Back to China

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Location: Jian’ou, Fujian Province, China

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China is a country where everything changes and nothing ever really changes. Where the old meets the new and the future mingles intimately with the past. It’s been more than 2 years since we left China, but the country welcomed us back with open arms.

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William Gibson once said something to the effect of: the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. As a corollary to that, China is where the future is happening in real time. You can go there and watch a government and its people leapfrog over half a century of entrenched infrastructural decisions and come up with something that addresses their needs in a more innovative way.

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With a quick overnight stay in Fuzhou, we took the newly constructed fast train back to Jian’ou for the wedding of our dear friend and translator (more on the Chinese wedding experience in our next post). Now Davi is an English teacher himself with an apartment, car, and a beautiful new wife who we were meeting for the very first time.

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Vatican City- The Holy See

Location: Vatican City, Italy

edit00Our day started off on a terrible foot: V’s sprained one, to be precise. We woke up insanely early for vacation (at 5:30am) anticipating that we’d spend the full day out and about. Since the poor girl was broken, we had to give her some additional prep time.

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After we wrapped her ankle, we popped downstairs for a delicious breakfast. Espresso and elegant little pastries abounded. Our doorman hailed a taxi, and we were on our way to meet our tour guide outside the one of the smallest city-states in the world (0.17 square miles). We got some more coffee to fuel up for our hours of walking at Caffe Vaticano- an expensive but cute little cafe- across the street from the front gate.
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A private guide is the way to go for the Vatican if you value your time. People start lining up really early to get from Rome through the doors to this other city, and if you come with an authorized guide, they usher you through quickly. And there’s the added benefit of seeing a bunch of classical, 15th century art with someone who’s an expert in classical, 15th century art. Getting the right guide is really important because many popular companies will do anything to rip you off for a high TripAdvisor rating. I highly recommend our guide, Marta . She was incredibly kind, knowledgeable and she made the whole experience feel intimate.

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Under the Tuscan Sun

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Location: Montalpuciano, Montalcino, and Pienza, Tuscany, Italy

Before I can tell you this story, I have to admit to something rather embarrassing.

The day before our weekend in Tuscany, I sprained my ankle in a completely mundane and un-fascinating way. At least, I assume it was unremarkable–I am not even sure how it happened (other than wearing the wrong shoes to traipse across Rome). But I do know that it swelled up like a giant purple balloon. Real talk: this is the completely not glamorous side of adventuring.

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I was so bummed about my useless ankle that I nearly cancelled our Tuscan adventure. How could I enjoy my fancy wine and Pecorino cheese and views of the countryside if I couldn’t walk? I was looking forward to climbing atop buildings and running through fields of olive trees.  I was absolutely certain my sour mood and painful limp would ruin everything.

But I am so glad I didn’t cancel.

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It turns out that, rather than prescribing medications, Italian doctors will send their patients to Tuscany. They’ll take thermal baths to relax for a week or two and be as good as new. Tuscany is literally just as good as–if not better than–medicine. The landscapes are unparalleled, the pace of life relaxed. It’s one of those places where depictions in films and books are 100% spot-on.

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And I got a concentrated dose.

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A Roman Holiday

Location: Rome, Lazio, Italy

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I won’t attempt to characterize Rome- its history or its grandeur- or how the ancient capital intertwines with the modern in such peculiar and unexpected ways. It’s a giant, frozen in time. You’ve undoubtedly heard the legends and the stories of emperors, conquerors and kings. I won’t tell you about those.

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I will, however, tell you about some contemporary Roman surprises.

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I will also inform you of the proper way to select gelato.

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Pisgah National Forest- Linville Falls

Location: Linville Falls and Gorge, Jonas Ridge, North Carolina

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Can we have some real talk for a second? Maybe it’s the Rio Olympics going on now, but I am having all kinds of feelings about how much of an average human being I am.

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When it comes to survival skills and outdoors-y-ness, let’s just say I would be screwed if the zombie apocalypse happened. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I even rank in the top 25% of my friends- many of whom have hiked the PCT or biked in the Pelatonia or built energy efficient homes in the wilderness. I’m just getting to the stage of getting a fire started without motor oil. Points for effort?

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Vieques- Island of Horses

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Location: Vieques, Puerto Rico

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Vieques island is one of those truly magical, untouched gems of the world. As a United States citizen, it still baffles me that you don’t need a passport to travel there. Only eight miles east of the mainland, it is accessible by ferry or small plane. It’s commonly referred to as “Puerto Rico’s little sister.” Unlike its crowded neighbor Culebra (home of Flamingo Beach- the most photographed beach in the world), Vieques is primarily visited by Puerto Ricans and only 9,000 people call the island home. As you might expect, this makes the place quite serene.

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El Yunque Rainforest

Location: Carolina, Puerto Rico

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This post will be short and sweet! We only spent a day in El Yunque Rainforest on our Puerto Rican adventure, but I felt that the remarkable scenery deserved its own post.

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It used to be called Luquillo National Forest because it’s located on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo Mountains and overlooks the stunning shores of Luquillo Beach. We hiked the famous La Mina Trail and swam in the beautiful Juan Diego Falls.

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Old San Juan- The Walled City

Location: Old San Juan, San Juan, Puerto Rico

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Old San Juan (Viejo San Juan) makes up only a fraction of the sprawling metropolis- most of it firmly rooted in the 21st century. Founded in 1509, it is the oldest settlement within Puerto Rico and the entire area is a protected National Heritage Site.

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Old San Juan still contains blue cobblestone streets and flat roofed brick and stone buildings (many dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries). My best friend and I stayed for about a week in the most gorgeous artist’s loft right on Calle San Francisco. Although Puerto Rico is a protected territory of the United States, and the majority of people speak English, I was grateful she could speak Spanish because I felt like it helped me to appreciate everything more fully. We were also able to get some incredible recommendations from our host.

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(Cape) Disappointment

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Location: Ilwaco, Washington (and various other areas around the Olympic Peninsula)

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Adventures rarely go off without a hitch. Despite countless months of rigorous planning and scheduling and attempts to prepare for any number of scenarios, there are always events outside of our control- unforeseen circumstances. That being said, we’ve never had a disaster quite like the one that occurred two weeks ago.

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From the Recipe Book: Traditional Red Bean Mooncakes

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Mid-autumn Festival (中秋節) or Moon Festival is the harvest festival. It comes once a year on the night of the full moon from September to early October- the 15th day of the 8th month on the Lunar calendar. It has been celebrated in China and Vietnam for centuries and is one of the four most important Chinese festivals. Everyone has the day off to spend with friends and family, eat mooncakes, and sit outside to enjoy the beauty and splendor of the full moon. The holiday has a spiritual quality that comes from the ancient love story a beautiful woman named Lady Chang’e who ascended to the moon and became a celestial being representing fortune and peace.

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But, mooncakes, though.

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