Posts Tagged With: hospitality

NYE Times Square: Joe’s Adventure & Survival Guide

Hello fellow Travelers!

I thought I should offer a few hints, a few do’s, a few don’ts for making a trip to Times Square for the big party an enjoyable one.

First let me say…. EVERYONE walking upright in this big beautiful world of ours should spend at least one New Year’s Eve in Times Square. I mean, really….  can you legitimately go to meet your maker having not checked this one off your bucket list?  I almost think that angel at the gate just doesn’t let you pass until………

World Traveling Joe’s Time Square NEW YEARS EVE Adventure and Survival Guide.

In general I am not a guy that stays up really late unless in Barcelona. I am the kind of guy that likes to plan things out to get the most of every experience. This is a story of a GREAT PLAN going BAD fast.  Hopefully you can learn and will be RICHLY rewarded with a WONDERFUL Times Square experience.

Dinner at Tao at 6PM:  This was a GREAT DECISION. Food was incredible and the people watching SUPERB. Lots of celebs LOVE this $70 million revenue restaurant.

Broadway Play: OK, I was thinking, go to a play keep awake until things start heating up in Times Square. Probably time for dessert and after dinner drinks before heading into the zoo (oops meant Times Square). This initially was a GREAT decision, that is until walking out after the play. A cabbie informed us that all the streets had already been closed off and no reason for a cab. We started walking just the few blocks to Times Square but found that those streets were closed to pedestrian traffic too, even to people dressed in REALLY NICE in theatre clothes. We arrived WAY below times square after a 2 hour jigsaw puzzle of walking about 2.5 miles. The wifey was clearly not excited about my grandiose plan for the evening when she just walked over 2 miles in high heels! GOOD PLAN GONE REALLY BAD.

Ball Drop:  A policeman was nice enough to move a few feet so that we could squeeze by and get a rocking back and forth view of the ball drop. It was extraordinary in all its’ splendor.  VERY GOOD DECISION even though we were SUPER tired of walking.

HEADING TO THE HOTEL: This proved to be one of the worst experiences of my life. I am claustrophobic (don’t like to be in tight places). We started toward our hotel and the crowd PUSHED us almost two blocks away with absolutely no choice on our part. You see, when 2-3 million people want to go one way and you want to go the other it really doesn’t matter, you are “going with the flow” or getting trampled. I am thankful I am tall so I could hold my above others or not sure what I would have done. It is the only time I have actually had thoughts of fearing for my life. We finally got behind a large column and just stayed there until the majority of the crowd dissipated (high heels off in 28 degree weather at that point). We finally arrived at our hotel at approximately 3AM.

Hint’s:   (Oh heck these are MANDATORY!)

The streets will start closing at noon. Plan your evening and route accordingly. Plan your return route. If you are taking a cab into the city – get there before 3PM to save the first stage of walking. Wear denim and COMFORTABLE shoes. Dress warm and bring pocket warmers. Bring a raincoat or other liquid resistant outwear. If it doesn’t rain you will CERTAINLY be doused by all sorts of beverages and that is 100% guaranteed. Bring snacks. Nearby restaurants will start closing by 3PM. Mentally get psyched for NO BATHROOM. I don’t have a good tip for this but I think there are 2 million people trying to get into 2 porta potties – ain’t happening. Find a spot to stand that has some vertical cover in case of a crowd rush, preferably far enough away to have at least 1ft x 1ft of standing space. Do not have loose items:  Example if you drop your cell phone there is some risk of not being able to pick it up. As it grows closer to midnight the crowd starts pushing harder and harder toward the ball drop. EXPECT super crowded conditions.

WOW! I hope I didn’t scare you. You do have to experience it yourself. Just be prepared. Just Like Gilligan thought he was out for a 3 hour tour! And see what happened to him!

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NYE Tokyo Style!

TOKYO

Happy new year: ‘Akemashite omedetou!’

Japan celebrates New Year in a similar way that we do Christmas in the US, by staying at home with family.  In the run-up to December 31, many Tokyo residents leave the capital to return to their traditional family homes. Tradition dictates that they spend the evening watching NHK’s Kohaku, a marathon TV show in which J-pop stars reprise the year’s most nauseating hit singles. If you’re wanting to do NYE like the westerners, there’s still plenty to do, and it’s the one day of the year when the public transport keeps running all night long. The best place to be for the countdown itself is probably at Shibuya crossing, which turns draws thousands of people at midnight. Afterwards, many people head to a local club to finish the revlry (try the Womb or Sound Museum Vision). Others partake in the first shrine visit of the year (hatsumode) paying homage to the forefathers. you could head to a local club like Womb or Sound Museum Vision, or else go and join the first shrine visit of the year (hatsumode). Then of course take in breakfast via sushi tree! Then just nap the day away!

     The Womb Night Club

  The Womb Night Club
   A typical Breakfast Brunch Sushi tree!
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Swimming Pools with a SERIOUS WOW FACTOR!

Mardan Palace, Turkey

Source: mardanpalace.com.tr

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

San Alfonso del Mar, Chile

Image by Stewart Cook/Rex USA

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

Springs Resort & Spa, Costa Rica

Source: thespringscostarica.com

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

The Cambrian Hotel, Switzerland

Source: thecambrianadelboden.com

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

Hotel Hacienda Na Xamena, Spain

Source: hotelhacienda-ibiza.com

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

The Grand Mauritian Resort & Spa, Mauritius

Source: thegrandmauritian.com

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

Ubud Hanging Gardens, Indonesia

Source: ubudhanginggardens.com

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

Hotel Caruso, Italy

Source: hotelcaruso.com

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

Golden Triangle Resort, Thailand

Source: Robert Stokes/Creative Commons  /  via: stokes

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

Jade Mountain Resort, St. Lucia

Source: jademountain.com

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

Crocosaurus Cove, Australia

Source: crocosauruscove.com

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

Huvafen Fushi, Maldives

Source: slh.com

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

Marina Bay Sands Resort, Singapore

Image by VIVEK PRAKASH / Reuters

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

The Sarojin, Thailand

Source: sarojin.com

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

Elounda Gulf Villas and Suites, Greece

Source: eloundavillas.com

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

Capella Pedregal Resort, Mexico

Source: capellahotels.com

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls

Source: Charles Haynes/Creative Commons  /  via: haynes

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

Glenwood Hot Springs, Colorado

Source: hotspringspool.com

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die

Golden Nugget, Las Vegas

Source: goldennugget.com

24 Amazing Pools You Need To Jump In Before You Die
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What to do with Thanksgiving leftovers?

Thanksgiving Leftover Macaroni & Cheese

Prep Time: 20min

Cooking Time: 40min

Total Time: 1hr 10min

Servings: 8

This is definitely the cheesiest way to enjoy all of your Thanksgiving holiday leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Cooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 pound Shredded turkey meat
  • 1 cup Leftover stuffing (optional)
  • 3 Medium size sweet potatoes, cut into small dices, cooked in salted water till tender
  • 1 cup Cooked peas
  • ½ Onion, chopped
  • 5 Sage leafs, minced
  • 2 Garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup Leftover cranberry relish (optional)
  • 1½ quarts Milk
  • ¼ cup Butter
  • ¼ cup Flour
  • 4 cups Grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup Mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup Grated Fontina cheese

Preparation

Step 1

In a large pot add butter, onion, sage and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.

Step 2

Add flour, whisk and cook for another 5 minutes.

Step 3

Add milk and continue to whisk till mixture comes to a boil and thickens.

Step 4

After milk has thickened, whisk in the mascarpone, fontina and one cup of the cheddar cheese.

Step 5

Once cheese melts and sauce becomes smooth, fold in the turkey meat, sweet potatoes, peas and pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Step 6

Place pasta mixture in a 3-inch baking dish, cover with remaining cheddar cheese and bake at 350 for 20 minutes till golden brown.

Step 7

Serve with a tablespoon of cranberry relish.

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Walk Butt Naked on the Beach! And no one notice!

3 Seriously Sexy Travel Spots
What is a sexy destination? In my book, these are qualities that always rock my travel libido:
 Undiscovered: There ain’t nothing sexier than being able to walk down the beach butt naked without having a million pairs of eyes checking out what mother nature gave ya. Or, to saunter through a town square without having to fight your way through a throng of postcard shops and tourists.
Sensual cuisine: Think juicy fruit, young coconuts and fresh caught fish. I love being able to walk out my door and pick a succulent papaya, drink down some delicious thai coconut water or watch the sunset with some fresh grilled fish.
Steeped in Tradition: There is something incredibly sexy about cultures that are focused on preserving the “old ways.” Making things by hand, using all their senses, weaving offerings out of flowers, making feta by hand, picking your own herbs for brewing, bakeries that actually bake their own bread… sexy, sexy, sexy.
Topography: Undulating hills, blazing hot sun over a vista of sand and stone, dense jungles teeming with exotic flora and fauna, breathtaking deserted beaches, fields of fragrant herbs and wildflowers.
Well, now that I’ve laid out my criteria for a sexy destination, I’d like to share with you a few of my absolute faves that really get me going:
1. Ko Lanta, Thailand: A big part of what keeps this destination so damn sexy is that it is a bitch to get to. Ko Lanta is an island, so no matter how you slice it, you have to take a combination of planes, trains, buses and ferries to get there. But, what’s a little effort when heaven on earth awaits on the other side?
Chinese pole houses dot the breathtaking shoreline, and you can easily hire a boat for day excursions to remote islands and hidden caves. Ko Lanta is a stone’s throw by boat from the luxe tourist haven of Phi Phi… so it’s really the best of both worlds. Mango House has awesome traditional pole houses on the water, and Sun Island Tours has the best boat tours around. The village itself is traditional with some of the hottest – literally – food around. Lemongrass, basil, cilantro and chilies abound. Also, seriously, this place has the sexiest coconuts on earth.
2. San Salvador, Costa Rica: Costa Rica is synonymous with sexy: beaches for days, jungles with monkeys, sloths and exotic birds and fresh, delicious food at every turn. Costa Rica’s natural sensuality has been both a blessing and a curse. Now, people are catching on, and many areas of Costa Rica run the danger of becoming extremely unsexy.
But, there are still a few hidden, tucked-away gems that really get my mojo going. There are a few awesome well known retreat centers in Dominical on the coast. But, when I’m in Costa Rica I like to go a little further. I land in San Jose and head for the hills. About one hour north of Dominical is a little mountain village called San Salvador. In an open forest clearing is Finka De Vida. This place is beyond sexy. Just about everything you eat is grown on their local farm. You have the choice of picking and preparing your own meals, juices and smoothies or having there chef do it for you. The menu is as raw as you want, or fully cooked. It’s up to you. Activities include yoga overlooking the jungle, bathing in the local waterfall and beach excursions. I promise you will feel so sexy you’ll never want to leave.
3. Lesvos, Greece: Lesvos is not called the island of women for nothing. If Santorini, with its active volcano and harsh landscape, is the masculine side of the Greek isles, then Lesvos is definitely one foxy lady.
Lesvos is where a lot of Greece’s olive oil comes from, so it is covered in olive groves as well as an abundance of cherry, apple, pistachio and pine trees. Because it is so far north, most people don’t know about Lesvos. In fact, it’s so far north you can take a ferry to Turkey in 30 minutes.
The island is filled with cobblestone mountain villages, forts, castles, Turkish hammams and nary a white and turquoise domed structure in site. The houses are built of wood and stone and have more of an Ottoman feel. Expect quiet beaches that you can explore “in the all together,” sleepy villages where homemade feta and bread are served, freshly grilled octopus for supper by the sea and horses and donkeys that you can ride through the mountain groves and pick your own herbs for supper or tea. I lived on Lesvos for four years, and I swear by its undeniable sexiness. There are many many wonderful places to stay on Lesvos. My absolute fave for authenticity and sexiness is Elainonas Nikou on the Gulf of Gera. Rojo Caliente!
Travel is a sexy sport. Don’t be a wall flower. Vow to never hit a homely destination again… between you and me, they don’t call it wanderlust for nothin’.

ASK JOE about an AWESOME travel deal to Lesvos, Greece. Think 7days 6 nights all inclusive for $599!

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The Backpack Life: How to Pack for 6 months abroad.

Think back to your last vacation. I bet your suitcases were so stuffed you had to sit on them just to get the zipper closed, and that was just for one week! Now imagine if you had to pack absolutely everything you needed for six months on the road, or even a year, and it all had to fit into one big backpack! That’s the challenge I face every time I head overseas for a live-in excursion to places like Costa Rica, Nicaragua, or even on a walkabout around the world for a year. Hell no, I’m not complaining — I get to live in the tropics like a beach bum and write my heart out, but packing every single possession I’ll need in a bag no bigger than a laundry sack becomes a Divinci-esque feat of science.

2013-08-01-images.jpgThe North Face Base Camp duffel bag/backpack.
It’s hard to find a backpack big enough to accommodate everything you need for a prolonged stay. Most mountaineering and hiking bags are only in the 3,500-4,500 cubic inch range, but the North Face makes an oversized duffel bag/backpack that holds about 8,000 cubic inches. It’s super durable and very roomy, with padded shoulder straps so I can throw it on like a backpack when needed. I haul it around bus stations and airports a lot more than actual wilderness excursions, so that works great.

Day pack.
I bring a regular-sized backpack to carry my laptop around, head to the beach, or take plenty of day trips. I use this smaller pack all day, every day so for this trip I chose a O’Neill Suburbia backpack because it has a laptop compartment, water bottle holder, and comfortable shoulder straps.

Clothing:

1 Pair lightweight jeans.

Flip flops.
I bring one good pair and one pair that can get wet for the beach. Reef makes some cool new flip flops that have a compartment in the sole so you can hide money or your room key. Genius!

1 Pair slip-on shoes:
Something light, breathable, and easy to slip on is fantastic in hot, beachy climates. I like my classic Vans, and Crocs makes some cool new waterproof shoes in funky designs that are much cleaner and safer because of their plastic soles.

Running sneakers.
A pair of running sneaks for working out, hiking, or if I have a big day sight seeing.

7 Tank tops.
When I first started traveling I brought too many t-shirts, but soon realized I wanted something as light and airy as possible in tropical climates, so now I load up on tank tops.

7 T-shirts.
I try to find the ones that aren’t pure cotton, which is heavier and doesn’t breathe when you sweat. One by one I cut the sleeves off my t-shirts, anyway!

3 Collared shirts.
I fit in a few short sleeve button-up shirt for those nights on the town or nicer dinners.

2013-08-01-935333100.jpg3 O’Neill Hybrid shorts/swim suits.
I used to pack several swim shorts and also bring a few pairs of normal cotton shorts, but Hybrid shorts changed that. They’re made of comfortable, breathable quick-drying material that can get wet, but look like nice dress shorts. They’re the best invention for travelers because you only have to pack half as much but can throw them on no matter if you’re going to work out, sweat, jump in the ocean, or just walk around town. I love the ones by O’Neill, which fit great and come in plenty of cool patterns.

4 Athletic shorts.

1 Baseball hat.
1 Fisherman hat.
I look goofy as Gilligan in it, but a big hat is your best friend on the beach at midday or in direct sun, where it’s easy to get heat stroke.

Socks and underwear.

Sunglasses.
I wear sunglasses most of the day when I’m outdoors, but I always seem to break or lose them, so I get a decent pair only in the $25 range. The good news is you can buy cheap sunglasses anywhere you go on the beach. I also bring a little cord to keep them on my head in case I’m kayaking or zip lining or doing something where they might fly off.

1 Comfy hooded sweatshirt.
A warm hoodie is essential for cold airplane rides, early morning trips on the water, or some nights as your only pillow and blanket!

Lycra long sleeve shirt.

Technology:

2013-08-01-photo.JPG laptop computer.

Travel adapter.
I bought one for $20 that lets me plug in my electronics in almost any country, and also acts as a surge protector for those frequent power outages.

2013-08-01-ScreenShot20130731at7.14.21PM.pngGoPro Hero 3 Black camera.
I recently converted from my jenky digital camera to a super fun Go Pro. It’s smaller than a deck of cards, has huge storage capacity and battery life, and fits into a shockproof case so I can take it over rough terrain or underwater. I can strap it to a surfboard, bicycle handlebars, or on a headgear clip while I’m getting my ass kicked in the boxing gym. I have a wifi remote so I can document the wonderment of traveling abroad in movie quality without holding a camera up to my eyes all the time, and I plan to expand my travel blog to a more-entertaining video blog.

iPhone.
Whenever I hit the road I suspend my US cell service for $10 a month, forwarding my number to Skype or GoogleVoice, but I still use my iPhone as a mini computer via local wifi, accessing apps that allow me to make calls, use GPS, a compass, translate languages on the fly, and serve as a killer flashlight.

Flash drives.
I’m paranoid about getting my laptop ruined or stolen and losing all of my data, so I back up daily on high-memory flash drives and hide them someplace safe.

2013-08-01-opplanetgoalzeroswitch8solarrechargingkit.jpg
GoalZero portable solar charger.
GoalZero, one of my new favorite companies, makes the Nomad 7, a portable solar charger that’s no bigger than a notebook. It unfolds into two panels that catch the sun and recharge my phone, GPS, camera, or MP3 player with a simple USB hookup. A separate recharger battery the size of a tube of toothpaste, the Switch 8, can be thrown into my backpack and gives my devices plenty of juice in case of an emergency or if I’m stuck out in the jungle. When that happens, and it will happen, a quick solar charge can literally be a life saver.

GoalZero portable speaker.
I listen to music 24/7 and the speakers on my laptop don’t cut it. But most mini speakers sounded like trash until I finally found a good one that is affordable and durable, with 20 hours of battery life, the RockOut 2 speaker by GoalZero. They come with a built in durable case and you can power them via your laptop, charge their internal battery, or even go solar.

2 Headphones.
One pair of earbuds and one over-the-head pair for jogging.

I bring a Tupperwear container to store my electronic accessories and twist ties to organize their cords and cables.

Work out:
I get back to basics on the road: pushups, burpees, etc., but I do bring a jump rope and a stretchy fitness band, which take up almost no room but are versatile for any-time workouts. Gymnastic rings also are easy to hook up anywhere for strength and balance conditioning.

I have an incredible trainer, Trevor Gibbs at Health Behaviors, who sets my workout plan virtually based on my natural elements, no matter where I am in the world!

Swim goggles.

Small gym towels.
I carry a little towel around with me everywhere I go to wipe the sweat away, dash through a rain storm, or even dry off after a dip in the ocean. These are great because it’s always super hot in the tropics and I sweat like… well, like a gringo in the tropics. I used to “borrow them permanently” from hotels, but I’ve since reformed and now I buy a pack.

Security:

Combo lock.
Once I settle down and get an apartment overseas I bolt a solid combo lock onto a railing or post near my front door and put my house key in it. That way I never have to carry around my key (a pain if you’re living near the beach) but I can get in any time.

I should use a laptop cable lock, but I prefer just to hide it in a ceiling panel or the bottom of the garbage can when I leave my hotel or apartment.

Likewise, instead of fancy false-bottom containers and security devices, I just hide my important stuff — passport, credit cards, flash drive, etc. in the bottom of a cereal box or hollowed-out can of peanuts.

Instead of wearing those dorky tourist money belts I just put money in the sole of my shoe.

Copies of travel papers.
I make copies of my passport, drivers license, and medical immunization card and keep them in a safe place. I also email photos of those to myself, along with credit card and bank information.

Toiletries and Medical:

Sanitizing toothbrush case.
Sanitation is always a question mark in third-world hotel bathrooms and hot, humid climates, a breeding ground for bacteria, so I bring the million germ eliminating travel toothbrush sanitizer by Violight. The case sanitizes 99 percent of germs and the battery lasts 2,000 hours! I found it in Hammacher & Schlemmer’s catalog on the airplane.

I carry around a Z Pack of antibiotics in case of severe stomach sickness, and a course of anti-malarial meds if I’m going deep into the jungle.

A few packs of Emergen-C’s come with me to so I don’t get sick with all that nasty fake air on the plane or when I’m fighting off exotic germs in my new locale.

I bring travel size toiletries on the plane to last a few days, but deodorant, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc. I buy when I get there.

Other:

Compression bags.
I found a cheap set that I stuffed my clothes into then rolled the air out of vents on the other side and sealed shut. These bags reduce the volume of my clothes by 30 percent and keep everything dry.

Dryer sheets.
Stuffed into my bag keep everything smelling fresh.

Twine.
It’s easy to set up a drying line anywhere I go.

Deck of cards.

Small notebook.
That I can fit in my back pocket and write whenever inspiration hits. Some times you have to go old school!

Hair clippers:
A haircut might only cost $2, but finding a barber shop in every little beach town and rural hamlet is problematic. I keep my hair shaved short so I just bring my own cheap clippers.

Believe it or not, that all fits into my North Face duffel bag/backpack with plenty of room to spare! I can always pick up bug spray, sunscreen, batteries, beach towels, etc. when I touch down. It may seem like a scarce amount of possessions for 6 months or more, but the funny thing is no matter what I pack, I never even use all of it! And by the time I’m ready to head back home my bag is always packed with different things – plenty of souvenirs, works of art, and gifts from the beautiful countries I’d visited. And those, along with the memories of the wonderful people I met and the experiences we shared, are what’s truly priceless to me!

THANKS TO: Norm Schriever!  EXCELLENT Article!

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Skiing Santas? YES! Skiing Santas!

Skiing Santas?  YES!  Skiing Santas!

This MUST be the North Pole!

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Enhance Thanksgiving Dinner by Pairing the Perfect Wine

What’s the best wine for Thanksgiving Dinner?

The Top 5 Thanksgiving Wines (because just one would be ludicrous)

Top 5 Best Wine for Thanksgiving Dinner

Top 5 best Thanksgiving wines… er.. the last one isn’t wine?

Hopefully you’ll survive Black Out Wednesday and be ready for another day of drinking. While there are a few ideal turkey pairing wines, there’s more to selecting the best wine for Thanksgiving dinner than the bird. Consider the following:

    • Dinner also includes yams, green bean casserole and cranberry sauce.
    • Your house will smell redolent of turkey and pumpkin pie spice.
    • You may be on a tight budget after buying dinner fixings.
    • Ideally, you’ll be drinking all day.

wine for thanksgiving dinner

So what’s it going to be?

Thanksgiving Wine Legend

  • Crowd pleaser
  • Good gift wine
  • Will make you drunk
  • Good value

1. The Wine to Pair with Turkey

Zinfandel is America’s sweetheart. It’s the ideal turkey pairing wine because its lower tannin helps moisten even the driest turkey. Also, Zinfandel’s secondary flavors of cinnamon, clove and vanilla will put you in the mood for fall.

Green and Red Chile Valley Estate Zinfandel 2009

Zinfandel

These are our favorite turkey-wine Zinfandels that are ready to be guzzled now.

  • $25 D-Cubed Napa Valley Vineyards 2008 Zinfandel ( 14.4% ABV)
  • $22 Green & Red Vineyards Chiles Valley 2009 Zinfandel ( 15% ABV)
  • $14 7 Deadly Zins 2009 Lodi Zinfandel ( 14.7% ABV)

2. The Perfect Ice-Breaker Wine

The worst moments at a party are right when everyone arrives and they’re all standing around. Awkward. To alleviate superficial weather-talk and bullshit, just truncate it… with the sound of a pressurized cork being removed from a bottle of Champagne. Nothing says ‘let’s get this party started!’ better than the sound of bottles popping.

Treveri Cellars Brut Sparkling Wine Washington State

Champagne

Instead of classic Champagne for Thanksgiving, check out these amazing American sparkling wines that are fruity enough to stand up to yams.

  • $27 Taittinger “Domaine Carneros” Brut 2008 ( 12% ABV )
  • $14 Treveri Cellars “Blanc de Blanc” Brut ( 12% ABV )

3. The Wine to Match with Ham

While everyone is gawking at the turkey, you’re the one filling your plate up with baked ham. You might as well all admit that, for you, Thanksgiving is about pork products. You’re going to need some Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir, a light-bodied red wine, is a great choice for ham wine pairing because the high acidity cuts through the rich flavors. Red fruit flavors like cherry and cranberry work well with a juicy slice of ham.

  • $20 Alma Rosa Santa Rta Hills 2008 Pinot Noir ( 14.1% ABV )
  • $32 Raptor Ridge Willamette Valley Reserve 2009 Pinot Noir ( 14.2% ABV )

Raptor Ridge Oregon Pinot Noir 2009

Pacific Rim 2011 Dry Riesling

4. The Best White Wine for Thanksgiving Dinner

When it comes to the best wine for Thanksgiving dinner, nothing beats a glass of dry Riesling. Bright acidity tingles through all the fat in the gravy, stuffing, potatos, yams and the richness of spice in cranberry sauce. Every sip feels like hitting the reset button on your palate so you can stand to take another bite of dark meat. Disagree? They’re so cheap, I dare you to buy one and try it just to prove me wrong.

Dry Riesling

  • $9 Pacific Rim Dry Riesling 2011 ( 12.9% ABV )

5. The Best Wine with Pumpkin Pie

The best wine to pair with pumpkin pie is beer. A Belgian style beer with the essence of coriander and lots of tiny bubbles. The lightness of the beer will help scrape all that gooey pumpkin pie from the insides of your mouth. It will also offer a pleasing compliment of bitter and sweet. Trust me, after all that wine, turkey and stuffing there’s not a better way to end the dinner.

Belgian-Style Beer

  • $12 (750ml) Ommegang Brewery “Hennepin” Farmhouse Saison with citris & coriander ( 7.7% ABV )
  • $9 (22oz) Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project “Fluffy White Rabbits” Tripel Ale ( 8.5% ABV )
Pretty Things Fluffy White Rabbits American Triple Ale
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Can anyone say…..Dinner Party?

Can anyone say.....Dinner Party?

Does it really get any better than dining in a 16th century castle?

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Exotic Travel on a Budget. Hotel rooms for $20. REALLY?

1. Egypt


Photo: Jungle_Boy

Despite having some of the world’s best-known monuments, Egypt struggles to fill its abundant hotels. With less-than-wealthy locals far outnumbering the tourists, it’s easy to find a bargain meal or a guide or taxi driver. (They’ll find you whether you need them or not.) Admission prices for the ancient pyramids and temples are reasonable, generally ranging from $3 to $14.

Sample deals: a first-class train ticket from Cairo to Luxor for $17; a Nile-view deluxe double room in Luxor for $60 with breakfast; a private room by the sea in Dahab for under $20; entrance to the Nubia Museum in Aswan for $4; a falafel sandwich at a Cairo street stall for 40 cents. There’s no great independent travel site for the whole country but Egypt’s official tourism site is better than most.

2. Indonesia


Photo: Erik K Veland

This Southeast Asian nation is one of the most diverse and attractive destinations in the world, with a long string of volcanic islands and a range of topography and culture. It could also be the best value on the planet, with cheap hotels going for $5 a night, often right beside great snorkeling spots. Bali is the most developed island, but even there you can find plenty of deals. On Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi, however, it’s easy to branch out like an intrepid explorer or get pampered on the cheap in the most popular spots.

Sample deals: a double room with pool and breakfast in Yogyakarta, Java for under $20; a five-day small ship cruise between Lombok and Flores islands via Komodo for $200 per person including meals; a first-class train seat from Jakarta to Yogyakarta for $25; an hour-long massage for $8-$15; a day’s motorbike rental on Bali for $10. Indo.com has a good listing of mid-range hotels in Bali and some other areas while the official Indonesia tourism site has travel info and enticing photos of the diverse islands.

3. Mexico


Photo: Tim Leffel

In mid-2008, the peso was at 10 to the dollar. Now it’s close to 13. That’s a discount of more than 25 percent in a country that was already a deal. Plus Swine Flu followed by drug gang violence on the U.S. border has meant that travelers have tremendous bargaining power on hotels and tours. To find the best values, visit the historic colonial cities or beach areas where Americans don’t outnumber the locals. (As in places where there’s no Señor Frog’s in sight.)

Sample deals: a three-course lunch at a market stand for $4; nice hotels in centuries-old colonial buildings for under $75 double with breakfast and Wi-Fi; a round of Negra Modelos for five at nearly any bar, including gratis snacks, for $10; and some of the nicest deluxe buses in the hemisphere for $6 to $8 per hour of travel. It’s a big, diverse country, but here’s an extensive set of links and the best books on one page: Mexico travel resources from Travelers-tool-kit.com.

4. Honduras


Photo: Tim Leffel

Few people knew anything about this country until it was all over the news last year when the president got forced out of office. You can find fabulous deals on scuba diving packages on Roatan Island. This Caribbean island sits next to the second-longest coral reef in the world, and every hotel seems to offer attractive package plans no matter the season. On the mainland you’ve got tropical national parks, the rugged Moskito Coast, and Copán, one of the key Mayan sites in the Americas and a great little colonial town.

Sample deals: $35 white-water rafting trips; weeklong learn-to-dive packages with room, breakfast, and transfers for under $600; a cold coconut with a straw for 40 cents; and admission to the Copán archeological park for $10. For more info, see the Honduras Tips site or Roatan Online, or see more travel prices in Honduras here.

5. Guatemala


Photo: Tim Leffel

This is only a shade farther to fly than Mexico, but it is a truly exotic destination. The descendants of the Mayans still dress in traditional clothing in the villages surrounding stunning Lake Atitlán. The Spanish colonial buildings in the city of Antigua are older than anything left standing in our historic city districts. The sprawling archeological park of Tikal is the granddaddy of Mayan ruins, and still surrounded by jungle.

Sample deals: taxis in Antigua for $4; great hotels with a view on Lake Atitlán for $60 a night; a week of private Spanish lessons including homestay starting at $180; a zipline canopy tour near Tikal for $30; three pounds of bananas or avocados for a dollar. La Ruta Maya Online is the best resource for hotels, tours, and Spanish language schools.

6. Peru


Photo: Tim Leffel

Machu Picchu alone is worth the journey, but it’s just the start in this value-packed country. Inca ruins are scattered all around the Sacred Valley, and Cuzco is one of the most attractive cities in South America. There is also hiking in the Andes, admiring colonial architecture on the streets of Arequipa, trips through the Amazon, boating across the highest lake in the world, and flying over the strange Nazca lines.

Sample deals: Bus from Arequipa to Colca Canyon – $6; a big traditional lunch and a beer for $7; simple restaurant meal in the countryside $6 for two; entrance to the Inca Museum in Cuzco for $1.50; cheap single room or hostel bed $4-$10; airport taxi in Cusco $4. Andean Travel Web is an exhaustive resource site for trekking info, hotels that are a good value, and general travel info.

7. Thailand


Photo: ccdoh1

As with Honduras and Mexico, visitor numbers plunged when Bangkok was all over the news recently, so there are plenty of deals on airfare, tours, and hotels. This is a popular destination for travelers of all budget levels. Thailand continues to be one of the best bargains in the world in terms of hotel prices, and with a well-developed infrastructure, it’s easy to get around and see what you want to see, be it historic ruins, Buddhist temples, or tropical beaches.

Sample deals: a standard double at a true 5-star hotel in Bangkok for $250 or less per night—or a cheap place to flop down and sleep for 1/20th of that price; admission to the main ruins in Sukothai for under $2; a first-class round-trip sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for about $40; a Skytrain ticket across Bangkok for about $1.30. The hands-down best travel resource for Thailand is Travelfish.org. They also put out some great iPhone/iPad apps on specific regions and islands.

8. Czech Republic


Photo: Tim Leffel

In much of Europe, prices in the big cities are often double what you find in the countryside. This is especially true in Eastern European countries like the Czech Republic, where vacationers on quick weekend breaks have driven up hotel and restaurant prices in Prague. In the smaller towns and cities, however, the country is one of Europe’s remaining great values. Castles on hill crests, some of the world’s best beer for a dollar or so in a pub, and winding cobblestone streets without crowds—Ye Olde Europe without the new Europe prices.

Sample deals: a room at the best hotel in town across Moravia for under $100 with breakfast; fully equipped hybrid bike rental for $25 a day; sommelier guided 12-bottle tasting at the Wine Salon of the Czech Republic in Valtice for $19; a train ticket from Prague to anywhere in the country for $12 or less. The official Czech Tourism site is excellent while MyCzechRepublic has good general info on different regions plus a message board. See more Czech prices outside Prague here.

To dive in deeper on any of these cheap destinations and see the current situation on the ground, check the message boards at LonelyPlanet.com and BootsnAll.com

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