Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Q is for Queensland

During the 14 months we lived Down Under, we only traveled once to Queensland – Australia’s second largest state that covers the continent’s entire northeast.

Queensland’s main attraction is a gorgeous coastline stretching nearly 7,000km that is home to the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system. Although there are dozens of tours exploring the GBR, I think your best option is to depart from Port Douglas.

During our long weekend trip to Queensland, we flew into the city of Cairns and quickly retreated up north to a quiet beach town called Palm Cove, which seemed less touristy than other destinations. I selected a snorkeling tour with Silver Series which allowed a bus pick-up from Palm Cove for an additional cost. The whole point of this trip was to have a relaxing weekend on the beach so we wanted to limit our driving as much as possible.

We quickly departed the bus once we arrived at the Port Douglas Marina and followed through an efficient queue that led us out to our awaiting catamaran. Palm trees and clear blue waters seemed to flank the marina in every direction I looked. I’m sure Port Douglas would have been a pleasant place to stay as well.
Of course the main highlight of this trip was snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef – an experience that we’ll never forget! If you’re looking for more articles about Queensland, then please check out: Dreaming of Palm Trees in Palm Cove, Under the Sea and Snorkeling Among Colorful Coral in the Great Barrier Reef. 

I’m linking this post to the monthly travel guide link up organized by Fiona, a fellow Australian blogger, at Tiffin Bite Sized Food Adventures. Each month features a new letter of the alphabet. This month is the letter “Q.” Please pop on over to Fiona’s blog to read more travel stories or feel free to link up your own!

(Note: Q can be a challenging letter. I thought of previous trips to Quintana Roo and Querétaro in Mexico and of course anything related to Queen Elizabeth or QueenVictoria. Good luck thinking of Q!)
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My Traveling Joys

Monday, October 17, 2016

On what happened to be one of the hottest days of summer during my recent U.S. trip, I dragged my college girlfriend around with me to look for street art in Philadelphia.

Normally, we meet up in my homestate of Nebraska, but this year she had moved to Philly so we set out to explore her new city for the afternoon.

I had read about and wanted to walk along the city’s Mural Mile, which consists of 17 commissioned murals in the city center on a route that’s actually 2.5 miles long. The murals are quite diverse and interesting! The city’s Mural Arts Program, created in the 1980s in response to the city’s graffiti problem, has helped put over 3,600 designs across the city. You can find a Mural Mile Map here and can even download an audio tour if you visit Philadelphia yourself. The program also offers several guided tours in case you don’t want to do the DIY version.

Even though we were sweating like crazy outside, we stumbled upon several of the large-scale murals while we admired the city’s architecture. Other friends might have balked about being outside during the heat, but Julie knows my crazy ways. We had a lot of fun gossiping about our old college days and talking about our latest moves.

Walking through downtown Philly amounts to a stroll through the world’s largest outdoor art gallery. I wasn’t able to find all the names for each mural we saw, but at least you can see some of the city’s talented artists for yourself below.
The Philadelphia Muses, located at the corner of 13th and Locust streets, features the nine classical Greek muses of the arts and each one is modeled after a real Philadelphian. For example, the woman in the green dress is the muse of Performance and the man in the coat is the muse of Word.
Finding Home’s theme revolves around homelessness and was made with the help of a number of Philly’s homeless residents.
Building the City mural is painted on the side of a historical building on Moravian Street. The mural, spanning more than one wall, is the artists’s tribute to Philadelphia architecture and features workers pouring steel, the main component of the city’s skyscrapers.
Women of Progress depicts the change in work and gender roles of women.
Spring mural by David Guinn depicts a spring day with Bradford pear and dogwood trees blooming in the city.
Gimme Shelter is dedicated to the city’s dogs and cats that find homes through the local animal shelters. 
The 55’x165′ Pride and Progress mural, located at 1315 Spruce Street, depicts a gay pride festival in the midst of nearby landmarks, including the Drake Hotel.
Last year, Pope Francis was added to the wall of this popular dive bar, Dirty Franks, located at 13th and Pine streets just in time for his Papal visit. The original mural was created in 2001 by local artist, David McShane, and features the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Aretha Franklin and other well-known “Franks.”
If you visit Philly, be sure to take some time to explore the city’s rich street art scene which includes several hundred murals in addition to the Mural Mile downtown.

My Traveling Joys

Monday, September 19, 2016

P is for Pergamon, Turkey

When we lived in Turkey, we tried to visit as many historical sites as we could. We loved taking road trips over the long holiday weekends during the year and exploring the ancient ruins, which I still think are even better than ones in Greece. On one such Turkey trip, we visited the historical site of Pergamon, an ancient Greek city, located 26 km (16 miles) from the Aegean Sea and about 90 minutes north of Izmir.

Pergamon (also called Pergamum) was settled by the Greeks in the 8th century BC, and was ruled by one of Alexander the Great’s generals around 320 BC as part of the Kingdom of Pergamon. The city was given to the Roman Republic in 133 BC to prevent a civil war, and briefly became the capital of the Roman province of Asia before the capital was transferred to Ephesus. The latter history included many different rulers and conquerors as well as a damaging earthquake that pretty much displaced the population. In 2014, Pergamon was added to the UNESCO World heritage list for Turkey.

Pergamon also is considered an important Biblical place as it is cited in the Book of Revelation as one of the Seven Churches of Asia.

As usual, the Greeks picked an excellent natural setting for a theater, with a view that extends for miles and would have included Aegean Sea views approximately 2,000 years ago. The acropolis of Pergamum covers a steep hilltop, so you can only imagine how much Greek and Roman civil engineering work went into creating this amazing structure!
Just hanging out at the ancient Greek theater at Pergamon, Turkey.
Another interesting fact is that Pergamum was a great center of learning and once had a huge library of 200,000 scrolls that were (probably and unfortunately) given to Cleopatra by Marc Antony as a wedding gift in 41 BC. At least, you can still see the remains of the library here today.

During our visit, we simply enjoyed walking around the site of Pergamon on our own and taking photos as often as possible. It still amazes me how many historical sites like this Turkey has and that locals as well as archaeologists are still discovering these today such as a Poseidon mosaic recently found in southwestern Turkey.


I’m linking this post to the monthly travel guide link up organized by Fiona, a fellow Australian blogger, at Tiffin Bite Sized Food Adventures. Each month features a new letter of the alphabet. This month is the letter “P.” Please pop on over to Fiona’s blog to read more travel stories or feel free to link up your own!
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My Traveling Joys

Thursday, September 8, 2016

After enjoying a delicious seasonal fig tart made by one of my pastry chef friends, I decided to go for a wander in New York City.
When you’re in NYC, don’t forget to have dessert at Craft Restaurant.
Even though I only called the Big Apple home for 3 years before we moved abroad, this place does feel more like “home” to me. NYC is like a favorite blanket – sometimes it’s too hot and uncomfortable and other times, it feels just right.

My wanderings took me to Union Square, and since it happened to be a Wednesday, the splendid Union Square Greenmarket was overflowing with boxes and wooden bins of colorful produce. Again, I was in my happy place since I love visiting markets, in case you couldn’t tell from my last few blog posts.
This world-famous market began with just a few farmers in 1976 and has grown immensely over the years to include as many as 140 regional farmers, bakers and cheese makers during peak season. Early September means the market is literally bursting with the last of summer produce – apples, berries, beans, eggplants, heirloom tomatoes, peaches and squashes as well as gluten-free goodies, artisan pickles and farm-made cheeses.

I thought I’d share the rainbow of colors I discovered at the Union Square Greenmarket. Hope you’re enjoying the last of summer wherever you may be or the first of spring for my Down Under readers!

Union Square Greenmarket is located in Union Square Park. The market is generally open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
My Traveling Joys

Sunday, September 4, 2016

While enjoying our café crèmes and morning pastries in Paris, an elderly lady dressed in her Sunday best asked us in French if she could sit in the spare seat at our table.

Of course, we smiled and motioned to her to please sit down since my French is solely based on ordering food. Then, our African-German friend, who’s fluent in French, German and English, started speaking to her in French. That’s when we learned the historic market of Marché d’Aligre – a true neighborhood market established in 1777 – is under threat by the local council. Now, we may not have understood everything exactly, but from what we did understand, this grandmotherly, French lady told us she is one of the local activists who is trying to make sure this market remains for centuries to come.
How sad that the neighbors would complain that the market is too noisy or should operate on fewer days! Or that the council should try and raise the stall holder rates so fewer stall holders can afford to operate here! What’s the fun in buying sterile produce at the local Monoprix?

I love markets! And Marché d’Aligre, located in the 12th arrondissment, is no different than others we’ve visited around the world – vibrant, bustling with local flavor and bursting with seasonal produce so ripe that you could smell the summer melons throughout the market. I love wandering through the chaotic noise of vendors touting their wares, taking everything in and sampling any sweet thing or a tasty bit of heirloom tomatoes or melon that may be offered to me.
Marché d'Aligre, located in the middle of Place d’Aligre, started as a hay market before the area was even part of Paris, back when it was still the suburb of Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Later, the vendors sold cheap clothes to the poor; and in the 19th century, the neighborhood became home to North African immigrants, maghrébins, travelling by train from Marseille. I learned that many of today’s vendors are third- or fourth-generation maghrébins who have followed their parents and grandparents in the family trade – with the market permits being passed down from father to son. The market has a mix of Arabic, French and a few odd tourists like ourselves thrown into the mix.

Next to the plaza is a historic, covered market called Marché Beauvau that was built in the mid-19th century. Inside, you’ll find vendors selling charcuterie, fresh produce that will cost you a bit more than the outside stalls, beautiful pastries and some of the most amazing fromage you’ve ever seen or smelled.
If you like cheese that smells like sweaty, old running shoes or loads of black truffles, then Fromagerie Hardouin-Langlet is your place. I love stinky, oozing cheese and couldn’t resist buying a triple crème, half of Chaource and a wedge of brie layered with black truffles. Not
cheap at 21.53 euros, but totally worth it!

Another place we loved inside Marché Beavau was JoJo & Co, a delightful pastry shop owned by pastry chef Johanna Roques who creates gorgeous gateaux, marvelous macarons and terrific little tarts.
Right outside the market is another recommended pastry shop called Boulangerie Julien. If you don’t mind standing in line for a 10-15 minutes, you’ll be treated to flaky croissants and other pretty pastries.
The outdoor stalls that fill Place d’Aligre are only open in the mornings from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays to Sundays. The inside covered market operates in the mornings as well as later in mid-afternoon. Best to check the websites for exact details.
Come the afternoon, the streets will be swept clean of any veggie scraps and floral stems and you’d never even know a market and had been there!

Every time I visit Paris, I learn something new about this amazing city. I don’t focus on the touristy sights, instead choosing to wander with my camera and follow up on a few foodie recommendations. No two visits are ever the same. Thanks to our French-speaking friend I learned insider knowledge about this market. A smile goes a long way even when you don’t speak much French.

If you happen to find yourself near Place Bastille on any day but a Monday, please do yourself a favor and wander on down to the magical Marché Aligre before someone decides to shut it down! Your taste buds will thank you for it!
I couldn’t resist buying 200 grams of these gorgeous mushrooms to make my Chantrelle Mushroom Risotto at home in London.
Other interesting articles I found online about Marché d’Aligre:
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