Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday Beachcombing

Merry Christmas from Nauset Lighthouse in Cape Cod, Massachusetts!
The tourists may be gone until Memorial Day weekend, but there are still plenty of beaches to walk on and lighthouses to see. Off season on Cape Cod t'aint really that bad. I retract my "Bah Humbug" from earlier in the week. My family and I spent the afternoon walking along the GORGEOUS National Shoreline, and driving past some of the "summer homes" in Chatham, MA. For a low-key holiday...this was perfect.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Galavanting TV's Upcoming Live Broadcast

Exciting news! The ladies behind Galavanting will be introducing a new project to the travel blog niche next week.

On Monday December 29th, Galavanting TV will be broadcasting a short program live from Colmar, France via broadband. The show will center around the Colmar Christmas Markets which run annually through December 31st.

What can you expect? Hot tips, local destination information, and live footage. Kim Mance will also be joined by Gary Vaynerchuck, host of Wine Library TV. Vaynerchuck will share his expertise on which wines to check out in the region of Alsace.

At the end of the program, viewers will have the opportunity to win a $25 giveaway of Hazel Mail custom postcards, so be sure to tune in!

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Festivus for the Rest of Us

I get EXTREMELY restless this time of year. Over a month of shopping and listening to Christmas songs - it is enough to DRIVE ONE INSANE. The only times I have enjoyed Christmas is when I have been fortunate enough to wave goodbye to Santa Claus, Christmas lights, eggnog, mistletoe, caroling, Christmas trees, chimneys, stockings, hung, and care - okay, well maybe not the last two, but you get the point. Back in my college days the fam and our closest family friends spent one or two Christmas eves packing and Christmas day on a plane down to Key West, Florida. Which is a brilliant trip  that I would highly recommend, but a story for another day.
This year money is a little tight and "the mom" is planning a Christmas at home. So, the travel plans are a lot less tropical, and doing a lot less to get me away from the Santa Claus. This year the plan is to head up North for New Years Eve to a little place called Maine, for 5 days of skiing, sledding, Wu-Tang Clan-ing, and hot tubbing. 

I've never done anything quite like this for New Years, so I'll have to let you know how it goes. However, pulling together this type of trip really proved to be rather easy. You see there is this thing called the internet - ahh kidding - most ski areas have Ski & Stay packages that are semi-reasonable. Or, if you are willing to stay off the mountain sites like,, and will provide pricing, descriptions, availability, and pictures for houses & cabins in the surrounding areas. There are definitely some great deals to be found.

Stay tuned for pics & tales. 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Arab Baths of Granada

Sitting huddled around the heater with our vino tinto and Manchego cheese, wrapped in blankets for extra warmth – we hatched our escape plan. We were tired of being so cold! You’d think we were in Antarctica – and not the Costa del Sol.

The Costa del Sol in southern Spain supposedly has over 300 days of sunshine a year – not that it wasn’t sunny. It was just so cold that the town now appeared devoid of people virtually turning into a ghost town overnight. A local bar owner told us that it was just too cold - the Spanish were staying inside.

Our lovely beach weather from mere days before had taken a turn for the worse – plummeting from a pleasant nineteen degrees to a very chilly six. Unheard of for this part of the country, even at this time of the year!

My husband Curtis (of Flashpacking Life) and I had spent the last two weeks in Nerja with friends who were visiting from home. Just as they were leaving, my friend Athena arrived from California, leaving behind scorching temperatures and raging forest fires.

When the cold snap struck, the three of us couldn’t stop thinking about the Arab baths in Granada. We made it our mission to go soak in the hot baths and finally thaw ourselves out.

The Aljibe Banos Arabes must be booked in advance. Each session lasts for an hour and a half; if you pay an extra nine euros, you’ll also get a 15-minute aromatherapy massage. For the baths only, it will cost you 17 euros, so the full deal with massage is 26 euros (if you visit on a weekend or holiday, you’ll pay an extra two euros).

The sessions start every two hours beginning at 10:00 am, with the last session at 10:00 pm (they close at midnight). Towels and lockers are provided free of charge, as are water and the tastiest sweet mint tea ever.

We arrived in Granada hours ahead of our scheduled bath session so that we could wander the streets and enjoy a tasty lunch before our soak. Wandering around the Albayzin – the North African part of town - with its narrow cobbled streets, shops full of colorful clothing and intricate carvings, and the endless choice of restaurants sporting hookahs, we felt like we were in Morocco.

Slipping into one of the restaurants where the smell of incense wafted about, we took a seat at a table tucked into what felt like our own secret nook. We had to duck under the archway (well, not Athena, who’s about the size of a Smurf) to get to the beautifully inlaid table awash in candlelight.

We ordered a delicious pot of Chai tea and the lamb with couscous – which was absolutely to die for!
With full bellies we continued our wander – eventually stumbling upon the perfect spot for a breathtaking view of the Alhambra, with the snow-covered Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background.

And then it was bath time! The free map that I had picked up from a tourist info booth helped us navigate our way to the small street (which looks more like an alley) that houses the baths.

After changing into our swimsuits, we heaved open the heavy wood and iron door and entered a different world.

There are seven different pools: six of them ranging from warm to hot, with one cold plunge pool. The idea is to alternate between the cold and warm pools, never letting your body get overheated. The cold pool sits at the centre of the room, lit from below and backed with a beautifully tiled wall. Marble and tile reign here and the room is designed to provide some privacy in the nooks and crannies of various baths – some of which are hidden by arch ways or columns.

The number of guests per session is limited, which is great. There were eight people in total in the baths during ours, so we never even had to share a pool with anyone else. The atmosphere is tranquil, relaxing and romantic. If you speak, it’s in a hushed whisper.

We were all given a number upon arrival, and when it was time for the massages, the cute masseur wandered the baths, softly calling out a number in Spanish.

When my turn came, I was given a choice between a back/neck massage and a leg massage – so, of course, I chose the back. As I lay on my stomach on the massage table, the masseur untied the strings on my bikini and covered me with beautifully scented oil. Then his big strong hands worked their magic as I drifted deeper into the relaxation. The only thing keeping me from falling asleep was the occasional drip of cool water against my warm skin, the condensation from the ceiling.

Those fifteen minutes were over too quickly – but they were worth every penny. After a quick shower to wash off the oil, I slipped back into the baths as Curtis began his 15 minutes of fabulous pampering.

Twenty minutes later, a man in a white lab coat appeared. He looked very serious and important as he snaked his way through the baths. But then he pulled out a flashlight, flashing each pool of people with his blinking light several times.

We bathers looked at each other questioningly, barely suppressing giggles at this weird sight. After a moment of confusion, we guessed it must be the signal for the end of our session.

The flickering flashlight finished our time in the hammans but we left our newfound paradise of warmth and tranquility filled with a spiritual sense of ahhhhhhhh.

Lindsie and Curtis are traveling the world for a year - follow their adventure on Flashpacking Wife.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mexico is the Bestico...

....Especially when you don't have to pay for anything. I just recently returned from a destination wedding in Cancun (the groom's family is from Mexico). I know. My initial reaction was: "why would my friend want to get married with with fraternity brothers, high school students, and spring-breakers (oh my!)," Oh the relief in being mistaken. About 25 minutessouth of Cancun is the much more toned down city of Puerto Morelos. WHile built up to some degree, my friend was able to find the unbelievable, the gorgeous, the private: Playa de Secreto (duh, I think that means "Secret Beach" in Spanish). While I wouldn't characterize this as a destination for budget travelers, it is a wonderful place to stay if you have the extra money to spend or want a really nice setting for a wedding. However, you can get some pretty decent rates in the off-season, and everything is amazingly maintained.

Views are AMAZING:

Food delicious:
(Fry Piggies FRY!)

Music great:

The Bride & Groom were even happy:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shoes: The Ultimate Insult

I was going to go with the "Who Throws a Shoe" title, but after Googling it, I saw how unoriginal that would have been. I also pondered adding the infamous Austin Powers clip to the bottom of this post, but opted to simply link to it instead. See, simple modifications easily make this post stand out.. right?

Recent events have revived the popularity of this Austin Powers moment. While we've all found a way to chuckle over the fact that George W was nearly beheaded by a shoe at an Iraqi press conference, the fact of the matter is that this is one of the highest insults in Arab culture. Maybe it's something innate in regard to the Presidents that we elect, but Bill Clinton seemed to miss the memo on cultural awareness too. Anyway, I digress. And Willy C was in the States at the time, so he has a better shot at forgiveness.

Back to the topic at hand. Arab culture views the sole of a foot as the dirtiest part of a person's body. It certainly makes sense, if you think about it. When entering a mosque, the first thing a person is required to do is remove his or her socks & shoes and then wash his or her feet. By pointing the sole of your shoe at someone within this culture, you're demonstrating complete ignorance and total disrespect. As you can surmise, Bush basically got the steroid-induced version of this insult.

As always, be aware of your surroundings. Feel free to share any relevant experiences that you might have had in regard to the above noted situation.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Troopin' Travelers' Guarantee

As promised in Shooting Up With a Space Needle, visit Ben's Flickr page to see more of his fabulous photos.

Happy Friday, folks!

Stay Tuned, Folks

In the near future, we'll be featuring a guest post from Lindsie Tomlinson of Flashpacking Wife. If you haven't read about the travels of Lindsie & Curtis, then I can guarantee that it'll be a unique & humorous experience.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Proxemics: Don't Stand So Close to Me

Space can be a very mysterious concept when it comes to interpreting body language across cultures. Personally, unless I'm dating you, sharing a very small bed with you, or clearly in distress, then I'd prefer that most people keep their distance. I don't think I'd classify myself as claustrophobic.. that may be a bit extreme.. but we'll just say that I prefer to go to the 11:30a movie on a Tuesday rather than the 7:30p show on a Saturday. For me, the distraction has more to do with all of the white noise than the volume of people within one area. If someone in that theater is snapping gum, whispering, or lightly tapping on an arm rest - FORGET IT, that's all I'll hear for the remainder of the film. Ask any roommate I've ever had.. I'm insane when it comes to small noises.

Anyway, in 1966 anthropologist Edward Hall introduced the term 'proxemics'. The word signifies set measurable distances between people as they're interacting. To quote Hall, "Like gravity, the influence of two bodies on each other is inversely proportional not only to the square of their distance, but possibly even the cube of the distance between them".

Here's the general chart of proxemics per Hall's delineations in regard to body spacing, posture, & unintentional reactions:

  • Intimate distance: embracing, touching, whispering
    0 inches - 18 inches
  • Personal distance: interactions among close friends
    1.5 feet - 4 feet
  • Social distance: interactions among acquaintances
    4 feet - 12 feet
  • Public distance: typically used for public speaking forums
    12 feet - 25+ feet

While these delineations are standards upheld by North Americans, it's important to note that they do vary according to different cultures. High-contact cultures maintain smaller relative distances when interacting. Latin, Arab, & Mediterranean cultures are more comfortable with a shorter amount of personal space. Conversely, low-contact cultures such as Nordic & Asian people prefer most interactions remain within Hall's social distance zone. In fact, low-contact cultures often prefer no contact at all as it can be viewed as intrusive (i.e. hand-shaking, light tap on the shoulder).

Of course, in all cultures, the degree of space is heavily determined by specific elements involved in each unique situation. Gender, circumstances, privacy, and comfort levels among many other factors can alter or determine an individual's reaction. I'm sure that - if given the opportunity - any one of us would prefer a private jet over a crowded airplane. The important thing to remember is that facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language can easily be misinterpreted across cultures. Developing your knowledge of cultural awareness in regard to space can help to eliminate discomfort, confusion, and anxiety that the person on the receiving end may be experiencing.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Recent NEST Plugs

Not to change the focus of this blog to all things NEST, but I did promise to reserve Fridays for plugging non profit organizations and companies promoting social responsibility. And being involved in one of many successful charitable causes, exposing its press is one of my civic duties, isn't it?

Check out the following sites & articles for recent NEST love:

Unfortunately, the Country Living link does not direct to the specific article. My cooperative little iBook is having too much fun with trickery to allow me to grab the actual URL. And if I sit here and try to outsmart it, then Mr. iBook G4 (I know it's a man because who else would get me all worked up like this!) might find himself smashed through a glass coffee table.

Ahem, anyway, cheers to NEST & its recent accomplishments!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rock the Kasbah: Ait Benhaddou Style

Kasbah. It's fun to say. Try it!

Although I made it to Ouarzazate & Ait Benhaddou before seeing either Lawrence of Arabia or Gladiator, I pretended that I was a huge fan of both films. It seemed like the appropriate American thing to do? To be quite honest, I still haven't seen "Lawrence of Arabia". It's on my list in between "Goonies" and "Pretty Woman". I'm clearly a movie buff.

Here are some quality kasbah snapshots for your viewing pleasure:

Ait Benhaddou
Ouarzazate Kasbah
Inside Kasbah
Looks like someone could use some more stairs.. hint.. self.

Another Kasbah View
Moroccan Molly
Moroccan Molly overseeing her village.

Kasbah Ait Benhaddou

The scene was just so surreal. As was the camel trek across the Sahara. Simply put, Morocco is a must-see destination.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Eau de Cologne

I'm not trying to be redundant - I swear - YOU MUST NEVER spend a full seven days straight in Amsterdam. I'm not talking Holland, I'm talking Amsterdam. I think we finally hit our "wall" on day number 5, but I can't be 100% sure. All we can know for certain is that I found myself back at the Amsterdam Airport about to rent a car.
At the time we felt these screens looked like some futuristic world where society could only communicate through flashing signs and advertisements. I now look at this picture and think: "Molly, two coffees ain't gonna be enough. You are aware that you are actually going to drive the car, right?"
In typical fashion, we were given a Renault "Kangoo" as a rental car - a vehicle that you only receive if you are in National Lampoon's European Vacation, or the rental agent feels like messing with you. Liz and I weren't being followed by a film crew, so apparently we had a target on our foreheads.
Before we hop on the road, let's quickly assess the foolish mistakes that were made in the planning of this excursion:

1) One of us thought that it would be "really cool" to be able to say that we had visited both Holland and Germany.
2) Whoever DID NOT come up with the idea to go to Germany hailed the idea as true genius.
3) We had booked our hotel room for the entire week, making a day trip the only option, and destinations in Germany not overly plentiful (or at least not within the scope of our 15 minutes of planning - duh what big cities can we find on the map). I think historians of future generations may very well ponder what exactly was going through our minds that ruled out the Dutch countryside as a good option for a day-trip.

The one semi-un-foolish mistake of the trip was that we did in fact have a destination: Cologne, Germany. A city selected (again) for no particular reason other than the fact that we could pronounce the name, believed it to be where cologne originated, and appeared conveniently close on the Holland-Germany road map we had purchased the evening before. While the first two facts ended up being true, the latter, ummm, not so much....

While I am SUPER excited to be able to say that I have in fact driven 110 mph on an autobahn in Germany:
(For real - I pushed the Kangoo to its limit)

And Cologne is truly a quaint and enjoyable city with a gorgeous cathedral:
Trying to do a round trip from Amsterdam to Cologne will really stretch you too thin. The trip takes approximately 6 hours round trip without traffic and assuming you don't get lost - doable, but we got lost AND hit "rush" hour both ways. By the time we got to Cologne we really only had time to view the Cathedral, wander around the main square, look at the Rhine River, and then attempt to find some Jagermeister at a department store.

Lesson learned: If it's avoidable, don't spend your whole day on a highway in any country. Never mind the fact that in this case it is called an autobahn - it is still a highway, we have them in the States, and they look identical. I recommend at the very least sticking to side roads/scenic routes, and definitely not trying to over extend yourself. There is generally more than enough to see near your "home base". Ewww, I sound like my mom (love ya).

Please Excuse My A.D.D.

Dear Readers [& Blogger],

I apologize if my constant color changes are inducing seizures.. I'm not really falling for the design or color options that Blogger has to offer. Until my "colleagues" and I can schedule an official meeting of the minds, then this layout shifting could be quite frequent..

You've heard it here first: we may soon be switching over to another hosting service. Feel free to take guesses, if you please.

Sorry, Blogger. I don't think we should go steady anymore. It's not you, it's us. Though I don't think our decision is going to cause you much suffering.

Thank you for your services.. you little devil, you.

Lil' Boozie

Photographers: Stop, Don't Shoot!

"Seriously, if you take that picture, I'm going to put a hex on you."

How many times have you been in the situation where you literally want to rip a camera out of someone's hands so hard that you're willing to sacrifice grace, dignity, and your physical well-being in exchange for a tiny electronic device? This tends to become an issue the morning after an inebriated evening. You wake up all jolly, just so excited to see all of the great memories that you've captured from the previous night's festivities, and then there it is. That first picture forever freezing you in all of your glory. And then comes the rationalization: But at the time, I definitely WAS a sexy vixen, right...Mom?

While there are many a moment where I've certainly regretted jumping into a polaroid or allowing friends to take a "hilarious" [read: humiliating] video of me in action, there were definitely measures I could have taken to prevent the inevitable [embarrassment] from being both recorded & released by the PapaRazzi. Additionally, while here in the good ole US of A, we just love to razz one another for a good laugh at each other's expense, it can be a very different story abroad.

Regardless of where you may be traveling, it's absolutely vital to ask permission before photographing anything, especially people. While photography certainly boasts a plethora of advantages including sharing the world with others & capturing memories, it can be viewed as intrusive by those that know nothing about you. Asking permission is just a common courtesy that is well received anywhere - it helps to boost confidence & to connect with others. Believe it or not, in some places, taking pictures of people translates to stealing their souls. Unsolicited photography may also render people inferior, as if they're just another monument, piece of scenery, or animal. It is imperative to be open-minded when it comes to photographing abroad, and to thank your subject whether s/he allows you to take the picture or not. Additionally, don't be too hasty to photograph in international airports. Just follow the literal interpretation of these two words, "Ask" "Permission", and you should be golden.

For more specific information on this subject, Darren Rowse provides solid advice in his post "Asking Permission to Photograph People".

Monday, December 1, 2008

World AIDS Day 2008

Did you know..

  • There are over 900 children under the age of 15 living with HIV in the UK?
  • There are much higher rates of people with HIV in prison than in the general population?
  • That in 2007, less people were able to identify how HIV is transmitted than in 2000?
  • That last year 330,000 children died of HIV/AIDS?

I'd be lying if I said that I knew all of this..

If it weren't for BlogCatalog or the Boston Celtics, then I'm not sure when I'd have been made aware of World Aids Day. It certainly wasn't mainstream media. And this, my friends, is yet another reason why blogging is a very powerful medium. To find out more about how you can support those suffering with HIV/Aids, please visit