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Here’s something fun to kick off your weekend. It’s a travel-themed picture puzzle. You just have to tie the photos together to make words. For example, a photo of an eye, combined with a photo of a full glass of water would be eye + full = Eiffel. Get it? (For another example, check out last week’s puzzle.)

This week’s puzzle is two words and represents somewhere people like to go to live it up.

Once you think you know the answer, post it below. You have until Monday, August19, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday morning we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Patti Bacon, who correctly guessed that the pictogram spelled “Monte Carlo.” Patti has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Stay tuned for further opportunities to win.


– written and created by Dori Saltzman

We recently asked readers on our Facebook page to tell us — in five words or less — what their perfect vacation meal would look like. The responses poured in (and made our mouths water). As we read through them, a few common themes emerged. Together, they form the perfect recipe for a delicious dining experience on the road.

1. Ambience
For many readers, the surroundings and overall vibe are more important than the food itself. Chris Holman sings the praises of “fine wine w/ [an] amazing view,” while Edward Gramauskas paints a vivid picture: “Venice, cozy back street restaurant.”

venice street cafe night


2. Favorite Foods
What’s a perfect meal without a few favorite dishes? Elissa Leibowitz Poma wants to dig into a “piping hot pizza in Italy,” while Lawson Pride orders up a “margarita and spicy cheese nachos,” and Vicki Sharples drools over a “lobster roll in Bar Harbor!”

lobster roll coleslaw maine


3. Forget the Food — Where’s the Drink?
Many readers require a little tipple with their dream meal, including Lavida Rei, who responds, “Ice cold beer and protein.” Casandra McClellan lists the ever-popular combo of “bread, cheese, olives, wine!” while Deb Scott is a bit more single-minded: “Champagne, champagne, champagne, champagne, champagne.” Cheers!

wine glasses mykonos greece lunch view


4. Local Flavor
To paraphrase the classic book title, wherever you go, there you eat — and many of our readers declare that the perfect vacation meal must feature a local specialty. “The country’s native cuisine” is a must for Bridget Uittenbogaard, while Bea Dahlen puts it this way: “local fare cooked with love.”

street food vendor bangkok


5. And Most Importantly…
Eats and ambience aside, several readers noted that the best part of a meal on the road is that you don’t have to slave over your own stove. The ideal meal, says Betty Meyer? “Cooked by someone else.”

12 Delicious Destinations for Foodies
International Foods to Try Before You Die

What’s your idea of the perfect vacation meal?

– written by Sarah Schlichter

hudson valley autumn leaves windowIn 5 Signs You’re Not a True Traveler, I declared that you should travel to experience new things, and that you shouldn’t always take the same vacations again and again. While I stand behind the notion that resort vacations alone aren’t traveling in the truest sense of the word, everyone should have one of those special places that take us away but make us feel at home, all at once.

Call it a weekend getaway, or call it the Griswold Family Summer Vacation — a good ol’ stand-by vacation spot, by any other name, is just as sweet.

When I was a child, my parents would wake me up in the pitch-darkness before dawn to jump into the car (in full pajama regalia, clutching stuffed compatriots) and head to Montauk, Long Island. We did this every summer, which was a tradition that I later found out my father had started in his mid-20’s. With a sense of legacy, and miles of beaches, village shopping centers, farmer’s markets, winding roads and harborside restaurants, there wasn’t any element that “got old.”

Photos: The 8 Best U.S. Road Trips

In college I moved to Poughkeepsie, New York, and within a short time I was initiated into the cult of leaf-praising, harvest-loving, pumpkin latte-drinking and apple-picking worshippers of fall. The Hudson Valley came alive during the autumn months, and I was intoxicated by the bucolic rolling hills, small-town festivals and flavors that marked the season.

It’s because of four years spent roaming the grounds of the Vanderbilt Mansion and strolling the streets of Rhinebeck that I became a fan of New York’s Hudson Valley for life. In that time I learned important distinctions of the area — most notably, do not confuse Dutchess County for “upstate” … it’s not the same thing!

Vote: Do You Enjoy Revisiting Familiar Places?

Every October, like clockwork, some inner leaves rustle and I’m drawn back to the familiar world of my old stomping grounds. What some people remember most about their time away at college is the parties or the sorority pals. But for me, that period of my life offered a lifelong gift: the opportunity to know a place and to revisit it with new eyes every time the autumn wind blows and the Valley comes calling.

Where’s your home-away hideaway? Is there a place that you visit continually and couldn’t imagine never seeing again? Post yours in the comments.

– written by Brittany Chrusciel

yes or no Here at IndependentTraveler.com, we see a lot of news items about things tourists have done when traveling. Most of the time, the stories are inspirational and uplifting. But sometimes, we just have to throw our hands up in the air and ask: What was that person thinking?!

For all those travelers who seem to have left their common sense at home, we’ve put together three important rules you should never break when traveling.

1. Don’t High-Five the Statues: Here’s the headline: “American Tourist Snaps Finger Off 600-Year-Old Statue in Florence Museum.” Now to be fair, the tourist involved here didn’t actually high-five the statue. He put his hand up against the statue’s to compare sizes. But we think the rule still applies. When encountering art that’s 10 times older than you, it’s probably better to stick to a hands-off approach. Incidentally, when IndependentTraveler.com Senior Editor Sarah Schlichter first shared this story with the office, a colleague asked, “Where were the parents?” Seems fair to assume that the tourist involved was a child, right? Nope. He’s 55.

4 Tourists We Don’t Want to Travel With

2. Don’t Make “I’m Going to Destroy” Jokes: By now most of us realize that cracking bomb jokes in public is not a good idea. But apparently not everyone has figured out that what you say in cyberspace is, indeed, public. So when a British tourist on the way to the United States tweeted “Free this week for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?” he apparently thought only his friends were going to see it. He was wrong. He also mistakenly assumed anyone who did see it would know that “destroy” was British slang for party it up. Instead of the fun Hollywood vacation he’d planned, he and a friend were arrested at LAX and jailed for 12 hours before being sent back to England.

3. Don’t Mess With the Animals: Forget about the tourists who think it’s a good idea to jump into a zoo cage or charge an elephant, though we highly advise against those moves as well. No, what we’re talking about are people who think it’s a good idea to walk off with a zoo animal. Like these boneheads who, after drinking way too much, broke into a SeaWorld in Australia and woke up the next morning with one of the park’s penguins in their apartment. They were caught when they tried to release the bird into a local canal. Now that we think about it, there’s probably more than one lesson in this tale … like being careful how much you have to drink in the first place and staying away from closed tourist attractions.

Traveling in a Developing Country: 11 Dos and Don’ts

–written by Dori Saltzman

Suffering from the Monday doldrums? For everyone out there facing the beginning of another work week, here’s a little jolt of wanderlust to brighten up your morning. Each Monday, we offer a photo of a spectacular place to spark ideas for your future travels.

This week’s shot was taken on a summer evening in Butchart Gardens, Victoria, Canada.

butchart gardens victoria british columbia


7 Picture-Perfect Airport Gardens

Send us your best travel shot! E-mail your most beautiful or captivating travel photo to feedback@independenttraveler.com. (Please put Monday Inspiration in the subject line.)

Vancouver Travel Guide

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Here’s something fun to kick off your weekend. It’s a travel-themed picture puzzle. You just have to tie the photos together to make words. For example, a photo of an eye, combined with a photo of a full glass of water would be eye + full = Eiffel. Get it? (For another example, check out last week’s puzzle.)

This week’s puzzle is three words and represents a well-known natural attraction and the country it’s located in.

Once you think you know the answer, post it below. You have until Monday, August 12, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday morning we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Nancy Pleimann, who correctly guessed that the pictogram spelled “Blue Lagoon, Iceland.” Nancy has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Stay tuned for further opportunities to win.


– written and created by Dori Saltzman

town names that make us giggle A native Pennsylvanian, I’m familiar with lots of towns in the Northeast, and I always crack a smile when someone makes a joke about Virginville or Bird-in-Hand (both in Pennsylvania). Eager to defend my home state, I set out to find equally cringe-worthy town names in other states across the United States. Below is an alphabetical list of the 15 I found to be most amusing.

Acme, West Virginia
Boring, Oregon
Disappointment, Kentucky
Embarrass, Minnesota
Fart, Virginia
Hell, Michigan
Hot Coffee, Mississippi
Intercourse, Pennsylvania
My Large Intestine, Texas
No Name, Colorado
Normal, Illinois
Odd, West Virginia
Okay, Oklahoma (also known as Okay, OK)
Poopoo, Hawaii
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico



The World’s Weirdest Museums

Which crazy towns have you heard of? Leave your comments below.

– written by Ashley Kosciolek

Today is National Lighthouse Day and in honor of these lifesaving and oftentimes scenic attractions, we’ve combed through our IndependentTraveler.com boards to find out which lighthouses our readers have been most impressed with.

In no particular order here are five lighthouses you may never have heard of, but our readers recommend you visit.

lighthouse Point Reyes Lighthouse, San Francisco Bay area
The light house on Point Reyes has been a lifesaver for mariners trying to some of the windiest and foggiest waters on their way into the San Francisco Bay since 1870. Now retired from service, the lighthouse is a museum in which the era of the lightkeeper is preserved.



lighthouse Tybee Island Light Station, Georgia
Though the current building only dates back to 1916, the original lighthouse was built in 1732. Sitting on a five-acre piece of land the light station guides ships into the Savannah River. Visitors can go inside and climb the 178 stops to the top for stunning views.




lighthouse Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, Bermuda
Not only is Gibbs Hill Lighthouse the tallest lighthouse on Bermuda, the hill on which its located is one of the highest points as well. So whether you brave the 185 steps to the top or not, you’ll still get a wonderful vista of the island on your visit there.



lighthouse Celarain Lighthouse, Cozumel
Located in the Punta Sur Park, a 247-acre ecological park, the lighthouse is part of a nautical museum that can be visited via park-run tours. Inside the structure you can climb some 130 steps to the observation deck.





lighthouse Blockhouse Point Lighthouse, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
While you can’t actually go inside this lighthouse, built in 1851, its location offers a wonderful view of the harbor. But if you peek in the ground floor windows you should be able to see parts of the kitchen, parlor and two bedrooms.





Eight Unique Ways to Experience Fall

– written by Dori Saltzman

pompeiiAlong with our slideshow of the 11 Best Italy Experiences, this post is part of an ongoing effort to help independent travelers make unique memories in both popular and undiscovered destinations around the world.

I’d heard a lot about Pompeii before I went there. Some people called it a tourist trap. One of my colleagues actively avoided it on a hiking trip to Vesuvius. And, of course, I’d read about the plaster cast corpses that supposedly littered the city’s pavements like garbage bags on collection day.

I worried that the casts would be everywhere, as I’d seen on TV, still taking up the spaces that they’d claimed more than a thousand years ago. I wasn’t sure I was ready to meet any of them just yet. Pompeii was, however, just one of those places I felt I had to visit. To be in that part of Italy and ignore it would have been awkward.

As my companion and I inched closer to the ticket office in the sweltering heat, I kept looking at something gray and huddled that lay farther up the dusty road. It was quite a long way away, but I could see the crowds parting around it like water.

We paid for our tickets and began the walk up to the city’s walls. The thing lay right in the gateway to the city, humped over in defeat as though it had just failed to escape the ashy labyrinth that Pompeii’s streets must have become upon its destruction.

The thing was, in fact, a traffic bump.

And that was the closest I came to seeing a petrified corpse in Pompeii. TV had misrepresented the place. The ruins, the faded murals, the mosaics and the quietly lurking mountains were all very obvious. TV hadn’t lied about those. Vesuvius was there, looking kind of guilty and shy, but we saw no evidence of the casts. Instead of being scattered all over the city, they were all gathered in one place — somewhere that we, without a map, couldn’t find and, in the heat, weren’t inclined to investigate further.

Our favorite Hotels in Rome

I wondered what else I didn’t know. I looked at the small, terraced houses and wondered what it might have been like to live here. I thought about the heat, which was intense, and the sun, from which there was very little shelter. The whole city seemed to be raised up, and the surrounding mountains formed a ring under the blue sky, like we were under a huge magnifying lens.

Then I saw a lizard.

lizard pompeiiPompeii, it seems, is absolutely filled with small, vivid green, furtive-looking lizards. They lie around in the sun on someone’s old front steps, climb in and out of cracks in the crumbly walls, and run away when you try to take their picture.

I wondered whether the lizards would have been there when Pompeii was a thriving city. The climate hasn’t changed drastically since then, and neither has the terrain, so I imagine that they would have been. For some reason, this made me think about Pompeii in a very different way.

I imagined Pompeiian bakers opening their shops in the mornings and chasing the lizards out of their shops with brooms, or Pompeiian theater goers delicately shooing them out of their booths. I imagined Pompeiian people sitting, just as we were, with nothing much to do, simply watching the lizards lying out in the sun.

I wondered whether any of the lizards had been caught out in the blast and turned into little, lizard-shaped paperweights.

Like any city, Pompeii has parts that are popular with visitors, as well as quiet parts, surprising parts and parts that you wouldn’t expect. We didn’t see any of the famous casts, it’s true. But meeting the lizards made us feel a little closer to the people that must have once lived in Pompeii. They might have been a little part of normal people’s everyday lives — a part that’s, perhaps, too small for most people to consider.

For more ways to see Italy’s most popular destinations from a fresh perspective, check out our 11 Best Italy Experiences.

– written by Josh Thomas

Suffering from the Monday doldrums? For everyone out there facing the beginning of another work week, here’s a little jolt of wanderlust to brighten up your morning. Each Monday, we offer a photo of a spectacular place to spark ideas for your future travels.

This week’s shot captures the Nanda Blue Hole on the South Pacific island of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu. The spring water in the hole has been purified by filtering through underground limestone, which helps produce its vivid blue color.

nanda blue hole espiritu santo vanuatu


Vanuatu Trip Reviews

Send us your best travel shot! E-mail your most beautiful or captivating travel photo to feedback@independenttraveler.com. (Please put Monday Inspiration in the subject line.)

16 Signs You’re Addicted to Travel

– written by Sarah Schlichter