...constantly searching to find the best travel deals and places to visit. A never-ending quest for adventure!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Railway followup

I forgot to include a few important details regarding the 15 days worth of Trans-Siberian train travel mentioned yesterday...some that could impact your desire to partake in the trip.

First, you can't just go to Russia and get on the train - you have to get 'invited' to get a visa.  Needs to be done ahead of time.

Second, you may need a second one if you plan to do the Beijing or Mongolia option.

Third, it's 15 days on a train.  With no showers.  Granted you're not doing too much exertion or physical activity, but still...plan accordingly.

Fourth, no internet.  It's outer Siberia, after all.  Better bring a book or two.  Or four.

I still want to do this trip, that is for sure.  It just means whenever I do end up going, some planning will need to be involved. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Trans-Siberian Express

For whatever reason, today so far has been a very blah day for me.  I'm not sure why, since its supposed to be another day of sun and 82 degrees outside.  Maybe it's because I'm cooped up here in my non-windowed office.  Maybe it's the three homework projects that need to be done in the next three weeks and are weighing a bit.  Or maybe its something else entirely.  On to today's highlight:

It's the world's longest continuous rail line, almost 6000 miles long and crossing 8 time zones.  It can be done in about two weeks, and has possible stopovers in Beijing and Mongolia. Last check on a price via tour... $4200 for up to 15 days (although single prices tend to be higher).  Well worth it in my book.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Easter on an Island

Can you guess where today's Place of the Day is located?  I think my title gave it away, but the reason I chose this place is because it is a highlighted place to visit when you have tons of frequent flyer miles in the OneWorld Alliance to burn and don't know where to go (at least, that's what I've read ever since British Airways miles have now switched to Avios points...good grief).  So here it is...Easter Island (no rabbits included):

Billed as one of the most isolated places on earth, it's home to the the giant stone monoliths that seem to crop up in many movies.  Much research has been done to try and unravel how the statues were constructed, and there is still a mystery behind how they got placed on the coastline.  Well worth any adventure to visit and see!

Friday, November 25, 2011

White Rice vs Brown Rice

This particular question has been on my mind for some time, as one of my favorite eateries offers both white and brown rice options for their food offerings (ala Chipotle), and I love rice.  I must admit that I've probably eaten much more white rice than brown since that's all that was offered up until recently, but having now sampled the brown rice option I must also admit that the taste was relatively similar.

So...what does it matter?  Which is better? Here's what I've found so far:

From Care2.com
Brown Rice is the whole grain with just the first outer layer (husk or hull) removed through milling. It still retains its fiber and the germ which contains many of the most vital nutrients.
White rice is brown rice that has first been milled to take away the bran and much of the germ. This reduces the fiber and many nutrients. It is further polished to take away the remaining layer of germ (called the aleurone layer) which contains its essential oils. It is these oils which oxidize and go rancid.

Nutrient-wise, brown rice has:
  • twice the manganese and phosphorus of white.
  • 2.5 times the iron.
  • 3 times the vitamin B3.
  • 4 times the vitamin B1.
  • 10 times the vitamin B6.
And according to the research it is a great source of manganese, essential for energy production, antioxidant activity, and sex hormone production.  It also tends to lower cholesterol and reduces the risk for diabetes.  

White rice though is generally easier to digest, and remains one of the largest products consumed.  It offers slightly less calories consumed, but seems to give less vitamins and nutrients.

Guess I'll be making the switch over to brown rice...bring it on!

Sad Mac face?

Thanksgiving week meant my posts ended up being cut back a bit - sorry about that.  Hope everyone had a lot to eat, and rooted on the Packers winning. 

Can't help but highlight this story about the lady who created many of the cool Mac icons...hopefully noone reading this has ever gotten the 'sad mac face' on their screen.


I guess I won't hold it against her that she also designed icons for Windows.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

walking the wall...Hadrian's, that is

Feeling a little down today, but here's a Place of the Day post nonetheless.  This place has been on my list for a long time...someday I'll get there.

Hadrian's Wall - Hexham, Northumberland, England

Still standing (for the most part) after 1800 years of change...a testament to its builders.  Over 73 miles long originally, with a well-preserved 10 mile stretch near Northumberland that can still be visited.  Langley Castle is the best place to start from...before you begin your walk in history.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

bah humbug...not really

I have this personal rule about Christmas-related things that I don't make an effort to think or deal with anything Christmas-related until at least after Thanksgiving.  The reason for this is because, quite honestly, it seems as though the Hallmark holiday gods seem to want to move every holiday up in the calendar to make more money.  And now they're talking about starting Black Friday sales for some stores at 12:01am???   Earlier and earlier. 

So...I had a personal bah humbug moment yesterday while shopping at CVS and hearing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen playing over the store sound system.  Come on, really?  The gentlemen shouldn't be resting until they've eaten Thanksgiving dinner. 

Or at least said Thanks.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Huka Lodge

No, sadly, it's not what you think - although I could have walked down the street in San Diego and found a place about every 5 blocks or so.

This particular highlighted place of the day is Lake Taupo and Huka Lodge - North Island, New Zealand

Otherwise known as the Rainbow Trout capital of the Universe, and apparently they're not kidding - average catch is 4 pounds (and 20 pounders are also possible).  The lodge itself was the inspiration for parts of Return to Paradise, and is amazingly situated in the beautiful outdoors.  Oh, and did I mention there's cool volcano things to see as well?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Today's (and yesterday's) Place of the Day: Kangaroo Island, South Australia

 It's Australia's third largest island, and home to amazing scenery and animals.  I love the fact that sheep outnumber residents 300 to 1.  Wild kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, and penguins can be seen just about everywhere you go.  Want to find a Sea Lion?  Look no farther than Seal Bay.  Definitely worth the charter to see and experience...and who doesn't love seeing a penguin?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Adele fatigue

I don't know if it's just me, but I'm really tired of hearing Adele songs on anything...radio, Spotify, web stream, anything.  Don't get me wrong...she has a good voice and all, but it's very rigid at times and can be piercing.  And it doesn't matter which iTunes radio station I choose, they are always playing Adele.  I realize that frequency of play is based on the studios, marketing, and brand management, but still.

No more Adele.  Please.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Friday on a Thursday...in Roatan

Am I the only person that looks forward to a short week of work?  I'm sure not. This just happens to be another short week with a holiday tomorrow (Veteran's Day) and for that I will not complain, but rejoice.  I also will take the opportunity to thank all of the veterans and military for their continued service in defense of our country and freedom.  I'm proud that past and current members of my own family have chosen to serve, and for that I will always be grateful and proud.

Today's Place of the Day: Roatan - Bay Islands, Honduras

After the Great Barrier Reef, this is the next most famous set of reefs you'd want to visit.  Roatan as the only paved road on all of the islands, and have some of the greatest diversity of chorals in the world.  The Institute for Marine Sciences is available as a step-off point for your adventure.  Snorkel away!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My 300th post...in Nantucket

I feel like I should go and buy myself a special prize...this is my 300th post on this blog!  Hard to believe 300 different musings have been posted, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas and hope you've enjoyed them as well. 

Was thinking I should try to find a special, out of the ordinary, noone would ever pick this, type of place for today's 'place of the day', but I thought I'd choose a place I keep drinking juice from but have yet to set my feet on shore:

The island's name means "faraway land"- only 30 miles off the coast though.  12,000 residents inhabit the 49-square-mile island, but that number grows exponentially during summer.  I can't wait to get on the ferry and visit - between the beaches and the mansions built in the 1700's, I may not come back!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

8-0 is a good place to be

(photo courtesy of jsonline)
I'm very happy to report that the Packers did end up winning on Sunday...poor Chargers.  Provided the Packer defense begins to figure things out and not make stupid blown coverage plays, things will keep right on humming for the offense.  Lucky us. 

I'll be back to my 'place of the day' posts starting today...check back in a bit for a new location to visit!

Also wanted to share some advice I just read about booking holiday flights (if you haven't already done so):
The average airfare for domestic travel in the US around December 25 is $433, and making your booking during the first week of December up until the 10th of the month yields the best deals—about 6% below average—before prices begin to rise again. For domestic fares, the highest holiday prices were actually paid by the early birds back in July, who paid up to 27% more than the rest of us for their tickets.

For international travel originating in the US, the average airfare around December 25 is a whopping $1,251. For these flights, the lowest fares were booked back in July (sorry procrastinators!) and were a decent 16% below the average fare, while the highest prices are paid in late December (last-minute) and are an astonishing 40% above average!

Thanks to the Points Guy for this analysis!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Packers vs Chargers

Yep...it's this weekend in San Diego...Chargers play the Packers.  And the game actually won't be blacked out.

Bold Prediction: Packers 31, Chargers 30

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: Sino Thai

I love Thai food.  And I love being able to try new Thai food restaurants to see what kind of variety I might be able to find.  I was once again successful in finding this variety when visiting Sino Thai, near Waterloo in London.

Located down a back side street near the brand new Park Plaza hotel, Sino has a very welcoming facade and a pleasant dining atmosphere. Seating occurred quickly, and overall service was excellent.  The menu has a full variety of Thai dishes and curries, with both meat and vegetarian options.  My choice was a tender chicken and green dish with sauce on a bed of fried rice (served on the side).  The meat was some of the best chicken I've ever tasted at a Thai restaurant, while the rice could have had a bit more flavor.  Menu prices were not too high, and there were even after-dinner mints to finish the meal.

I would like to visit Sino again, and cant wait to try another dish.  Give them a try if you're in the area!

Global entry works

Yes, I am a fan of Global Entry.  It took me literally 15 seconds to go through Passport control and immigration while coming back from my ILA trip.  Talk about no stress of having to stand in line and wait forever for an agent to ask you questions and stamp your book.  And you also don't have to fill out that customs declaration form either.

For those of you who don't know, Global Entry is the new system by which trusted travlers are allowed expedited entry into the country from being abroad. You can find more info about it here. There is a minor cost involved over 5 years, but based on this last weekend, it's worth every penny.  Especially when that 747 has to deplane and you're standing in line for an hour.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

do I have to?

It's amazing how jetlag plays tricks with your mind.  One minute you're wide awake and think you can conquer the world, and the next minute all you want to do is shut your eyes for just one second and everything will be better.  Right.  And before you know it you're fast asleep and wondering why everyone is staring at your when you jerk awake. 

I'm back to school and work and everything else after a great ILA conference, and my 'place of the day' feature will resume tomorrow after I've had a chance to finish going through the 700+ work emails that were waiting for me when I got back.  Any volunteers to help me get through them all?

I wish I had a virtual shredding machine.