting adventure.  I had no idea what beautiful, smart and delightfully entertaining creatures chickens are.  They are feathered comediennes and you can’t help but smile when you interact with them.

I’ve been getting to know “the girls” for several days now.  Each has a unique personality. They are very social and quite talkative.  I am totally gaga over these feathered beauties.  Last night I sat in the grass and tried my hand (with moderate success) at chicken portraiture.  chickens in the vineyard

Every evening I let them out of the chicken pen to wander freely around the lawn and into the edge of the vineyard.  They are lined up and waiting by 5:00 p.m. calling me to hop to it and open the damn gate already.  They make a break and their first stop is usually a nice dirt bath.

DSCN3884

Around dusk I head out to wrangle everyone back into the coop for the night.  My secret weapon is a big bag of Happy Hen Treats aka dried mealworms.  A few hardy shakes of the bag and the girls come running.  They are a sight to behold! DSCN3883 chickens2 chickenbutts2 Spending time with these feathered lovelies has been one of the highlights of this house sit. You never know what adventures life has in store. I am so glad I said yes to this opportunity.

Cheers from the vineyard,

Nancy

 

 

 

Create Your Roving Retirement – Part 2: Cheap Sleeps

Retirement travel doesn’t have to mean package tours, luxury cruises or high dollar hotels.  In fact, it’s my experience that if you live more like a local and less like a tourist, you can save a lot of money and have a much richer experience.  Here are a few great ways to stretch your travel dollar that I’ve mentioned before and are worth exploring.

Live Like a Local – Sleep Here

Somewhere in Spain...Nancy Slept Here

Somewhere in Spain…Nancy Slept Here

Housing will probably be your biggest travel expense.  These unique options will not only save a lot of money, but allow you to really connect with a location:

WWOOFING –   World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.  Volunteers trade farm duties for room and board. Accommodations are simple and the work can be hard at times, but if the chance to harvest grapes in Italy, learn how to make goat cheese in France, or get your hands dirty on an organic herb garden in New Zealand appeals to you, then WWOOFING is the way to go.   A surprising number of people in their 50’s, 60‘s, and beyond are signing up.  www.wwoofusa.org

Chicken wrangling...how hard can it be?

Chicken wrangling…how hard can it be?

 

Hosteling –  If you were that backpacking twenty-something, you probably remember hostels as cheap, dorm-style rooms with bunk beds and rented sheets, a bath down the hall and a party-hardy crowd.  Not a gray hair in sight.  They weren’t called youth hostels for nothing.   Much has changed.  Today more than 15% of hostelers are over 50 and the number is growing.  Now offering private rooms with baths, online booking, fresh and free linens and more, today’s hostels are catering to the mature traveler on a budget. Two things about hosteling have not changed – they are still inexpensive and a wonderful way to meet other travelers.   www.hihostels.com

Workamping –  For some folks, hitting the road in a motorhome is at the top of their retirement wish list.  But, it’s not as cheap as you might think.  When you budget for gas and campground fees, you could pay more to park you RV than you would for a moderately priced hotel room.   One unique and fun way to make your RV travel more affordable is by becoming a workamper.  Through online sites like Workamper (www.workamper.com) and Camp Host (www.camphost.org), travelers can find and apply for thousands of seasonal and year round jobs.  Many RVers work during the summer season as camp hosts, collecting  fees from campers, directing them to available sites, answering questions and watching for problems.  In return they receive a free campsite and often a small stipend.

House Sitting – Short and long time house sitting opportunities are available worldwide through online sites like House Carers (www.housecarers.com) and Trusted House Sitters (www.trustedhousesitters.com).  Most house sitting jobs involve some form of pet care and modest home maintenance like watering the plants and bringing in the mail.  Homeowners feel secure that their home is occupied and taken care of in their absence.  You get a great place to stay for free and the chance to live like a local.  Win-Win.

Remember, your first gig doesn’t have to be half way around the world.  Dip your toes into the shallow water before you make the plunge by starting closer to home.   If “Green Acres is the place for you”, why not spend a weekend getting dirt under your fingernails and sore muscles on a local farm?  If you think professional house sitting might be the way to travel, then offer your services to friends and family in the U.S.   You’ll gain valuable references and get a chance to see how comfortable you really are sleeping in a strange bed and picking up Fido’s poop.

What’s your favorite way to travel on the cheap?  We’d love to share your ideas and experiences right here on the blog. Leave us a comment.

See you on the road!

Nancy

 

Create Your Roving Retirement … Five Fun Ways to Kickstart Your Dream

“Listen to the Musn’t’s child, Listen to the Don’t’s. Listen to the Shouldn’t’s, the Impossibles, the Won’t’s. Listen to the Never Haves, then Listen close to me. ANYthing can happen, child, ANYthing can Be.”
Shel Silverstein (1930-1999);Poet, Songwriter, Musician

Maybe you were one of those 20 year old free spirits who stuffed everything they could into an over-sized backpack and set out to see the world before you settled down.  Or maybe, like most of us, you only dreamed about that kind of travel and then stepped straight onto the well-worn path already laid out for you – work, marriage, kids.   Your travel dream was put on the shelf and after a few years, the backpack went to the Goodwill.  A big trip became a week at Disney World.   It’s funny how that happens.

But those dreams never fully go away do they?  Like long lost friends, they lurk quietly in the back of our minds only to pop up as fanciful daydreams while we’re slogging through a mind-numbing day in the office or waiting in the carpool line.

What I know for sure is that for many of us, somewhere around 50 is when those old dreams start to re-surface in earnest.  Gone for a while, but not forgotten.  That travel gypsy is still alive and well.  A little older, a lot wiser, and eager to explore the world.

Don’t worry, there’s still time.

A growing number of people are becoming vagabond retirees.  People in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s are packing up their new, high-tech backpacks and heading out to become citizens of the world.

Want to join them?  It’s easy.  And it doesn’t have to blow your hard-earned retirement nest egg either.

Traveling on a retiree budget does require thinking outside the box, lots of research, some advance planning, a sense of adventure and a willingness to be flexible.

Don’t wait until you are officially retired to set your travel dreams in motion.  Include them in your planning now.  Here are a few simple ideas to get you started:

1.  Create a Travel Dream Board.  It might sound hokey, but it’s fun, it’s easy and it works!  Buy a large piece of posterboard, gather up lots of magazines, travel brochures, old photos, scissors and a glue stick.  It’s as simple as cutting out pictures and pasting them onto the board.  Don’t over-think this.  Cut out everything that catches your eye – beach sunsets, different cultures, village life, bustling cities, historical settings or mountain views.  Can you see yourself in the picture?  Then it belongs on your board.  I call this visual goal setting.

2.  Make a Wish List.   Use the images on your Dream Board to create a Wish List.  Here’s where you get more specific.  What are your must haves for a travel or retirement living destination?  Sleepy village or bustling city?  Beach or mountains?  Easy access or remote?  The options are endless, but honing this list to your top 5 or 6 must haves will give you a great jumping off point for your initial research.

3.  Do Your Research.  Whether you need resources for small hotels or hostels while backpacking through Central America, house swaps in France, or which visas are required for a trek across Tibet, it’s all available on the internet.  Find out where the best airports are, what ground transportation is cheap and easy, who speaks English, what the local currency is.

4.  Become an Arm Chair Traveler.  Read and use the country and city travel guides from Rick Steves and Lonely Planet.  Check out books from your local library.  Reading about the adventures of buying and fixing up a run down farm in Portugal, living the gypsy life on a boat in the Caribbean, or women walking all 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago, is very inspiring and educational.

5.  Get Connected.   Find and connect with the folks who are blazing the trail ahead of you.  Ask questions and get the scoop from people who have been there, done that.  It’s helpful to know the good, the bad, and the “never again” about a place before you go.  Start reading travel blogs.  Many are filled with first hand information, great personal stories and links to more resources.

I hope these ideas give you a good starting point.  I have LOTS more information and some great ideas and resources that I’ve learned from all my research that I’ll be sharing in future posts so stay tuned.  There is so much inspiration and adventure to be found in the planning process.  Let’s get going! bridge

See you on the road,

Nancy

Fabulous and Still Free ~ Attractions to Visit in America

vintage disney Remember the good old days, when people could set aside a few dollars and head out for trips of wonder and excitement?  It didn’t take a small loan or the sale of your firstborn to create memories that lasted a lifetime.  Set the wayback machine for 1971 when a mere $4.50 (adult) or $3.50 (child) bought you entry into the Magic Kingdom of Disneyland where you could wander from dawn to dusk.  It also bought you a book of ride tickets rated from A-E.  The “E” ticket was highly coveted as it took you on the best and biggest rides in the park.  Your $4.50 bought 1A ticket, 1B, 1C, 2D tickets and 2 E tickets.  As kids, we quickly learned about prioritizing and rationing!   One C ticket (or 50 cents if you wanted to go again) got you a ride in one of Davey Crockett’s canoes in Frontierland.  The E ticket took you on a gondola ride through It’s a Small World (don’t start humming the song or it’ll be in your head all day) or bought you a front row seat at The Mickey Mouse Review.

Fast forward to 2014 and What the Heck Happened?

A trip to the Magic Kingdom today will set you back a cool $92.00 (adult) and $86.00 (child).  Yikes!  You can ride any attraction you like as many times as you like, but only if you are willing to stand in line for 45 minutes.   Whoopie!   Universal Studios, another “must see” on so many vacation lists, costs $84.00 in Hollywood and $92.00 in Orlando.

A family of four or two retirees taking the grandkids on a vacation, might have to take out a second mortgage to have this kind of fun.  And pack a lunch.

Which got me thinking:  “Are there any great places to visit or attractions to see that are still free?”  Or at least cheap?

Turns out there are quite a few.  And a lot of folks are making a pilgrimage to these wonderful sites part of their vacation travels.   I’ve been to a few, but not nearly enough.  I see a road trip or two in my future.  What about you?

In order of absolutely no importance, every one of these attractions is worth a visit while the price is still right.

1.  The Smithsoniam Museums, Washington, D.C.  –  The National Zoo, National Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum are the crown jewels of the 18 Smithsonian institutions in Washington D.C.   Where else can you see The Hope Diamond, Dorothy’s Red Slippers and the Spirit of St. Louis all in the same day and all for free?

2.  The National Mall and Washington D.C. Memorials –  The nation’s capital takes it’s “by the people for the people” ethos seriously (at least when it comes to buildings and monuments) and a surfeit of attractions honoring the country’s heritage cost nothing to tour – landmarks along the Mall, the Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and the moving memorials to the veterans of WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnman War should be on every American’s must see at least once bucket list.

3.  New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park – While most national parks were established to preserve and share nature, this one celebrates jazz in it’s birthplace, New Orleans.   You’ll enjoy live music in the French Quarter, a music workshop for kids at Preservation Hall every Saturday, free guided walks and video documentaries and a whole lot more.

4.  The Getty Center, Los Angeles – Admission is free.  Parking is $15.00 but it’s still a deal and you can take public transporation.   The Getty is a sprawling art complex that sits high on a hill with jaw dropping views and sunsets.  Browse their impressive collection of European and American art, stroll the fabulous gardens or take the young ones to enjoy the Family Room for interactive exhibits and an art treasure hunt.   I just checked and the cost of admission to our Portland Art Museum is $15.00 for an adult, so the Getty seems like a real deal.

5.  Staten Island Ferry, New York City –  There’s still something free in NYC.  Who would have guessed.  A thrill ride on the Staten Island commuter ferry will take you past the Statue of Liberty with a panoramic view of downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jersey City.  Even better when the city lights up.  It’s free 24/7 so you can ride any time.

6.  Harley-Davidson Factory Tour, Kansas City, MO –  Here’s your chance to go behind the scenes to see how Harley’s are made.  Take the tour to learn how fenders and gas tanks are formed from raw materials, watch live welding, frame bending and sophisticated robot technology at work.  You can even sit on hogs currently in production.  Selfie time!  (Tours are also available in Menomonee Falls, WI and York, PA).  They offer more in-depth tours for a whopping $30.00 so stick with the freebie.

7.  Freedom Trail, Boston, MA –  Walking the red brick path as it winds through metropolitan Boston is a walk through colonial history:  Boston Commons, the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere’s house and Bunker Hill Monument.  You can take this walk at your leisure (for free) or pony up for an official tour with a guide in period costume.

8.  Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota –  It’s free to take in this amazing feat of art and architecture.  Where else but in the good ole USofA would you find 60 foot tall heads of four American presidents (Jefferson, Roosevelt (Theodore), Washington and Lincoln) painstakingly chiseled into granite cliffs?  It does cost to park, but it’s still South Dakota’s most visited attraction.

9.  Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO – The Colorado Springs Center is one of three facilities in the U.S. where Olympic hopefuls put in long hours to prepare for their shot at the gold.  You can tour this facility, which mainly focuses on summer indoor sports like swimming and fencing.  Always wanted to sit in a bobsled?  Here’s your chance.

10.  Royal Hawaiian Center, Honolulu, HI –  Immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture and history with a visit to this recently remodeled attraction.  Experiences include everything from traditional Hawaiian massage (lomilomi), lei making, Hawaiian quilting, hula dancing or a crash course in ukulele making.

Been there?  Done that?  Here are ten more.  Get there and enjoy the experience while they are still free.

11.  Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia

12.  Conservatory at Bellagio, Las Vegas

13.  National September 11 Memorial, NYC

14.  Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago

15.  San Francisco Cable Car Museum

16.  Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco – Yes you can walk across, enjoy the spectacular views, eat in the restaurant

17.  Birmingham Botanical Gardens, AL

18.  Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA for some eerie Gothic charm or the Westminister Hall Cemetery in Baltimore, MD, the eternal resting place of Edgar Allen Poe.

19.  Houston Museum District, Houston – 19 museums within a 1.5 mile radius.  12 are free daily.

20.  Allagash Brewery Tour, Portland, ME – Make an advance reservation, wear closed toe shoes and start your tour with free samples.

Got a favorite free attraction that you want to share?  Please leave a comment!

See you on the road!

Two For the Road ~ 5 traits that make a great travel partner

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you ~

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you ~

 Let the Adventure Begin.

The photo above accompanied by the caption “Let the Adventure Begin” was how hubs and I chose to announce our marriage in 2003.  I thought the couple in this photo looked like a perfect team – happy partners in crime and in life.

Whether you are a duo on the Road to Zanzibar or the Road of Life, traveling with a partner can be tricky business.  One of the things I love about my hubby is that we travel well together.  As we get closer to heading out on our own Two For the Road adventures I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what makes a really good team.  For me it comes down to a few very important traits.

Here are the top five on my list ~

Every great team needs…

1.  A Yes Man, a partner who says Hell Yes or Why Not to whatever crazy idea you come up with.  Someone who is all in for a good time or an adventure and doesn’t sweat the details.  When you say “Just shut up and get in the car.”  That’s exactly what they do.  They might even roll down the window and hang their head out to feel the breeze.  Oh, wait.  That’s the dog.

2.  A partner who is calm during your storm.  Like the time a few years ago when Amtrak cancelled our train with no warning – just taped up a hand printed paper sign “No Train Today”.  No train?  Really?  I’m on a five day vacation!  I need the train TODAY!   That’s when you need a partner who stands back calmly while you throw an earth-shattering-all out-but-still-lady-like-bitch fit after the Amtrak service person says, “Ok. So, do you want to cancel now or do you want to come back tomorrow?”  and, then said partner calmly steps up, takes your arm, and says “Let’s go find a Happy Hour and come back in the morning”.  Happy Hour?  Ok.  I love Happy Hour.

3.  The guy in the rose colored glasses.  On those days when one of you is less than your shining best – let’s just call it major-ass cranky-pants and your partner looks over and says  “Have I told you today how crazy I am about you?”  Whoa!  Hello Dolly! Just the right words at the right time.  Well, rightbackattcha Big Boy.

4.  A comedian and a straight man.  You know, like George and Gracie, Lucy and Ricky, Will and Grace.  Every great comedy duo has an instigator, the comedian with the cockeyed point of view and the straight man who makes it all seem funny.  They are a finely oiled machine.  They play off each other.  They give as good as they get.  They make each other laugh.

5.  And, finally, you’ve each gotta be a switch hitter.  A great partnership works when you can switch roles easily and as often as required.  When you’re at the end of your rope – he’s just getting his strength.  When he’s too pooped to participate, you slow your frantic pace and stop to smell the roses.  It’s a balancing act and it works best when each person is tuned in to the other, to the moment, to the goal at hand, and to the bigger picture.

And so, ten years later, I say – Let The Adventure Continue.  We’re two for the road and I cannot wait to see where the road will lead us.

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something we must always remember.  We are braver than we believe, stronger than we seem and smarter than we think.  But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… we’ll always be together.”  Christopher Robin

I originally published a version of this post back in 2012.  It seemed like a perfect post for Valentine’s Day so I dusted it off, prettied it up a bit and thought I’d share it again.

Cheers!

Nancy

What’s in a Word? Sometimes more than you thought.

This fun post is courtesy of my friends over at International Living

It made me smile because I could really relate.  I’ve been struggling to become conversant in Spanish for the past six months.  If you want to know about mi gato o mi familia o mi casa, you’re in luck, but try for anything more meaningful and tenemos un problema grande.

These Spanish Words Are Not Your Friends…
By Tara Lowry

The first time I went to a Spanish speaking country I figured that needing to know the language was over-rated. I jumped on a plane bound for Spain with an exaggerated sense of confidence, and a tiny phrase book that I assumed would cover everything I needed.

After landing in Madrid, I found my way to the train that would take me to my destination: the beautiful city of Seville in Andalusia.

Despite the jet lag, I was feeling pretty chipper until someone came to tell me that I was in the wrong seat. The number I had on the ticket matched where I was sitting so I couldn’t understand the problem or where I was supposed to be, if not there. It turns out I was in the wrong car and it took them half the trip to communicate it to me, much to their frustration and my bewilderment.

When the taxi that I took from the train station stopped outside of my new home in Seville, the driver said something to me and pointed at the door. I assumed he was in a hurry and wanted me to get out. After nearly being run over by a motorbike and being yelled at by both drivers, I realized that he was telling me to wait to open the door: “No abras la puerta.”

I enrolled in a Spanish language school the next day.

As soon as I started taking classes, I fell in love with El Español. I was delighted to realize how many Spanish words sounded similar to the English versions. My teacher called them cognates: artist—artista; tourist—turista; university—universidad; family—familia. It was so easy! (Or so I thought…) Whenever I didn’t know the Spanish word for something I just said it in English but made small adaptations to make it sound more Spanish.

That was until a couple of months later when I unintentionally made a big announcement at a dinner party hosted by my new Spanish beau’s parents. After accidentally spilling wine all over his mother, I attempted to apologize and convey my embarrassment. I told her (in front of everyone) that I was “embarazada.” I found out the hard way about false cognates and how to say the word “pregnant” in Spanish. It turns out that even though a word sounds similar in English and Spanish, the meanings can be very, very different.

This would not be my only encounter with false cognates or “false friends” as they are also known. I also discovered (to the great amusement of my Spanish friends) that:

Preservativos are not preservatives but rather condoms!

If someone asks you if you are “constipada,” they are asking if you have a cold or a stuffy nose.

If you want to say you are excited about something, say “emocionado/a” and not “excitado/a,” which means aroused.

“Molestar” is to bother or annoy. I learned this after a very confusing conversation where someone was telling me about his dislike of clowns…

“Ropa” is not rope. “Ropa” means “clothing”. I found this out when I attempted to ask a storekeeper to cut off a piece of string from a package I had just purchased. Not knowing the word for string I figured that “ropa” would be close enough. It wasn’t. I ended up asking him to cut off his clothes.

While it’s not necessary to be fluent when you live in a Spanish-speaking country, having a base sure helps. That little bit of grammar and vocabulary you learn will come in handy in unimaginable situations. Plus the more you learn, the richer your new life will become. Just remember: making a bit of a fool out of yourself is all part of the process (and, as I prove, can lead to some very funny stories). And watch out for those false friends! madridrestaurant I totally agree with Tara’s comment that the ability to converse makes your travel experience so much richer.  It’s scary to stumble through a conversation and nobody (me) enjoys playing the fool, but Tara’s experience inspires me.   Who knows, you might make a new friend and get to sample the delicious ceviche.

¡ Salud! Nos vemos en el camino

Nancy

Gracias International Living for allowing me to share this post.