LandLopers http://landlopers.com Sun, 30 Aug 2015 12:21:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Inspired By International Cuisine: Multicultural Influences on the Ruth’s Chris Menuhttp://landlopers.com/2015/08/30/ruths-chris-menu http://landlopers.com/2015/08/30/ruths-chris-menu#comments Sun, 30 Aug 2015 12:21:28 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=30160 I recently wrote a post highlighting the history of the great American steakhouse, as told through the story of Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Earlier this year the folks over at … Read More

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Ruths Chris Steak House Restaurant

I recently wrote a post highlighting the history of the great American steakhouse, as told through the story of Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Earlier this year the folks over at Ruth’s Chris approached me and asked to partner on a project to not only share the history of this great American style of fine dining, but to also share some of the multicultural influences behind the restaurant’s now-famous menu items. As a traveler, I understand the importance of food when we travel. Food memories are oftentimes our strongest and a simple smell or a taste of a delicious snack can immediately transport us to another place and time. Ruth Fertel, the great entrepreneur behind the iconic steak house, was also influenced by world cuisine, although in a slightly different way. Today I want to take a brief look at a few of Ruth’s Chris well-known menu items and share the unexpected backgrounds behind them and how these signature dishes can transport us to other places as well, just as they must have Ruth herself. Ruth’s Chris Steak House has sponsored this brief series on my site, but my own research, thoughts and opinions are naturally entirely my own.

Ruth Fertel was born in Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana, a part of the state as influenced by the French as any other. Her family heritage was of Alsatian descent; a region in northeastern France close to both the German and Swiss borders. It’s an area that has historically seen a lot of transition, meaning that while French, the culinary history has also been strongly influenced by more Germanic customs as well. When Ruth’s family immigrated to Louisiana, they naturally brought this food heritage with them, changing it over the years to adapt to their new home in Louisiana. It’s this influence that would prove to be so important not only in Ruth’s life, but in several of the menu items she eventually selected for her famous restaurant. It’s an influence that doesn’t only speak of her French heritage, but how proud she was of her Louisiana background as well.

Creamed spinach

No Ruth’s Chris dining experience would be complete without enjoying a side order of creamed spinach. It’s become so iconic not only at Ruth’s Chris but at most steakhouses nowadays that we rarely stop to think why that is. Ruth’s family came from Alsace, which has considerable influence from its German cousins, including a dish called Rahmspinat. Essentially a variation of creamed spinach, early immigrants from not only Germany but neighboring countries as well brought this time-honored recipe with them when they crossed the Atlantic. Ruth’s version actually comes from a family recipe that she received from her Uncle Martin, a great cook who undoubtedly borrowed the recipe from his French-speaking mother. While delicious, it’s much more than a simple side dish and instead speaks to the wonderful culinary influences many areas of America have benefited from as a result of European immigration.

Sweet potato casserole

Sweet potatoes were amongst the earliest cultivated crops in the Americas, and were also one of the first foods Columbus introduced to Europe. Early in colonial history, sweet potatoes were incredibly popular and using an adapted recipe for a pudding dish, experts believe that the sweet potato casserole was created early on in our history. It’s also of course a staple of any southerner’s Thanksgiving Day table; no surprise since most sweet potatoes are grown in the southern states, including Louisiana. Drawing upon the robust culture of comfort food in New Orleans, no doubt the restaurant wanted to bring once again some home comforts to the politicians and important people of New Orleans who all dined at the restaurant.

Ruth's Chris Steak House New Orleans

New Orleans-Style Barbecued Shrimp

While today Ruth’s Chris is a multi-national restaurant brand, we can’t forget about its beginnings in beautiful New Orleans and the menu certainly reflects that influence. One of the most important dishes inspired by the Crescent City is without a doubt the New Orleans-Style Barbecued Shrimp. For those who haven’t been to Louisiana, you may be surprised to learn that this version actually has very little to do with barbecue. Down in New Orleans, and throughout the state, Barbecued Shrimp are served sautéed in a special butter sauce that includes several tasty ingredients, including Worcestershire sauce and some locally produced Tabasco sauce for an added kick. I think that New Orleans has influenced American cuisine perhaps more than any other city, from inventing entire dishes to revamping old classics and this delicious starter is a great example of that culinary ingenuity.

Crème brûlée

When Ruth Fertel first started business, one of the items people loved most (aside from the steaks of course) was the classically prepared Crème brûlée. One of my personal favorites, Crème brûlée is simply an egg custard with a hard, toffee crust. First recorded in its French form in 1691, this now-classic dessert has always been simple but delicious. Of course, several other versions popped up in other countries including Spain and the UK, but no matter what its origins there’s no denying that this international dessert has a firm spot on the table of the great American steakhouse. More than just a nice addition, Ruth herself developed this recipe along with long-time friend Lana Duke by staying up all night one evening until she arrived at the perfect Crème brûlée.

I admit that I didn’t know a lot about the stories behind the Ruth’s Chris menu before I started researching, but the more I poked around the more I realized how very influenced by world cuisine it really is. More than just drawing upon the culinary traditions of other countries though, Ruth Fertel did something completely unique. She also intertwined a sense of what it means to be an American into the menu, to adapt and adopt seamlessly creating something both unique and delicious in the process.

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Great Moments Exploring Canada Photo Serieshttp://landlopers.com/2015/08/27/canada-photo http://landlopers.com/2015/08/27/canada-photo#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 04:55:39 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=30144 I love Canada, almost unexpectedly so. Over the last few years I’ve had some remarkable experiences exploring our neighbors to the north, and in the process I’ve learned just how … Read More

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I love Canada, almost unexpectedly so. Over the last few years I’ve had some remarkable experiences exploring our neighbors to the north, and in the process I’ve learned just how great a travel destination it really is. So when the #FriFotos theme this week was announced to be CANADA, I couldn’t wait to put this special Canada photo series together.

Alberta Canada

Alberta

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Vancouver

Toronto skyline

Toronto

Alberta, Canada

Alberta

Montreal Old Port

Montreal

 

Saskatoon berry pie, Saskatoon

Banff Upper Hot Springs

Banff, Canada

Quebec City

Quebec City

Poutine Quebec Canada

Poutine

Kingsmere Lake

Saskatchewan, Canada

Bobsleigh Winsport Calgary Alberta Canada

Bobsleigh in Calgary

Smoked meat perfection

Royal Tyrrell Museum

Kingmik Dogsled

Dogsledding

Alberta Canada

Wide open ranchlands

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Three Small North Carolina Towns To Put On Your Radarhttp://landlopers.com/2015/08/26/north-carolina-towns http://landlopers.com/2015/08/26/north-carolina-towns#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 04:55:04 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=30146 I recently spent a week road tripping through Eastern North Carolina and along the way had plenty of time to visit some extraordinary small towns. Finding a small town anywhere … Read More

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Edenton North Carolina

I recently spent a week road tripping through Eastern North Carolina and along the way had plenty of time to visit some extraordinary small towns. Finding a small town anywhere in America isn’t a challenge, but what can be a challenge is finding communities that have retained their character over the years, while still providing enough for the casual visitor to see and do. The small towns I explored in North Carolina have managed to do both and while they are all very different from each other, they are each worthy of a visit and so I wanted to highlight them here today.

Edenton

Frequently called one of America’s Prettiest Small Towns, Edenton doesn’t have to struggle to get noticed. The oldest community in North Carolina, it was actually an important city during the colonial era and vestiges of this proud past can be found throughout town. Unlike some other colonial towns and cities in the country, almost all of the original buildings and homes have been lovingly preserved in Edenton and in some cases, they’re even still owned by the original families. That means when you meander along the leafy streets of Edenton, marveling at the intricate design of the colorful homes, you’re not seeing a reconstruction or an image of what might have been – you’re seeing history itself. Of course Edenton has a lot more to offer than just some old buildings, its position along the Albermarle Sound also makes it one of North Carolina’s most picturesque towns. For whatever reason, I am always drawn to the water and that’s where I found myself almost immediately upon arriving in Edenton. The town’s unofficial symbol is a beautiful, 19th century river lighthouse – the likes of which simply don’t exist anymore. It was painstakingly moved to its current position after the Coast Guard decommissioned these once common structures, creating a new legacy for a town with plenty of history from which to draw. For a town of 5,000 people I was also shocked at the number of choices I had when it came time to eat. Restaurants and cafes line the small downtown core, and good ones at that. Twists on southern cuisine and a modern flair I’d expect to see in larger cities, but not perhaps Edenton. By the end of my day in Edenton, I found myself smiling a lot more. There’s just something special about those magnolia-filled neighbors and the light bouncing off of the water that make the town special. It’s as if a Rockwellian image of America came to life, a small town that shouldn’t exist in reality but thankfully does.

Kinston

History hasn’t been as kind to Kinston as Edenton, but that’s all thankfully in the process of changing. In the mid-20th century, Kinston was THE place to be. A regional hub, the downtown was a hive of activity with every kind of shop you could imagine. Then the local industries disappeared, as happened throughout North Carolina, leaving Kinston unsure what to do next. But unlike some other communities that all but disappeared, the residents of Kinston refused to let that happen. They kept the town alive until, more recently, a massive redevelopment effort began. Creative and smart former residents of Kinston returned to their hometown and began changing the town in ways no one imagined. Today, one of the country’s best restaurants – Chef & the Farmer – draws thousands to Kinston every year, spurring a cultural renaissance. Spending the day there, I visited several modern restaurants serving up some of the best food I’ve had in a long time and I also wandered around the downtown area. New luxury hotels, stores, breweries, bars – you name it, and it’s either been built or it’s in development. But there’s also a keen appreciation for the arts and it’s this commingling of the creative and the business that is ultimately helping Kinston change the most. A public arts walk leads visitors past some incredible modern pieces and in development is a new kind of artists community; a place for creatives to live and work. I think it’s this latest iteration of life in Kinston that will help it change the most, ultimately transforming it into one of the most unusual small towns in the country. If you visit today, expect great food, friendly people and plenty to see and do to make your visit both fun and completely unlike anything else you’ve experienced before.

Pittsboro

Not far from the large cities of both Durham and Chapel Hill is a smaller community, Pittsboro. One of the major trends I noticed throughout my drive around North Carolina was the focus on food. Not just the classic dishes we’d expect like BBQ, no, there are some incredibly talented people throughout the state who are reimagining the culinary experience in some places where you’d least expect it. I have a sweet tooth, and so one of my first stops in Pittsboro was at the main street staple, Phoenix Bakery. The owner never thought she’d be a baker, but maybe that’s what makes her donuts in particular so amazing. Ignoring convention, she bakes using mostly local ingredients and never adds anything you wouldn’t be able to find in a grocery store. She also bakes her donuts instead of frying them, creating a pastry that is delicious and completely unlike anything else I’d tried before. A short drive away is another creative establishment, the Small Street B&B Café. Part art gallery, part homey cafe, the menu here is entirely sourced locally, changes daily and is as creative as its owners and the bed and breakfast right next door. Creativity seems to reign supreme here, because a new type of winery opened its doors in Pittsboro not too long ago. The Fair Game Beverage Company creates both wines and hard spirits again using North Carolina, or regional, products. If you enjoy unusual small batch spirits or wines, definitely stop by their tasting room for some samples. The main reason why I was in Pittsboro though was to spend the night at the nearby luxury property, the Fearrington House Inn. A gorgeous Relais & Châteaux hotel/restaurant, this is pure rural luxury at its best. Spacious suites and a fine dining restaurant that easily ranks amongst the best in the country make a stay here something extraordinary. With Pittsboro an easy 10 minute drive away, it just makes sense to merge the two into a single weekend away you’ll remember for a long time.

Having grown up in small and medium sized towns, I have a particular affinity for them. But I also realize they’re not all made the same. Far too many have died a slow death, mere shells of their former glory. That’s why I was so happy to see these three communities in North Carolina that aren’t just surviving, but thriving.

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Flying Above The Colorful Great Barrier Reef, Queensland Australiahttp://landlopers.com/2015/08/26/photo-colorful-great-barrier-reef http://landlopers.com/2015/08/26/photo-colorful-great-barrier-reef#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 04:50:50 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=30148 The post Flying Above The Colorful Great Barrier Reef, Queensland Australia appeared first on LandLopers.

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Queensland Australia

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Basic Travel Truths Some People Ignorehttp://landlopers.com/2015/08/25/travel-truths http://landlopers.com/2015/08/25/travel-truths#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 04:55:10 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=30141 Sometimes people confuse and confound me – especially folks who should frankly know better. Travel isn’t perfect, but some people tend to overcomplicate it in any number of ways. While … Read More

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InterContinental Hong Kong

Sometimes people confuse and confound me – especially folks who should frankly know better. Travel isn’t perfect, but some people tend to overcomplicate it in any number of ways. While in France recently I saw some fairly egregious examples of bad tourists, and online I’ve heard travel complaints that really should never have been complaints in the first place. So, I thought I’d choose a few of these travel issues, some basic truths really, and set the record straight on them once and for all. This is slightly tongue in cheek, so let’s keep the negativity to a minimum in the comments section – ok everyone?

You Get What You Pay For

Maxims are repeated time and time again for an important reason; they’re true. An important such expression in the travel experience is “You get what you pay for,” a sad fact that many of us forget I think. I could share dozens of examples, but there are two key ones that I think best demonstrate this in the travel context. I’ve seen more complaints about budget airlines like WOW air and easyJet than anything else, but what I don’t understand is why. People book flights with ultra-budget carriers understanding, or at least they should understand, that the tickets prices are absurdly low for a reason – they nickel and dime everyone. This isn’t a great secret or an example of airlines gone rogue; it’s their business model. So when you pay $99 each way for a flight to Europe, you better expect a few extra fees along the way. If you want a pleasant, hassle-free experience, then pay more money for a better seat on a better airline. I’m sorry, but you’re not going to get a business class seat on an extreme budget. For most people that’s ok, but if you want a truly fantastic flying experience then you have to be prepared to pay for it. The same holds true for hotels, which leads me to my second example. While AirBnB is more popular than ever, at its heart it’s still part of the sharing economy and as such, there is no standard for quality. Sometimes people luck out and that’s great, but I think it’s ridiculous to complain about lackluster AirBnB accommodations. Aren’t they supposed to be lackluster? That’s the point of getting a cheap room – it’s cheap. Again, if you expect the Presidential Suite at the Ritz Carlton for an AirBnB price, that’s not going to happen. For me, hotels are extremely important and so it’s one of my big splurges when I travel. Many people aren’t as hung up on hotels as I am, which is fine, but then don’t complain when your budget accommodation is, well, budget.

bangkok airport

Travel isn’t as scary as you want it to be

Now is when I criticize my fellow Americans. Sorry folks, I usually defend you all almost to a fault, but this time you deserve it. Let’s ignore the bizarre fact that only about a third of the eligible population even own a passport, much less use it; that’s a separate blog post in its own right. Let’s instead focus on how much fear many Americans experience whenever they leave the country. I was recently in an airport in France, watching many Americans attempt to get through the ticketing and boarding process and it was a total mess. This isn’t some backwater airport in the middle of nowhere – this was a big airport in a major Western nation and as such, the airport experience is nearly identical to what we have in the US. Instead of just printing out their boarding passes, going through security and then boarding, they relied far too heavily on other people and as such, had lost the ability to think for themselves. These are presumably intelligent people, have jobs, families and are able to function in normal society and yet the task of boarding an airplane was just too much for them. I don’t know why we as Americans are as intimidated by anything foreign as we are, but it needs to stop. It’s a big, integrated world out there and we have to stop isolating ourselves from it. We need to be more aware of the world around us so that when we do leave the country, we are better able to function in it.

Wailea Beach Villas

Travel is only for the rich

This is obviously related to my first point and sure, if you want to jump on a private plane, stay at the best hotels and resorts and eat out at 3-Michelin star restaurants every night, then having some extra cash in the bank is helpful. But travel is one of those great experiences that is truly egalitarian. Not every trip has to be epic and over the top, a simple road trip to a destination a few hours away isn’t only fun, but helps in all the usual ways that we normally benefit from travel. We explore, learn and relax. Sure, it’s sometimes a little more fun to do that on an exotic beach, but my point is that travel doesn’t have to be complex to be fun. Even if you have your eyes set on that trip to Europe or Asia, it’s more possible than you think. One of my first posts was about how to save extra money to put towards travel. Stop buying fancy coffees, limit how much you eat out and look at your monthly expenses and identify some other ways you can save money. Believe it or not but it adds up very fast and once you’ve realized these savings, devote them towards that trip you’ve been lusting after. I think you’ll be surprised just how much you can save and how quickly you can do it.

Young kids backpackers

The best way to travel is…

There is no shortage of annoying, pompous travel writers and bloggers and most of them espouse their philosophies on what the real way to travel is. The problem is, it varies and is reflective only of what they enjoy doing. It could mean backpacking, staying in hostels, “going local” (whatever that means) or any number of travel styles. The truth is, there is absolutely no right or wrong way to get out there and see the world. Being told otherwise is just another impediment to travel. People start to feel bad about how they want to travel and so they just don’t do it. Whether it’s a cruise, organized tour, with friends, with family, alone, independent, whatever, I don’t care, as long as you leave home then you are traveling correctly. Any sort of travel, whether it’s two towns over or around the world is an enriching experience; we always learn something whether we like it or not and that, more than perhaps anything else, is what makes travel so amazing. So ignore the “experts” (There’s actually no such thing) and just do whatever makes you happy. Problem solved.

I hope this wasn’t too snarky, it’s not my normal style but sometimes I get annoyed at what I see in print and online not because of the tone, but because of the effect these statements have on others. Travel is a great gift and it’s one we are all eligible to receive, but it requires some work on our part in order to enjoy its many great benefits.

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Great Sphinx & Pyramid of Khufu in Egypthttp://landlopers.com/2015/08/25/great-sphinx-pyramid-of-khufu-in-egypt http://landlopers.com/2015/08/25/great-sphinx-pyramid-of-khufu-in-egypt#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 04:50:34 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=30142 The post Great Sphinx & Pyramid of Khufu in Egypt appeared first on LandLopers.

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Sphinx Egypt

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First Thoughts: River Cruise in France With Uniworldhttp://landlopers.com/2015/08/24/cruise-france-uniworld http://landlopers.com/2015/08/24/cruise-france-uniworld#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 04:55:54 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=30138 I recently finished up another river cruise, but this one with the boutique luxury river cruise line Uniworld. Although I do plan on writing a full review, I first wanted … Read More

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France

I recently finished up another river cruise, but this one with the boutique luxury river cruise line Uniworld. Although I do plan on writing a full review, I first wanted to jot down some initial impressions while they were still fresh in my mind. As a quick caveat, Uniworld sponsored my trip with them but naturally all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

River cruising in general

While it’s technically my fourth time on a river cruise ship, my latest foray into charted waters was only my second full-length river cruise in Europe, and my first time sailing with a Uniworld vessel. I of course had some expectations going into it, but naturally I was also curious what I would think about the river cruise experience itself. My first European river cruise was in December and the focus was experiencing the Christmas markets and seeing what Europe is like during the holiday season. That’s a rare cruise naturally, and the cruise I took last week in France with Uniworld really is more representative of what the vast majority of river cruise guests experience.

My first impressions are that I understand why river cruising is so popular right now. Companies literally cannot build ships fast enough to keep up with demand, and that’s because the word is out that this style of travel really is a lot of fun. As a dyed-in-the-wool Europhile, it may not be how I want to experience the Old World every time I visit, but river cruising definitely has its place. I honestly love unpacking only once – an absolute rarity not only for me, but for most people who want to spend their vacations traveling around Europe. There’s a lot to be said for the ease and convenience that only a river cruise can provide. Also when I travel, I almost always also include walking tours of some sort. Over the years I’ve learned how valuable a well-trained guide can be and the fact that the river cruise lines include basic walking tours at all of their ports of call is another bonus. So for me, this latest trip has definitely confirmed for me that I do indeed enjoy river cruising – sometimes. It’s not a style of travel that I want to do all of them, but when done either in conjunction with a longer, more independent trip or just as another travel option, I think it definitely has its place.

Tournon France

The Uniworld experience

The only other river cruise in Europe that I’ve been on was with Viking River Cruises, so that’s all I have to compare my Uniworld experience to. I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, and overall the two companies are fairly comparable. The layout – but definitely not design – of the company’s newest ships are similar to each other, and the flow of the overall structural design is not too divergent. Uniworld’s design though is very different from Viking’s, and it really has to do with the leadership of both cruise lines. Viking is very Scandinavian, which means clean lines and a functional design. Uniworld, on the other hand, used designers from their affiliated boutique hotel company, Red Carnation, to create the look and feel of a floating boutique hotel. Neither design aesthetic is right or wrong, it just comes down to personal preference. If I am going to be nit-picky, I think that the food and the service were slightly better on Uniworld, and I much prefer the cabin layout on Uniworld as well. But I would happily sail with either company again; the differences weren’t enough to deter me from one or the other.

What I enjoyed most about Uniworld is that it did feel more all-inclusive than Viking, which is nice. If I wanted a drink, whether Diet Coke or something else, I could get it any time of day at no extra fee. Viking restricts complimentary drinks to meals only. Uniworld also had a more luxury feel when it came to onboard service. No matter the request, I never received the answer, “No.” It’s a small thing, but the Uniworld staff did what they could in order to make every single passenger happy and content.

As I said, I plan on writing a much more robust Uniworld-only review, but all in all it was indeed a positive travel experience.

Avignon France

France as a river cruise destination

I love France and while I’ve been there many times, I’ve never done a full, weeklong river cruise through the country. At first I was a little concerned that we wouldn’t have enough time in each location, but turns out I was wrong. Although each stop was unique and very different from each other, the combination of organized tours and independent exploration time gave me every opportunity I needed to explore new towns and cities and to live the life of being in France, instead of just watching from the sidelines. One of my favorite days was spent in Lyon, just to provide one example. I joined a 3-hour walking tour in the morning, and then afterwards I had the entire rest of the day to explore the city on my own. I enjoyed a leisurely lunch in a trendy part of town, walked around the neighborhoods trying to learn more about the city and just had a lovely day meandering. It was perfect and by the time the ship once again left port, I felt like I had seen and done a lot in Lyon. Do I want to return? Sure, but it’s because my experiences there helped me fall in love with the city to the point where I want to go back just to enjoy it some more, not because I felt like I missed something in particular. The river cruise though also brought me closer to very small towns and villages, places I probably would have driven by on the highway, but which became star players on the river cruise. If anything, river cruising in France is a tremendous way to discover areas of the country you probably have never seen before.

Overall

My week cruising through France with Uniworld was an overall positive experience. There were ups and downs, positives and negatives, but on the whole I certainly don’t regret my decision to see what the Uniworld experience was like and indeed, it’s an experience I would happily repeat again in other areas of Europe or even the world. River cruising is changing. It’s not the playground for the old and boring, the guests onboard are more diverse than ever and the experiences both onboard and off are far more exciting and just plain fun than they ever have been in the past. This evolution will continue of course and I’m excited to see in how many more ways this style of travel will change in the future.

Do you have any questions about my experience?

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Colorfully Tiled Roof of the Hôtel-Dieu in Beaune, Francehttp://landlopers.com/2015/08/24/photo-dieu-beaune http://landlopers.com/2015/08/24/photo-dieu-beaune#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 04:50:11 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=30136 The post Colorfully Tiled Roof of the Hôtel-Dieu in Beaune, France appeared first on LandLopers.

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Beaune France

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A Look At The Real Machu Picchuhttp://landlopers.com/2015/08/23/machu-picchu http://landlopers.com/2015/08/23/machu-picchu#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 04:55:32 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=30117 Like most everyone else, before visiting Machu Picchu I had seen THE photo from everyone who had journeyed there before me. You know the one, the photo looking down onto … Read More

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Machu Picchu Peru

Like most everyone else, before visiting Machu Picchu I had seen THE photo from everyone who had journeyed there before me. You know the one, the photo looking down onto the ancient site with the mighty peaks of the Andes behind and perhaps a light mist or a precocious llama stealing the shot. Granted, it’s a beautiful photo and it defines the experience for many, but as I learned after visiting the city of Machu Picchu with Intrepid Travel, there’s a lot more to the Inca getaway in the clouds than that one point of view. Spending two hours visiting Machu Picchu with a guide, I was amazed by the many other beautiful views found all around the city and so I wanted to share today what a visit to Machu Picchu really looks like, more than just that one shot we all know so well.

After arriving by bus, the first thing all visitors to Machu Picchu do is make the steep walk up to the lookout point to get that first shot. Many times guide books and travel magazines present famous sites in ways that aren’t realistic. Camera angles or conditions that are rare, leading to a certain level of disappointment amongst visitors. That’s not the case at Machu Picchu. Every postcard you’ve ever seen is accurate, it really is that beautiful and anyone can capture that famous photo. I was lucky that morning, there was no morning fog and the conditions were just about perfect. With a slight nip in the air, the sun shone down brilliantly on Machu Picchu itself, drawing out the fine lines and features I’d never before noticed when I gazed at the images in print.

Peru Machu PIcchu

But then the necessary question comes, now what? It’s a good question actually as there’s no interpretive center and the one Machu Picchu museum isn’t actually on-site, which is admittedly odd. The answer is to hire a guide at the wonder itself – Intrepid hired one for our group – who lead visitors on a two-hour circuit around and through Machu Picchu. From my experience, the tour was informative and better yet, showed me areas of the site I would have missed had I just done it alone.

As a history and antiquities nerd, I was in tourist heaven. I’m not alone in marveling at how the Inca were able to construct not only a remotely situated city on top of a mountain, but how they did it so very well. Finely chiseled stones through which not even a piece of paper can slide and temples and other outbuildings that look like they could be open again for business in just a few days. What’s found around the city is just as amazing though; the hills surrounding Machu Picchu are covered in meticulously constructed terraces used for farming and irrigation. Gently brought back to life by archeologists, the terraced hills are especially beautiful in the gentle light of dawn. Looking out across those hills and down to the valley below, THAT was the moment that gave me chills, more so than when I first saw the site itself.

After the two-hour tour, the guide finished at the exit point for Machu Picchu and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wondering if that was all there was. Getting to Machu Picchu is a process involving either a 4-day hike or a couple of days of travel via car, train and bus. To leave after only a few hours seemed bizarre to me, so I went back to the beginning, where I started my morning, and set off to do something else. There are a couple of hikes available to visitors, one to the Sun Gate which is a fairly long walk, and a shorter hike known as the Inca Bridge hike. I opted for the bridge hike and set off through the jungle to see what was waiting for me ahead.

Round-trip the hike to the bridge is about an hour, and along the way hikers find themselves looking straight down in spots to the valley floor below. The stones lead you through the clouds on a path that hugs the mountain through some of the most lush vegetation you’ll ever see. The hike was easy and I was glad to have done it, but after its finish I was once again left wondering what to do next. The answer was to simply leave. As hard as it was for me to believe, I had seen all of what Machu Picchu has to offer, I had experienced the wonder in person and it was time to go. I don’t know if I expected a daylong event, or fireworks and fanfare, but I was content as I boarded the bus to return me to the odd mountain village of Aguas Calientes. Unlike so many other famous places around the world, Machu Picchu really does live up to the hype and exploring it is just as amazing as I thought it would be.

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French Chateau in the Green Vineyards of Burgundyhttp://landlopers.com/2015/08/23/photo-castle-burgundy http://landlopers.com/2015/08/23/photo-castle-burgundy#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 04:50:36 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=30133 The post French Chateau in the Green Vineyards of Burgundy appeared first on LandLopers.

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Chateau de Rully France

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