This weekend as I turned on the radio, the rock station seemed to have become the holiday music station. It’s that time of year again! So between the pre-Thanksgiving preparations, we’ve made sure to pack all loose fitting clothes for the holiday and we’re ready to eat and be merry. During all this though, we’ve stopped to think about how lucky we are to get to travel (not as much as we’d like, but hey we don’t work for Lonely Planet yet so we’ve got to keep our day jobs). Here is our list of what we are thankful for when we travel:
1. Leslie – As cheesy as it sounds, I’m most thankful for the gift of travel in general, but if we’re talking top fives, I’m going to have to go with a page from the Food Network and say that I’m thankful for the Best Thing I Ever Ate. Coincidentally, I ate this thing on one of the trips I’m most thankful for as well, but this specific meal took place at a restaurant that has already been featured on CCC, La Vache a Carreaux in Avignon, France. For a place to get this much coverage from our little group, you know it has to be something special.
The Best Thing I Ever Ate was the entire meal at La Vache a Carreaux – an appetizer of cheese and charcuterie, a gourmet grilled cheese with fresh French bread and an assortment of cheeses, and for dessert chocolate mousse and vanilla ice cream. This all sounds pretty simple and low-frills, but imagine the absolute best specimen of each of these items, and this is how the meal went. I don’t even usually like chocolate mousse, but one of my goals before I die I is to recreate that combination of rich mousse and decadent homemade ice cream. Some day I will succeed, and until then lots of cocoa and vanilla beans will be consumed in the process! Without a doubt, travel continues to give me new experiences to be thankful for.
2. Scott – The rest of the gang is covering some of the great experiences they’ve had on the road. I want to give some love to the travel tool that has played a key role in much of my travel this year. Yes, I am thankful for TripAdvisor.
I’m sure many of you have used the site before. It is chock-a-block with reviews of hotels, restaurants, and attractions worldwide; the reviews are written by travelers who have done business with these establishments.
Guidebooks are great for planning your itinerary and pointing out the sights to be seen in a given destination. Most books, however, fall woefully short in their reviews of hotels and restaurants. A big part of the problem is logistics: only a select few guidebooks are updated on an annual basis; most others only have new editions every 2-3 years. Restaurant and hotel quality can change quickly as establishments open and close, management teams are replaced, and menus rise and fall in quality. A guidebook simply can’t keep up with fast enough. Even then, the guidebook’s author doubtfully has time to stay in 20 hotels and dine in as many restaurants; he or she typically will only have a look around at many of the establishments listed.
With a guidebook, you are also at the whim of the author’s individual preferences and travel style. My foodie girlfriend, Kelly, was particularly critical of the guidebook we used for our trip to Colombia, because the author “obviously doesn’t give a crap about food.” The guidebook only listed a few choices; although some of the listings were excellent picks, our first night’s meal in Cartagena was humdrum at best, and another choice turned out to have closed. We soon found ourselves sitting at the hotel’s computer every afternoon plying TripAdvisor for recommendations.
In addition to our trip to South America, I have used TripAdvisor to plan trips to the Florida Keys and the Virgin Islands, as well as to find new places to eat here at home in South Florida. It is also been an immense help in planning my upcoming honeymoon.
I am sure there are instances of establishments trying to “game” TripAdvisor by placing glowing reviews of their business online. On the flipside, I’m also sure that there are people with an axe to grind who deliberately post negative reviews in hopes of harming a listed business. Such reviews are easily identified, however, and can be ignored. TripAdvisor does an excellent job of harnessing the wisdom of the crowds, and should be a key component of creating travel plans.
3. Kelly – What I am always thankful for when i travel is a kabob sandwich in Europe. I dont know what it is but they are the best! I was very loyal to my kabob guy in Avignon. I got the steak kabob, which was actually hamburgurger meat. I got all 4 sauces (ketchup, mayo, a spicy chili sauce, and a tzatziki sauce) and the fries were definitely made with
love. The best thing about the fries were that they were two kinds…and who doesn’t love a combo pack? There were the usual long ones, and then round ones. Oh yum, my mouth waters just thinking about it. It was 3.50 euros and could feed me for 2 meals. I know its a simple food and most people say its only a drunk food and makes you feel like crap the next day but i just really liked it. Everytime I hear of a kabob shop here I get so excited, but always feel deflated when I find out it is the meat on a stick kabob.
Its not fancy, its not expensive, its just good…that’s why I love it.
4. Lexie – I can’t think of anything in particular to say Im thankful for, so I
would have to go with all the delicious beers I have tasted while
traveling. BTW – check out the Rick Steves radio episode on Beers in Europe (air date April 3, 2010)! You can learn how different countries say, “cheers” and some interesting stories about the history and taste of beers in Europe.
5. Kelly – The last one isn’t really what I’m thankful for, but rather who I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for fun traveling companions through the years. Yes, travel is fun, but how much fun is it when you have no one to share it with. I still laugh with Larissa over trips we took 10 years ago. I’m always so lucky to go with people that share my love of travel and adventure. Who could have made getting stuck in Cork fun? Lexie. Who shares my love of Jane Austen books and would want to go to a festival dedicated to the author in England (well who wouldn’t want to dress up and take tea in the afternoon)? Leslie. Who discovered the best tasting cookies in the world at Tesco? Allison. And last but not least, who will be there to laugh with when we get conned by the next Jonnie of the World (still waiting for Scott to share our adventures with Jonnie in Colombia—-what a fun disaster)? Scott.
I don’t have as many pictures as I would like from my trips of yesterday, but I have enough laughs with my friends to last a lifetime.