Travel

23rd April
2012
written by Steph
First, thank you to all of you who have been so patient with me regarding my lack of updates here at S&TI! I also really appreciate the supportive comments you left on my last post; the past few weeks/months have been über stressful and any handhold of strength or confidence I can find, means the world to me. On the work front, I have just one last chapter left to write for my dissertation, which I'm hoping to knock out this week along with continuing edits on my remaining chapters (though in happy news, my advisor got back to me about my Intro chapter yesterday and said she thinks it's pretty much done!). I've also set a date for my defense! So, if I keep my nose to the grindstone for the next few weeks, come 4 pm CST on Thursday, May 24, I should finally be Dr. Steph! I am simultaneously excited and terrified. Please bear with me as I push through these last few hurdles and finally close what has been an extremely tumultuous chapter of my life and get ready for the next one!

Our new travel site: Twenty Years Hence

Speaking of which, clearly what I need to do right now is start a new online writing venture, right? Probably not, but after some serious thought, Tony and I decided it would be best to document our impending RTW trip on a separate site specifically dedicated to this trip and to travel. I know not everyone who visits S&TI! is interested in things other than books, and given the scope of what we want to do, we realized it would just be really hard to fit our upcoming adventure into the existing framework of this site. So, for those of you interested, all of our trip-related posts will be housed over at our new site: Twenty Years Hence (www.20yearshence.com). We just launched it yesterday night, so we still have some tweaks to make to it, but our first post is already up, in which I explain the meaning behind our new blog's name. There are surely some kinks to work out, but we wanted to give our longtime readers a heads up and first look at our new digs! If you're at all interested in following us on our adventures, we'd love if you bookmarked 20YH or added it to your feedreaders. Also, for those of you worried about the fate of S&TI!, please don't! I fully intend to continue/re-commence blogging here about books once my dissertation is finished. I have no idea what my reading life will be like while we're on the road fulltime, but rest assured that anything I read, I'll document here. S&TI! is not being replaced or phased out, we're just starting a new venture to coincide with a big change in our life and a shift in our priorities. Our hope is that by taking this trip, our lives will be richer and fuller and we'll have more time to devote to the things we are really passionate about. Like this site! So thanks again for your patience and your support and Tony & I look forward to having double the fun with y'all!
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23rd February
2012
written by Steph
In my last post (I don't blame you if you don't remember it... it was a loooooong time ago!) when I was lamenting about my awful reading dry spell, Softdrink over at Fizzy Thoughts reminded me that along with my dissertation, I also have that huge impending Round The World (RTW) trip I've been planning so why not talk about that some if material for bookish posts was somewhat lacking at the moment. And of course, as soon as I read that comment, I thought it was brilliant! It has always been Tony's and my intention to continue blogging when we embark on our grand tour—it's a lot easier than trying to fit you all in our backpacks!—so it makes sense to start the process a bit earlier. I know that whenever fellow bloggers have shared holiday pictures in the past, I've always really loved the vicarious thrill of seeing a place I've never been through someone else's eyes, so I hope others will feel the same. Also, planning a regular 1 - 2 week holiday is an endeavor in itself, but planning a RTW trip is a whole different ballgame... like the Olympics of trip planning. So some of the behind-the-scenes details showing just what goes into this kind of endeavor might actually be interesting (fingers crossed!). For those of you not at all interested in travel (! is that even possible?!?), I apologize for my terrible book blogging of late. Thus far into 2012, I've read 4 books, three of them for BookPage, so while I do have one book to write about (and hope to do so soon), things on the literary front might be a little dry for the next while. (more…)
15th July
2011
written by Steph
We each of us have a Harry Potter story. Now when the franchise faces another ending, this time with the films, it seems only fitting to take some time to look back on my relationship with the boy who lived.

Getting enthusiastic for Harry during the midnight launch of the final book, Deathly Hallows

I am not one of those fans who can say I grew up with Harry, because I didn't. Not really. When Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was first published, I was 14, but it wasn't until the age of 18 that Harry and I finally met. I was in my final year of high school, and my schedule at the time allowed for plenty of "spare" periods which I tended to spend in the library (big surprise) where I'd study and complete homework. More often than not, I'd find myself browsing in the fiction section of our school library, especially when I was meant to be completing my Algebra & Geometry homework. I was a good student, but AlGeo was my Achilles' heel and so I often spent my time reading instead of toiling away when it came up in my work pile. As I stared off into space wondering about imaginary numbers, vectors, and polar space, a paperback version of Philosopher's Stone caught my eye on one of the fiction spinners. By this time there was enough buzz about the series that I had actually heard of it and knew it was supposed to be really good. So I decided that I would give it a try and see what all the fuss was about. (more…)
9th December
2010
written by Steph
While Tony works away on writing our mega wrap-up post of our trip to San Francisco, I thought I'd whet all your appetites by sharing with you our super fancy meal at La Folie. As frequent readers know, Tony and I are pretty adventurous eaters and we enjoy spoiling ourselves every now and then with haute cuisine. We've eaten at the majority of upscale eateries here in Nashville, and pretty much every trip we take is capped in some way with an extravagant repast (plus, when we're not eating with the blue bloods, we tend to be scoping out the very best street food that a town has to offer!). It's not an exaggeration to say that food plays a big part in our life. La Folie was our big splurge meal while in San Francisco, and it was a special first for us because it was the first restaurant we've ever dined at that has a coveted Michelin star. After this sumptuous feast, we can certainly say that star is well-deserved, but also find ourselves wondering what the heck you have to do to earn 2 or even 3 stars! If you're a crazy foodie or just like to see what crazy things we pay good money to put in our mouths, look no further; your time has come! Click on pictures to enlarge and read descriptions. As you can see this was an incredibly sumptuous and decadent meal. It was also our most expensive splurge to date, but well worth it. We both got to try several things we'd never even seen on menus before (or really anywhere apart from Top Chef), and it was really a thrill to eat such a well-constructed meal. Certainly not an every-day type of meal and it's hard to imagine how it could be topped, but it was definitely a lovely experience. If you're ever in San Francisco and want to break the budget and eat the meal of a lifetime, La Folie is all you need.
2nd December
2010
written by Steph

Now these are souvenirs I can get behind!

For those of you who read Matt's blog, A Guy's Moleskine Notebook, you'll know that during our day spent with him, he took us to his very favorite bookstore in San Francisco, Green Apple Books. One of the things that immediately impressed me about GAB, as well as many other bookstores we popped into while in SF was just how much character they all have. A far cry from the cereal box Borders and Barnes & Nobles that dominate here in Nashville. GAB is one of those delightful bookstores that is just stuffed to the gills with shelves of books, so that the perfume of paper is heady in the air. Add to that narrow aisles and creaky wooden floors and you have a wonderful haven for lovers of books. One of my favorite sections at GAB was the discounted new book section, where overstock books were going from anywhere between $4 - $7. Normally at McKay's $4 for a book is at the top end of my budget, but the selection was so dizzying and exciting, especially in terms of the international fiction, I knew I needed to splurge and bring home some babies. It soon became clear that our carry-on luggage wouldn't cut it with my treasure trove, so we decided we'd have to mail my book bounty back to Nashville. After the jump, I'll dissect the titles I picked up in more detail. (more…)
1st August
2010
written by Steph
Along the Ruta Panoramica

Along the Ruta Panoramica

After spending four beautiful days on Vieques, it was time for us to start our adventure on the big island itself. Our plan was to drive the ruta panoramica from the east to the west side of the island over the course of two days, stopping one night in a mountain retreat, and the second night in the surfer town of Rincon (known as the “California of Puerto Rico”). Up bright and early Wednesday morning, we made our way to the airport on Vieques and took another 10-minute flight on a 10-seater plane back to the airport in Ceiba. Our rental car was supposed to pick us up at 9 am from the airport, but it didn't wind up getting there until well after 10. Although the wait was less than ideal, it did allow us the opportunity to people watch (always fun), and resulted in us receiving some pretty substantial discounts on our car when we did finally make it to Enterprise. The guy manning the desk, Axel, was pretty fantastic and very charismatic, and was really excited to hear all about our planned tour of the island. Here’s a tip for you: if you go to Puerto Rico, visit more than the resorts of San Juan. Not only will you see the “real” Puerto Rico”, but the locals will love you for it. People were always really impressed and gratified to hear we were seeing more than just the Hilton resort in San Juan, and were always really interested in sharing tips on how we could best experience their Puerto Rico. Axel told us the name of his favorite lechonera (roast pork restaurant) on the pork highway, which we noted and promised to visit it (you have to know us well enough to know that the pork highway was one of the motivating forces that compelled us to visit Puerto Rico in the first place!). (more…)
17th July
2010
written by Tony

Playa Pata Prieta, Vieques, Puerto Rico

Part One: Getting There, Vieques, Beaches. The photos have been edited, the receipts tallied and the bags unpacked, so now it’s time to set down in writing our experiences in the verdant paradise that is Puerto Rico. Thanks to the diversity of this tiny kaleidoscope of an island we’ll be breaking this review into several posts, those roughly corresponding to the stages of our trip and one final post giving a general overview of our impressions of Puerto Rico as a whole, some handy travel advice and a book review (or two) of sorts concerning some of the travel guides that we used on our trip. So, let’s get right to it. We began our trip with a generally unremarkable drive to Atlanta (the bargain tickets were available from ATL, unfortunately bargain tickets to places of interest are not generally to be had out of Nashville), which was fine once we fought our way out of some unusually bad long-weekend Nashville traffic. We stayed at the airport Westin long enough to kick the clammy sheets into a ball and get up the next day for our 8 a.m. flight to San Juan. (more…)
13th July
2010
written by Steph
Yes, we’re FINALLY back from our grand tour of lovely Puerto Rico! But it will take us a few days to get all our pictures in order and get some posts prepped documenting our trip, so bear with us while we catch up on bookish things in the meantime. I promise pictures and a run-down of our wonderful trip are coming! But in the interim, I thought I’d kick things off with a little warm-up post to help me ease back into this blogging thing. Whenever people start talking about how publishing is a dying industry and paper books are going the way of the dodo, I always wonder how often these people travel. Because as much as people have laptops and ipods and similar electronic devices on planes when they travel, I never see more people reading actual books (and magazines, and newspapers) than when I’m at an airport or on a plane.

No electronic devices...

Even the advent of e-readers seem less threatening to those who cling faithfully to books printed on paper. Why? Because unlike e-readers, you’re never going to get nagged to turn a paperback off until you reach an altitude 10,000 feet… That’s what happened to me yesterday on our flight into Atlanta. I won’t get into arguments as to why I think it’s an inane rule to make people turn things like ipods and ereaders off during take-off and landing (Tony & I already had a rather heated argument about this yesterday), but I will say that as an avid reader, I hate having to sit around for 10 minutes or so without being able to read. Tony thinks it’s no big deal, but let’s just say that getting between me and whatever I’m reading generally does not make for a happy Steph. One of the greatest perks attributed to e-readers is their portability for things like traveling. Slim and compact yet with sizable library space, they eliminate the worry of never having reading material on hand as well as the inconvenience of clunky, heavy books that can take up much needed space in your carry-on bags. That said, for people who are avid readers, does having mandatory reading-free time on flights somewhat lessen the e-reader’s appeal when it comes to traveling? For me, it definitely did. I kept glancing around jealously at all those people with version 1.0 books who could happily read without worry that they might be forced to stop reading mid-sentence or at a critical juncture because the plane was preparing to land. I read to escape and to help pass the time, and I sitting around for 20 – 25 minutes during a flight twiddling my thumbs is pretty unsatisfactory. So I ask all my fellow readers and travelers, where do you fall on this issue? Does your love for your e-reader outweigh a little downtime on flights? Or do you always have a paperback book with you for just such an instance? I’m also curious to know how many people have flown with e-readers and whether you have in fact been asked to turn your reader off at any point during the flight (whether it be a Kindle, a Nook, a Sony, or some other beast) or whether you've been able to read uninterrupted as soon as you've settled into your cramped little seat. Please weigh in and share your experiences!
2nd July
2010
written by Steph
I imagine many bloggers will be offline this weekend, enjoying the long weekend that accompanies 4th of July celebrations. Tony and I certainly will be!  But, our break will be a little more prolonged, as we take off for Puerto Rico tomorrow morning and will be gone for nine whole glorious days, during which we'll celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary (can you believe it's already been a year?!? Also, we decided that as an update to the old-fashioned gift-giving guide in which paper is the appropriate gift to commemorate the first year of newlywed bliss that our e-readers will count as 21st century paper...)! We'll be taking plenty of pictures to document our trip, but we won't be blogging whilst we're away. I could have pre-scheduled some review posts, I suppose, but I'm going full-out lazy on this one. Just know there will be plenty of new content (and yes, that includes pictures!) when we get back, starting around July 13. We wish you all happy and safe long weekends (or regular ones to those not in the good ol' USofA), and look forward to catching up sooner than y'all can imagine. If anyone needs us, we'll be on the beach...

Me not in Puerto Rico (this is Miami), but the response will be pretty much the same...

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