7 climbs to get stunning scenic photos in Florence

Posted from http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2017/09/21/7-climbs-to-get-stunning-scenic-photos-in-florence/

Cameras have evolved into a permanent must-have part of our mainstream culture. Whether it is a part of a smart phone, or a high-end DSLR, we use them to communicate online and off, for email and social media, for business and education. When traveling, cameras have become as ubiquitous as a passport. Even more so, […]

The post 7 climbs to get stunning scenic photos in Florence appeared first on A Luxury Travel Blog.

Posted from http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2017/09/21/7-climbs-to-get-stunning-scenic-photos-in-florence/

Cameras have evolved into a permanent must-have part of our mainstream culture. Whether it is a part of a smart phone, or a high-end DSLR, we use them to communicate online and off, for email and social media, for business and education. When traveling, cameras have become as ubiquitous as a passport. Even more so, […]

The post 7 climbs to get stunning scenic photos in Florence appeared first on A Luxury Travel Blog.

4 pleasant, short trips around Lake Geneva

Posted from http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2017/09/20/4-pleasant-short-trips-around-lake-geneva/

The city of Geneva is renowned for its multicultural treasures as well as a hub for foreign politics and business. The high life quality of the city can’t be contained by the streets alone. It spills over to the lush surroundings, most notably the Lake Geneva. So if you want to escape the thrilling city […]

The post 4 pleasant, short trips around Lake Geneva appeared first on A Luxury Travel Blog.

Posted from http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2017/09/20/4-pleasant-short-trips-around-lake-geneva/

The city of Geneva is renowned for its multicultural treasures as well as a hub for foreign politics and business. The high life quality of the city can’t be contained by the streets alone. It spills over to the lush surroundings, most notably the Lake Geneva. So if you want to escape the thrilling city […]

The post 4 pleasant, short trips around Lake Geneva appeared first on A Luxury Travel Blog.

How this Boomer Canadian Couple Traveled the World for a Year

Posted from https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/boomer-sabbatical-travel/

Esther and her husband
As a solo backpacker, there are are certain areas of travel I’m not yet an expert in. Fortunately, there are plenty of experts in our community who can share their travel experiences! Lately, there’s been a growing trend among boomers taking sabbaticals, early retirements, and buying vans and just saying “Screw it! Let’s go!” when the kids move out. More and more of my emails come from boomers looking for advice – not young college kids! It’s an awesome trend. So, today I wanted to share an interview with Esther and Peter. They’re are couple from Canada traveling the world on a year-long sabbatical. They share their advice on health issues, budgeting, and much more!

Nomadic Matt: Hi Esther! Thanks for doing this interview. Tell us about yourself!
Esther: I am an elementary school principal who has taken a self-funded leave for one year. I remarried a few years ago, and my husband, Peter, is my travel partner. I celebrated my 52nd birthday at the Pyramids of Giza, and Peter celebrated his 58th at a variety show in Bangkok. We call North Delta (a suburb of Vancouver) home.

How did you get into travel?
I think it happened in stages. When I was still in elementary school, my parents bought me a desk that had a map of the world on the top. I used to stare at that and dream of all the incredible places there are to explore in the world. Then, when I was thirteen, my parents bought a time-share. This allowed our family to travel to Mexico and Hawaii, which were my first tropical experiences. I loved the sounds and smells and the exotic feel of it. As a university student I studied languages in both Freiburg, Germany, and Bordeaux, France. During those two years I traveled in Europe, and I think that is when the travel bug really bit me. I have yet to recover from that bite!

Where have you been?
Before this round-the-world tour, I had already traveled extensively in Europe, Mexico, Hawaii, Cuba, China, and Canada. Since August 2016, my husband and I have visited Holland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal, and we are currently in Thailand. We still have three or four months of traveling ahead of us, and the current plan is to explore Southeast Asia, but we are open to other possibilities, too. Ironically, as we travel, my list of places to visit is growing longer rather than getting shorter!

What’s been the biggest lesson so far?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that the world is simultaneously small and big. By this I mean that it is small enough to explore. It is big, however, in that there is an abundance of everything we require to sustain ourselves. If we were to put aside politics and borders and simply focus on ensuring that we distribute the riches of the world, there would, I honestly believe, be more than enough of everything for everyone. Living out of a carry-on suitcase has taught me that we actually “need” very little.

What’s your number one piece of advice for new travelers?
Plan, plan, and plan some more. It is not only necessary but exciting! Then be prepared to abandon your carefully made plans for unexpected opportunities that will arise. This trip we decided to forego a portion of Eastern Europe to serve as crew on a sailboat in the Dodecanese Islands, and we blew our budget to sail down the Nile on a dahabiya (passenger boat). We don’t regret those decisions one bit.

A second piece of advice would be to document your journey. I am not normally one to journal, but I do while traveling, and it is tremendous to look back on even now. We also are sharing our travel adventures through blogging and social media. I am confident that the digital and hard copies will become treasured memories when the trip is over.

Esther and her husband

How do you travel on a budget?
We basically draw from three pots of money: my salary, Peter’s pension and savings for the trip, and the income from renting our house. We are fortunate that all three sources of income come in monthly, which makes it easy to budget. We also have savings to dip into should the need arise, but so far we haven’t had to.

We look for budget accommodation. Hotels.com is where I do most of our bookings; because I write reviews of our stays, I get a percentage off subsequent stays and a free night for every ten paid nights. We have also used Airbnb on occasion.

We have been fortunate to spend some time with my relatives in Austria and also with many Couchsurfing hosts. I hesitate to put either of these in the budget category though, because we don’t use these to save money but rather because it is such an enriching experience. We have been fortunate to have had wonderful hosts in the past eight months.

What budget tips do you have for other travelers?
Track every penny you spend. While Peter tracks things electronically using an app called Andromoney, I try to keep a running total in my head. Often my total is WAY off, as it is easy to forget a taxi ride, a cup of coffee, a snack at a roadside stand. We go over our $150 [Canadian] for the two of us some days, knowing we need to make it up on others.

Your husband has some health issues. How do you handle that on the road?
While we have been planning this round-the-world trip for a few years, our resolve became greater when Peter had a stroke two years ago. He worked hard to recover, but it was a reminder that life is uncertain and that we don’t know how many days or years any of us have ahead of us, so we should fill them doing what we love.

We delayed our trip by one year while Peter worked on recovering. Originally, we planned on driving around Iceland so we could hike to the natural hot springs. Peter’s high blood pressure and hot springs aren’t a good combination, so instead we decided to sign up for a bike and barge tour in Holland.

His medical condition also caused us to think carefully about which travel insurance would cover pre-existing conditions. Peter packed a year’s worth of medication and his blood pressure cuff, and he monitors his blood pressure regularly. Additionally, I have a bad hip, and the doctor has told me I will eventually require a hip replacement. We strive to live a healthy, mainly vegetarian lifestyle while traveling, but it is difficult in many countries.

Between the two of us, we are mindful of our physical limitations and that some activities we might have undertaken in our twenties simply aren’t for us now. That is the reality of growing older (for us at least). We are still able to do all of the activities we enjoy…just scaled back a bit.

Esther and her husband posing for a photo
Have you had to see any doctors on the road? Was getting a year’s worth of medicine difficult?
I had a really bad cold while in Sri Lanka over Christmas so we went to the hospital. The hospital visit and medications were only $25. I also had to have a doctor make a house call to the hotel while in India due to vertigo caused by a buildup of water in the ear, and he charged $23 for the house call and medication. For both of these medical interventions we paid cash, because it wasn’t enough to send to our medical insurance.

As far of the year’s worth medication, through the Canadian medical plan you can only purchase six months’ worth, so the other half was out of pocket. Apparently, we could have picked up these medications cheaply in some countries but found that out too late. I am not sure we would want to have counted on that though because we find that even trying to get baby aspirin in the right dosage can be a challenge.

Do you meet a lot of travelers your age on the road? If so, how?
This has been tricky. Most of the travellers our age are on group tours so they don’t tend to seek to expand their circle of friends. I make a point to start conversations with people wherever and whenever I can. Hostel and hotel lobbies are often good spots to connect with people.

The most significant meetings have definitely been through Couchsurfing. When looking for a host, I don’t focus too much on the age, as our age bracket makes up a small percentage of the Couchsurfing world. Besides, I can enjoy the company of someone regardless of their age. Connecting with younger people has also been great and is quite rejuvenating. We have definitely made friendships on the road that I am confident will endure.

Do you find being older travelers makes it harder to find Couchsurfing hosts? A lot of older travelers worry that the site is “just for young people”.
I don’t think our age has been an issue at all with Couchsurfing. If you make it clear that the Couchsurfing will be mutually satisfying, then age should not be an issue. I’d say more than 50% of the “surfers” are younger than us and we have had wonderful experiences. Actually, I think that a lot of the younger Couchsurfers take a lot without giving back by either not hosting themselves or just being a guest that sees it as a free hotel room. So being young could sometimes be viewed as a disadvantage in finding a host, in my mind.

Esther and her husband

What’s one mistake you’ve made that you could have avoided?
Today we were robbed by our cabbie. My husband had been to the bank earlier in the day. Usually, we split up the money between us and also stash some in some secret places so as not to have all our money in one spot. Today, we were in a hurry, hot, and tired, and we were going to do it once we got back to the hotel. It was a perfect storm. In the end, the cabbie got about 3,000,000 dong ($180 USD) by feigning outrage and then grabbing a bunch of bills from my husband’s open wallet. Not knowing what he was going to do next, we got out of his cab as soon as he hit the unlock button. He was acting quite irrational, so we were happy to remove ourselves from that situation without greater loss. It has rattled us a bit and reminded us to follow all the common-sense safety measures.

What advice do you have for travelers your age?
GO NOW! Many people are waiting for retirement or the economy to improve or their children or grandchildren to be older. There is always something that will hold you back. Independent traveling won’t get easier as the years pass. Some people might feel it is a selfish indulgence, but perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing. We have spent decades dedicating ourselves to working, raising children, and dreaming about “one day.” It is OK to decide that day is today—pack your bags and go!

Become the Next Success Story

One of my favorite parts about this job is hearing people’s travel stories. They inspire me, but more importantly, they also inspire you. I travel a certain way but there are many ways to fund your trips and travel the world. I hope these stories show you that there is more than one way to travel and that it is within your grasp to reach your travel goals. Here are more examples of people who found work overseas to fund their trips:


P.S. – We are hosting a Q&A with Couchsurfing on September 28th. Come join and find out how to crush it on Couchsurfing and meet locals on your travels!

The post How this Boomer Canadian Couple Traveled the World for a Year appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

Posted from https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/boomer-sabbatical-travel/

Esther and her husband
As a solo backpacker, there are are certain areas of travel I’m not yet an expert in. Fortunately, there are plenty of experts in our community who can share their travel experiences! Lately, there’s been a growing trend among boomers taking sabbaticals, early retirements, and buying vans and just saying “Screw it! Let’s go!” when the kids move out. More and more of my emails come from boomers looking for advice – not young college kids! It’s an awesome trend. So, today I wanted to share an interview with Esther and Peter. They’re are couple from Canada traveling the world on a year-long sabbatical. They share their advice on health issues, budgeting, and much more!

Nomadic Matt: Hi Esther! Thanks for doing this interview. Tell us about yourself!
Esther: I am an elementary school principal who has taken a self-funded leave for one year. I remarried a few years ago, and my husband, Peter, is my travel partner. I celebrated my 52nd birthday at the Pyramids of Giza, and Peter celebrated his 58th at a variety show in Bangkok. We call North Delta (a suburb of Vancouver) home.

How did you get into travel?
I think it happened in stages. When I was still in elementary school, my parents bought me a desk that had a map of the world on the top. I used to stare at that and dream of all the incredible places there are to explore in the world. Then, when I was thirteen, my parents bought a time-share. This allowed our family to travel to Mexico and Hawaii, which were my first tropical experiences. I loved the sounds and smells and the exotic feel of it. As a university student I studied languages in both Freiburg, Germany, and Bordeaux, France. During those two years I traveled in Europe, and I think that is when the travel bug really bit me. I have yet to recover from that bite!

Where have you been?
Before this round-the-world tour, I had already traveled extensively in Europe, Mexico, Hawaii, Cuba, China, and Canada. Since August 2016, my husband and I have visited Holland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal, and we are currently in Thailand. We still have three or four months of traveling ahead of us, and the current plan is to explore Southeast Asia, but we are open to other possibilities, too. Ironically, as we travel, my list of places to visit is growing longer rather than getting shorter!

What’s been the biggest lesson so far?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that the world is simultaneously small and big. By this I mean that it is small enough to explore. It is big, however, in that there is an abundance of everything we require to sustain ourselves. If we were to put aside politics and borders and simply focus on ensuring that we distribute the riches of the world, there would, I honestly believe, be more than enough of everything for everyone. Living out of a carry-on suitcase has taught me that we actually “need” very little.

What’s your number one piece of advice for new travelers?
Plan, plan, and plan some more. It is not only necessary but exciting! Then be prepared to abandon your carefully made plans for unexpected opportunities that will arise. This trip we decided to forego a portion of Eastern Europe to serve as crew on a sailboat in the Dodecanese Islands, and we blew our budget to sail down the Nile on a dahabiya (passenger boat). We don’t regret those decisions one bit.

A second piece of advice would be to document your journey. I am not normally one to journal, but I do while traveling, and it is tremendous to look back on even now. We also are sharing our travel adventures through blogging and social media. I am confident that the digital and hard copies will become treasured memories when the trip is over.

Esther and her husband

How do you travel on a budget?
We basically draw from three pots of money: my salary, Peter’s pension and savings for the trip, and the income from renting our house. We are fortunate that all three sources of income come in monthly, which makes it easy to budget. We also have savings to dip into should the need arise, but so far we haven’t had to.

We look for budget accommodation. Hotels.com is where I do most of our bookings; because I write reviews of our stays, I get a percentage off subsequent stays and a free night for every ten paid nights. We have also used Airbnb on occasion.

We have been fortunate to spend some time with my relatives in Austria and also with many Couchsurfing hosts. I hesitate to put either of these in the budget category though, because we don’t use these to save money but rather because it is such an enriching experience. We have been fortunate to have had wonderful hosts in the past eight months.

What budget tips do you have for other travelers?
Track every penny you spend. While Peter tracks things electronically using an app called Andromoney, I try to keep a running total in my head. Often my total is WAY off, as it is easy to forget a taxi ride, a cup of coffee, a snack at a roadside stand. We go over our $150 [Canadian] for the two of us some days, knowing we need to make it up on others.

Your husband has some health issues. How do you handle that on the road?
While we have been planning this round-the-world trip for a few years, our resolve became greater when Peter had a stroke two years ago. He worked hard to recover, but it was a reminder that life is uncertain and that we don’t know how many days or years any of us have ahead of us, so we should fill them doing what we love.

We delayed our trip by one year while Peter worked on recovering. Originally, we planned on driving around Iceland so we could hike to the natural hot springs. Peter’s high blood pressure and hot springs aren’t a good combination, so instead we decided to sign up for a bike and barge tour in Holland.

His medical condition also caused us to think carefully about which travel insurance would cover pre-existing conditions. Peter packed a year’s worth of medication and his blood pressure cuff, and he monitors his blood pressure regularly. Additionally, I have a bad hip, and the doctor has told me I will eventually require a hip replacement. We strive to live a healthy, mainly vegetarian lifestyle while traveling, but it is difficult in many countries.

Between the two of us, we are mindful of our physical limitations and that some activities we might have undertaken in our twenties simply aren’t for us now. That is the reality of growing older (for us at least). We are still able to do all of the activities we enjoy…just scaled back a bit.

Esther and her husband posing for a photo
Have you had to see any doctors on the road? Was getting a year’s worth of medicine difficult?
I had a really bad cold while in Sri Lanka over Christmas so we went to the hospital. The hospital visit and medications were only $25. I also had to have a doctor make a house call to the hotel while in India due to vertigo caused by a buildup of water in the ear, and he charged $23 for the house call and medication. For both of these medical interventions we paid cash, because it wasn’t enough to send to our medical insurance.

As far of the year’s worth medication, through the Canadian medical plan you can only purchase six months’ worth, so the other half was out of pocket. Apparently, we could have picked up these medications cheaply in some countries but found that out too late. I am not sure we would want to have counted on that though because we find that even trying to get baby aspirin in the right dosage can be a challenge.

Do you meet a lot of travelers your age on the road? If so, how?
This has been tricky. Most of the travellers our age are on group tours so they don’t tend to seek to expand their circle of friends. I make a point to start conversations with people wherever and whenever I can. Hostel and hotel lobbies are often good spots to connect with people.

The most significant meetings have definitely been through Couchsurfing. When looking for a host, I don’t focus too much on the age, as our age bracket makes up a small percentage of the Couchsurfing world. Besides, I can enjoy the company of someone regardless of their age. Connecting with younger people has also been great and is quite rejuvenating. We have definitely made friendships on the road that I am confident will endure.

Do you find being older travelers makes it harder to find Couchsurfing hosts? A lot of older travelers worry that the site is “just for young people”.
I don’t think our age has been an issue at all with Couchsurfing. If you make it clear that the Couchsurfing will be mutually satisfying, then age should not be an issue. I’d say more than 50% of the “surfers” are younger than us and we have had wonderful experiences. Actually, I think that a lot of the younger Couchsurfers take a lot without giving back by either not hosting themselves or just being a guest that sees it as a free hotel room. So being young could sometimes be viewed as a disadvantage in finding a host, in my mind.

Esther and her husband

What’s one mistake you’ve made that you could have avoided?
Today we were robbed by our cabbie. My husband had been to the bank earlier in the day. Usually, we split up the money between us and also stash some in some secret places so as not to have all our money in one spot. Today, we were in a hurry, hot, and tired, and we were going to do it once we got back to the hotel. It was a perfect storm. In the end, the cabbie got about 3,000,000 dong ($180 USD) by feigning outrage and then grabbing a bunch of bills from my husband’s open wallet. Not knowing what he was going to do next, we got out of his cab as soon as he hit the unlock button. He was acting quite irrational, so we were happy to remove ourselves from that situation without greater loss. It has rattled us a bit and reminded us to follow all the common-sense safety measures.

What advice do you have for travelers your age?
GO NOW! Many people are waiting for retirement or the economy to improve or their children or grandchildren to be older. There is always something that will hold you back. Independent traveling won’t get easier as the years pass. Some people might feel it is a selfish indulgence, but perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing. We have spent decades dedicating ourselves to working, raising children, and dreaming about “one day.” It is OK to decide that day is today—pack your bags and go!

Become the Next Success Story

One of my favorite parts about this job is hearing people’s travel stories. They inspire me, but more importantly, they also inspire you. I travel a certain way but there are many ways to fund your trips and travel the world. I hope these stories show you that there is more than one way to travel and that it is within your grasp to reach your travel goals. Here are more examples of people who found work overseas to fund their trips:


P.S. – We are hosting a Q&A with Couchsurfing on September 28th. Come join and find out how to crush it on Couchsurfing and meet locals on your travels!

The post How this Boomer Canadian Couple Traveled the World for a Year appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

7 Castles You MUST See in France

Posted from https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/chateaux-loire-valley-travel/

Villandry chateau in France
Did you really click on that clickbaity title? Come on! Really? I guess these cheesy headlines do work! Maybe I should title all my posts like Buzzfeed?

Ha ha, no, I’m just kidding. I would never do that. That’s just terrible. I just wanted to see what happened if I did it. 🙂

But, seriously, let’s talk châteaux (large country houses or castles, plural of château). In June, I went to France for my birthday to explore the famed Loire Valley, with its rolling hills, exquisite wineries, wide rivers, and grandiose castles.

This region of fertile land was the seat of royal power during early French history. Kings, queens, and other royalty built grand palaces here as they cemented their rule of this vital trade region. But by the middle of the 16th century, power shifted to Paris, as kings spent less time wandering the kingdom and more time there (and who wouldn’t want to spend more time in Paris?).

However, French royalty still expended considerable money building beautiful châteaux. The Loire Valley has over 80, and it would take a lot more of my limited time to see them all. But I did manage to visit a bunch — and find out ways to do so on budget! Here are the highlights:

Chambord

Chambord chateau in France
This castle is one of the most popular in the region, thanks to its grandeur, detailed façade, intricate decorations, and large gardens. It was original built by Francis I in 1519 as a hunting retreat. However, he died in 1547, and the castle remained half built. It fell into disrepair for nearly 80 years until Louis XIV visited in 1639. He ordered it finished based on the original plans. (Note: This is a running theme for a lot of châteaux in the region.)

Entering the castle grounds and seeing this massive ornate structure elicited an audible “wow” from my mouth. I marveled at the building’s intricate masonry and beautiful spires. The interior’s massive double-helix staircase inspired by Leonardo da Vinci creates a focal point that draws your attention as you move through the house. I loved the symmetry of the large halls and old paintings of royalty.

This place was gigantic and took hours to see. There are incredible views from the roof, but my favorite moments were mostly in the gardens, just staring at every inch of this palace. Truly fit for a king — or at least a zillion daily tourists!

Tip: I highly recommend the audio tour. It’s given on an iPad that allows you to zoom in on paintings and artifacts, provides an overlay of what the room would have looked in the 17th and 18th centuries (even including images of what it looked like being built), and gives tons of detailed information. Worth every euro!

How to get there – You can take a 25 minute shuttle or taxi from the nearby city of Bloise.

Villandry

Villandry chateau in France
Built into the side of a hill, this château was originally a keep (fortified tower) constructed in the 14th century for King Philip Augustus. When the place was acquired by a local nobleman in the early 16th century, the original keep was preserved, the rest of the structure was razed, and a fortress was erected (with a cool moat!). During the French Revolution, the property was confiscated by the state, and in the early 19th century, Emperor Napoleon gave it to his brother, Jérôme Bonaparte. In 1906, the Carvallo family (the current owners) purchased the property and poured an enormous amount of time and money into it to make it what it is today.

However, despite the grand exterior of the castle, I found the interior lacking, and I moved through it pretty quickly. Other than the ornately decorated first rooms, the interior is very bland (and kind of worth skipping all together).

The main draw of this château is its famous Renaissance gardens, which include a water garden, ornamental flower gardens, and vegetable gardens, altogether containing over 60,000 vegetables and 45,000 bedding plants! These are laid out in formal, geometric patterns separated with low box hedges. It’s a beautiful place to wander and relax, with a stream running through it and many spots to sit and contemplate. There’s also an adjacent woods with a few trails that not many people wander around, so you have them all to yourself! Overall, the gardens and woods are the best part of this castle, and that’s where your time should be spent!

How to get there – There’s a bus from Tours on Wednesday and Saturday. If you go any other day of the week, you’ll need a car.

Blois

A chateau in France
Since you have to stop in Blois to see Chambord, the town castle makes an easy addition. Originally a medieval fortress built in the 9th century, it was taken over by Louis XII in 1498 and transformed into a palace in the Gothic style that was a center of power for centuries. (Fun fact: In 1429, Joan of Arc was blessed here before going to fight the British in Orléans.)

There’s not much left of the medieval fortress. The main part of the castle was built in 1515 by François I in Renaissance style and includes a famous buttressed circular staircase leading to the private sleeping rooms and ballrooms.

While this castle is small and the exterior less ornate than others in the region, I found the interior to be second to none, with intricately restored rooms, detailed information plaques, and stunning period furniture. Outside, you get sweeping views of the town and river. It was a really lovely castle.

How to get there – From Paris, you can take a two-hour train. From Tours, it’s about 45 minutes.

Amboise

Amboise chateau in France
This was my overall favorite castle. It may not be as ornate or large as the others, but it’s the total package: a fairy-tale-like structure with stunning interiors, beautiful gardens, and great views of the Loire River. Confiscated by the monarchy in the 15th century, it became a favored royal residence and was extensively rebuilt by King Charles VIII (who died here in 1498 after hitting his head on a door (seriously)). It was built into a lavish Renaissance palace by his successors but eventually fell into decline in the second half of the 16th century. It was greatly damaged in the French Revolution before being renovated in the 19th century.

That is what I really loved about the palace: the mix of architectural styles. You had the Gothic portion with its vaulted roofs, the Renaissance sleeping chambers and exteriors, and the grandly designed rooms from the 19th century. You can see the mark of history throughout the palace. I also loved the large, winding carriage ramp that descended from the castle into the town and the terraced gardens filled with oak trees. There’s also the church that contains the remains of Leonardo da Vinci! Really, this place is top-notch!

How to get there – You can take a thirty minute train ride from Tours. The castle is a 10 minute walk from the station.

Clos Luce

Chenonceau chateau in France
Built by Hugues d’Amboise in the middle of the 15th century, this château was acquired in 1490 by Charles VIII. There aren’t many rooms to explore, but they do retain that Renaissance charm. What makes it famous was that Leonardo da Vinci lived here from 1516 to 1519. Today, the castle is a testament to him, with marvelously restored rooms and a basement filled with replicas of his famous inventions. Additionally, be sure to go outside and look up, as the exterior has tons of Italian influences. The grounds are stunning and contain a restaurant, mill, and several ponds. The extensive gardens, complete with geese, streams, and many walking trails and places to escape and reflect, were an amazing addition, and it’s easy to imagine Leonardo walking around, looking for inspiration.

How to get there – You can take a thirty minute train ride from Tours. The castle is a 30 minute walk from the station.

Azay le Rideau

Clos Luce chateau in France
Originally built in the 12th century, the castle was burned to the ground in 1418 by Charles VII. It remained in ruins until 1518 when it was rebuilt by a local noble. However, the French king Francis I confiscated the unfinished château in 1535 and gave it to one of his knights as a reward for his service, who then left it half built. The castle’s condition deteriorated through the centuries until, in the 1820s, the new owner undertook extensive alteration work to make it the beauty it is today.

A lot of the place was (still) under construction when I was there, so not all the rooms were open. The interior was simple and well explained by signs but lacked any ornate furniture, paintings, or fixtures. This place had my favorite exterior, though. I loved the square configuration, with its turrets overlooking the garden; the fact that it’s built on a pond; and the long cobblestone driveway leading in from town. It’s easy to imagine royalty trotting down in their carriages to the wrought-iron gates on their way to attend a ball.

How to get there – You can take a thirty minute train ride from Tours. The castle is a 20 minute walk from the station.

Chenonceau

Azay le Rideau chateau in France
Chenonceau is one of the best-known châteaux in the Loire Valley. It was built in 1514 on the foundations of an old mill. In 1535, it was seized by King Francis I for unpaid debts. Then in 1547, Henry II gave it as a gift to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers (now one of the most famous women in French history). Diane oversaw the planting of extensive flower and vegetable gardens. In fact, the gardens are still laid out in her original design.

After Henry died, his widow Catherine de’ Medici (also one of the most famous women in French history) forced Diane out of the castle and made Chenonceau her residence. (Fun fact: In 1560, the first-ever fireworks display seen in France took place here.) In 1577, she extended the grand gallery across the entire river, making the château what it is today. After she died, the castle bounced around various royalty and their mistresses, was luckily spared destruction in the Revolution, and then was renovated and sold a bunch more times before it became a state property.

Walking through a forest that opens up on two gardens (still maintained in their old style), you see this beautiful, thin castle that spans a river. The interior is quite small (it’s longer than it is wide), and while the rooms are well preserved, they are often very crowded since they are so small. They’re beautiful, but it’s rather nice to go into the gallery and stare out across the river. The gardens were cool to see in bloom, and there’s even a little maze on the grounds (though it’s easy to get out). (Another fun fact: This castle divided Vichy and German-controlled France and was often used to smuggle Jews to safety.)

How to get there – The castle is a 35 minute train ride from Tours.

Tips for visiting the châteaux

So how do you visit all these beautiful castles (and the 70+ not listed here)? They are pretty easy to visit — all but a handful are accessible by bus or train, and those that aren’t are usually only about a 20-30-minute bike ride from the nearest town. But admission fees of 10 euros a pop can really add up and make castle-hopping a really un-budget activity. However, there are a few ways to save money on the castle experience:

  • The tourism office in Tours sells discounted tickets, so it’s best to buy many of your tickets there. They are 1 to 2 euros off the price at the castles.
  • Most of the castles are near train stations (the farthest I walked was 20 minutes to the Azay castle), so there is no need to take one of the expensive tours that whisk you to a bunch of châteaux in a short period of time. Plan your visit around the trains and buses.
  • For castles not near the train station, you can rent bikes near the tourism offices. A bike is 15 euros for the day.
  • If you want to drive, this region is best explored by car so you can see everything. Car rentals cost about 30-40 euros per day.
  • Most of the castles sell food that’s overpriced, even by French standards. However, you can bring your own food and water, so take a little picnic to eat on the grounds and save yourself a ton of money!

My only regret is that I didn’t have more time to see even more castles. It can be crazy spending 20-30 euros a day just on castles, but I found each one beautiful, unique, and filled with history that gave me a greater understanding of the region. Even if you’re not as castle-hungry as I am, be sure to visit some of these majestic places. Even the popular ones are worth the crowds.

You can visit many on a day trip from Paris, but I suggest roaming the region for at least a few days, taking in the castles, drinking an obscene amount of wine at an outdoor café, and soaking up some of the history, charm, and culture that makes France the special place that is.

The post 7 Castles You MUST See in France appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

Posted from https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/chateaux-loire-valley-travel/

Villandry chateau in France
Did you really click on that clickbaity title? Come on! Really? I guess these cheesy headlines do work! Maybe I should title all my posts like Buzzfeed?

Ha ha, no, I’m just kidding. I would never do that. That’s just terrible. I just wanted to see what happened if I did it. 🙂

But, seriously, let’s talk châteaux (large country houses or castles, plural of château). In June, I went to France for my birthday to explore the famed Loire Valley, with its rolling hills, exquisite wineries, wide rivers, and grandiose castles.

This region of fertile land was the seat of royal power during early French history. Kings, queens, and other royalty built grand palaces here as they cemented their rule of this vital trade region. But by the middle of the 16th century, power shifted to Paris, as kings spent less time wandering the kingdom and more time there (and who wouldn’t want to spend more time in Paris?).

However, French royalty still expended considerable money building beautiful châteaux. The Loire Valley has over 80, and it would take a lot more of my limited time to see them all. But I did manage to visit a bunch — and find out ways to do so on budget! Here are the highlights:

Chambord

Chambord chateau in France
This castle is one of the most popular in the region, thanks to its grandeur, detailed façade, intricate decorations, and large gardens. It was original built by Francis I in 1519 as a hunting retreat. However, he died in 1547, and the castle remained half built. It fell into disrepair for nearly 80 years until Louis XIV visited in 1639. He ordered it finished based on the original plans. (Note: This is a running theme for a lot of châteaux in the region.)

Entering the castle grounds and seeing this massive ornate structure elicited an audible “wow” from my mouth. I marveled at the building’s intricate masonry and beautiful spires. The interior’s massive double-helix staircase inspired by Leonardo da Vinci creates a focal point that draws your attention as you move through the house. I loved the symmetry of the large halls and old paintings of royalty.

This place was gigantic and took hours to see. There are incredible views from the roof, but my favorite moments were mostly in the gardens, just staring at every inch of this palace. Truly fit for a king — or at least a zillion daily tourists!

Tip: I highly recommend the audio tour. It’s given on an iPad that allows you to zoom in on paintings and artifacts, provides an overlay of what the room would have looked in the 17th and 18th centuries (even including images of what it looked like being built), and gives tons of detailed information. Worth every euro!

How to get there – You can take a 25 minute shuttle or taxi from the nearby city of Bloise.

Villandry

Villandry chateau in France
Built into the side of a hill, this château was originally a keep (fortified tower) constructed in the 14th century for King Philip Augustus. When the place was acquired by a local nobleman in the early 16th century, the original keep was preserved, the rest of the structure was razed, and a fortress was erected (with a cool moat!). During the French Revolution, the property was confiscated by the state, and in the early 19th century, Emperor Napoleon gave it to his brother, Jérôme Bonaparte. In 1906, the Carvallo family (the current owners) purchased the property and poured an enormous amount of time and money into it to make it what it is today.

However, despite the grand exterior of the castle, I found the interior lacking, and I moved through it pretty quickly. Other than the ornately decorated first rooms, the interior is very bland (and kind of worth skipping all together).

The main draw of this château is its famous Renaissance gardens, which include a water garden, ornamental flower gardens, and vegetable gardens, altogether containing over 60,000 vegetables and 45,000 bedding plants! These are laid out in formal, geometric patterns separated with low box hedges. It’s a beautiful place to wander and relax, with a stream running through it and many spots to sit and contemplate. There’s also an adjacent woods with a few trails that not many people wander around, so you have them all to yourself! Overall, the gardens and woods are the best part of this castle, and that’s where your time should be spent!

How to get there – There’s a bus from Tours on Wednesday and Saturday. If you go any other day of the week, you’ll need a car.

Blois

A chateau in France
Since you have to stop in Blois to see Chambord, the town castle makes an easy addition. Originally a medieval fortress built in the 9th century, it was taken over by Louis XII in 1498 and transformed into a palace in the Gothic style that was a center of power for centuries. (Fun fact: In 1429, Joan of Arc was blessed here before going to fight the British in Orléans.)

There’s not much left of the medieval fortress. The main part of the castle was built in 1515 by François I in Renaissance style and includes a famous buttressed circular staircase leading to the private sleeping rooms and ballrooms.

While this castle is small and the exterior less ornate than others in the region, I found the interior to be second to none, with intricately restored rooms, detailed information plaques, and stunning period furniture. Outside, you get sweeping views of the town and river. It was a really lovely castle.

How to get there – From Paris, you can take a two-hour train. From Tours, it’s about 45 minutes.

Amboise

Amboise chateau in France
This was my overall favorite castle. It may not be as ornate or large as the others, but it’s the total package: a fairy-tale-like structure with stunning interiors, beautiful gardens, and great views of the Loire River. Confiscated by the monarchy in the 15th century, it became a favored royal residence and was extensively rebuilt by King Charles VIII (who died here in 1498 after hitting his head on a door (seriously)). It was built into a lavish Renaissance palace by his successors but eventually fell into decline in the second half of the 16th century. It was greatly damaged in the French Revolution before being renovated in the 19th century.

That is what I really loved about the palace: the mix of architectural styles. You had the Gothic portion with its vaulted roofs, the Renaissance sleeping chambers and exteriors, and the grandly designed rooms from the 19th century. You can see the mark of history throughout the palace. I also loved the large, winding carriage ramp that descended from the castle into the town and the terraced gardens filled with oak trees. There’s also the church that contains the remains of Leonardo da Vinci! Really, this place is top-notch!

How to get there – You can take a thirty minute train ride from Tours. The castle is a 10 minute walk from the station.

Clos Luce

Chenonceau chateau in France
Built by Hugues d’Amboise in the middle of the 15th century, this château was acquired in 1490 by Charles VIII. There aren’t many rooms to explore, but they do retain that Renaissance charm. What makes it famous was that Leonardo da Vinci lived here from 1516 to 1519. Today, the castle is a testament to him, with marvelously restored rooms and a basement filled with replicas of his famous inventions. Additionally, be sure to go outside and look up, as the exterior has tons of Italian influences. The grounds are stunning and contain a restaurant, mill, and several ponds. The extensive gardens, complete with geese, streams, and many walking trails and places to escape and reflect, were an amazing addition, and it’s easy to imagine Leonardo walking around, looking for inspiration.

How to get there – You can take a thirty minute train ride from Tours. The castle is a 30 minute walk from the station.

Azay le Rideau

Clos Luce chateau in France
Originally built in the 12th century, the castle was burned to the ground in 1418 by Charles VII. It remained in ruins until 1518 when it was rebuilt by a local noble. However, the French king Francis I confiscated the unfinished château in 1535 and gave it to one of his knights as a reward for his service, who then left it half built. The castle’s condition deteriorated through the centuries until, in the 1820s, the new owner undertook extensive alteration work to make it the beauty it is today.

A lot of the place was (still) under construction when I was there, so not all the rooms were open. The interior was simple and well explained by signs but lacked any ornate furniture, paintings, or fixtures. This place had my favorite exterior, though. I loved the square configuration, with its turrets overlooking the garden; the fact that it’s built on a pond; and the long cobblestone driveway leading in from town. It’s easy to imagine royalty trotting down in their carriages to the wrought-iron gates on their way to attend a ball.

How to get there – You can take a thirty minute train ride from Tours. The castle is a 20 minute walk from the station.

Chenonceau

Azay le Rideau chateau in France
Chenonceau is one of the best-known châteaux in the Loire Valley. It was built in 1514 on the foundations of an old mill. In 1535, it was seized by King Francis I for unpaid debts. Then in 1547, Henry II gave it as a gift to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers (now one of the most famous women in French history). Diane oversaw the planting of extensive flower and vegetable gardens. In fact, the gardens are still laid out in her original design.

After Henry died, his widow Catherine de’ Medici (also one of the most famous women in French history) forced Diane out of the castle and made Chenonceau her residence. (Fun fact: In 1560, the first-ever fireworks display seen in France took place here.) In 1577, she extended the grand gallery across the entire river, making the château what it is today. After she died, the castle bounced around various royalty and their mistresses, was luckily spared destruction in the Revolution, and then was renovated and sold a bunch more times before it became a state property.

Walking through a forest that opens up on two gardens (still maintained in their old style), you see this beautiful, thin castle that spans a river. The interior is quite small (it’s longer than it is wide), and while the rooms are well preserved, they are often very crowded since they are so small. They’re beautiful, but it’s rather nice to go into the gallery and stare out across the river. The gardens were cool to see in bloom, and there’s even a little maze on the grounds (though it’s easy to get out). (Another fun fact: This castle divided Vichy and German-controlled France and was often used to smuggle Jews to safety.)

How to get there – The castle is a 35 minute train ride from Tours.

Tips for visiting the châteaux

So how do you visit all these beautiful castles (and the 70+ not listed here)? They are pretty easy to visit — all but a handful are accessible by bus or train, and those that aren’t are usually only about a 20-30-minute bike ride from the nearest town. But admission fees of 10 euros a pop can really add up and make castle-hopping a really un-budget activity. However, there are a few ways to save money on the castle experience:

  • The tourism office in Tours sells discounted tickets, so it’s best to buy many of your tickets there. They are 1 to 2 euros off the price at the castles.
  • Most of the castles are near train stations (the farthest I walked was 20 minutes to the Azay castle), so there is no need to take one of the expensive tours that whisk you to a bunch of châteaux in a short period of time. Plan your visit around the trains and buses.
  • For castles not near the train station, you can rent bikes near the tourism offices. A bike is 15 euros for the day.
  • If you want to drive, this region is best explored by car so you can see everything. Car rentals cost about 30-40 euros per day.
  • Most of the castles sell food that’s overpriced, even by French standards. However, you can bring your own food and water, so take a little picnic to eat on the grounds and save yourself a ton of money!

My only regret is that I didn’t have more time to see even more castles. It can be crazy spending 20-30 euros a day just on castles, but I found each one beautiful, unique, and filled with history that gave me a greater understanding of the region. Even if you’re not as castle-hungry as I am, be sure to visit some of these majestic places. Even the popular ones are worth the crowds.

You can visit many on a day trip from Paris, but I suggest roaming the region for at least a few days, taking in the castles, drinking an obscene amount of wine at an outdoor café, and soaking up some of the history, charm, and culture that makes France the special place that is.

The post 7 Castles You MUST See in France appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

7 Travel Books Worth Reading Right Now (and How to Get a Cheap Kindle)

Posted from https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/best-travel-books-2017/

Matt reading books at home this month
I’ve been picking up a lot of random books in bookstores lately. This can often be hit or miss. I can’t count the times I’ve picked up books only to go “Well, that was terrible.” However, this current stretch has produced some wonderful books and, since it’s been a while since I’ve done a best-books round-up, I think it’s time again! I spend a lot of time on buses, trains, and planes and use that time to devour books so, without further ado, here are seven books worth your time:

1. All Over the Place, by Geraldine DeRuiter
All Over the Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty TheftGeraldine, aka The Everywhereist, is a hilarious writer (and friend). This book chronicles her travels, anxieties, and relationship with her husband Rand (who is as cool as the book makes him out to be). It really is all over the place – but in a good way. Though I found the book to be less about travel and more about her relationship, it more than lived up to all my expectations. I’m a huge fan of Geraldine’s writing, wit, snark, and humor and this book delivered all of that. I mean who else can make a poop story so damn funny? If you love her blog, you’ll love this book. (And if you don’t know about her blog, well, read that too.) This book was wonderful and devoured it in a couple of sittings.

2. The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World, by Torre DeRoche
The Worrier's Guide to the End of the World: Love, Loss, and Other Catastrophes Through Italy, India, and BeyondI loved Torre’s first book, Love with a Chance of Drowning, about her cross-Pacific adventure with her then-boyfriend. I had the pleasure of getting an advance copy of her second book (and I loved it so much I even wrote a blurb for it!) Whereas the last book was an adventure into the world, this book is an adventure into the self. After meeting the lovely Masha at an event in NYC, Torre meets up with Masha in Europe, where they decide to walk the Via Francigena trail in Italy and then follow Gandhi’s walking route in India. Along the way, Torre encounters snakes, shamans, rude travelers, friendly strangers, and a universe seemingly trying to point her in the right direction. This book is just as fabulously well written and engaging as her first. I grew to love it more with every page — and I can’t recommend it enough.

3. Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World, by Joan Druett
Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the WorldAuckland Island, located 285 miles south of New Zealand, is a place with year-round freezing rain, wind, and little food (but apparently a lot of seals). Simply put, it’s not a place you want to get shipwrecked on. Yet in 1864, Captain Thomas Musgrave and his crew did just that — and a few months later, on the opposite side of the island, so did the crew of the Scottish ship Invercauld. This well-written account of the how the two crews survived (and didn’t survive) was a wonderful juxtaposition on leadership, camaraderie, and coming together in crisis. It’s not a long book. It took me a few days to read but it was compelling, captivating, and an excellent reminder of the importance of keeping one’s composure in a crisis.

4. Dispatches from Pluto, by Richard Grant
Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi DeltaAs a big fan of the state of Mississippi, I was really keen to read this book. The state is an often-overlooked tourist destination with eccentric but wonderful people; beautiful parks, rivers, and swamps; stunning architecture; and a complex and rich history for history buffs like myself. In this book, English writer Richard Grant and his girlfriend move to rural Pluto, Mississippi, to live a better life, escape the big city, lower their cost of living, and try something new. They learn to hunt, garden, fend off wild animals, handle snakes, and befriend interesting characters along the way. Grant dives into the contradictions of this state — from race relations and class to education, food, family, and everything in between. This book was incredible, nails Mississippi, and is a must, must, must read.

5. The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland, by Barbara Sjoholm
The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in LaplandBarbara Sjoholm set off one winter to explore this arctic region — then spent two more coming back and learning about it more. In the process, she unearths the region’s rich history and dives into the tension between tourism, mining, and land use. Her book dives deep into the Samis, local indigenous population and their struggle to maintain their culture in the modern era. As a lover of all things Scandinavian, it was really nice to read about an area and people of the region not often given the attention they deserve. As much as I thought I knew about this region, reading this book taught me a lot – and showed me how much I still had to learn. Well written and insightful, you should definitely pick up this book.

6. The Not-Quite States of America, by Doug Mack
The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USAThe United States of America is more than just 50 states. There’s also the non-states of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. In this funny, detailed, fact-rich book, Doug Mack explores these territories largely forgotten by the rest of the country, which play a more important role in our country than we realize. I had the pleasure of listening to Doug talk about his book in NYC, and he’s a wealth of knowledge — just like his book! This one of those travel books that expands your mind about the place you don’t really know. In many ways it reminded me of The Geography of Bliss in its approach. If you liked that book, you’ll like this book too!

7. The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca, by Tahir Shah
The Caliph's House: A Year in CasablancaInspired by the Moroccan vacations of his childhood, Shah decides to buy a house in Casablanca. He moves his family from England in hopes of breaking out from the monotony of life in London as well as exposing his children to a more carefree childhood. I randomly picked this up in a bookstore and couldn’t put it down. Shah is an engrossing writer and I was glued to every word. While dealing with corruption, the local bureaucracy, thieves, gangsters, jinns causing havoc, and the hassle that seems to come with even the most simple interactions, Shah weaves a story that is simply one of the best I’ve read all year. It’s beautifully written and endlessly enthralling. You must go buy this book!

Finally, in partnership with Amazon, I have some Amazon Kindle discounts to give away. I don’t carry a Kindle (I’m old-school and like paper), but since the Kindle is a traveler’s friend, I think this is a good deal with sharing! If you’re looking to get a Kindle, you can save $20 off one of the bundles below with the code KINDLETRAVEL. The offer is good until 9/17/17.

That’s all for today! Happy reading!

And if you have suggestions, leave them in the comments, as I’m always looking to add books to my Amazon queue that I binge-buy on weekends!

The post 7 Travel Books Worth Reading Right Now (and How to Get a Cheap Kindle) appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

Posted from https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/best-travel-books-2017/

Matt reading books at home this month
I’ve been picking up a lot of random books in bookstores lately. This can often be hit or miss. I can’t count the times I’ve picked up books only to go “Well, that was terrible.” However, this current stretch has produced some wonderful books and, since it’s been a while since I’ve done a best-books round-up, I think it’s time again! I spend a lot of time on buses, trains, and planes and use that time to devour books so, without further ado, here are seven books worth your time:

1. All Over the Place, by Geraldine DeRuiter
All Over the Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty TheftGeraldine, aka The Everywhereist, is a hilarious writer (and friend). This book chronicles her travels, anxieties, and relationship with her husband Rand (who is as cool as the book makes him out to be). It really is all over the place – but in a good way. Though I found the book to be less about travel and more about her relationship, it more than lived up to all my expectations. I’m a huge fan of Geraldine’s writing, wit, snark, and humor and this book delivered all of that. I mean who else can make a poop story so damn funny? If you love her blog, you’ll love this book. (And if you don’t know about her blog, well, read that too.) This book was wonderful and devoured it in a couple of sittings.

2. The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World, by Torre DeRoche
The Worrier's Guide to the End of the World: Love, Loss, and Other Catastrophes Through Italy, India, and BeyondI loved Torre’s first book, Love with a Chance of Drowning, about her cross-Pacific adventure with her then-boyfriend. I had the pleasure of getting an advance copy of her second book (and I loved it so much I even wrote a blurb for it!) Whereas the last book was an adventure into the world, this book is an adventure into the self. After meeting the lovely Masha at an event in NYC, Torre meets up with Masha in Europe, where they decide to walk the Via Francigena trail in Italy and then follow Gandhi’s walking route in India. Along the way, Torre encounters snakes, shamans, rude travelers, friendly strangers, and a universe seemingly trying to point her in the right direction. This book is just as fabulously well written and engaging as her first. I grew to love it more with every page — and I can’t recommend it enough.

3. Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World, by Joan Druett
Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the WorldAuckland Island, located 285 miles south of New Zealand, is a place with year-round freezing rain, wind, and little food (but apparently a lot of seals). Simply put, it’s not a place you want to get shipwrecked on. Yet in 1864, Captain Thomas Musgrave and his crew did just that — and a few months later, on the opposite side of the island, so did the crew of the Scottish ship Invercauld. This well-written account of the how the two crews survived (and didn’t survive) was a wonderful juxtaposition on leadership, camaraderie, and coming together in crisis. It’s not a long book. It took me a few days to read but it was compelling, captivating, and an excellent reminder of the importance of keeping one’s composure in a crisis.

4. Dispatches from Pluto, by Richard Grant
Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi DeltaAs a big fan of the state of Mississippi, I was really keen to read this book. The state is an often-overlooked tourist destination with eccentric but wonderful people; beautiful parks, rivers, and swamps; stunning architecture; and a complex and rich history for history buffs like myself. In this book, English writer Richard Grant and his girlfriend move to rural Pluto, Mississippi, to live a better life, escape the big city, lower their cost of living, and try something new. They learn to hunt, garden, fend off wild animals, handle snakes, and befriend interesting characters along the way. Grant dives into the contradictions of this state — from race relations and class to education, food, family, and everything in between. This book was incredible, nails Mississippi, and is a must, must, must read.

5. The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland, by Barbara Sjoholm
The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in LaplandBarbara Sjoholm set off one winter to explore this arctic region — then spent two more coming back and learning about it more. In the process, she unearths the region’s rich history and dives into the tension between tourism, mining, and land use. Her book dives deep into the Samis, local indigenous population and their struggle to maintain their culture in the modern era. As a lover of all things Scandinavian, it was really nice to read about an area and people of the region not often given the attention they deserve. As much as I thought I knew about this region, reading this book taught me a lot – and showed me how much I still had to learn. Well written and insightful, you should definitely pick up this book.

6. The Not-Quite States of America, by Doug Mack
The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USAThe United States of America is more than just 50 states. There’s also the non-states of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. In this funny, detailed, fact-rich book, Doug Mack explores these territories largely forgotten by the rest of the country, which play a more important role in our country than we realize. I had the pleasure of listening to Doug talk about his book in NYC, and he’s a wealth of knowledge — just like his book! This one of those travel books that expands your mind about the place you don’t really know. In many ways it reminded me of The Geography of Bliss in its approach. If you liked that book, you’ll like this book too!

7. The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca, by Tahir Shah
The Caliph's House: A Year in CasablancaInspired by the Moroccan vacations of his childhood, Shah decides to buy a house in Casablanca. He moves his family from England in hopes of breaking out from the monotony of life in London as well as exposing his children to a more carefree childhood. I randomly picked this up in a bookstore and couldn’t put it down. Shah is an engrossing writer and I was glued to every word. While dealing with corruption, the local bureaucracy, thieves, gangsters, jinns causing havoc, and the hassle that seems to come with even the most simple interactions, Shah weaves a story that is simply one of the best I’ve read all year. It’s beautifully written and endlessly enthralling. You must go buy this book!

Finally, in partnership with Amazon, I have some Amazon Kindle discounts to give away. I don’t carry a Kindle (I’m old-school and like paper), but since the Kindle is a traveler’s friend, I think this is a good deal with sharing! If you’re looking to get a Kindle, you can save $20 off one of the bundles below with the code KINDLETRAVEL. The offer is good until 9/17/17.

That’s all for today! Happy reading!

And if you have suggestions, leave them in the comments, as I’m always looking to add books to my Amazon queue that I binge-buy on weekends!

The post 7 Travel Books Worth Reading Right Now (and How to Get a Cheap Kindle) appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

The 2017 Reader Survey: How am I Doing?

Posted from https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/2017-reader-survey/

Nomadic Matt's 2017 reader survey
Hey everyone!

Greetings from Madagascar! I’m really enjoying my trip here with Intrepid Travel. This country has incredible scenery. I’ve seen a ton of lemurs, vistas, forests, and animals. I’m a week into my trip and, with not a lot of Wi-Fi options, ad enjoying the “digital detox.” I’ve been reading, writing, and journaling.

While I’m out roaming remote lands, I have a favor to ask.

I always like to improve this website to better suit your needs. So I do surveys every year (thank you to everyone who filled one out, and thanks to everyone who let me call them!), and they always give me a better insight into what I’m doing right or wrong, and how I can make this website better.

In the coming months, we’re going to be redesigning the website (not top to bottom, but just a simple refresh), releasing a new guidebook, updating our other ones, and planning a lot more surprises. One thing I talked about before — and have been slow to do — is writing more personal posts and taking more pictures when I travel. I kind of shied away from that (I hate how I look), but I’m getting better at taking pictures of me in places and writing more personal stories. So if you follow social media, you’ve probably seen them already.

While I’m away, I’d love for you to fill out our new reader survey! (It’s not long!)

I want to know more about you, what you like and don’t like, and what you want to see changed! I’d really appreciate if you could fill out the short survey so we can improve this website!

After all, I do this because I want to help you travel more — and your feedback helps me serve you better. In the words of New York’s mayor Ed Koch, “How am I doin’?”

And, while you do that, I’ll continue traveling Madagascar and taking photos for upcoming blog posts! Here’s a teaser photo:

a lemur in Madagascar

Best,
Matt

P.S. – Here is the link to the survey!

P.P.S. – If you want to see more Madagascar photos, come visit my Instagram

The post The 2017 Reader Survey: How am I Doing? appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

Posted from https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/2017-reader-survey/

Nomadic Matt's 2017 reader survey
Hey everyone!

Greetings from Madagascar! I’m really enjoying my trip here with Intrepid Travel. This country has incredible scenery. I’ve seen a ton of lemurs, vistas, forests, and animals. I’m a week into my trip and, with not a lot of Wi-Fi options, ad enjoying the “digital detox.” I’ve been reading, writing, and journaling.

While I’m out roaming remote lands, I have a favor to ask.

I always like to improve this website to better suit your needs. So I do surveys every year (thank you to everyone who filled one out, and thanks to everyone who let me call them!), and they always give me a better insight into what I’m doing right or wrong, and how I can make this website better.

In the coming months, we’re going to be redesigning the website (not top to bottom, but just a simple refresh), releasing a new guidebook, updating our other ones, and planning a lot more surprises. One thing I talked about before — and have been slow to do — is writing more personal posts and taking more pictures when I travel. I kind of shied away from that (I hate how I look), but I’m getting better at taking pictures of me in places and writing more personal stories. So if you follow social media, you’ve probably seen them already.

While I’m away, I’d love for you to fill out our new reader survey! (It’s not long!)

I want to know more about you, what you like and don’t like, and what you want to see changed! I’d really appreciate if you could fill out the short survey so we can improve this website!

After all, I do this because I want to help you travel more — and your feedback helps me serve you better. In the words of New York’s mayor Ed Koch, “How am I doin’?”

And, while you do that, I’ll continue traveling Madagascar and taking photos for upcoming blog posts! Here’s a teaser photo:

a lemur in Madagascar

Best,
Matt

P.S. – Here is the link to the survey!

P.P.S. – If you want to see more Madagascar photos, come visit my Instagram

The post The 2017 Reader Survey: How am I Doing? appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

Discover the best bespoke luxury travel collections

Posted from http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2017/09/13/discover-the-best-bespoke-luxury-travel-collections/

You’ve just booked the luxury cruise of your dreams to the Far East, snorkelling in the crystal clear blue waters of Malaysian Borneo, visiting an orangutan rehabilitation centre and walking in the rainforest, now the only thing you need is the right luxury luggage ensemble for the trip. Kensington Bespoke bring you the best bespoke […]

The post Discover the best bespoke luxury travel collections appeared first on A Luxury Travel Blog.

Posted from http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2017/09/13/discover-the-best-bespoke-luxury-travel-collections/

You’ve just booked the luxury cruise of your dreams to the Far East, snorkelling in the crystal clear blue waters of Malaysian Borneo, visiting an orangutan rehabilitation centre and walking in the rainforest, now the only thing you need is the right luxury luggage ensemble for the trip. Kensington Bespoke bring you the best bespoke […]

The post Discover the best bespoke luxury travel collections appeared first on A Luxury Travel Blog.

Tanzania: the perfect honeymoon

Posted from http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2017/09/12/tanzania-the-perfect-honeymoon/

Looking for the perfect honeymoon? Try Tanzania. You only get married once but how about three honeymoons? Tanzania has it all – mountains, savannah and beach, so don’t rush it. Treat yourself to a three-week honeymoon to make sure you get the most out of this beautiful country. And you’ll forge wonderful memories to last […]

The post Tanzania: the perfect honeymoon appeared first on A Luxury Travel Blog.

Posted from http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2017/09/12/tanzania-the-perfect-honeymoon/

Looking for the perfect honeymoon? Try Tanzania. You only get married once but how about three honeymoons? Tanzania has it all – mountains, savannah and beach, so don’t rush it. Treat yourself to a three-week honeymoon to make sure you get the most out of this beautiful country. And you’ll forge wonderful memories to last […]

The post Tanzania: the perfect honeymoon appeared first on A Luxury Travel Blog.

Where to stargaze in La Gomera

Posted from http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2017/09/11/where-to-stargaze-in-la-gomera/

Who among us hasn’t looked up to the skies on a clear night in wonder? Contemplating the universe while observing the heavens is only a natural reaction. But what if you could see the stars shine brighter than you ever thought possible? In the Canary Islands, you can enjoy the cleanest, clearest skies in Europe […]

The post Where to stargaze in La Gomera appeared first on A Luxury Travel Blog.

Posted from http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2017/09/11/where-to-stargaze-in-la-gomera/

Who among us hasn’t looked up to the skies on a clear night in wonder? Contemplating the universe while observing the heavens is only a natural reaction. But what if you could see the stars shine brighter than you ever thought possible? In the Canary Islands, you can enjoy the cleanest, clearest skies in Europe […]

The post Where to stargaze in La Gomera appeared first on A Luxury Travel Blog.