Episode 28 – Goodbye Episode

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Hello Everyone,

As you can guess by the title, I will be closing the TravelTalk podcast. This has been an incredible journey, and I appreciate every one of you who has been through this process with me.

Originally, this podcast started out as a passion project –  I have loved listening and recording every one of these stories, and I’m grateful for everyone who has participated in some capacity in this podcast. Your stories, words, and thoughts have brought new perspectives and has taught me to look beyond my figurative surroundings and be open to new ideas. I hope this lesson has extended to our listeners and has encouraged some of you to even branch out and consider new places or locations that you may have otherwise de-prioritized.

Our world is vast and diverse – both figuratively and literally. While primal instinct is to seek the familiar, I hope we are all willing to go beyond our comfort zones and take new risks.

I have been so grateful for this journey and owe many thanks to many people. I’d like to specifically thank Nebula Halseth and Jen Liu – my co-contributors. Without you, this podcast wouldn’t have the legs it has today. I’d also like to thank Evan Kolesar for his tireless work on the sound editing. I’d like to thank my husband, Ole Bjoernstad, who has been patient and supportive as I navigated the next step in my life. And finally, I’d like to thank all of you who tuned in. Seeing all of you across the world tune in and listen to these episodes has been a joy for me to see and I hope you got as much out of these episodes as I did creating them.

Thank you again, and adventure is out there!

Melissa

Episode 27 – New Delhi with Saumya

Meet Saumya! A New Delhi native who’s here to share her recommendations so you have the most authentic, local experience while experience this vibrant city.

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

Saumya at the Red Fort

Saumya’s top guides and resources for visiting New Delhi and Agra (Taj Mahal)

Happy camel in New Delhi

Episode 26 – Nigeria with Abdulkamal

Abdulkamal is from Lagos, Nigeria and is here to share his story and recommendations about the city and country! I’m particularly excited to share this episode with you as I lived in Lagos for 2 years as a kid – it’s been a trip down memory lane.

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

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Episode 25 – Italy with Giovanni

A TRIP TO THE UNEXPLORED GEMS OF ITALY

THE ROMAGNA REGION

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

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My name is Giovanni Labadessa I’m an Italian living in Los Angeles since 2005. I’m a writer, a passionate foodie. Despite being born in the South of Italy the place I choose to talk about is an area in Italy that made me fall in love again with my country: the Romagna region and a city that I love very much: Santarcangelo di Romagna.

The Romagna region is situated by the Adriatic Sea and can be a great place to stop by in your way from Florence and Venice.

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This area has both the mountains and sea offering its visitors breathtaking views, in addition to beauty for both the eyes and spirit, with a mixture of the earthy colors, the aromas and the fresh sea air. Not to mention that the Romagna is a hotbed for music, cinema and art appreciated nationally and internationally.

Traditional of the Romagna region are Passatelli, Piadina, Pasta Fresca like Tagliatelle, Cappelletti, Ravioli, Nidi Di Rondine, Strozzapreti.

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My favorite of the many great beautiful towns in this region is Santarcangelo di Romagna which is a beautiful italian post card.

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This small medieval village is recognised internationally as a City of Art and an extremely popular destination, thanks to the extravagant art and talents of its more celebrated citizens, the warmth of the Romagnolo welcome, the good food and conviviality but also because of the town’s fairs and festivals, which invariably attract thousands of visitors.

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The most famous among the many cultural events that happen though out the year is the International Theatre Festival – Festival del Teatro in Piazza.

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The festival is a major international exhibition of avant-garde theatre, which has welcomed, amongst others, the famous Mutoid Waste Company, an international group of performers and sculptors of recycled materials, which today live in a small quarter of the town by the river renamed Mutonia. This city passion for the arts has attracted several artists from all over the world making this city one of the most innovative cultural hub in Europe. The city is also home to the international film festival Nót Film Fest , several food fairs and literary events.

The old town of Santarcangelo is worth a visit by itself, all walkable with its narrow streets that climb up on top of the hill called “Monte Giove” where you can enjoy both a beautiful view over the city and the poems written on the corners of the houses.

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One of the peculiarity of the old Town are the “Grotte Tufacee”, enchanting caves dug out of tufa: these mysterious caves, whose origin is still unknown, form a labyrinth underneath the towns historic center.

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Santarcangelo is also home to several celebrated taste makers, amazing restaurant and Osterie.

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Besides Santarcangelo the Romagna Region is rich of gorgeous cities like the city of Federico Fellini Rimini, the historic Republic of San Marino, the medieval castes of San Leo, and Ravenna with its Byzantine mosaics.

Rimini

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San Marino

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San Leo

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Ravenna

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Where to EAT in SANTARCANGELO

L’Ottavino Osteria

Via Pio Massani 16 – Santarcangelo di Romagna

Pasticceria Succi

Via Felici 38 – Santarcangelo di Romagna

Ristorante Ferramenta

Piazza Ganganelli, 19/20 – Santarcangelo di Romagna

Ristorante Zaghini

Piazza Gramsci 14 – Santarcangelo di Romagna

Rosticceria Graziella

Via Molari 13/15 – Santarcangelo di Romagna

Osteria Ristorante La Sangiovesa

Piazza Beato Simone Balacchi, 14 – Santarcangelo di Romagna

Trattoria del Passatore

Via Cavour 1 – Santarcangelo di Romagna

Where to STAY in SANTARCANGELO

BB Agriturismo Locanda Antiche Macine

Via Provinciale Sogliano, 1540 – SANTARCANGELO

La Foresteria del Convento

Via dei Signori, 2 – Santarcangelo di Romagna

Hotel Della Porta

Via Andrea Costa 85 – Santarcangelo di Romagna

Hotel Il Villino

Via C.Ruggeri 48 – Santarcangelo di romagna

Residenza i Platani

Via Contrada dei Fabbri 8 (Centro storico) – Santarcangelo di Romagna

B&B Le Contrade

Via Dei Nobili, 38 – Santarcangelo di Romagna

Tenuta Zavaia

Via San Vito 434 – Santarcangelo di Romagna

Villa Greta

via Giulio Faini, 9 – Santarcangelo di Romagna

Episode 24 – Japan with Ken

Ken from Japan is here to share his stories on Japan!

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

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Ken’s Recommendations on Japan:

FOOD:

One thing I love about Tokyo is the number of the great restaurants. Sushi, Sukiyaki, Ramen…

Top Restaurant in Tokyo: Yoroniku – The best Japanese BBQ (Yakiniku) in Omotesando area serving the best Japanese beef (Wagyu)!

Although this is BBQ, you don’t need to cock by yourself. Instead, servers will have them cocked perfectly in front of you, and they will propose you the best ways to eat them. Please note that Yoroniku is always very crowded, and you should get the reservation at least 2 weeks before.

ACTIVITIES:

I also like walking around Yoyogi and Omotesando area. If you’re tired from walking the busy city, you should go to spacious Meiji Jingu Shrine located right next to the Yoyogi station. This is relatively new shrine built 100 years ago, but you can feel the Japanese traditional Shinto spirits when praying at the main building surrounded by many trees.

Once you have refreshed, you can walk toward Omotesando station, the most fashionable city in Tokyo. You can enjoy shopping in the large shopping mall, Omotesando Hills, as well as tiny local shops in the back allies. This area is also really good for getting some souvenirs for your friends and families.

If you could luckily get the reservation for Yoroniku for your dinner, this is only 10 mins walk from Omotesando station.

Cherry Blossom season in Tokyo
Donuts in the shape of cats and ducks
Wedding at Japanese shrine in Tokyo

Episode 23 – Hungary with Dan

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

I lived in Hungary, specifically the capital city of Budapest, for three years from 2005-2008. Originally drawn to the country, like many of the other foreign men there, in pursuit of the woman I loved, I found myself immersed in the country’s vibrant evolution from reluctant Soviet satellite state to modern Western-facing democracy. Today, with the dark forces of right-wing authoritarianism threatening the progress made since the fall of the Berlin wall, and a flashpoint for the middle eastern refugee crisis, Hungary is once again a fascinating social and political place to study, visit, argue about, and fall in love with.

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Geographically located in Central Europe (NOT eastern – look at a map!), the current boundaries of Hungary contain a mostly flat country with one major city, Budapest, and several regional hubs. Most travelers will only see the capital, which is definitely of highest priority, but those with extra days to spare would be well served to check out the rolling hills, beautiful vistas, and colorful vineyards in other areas of the country. It’s worth reading up on the major events of the past century as much has happened that affected the country’s borders, population, culture, and more.

Budapest is a stunning European capital littered with examples of classic gothic architecture, cathedrals, castles, lovely bridges, an island park, public art, and more. Split by the Danube River in two halves, Buda and Pest, the “Paris of the East” is easily covered on foot and metro, or even better, by bicycle. Leafy-green and hilly Buda is the place to explore the castle area with its excellent views overlooking Pest. Take a ride up the riverside bike path and stop in a cafe for lunch, or ride around exploring Margaret Island (Margit Sziget), where you can join an acroyoga class, sip a froccs (wine spritzer) in a garden bar, see live music, or just take a nap on the grass. Pest is the place you’ll spend the bulk of your time, however, with many excellent museums, art galleries, restaurants, shops, markets, bars and much more.

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For accommodations, I’d suggest looking for an apartment to rent for a few days instead of a hotel room. Look for a location in the inner part of the Pest side, in the 5th, 6th, or 7th districts. On the Buda side, look for a location close to the river south of the castle, or perhaps choose the Gellert Hotel (which also contains one of the many Turkish-style bathhouses that are a must-visit).

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Any guidebook (and there are many) will have the major sights listed, so you can pick and choose what seems interesting, but for me what felt most rewarding was just trying to “fit in” to the rhythms of day-to-day life, albeit in famous places. Don’t just go to the grand market hall to gawk at the vendors – actually do some produce shopping there, and don’t forget to get a snack of langos (savory fried dough, best with cheese and sour cream) upstairs, washed down by a beer. During the summer months, you’ll want to do as much eating and drinking outside as possible – look for garden bars and “ruin pubs”, the most famous of which is called Szimpla. Often there are pop-up ruin pubs and venues that only last one season. Talk to locals or pick up the free English-language program guide Funzine to see where the latest hotspot is.

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GO to the bathhouses – at least two of them. The must-do bathhouse is in the city park (Varosliget) and is called Szechenyi; Gellert, Rudas, and Kiraly baths are all wonderful as well, with each having its own unique character. One fun way to do the baths is by going to a party in one – most Saturday nights you can get your groove on in the tubs with great light shows and sometimes fire performers.

You can probably skip the National Museum, the inside of the Synagogue, and the tour of the Parliament building – all of these are just as good from the outside. In fact the only must-go museum is the excellently designed House of Terror Museum (Terrorhaza), which documents the country’s oppressive past (and possible future?) under the Iron Soviet Fist. Speaking of fists, St. Stephen’s Cathedral has a quirky 5-minute diversion: in an antechamber to the main hall, you can pop a coin in a slot and light up a gold-cased mummified fist – “The Holy Right” – said to be that of St. Stephen, one of Hungary’s founding Kings and over 1,000 years old. For other funky off-beat sights, check out Atlas Obscura(whose founders got their start exploring weird sights in this part of Europe!)

If you have a week in the country, strongly consider spending a few days at Lake Balaton, Europe’s largest freshwater lake, which is an easy train or bus ride from the city. Here you can while the day away cycling around the lake, wine-tasting at vineyards, splashing around in the warm shallow water, exploring cute villages, and eating more langos.

Eat: langos, pogacsa, retes, burek, chicken or mushroom “paprikas”, chilled fruit soups, vegetable stews, gulyas, all the cakes and sweets you can handle, all the other things

Drink: Red wines from Eger and Villany, whites from Badacsony, Zwack Unicum (an herbal liquor), and maybe try some palinka (brandy)

Stay: AirBnB

Transit: Bike, metro, walk

Guides: TALK TO LOCALS (all young people speak English), Funzine, Where magazines As with all places you’ll go, the more research you do in advance, the better. Enjoy your trip!

Episode 22 – Canadian Mountains with Alicia

Come explore the beautiful mountainous terrain of Squamish, British Columbia with our guest Alicia! She shares her experiences and recommendations about the exhilarating mountain town and how to navigate the vast array of outdoor activities to indulge in!

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

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Alicia grew up on the west coast of BC in Vancouver, Canada. Living in Vancouver and surrounded by a bunch of fit and adventurous people, she became obsessed with mountains, and the adventures they inspire.

Following her dream to live in a mountain town, Alicia followed her passion and moved to the ocean-meets-mountain town of Squamish, BC in 2016. The town, crammed between Vancouver and Whistler, is famous for a giant granite mountain that makes it look like a Canadian, coastal Yosemite. A good example of a “typical Squamish weekend” is like the one Alicia hosted when Melissa visited in June 2018:

Friday evening: Hike nearly 3,000 feet to the top of a local mountain to have craft beer, and fries, overlooking the ocean and snowcapped mountains. Save the legs, take the gondola down.

Saturday: Find yourself terrified but exhilarated as, surprise! You’re rock climbing vertical granite walls, right beside an epic mountain called The Chief. There’s probably a festival happening downtown but you’re in your own world of adrenaline.

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Sunday: Canoe across a wild river to access a provincial park, and hike another 3,000 feet, following beside a giant waterfall, to a hidden mountain lake. Feel excited at the end of the day as someone in the group sees two giant bears playing right near your canoe. Pay a local to boat you back across the river so you don’t have to figure out the treacherous crossing with the canoe. Cap it all off by consuming giant bowls of amazing Indian food.

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You can follow Alicia on her blog at https://notrunningforgold.com/ or on Instagram, @funtimes.woodside.

Thank you!

Episode 21 – Monaco and Riviera with Alex

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Alex was born and raised in Monaco and now lives in the United States.

During the podcast she’ll be talking about the city of Monaco and the Riviera (with a focus on the French Riviera) Specific landmarks, restaurants, and activities she recommends includes:

  • St Paul de Vence
  • Eze (and it’s chateau!)
  • vista palace for cocktails
  • and….more in the podcast. 

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

Thank you!

Episode 20 – Norway with Ole

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

Wow! Norway has 30 medals and counting from the 2018 Winter Olympics!

With all this exposure, you may be wondering about this amazing country that churns Olympic athletes. Look no further! You now have an inside scoop into this great country by my husband, Ole.

Ole is Norwegian. While I convinced him to reside in Los Angeles with me, he has spent most of his life in Norway, and he has been returning twice a year to reconnect with immediate family.

We always root for the Norwegian team at the Winter Olympics, there is always a supply of aquavit and brunost in our home (even in LA), and skiing is in our blood.

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Ole’s Recommendations of Oslo

Our capital is a really great city and has a lot to offer, like award winning restaurants (like 2* Michelin Guide restaurant Maaemo) and coffee shops (like Ristretto), an ocean-front boardwalk, a castle, the Palace, cool museums and much more. However, plenty of other cities can offer similar things. If you’re visiting Norway, I recommend limiting your stay in Oslo to just one day.

Here’s your must see list:

Vigelandsparken: A sculpture park with some amazing statues. The most famous ones are Monolitten (tall column of a single piece of granite depicting 121 naked people) and Sinnataggen (a little angry kid), but my favorite one is a piece of “abstract art” featuring an adult man fighting off a horde of babies.

Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen: Oceanfront boardwalk with several nice restaurants and bars. One of my favorite places is a burger shop called Døgnvill which translates to Jetlagged and it won’t break the bank either.

Karl Johan’s gate: The main street which stretches from Oslo Central Station to the royal Palace (which is conveniently close to Aker Brygge) features lots of cafes and shops.

The Opera house: You can walk on top of this architectural masterpiece which features great views of Oslo and the new development called Barcode – a series of skyscrapers shaped like bars in a barcode.

Episode 19 – Mongolia with Ariunna

This week’s episode comes straight from the wide open grasslands of Mongolia, where Ariunaa takes us on a journey through her homeland. From experiencing the warmth of Mongolian hospitality to exploring the regional cuisine, you’ll be inspired to pack your bags for the land of endless green plains, nomadic herders, and two-humped camels. Please enjoy!

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

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Mongolia

Mongolia is the least populated country in the world. Known for its vast open grasslands and the Gobi desert, the country is home to 3 million people. Nearly half of the country’s population carry on a 3-thousand year old lifestyle as nomadic herders.

The capital city of Ulaanbaatar hustles and bustles, not unlike many other Asian cities in this part of the world. However, the desire to see Ulaanbaatar is hardly the real reason that brings seasoned travelers to Mongolia. The countryside and the nomadic culture are what attract adventure seekers to Mongolia.

Where to Visit

Central Mongolia (aka the Khangai Region) — Endless green plains, rolling hills, pristine forests, wildlife that is unique to only this part of the world, and Karakorum, ruins of the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire.

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Northern Mongolia — The world’s second largest freshwater lake named Khuvsgul Lake and the surrounding natural beauty, the Tsaatan people (nomadic reindeer herders)

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Southern Mongolia (aka the Gobi Region)– The gobi desert, vast steppes that go as far as your eyes can see, beautiful sand dunes, two-humped Mongolian camels

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Western Mongolia — The snow-capped peaks of Altai mountains, Kazakh eagle hunters

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Eat & Drink

Khorkhog – authentic Mongolian barbeque, prepared by pressure cooking meat and vegetables inside an airtight container using hot stones

Khuushuur – deep fried dumplings with meat filling

Aaruul – type of dairy product made from dried milk curd

Mongolian vodka – vodka distilled from yogurt

Airag – fermented horse milk

Experience

Stay in a ger

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Go horseback riding

Horse riding

Go camel riding

Camel riding

Visit a nomadic herder family

Nomadic herders

Stay in nature

See the Naadam festival

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Shop

Ethically made clothes, accessories and blankets from natural textiles obtained from nomadic animal husbandry:

Cashmere

Camel wool

Yak wool

Further reading (as mentioned in the podcast)

The Mongolia Obsession, Tim Wu