Exploring the Eats of East London

Heading to London for a few days? Check out some of the best places to eat around the city! From pub food like fish and chips to marvelous soups and fresh bakeries, there is something for every foodie can find a fantastic meal.

There are also wonderful street markets with wide varieties of foods, including homemade curries, cereals, sandwiches, finger food, and much more! Visit the Spitalfield’s Market for a once in a lifetime walk through a global food paradise, filled with any type of ingredient or cuisine you can imagine.

GoProing with Gondoliers and Gladiators in Venice

Imagine yourself taking an idyllic gondola ride through the famous canals of Venice, taking in the history of the city and relaxing on the water. Or listen to a world-class opera singer as you float under the legendary bridges fora true Italian experience!

Or explore Italy through the lens of your GoPro! It’s portable enough for the gondola ride and it even mounts easily while driving a Ferrari through the Italian hillside. Or simply take in the wide views of olive oils and wine country vineyards.

Adventure in the Arctic

Ever wanted to explore the Arctic? Now is your chance! Spend a week exploring the barren pack ice, where few people have roamed, at the edge of the world. Stare out at the majestic landscape of mountains of ice, icebergs and much more. See walruses and blue whales in their natural habitats and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Stay in cute, brightly colored cabins and even have a drink at a bar on an ice float! Or take an unforgettable ride on a Zodiac to isolated islands of ice that no one else gets to travel too. In the Arctic, the possibilities are endless.

Next in Our Imagine Series: Exploring the Desert of Morocco

Dear Thom and Tammy,

Imagine…

 You slept like a sultan in the desert.

The evening before,  your guide, Rashid, and his pair of wooly dromedaries had met your 4-wheel drive at the edge of Morocco’s Chegaga dunes.  The two camels, honking to each other as their boxy feet plodded, step after sinking step, carried you into the shifting coppery sands of the Sahara.

The desert dunes closed in behind you.  It was apparent, as you rode past endless, unmarked knolls, how easy it would be to get lost here.  Inshallah, God willing, Rashid’s camels know the way to your camp and will deliver you there safely.

You passed through desert dunes that the wind had shaped into a tableau of a tawny tossed sea.  Undulating furrows of sand lined up like a set of small waves, and at the crest, a ridge had been whipped to a backbone so sharp that single grains of sand danced along the surface in the evening’s breeze.  

The shadows of your camels and nomad guide stretched taller in the sinking sun of the desert.  And then, you arrived at camp.

Your tent – white canvas with swirling black trim – was ready for you, complete with a king bedstead atop layers of handwoven carpets, and even running water at a brass sink bowl and in the hot shower.  But first, you must be properly received with a traditional mint tea service.

You were led into a three-sided, colorfully-patterned tent and seated on a rough, tightly-woven deep-red Berber rug.  By the glow of a bonfire, a young Bedouin appears, silver tray in hand, clothed in a sky-blue djellaba and turban, coiled atop his head like a cobra, its fine, cream edging contrasting crisply with his deeply tanned face. He gives you a wide smile as he pours a two-foot stream of steaming mint tea into petite green-tinted glasses.

 

Welcome to the desert.

 

After your desert camp, two days of High Atlas wonders stand between you and the chaotic cobra-filled square of Marrakech.  You’ll wander through rural Berber markets – the hammering cobbler next to the bloody butcher next to the hooded man vending a mountain of tangerines.  You’ll stand beneath the hypnotic string of arches of a UNESCO-protected mosque from the 1400’s, and hike to humble valley villages to share a tagine lunch in the home of a Berber family.   At the mud-bricked kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou, as you’ll walk beneath the arch made famous from Lawrence of Arabia, you can almost see Peter O’Toole disappearing on his horse into the rocky wasteland.

But for tonight, you drift off to sleep, sheltered within dunes, under a powdered sugar sky full of stars, the muffled lullaby of Nomad drums pulsing in your dreams.

That was a trip of a lifetime”, you say.  “Let’s do it again next year, inshallah”.

Sharing the love of travel,

Rare Finds Travel!

 

Next in Our Imagine Series: Cuba

Imagine….  

You’re driving back in time, to a warm place at a pivotal time in the Cold War.

Sitting atop the backrest of a canary-yellow 1950’s Chevy convertible, you cruise down Havana’s wide boulevards between columns of tall swaying palms, then inch through its narrow pastel Art-Deco alleyways where strings of laundry and balconies of neighbors hang out overhead.   Your attention is beckoned by one colorful, boisterous scene after another, while peering down from the walls along Havana’s streets are myriad images of Fidel, as the locals him, and of Che – vestiges of the divide that until recently made the 90 miles separating Cuba and the United States an all but uncrossable chasm.

These days, Cubans open not just their hearts but also their homes.  You are lucky to land in the casa particular (a local’s home) of Katya, whose thriving bakery business is runs right out of her casa’s kitchen, wafting the aroma of chocolate and rising dough throughout the home at all hours, day and night.

This morning, custardy quiche and a soft-from-the-oven chocolate croissant arrive on your breakfast table on dainty antique china.   Both the fare and the presentation are clearly points of considerable pride for Katya, and you marvel at the contrast between the rose-colored sofa and family heirlooms in her charming pied-a-terre, and the gritty sidewalk, chipped marble steps, wad of electrical wires, and sporadic water supply that dictates when you can take a shower each day.

No matter what hardships – or because of them – the Cuban people revel in their music.  And tonight, after sunset, you set out for a mecca of that music: the Buena Vista Social Club.

In its heyday, the Buena Vista Social Club brought together some of the island’s best musicians, performing a uniquely Cuban sound known as ‘Son.’ In the 1990’s, the Buena Vista Social Club was introduced to us in the US with a new recording, spurred by the American guitarist and musicologist Ry Cooder, who fulfilled a dream in playing with some of Cuba’s best.  The BVSC is both a sound – or a feel – and a place. The club, which sits a few blocks from the Capital, is now a destination for touristas. But the music that lifts the audience from their seats is Cuban through and through. Towards the end of the show, you find yourself in a conga line that winds past the tables and up onto the stage. Though briefly, you have made the big-time, strutting your Son steps at this famed Havana venue.

To fully inhale Cuban culture, of course, you must sample its cigars.  And there is no better place than Vega Quemado del Rubi plantation out in Pinar del Rio. The drive takes about two hours west from the capital along one of Cuba’s few highways, your car sharing the road with locals’ bikes and donkey-carts.  

On the plantation, you’ll get a primer on producing the world’s finest cigars.  No fewer than 539 steps precede snipping the end of one and lighting up. You learn about different heights of tobacco plants for harvesting, and the drying and aging of leaves, draped just so across planks – 50 per plank  – that are staked on supports reaching the ceiling of a great wooden barn whose open doors and windows allow a breeze to caress the tobacco.

Although you’re no cigar aficionado, Juan’s deft rolling of the tobacco into a paper-thin wrapper leaf and patching of the end with a hand-cut plug mesmerizes, and entices, you.   And as the open-air hut fills up with the plantation owner’s sweet yet peppery puffs of tobacco, you are swept up in this dream of emerald-green rolling tobacco fields, and take a deep draw.

As your day draws to a close, it occurs to you that the distance between Cuba and the US – or at least its citizens – is even less than the narrow straits of Florida that flow between our lands.  

That was a trip of lifetime”, you say.  “Let’s do it again next year.”

 

Cliff Jumping and Caves in Jamaica

Have you ever wanted to jump off some cliffs into beautiful tropical waters? Then the landscape of Jamaica is perfect for you! Visit the famous caves and rugged coastline from popular movies and get your slice of paradise!

Channel your inner adrenaline junkie and jump in the beautiful waters or take a dip in the hot springs of the jungle. Experience relaxation in a whole much of different ways in Jamaica.

Adventure in the Maldives

Want a completely tropical and relaxing vacation? Look no further than the Maldives! Enjoy sleeping just inches from crystal clear blue waters, enjoy your morning coffee with a beautiful sunset from a submerged hammock, and of course gorgeous views everywhere you look!

Take a fun bike ride around the islands, enjoy fruity refreshments and desserts in the heat and just enjoy everything the Maldives has to offer!

Next in Our Imagine Series: Oysters

Imagine…

June may not be spelled with an “r”, but I have an oyster story for you…

Back in the ‘90s, a man named Skip had a taste for oysters and a hunch that the muddy, windswept flat just north of Cape Cod would be the ideal spot for tidal nutrients to nourish his perfect bivalve.

Now it’s 2015, and on one pleasantly breezy afternoon in late June, we had the good luck to visit his now-famous oyster farm, Island Creek – witness his breeding process, meet the dock workers, and tour the “beds”.   There was even the promise that we could slurp oysters to our heart’s content. And they weren’t lyin’.

Before we got to eat these oysters, though, we wanted to learn a bit about the 2-year process from seed to slurp. Duxbury Bay waters are too cold for natural spawning, so the process starts in sheds on the dock.  Skip hand-picks what he considers to be the “American Pharoah” of oysters. He sets these adults in isolation tanks where perfectly regulated warm waters foster their spawning. On their road to becoming delicious gastronomic treats, these early sand-like embryos graduate from tank to tank as they grow in microns of inches.   Along the way, they are fed with a rich soup of plankton, grown right on premises and mimicking the nutrient cocktails of various prime venues from Nova Scotia to Seattle. Here is the genesis of the oyster’s complex flavor, which will be finished off with a distinctly Duxbury essence as they grow to full size out in the bay.

At last it was time to head out on the water.  We set out with the tide, nearby boats resting on their sides in the mud where only 3 hours before, they had bobbed about.   These tidal ebb and flows that Skip had recognized as an essential quality for his oyster farm are the same currents that now swept our craft off the dock.    We motored through some of the 30 farms that now operate here in Duxbury and before long, reached our destination, Oyster Creek’s farm-side buoy and our on-the-water dining room for the afternoon.

After dropping anchor, our guide CJ went from boat captain to master shucker.   He started with an oyster-shucking primer: Don protective shucking gloves. Find the little niche in the point of the oyster.   Wiggle in the blade of your oyster knife. Listen for a “pop”. Then turn the blade a quarter turn. The juicy treat lies plump and white inside the pearly shell.

Island Creek’s oysters were indeed as plentiful as promised.  And as fresh! No cocktail or mignonette sauce was needed. The oyster’s flavor revealed the briny water of their nursery and mirrored the salty breeze that cooled our al fresco dining room.   As I slurped them directly from the shell, tossing the shells overboard, juice dripped down my chin. Sips of Pinot Grigio created a party in my mouth. And the boat rocked on the rising tide.

If you want a seat at this exclusive oyster feast, you’ll have to call early, in a month that does have an “r”, like  March.

 

Sharing the love of travel!

 

A Private Island in the Maldives Awaits!

Have you ever dreamed of escaping your daily life to a private island in paradise? Well, there is a private island in the Maldives just waiting for you! White sand beaches and crystal clear blue water as far as the eye can see and not another soul in sight!

Take strolls along the sand or dip your feet in the surf to create the perfect picture of relaxation. This particular island is aptly called Dream Island!

A Week Long Grand Canyon River Trip

The Grand Canyon is truly a majestic sight to see. Another way to experience this wonder of the world is from the Colorado River below it! Follow the flowing river and admire the various rock formations and layers up close and personal.

Get a good night’s sleep by the water’s edge, enjoy hearty buffet-style meals and dip your toes in the water of one of the more secluded beaches you will ever visit. Get your hiking fix by climbing a one of a kind ladder and following a trail along the canyon wall for views and perspectives that you will need to see to believe.