United Kingdom Adventure: Airbnb Perfection in Glasgow

In her earlier post, Angela mentioned that we found in Glasgow the epitome of the Airbnb experience, and she is correct without a doubt. But first, let me be very clear on this. We have had the pleasure and extremely good fortune of staying at some spectacular Airbnb properties around the world, immersing ourselves in authentic culture and cuisine, and meeting hosts that we now consider dear friends. The Airbnb dynamic, if you are bold enough to openly embrace it, can be one of the most rewarding benefits of world travel. It can also be something of a gamble. You are, after all, putting your vacation experience into the hands of individuals. Amateurs, if you will. So don't expect turn-down service, consistently hot showers, or reliable wifi connectivity every time.

United Kingdom Adventure: Missing the Boat

We had such a wonderful day seeing the sights on the Isle of Man as we drove from one end of country to the other that we almost didn't want to leave the next morning. And thanks to Manx Ferries, we almost didn't get to.  Mike purchased our ferry tickets from Douglas, Isle of Man, to Heysham, England, before we left the U.S., and the plan was to take the train through England to Glasgow, Scotland, which was the next stop on our U.K. adventure. We were foot passengers, meaning we didn't have a vehicle to transport on the ferry, and we only had carry-on luggage, so we thought arriving 45 minutes prior to departure would give us plenty of time. We were wrong. 

United Kingdom Adventure: Isle of Man

There is a running (and sometimes heated) debate among the Irish, the Scots, and the Welsh, arguing over whose heritage is more Celtic. I'm all about a passionate discourse concerning history and philosophy, especially when it's held over a few pints in a local pub. Everyone always walks (staggers) away unconvinced, but agreeing to disagree, with nothing solved. And the world just keeps turning, oblivious. During our whirlwind tour of the UK and our short time on the Isle of Man, we were privileged to hear more than one Manxman's contribution to the Celtic argument. And I must say that I was swayed, not only because of the conviction displayed by those we met, but because of the uniquely un-British culture we experienced. The Isle of Man is a small and fiercely beautiful destination. Proud, independent locals boast of their Tynwald as the world's oldest continually-sitting parliament. They mint their own currency, the Manx pound. And they host the TT Races, the world's premier motorcycle road race.

United Kingdom Adventure: Five Countries in Eight Days

More and more frequently these days, our travel adventures begin with an amazing deal on airfare. Last April, I came across an Air France promotion from Washington, D.C., to Dublin for just $314 per person round trip, and I couldn't pass it up. The travel dates were 11 months away, but that gave us plenty of time to decide what we wanted to do and see while we were there. You must know that when you tell Mr. Mike Ballard that you have tickets to Dublin, you will be seeing much more than just Dublin -- and much more than just Ireland! He planned an amazing itinerary for us that included stops in Ireland, Isle of Man, England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland in March 2017 as a belated Valentine's Day adventure.

Website Wednesday: Travellerspoint

If you're an avid traveler, it can be difficult to keep up with details on everywhere you've been. You know you went to the United Kingdom, but was the great little pub with the live music in Glasgow or Dublin? Did you take the hike to the tide pools on St. Croix or Bonaire? And what year did you ride the train through Spain? Was it Spain? The more we travel (and the older we get), the more we want to chronicle all of the terrific little details that make each trip so special. To do this, we use Travellerspoint. According to the website, "The goal of Travellerspoint is to create an international meeting point for travellers worldwide, whether they are planning their travels, currently travelling or have returned from their travels and want to stay in touch with (or find) those travel friends they met while travelling in the past." Here's a look at Mike's Travellerspoint map.

The DJI Mavic Pro: A Video Drone Built for Adventure Travel

I have been traveling with a quadcopter drone and shooting aerial video for over three years now, capturing some excellent footage in remote locations. And while I've always been pleased with the results as my experience grew with the technology, I can’t help but think of all the amazing shots I missed simply because I did not yet have a DJI Mavic Pro.

Cheap Travel Packages: What do you get?

We're always on the lookout for the least expensive way to visit the places we want to see. We get daily emails with airfare alerts, limited-time package deals, hotel bargains, and more. We have a list of websites we regularly scour for the same. When an airline posts a super low ticket price by accident (known as an error fare), we jump with joy and scoop it up before they fix their mistake. When you're traveling on the cheap, you learn to manage your expectations accordingly. Your international round-trip flight might only cost you $300, but it might leave at 4 a.m., and you're also likely seated in the back of the plane near the galley and bathrooms. Your cross-country rail ticket might only be $20, but it might take you three train transfers with layovers between each leg to get to your destination rather than a nonstop, direct route with a reserved seat. And then sometimes you're pleasantly surprised.

Bangkok’s Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and Temple of the Reclining Buddha

Jet to the lag. While it's always hectic getting back into "real life" after a trip, it's especially challenging when your days and nights are completely turned around from an 11-hour time difference. Whew! So here I am, one week later, wrapping up my posts from Bangkok. The last of our temple visits were two of the most overwhelming, and for very different reasons. We visited Bangkok's Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha on April 6, which is a holiday in Thailand. Chakri Memorial Day (วันจักรี or Wan Chakkri) commemorates the founding of Bangkok by King Phutthayotfa Chulalok in 1782. It is also the one day when the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is closed to the public so that the reigning king can visit in person and pay his respects. On this particular Wan Chakkri, the grounds of the Grand Palace were a madhouse.

Thai Cooking Class in Bangkok, Part 2

On our girls’ trip to Thailand, my friend Samantha and I took a cooking class from Maliwan Thai Cooking School that Mike found for us via Viator for just $39 per person. We met our instructor, Mae, at the school, then traveled by tuk tuk to the local Klong Toey Fresh Market to purchase fresh ingredients. Read more about our market visit in Part 1 of this post. After we toured the market and bought our ingredients, we returned to the school to learn how to prepare green curry chicken, Tom Yum Goong soup, Pad Thai, and mango sticky rice.

Thai Cooking Class in Bangkok, Part 1

Thai cooking classes are among the most popular activities for those on vacation in Bangkok. Learning how to make dishes like Pad Thai, Tom Yum Goong soup, and mango sticky rice from scratch is a very satisfying process, particularly when you're using fresh, local ingredients that you've sourced yourself. On our girls' trip to Thailand, my friend Samantha and I took a cooking class from Maliwan Thai Cooking School that Mike found for us via Viator for just $39 per person. We met our instructor, Mae, at the school, then traveled by tuk tuk to the local Klong Toey Fresh Market to purchase fresh ingredients.