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Venice Masks: The Modern Twist

Whether you’re attending the Carnival of Venice or just looking for an interesting piece of art to hang on your wall, Venice masks are worth checking out…
CONTINUE READING >> 

In Venice, masks have been worn for centuries as a form of disguise during Carnival. Venice masks are typically made from Paper-Mache and come in various shapes and sizes. Some Venice masks even have moving parts, such as the mouth, which allows the wearer to speak without others being able to see their mouth.

The history of Venice masks can be traced back to the 12th century when they were first used to conceal the wearers’ identity. In Venice, you can see beautiful Venetian masks as a symbol of status and power, and merchants and nobles often wore them during Carnival. Venice masks were also used as a tool for social satire and were often decorated with elaborate designs and ribbons.

In the 19th century, Venice masks began to decline in popularity as other forms of entertainment became more popular. However, Venice masks experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 20th century, thanks partly to the work of artists like Dario Argento and Commedia dell’arte. Today, Venice masks are considered a symbol of Venice and its culture and are often seen as works of art in their own right.

How Venice Masks Are Made

The Venice masks are some of the most intricately made and beautiful masks in the world. They are often made of paper-mâché, although other materials such as plastic, glass, and metal are sometimes used. The process of making a Venice mask is a long and intricate one.

The first step is to create the mold for the mask. This can be done using various materials, such as plaster, clay, or wax. Once the mold is created, it is filled with a paper-mâché mixture made from water, flour, and white glue. The mask maker must be very careful to ensure no air bubbles in the mixture, as these will cause the mask to burst when it dries.

After the mask has been dipped in the mixture, it is left to dry. This can take several days, depending on the size and complexity of the mask. Once it is dry, it is then sanded down and painted. The paint can be either acrylic or oil-based. Finally, a sealant is applied to protect the paint from fading or chipping.

Making a Venice mask takes a great deal of skill and talent. The finished product is always a work of art that captures the beauty and essence of Venice itself.

The Modern Twist On Venice Masks

The modern twist on Venice masks is that they are no longer just reserved for the Carnival of Venice. In recent years, Venice masks have become popular among fashion designers and artists who see them as a way to add a touch of Venetian glamour to their work. There is now a subculture of people who love Venice masks for their beauty and versatility and enjoy incorporating them into all aspects of their lives.

Whether you’re attending the Carnival of Venice or just looking for an interesting piece of art to hang on your wall, Venice masks are worth checking out. With their mix of tradition and innovation, they offer something truly unique and special for everyone.

Beating Boredom while Traveling

We love to travel. But there is one aspect of traveling that we have to admit we are not exactly thrilled with, the actual process of getting from one place to another…
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We love to travel. We love the thrill of seeing a new place for the first time, tasting new foods, learning the history, and exploring the culture. We must, since we have covered over a million miles on six continents on our journeys around the world.

But there is one aspect of traveling that we have to admit we are not exactly thrilled with, the actual process of getting from one place to another. That is because moving ourselves, and all of our stuff, to a new destination almost always involves hours of riding on planes, trains, cars, busses, or boats… and that can get boring.

So what can be done to fill those long hours? How can we pass the time while we make our way to the next exciting adventure?

Well, here are a few ideas that we have come up with over the years:

Play Games

For us, that used to mean playing cards or crosswords or some other old fashioned games. But nowadays we all have a powerful computer right in the palm of our hand so there are endless options for entertainment instantly available. In fact, that phone we all carry around can become one of many exciting no bonus casinos. That means that all of the fun of live slots is available any time with just a touch on the screen.

Of course, many types of other games are waiting to be played on your phone as well, and it is simple to access them now that WiFi is easy to find in almost every airport and station, along with all of those planes, trains, busses, and boats that we mentioned before.

Read

Yes, we know it sounds down right archaic, but reading a book or a magazine is still a great way to pass the time. And with modern technology reading doesn’t always mean a book with paper pages anymore. So for times when WiFi or electricity are not available, a hard copy book is a great thing to have. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten lost in a good book and the next thing I know several hours have flown by.

Watch a Movie

That computer in your pocket that we mentioned before can also become a mini movie theater. Just like with a book, we love getting engulfed in a film, and by the end of the story a couple of hours have disappeared.

Listen to Music

Great songs are another great way to make the hours fly by. If you are anything like us, the right playlist will sweep you away for quite a while. So fire up the tunes and sing away the time… and the miles.

Shop Online

These days we can get almost anything we could ever want right online. So why not save a ton of time by getting the shopping done while gallivanting across the globe?

Study a New Language

We usually try to learn at least a few basic words and phrases of the language of the country we are heading to when we visit for the first time. Just knowing how to say hello, or please and thank you can make a big, and positive, difference in how the locals relate to you while shopping or dining out.

Sleep

It is hard to beat a good nap for passing the time. That’s one reason we usually try to get on a plane or train already tired. Sometimes I’m out cold before the plane even gets off the ground. We call that a “taxi nap.” But no matter when you fall asleep you will wake up closer to your destination with the added bonus of being rested and refreshed.

What could be better?

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

THIS is Plymouth Rock?

With Thanksgiving just a week away we take a look back at the history that brought us our favorite holiday.
Turns out that almost everything we were taught in grade school about the pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving was a complete fairy tale.
CONTINUE READING >>

The Mayflower replica in Plymouth, Massachusetts
The Mayflower replica in Plymouth, Massachusetts

True story: On our pilgrimage to Plymouth, Massachusetts we stopped off at the visitor center to ask directions to Plymouth Rock.

“Hope you guys brought a magnifying glass,” snarked the lady with the welcoming smile behind the desk as she pointed down the road. Ah sarcasm, we had to like her.

The Plymouth Rock monument

Without fully grasping the gist of the lady’s statement we headed across the road, past the replica of the Mayflower, toward the attractive ancient- Greek-esque monument that houses the famous rock where the first Americans landed.

Giddy with the exhilaration that can only come from setting one’s eyes on a truly epic piece of history, we leaned over the rail and peered down into the hole where Plymouth Rock is displayed.

Plymouth Rock - it's TINY!

Holy crap! The thing is TINY!

Only one pilgrim with REALLY GOOD BALANCE could “land” on this pebble! Call us gullible, but we always figured that Plymouth Rock was towering cliffs, or at the very least, hefty enough that the Mayflower could tie off to it. We were flabbergasted, felt duped.

Thankfully people had thrown pennies at it, for luck we suppose, giving us
some perspective for a photo.

Turns out that almost everything we were taught in grade school about the
pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving — while we were drawing turkeys from the outlines of our hands — was a complete fairy tale.

The “friendly Indians” were actually just so emaciated and weak from the
smallpox they had contracted from previous European visitors that they had no strength to fight off the Pilgrims who were busy raiding their food supplies, digging up their graves and squatting on their fishing grounds.

Wait a minute, previous visitors?

Yup, the Pilgrims were no where near the first settlers in New England. Europeans had been tromping around stealing food and spreading disease for decades — centuries if you count
the Vikings.

At Plymouth, a few leaders of the depleted remnants of the local tribe of Wampanoag people decided to employ the old “if we can’t beat them, join them” strategy in the hopes of surviving.

Not quite the “hey, welcome to America, here let us show you how to grow corn and eat turkey” that we were taught as youngsters while sporting our construction paper feathers and headbands.

The first time around wasn’t even  remotely friendly. The Mayflower first landed on the tip of Cape Cod, where  Provincetown is today. There’s even a huge monument marking the landing.

However, the indigenous inhabitants had not been wiped out by viral onslaughts from previous pioneers and were not real big on having their buried food stores dug up and stolen, so they were decidedly unfriendly and sent the Pilgrims packing.

Just a dad-blame second there hoss, first landed?

Everyone knows the Pilgrims first set foot on North America at Plymouth! We’ve seen the pictures. There they are, stepping out of the boat right onto Plymouth Rock.

Wrong again, fact is there wasn’t even such a thing as Plymouth Rock until over a century after the Mayflower’s landing. It wasn’t until 1741, 121 years after the Mayflower landed, that 94-year-old Thomas Faunce claimed he knew the exact rock that the Pilgrims first trod upon. A few years later, in 1774 the townsfolk decided that the rock should be moved to the town meeting hall.

For no apparent reason, the good people of Plymouth decided that only half of the rock needed to be relocated, so they split it in two. For the next century, the rock was moved hither and yon as chunks were hacked off of it for shows and souvenirs.

Finally, in 1880, with only about 1/3 of Plymouth Rock remaining, the famous stone was returned to its original spot on the waterfront in Plymouth. It was at that time that the number 1620 was carved into it.

Not surprisingly, Native Americans don’t tend to hold Plymouth Rock in high regard. Twice, in 1970 and 1995, activists have buried it on the National Day of Mourning or what is more commonly known as Thanksgiving to us nonnative folks. Seems that the folks who wrote our grade school history books and the original inhabitants of this country  don’t quite see things eye-to-eye.

Plaque commemorating the National Day of Mourning

Across from the Plymouth Pebble Monument, near a statue of Massasoit
(one of the “friendly, helpful” Native Americans), is a plaque commemorating the National Day of Mourning. Given by the town of Plymouth on behalf of the United American Indians of New England, it states, “Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their culture.”

It’s not fancy, but it is a nice gesture.

Scattered around the charming little seaside town of Plymouth are various statues and fountains, pretty parks, seafood based eateries and crap shops (GypsyNester slang for fine souvenir emporiums) selling the ever zany pilgrim-pirate-patriot  humor t-shirts, lobster bibs, mugs and ships-in-a-bottle.

Once finished with our tour of revisionist history, we relaxed at an outdoor café — sharing a lobster roll — as the ocean cast friendly breezes to tussle our hair. The fake Mayflower shared a bay dotted with sailboats and pleasure cruisers. We stretched our legs and tilted our faces to the sun.

It’s no wonder the Pilgrims and Indians loved this place so much.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in Massachusetts.

Best Beaches for Swimming in Lanzarote

We love the beach, and the island of Lanzarote is without a doubt a beach lover’s paradise. Of course the year round sunshine and warm temperatures don’t hurt, but there is more to it than that… CONTINUE READING >> 

We love the beach, and the island of Lanzarote is without a doubt a beach lover’s paradise. Of course the year round sunshine and warm temperatures don’t hurt, but there is more to it than that. So let’s take a look at some of the unique places to swim and sunbathe on this gem in the Canary Islands.

The islands are a part of Spain, even though they are just over sixty miles off the northwest coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean.

Lanzarote is the forth largest island in the Canaries and the closest to the mainland. This means that it is easy to get to, and once you arrive it is simple to get to and from your accommodations using Lanzarote transfers.

This is by far the easiest way to get from the airport to your hotel and back again. Also, you can choose from either a shuttle bus or a private transfer in a new, clean, and reliable car, both for reasonable rates.

Once you are settled in, it is time to explore and enjoy some beautiful beaches, some of which are unlike anywhere else in the world. Others may not be too surprising, other than their pristine beauty and nearly perfect setting, and these are best for a typical day at the beach.

Playa del Jablillo is a great example of this. Calm, clear water beckons swimmers, and snorkelers will be thrilled by the amazing amount of colorful fish. Another fantastic choice is Playa Flamingo, which has all of the amenities that anyone could want for an afternoon at the beach with restaurants, shops, and several seaside bars relax and sip a cold beer.

For the more adventurous swimmers and explorers, there are a few more unusual beaches on the island that strike us as almost out of this world.

By that we mean that they look like they might belong on some alien planet. The volcanic history of these islands has made for some almost unbelievable scenery that also happens to be right on the edge of the water.

Perhaps the most striking of these is Playa del Charco de los Clicos, with its black sand and moon like landscape surrounding a bright green pool of water. It may not be all that much for swimming, but wow, what a view!

Another extraordinary spot is Playa de Papagayo. We think this looks like something out of a science fiction movie. Stark volcanic rocks surround gorgeous fine sand and crystal clear water. And, as an added bonus, the locals say that Papagayo has the best weather on the island.

If you are like us, even though we are beach bums at heart, we want to explore everything when we visit a new place, especially an island as interesting as Lanzarote. So we definitely want to check out Timanfaya National Park and the camels.

Wait, what? There are camels? Yes, well, technically they are dromedaries, but a dromedary is also known as a one-humped camel.

They were originally brought to the island to work in agriculture, but as tourism became more and more popular they adapted to a new line of work and now are a major tourist attraction.

They are available for sightseeing rides across the incredible volcanic landscape of Timanfaya National Park. The camels will carry you for a short half hour ride into the park and its lunar-like surroundings, making for an experience that is beyond unique. It is truly only possible on Lanzarote.

And after riding a camel, we think that it must be traditional to find another beach for a quick dip before dinner.

So off we go!

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Sir, Yes Sur! Driving the California Coast


The images look unbelievable, but they are real and they are spectacular. This is Big Sur. Waves crashing against the craggy coast, mist drifting up mountains that rise abruptly from the sea, and bridges impossibly clinging to cliffs made for a perfect day trip ending with elephant seals… CONTINUE READING >> 

We drove the coast highway through Big Sur again a few weeks ago and it is truly spectacular! I must say, doing it this time in our little SUV was much easier (and no doubt safer) than when we did it in our RV. Anyway, let’s take a look back at one of the world’s most beautiful drives.

Waves crashing against the craggy coast, mist drifting up mountains that rise abruptly from the sea, bridges impossibly clinging to cliffs — we’d seen the iconic photos of the California shore along the Pacific Coast Highway.

The images look unbelievable, but they are real and they are spectacular.

This is Big Sur.

The name Big Sur dates back to the Spanish explorers who dubbed this area El Sur Grande” meaning The Big South.

Sounds a little like a college football conference but really, this land IS big, sir.

This region has no official borders but is loosely considered the column of coast flanked by mountaintops and ocean that meanders between Carmel and San Simeon.

Running about ninety miles, it seems custom-made for a great day’s drive. Easy, even when including stops for sightseeing and sustenance.

For most of the trip we were within sight of the ocean and often looking straight down on it.

It can make a body queasy.

The Pacific Coast Highway, California State Highway 1, is a remarkable piece of road, and  it is a good idea to keep your vehicle in top condition.

Thirty-three bridges connect one wickedly winding section of cliff-clinging roadway to the next.

It’s slow going and imperative to keep the old eyeballs glued to the blacktop — hard to do considering the magnificent vista viewing opportunities.

More than once Veronica gave me a gentle reminder that certain death may be impending if I didn’t focus…

OK, some not so gentle, depending on how many wheels were hanging over the edge of the cliff.

Construction of the road through Big Sur was completed in 1937 after eighteen years of work. Prior to that this was one of America’s most inaccessible areas — even now only about a thousand people live in the region.

The surprising lack of development is due not only to the difficult terrain, but also the incessant efforts of the inhabitants fighting to preserve this pristine place.

Monterey County has banned billboards along Highway 1 and has adopted some of the strictest land use policies in America — disallowing any new construction within view of the highway.

Believe me, the unobstructed view makes a huge difference.

These policies have kept Big Sur remarkably rustic.

There are no high-rise hotels, no fast food franchises, no supermarkets — or even towns to speak of — and only three gas stations along the way.

Most of the few lodging and dining options available are in Big Sur River Valley, where the road leaves the coast and enters a redwood forest for a bit.

When we stopped for a bite and a break we discovered that Big Sur is partially inhabited by a species I hadn’t encountered since my days in the Colorado Rockies back in the seventies.

Back woods, off the grid — part Grizzly Adams, part hippy, completely fascinating. Very friendly, very groovy and unafraid to train a wolf or half-wolf as a pet. Back in the day we called them mountain goats, not sure what they’re called in these parts, perhaps “Big Sirs.”

Whatever they go by, it was wonderful to make the reacquaintance.

About halfway down is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

We parked next to McWay Creek and took the short hike to McWay Cove where the creek drops eighty feet over the edge into the ocean as McWay Falls.

We quickly learned why the trail to the falls was called Overlook Trail — the untouched little cove is wisely protected from large, clumsy tourist feet and we had to be satisfied with looking down upon it.

Nevertheless, this is a must-see spot along the McWay.

As we wound our way south, the scenery became slightly less spectacular and more and more surfer-dude-in-search-of-the-gnarly-wave.

Little did we know, we were in for a BIG surprise.

We rounded a corner and out of the blue were saw hundreds — if not thousands — of ginormous elephant seals lazily lounging in the afternoon sun.

Piles upon piles of blubbered bodies basking on the beach by Piedras Blancas.

We slammed on the brakes and wheeled off the highway into the parking area for a closer look.

The elephant seal had all but disappeared by the early 1900s due to excessive hunting.

Then, all of the sudden, in November of 1990 about twenty of the giants unexpectedly showed up in this small cove.

We’re ba-ack!

The population dramatically grew and by 1996 this beach became the birthing place, or rookery, for over a thousand new pups.

Through the efforts of The Friends of the Seals Central Coast, parking and viewing areas were constructed for the safety of both the seals and the spectators.

Members of The Friends man the viewing area to answer questions and make sure that nobody does anything profoundly stupid like go in for a close up look at a five thousand pound bull.

Different seasons bring different activities for the seals.

In the winter the females birth the pups, wean them and prepare themselves for breeding.

Meanwhile, the males stake out territory for their harems, defending or invading with extraordinary jousting battles.

It’s quite a spectacle, with a dose of gross.

Proboscises and slobber fly as the giant bulls bash their calloused necks against each other in an effort to drive away their rivals.

These bad boys really know how to throw their weight around. The winner gets the babes, the loser tries another foe or gives up and has to watch the procreation from afar.

Pretty strong motivation to win.

When springtime arrives, the adults skedaddle and the pups are left to fend for themselves.

No boomerang pups in elephant seal land. The pups seem quite adept at learning to swim on their own when the time comes to go off into the big wide world.

Watch: A one day-old baby seal hangs with his mommy, while the big boys fight for territory!

Over the summer, everybody returns to molt before heading back out to sea to stuff their faces and make more blubber.

The fall brings the juveniles, too young to breed, in for a rest before they have to clear the beach for the next round of birthing, battling and baby-making.

We were lucky enough on our visit to see the first pup of the season — just a few hours old.

Veronica’s mommy instinct kicked into high gear and proclaimed him “tiny and cute.” I suppose he was tiny compared to his blubbery beach mates, but he already weighed in at about seventy pounds.

Cute, I’ll give him — all babies are cute. It’s a survival mechanism, this way you love them even when they keep you up all night.

Have to say, it works like a charm.

As daylight waned, we completed our journey through Big Sur by making our way to Morro Bay, the nearest town of any size, in search of a place to sleep for the night.

The city is dominated by a 581-foot ginormous volcanic plug perched out in the bay… ladies and gentlemen, let’s hear it for the Gibraltar of the Pacific… Morro Rock!

Named and charted by the Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542, stories vary on whether he meant morro, a crown shaped rock or moro, a Moor’s head when he dubbed the protrusion.

Noggin or knob, it still made a bodacious backdrop for the sunset of an exhilarating day through Big Sur.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in California!

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A Halloween Buffet: A Scary Food Tour of the World

How about a terrifying tour of the globe just in time for Halloween? As GypsyNesters, our quest is to see the world and share it in our own quirky way. But why should we have all the fun?

For some varied perspectives, we asked the web’s best independent travel bloggers to send us their best “Weird Food” experiences. We hit a goldmine of unusual, unappetizing, or just plain unnerving regional food photos from around the world!… CONTINUE READING >>

How about a terrifying tour of the globe just in time for Halloween? As GypsyNesters, our quest is to see the world and share it in our own quirky way. But why should we have all the fun?

For some varied perspectives, we asked the web’s best independent travel bloggers to send us their best “Weird Food” experiences. We hit a goldmine of unusual, unappetizing, or just plain unnerving regional food photos from around the world!

Gruesome Duck Embryo in Thailand from Living the Dream


Says Jeremy, “My weirdest regional food is Balut from Vietnam and other SE Asia countries.  Between you and me, it tastes like chicken.”

A Slimy Selection in Africa from Backpack ME


Says Zara, “If you thought eating snails (or fancy escargot in France) is too “been there, done that” try getting your mouth around these African Snails that can weigh up to 1Kg!!”

Rocky Horror Oyster Show in Montana from GypsyNester.com


What sort of outrageous ogre goes around eating the reproductive organs of innocent animals? Rocky Mountain oysters, considered a delicacy by many Montana mountain folk, are made by slicing and frying — you got it — bull testicles. More on this delicacy and the Testicle Festival

Baked House Pet in Peru from Trips That Work


Says Irina, “For me the weirdest food out there is the one that’s cooked with teeth & nails… It was crappy to eat this little guy in Cusco because I actually owned a pet guinea pig before.” (We ate cuy too- near Machu Picchu!)

Impaled Worms in Peru from Shoutography


Says Lydian: “As big as your thumb, these little worms – locally called ‘suri’ – will happily crawl around in a bowl until they will be put on the grill to be prepared for you. As a vegetarian I passed on this ‘exotic’ experience, but I have been told that as soon as you get used to the soft structure of the suri, the taste is actually pretty ok.”

Voodoo Doughnuts in Oregon from GypsyNester.com


Says David, “Portland Oregon’s breakfast of champions, for sorcerers that is. Nothing hits the spot like a “Voodoo Doll” with a pretzel stick through his heart, bleeding raspberry-blood filling. Our little chocolate frosted supernatural pin cushion was a-dough-rable, and tasty to boot. Best of all, curses don’t cost extra.” More on Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon

Abominable Snowman Chow in Singapore from Sidewalk Safari


Ice Kachang looks like simple shaved ice on the outside but then you dig in you find all sorts of goodness, like corn, kidney beans, and jello cubes.  It’s like parents conspired to hide healthy fillings in a child’s favorite treat.  It’s definitely a weird medley of flavors and textures!

The Screaming of the Lambs in Norway from of Sophie’s World


Sophie tells us, “Smalahove is a traditional delicacy in Western Norway, especially at Christmas. The lamb’s head is torched, then salted or smoked, and finally steamed and served with potatoes, vegetables, sausages and sometimes peas and bacon. So – it’s really only smoked lamb, only the way it’s served is different. You’re left in no doubt as to what you’re eating.”

No mention of whether it’s best served with fava beans and a nice Chianti.

The Vampire’s Favorite – Blood Sausage in Spain from GypsyNester.com


Says Veronica, “Warning, may cause the Transylvania Two-Step… even in Spain. True story, when we asked our waitress what it was, she mimicked slitting her wrist. Didn’t make it more appetizing! We gobbled as many tapas we could get our greedy mitts on in Barcelona

An Electrifying Discovery in Spain from Travel Past 50


Says Tom, “Gee, it’s going to be hard to top bugs, so I’ll just go with baby eels. Delicious baby eels in Spain. And a mother of pearl spork to eat them without tainting their delicate flavor with a metal fork.”

Bite Your Tongue in Newfoundland from GypsyNester.com


Says David about the delicacy of the Newfoundland cod tongues, “Fried tidbits straight from the fish’s mouth, served with scrunchions, deep fried pork fat bits. The tongues just tasted like cod, with a very slight gelled consistency. And everything’s good with a little pig fat on it.” We ate cod tongues here.

Toxic Creepy Crawlers in China from Points and Travel


Says Cacinda, “I found plenty of strange foods in China during my visit, but was particularly afraid of eating these things!”

Eat Your Heat Out. And Your Lungs in Austria. From GypsyNester.com

Says Veronica, “A meal fit for a zombie: We spotted Beuscherl on the menu, which was translated into English as “Salsburgs Calf’s Lights served with Dumpling.” Without the slightest idea what “Calf’s Lights” might be, we ordered it. Our waitress must have seen this mistake made before, because she immediately asked, “You do understand that this is heart and lungs of baby cow?” Bet she’s grabbed a torch and chased a monster back to the castle a time or two.” Ingested in Salzburg, Austria

A Ghoulish Goo from Our Oyster


Says Jade, “Ok so this isn’t as weird as some of the others – but its a Canadian favourite… Poutine! French fries, gravy and cheese curd… nom nom nom” More on poutine here!

Headless Horseman Cheese from GypsyNester.com


Now we know where ole Ichabod’s head ended up. Head Cheese, meat jelly made from the head, with chunks of meat tossed in. Creeped us out on market day in Wangen, Germany

Decapitated Bunnies from Ferreting Out the Fun


Says Heather, “I saw loads of weird food items during my two years in China. Skewered insects, fried chicken feet, bowls of rotten tofu, the list goes on. But the most memorable has to be the platters of roasted rabbit heads sold on the street in Chengdu. There was something about those curving teeth that sent shivers down my spine!”

Platter of Entrails – Argentine Barbecue (for one) from GypsyNester.com


A meal fit for a monster. We found most of it barely edible, a bit of a ghastly gastric experience. Tripe, sweetbread (which is a fancy name for pancreas or other mysterious glands), kidney, some kind of intestines or something and, udder? Holy cow! Literally, holy cow! Lots of tricks and very little treat. Cautiously nibbled upon in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Jumping Jiminy in Mexico from Lunaguava

Says FW, “I eat shrimp and other bugs of the sea, so I’m usually fine with trying some crunchy terrestrial goodness as well. Case in point, these chapulines (grasshoppers) with chile and garlic we had in Oaxaca, Mexico. They went really well with bits of orange, to cut the spice and add a bit of zest.”

A Platter of Pupae from GypsyNester.com


Says Veronica, “The incredibly unpleasant aroma led me to trying the garnish first, asking every member of the staff how to go about ingesting the worms, bringing one right up to my lips and chickening out (by the way, they most decidedly do not taste like chicken), and utilizing every other excuse I could come up with to delay the inevitable. Seriously, a medal for bravery might have been in order. Don’t believe I ate silkworms? Click here!

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: Got a fiendish favorite?

Which Witch is Which? A True Salem Story

There are plenty of wonderful historical sites in the beautiful seaside town of Salem, including the famous House of Seven Gables. However, we were horrified to see that tourist trap economics trumped the sometimes sordid historical facts…
CONTINUE READING >>

With All Hallows Eve fast approaching, we decided to revisit this visit to one of America’s scariest cities… Salem, Massachusetts. Happy Halloween!

The Salem Witch Museum in Salem, Massachusetts

We fully admit we were drawn to Salem by its sordid past.

However, we were horrified to find that tourist trap economics trumped the unseemly historical facts.

The House of Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts

There are plenty of wonderful nonfictional sites in the beautiful seaside town, including the famous House of Seven Gables that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote of (go there — the hidden passage alone is worth the price of admission!)…

Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts

The Burying Point Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts

…and the old cemetery where several Mayflower passengers and many of the participants in the witch trails are laid to rest.

Nearby, there is a memorial to the victims of the trials.

The Salem Witch Museum, housed in a church built and used in the 1700s, is one of the few museums in town that actually embraces a factual account with minimal sensationalism.

Statue of Samantha from Bewitched in Salem, Massachusetts

The bulk of the attractions run toward more Halloween-style stereotypes.

The wholesale killing of dozens of innocent men, women and children has mutated into an excuse for throwing up goofy Frankenstein and Dracula “museums,” wizard schools, ghost tours, bizarre street theater and a cheesy statue of Samantha from Bewitched.

No kidding.

Salem, Massachusetts and witches are nearly synonymous but, in reality, it is highly doubtful there was any broom-flying, cauldron-stirring, pointy-hat-wearing witchcraft actually going on back in 1692.

The Puritan: Roger Conant, Salem's Founder
The Puritan: Roger Conant, Salem’s Founder

It seems a few young girls began to act strangely that year. Whether they were sick, drugged by fungus-tainted grain, or just looking for attention — we’ll never know.

The Puritan minds of the late seventeenth century figured that the convulsions they suffered could only be caused by witchcraft.

Time to round up the usual suspects.

On March 1st, a beggar woman, a slave girl and a lady who dared not regularly attend church services were hauled in and charged as witches. These three accused others and before long no one was beyond suspicion.

The historic district in Salem, Massachusetts

Within a few months, sixty-two people had been arrested.

By summer, the God-fearing folks of Salem were hanging folks on no more evidence than a few accusations, coerced confessions, and the good old “touch test.”

By the time September rolled around, twenty people had been put to death. Many more died while in prison awaiting their trials.

The town hall in Salem, Massachusetts

When eighty-year-old Giles Corey was arrested, he refused to enter a plea — as a protest against the court’s methods.

Rather than hang Mr. Corey for daring to point out that the sanctimonious kangaroo court had run amuck, the pious Puritans decided to go with torture.

Rocks were stacked on the octogenarian until he couldn’t breathe. Giles, being a true bad ass, survived for two days.

He never entered a plea.

Salem, Massachusetts

Perhaps old Giles Corey didn’t die in vain. By October, a few voices of opposition had begun to question the proceedings.

By month’s end, the Governor had prohibited further arrests and dissolved the court.

On closer inspection, the real reason for the hysteria and brutality in Salem likely stemmed from a religious squabble between rival factions in the church, and political pettifoggery between neighboring villages.

What better solution is there to solving differences than to hang people as witches?

Salem, Massachusetts

Altogether overshadowed by its infamous witch-related history is the fact that Salem was once one of North America’s main seaports.

The colony’s early trade developed into huge business, mostly with the Far East.

Thankfully, the old harbor is being preserved by the National Parks Service as the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

Many of the buildings are being refurbished and informative signs provide a guide while strolling along the gorgeous bay.

The Bunghole Liquor Store in Salem, Massachusetts

Directly across from the harbor we noticed a liquor store with a name that was a nod to Salem’s old seafaring days — The Bung Hole.

Our only previous experience with the term “bung hole” had been as a slang term for the termination of the alimentary system, you know, the pooper, A-hole, bum, gluteus maximus, OK, OK…. butt.

Cheesy Salem, Massachusetts

But, it turns out the term actually refers to the hole in the booze barrels that the ships used to haul, which is plugged with a stopper called a “bung,” hence, the bung hole.

This fine establishment seemed intent on educating the startled tourists with clever pictorial explanations, showing pictures of barrels and ships.

But their jig was up when we discovered the T-shirts with “I Got It in the Bung Hole” emblazoned across the chest!

Witchcraft school in Salem, Massachusetts

Though there is no evidence that real witches were conjuring up spells way back when, the modern variety have fully embraced Salem and are Wicca-ing away throughout the town.

Dare we say it has become the Wicca Mecca? Sorry about that.

On one hand, this proves the progress of tolerance made in Salem, but let’s hope it doesn’t detract from actual history and overshadow the real lesson to be learned from the Puritan mindset of the 1690’s…

…don’t ever let it happen again.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Utterly Unexpected Palo Duro Canyon

It isn’t hard to keep your social distance out on the lone prairie, in fact it might be harder to find someone to get too close to. Still, there are some big surprises and here’s one of the biggest! Out of nowhere the Texas prairie drops one thousand feet down into the second largest canyon in the United States. CONTINUE READING >> 

Fall just might be the perfect time to visit this little known gem in Texas.

We know everything’s big in Texas, and the Lone Star State is full of surprises… but this was one BIG surprise!

To make it even more surprising, we didn’t find it in Big Bend National Park, or even in that southwest part of the state where mountains are a part of the landscape.

No, the impressive Palo Duro Canyon is right smack in the middle of the plains of the panhandle. Out of nowhere the prairie drops one thousand feet down into the second largest canyon in the United States.

If we hadn’t known what we were about to encounter our jaws would have hit the ground. They almost did anyway.

Driving toward the rim we couldn’t help but think about what early settlers rolling across the smooth, open prairie in their covered wagons must have though when they hit the edge.  “This is too easy, nothin’ to it. We’ll be in Caiforn… Holy $#*%!!!! What in the Sam Hill is this?”

It was formed by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River during the Pleistocene era, when melting Ice Age glaciers provided massive torrents of water. Thousands of years later, in 1934, this incredible geologic wonder became Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

Soon after that the CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps, built roads, trails, cabins, and campgrounds that still serve the park’s hundreds of thousands of visitors.

On our recent autumnal visit we found nary a drop of the water that carved through the layers of rock through the ages, but we did find amazing colors in the resulting formations. These are very reminiscent of the Grand Canyon.

Even in the fall it can still be pretty hot, so we spent most of our time driving the miles of roads that took us over the edge and down the slope of the canyon wall then in a loop along the floor.

We did stop for a couple short hikes, one led to a formation called the painted rocks, where fairly recent erosion has exposed a large cliff of red-orange stone.

The other took us to a stone that natives had used for grinding roots, mesquite beans, and various seeds for food.

Over the ages the process wore down obvious holes in the rock that allowed archeologists to make the discovery.

Soon after that we encountered a good sized flock of wild turkeys. With the heat and lack of water, these were the only wildlife we saw all day, but we guess that they would have made a fine meal too.

When we drove back up on the rim, we stopped in for a quick look through the visitor’s center and then another short walk that took us to an overlook with a panoramic view of the entire upper portion of the canyon.

From there we got a long distance view of the park’s most famous landmark, Lighthouse Rock, which made us feel okay about skipping the six mile trail that would have given us a close up view. With that, we felt that we had done a pretty good job seeing most of the sights.

Amarillo is only twenty five miles to the north, but we decided to stay in the closer town of Canyon. This smaller, and definitely quirkier, little enclave proved to be a good choice.

It is home to West Texas A&M University, and the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum on its campus, along with a couple interesting eating establishments that we can heartily give two thumbs up.

Feldman’s Wrong Way Diner was fun, with model trains circling the ceiling, but our favorite for both the food and its unique combination had to be Pepito’s Mexican Restaurante & Auto Sales.

We have a strict rule to never stop in Texas without getting our fill of Tex-Mex. However, we can’t say that we’ve ever considered getting our burritos and Buicks in the same place, but we can declare that at least the food was fantastic. No word on the wheels

On our way back to the main road in Amarillo the following morning, we made a quick pit stop at the RV Museum. The collection is on display at Jack Sisemore Traveland, which is the oldest RV dealership in the state.

Jack began collecting vintage trailers, campers, and motorhomes back in 1986, and has managed to gather quite an impressive array that embody the past century of Recreational Vehicle development.

After spending most of the last ten years in our three motorhomes, we couldn’t help but be intrigued, and were definitely not disappointed.

Right off the bat we were greeted by a 1915 Ford Kampkar. The body was actually made by Anheuser-Busch and fitted on to a Ford chassis, creating what was one of the first motorhomes, rustic as it may have been.

As we moved on, we encountered over a dozen other iconic models including the very first Airstream from 1935, a 1967 VW hippie bus, a 1976 FMC that was owned by Max Factor, and the 1948 Flxible bus featured in the Robin Williams movie RV.

One of the coolest things about this museum is that we were not only able to view these babies from the outside; the interiors are also open and impeccably restored. We could have spent all day, but had to get going.

As we pulled back out onto the highway it seemed more than fitting that we were traveling along the course of Route 66.

We certainly got our kicks.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com