There is a saying that travel is its own reward, but there are obviously other reasons for making the decision to travel to different places. Whether for vacation, adventure, a change of scenery, or a trip of a lifetime, people travel to a variety of places every day. For the most part, people are hoping to gain something from their travels, after all it is often quite expensive. We aren’t any different, we also get something in return for traveling to all of the places that we visit. For us, it is learning about the culture, meeting the people, and experimenting with local flavors that are our rewards. We aren’t cultural anthropologists, but we do use many of those concepts when we are on a trip to a foreign country.
We certainly understand the adventure travelers who travel the world looking for different thrills. Whether diving off a reef in the Caribbean, climbing to the top of some of the worlds largest mountains, or trekking through dense forests, there are many different pulse pounding ways to spend your time when traveling. We have definitely had our share of adventures from staying in the Amazon, going down Death Road in Bolivia, climbing to the top of Colorado mountains, white-water rafting, skiing, and ziplining in different jungles. However, for us, it was visiting the indigenous villages and meeting the people that call these places home that have made the most lasting memories.
No one can blame people who choose to travel for relaxation. There is nothing like sitting on a beach or a mountain resort and not doing much of anything. We take several trips throughout the year and at least one of those is usually just to unwind and let the day-to-day stresses melt away. Just because we are relaxing, though, doesn’t mean that we don’t take time to meet the locals and taste the local foods. Whether in Mexico or on the Spanish Riviera, we like to learn about the people who live near the resorts and make their living by pampering all of the tourists who come to their locations. Often times, many of them have moved from their home towns to earn money and send it back to their families.
Whether traveling to a country where the citizens look similar to yourself or traveling to a place where you stand out amongst the crowds, there is so much to learn from the places that you visit. As much as the world has become smaller with the internet, television, and social media, there is no substitute for spending time in a culture that is different than your own and taking time to understand the people that live there. One of the things that constantly amazes us is when we see tourists in a different country that don’t take time to actually talk to the people who live there, but just wander through taking pictures and acting like it is an exhibit for them to see. In our opinion, those people are missing out on the best part of traveling, absorbing as much about the culture as possible. What is it that drives you to take the time and spend the money to travel to places that are foreign to you?
Regardless of where we travel to, we always taste local wines during our time in the country. Sometimes we go on an actual wine tasting tour where we visit several vineyards and taste several of the varieties that they offer. Other times we seek out wine bars that specialize in serving local wines and then try a couple of different wines. Even if we don’t go to anyplace that specializes in wine, we’ll still ask the local restaurants about any wines that they would recommend from the region. We often find that the people that live there are extremely proud of their country’s wine traditions.
There are certain obvious places like France, Italy, Spain, and California in the US that not only offer wine tastings and tours, but often target tourists specifically to visit for their wine. However, we have been to many other countries that are not necessarily known for their wine and found that they have a wonderful wine tradition. Places like Peru, Panama, Egypt, Romania, Turkey, Vietnam, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic all had wonderful selections. Obviously, Germany has many wonderful wines as well.
Another place where we did a wine tasting was in Budapest where we enjoyed a wonderful charcuterie board as well as sampling a variety of wines. The region that we heard the most about for producing excellent wine was Eger, which grows both red and white varieties of wine. As far as red wine from Eger, the Bull’s Blood or Egri Bikaver was really good and came with an interesting back-story. Legend has it that in 1552 a small group of soldiers were drinking wine in preparation for the upcoming siege of Eger and bull’s blood was added to the wine to give them extra strength and stamina. The group was able to successfully beat the larger group of Turks and the legend was born.
What was your favorite location to enjoy a wine tasting?
We have to admit that museums and art galleries aren’t always our first choice to visit when traveling because we like to see historic places as opposed to items collected and displayed, but some of the best are able to combine both. With that said, if you want to see some of the incredible paintings, sculptures, and antiquities, you will most likely have to go to a museum. We have been to many wonderful museums, some of them perhaps a little bit less traditional than others. In no particular order, here are some of our favorite museums that we’ve visited during our travels.
The Vatican Museums in Vatican City – If nothing else, it is worth visiting them to be able to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The museums themselves, however, are absolutely amazing and like most of the museums that we mention here, it takes more than one visit to truly take in everything that there is to see. There is so much to see in Rome and visiting Vatican City is certainly something worth making time to see.
The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo – No visit to Cairo, Egypt would be complete without making time to tour the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. As with many other sites in Egypt, having an Egyptologist as a guide is extremely helpful if you want to learn as much as possible during your time in the museum. In addition to the sarcophaguses, papyrus hieroglyphs, and pieces of art, there are several dramatic statues housed within the museum.
Intiñan Museum at the Equator in Ecuador – One of the things that we really enjoyed during our visit to Quito, Ecuador, was going to the true equator and participating in several experiments at the Intiñan Museum. The museum itself is dedicated to the history of Ecuador with several exhibits about the cultures of the people of the Amazon. Although there are several exhibits regarding the people, animals, and plants of the jungle, the main attraction of the museum are the various science experiments that are a hands on experience for those that visit the museum.
The Louvre in Paris, France – Needless to say, one should not go to Paris without visiting the Louvre. It is definitely a museum that you could visit a hundred times and always see and find something new. Of course there is the Mona Lisa, which draws huge lines to see, but there is so much more. Paintings, statues, and other works of art from all of the masters such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Giovanni Bellini, and Rembrandt, just to name a few.
DakshinaChitra Cultural Living Museum in Southern India – Located outside of Chennai, the DakshinaChitra is a living museum that depicts life, art, culture, and architecture of Southern India, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. DakshinaChitra features 18 authentic historical houses that were deconstructed from their original region and then reconstructed by artisans from the region on the grounds of the museum. Each of the houses features exhibits that represent the region’s art and daily life. Although we visited during an off time, the museum features typical artisans and performers from the various regions that you can interact with, thus making it a living museum.
Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam – Although we only had a couple of days in Amsterdam, one of the places that we wanted to visit was the Rijksmuseum. It is the Dutch National Museum and is dedicated to the arts and history of the Netherlands. It is also the largest art museum in the country and it displays more than 8,000 pieces. The building itself is actually quite beautiful and first opened its doors in 1885.
Galleria Dell’Accademia in Florence, Italy – There is more to the Accademia Gallery in Florence than just Michelangelo’s David. Florence was the center of the art world for hundreds of years and still contains incredible paintings and statues to be admired. In addition to the statue of David, there are many other statues by Michelangelo as well as other famous artists. Beautiful and sometimes haunting paintings can be found by Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, and many more. Much of the artwork was commissioned by the Medici family and then later donated by one of the last members of the Medici family so that they could be displayed for the pleasure of everyone to view.
The Field Museum in Chicago – We have visited the Field Museum in Chicago a couple of times now and have enjoyed each visit. There are several static exhibits as well as several temporary exhibits, which makes revisiting very worthwhile. One of the main reasons that we decided to go to the museum was because they currently have a Jurassic World Exhibit, which we had heard was really interesting. Unfortunately, it is in an outside tent that wraps around the museum and because of the sub-zero temperatures, it was closed the day of our visit. That didn’t stop us from fully enjoying our time at the museum, though.
National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. – This is one of our favorite museums, partially because we have several pilots in our family. From the plane that the Wright Brothers flew to the Space Station, the history of flight is truly fascinating. Obviously there is a lot to see when visiting Washington D.C., but if you had to pick a single Smithsonian Museum to visit, we’d recommend this one.
The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy – Florence was the cradle of renaissance art for several centuries, so it is no surprise that it hosts one of the most famous museums in the world for renaissance art, the Uffizi Gallery. The Medici family was renowned for their patronage of the arts and commissioned many great works of art from artists such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Machiavelli. After the family died out, a deal was made to give all of their art to the city of Florence and the Uffizi Gallery is home to many of those works.