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    "Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful we must carry it with us or we find it not."

    R. W. Emerrson


    Thank You from DINKS Travel!


    This is our final post as DINKS Travel. We would like to thank you for following our adventures, sharing encouraging words, and offering support. Your generosity is greatly appreciated and we are thankful for each and every one of you. We would like to send a special "Shout Out" to our Bring Back Cocktail Hour sponsors who gave us something special to celebrate and helped us experience local food and drink from around the world.

    When looking back at 2014, it seems appropriate to include a few statistics:

    • 375 days (and counting) off of work
    • 66,000+ flight miles
    • 15,000+ drive miles
    • 4,000+ rail miles
    • 29 countries visited
    • 23 US states visited
    • 2 Canadian provinces visited

    As the days and miles passed we encountered countless sites, foods and cultures, and challenged ourselves in ways we never thought possible. Along the way, we made new friends and learned a little bit about ourselves.

    Now that we have initiated steps to rejoin society, we're reminded of a quote from Ernest Hemingway, "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."  We're thankful for the journey we have completed and equally excited about the next journey we're beginning today.


    Merry Ole England

    “Stay left…stay left…stay left” Jenn repeated as we exited the London Heathrow car rental garage.  The simple phrase was repeated nearly as often as the seemingly infinite roundabouts that dot the English countryside.  We made an impromptu decision to visit Stonehenge, which is surprisingly only a little more than an hour from London.  As Stonehenge came into view we played the song that shares its name from the classic 1980’s movie, ‘This is Spinal Tap’.  The scene was as ancient and strange as the rock mockumentary’s song implied – An ancient place where you can sense its significance.  We were not surprised to learn that archeologists still haven’t uncovered all of its secrets.

    From Stonehenge, we headed north to the quaint town of Bridgnorth and then over to Burnley, where our friends Norman and Christina live.  These two amazingly gracious hosts guided us through memorable Skipton Castle after a stopover in the Pendle Hill area where “witches” were prosecuted in 1612.  In the evening, Norman made us the best gin and tonics before we went to a local pub for dinner.

    The next morning we bid goodbye to our friends and proceeded to The Fat Cat pub in Sheffield where we met Tony, whom we met on a train while traveling in Hungary.  We enjoyed a few pints surrounded by the locals and ate a filling lunch while exchanging travel stories.  We continued our journey to the town of Lincoln where we explored the magnificent hilltop church while children practiced for an upcoming performance, singing angelic music and reading holiday-appropriate passages.

    With only three days remaining in our European adventure, we headed back to London where we spent long days walking along the River Thames to Big Ben, the London Eye, Hyde Park, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.  We’d been warned that dining in London can be pricy, but the city’s sights are so disparate that it was easy to escape the primary tourist areas to find tasty and reasonable dining options.

    We had a great time in London and the rest of the England.  We look forward to future visits where all of the roads seem to lead us to some of the best friends we’ve made during our year-long voyage.


    Bringing Back Cocktail Hour - Christmas Markets in Germany

    Our friend Katie had told us that Germany was the place to experience the holidays.  When she sponsored “dinner and drinks for two”, we decided to set off on a search for the most delicious food and lively libations available in the country’s celebrated Christmas markets.

    We started our tour in Düsseldorf, a large, pedestrian-friendly city with several markets, each with its own unique atmosphere.  Our favorite was Altstadt (Old Town), home to a giant ferris wheel overlooking an intimate collection of well-lit holiday stalls.  We explored the offerings from the local vendors and satisfied our hunger with fried potato pancakes, pork shank, and a heaping helping of grilled mushrooms topped with spicy chili sauce.  As the temperatures dropped we warmed our hands and our bellies with spiced glühwein served in decorative mugs.

    We boarded a northbound train to Osnabrück, the town where three of Jenn’s grandparents were from.  It didn’t take long for us to fall in love with the historic town and its Christmas market which was the perfect size; the people were friendly and the food was among the best we’ve encountered.  We strolled through the stalls surrounded by beautiful, colorful buildings as we consumed Nordic salmon over a bed of lettuce.  The salmon had been smoked on a cedar plank secured over an open flame that gave it an out-of-this-world char grilled flavor.  This first dish of the day satisfied our immediate hunger, but it wasn’t long before we were queued up at another stand where we ordered a thick pork nackensteak “mit kraut”.  The glühwein continued to flow as we ate our way across Germany.

    The final stop on our fun filled Katie-funded Christmas market tour was one of the country's largest and oldest.  Stuttgart houses more than 270 stalls filled with holiday goodies, and it accommodated an immense weekend crowd during our visit.  We tried two new plates – A sauerkraut dish that included sausage bits and hot mustard, and a hearty chili con carne.  You can surely guess what we selected for our warming beverage of choice.

    We raised each new cup of glühwein (and glühkirsch, and glühschnapps) saying “Prost” and “Thank you Katie” for bringing back this wonderfully non-traditional cocktail hour.  Have a Frohe Weihnachten!


    Bringing Back Cocktail Hour - Dublin, Ireland

    As soon as Noreen’s “Dinner and Drinks for Two” sponsorship came in, we knew exactly where we were going to spend it – Ireland.  The weather in Dublin turned cold and rainy, so we sought a welcoming pub that would warm our bellies with hearty fare.  Attracted by the soft, muffled sound of Irish music, we stopped in our tracks and entered The Porterhouse Brewing Company.  A quick perusal of the menu confirmed that this was the place for us.

    The ground floor was packed, so we saddled up to a wooden table on the second floor where we could hear the live music.  We ordered a half dozen Carlingford Oysters, baked with smooth salmon butter and topped with salmon chunks and breadcrumbs. This deliciously rich starter could have been a meal on its own, but we were in no rush, so we sipped our locally brewed Porterhouse Red, and a smooth-tasting Oyster Stout in anticipation of the main course.

    It wasn’t long before two traditional dishes arrived to weigh down our table.  Matt sliced into the tender roast beef in red wine gravy served with more-than-generous portions of roast vegetables and incredibly good Yorkshire pudding while Jenn started into the bacon and cabbage dish.  This wasn’t any ordinary American bacon, it was more like a giant slab of marbled ham coated with whole grain mustard and brown sugar, topped with a creamy white sauce, all displayed atop crunchy shredded cabbage.

    At the conclusion of our indulgent meal, we raised our glasses and proposed a fitting toast to Noreen’s generosity, “May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home.  May good and faithful friends be yours wherever you may roam.”


    Guinness Stew and Irish Flu

    Seeking the comfort of pub food and familiar language, we hopped a flight from Madrid, Spain to Dublin, Ireland where we encountered very friendly people and unseasonably nice weather.  We spent many days walking around the city, weaving through the crowded streets to some of the main tourist venues, and enjoying a pint of Guinness at the end of the brewery tour.  Like usual, we found greater pleasure blending in with the locals at Oxmantown coffee shop, which dealt out the most amazing sandwiches, and taking in Wuthering Heights at the historic Gate Theater.

    Another highlight was our excursions to neighboring towns like Howth and Dun Laoghaire.  Howth offered a beautiful and refreshing 12 km hike along the coast which reminded us how much we love walking through the many splendors of nature.  Dun Laoghaire engaged us with its Maritime Museum and a complementary exhibit of photos from Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated Antarctic exploration during the early years of WWI.

    For our final few days in Ireland, we'd planned a trip down to Cork.  Those plans were detoured when we both encountered what we dubbed "the Irish flu" - A 48 hour illness that took the wind out of our sails and demanded a sedate recovery period.  Cork will have to wait for a future visit to Ireland, one in which we hope to stretch our hiking legs to further shores.