June 1, 2015

Liz's Top Five Sites

As my top five cities entry probably indicates, when I travel, much of what I prioritize is visiting historical sites, especially ancient ones.

It’s hard to narrow a large list of amazing places down to a top 5. But this represents my best effort. Here goes.

1. Angkor Wat

OK, this one was easy. There is nowhere more spectacular that I have been than Angkor.

Undoubtedly, if you travel there today, it will be much more touristy than it was when I visited in 2002. Nonetheless, you should do it, and do it before it becomes more touristy than it already will be. 

The way we did this was a) to fly from Bangkok and b) to hire a car and driver for the day (actually, a couple of days). This gives you latitude to spend lots of time at every temple you want (Angkor is a large temple complex). It also gives you the benefit of air conditioning, which you don’t have if you hire a scooter driver (very common in Cambodia). Since I was traveling with my mother, a car was also going to be better than going by scooter (the latter is a lot more tenable when you’re under 40 than when you’re retired or pushing retirement).

All of the temples are special, and gorgeous. They date from as early as the 9th century when the Angkor area was a major global population center, and were originally Hindu. Thereafter, several centuries later, the temple complex became Buddhist. There is a specific Angkor Wat temple, and this is probably the most photographed and visually familiar. However, my personal favorite temple within the overall complex is Banteay Srei. It is a small, pink-red sandstone temple and has particularly intricate bas relief carvings. Lost to the jungle, it was rediscovered in 1914.

Banteay Srei...

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May 30, 2015

Top five street food/fast food joints

As someone who tries to keep costs down when traveling, to free up money for more of it (or for spending on genuine, must-have luxuries while traveling), street and fast food are things I pay some attention to.

I will admit, I am also somewhat wary of certain street food in certain countries due to hygiene and disease considerations; in some cases, I’ve had to be, because of things like potentially being pregnant (and wanting to stay pregnant, should I have been). For that reason, while I wish I could say the samosas my husband ate in Kuala Lumpur could make this list, they can’t quite—I didn’t try them because if it’s a choice between being extra cautious about food because your doctor told you to, to avoid any risk to a potential pregnancy that you were told you would probably never be able to have, or tasting the samosa, you sacrifice the samosa. For the time being. I will go back to Kuala Lumpur and I will eat their samosas. And, I suspect, so will my kid. 

In any event, with the samosas disclaimer now being out of the way, here are my top five recommendations in terms of street food/fast food.

1. Pieminister, London (and elsewhere!)

Pieminister is phenomenally excellent. The food is high-quality. The selection is vast. They come with mash and mushy peas. What’s not to like?

My ability to sample Pieminister’s full range of pies is limited, as I cannot eat beef (for medical, not religious or ethical reasons). However, I have had the pleasure of sampling the Chicken of Aragon, Deerstalker and Thai green curry chicken pies.


(picture via pieminister.co.uk)...

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May 27, 2015

Liz's Top Five Cities

As I do the promised travel blogging, I anticipate doing a lot of "top fives." This is partly laziness on my part, partly my thinking that this will help keep my writing semi-accessible and relevant to people. Anyway, here is the first-- my top five cities.

The top three on this list are obvious for me. The last two are less so, and in fairness, Damascus and Istanbul were also in pretty close contention. But here are some thoughts on the top five, in any event. 

1. Rome 

It’s probably easier to say what I don’t like about Rome than to list what I do. In truth, there is only one thing about Rome I don’t like, and that is that it’s big. Really big. A lot bigger than you would think, if you haven’t been there. That makes walking the city tougher than you might expect, which is unfortunate because there is a lot best seen on foot. That really just means you should allocate more time than you think necessary if visiting the Eternal City. 

So what’s to love in Rome? In no particular order…

The Vatican: OK, this works better if you are a) Catholic b) an art lover or c) both. In my case, as a Catholic, having been raised by artists, this is pretty much a no-brainer. If you are religious, see if you can manage to participate in Mass here. A friend and I were lucky enough to attend Mass on Easter Sunday, led by Pope John Paul II. It would be fair to say that was a highlight of my life to-date, but merely visiting St. Peter’s is a high point in itself. If you travel to Rome, be sure to do it, and do the Vatican Museums, also. It’s well worth the effort. ...

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