Mar 082020

Pastéis de nata. - WCF-103146.jpgAugust – October 2019 – Food, Glorious Food! We’ve often been asked, what do you like best about travel? There is never a simple answer. Our initial reply is “the people”, but I have to say that food (and wine) is a close second. We’ve been to quite a variety of countries, each with their own, distinct cuisine, and we’ve never gone hungry. Far from it. Sometimes it is difficult to not bring back a few pounds, even after all the walking we do.

Before we left the US, there was only one Portuguese food item we were marginally familiar with, the pasteis de nata, or Portuguese custard tart. So, the rest of their cuisine was going to be a surprise, and it was, as it turned out, a tasty one!

Every one handmade, Pastéis de Nata are a popular Portuguese item. - WCF-7918.jpgThe pastéis de nata were created before the 18th century by Catholic nuns. In the day, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg-whites for starching clothes, such as friars and nuns’ religious habits. It was quite common for monasteries and convents to use the leftover egg yolks to make cakes and pastries, resulting in the abundance of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country. These tasty items were frequently a quick breakfast option, with a cup of coffee (espresso) or more often a pingo, i.e. a café or espresso with a splash of milk. Sometimes we chose the simpler of toast with butter, torrada con manteiga, but usually started our day with breakfast at home.

Bifana pork sandwich and Salada de Polvo (Octopus Salad), and of course beer. - WCF-191046.jpgLunch presented many options, often beginning with soup. Caldo verde being the national creamy, potato-based soup with shredded kale and pieces of chourizo. We enjoyed a number of their traditional sandwiches, from the simple pernil (roasted pork with or without queijo da serra, a cheese made with sheep’s milk, thistle flower, and salt) at Lareira, or the bifana, the traditional Portuguese pork sandwich at the always busy Casa Guedes.

These traditional Portuguese sandwiches are made of succulent marinated pork served in crunchy white bread.  The marinade is made with spices including paprika, garlic, and white wine. The bread has a delightfully crunchy crust on the outside while being oh so soft on the inside. OK, sometimes we don’t get enough whole grains or veggies, but we feel a necessity to eat like the locals most of the time! Quite delicious!

Inside Confeitaria Belo Mundo. - WCF-135804.jpgThe local Confeitaria Belo Mundo was a short walk from our apartment, and we ate there often during out stay. There was nothing fancy about this place, but they served good, honest food at a great price, and they seemed to appreciate or were at least amused by our attempts at speaking Portuguese. It was one of those places where it seemed the patrons were all locals.

Another local food spot we frequented, just down the street from our apartment, was Aquele Tasco. They served excellent wines, the food was really good, value was excellent and the service was both friendly and efficient. We ate there several times.

Bacalhau - Salted Cod - WCF-163320.jpgAt some small lunch spots, lunch included soup (a bowl, not a cup) and a sandwich for only about 5.00€ ($5.50). We had lunch in one small place where, if we wanted to add a drink, for only 1 € ($1.10) one could choose between a 12oz beer, a full pour of wine, and a bottle of water.

Without question, the one staple food that permeates Portuguese cuisine is Bacalhau (salted cod), the national dish of Portugal. It is on every menu in one form or another and stacked like lumber in supermarkets. There are hundreds of recipes for bacalhau and people here eat more of it than anywhere else in the world. We had it prepared several ways grilled, baked, stewed,  and deep-fried as fritters or cakes. I can’t say it was our favorite seafood. We reserve that honor for … sardines!

Grilled sardines - Sardinhas grelhada at Restaurante Pires, Rua de S. Pedro, Matosinhos - WCF-121601.jpgNeither Chris nor I had never eaten sardines and were only barely familiar with it as a fish-product purchased in tins. However, while wandering the town of Matosinhos after a visit to the market, we came upon a simple, handwritten sign advertising a small local restaurant, Pires Restaurante that featured sardinhas grelhada (grilled sardines).  Sardinhas grelhada  are the summertime food of choice in Portugal, and in some coastal towns, the smell of grilling sardines can permeate the streets for weeks. Served hot off the grill, accompanied by boiled potatoes, sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sliced onion, this was definitely the way to experience this fish for the first time! And the first time we enjoyed this meal, we also ordered grilled squid. It was a struggle to finish so much good food, but it was such an delicious experience, we returned again two weeks later (but only ordered the sardines). Oh, and you always order a bottle of vinho verde (the local fresh young wine) to complete the feast.

Vinho verde. Tasty, fresh and less than $3 served. - WCF-120823.jpgVinho verde (literally ‘green wine’).  A better translation would be “young wine” as it is usually released within 3-6 months after the grapes are harvested. These wines may be red (tinto), white (branca), or rosé, and are best consumed soon after bottling. They are usually served cold and have a light and refreshing effervescence that takes place naturally in the bottle.

We had read that a visit to Porto is never complete without tasting one of its most iconic dishes, the king of sandwiches, the Francesinha. This literally means “little French girl” and it is said to have been brought to Porto by an immigrant returning from France as an adaptation of the French toasted sandwich, croque-monsieur. Usually, a francesinha is made with bread (the thicker the better), wet-cured ham, linguiça (a Portuguese sausage), steak or roast beef, then everything is covered with melted cheese and a special tomato and beer sauce. Most times it’s served with a fried egg on top and lots of batatas fritas (french fries) that you can dip in the sauce.

Some places like to innovate by adding extra ingredients, but what really makes the difference in the francesinha universe is the sauce. Of course, Chris had to experience this popular item but I think he only ate one in the three months we spent in Portugal. I’ll admit that I took a bite but it really was too heavy for me, and I don’t seek foods covered in sauce. So I crossed this item off my must-eat list after we’d been in Porto for about a month.

Frangasqueira Nacional - the BEST grilled chicken, pork ribs, and sausage ANYWHERE! With seating for six. - WCF-175950.jpgIf we wanted an easy take-away dinner for home, frango assado con batata frita (roast chicken and French fries) from Pedro dos Frangos was an inexpensive option near our Porto apartment, and in Lisbon we became regular customers at Frangasqueira Nacional, ordering the grilled chicken, or ribs, and sometimes grilled sausages. A variety of simple side dishes completed an incredibly delicious dinner, and at a very low price. The ambiance alone was enough to return several times to this tiny but popular take-away, but the food … Ummmm.

In all of Portugal, pork is the primary meat you’ll find on the menu, whether porco preto, secreto, or presunto. We discovered a local restaurant Beher that specialized in quality Iberian ham. Considered a tapas, wine bar/restaurant, it was only two blocks from our apartment in Porto, with a modern simple design, and quickly became our go-to dinner spot for a casual, tasty and economical meal.

Dessert, Portuguese gelado. - WCF-8108.jpgTravel is not complete without sampling a local burger and we had several great ones in both Porto and Lisbon. It was good to read the menus and find an option to have it served with a salad instead of a bun. It never hurts to shave a few calories off a meal!

We had so many good meals we can’t list them but, simply put, the flavors of Portugal were hearty, unpretentious and delicious.




Aug 312019

Five years ago on Aug 14 2014, we embarked on a life of travel, without the responsibilities of house or car. With an airline ticket to Paris France, and an Airbnb booking for one month in Rennes France, we took off. While we did have a return ticket for about six months later, we did not know where all we would travel, or how long we would stay. And after a number of cities later, we eventually flew home from Rome, Italy in Feb 2015.

In that first six months we learned that we love staying longer in a place – a minimum of at least one month to truly get a sense of life there. It was also good to be open and flexible about where we wanted to go, since many of our destinations were determined based on recommendations someone we would meet and then simply deciding to go there.

You can see the places we’ve been and are next planning to go on the link Slow Nomads Path, on the blog. So far, we’ve been to 17 countries including this year’s journey (some of these were long stays of 1 to 3 months, others just 1 to 3 days): France, Belgium, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Spain, Ireland, England, Scotland, Denmark, Iceland, Canada, Slovenia, Croatia, and now Portugal. We’ve mostly stayed in Airbnb apartments; and 13 of these were our homes for one of more months.

During our returns to the US, we’ve traveled to North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, California, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia.

People often ask if we get lonely and miss family and friends. We do miss everyone, but we know many of you are traveling with us through the blog. And we really haven’t been alone, we have been visited by 18 friends along the way (existing friends specifically came to join us, or others we connected with during their travels), and made more than 20 new friends (technology makes it easy to stay in touch). And that doesn’t include the many casual acquaintances that we knew by name or merely by their smile.

We find that the central factor in deciding where we go is the type of life experiences we want to have when we get there. The destination has to be a place we will want to stay for at least one month. Easy transportation options are essential – specifically train and bus, so that a car is not required.

There are many places we consider, for instance New Zealand, that would require a car, and Japan with its many cultural challenges would require a very different type of planning. We aren’t ready for organized tours yet, so several places might not be scheduled until we are ready for that type of travel.  

In our last review at the three-year point, we wanted to set up a home base back in the US without ownership responsibility, so we rented an apartment. Economically that turned out not be the best long-term way to continue, as leases increased regularly. Also, when we started out, the budget for car rental costs worked to our advantage, but those prices also increased significantly.

So last year after our return, we decided it was time to purchase a townhouse with a garage, and a car, thus giving us easy lock-and-leave options. However, we now again have responsibility and ongoing expenses to balance with our travels.  We have been successful thus far but time will tell how this may affect our ongoing travel plans.

After five years, we’ve modified our travel-housing criteria to now include an elevator (if we are more than a couple of flights up), and air conditioning if we’ll be there in the summer. We have managed without these, but life can be mentally and physically demanding at times so why not take it a little easier when we can. (And we are five years older now!) Having been in Portugal walking the steep streets daily for several weeks, we find ourselves regularly taking the lift for the last climb of the day!

Our travel plans this year keep us in Portugal for three months. We’ll be 7 weeks in Porto in the north, a week south and east in Evora, and the final month in Lisbon, the capital. This will allow us to get a taste of the different regions, as the geography, culture, and food is quite varied in this relatively small country.

While Chris spends time editing photographs, writing, and publishing the blog, Jeannie busily plans daily excursions in our current location, and looks further into the future exploring new travel options.

When we started this phase of life, there were three primary considerations: health, desire and financial means; and as long as we have those we will continue to experience life in different places.

Thank you, dear reader, for traveling with us, be it briefly or, like some, for the long term. We hope you find our journey interesting ant that maybe it will inspire you to search out new places, near or far. 

And now — The Numbers:

Countries Visited (and some key cities) By Year
(we don’t count the USA, our home country, as a country visited)

2014, 3-countries:

  • France: Rennes, Normandy, Montpellier, Lyon
  • Belgium: Brussels, Ghent, Bruges
  • Italy: Rome, Florence, Montignano, Camucia, Venice

2015, 6-countries:

  • Norway: Oslo
  • Sweden: Gothenburg
  • France: Lyon, Strasbourg
  • Germany: Gengenbach
  • Switzerland: Basel, Lucerne
  • Spain: Madrid, Barcelona

2016, 7-countries:

  • USA travel to Wisconsin
  • Ireland: Dublin, Killarney, Doolin, Kinnitty
  • England: Waddington
  • Scotland: Edinburgh, Isle of Skye
  • Denmark: Copenhagen, Bornholm
  • Norway: Bergen
  • Iceland: Reykjavik
  • Canada, Montreal, Quebec

2017, 2-countries:

  • France: Toulouse
  • England: Selsley

2018, 3-countries:

  • Italy: Verona
  • Slovenia: Ljubljana
  • Croatia: cruise along the coast, Dubrovnik
  • USA travel to California, Texas

2019, 1-countries:

  • USA travel to Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia
  • Portugal: Porto, Evora, Lisbon

Friends and Family along the way:

  • Mike (Chris’s brother) & Kathy (his wife), from Florida have joined us almost every year.
  • Nicholas and Lucie, from the Lyon area, are friends we made during our first week in France, were the reason we first went to Lyon in 2014 and again in 2015; then we spent more time together in 2017. They are now living near Boston MA, so we must visit them later this year! We also met their parents, siblings and friends.
  • Matt & Brigit, friends from California who were visiting Rennes, France.
  • Niels and Jette, our Danish friends from Copenhagen, we’ve seen almost each year somewhere along our path.
  • Kate and David, of Washington state, new friends we met in Montpellier France, and saw again in Lyon and Toulouse, France.
  • Herb and Jeanie, long time Florida friends with whom we shared Christmas in Italy and made new friends Claudia and Gary who live in Italy.
  • Jean Marie, Maria, and their two grown children whom we met in Bergen, Norway were from Reunion Island.
  • Pat and Gary of Gainesville, Florida, shared 2 dinners together with us in Sarlat, as they traveled France with a Rick Steve’s tour.
  • Sharon and Fae, friends from Canada we met on a photographic tour in China, we shared drinks with in Sarlat, France after they completed walking part of the Camino Santiago in Spain.
  • Barbara, from New Zealand, the owner of our first apartment in Montpellier, France, we caught up with in Madrid, Spain.
  • Harry and Mary, of Orlando, Florida joined us in Lyon, France and shared our gastronomic adventures.
  • Barb and Shirley, of Orlando, Florida joined us in Lyon, France.
  • Brian and Ommy, of Orlando, Florida also joined us in Lyon, France.
  • Rich and Patti, friends from Jacksonville, Florida traveled to Montpellier, France and later to Montreal, Canada.
  • Joan and Mel, fellow travelers and new friends we met in Lyon, France.
  • Josep, Montserrat, son Miguel, and daughter from Barcelona, Spain we met in Montpellier, France, and again  in Barcelona, Spain.
  • Ingrid and Karl, German cousins of a Florida friend met us near the Black Forest in Germany.
  • Marta and family, Italian owners of our apartment in Verona, Italy.
  • Miriam & Mick, who invited us to their home in Ireland for a meal and unwittingly helped us celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary.
  • Chris, fiddle player and host in Kinnitty, Ireland.
  • Luka and Zana, hosts at Walk Slovenia in Poljane near Skofjo Loko, Slovenia.
  • Janet and Paul, fellow travelers from England, met on our walking holiday in Slovenia.
  • Denise and Robert of Christchurch, New Zealand, whom we met on our Croatian Cruise.
  • Richard and Susan of Savannah, Georgia whom we also met on our Croatian Cruise, and later met again in Savannah .
  • Gay (longtime colleague), Peter and Mathew, friends in Wales, with whom we shared a picnic.
  • Jennifer, Nick, Ethan, and Peter were our AirBnB host family in Selsley, England.
  • Karen and Richard, inspiring fellow travelers and bloggers who write Enjoy Living Abroad .
  • Over two dozen new friends made during our cruise along the Croatian coast.

5-year Blog Statistics:

  • Chris has made more than 90,117 photographs, and over 15,219 images have been published in the blog, and hundreds on FaceBook. Many of the photographs are available for sale at our Fine Art America site.
  • Over 300 Posts and pages have been published on the blog.
  • Nearly 2,300 comments have been made by those reading the blog. Your comments are an inspiration that helps keep the blog going and are appreciated more than you know. Now is a good time to help raise this number!
  • The Slow Nomads blog posts & pages have been viewed 46,568 times and the largest number of views in one day was 302 on Thursday, March 19, 2015.
  • The blog has been viewed in more than 100+ countries. The top five (with total number of views) are: United States (41,338), France (4,439), United Kingdom (3,585), Denmark (1676), Italy (986)

If you have read this far, we thank you for both your interest and persistence. Certainly the photographs alone tell of the wide variety of places we have visited and lived, but our words and impressions can often say more than mere images show. Though we often state that this blog is our personal journal that we share with whomever wishes to visit, it is in no small way also dedicated to you, our readers and subscribers. Your comments and interest play a significant role in its continued publication, and we thank you all.


A Seafood Feast

 Posted by
Aug 222019

Porto to MatoshinosThe alarm went off at 07h30. We can make the bedroom really dark and quiet which means that is really easy to sleep the morning away. The day was expected to be hot, so we decided to get an early start and go to Porto’s northern beach of Matosinhos, to visit the Mercado Municipal de Matosinhos and eat seafood as per our language instructor’s recommendation. I had read some articles and the scenic route was to ride the bus there.

Matosinhos is 8 km (5 mi) from central Porto and is served by both bus and metro services. We took the #500 bus from the Praça da Liberdade and it followed the Douro River around the Foz district to the metro/bus station in Matosinhos, which is just outside of the market. This route is indeed very scenic, and from the top floor of the double-decker bus, there are wonderful views of the Douro River. A single ticket purchased on board costs €2.

Mercado Municipal de Matosinhos - WCF-9494.jpgOur first destination was the market. We walked past the seafood stalls, pausing to admire the variety, Chris taking many photos of course. Then we went upstairs. There were chickens, ducks and rabbits, all live and in cages waiting for purchase, and lots of fruit and vegetable vendors as well.

Then we went outside to wander until lunch, looking for the shady sides of the streets. We stayed away from the beach side as it was sunny and hot; we’ll do that on a return trip when it is cooler.

As we turned left to walk further into town, a handwritten sign pointing to Restaurante Pires, advertising grilled sardines caught our attention. Intrigued, we thought we should go by to see what it looks like. A very short distance away, we could have easily missed it. Glancing at the menu, we caught a glimpse of the inside. It was small, simple with white walls — yes definitely a local place. Maybe this will be our lunch spot but it was too early to choose.

We made our way to the main road with numerous seafood restaurants, many of which we had reviewed on Tripadvisor and Google. They all seemed like nice places, but would be heavily touristic and more expensive.

Some fishy street art - WCF-9531.jpgWeaving shady side to shady side we stopped at a small café with tables in the shade. We each got a refreshing glass of fruit juice. We sat outside in the shade; ahh, time to watch the world go by. Shortly it was time to decide on where to eat lunch.

We prefer the off-the-beaten-path options, feeling that a local place is more likely going to have regular turnover of their fish, and to retain regular clients food has to be good. So we walked past the more upscale restaurants back to Restaurante Pires. They opened at 11:30 so our arrival at 11:55 was ok. We were greeted by the waiter and allowed to choose our table, but then, we were the first ones there!

It didn’t take long for us to decide on the grilled sardines (a national specialty), grilled squid, large salad (which turned out to be a large platter of sliced Bull’s Heart tomatoes, an heirloom variety, 1 to 2-pounds, pink fruit with few seeds and great taste, with sliced onions) some water and a bottle of vinho verde. Chris ordered using his best Portuguese, and the waiter seemed impressed/entertained!

The Feast! - WCF-121556.jpgA large dish of olives was brought, then a basket of bread (yes you pay as none of the nibbles are free but they’re very inexpensive). Next came the huge salad of tomatoes and onions. We then heard the sizzling of the sardines and squid on the grill and could see smoke in the kitchen. What a hot job! The bottle of wine was opened and then the platters of seafood arrived one by one.

Chris managed to ask the waiter how to best eat the sardines and he demonstrated the technique. We managed to do a respectable job and did not leave the table hungry! Over the course of our meal, the restaurant filled with individuals, couples and family and many plates of grilled sardines were served. It was a great lunch, and we heard no English. Oh, and we finished it all.

We then felt the need of rest, the effect of the wine, food, and the heat. So we walked to the metro, purchased our zone-3 tickets, and soon we were on our way home. Not as scenic, but probably a bit cooler than the bus.

Jeannie went directly for a rest and Chris started working on pictures, and the next blog.

Dinner will be very light tonight…

Jul 302018

WCF-.jpgAs we departed Trieste, Italy, I eagerly scanned the roadside for the first indication announcing we were in Slovenia. The sign I spotted was the simple EU symbol with the Slovenian map in the center. What to think, what to feel. I have entered the country that my Dad’s ancestors came from, and only two generations removed.

Mr and Mrs John Turk, Jeannie's Paternal GrandparentsThe countryside was beautiful and green, with hills and then mountains in the distance. But as beautiful as it was for me, I wondered how it may have appeared to my great grandparents, and how they might have felt, leaving their home for the great unknown in the United States.

For all the countries we have visited, in all of our travels, this is the first with a personal connection. Each place has elicited a sense of wonder, but this place was different. How my life might have been so different had my two sets of paternal great-grandparents Anton and Mary Turk, and John and Elizabeth Kerzich not taken their families on separate adventures to America.

I had little time for research as we would only be in Ljubljana for a week, and since this is the birthplace of my grandmother Pauline, I would focus on the Kerzic family. To search my grandfather’s side of the family we would need to plan a trip to Novo Mesto – maybe on a future visit.

Jeannie and local historian Tone.We had been given the name of a historian, and arranged to meet Tone (Tony) one morning in the city center. We had great conversation with him, which started with a morning coffee, and before we parted, it had progressed to beer. With more time we might have become good friends, as easy as the conversation flowed. He looked over the documents that I had, and suggested that I begin at the national archives, in the town center.

Jeannie and the microfilm. - WCF-105751.jpgWe easily located the archives office and were happy to be greeted in English by the workers. They asked a few questions, and I provided the family name and the year of Grandma Pauline’s birth – 1907. The old records had been scanned onto microfilm, and the assistant located and loaded the rolls that might contain the information about my grandmother’s family into the machine. Chris left in search of new photo opportunities while I began to scan the images on the microfilm as they wound by.

The challenge became looking for the name as it might have been spelled. Based on the information I had, it could have been Kerzich, Keržič, Kerzik, or some other variation. And I specifically was looking for my grandmother’s name, Pauline or Paula.

Archive document from microfilm.I scanned through all the names beginning with “Ker” then searched in reverse as I had not yet found her name. And then suddenly, I came across the page with my great-grandparents names, Yanez Keržič and Elizabeta Tavčar. Yet, only three of their children were listed: Yuan, Vinko, and Marijor. I recognized these names, but Pauline’s name was missing. I asked for a printed image of this record, and they suggested that for more information, I should visit the church archives next, just down the street.

The one surprise in this record was a note that great-grandad Yanez had traveled to America from 01 May 1903 to 07 July 1904. So, this was exciting, he took an exploratory trip to the US before moving the family in 1913.

In the reading room of the church archives.I located the building holding the church archives and inquired at the front desk. Once it was understood what I was looking for, they took me into an office where several other people were sitting at tables, looking through the records. The woman brought me a large, old, leather-bound book and opened it to a page, based on the birthdate of my grandmother Pauline. My search for continued, and soon I found the birth entry for Paula, born 12 January 1907 in Hotavlje, a small village only about 40k (24mi) from Ljubljana.

Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to search further. And since Grandmother Pauline and her family remained inSlovenia_map.jpg the US after immigrating (to my knowledge), there isn’t much more to find in Slovenia, at least on her branch of the family.

However, there is much more sleuthing to be done. We will be gathering more clues from family members when we travel to Wisconsin in the autumn. And then, to find more details will require returning to Slovenia, this time to the town of Novo Mesto to find records of Grandfather Turk’s family when they returned to Slovenia after their time in the US.


 Posted by
Mar 262018

Italy, Slovenia, and CroatiaOur 2018 adventures will begin March 29, and we’ll travel to three countries. We’ll start in Verona, Italy for two months, and while we have visited Italy a number of times, we’ve not been to Verona. Then we’ll have 2-week stays in both Slovenia and Croatia.

Grandmother Turk's ship, 1913Visiting Slovenia has been on my (Jeannie’s) bucket list as this is where my dad’s side of the family came from.

You may ask, where is Slovenia? It is to the east of Italy at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea. From Venice, the border to Slovenia is less than 100 miles away. The southern border of Slovenia is Croatia. And don’t confuse it with Slovakia, a different place on the other side of Austria and Hungary.

Mr & Mrs John Turk, Jeannie's Paternal GrandparentsI had to research the evolution of the country as it has been called several different names through the years. In 1918 after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of WW1, The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was formed (actively supported by US President Woodrow Wilson). In 1929 it was renamed to Yugoslavia, and then Slovenia formally declared independence in 1991. Subsequently, what followed was a series of destructive wars that tore the former Yugoslavia apart for a decade.

I could easily spend hours studying the history of the country from early times until its independent state but that distracts me from the larger goal of uncovering the immigration of the Turk family to the US.

Grandfather Turk's documentThe search started about 10 years ago when my aunt JoAnn (dad’s sister) shared some of the genealogy research she had done. She mailed me various documents, obituaries, birth & marriage certificates, and letters written by Grandpa Turk in Slovenian. He was born in the US but when he was 4 years old, the family returned to Slovenia. Then  in 1922 he came back to the US and remained the rest of his life.  I don’t know when his parents entered the US, though there is a certificate of naturalization (citizenship) for his father (my great grandfather) dated January 27, 1892 in Michigan.

Grandmother Turk's Citizenship documentThere is less information about my grandmother, Pauline Kerzich. She came to Ellis Island in 1913 (at about 6 years old) on the USS Martha Washington but I have no records of her parents, and only the first name of her mother. She was born in Ljubljana, which is one of the cities we will visit for a week.

We will stay in Slovenia between June 1 and 16, and I hope to be able to travel back in time for a generation or two and learn:

  • Where were my great-grandparents born, and when did they immigrate to Michigan?
  • Why did my grandfather come back to the US and did any other family members return with him?
  • Can I trace the family tree back any further?
  • Might it be possible to locate any living relatives in Slovenia?

 Stay tuned, but there will be many blogs from Verona Italy as we live there from March 31 until May 31.

Apr 022017

Anniversary special - WCF-7557.jpgThe morning again started off rainy and cold, a continuation of the previous day’s weather. Yesterday was a very low-key day. Chris woke up with that scratchy, back-of-the-throat thing and by late afternoon we had to cancel our anniversary dinner reservations. It was cold and rained off-and-on throughout the day so even I did not go out. We keep some basic supplies on hand for times like this (Knorr makes some good dried soup mixes, different than what I find in the States, so we always keep some in the cupboard). We slept well and woke up to cool and cloudy skies.

Dinner prep - WCF-7565.jpgBut the cupboard is low on supplies and there is a Sunday outdoor market with lots of good things to buy. So I studied the map, put my destination into Google maps on my phone, grabbed the shopping bags, put on my rain coat and left Chris in the apartment sniffling and coughing.

With only one missed turn, I made it to the market. None of the streets seem to go straight, there are lots of turns and street names change. But we’ve navigated the area a lot in the last 1.5 weeks so I didn’t worry too much about getting lost. And a few extra steps are good since there are many yummy treats to enjoy.

Dinner prep - WCF-7563.jpgI was making up a menu as I walked through the market. It rained lightly off and on so I just pulled up my rain hood, besides there isn’t room between the vendor’s stalls to put up an umbrella. With my limited French (and horrible pronunciation) I managed to buy bread (why can’t we get bread this good in the US? There really is no comparison), ham, cheese (a comte fruite, yum), kale and green onions to add to the leftover rice, chicken pre-seasoned with Herbes de Provence (to make cooking dinner a bit easier), and a head of lettuce (beautiful varieties, and only one Euro each). That should take care of lunch for today and tomorrow, and dinner for today. Hopefully we can go out for dinner tomorrow.

I headed for home, choosing to walk a different route, and made it home without having to look at the map! Even with two bags of groceries, I walked up the 96 steps (since yesterday I spent the whole day sitting around).

Lunch - WCF-7559.jpgAfter unpacking the morning’s purchases, I looked to see where a small grocery store is since all shops will be closed by 1pm today, and we still needed milk and eggs, and maybe some more soup. Back out, and off in another direction but less than half a mile. The little Mono’p (they are small versions of the Monoprix super marché) is bigger than it seemed, with dried goods are upstairs. A long line at the checkout, then I returned home, and again took the stairs (definitely the last time, if I venture out again today).

After a good lunch, dinner will be pretty easy. But now the back of my throat feels a bit scratchy, glad I bought some more soup. The markets will be closed tomorrow but the grocery stores will be open. So if we need anything else, we may have to flip a coin to see who goes out! Oh well, it has been over a year since we’ve been sick, and with all the surfaces we touch and the crowded spaces we are in, that’s not too bad.

Lunch - WCF-7561.jpgThe day temperatures are generally pleasantly cool, though when it gets warmer we will need to request a fan from the apartment managers. It is nice to be able to open the windows, but then we get more street noise, but we are adjusting.

As we are able to connect to the VPN and stream movies from Amazon and the various TV channels, it will be a good rainy afternoon for tea and movies! Unfortunately we are losing an opportunity to visit the local museums. They are free on the first Sunday of the month. But we’ll have two more chances, or we will just have to pay admission!

Since Chris wasn’t with me to document my adventure in photographs, I’ll get him to add images from our wanderings since the last post.

Mar 162017

Goals are good, so mine is to pack lighter for this trip. Yes, easy to say, not so easy to do. I’ve learned a lot about what I need (and don’t) from the last three years of travel. Our route this year should allow us to avoid weather extremes, so I’m not packing thermals, but the raincoat will definitely travel again.

Chris is editing the computer, electronics and photo gear. I look at it and think, if we run low on money, we could open a small used electronics shop. But he probably thinks the same about my shoes and accessories collection.

I just completed my first practice pack, and am pleased to report that I may not have to sit on my duffel to close it this time. Now if I can just resist the urge to add more to fill the spare space. Our time this year will be split between city living in Toulouse France, and country living and walking in the Cotswolds England. This provides a bit of a challenge for packing clothing and shoes. The skirts I pack won’t be worn as much in England, and my hiking shoes won’t be needed for France. Oh well, if I don’t pack the right balance, I can always shop!!

Jan 102017

SelfieThis is another break in the Slow Nomads Blog timeline. Though the blog is about to take us to Iceland, then Montreal, before we return to Florida, in reality we returned in October. As our adventures evolve Jeannie writes a recap of our past three years and a glimpse of what is to come, as well as some of the adjustments we have made. The normal timeline will resume shortly, as I have to get caught up before we depart again.

Three years ago in 2014 we shifted the base of our life from a home with cars and work, to no home or cars or work. Well, no paid employment as we found that our life of travel takes a lot of work, but very different goals and tasks, and with no salary! We easily (well, most of the time) worked out a division of responsibilities that works pretty well, each of us using our strengths and taking on the tasks best suited to us and those we enjoy, while avoiding those best suited to the other. (Jeannie is chief financial officer and project planner while Chris is chief technologist, journalist, navigator, and photographer, oh, and Sherpa!)

Our initial phase began 15 August 2014, with life in France, and ended February 2015, six months later in Italy. Returning to Florida a brief six-weeks, we departed again 25 March, with plans to travel almost eight months this time. The initial week consisted of short stays in Norway and Sweden, before settling in for three fabulous months in Lyon France, then two months in Strasbourg France, and two months in Spain, split between Madrid and Barcelona. Our return to the US was a slow but pleasant 13-day cruise to Ft Lauderdale, arriving back in central Florida on 9 November 2015.

We then spent almost four months back in Florida, most of it in an apartment in New Smyrna Beach, and worked on plans for the next segment of travel. The list of countries to see grew, a route was planned, and 2016 became a very busy year.

We visited seven countries in seven months, most for a month or longer and a couple for a week or less. In a way, this was leisurely compared to some tours that cover seven cities in seven days, but still it was too fast of a pace for us. We started our journey in Ireland, moved into England, then Edinburgh Scotland then, after a short stay in Copenhagen Denmark, including a ferry to Bornholm with our friends Niels and Jette we made our way to Norway, to the northern city of Bergen. After a short stay in Reykjavik Iceland, we returned to North America. Montreal, Canada is a fabulous city and after a month, we turned south to Sheboygan Wisconsin for a short family reunion.

As we moved from place to place this year, we debated how to continue our travels. Returning to the US, to another short-term apartment or a good friend’s place, with frequent visits to our storage unit, had become too much like work. We considered buying a condo, but quickly agreed we didn’t want the responsibility of home ownership or a longer time commitment as we tried the home-based approach to travel. So we found an apartment and signed a one year lease. Now the home free travelers are home-based nomads. (You can see this and all of our travel apartments here)

After a couple of months of settling into our apartment (less than two miles from our prior home), we have begun to look ahead. Where to go next year? When to go? How long to stay away? We have most of the answers, but still more details to plan.  Also, since we will have the ongoing expense for our home base, we will likely be limiting our time away to six-months.

So on 20 March, 2017 we’ll take off for south central France, the city of Toulouse where we will live for three months. Since we no longer have a French visa, we are limited to three months in the EU/Schengen so we will then travel to England and spend three months in the Cotswolds. We look forward to many more walks in the country, across fields with sheep and cows. At this time we don’t yet have a return date but it will likely be no later than October 2017.

When we first embarked on this journey, we established three criteria for continuing this nomadic life:  Desire, Health, and Finances. We are happy to report that all indicators are still pretty solid for our travels to continue.

Our Desire to travel and experience “living” different places continues. Our good Health enables us to pull luggage, climb stairs and walk miles across cities and pasturelands. And our Finances will allow us to travel, though we’ll be on a slightly tighter budget due to the new cost of keeping an apartment in Florida.

So it has been a great three years, and we look forward to more adventure. Two things energize us when our nomadic life is a bit tiring. First, we continue to meet people and make new friends, and with FaceBook and email we are able to keep our new and old friendships alive. And second, we are able to share our experiences with friends and family through this blog, and your comments help keep us connected, and give us encouragement to continue to share.

You can see our path, where we’ve been and where we’re going here:

Thanks for joining us, we look forward to more experiences and sharing in 2017!

Jun 012016

After two years of travel, living mostly in larger cities, our goal was to find a more rural location with opportunities to be out in nature. After our search settled in northern England, we found an apartment with the following description:

Waddington, with St. Helens church. - WCF-0935.jpg“Are you looking for a traditional English cottage holiday set in one of the north of England’s prettiest villages? ‘Blackbird Cottage’, which has been awarded a three-star rating by Visit England, is located in the award-winning village of Waddington, in Lancashire’s beautiful Ribble Valley, nestling at the foot of Waddington Fell and the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, surrounded by some of England’s most gorgeous scenery.”

What more could we ask for?! So we booked Blackbird Cottage for six weeks, as the second home in our 2016 travel calendar. It was here that we discovered the beauty of living in a small village.

Waddington Coronation Garden - WCF-0956.jpgWaddington, England is a very small village, with a post office, two churches, three pubs, one café, but no grocery store.  This pretty little village is a regular winner of the Lancashire Best Kept Village awards, and only two miles from Clitheroe, a town with large grocery stores and many other amenities. After our numerous visits in England over the last 30+ years, we had never traveled to this area, and we now agree that Lancashire is a beautiful off-the-beaten-path spot.

To more fully embrace this village experience we also decided to live without a car for at least the first few weeks. The local buses would provide our basic travel needs, and we love to walk so this is the perfect area for a break from the automobile (well, except for the cold and the rain!)

Our walking route between Waddington and Clitheroe - WCF-1013.jpgAlmost every other day we walked the two miles into Clitheroe for groceries and other errands. When you have to bag and carry your groceries, you can only buy for a couple of days at a time. And arriving to a new kitchen, it takes a few shopping trips before you’re really equipped to cook. We would usually then take the bus home, making public transport an important part of our daily life, and once you know the schedule, it was really pretty easy.

Unfortunately, due to budget cutbacks, the villages are seeing their bus services reduced so with only one bus per hour between Waddington and Clitheroe, it took some careful timing, or else we’d just walk home if the grocery bags weren’t too heavy.

On a ramble ... - WCF-1086.jpgWhen we weren’t walking to Clitheroe for groceries, we walked just for the fun of it, and to enjoy the beautiful countryside.  We walked the back roads and farm lanes, across fields, pastures, and farms, and through small towns and villages.

The extensive system of public footpaths provides limitless opportunities to walk in England. Using the British Ordnance Survey maps, we rambled over the countryside for miles and miles, only getting lost a few times.

Curious lamb, but not leaving mama's side. - WCF-1251.jpgAnd what a sensory experience walking here is. The cheerful songs from robins and other birds perching in trees and flitting across fields provided a musical accompaniment to our walks. The almost continuous bleating of sheep and lambs provided smiles as we made-up stories about their conversations. We glimpsed hares springing across the meadows and pheasant dashing behind cover.

Our bovine followers. - WCF-3058.jpgOne day we turned around and a dozen or more cows we had seen as we entered their pasture were all in step right behind us. When we stopped, they stopped, all lined up left to right. When we started walking they started again. It only ended when we crossed a stile and they watched us disappear.

The footpaths took us into wooded areas along flowing rivers then over the top of a hill to see miles of rolling green fields bounded by stone walls, and then across open moors with no plants over two feet tall.

On a ramble ... - WCF-1221.jpgOh, not all is cherries and cream, the smells of the farms frequently waft through the air. Yet even though it can be pungent, it is rarely unpleasant. Then there is the mud, always around stream crossings – thick, gooey and slippery. If it has rained recently it can be deep as well. And the moors hold water like a giant sponge releasing it with every step.  Good footwear is a necessity, and a stiff brush for when you return isn’t a bad thing either.

On a six-mile hike with the Clitheroe Ramblers. - WCF-1285.jpgWalking clubs here are often known as Ramblers, and we joined the Clitheroe Ramblers on a couple of their walks and quickly came to understand and enjoy rambling. Then once on our own, with the local Ordnance Survey map in hand, we’d wander across a pasture, dodging the droppings of the farm animals, cross fences and walls at stiles, follow hedgerows, walk along or through woods, periodically checking the map and compass to confirm our route with small signs occasionally posted along the way.

The village of Barley from atop Pendle Hill. - WCF-4185.jpgThe country views are expansive – rolling hills and dales, green fields laced together with old stone walls, and dotted with white sheep or cows, clusters of trees, and flowing streams.

After three weeks car-free, we picked up a rental car, and our wanderings could start further afield, but seldom more than 30 miles of travel. In our final days in this lovely village, we left our car in the parking lot, and walked the local routes to savor the sights and smells, hoping to retain the fullness of this experience. For all of our travels, this location has been exceptional and with Chris’s great photographs, we can relive our walking experience as we travel on from here.


Apr 152016

Chris and I are now in the small town of Kinnitty, Ireland, relaxing in the parlor of the Ardmore Country House B&B. Well, I’m relaxing and Chris is furiously composing and typing the next blog post. His goal is to get it published before we leave Ireland in 3 days. This will be a great story with lots of good photos, but we are falling further behind because we are quite busy enjoying this great little country. In fact, a friend posted on FaceBook today, where are Chris and Jeannie, literally?!

While Chris is busy researching, composing, typing and tagging pictures, I thought I’d find a quick way to bring you up to date. As many have realized by now, I don’t write much. Numbers are my focus and you wouldn’t find my spreadsheets very interesting.  I do have a great pivot table which shows our different categories of expenses totaled for each year since 2013 (pre-slow nomad life). I like seeing how we’re managing our expenses as we move further down this traveling life. But I digress from the intent of this post, and you’ve probably already started dozing!

So you may be wondering, where are the Fooshees and what are they doing that they are too busy to write. So without further delay, here is a summary of the highlights from the last 3 weeks, and the topics of future blog posts. We have had a bit of rain here but not enough to slow us down and catch up on writing. It will take a bit of compression and elimination for Chris to bring our posts up to date. Stay tuned…

Where we’ve been/what we’ve done Date
Last Post Killarney-Dingle Peninsula drive Mar 19-21
Since then Killarney-Gap of Dunloe walk Mar 25
Killarney-Beara Peninsula drive Mar 30-31
Killarney-anniversary dinner (42) with Irish friends Apr 1
Killarney-many walks (Muckross House, Ross Castle, Blue Pool) Apr 2-8
Killarney-Trad music sessions Apr 2-8
Doolin-Cliffs of Moher walk (gale force winds) Apr 10
Doolin-guided walk in the Burren Apr 11
Doolin-music sessions Apr 11
Doolin-ferry to Aran Island Inisheer Apr 12
Doolin-another walk in the Burren Apr 13
Kinnitty-music session with 11 musicians Apr 13
Kinnitty-2 hikes, total 12 miles Apr 14
Kinnitty-Lough Boora Parklands & Clonmacnoise Apr 15