Posted by: travelgrrl34 | September 29, 2008

“A Map For Saturday” – Movie Review

I was lucky enough to have stumbled onto BraveNewTraveler’s interview with Brook Silva-Braga about a documentary (“A Map for Saturday”) he made during his backpacker travels around the world.  The things he had to say seemed interesting enough, so I went to the movie’s website to check it out, and decided to buy it.  I received it in the mail a few days later, and just finished watching it.  So in the spirit of doing some travel-related reviews, I’m going to speak a little about the film and my opinions about it.  I’m hesitant to reveal too many things.  I’ll limit the review to a point, and not give away too much – because you really need to see this film on your own… J


In one word: ‘wow’.  I really, really liked “A Map for Saturday”.


It wasn’t so much his journey – which took him to places like Australia, Thailand, France, Italy, and Brazil.  Of course, all of those places were fantastic to see with their visually stunning landscapes and backgrounds, and all of his experiences in those places were intriguing and interesting.  It also wasn’t the interviews of the people (both locals and fellow travelers) along the way.  All of the people had opinions and thoughts that were insightful…about everything from their travels, to love, to stereotypes, to the different cultures they’ve experienced.  It wasn’t even the part in the film where Silva-Braga talks about going home after 10 months of adventure and says that “a normal life doesn’t seem that attractive anymore” (which happens to be my favorite part of the film since it rings so true for me).


No, the best thing about “A Map for Saturday” is that it captures the essence of travel.  The ENTIRE experience of traveling long-term.  Everything.  With every destination that he visited, everything that he did, the people that he met and spoke to…every point that he made was dead-on.  Every point.  I can’t remember thinking/feeling that there was a film that captured the essence of long-term travel the way that this film did.  It was just really well-done, and I can’t say enough about how anyone that has ever traveled (or that wants to make the leap to travel) should see this movie.  It was just really that great.


So visit and order your copy today.  Let me know what you think…

Posted by: travelgrrl34 | September 22, 2008

Sidetrips in Europe – Part 2

I wanted to follow up on the article that I wrote about day trips in Europe.  There were a few places that I wanted to make mention of, but didn’t have the space to play with to add them.  So in addition to the 5 places that I already mentioned, here are a few more you may want to check out…


Greek Islands (Athens) – If you are staying in Athens and can’t make it out to the dream-like islands of Mykonos or Santorini, then take the subway to the port of Piraeus, visit one of the travel agencies there, and see if you can catch a one-day multi-island cruise. This is what I did when I was touring Athens, and was able to visit 3 islands (Poros, Hydra, and Aegina) for a reasonable price. It’s definitely worth looking into as no trip to Greece is complete without seeing the islands.

Reims, France (Paris) – A medieval Gothic cathedral to rival that of the one in Strasbourg? Check. A pedestrian square lined with lively cafes and shops stocked with the latest European fashion? Check. A lively arts scene with multiple museums and a theater for ballet performances? Check. Historical establishments? (The Museum of Surrender marks where, on May 7 1945, the Germans surrendered in WWII). Check. Champagne? Check! Reims is the capital of France’s Champagne region and millions of bottles are stored underneath its streets. There is plenty to do here, but if you visit this town and can only have one “must do” on your list, you have to go to one of the maisons (Tattinger, Piper-Heidsieck, and Mumm are the most popular) to take a tour and taste the bubbly.

Tours, France (Paris) – Tours is an enchanting city in its own right, but it also serves as a great starting point for exploring the famous chateaux of the Loire Valley region. You can either rent a car and buy a good map, or take a guided tour of the castles (Try Acco-Dispo Tours). If you leave some time to spare for Tours itself be sure to make time for strolling and window shopping, as this town is overflowing with places to spend your money.

Tuscan Hill Towns – *sigh* These need no introduction. Everyone knows them: Siena, San Gimignano, Assisi, Orvieto, etc. Pick one. Or two. Or more. Just go.

Villefranche Sur Mer, France (Nice) – Just a short bus ride (you can take the train, but it’s far less scenic, obviously) away from Nice lies Villefrance Sur Mer. Quiet and unassuming, VSM is a great place to just relax and enjoy life. The idyllic beach setting and the cozy cafes lining the waterfront make this city a required detour – especially for lovers. 😉

Posted by: travelgrrl34 | September 12, 2008

Photo Friday

This is my first time participating in fellow travel blogger DeliciousBaby’s Photo Fridays.  I took this picture (you can click on it to enlarge it) while I was meandering along a street in Paris.  Enjoy!

A Dog's Life in Paris

A Dog's Life in Paris

Posted by: travelgrrl34 | September 11, 2008

New Article!! – Sidetrips in Europe

Hello All!

It’s been awhile, I know.  But I’ve been busy writing material for other blogs.  Here is my first article to be published on another website.  It’s about destinations that tourists may not think to visit while they’re in Europe, but are right under their noses.

So please check it out and enjoy!  🙂

Posted by: travelgrrl34 | August 25, 2008

Who Are The Worst Tourists?! (Part Deux)

As a follow-up to a post I wrote about a month ago…it sounds like the Brits are trying to give the French a run for their money:

Posted by: travelgrrl34 | August 19, 2008

The Purpose of Travel

“So…the French got their asses kicked, huh?”, he snickered.

I just smiled. I’m used to this. Having spent several months living in France and being a self-proclaimed Francophile makes you a target for people to say these sorts of things – I just have to take it all in stride.

I knew my co-worker was referring to the Olympics Swimming 400 Freestyle Relay in which the USA team pulled out a major win after a huge comeback. I coolly replied that “losing by a finger-length is hardly getting your ass kicked”. I braced myself because I knew what was to follow. It’s the same song and dance every time I defend the French: First, the world wars are mentioned and how they can’t fight and the U.S had to save them and they should be grateful and blah blah. Then, someone else that’s joined the conversation will see that I’m getting upset at all of the ignorant comments that are being thrown about and they’ll mention that they spent 4 days in Paris once…and other than those snotty Parisians, the French are ok their book.

*sigh* I won’t bore you with my responses to such foolishness. (Actually, my responses aren’t boring – quite the contrary, actually. But as this is not the point of this blog, and I’m long-winded anyway, I think I should get to my point). When things like this happen, it makes me think about travel and what it can offer.

I was flipping through my Conde Nast Traveler magazine the other day and came across an interview with Queen Rania of Jordan. She said something that I thought was really great. The quote from her was that “Travel is a powerful antidote [for misinformation]“.

Of course, people like me that travel already know this (and really, I don’t need any more excuses to travel. I almost took the magazine to my boss, told him I was ‘misinformed’ about Hawaii, and that we should find a training session there for me just so I wouldn’t be so ignorant). 🙂 In all seriousness, I think what Queen Rania said sums up the problem that I faced with my co-worker. If people would just travel more, we would learn more about the culture we were visiting. Which is, I think, the underlying theme of why we travel.

Of course, we travel to see sights and to escape our everyday lives. But it’s the curiosity that we have of a particular place and its culture that ultimately propels us to go there (I say this with particular reference to international travel). And if we could embrace the differences in which that particular place offers, then there’s a greater probability that some of the stereotypes that we have would be eliminated. Upon returning home, we’d describe our experiences to our friends, and thus become mini-ambassadors.

Here are a few travel quotes that I like that kind of hit the point home:

1) “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries” – Aldous Huxley

2) “Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad of new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way.” – Ralph Crawshaw

I think I’m going to get my co-worker a one-way ticket to Paris… 😉

Posted by: travelgrrl34 | August 12, 2008

Airports – And the People That Live In Them

Have you seen the movie “The Terminal” with Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones? It’s about a man that gets stranded in an airport and has to live there. To be honest, I didn’t see it because I thought it looked ridiculous. But seeing this article ( made me think that the story is more feasible than I would have imagined.

It seems that a German woman trying to start a new life in Spain lost her job, ran out of money, and decided that she (and her cat Mumu) would just stay in the airport. And she’s been there for 10 years!!

I had to stay the night in an airport once. Due to some stupidity on my part (planning ahead doesn’t always work in your favor, people!) I landed at one airport at 11pm and flew out the next morning at 6am. Since it would’ve been far too much trouble to take a shuttle to an airport hotel, see if they had a room, and then wake up 4 1/2 hours later I just plopped down on one of the benches and tried to sleep. There were some others doing it as well, so I wasn’t alone. Being a light sleeper, I of course didn’t sleep very well. (There was also the paranoia that someone was going to try to steal my stuff that prevented me from sleeping – let’s not forget that). But after those few hours of little rest, I was certainly relieved and ready to hop on my flight home.

So I’m going to go with “negative” as my answer to whether or not I’d ever live in an airport. But hey, if it works for some then more power to them! I can think of a lot worse things to do than sit around and read books all day….

Posted by: travelgrrl34 | August 8, 2008

Remember To Relax During Your Travels

A co-worker just sent me an email asking me what the best memory of my travels in Europe is.  This was my response:

“Well, I started to try and think of every city that I’ve been to and what I liked about them, and started to try to rank them in order.  I can’t so this is what I’m going to say…

Some days I would wake up and just forge ahead like it was my job.  Sure, I was traveling and enjoying myself, but I looked at it like it was a job, too: I had to see this, do that, eat here, etc.  But the best memory that I have is when, those few days I actually allowed myself to relax, I took a moment to reflect on what I was doing.  The mornings where I walked out of my hostel after having a free breakfast, the sun was shining, and I realized I didn’t have to have a care in the world.  I could go wherever, do whatever, and just let life happen as it was going to.

So I guess the best memory I have is when I just sat back, relaxed, and was able to enjoy life in another city, surrounded by a different culture.”

I thought about this response for a few minutes after I sent it.  I’ve always had a hard time remembering to use my vacation time to to take it easy and unwind.  I’m always on the go, seeing this and doing that, and I come back more exhausted than when I left home.  I could never wrap my mind around why someone would spend $1500 for 4 days at an all-inclusive resort in Cancun when they could use that money to fly to Rome to see the Colosseum, sit on the beaches of Brazil, or hang out at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.  But there’s something to be said for using your vacation to take a break and just relax.

I’m glad I (finally) realized this, and am planning on putting it into practice on my next vacation.  So if you’re at all like me and you’re a constant ‘doer’ when you’re on vacation, dont’ forget to take a dep breath and make some time for yourself.


Posted by: travelgrrl34 | August 3, 2008

Book Reviews

As I said in an earlier post, I’ve been quite busy doing some behind-the-scenes reading. I thought it would be fun to use my blog as a place to do some reviews. I’ll be writing about two books: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, and Alice Steinbach’s Without Reservations.

So shall I start with the good or the bad? I’m thinking that maybe I should get the bad out of the way so that we can end on a good note. So here goes…

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – Hmmm…where to begin? First off, if any bookstore owners, stockers, etc are reading this then can you please do everyone a favor and leave this book out of the travel section? I noticed that this book had been on the NYT Bestseller’s List for quite a while, and when I read the blurb on the back I put it back on the shelf. Even though the author goes to some cool places (Italy, India, and Indonesia), it didn’t seem like a book I would be interested in. Having said that, I’m not sure why I finally decided to pick it up. Once I start reading a book I can’t put it down – and this book made me lament this about myself.

Here’s the thing. She wrote a third of the book about Italy. How much does she talk about Italy? Hardly at all. I can sum up the Italy chapter for you: I’m getting a divorce; I cry; I’m sleeping with a new guy; I cry; I’m on pills; I cry; I’m rich; I cry; divorce is painful so I sleep with boyfriend more; I cry; more pills; Italian language lessons; I need more pills; I cry… Ok, you get the picture. I think there are about 8 pages devoted to Italy itself.

The India chapter takes place in an Ashram where the author meditates and reflects about her life. So you don’t get to hear much about India either. Indonesia? Now this is a great chapter. Finally, she decides to not write about how big of a flake she is, and she begins to focus on her surroundings – the landscape, the people she interacts with, the traditions and customs in Bali, and her experiences there. It was a great chapter. It made me want to go to Bali…

…which is exactly what a travel book should do. Now, some may argue that the author never meant for it to be a travel book. That just because she visited these 3 different countries, the book was a focus her struggle with herself – in which she happened to be in those places. And that’s fair. However, like I said earlier, take it out of the travel section so that innocent and unassuming readers such as myself don’t expect something that the book isn’t. So maybe it’s more fair of me to say that the marketing of the book is terrible versus the book itself.

Huh. Maybe that wasn’t so harsh. If you want harsh, it might be fun for you to read travel writer Rolf Potts’s opinion of the book.


Now, a book that I read recently and actually liked is Without Reservations. This book was everything that I thought Eat, Pray, Love was going to be. It begins when the author decides that she’s at a point in her life where she needs a change and decides to take a leave of absence from her job at the local newspaper to travel. She starts in Paris, then goes to London and Oxford, and ends her romp around the continent in Italy. The book has powerful descriptions of the cities, and the focus of the story is on the author’s experiences in Europe – it’s a far cry from the ‘woe is me’ tale that E GILBERT wrote.

And that’s all I’m going to say about Without Reservations. I know I wrote a lot more about Eat, Pray, Love, but that’s because I don’t want anyone to make the same mistake that I did in reading it. Without Reservations, on the other hand, speaks for itself and I would definitely recommend the book. I don’t want to write anything else about it in hopes that you’ll read it for yourself to see how great it is.

Posted by: travelgrrl34 | August 2, 2008

I’ve Been Working, I Swear!

Contrary to what may be popular belief, even though I haven’t made a post at all this week, I have not been slacking off. I’ve actually had quite a busy week, and I’ll explain all of my activities as an excuse for my lack of blogging.

First, I’ve been marketing the blog rather extensively. Getting on other travel sites, making comments, including links back to my blog, listing myself on women’s travel blogger websites, etc. As I don’t have advertising on my website and therefore don’t make money from my posts, the marketing that I do is for no reason other than for the self-satisfaction that there are people other than friends and family that read what I write. If someone that I didn’t know sent me an email that said ‘hey, you seem to know a lot about [fill in the blank], can you help me out?’, I’d be so thrilled that people would probably think I hit the lottery.

Second, because I’ve been getting my name out there, I’ve had a few offers from people to write blog posts (paying gigs!) for them. So I spent the better part of the week finishing up an article, and right now I’m communicating back and forth with them to see if they’re interested. Any blog posts that I do outside of this one I’ll be sure to post a link so that it can be read.

Third, I’ve been reading. I just finished up a great book by Alice Steinbach called “Without Reservations”. It’s about the author taking a leave of absence from her job and moving to Europe (spending time in Paris, London, and Italy) to take a break from everything.

And right now, I’m debating as to whether I should start Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” or Che Guevara’s “The Motorcycle Diaries”

So you see, I’ve been busy even though I haven’t written anything as of late. Within the next day or two I will post a review of “Without Reservations”, and will most likely be comparing it to a popular book that has the same underlying themes: “Eat, Pray, Love”. So stay tuned for that, as you’ll find I have quite strong opinions about both. It should be quite entertaining.



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