Archive for the ‘Travel/Places’ Category

What is the Ideal Number of Bags to Travel With?

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

Let’s go for a walk.Some of you are planning to travel soon. It may be to Chile, Costa Rica, or Cancún, but what’s for certain is it’s going to be a lot of fun and you’re going to learn a lot of Spanish.

But there’s another thing for certain.

You’ll take a lot of things with you, only to cart them back home unused.

At least that’s what usually happens to me.

A friend of a friend visited not long ago and exemplified this. She only had two suitcases, but they were the big ones. And stuffed full of all the necessities of life, which we can get by without, and even are often happier without.

I am committed to taking only One Bag next time I travel.

If I take more clothes than I end up using, I’m peeved with myself. But if I didn’t bring something that I did need, it’s an opportunity to buy something new, maybe even something representative of the area I’m visiting.

I don’t need any valuable jewelry.

I don’t need any books to read. I want to do things, not sit in a hotel and read, I can do that at home. Ok, maybe I’ll take one small dictionary.

I don’t need the iPod, mini television set, or other electronic wizardry. One camera for a few tasteful shots is a go.

I’ll leave the blowdryer, travel iron, six pairs of shoes, and de-linter home.

What I will bring is the tried and trusted gear that I will use every day. If I forget something, I can buy it along the way.

What do you stand to gain by bringing only One Bag?

  • One Bag is more mobile. You can grab it and be on your way in a lot less time than someone with three bags.
  • One Bag is more secure. You can keep an eye on it or take it with you easier. It is also a lot less pretentious and doesn’t call attention to itself.
  • One Bag will bring you peace of mind. Since you don’t have all your possesions with you, you aren’t worried about losing everything. With One Bag, it’s less likely that you lose it.
  • One Bag is more economical. You don’t have to pay to transport, load, unload, store, clean, and insure so many belongings.

What to put in your One Bag?

If you want some help deciding what to put in your bag, try the Universal Packing List. You tell this online utility when and where you’re travelling, what you’ll be doing, and a lot of other information, and it spits out a detailed list of suggested items for you to take. It’s really quite interesting. If you want some more coaching, there’s a site called One Bag that teaches you everything you need to know about the art and science of traveling light.

Whatever you decide to bring with you, consider if you can get by with One Bag. I’m convinced you’ll the happier for it.

I’ll close with this saying that Sosia found for me:

En un largo camino, hasta una paja pesa (on a long journey, even a straw is heavy)

La Tomatina

Monday, August 20th, 2007


In case my previous reasons to visit Spain weren’t enough, the annual insanity of La Tomatina should be the clincher. This food fight takes place on the last Wednesday of August in Buñol, Valencia, where the small town’s population quadruples and 40,000 people hurl overripe tomatoes at each other until the streets literally fill with tomato stew. The battle is limited to one hour, which is long enough to do away with several truckloads (110 metric tons) of tomatoes. Local businesses and homeowners try to mitigate cleanup time by covering storefronts and homes with plastic sheeting before the event.


Thanks to Aaron Corey for the photos.

Chícalas (roasted ants) from Oaxaca

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

A couple of friends just got back from a visit to Oaxaca, México and were kind enough to bring back some chícalas for me to taste. Chícalas are large black ants that have been toasted on a grill or in a frying pan. I thought you might want to see a close-up view.


Besides these ants, there are some other insects that are commonly eaten in various parts of Mexico.


escamoles.jpgEscamoles are ant lavae or eggs that are used to prepare different dishes. Seasonal and hard-to-find escamoles can go for as high as $30 to $50 a pound, and can be thought of as similar to caviar. This is on my list of things to do, and the next time I get a chance, I’m going to have to try escamoles.


chinicuiles.jpgMaguey worms Gusanos de maguey (chinicuiles) are edible caterpillars that live in the maguey and agave plants. They are considered a delicacy and are often eaten raw, toasted or crushed in a spicy red salsa. That spicy red salsa is pretty good by the way.


chapulines-for-sale.jpgA chapulín is a big grasshopper. You can eat a handful as a snack or enjoy then combined with other foods. The word chapulín comes from the indigenous náuatl language. Of course, grasshoppers are known as saltamontes or saltones in other areas. Chapulines are toasted similar to chícalas. You can get a little bag of them for about $1.50, so next time you’re in Mexico, you have no excuses.

After all this talk, aren’t you getting hungry?

And if you think you have an aversion to eating insects, think about honey. It’s really just nectar from flowers that bees ingest and regurgitate a couple of times and then store it in a half-digested state. ¿No te encanta la entomofagia?

27 Reasons to Visit Spain

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Practicing your Spanish is a great reason for visiting Spain, but who wants to do that?

Oh, that’s right, you do and I do.

But in addition to that, there are other great reasons. I’ll let the following pictures take the place of about 27,000 words.


They really light up the Agbar Tower at Glòries in Barcelona.


The entrance to Gaudi’s Güell Park in Barcelona, looks like an enchanted place. This is one of about 70 municipal parks in the city.


If you’re tired of the parks, take a stroll on Barcelona’s beaches.


You might also like the beaches of Cádiz.


The Aran Valley in Catalonia looks like a really inviting place.


The Mosque or Mezquita in Córdoba has some really colorful pillars and arches.


You get to fly into one of the most colorful airports I’ve seen. This is the Barajas International in Madrid.


La Peñalara is the highest peak in the mountain chain Sierra de Guadarrama.


The Metrópolis building, on Gran Vía.


The Puerta Alcalá at the entrance to a park called El Retiro.


The Alcazaba, an 8th centruy Moorish fortification stands over a Roman theater in Málaga.


The Castillo Gibralfaro, on a hill next to the Alcazaba in Málaga.


The harbor at Málaga.


A Roman theater in Mérida.


The Pyrenees.


Roman aqueduct in Segovia.


The Puente Alamillo in Sevilla.


The Romans sure built a lot of aqueducts and theaters in the Iberian Peninsula. This one’s in Sevilla.


City Hall behind a fountain in Valencia.


This rounded glass building known as L’Hemisfèric is an Imax theater, Planetarium and Laserium in the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias in Valencia.


La Lonja de la seda, known affectionatly as La Lonja, was built as an oil market and was later used as a silk exchange.


A typical narrow street in the old part of town, Valencia.


The Aljafería, an 11th century Moorish palace and castle in Zaragoza.


La Puerta del Carmen, Zaragoza. Wouldn’t it be interesting to drive down a modern thoroughfare and drive by this?


The River Ebro running through Zaragoza. Looks like the setting for a Harry Potter book.


A snowy afternoon at Pilar’s square, Zaragoza.


Plaza de las catedrales, in Zaragoza.

Picture credit goes to Wikipedia and the volunteers who create it. You can find these pictures by starting at the article about Spain and following links to other articles.

Fotos de Mexico

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Aerial Photos of Mexico City.
I ran across a site where pilot and photographer Oscar Ruíz has documented Mexico City from the air. He’s posted almost a hundred beautiful aerial shots of the Mexico City / DF area. Photo descriptions are in Spanish unless you click over to the English version of the page.

The three cropped pictures shown above are (left to right) (1) The Mexican Stock Exchange building (La bolsa Mexicana de valores); in the original photo you can see the US Embassy on the far left. (2) Mexico City lights at night. (3) Orderly rows of houses in an Ixtapaluca complex of more than 20,000 homes.