EnterTheDragons

Our Adventure & Travel Blog

Camping cooking

Want to camp in style?

Here are some great camping recipes for the chef in you: https://matadornetwork.com/read/chefs-camping-food/https://matadornetwork.com/read/chefs-camping-food/

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Dude, Where’s My Car? 8 Airport Parking Tips to Remember

When planning your dream vacation, usually the last thing on your mind is airport parking.  But with charges sometimes running $20 a day or more, airport parking can eat up a good bit of your travel budget for a long trip.  I’ve compiled this list of a few tips and tricks to save you time, money and aggravation.

1.  To help you remember where you parked you could: take a photo of the parking area sign, text the parking space number to a friend or relative, or use an app such as Google Drive.

2.  Always keep your parking ticket stub above your visor.  This will save you from a frantic search and hefty lost tickets charges.

3.  Compare the cost of parking at hotels near the airport.  They often will allow you to park there for much less than the airport will charge.  Find one that has free shuttles to pick you up and drop you off at the times you need!  On our last trip we saved over $200 by parking at a hotel next to the airport.

4.  Check out commercial off-site parking services such as Park ‘n Fly.  Although you are farther from the airport, one major benefit is you can reserve and pay for your spot in advance.  Guaranteed parking = peace of mind in peak travel season.

5.  Some cities have airport shuttle services and you can leave your car at home.  A shuttle from Naples, Florida to the Ft. Myers airport (30 miles) is about $80 each way.

6.  Airlines often require you to be 2 or more hours early for your flight.  Be sure to allow time for parking — especially during busy holidays — so that you are not rushed.

7.  Pay close attention to the lot you choose at the airport.  The rates for different lots can vary dramatically — leading to a big surprise when you return from your trip.  Visit your airport’s website in advance to determine the rates and location of parking areas.

8.  If cost isn’t an issue, some larger airports have valet parking.  If you are running late and about to miss your flight, the $30+ per day charge to valet park may very well be worth it.  For an additional fee, you can often add perks — like having your car washed or oil changed while you are gone.

What airport do you think has the best or worst parking?

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7 Netflix Instant Movie Suggestions for Travelers

If circumstances have left you homebound this holiday season, the perfect cure for your wanderlust is a good travel movie.  I’ve compiled a list of 7 streaming movies on Netflix Instant right now.

 

7.  Transsiberian

An American couple seeking to smooth out their rough marriage buys a ticket on the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. But a chance meeting with two other passengers ends in accidental murder and high intrigue.

 

 

6.  The Last Emperor

Recounting the last years of China’s Ching Dynasty through flashbacks and flash-forwards, this Oscar-winning epic charts the life of Pu Yi (John Lone) — who ascended the throne at age 3 — from coddled aristocrat to enlightened insurgent to ordinary citizen. Co-starring Peter O’Toole as Pu Yi’s Scottish tutor and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, the lavish drama collected nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

 

5.  The Motorcycle Diaries

This foreign-language drama tells the incredible true story of a 23-year-old medical student from Argentina — future revolutionary Che Guevara (Gael Garcia Bernal) — who motorcycled across South America with his friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna) beginning in 1951. Walter Salles’s film is based on Guevara’s diaries of the trek, a deeply personal odyssey that ultimately crystallized the young man’s budding political beliefs.

 

4.  Return To Paradise

Americans Lewis (Joaquin Phoenix), Sheriff (Vince Vaughn) and Tony (David Conrad) spend a carefree summer together on the beaches of Malaysia. Two years later, a lawyer (Anne Heche) tells Sheriff and Tony that Lewis has been sentenced to death for drug trafficking. If both go back to claim their share of the drugs, each will go to prison for three years; if only one goes, he’ll be jailed for six years. If both refuse, Lewis will die.

 

3.  Wild China

This six-part series uncovers some of the most exotic and uncharted natural habitats hidden within the vast and diverse topography of China, including Yunnan’s forests, the Tibetan plateau, the Silk Road and the Mongol steppes.

 

2.  180 degrees South

Inspired by pioneering outdoorsman Yvon Chouinard’s freewheeling 1968 van trip to Patagonia, South America, a band of bliss-seeking surfer-mountaineers sets out — in 2007, by boat — to remake the journey in this adventure documentary. Jeff Johnson and his buddies hug the coast, stopping at the Galapagos Islands and Easter Island before arriving in Patagonia — a region that’s still breathtaking but is now besieged by environmental threats.

 

1.  The Way

When his son dies while hiking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in the Pyrenees, a grieving father flies to France to claim the remains. Looking for insights into his estranged child’s life, he decides to complete the 500-mile trek to Spain.
Did I miss one of your favorites?  Let me know in the comments.

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What is CouchSurfing? Should You Try It?

A few years ago I flew to Los Angeles to see Natalie, the coolest chick I’ve ever met. During my visit, Natalie filled me in on the “secret” world of Couchsurfing – traveling the world by sleeping on other people’s couches for free.  Couchsurfing appeals to people that want to see other cities and countries but don’t have the money to stay in hotels every night.  This community works because it is founded on trust.  The people that offer up their couches (or guest room in my case), are often travelers themselves and they want to help out like-minded people.

Two weeks ago we hosted our first Couchsurfers.  You are probably saying to yourself, “You mean to tell me, you let strangers sleep in your house?”  Yes. Yes we did – and we lived to blog about it.

 

After Natalie told me about Couchsurfing, it took me awhile before I began actively using the on-line community.  I decided to do this because I am a big advocate of frequent travel and I want to help make it possible for others.  I was relieved to see that there are several built-in safety features on Couchsurfing.org:

  • identity verification — Members donate to the Couchsurfing organization using a credit card in their name.
  • address verification — The Couchsurfing site mails you a postcard with a code which must be entered on the site.
  • profile — A good Couchsurfing profile is more thorough than a job application.  It includes photos, occupation, education, personality, interests, philosophy, what skills you have or want to learn, and languages you speak.
  • vouching — Established members confirm you are who you say you are and your good character.
  • references – Guests and hosts leave a positive, neutral, or negative reference.
  • friends – Couchsurfing members you know in real life can “friend” you on the site.

 

The first Couchsurfers to sign up to stay with us were two 21-year-old guys from the U.K. Our excitement for the novel experience was tinged with a bit of nervousness.  What if they’re criminals?  What if we don’t like them?  What if they don’t like us?

Our worries were natural, but totally unnecessary.  Archie and Alister charmed us with their accents and entertained us with travel stories from their 7-week trip along the east coast of the United States.  In return, we stuffed them full of pizza and cookies and served as ambassadors for our city.  The guys spent their days on the beach and at night we shared tips we’ve learned along the road.  Archie and Ali’s 2-day visit flew by and we were sad to see them leave.

 

Because of our excellent first experience, we immediately agreed to host another traveler – Carolyn, a professional photographer from New York.  Her current project on global climate change prompted her trip to the nearby Everglades.  She spent 9 months Couchsurfing the world and stunned us with her story of catching malaria in Kenya and not finding out until several stops later in Amsterdam.  Two bottles of wine and countless stories later we knew we had a new friend.

We loved meeting these three nomads and their tales have inspired us to go out and have our own Couchsurfing experience abroad.   What’s your opinion on Couchsurfing?  Would you consider having a stranger sleep on your couch?

 

All images courtesy of couchsurfing.org

 

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Are You Still Confused About Applying for a Passport? Your Questions Answered Here

Passports are not just for James Bond characters or foreign diplomats.  Passports are vital for everyone wanting to travel outside of the country.  We’re going to reveal how easy it is for you to obtain your first official U.S. passport, otherwise known as the key to international travel.  Often it’s as easy as getting your driver license, or maybe even easier.  For simplicity’s sake, these instructions are for United States citizens over the age of 16 getting a first passport.  (If you have any questions about applying for a U.S. passport under other conditions, let us know in the comments below and we will try to get the information you need.)

The best time to apply for your passport is at least 6 weeks in advance of any planned foreign travel.  You need to allow plenty of time for processing your application.  (If you need a passport in less than 4 weeks, you will often need to make an appointment and may face additional expedited processing charges.  So plan to do this early!)

 

First time applicants must fill out a simple 2-page form, the DS-11, either online or by hand.  On the left you can see a small screen shot of the top of the form.  When you print the DS-11, you will also receive detailed instructions to guide you.

 

Along with the form, you will need:

1.  Proof of U.S. citizenship (such as a birth certificate. If you are unsure where to write for a certified copy of yours, use this handy link provided by the CDC.)

2.  Proof of identity (your original driver license plus a copy of the front and back)

3.  Recent color photograph (It’s fast, easy and cheap to get this done at a drugstore like Walgreens.)

4.  Fees (at the time of publication, $110 plus $25 execution fee)

These items and your application must be submitted in person.  To find a location near you, go to http://iafdb.travel.state.gov/, and enter your zip code.  For example, I found three offices within 5 miles of me in a small town.

An adult U.S. passport is valid for 10 years and you should renew it about 9 months before it is set to expire.  Some countries will not allow entry if you are within 6 months of the expiration date.

Now that you’ve seen how easy it is to apply for your passport, go for it!  In my experience, the blank pages of my brand new passport were just the push I needed to start traveling many years ago.  I’m on my second passport book now and each country’s stamp is a memory I cherish.

**All of the above information was accurate as of the date of publication: November 2012.  We will attempt to always keep this blog current, but please visit the U.S. Department of State’s website http://travel.state.gov or call 877-487-2778 to confirm that the rules, form, or fees have not changed.

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London in a Day

Can you really see all of London in only a day?  Probably not.  But when we were given the chance to spend 23 hours in the city, we were determined to see as much as possible.



The first thing I noticed when we landed at London Heathrow was the amazing variety of shops and restaurants right there in our terminal.  You could literally never leave the airport and have one heck of a vacation.  Daniel reminded me about our tight schedule and spurred me to stop the wide-eyed wandering.

As you can see by some of the photos below, the summer Olympics were in full force during our trip.  Prior to our arrival, I imagined crowded streets and impossible public transportation but London was so organized that everything ran like a well-oiled machine.

The quickest and lowest priced way we have found to see and learn more about a city is a bus tour.  The London Big Bus Tour had the added advantage of a free boat tour ride in your ticket price.  We grabbed the boat first and had fun ride up the Thames River.  (Be sure to get a window seat because there are so many great photo opportunities from Big Ben to the London Tower.)  We disembarked at the Tower and grabbed the Big Bus.  (The best seat for photos is the front seat on the top level.)  We listened along to the recorded guide which covered all the major sites and some of the country’s rich and interesting history.

After a mandatory dinner of fish & chips with a pint of ale at a true British pub, we wound our way to the London Eye – the world’s largest observation wheel.  Extended hours for the Olympics allowed us to take a ride after midnight.  You won’t get a better bird’s eye view of the city than the London Eye.

Although we planned to stay awake for our entire time in London, I needed to grab just a few hours before our continuing flight to America.  After about 2 hours of searching, we were lucky to find a delightful bed & breakfast for  £75  (about $120 US) without a reservation.

Even though we were only able to get a taste of London in a day, we cannot wait to go back and explore more of the country.

“Our annual trip to Europe this year included an all-too brief stay in London. I have to agree with Samuel Johnson, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.””

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This volcano owned and operated by Dionisio Pulido

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The Cajun Dragon recipe

Spicy Cajun boiled seafood

Spicy Cajun boiled seafood

When I lived in New Orleans I fell in love with the crawfish boils, a Cajun spiced seafood and veggies feast that was hard to find everywhere else I lived and traveled. So I decided to make my own, after I found out what the “secret ingredient” was: Zatarain’s crab boil powder mix.

 

Recipe below (will edit later to show it in a better format); this is copied from my FB reply to my friend who asked for the recipe. Since it’s completely my take on this, feel free to play around with the ingredients, add other seafood critters, less or more spice as you like it.

This $5 container makes 6 times the amount in my recipe

This $5 container makes 6 times the amount in my recipe

“So this is my bastardized version of crawfish boil, because crawfish is hard to find in Florida and now out of season anyway, I used shrimp instead (easy peel, 4lbs), with smoked andouille sausage (2 lbs), mushrooms (16 oz. white ones, not portabella, I tried some of those and they get a particular taste, but white ones are awesome). Also, new potatoes (3-4 lbs) and fresh corn (5 ears, broken in 2-3 pieces each).
What’s not seen (but important for the end result: Zatarain’s crab boil (1.5 cups of powder mix for a 15 quarts large pot), yellow onions (2), garlic (2) and lemons (2) (quantities below).

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • SEAFOOD (easy peel shrimp or crawfish) = 4 lbs (2kg)
  • ANDOUILLE SAUSAGE, smoked = 4 lbs (1kg) – chopped
  • mushrooms (white) = 16 oz (1/2 kg) – whole
  • potatoes (new) = 3-4 lbs (2kg) – whole
  • corn on the cob = 4-5 ears (break in 2-3 pieces)
  • onions (yellow) = 2 pcs. large, whole
  • garlic = 2 large whole bulbs
  • lemons = 2 (cut in half)
  • Zatarain’s crab boil = 1.5 cups
  • 15 quarts large pot (filled half with water)

 

DIRECTIONS:

Fill pot half with water, bring to boil, add the Cajun mix with the potatoes and corn, 2 full washed but unpeeled onions, 2 large whole bulbs of garlic washed but unpeeled, 2 lemons cut in half (squeezed in the pot), add sausage, mushrooms, boil for 30 min. The shrimp (thawed 24 hrs in the fridge if you get the frozen ones, or run cold water over it in a colander for 20 min) will only be added for 3-4 minutes at the end, after which you cool off the pot in icy water immediately, to stop the shrimp from over cooking. Can be served hot (warm) or cold.

 

I dub this recipe The Cajun Dragon 🙂 ”

Best served warm/hot, but can also be served cold

Best served warm/hot, but can also be served cold

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