2015 Trip Accomplice Year in Review

Well, another year has passed. Another chance to look back and see what we’ve done with the time available to us. Here at the Trip Accomplice blog, I’ve used that time to produce 32 posts dedicated to locations in 8 countries on four continents, along with quite a bit of information about various travel tips and philosophies. In case you’ve missed anything, here’s a recap of the year’s journeys….

The Book is Here!

ebook You can Keep Your AdventureFor me, the highlight of the year was the release of my witty travel guide You Can Keep Your Adventure, Just Leave Me the Toilet Paper. If you haven’t yet bought a copy, c’mon already…where else can you tour the world for under five bucks – and have some laughs along the way? It’s available on all major online book retailers. Click here for links.

The U.S. of A

DSC_2707
I can’t shake the feeling I’m not remembering something. That’s right: the basement!
More than any other period in this blog’s history, I focused on quite a number of U.S. destinations. Having moved from Long Island to Texas early in the year, I paid tribute to my former hometown in the post Reflections on Shirley (And Don’t Call Us Shirley) before a series of posts about my adopted state. In Houston as the Center of the Spacefaring Universe I talked about the main attraction (NASA’s Johnson Space Center) of my new home base. I also shared insights on nearby locales in The Alamo Has No Basement & Other San Antonio Facts and my most viewed post thus far Dude, Where’s My Ranch? Review of Rancho Cortez, Bandera, Texas. I paid tribute to the Windy City & 1980’s in the post (Insert Your Name Here)’s Day Off in Chicago. I also reviewed the somewhat out-of-the-way destinations of Southwestern Arkansas in Crater of Diamonds State Park – a.k.a. the Arkansas State Lottery and Hot Springs Will Melt Your Heart (& Your Fingers).

South America

Sugarloaf
A cable car ride to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain is a rite of passage and great place for city views
Though I had already covered some of my favorite places in Brazil in earlier posts, I finally got around to covering my favorite foreign city in the post In Rio de Janeiro Save the Drama for the Scenery. I also covered the intangibly cool Argentinian capital  in the post If You Suffer from Low Self-Esteem, Don’t Go to Buenos Aires.

Asia

Agra Fort Entrance
Seeing Red at Agra Fort
I didn’t focus a lot of direct attention on Asian countries this past year, though I did mention them in other context. My sole post was about the other attraction in the Indian city of Agra in Second Fiddle in Agra is Still A Show Worth Seeing.

Europe

Walking Flam
Walking the trails above Flåm
2015 saw my return to Europe, with a whirlwind tour of Scandinavia and Italy. I shared my brief impressions of Sweden in the post The Swedish Chef Was Asian & Other Surprises from Gothenburg. I next proceeded to gush over the magnificent sites of Norway in the post Norway Beyond “the Nutshell” before zeroing-in on specific sites such as incredible Flåm in Take A Ride on the Flåmsbana. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200, and the surprisingly charming city of Bergen in Bryggen of Bergen – Character & Charm That is Way Off the Level. I documented the mixed feelings I had about my return to the magical Italian Island of Ponza in the posts Ponza Revisited Parts I & II. From there I went on to wax poetic about the stunning Amalfi Coast in Have Your Cannoli & Eat it Too in Positano, raving about this heavily-touristed but still worthy Italian destination. Lastly, I recounted my impressions and insights about Holland’s premier city in Amsterdam: Advice Without the Vice.

The Miscellany

This year saw a lot of posts touching on my own travel goals and philosophies. I continued my streak of made-up terminology in Tranticipation: Defining the Joys of Trip Anticipation, revealed my personal travel goals in Snapshot of My Bucket List: Where and Why, and reminisced about my favorite travel experiences in Been There, Done That (But Would Do It Again). I also took aim at reluctant cruisers with my posts Cruising Advice For People Who Don’t Like Cruising – Tip #1 and Tip #2. To round things out I outlined my ideal traveling digs in A Wanderlust Wardrobe for the XL Seasoned Traveler.

2016 Preview

So what can you expect to see on the Trip Accomplice blog in 2016? Beats me! I have no firm plans for the year to come, and that’s all part of the excitement. But you can be sure that I will continue sharing the wonders of world travel with you, my faithful followers (I mean that in the least cult-leader-like way) in a way to make you marvel and smile. See you next year!
Is there anything you want to see more of in the year ahead? Leave a comment and I’ll be glad to take it under consideration.

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Second Fiddle in Agra is Still a Show Worth Seeing

Looking out at the Diwan I Am
Looking out at the Diwan I Am

It must be hard living in someone/something’s shadow. It must be even harder when said person/thing isn’t even half your size. But that’s the reality for Agra Fort – a colossal stronghold across the river for the world famous Taj Mahal, and a worthy destination in its own right.

While the Taj is known for its delicate white marble and inlaid stones, the Agra Fort would comparatively be considered utilitarian; at least by Indian standards. Its mammoth facade is made of reddish sandstone, and what it may lack in luxury it more than compensates for in size. Some 70% of the 94 acres are currently occupied by the Indian military and therefore off-limits to tourists. Regardless, both the sprawling grounds and hazy views of the Taj Mahal across the way make visiting this fortress worth the price of admission.

Seeing Red at Agra Fort
Seeing Red at Agra Fort

If all you want to do is admire the architecture, a guide will not be necessary. If you care to know anything about what you’re looking at, I would highly recommend hiring one. Doing so will bring the various halls, courtyards and apartments into context and enhance your appreciation for what you’re seeing. Yeah, it doesn’t have the same romantic backstory as the Taj, but that doesn’t mean it’s without a decent plot line. The most interesting twist was finding out that the builder of the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan, was eventually deposed by his son and imprisoned there in the fort – allegedly in full sight of his masterpiece just across the way. Lovers of irony and or tragedy will no doubt prefer the “unhappy ending” version of events. Romantics might want to just stick to the Taj.

While not as ornate as the aforementioned diva, there is great detail in the architecture -especially the doorways, columns and arches. There is perhaps no greater display than at the Diwan I Am, or the Hall of Public Audience. This is where the emperor du jour would hold court and interact with his subjects. Nowadays it’s filled with tourists snapping up pictures with whatever space is left on their memory cards after visiting the Taj Mahal.

Sit back. Relax. And Enjoy the Architecture
Sit back. Relax. And Enjoy the Architecture

Depending on one’s speed and stamina, the highlights of the fort can be seen unhurriedly in less than half a day. Often guided tours will take in the Agra Fort in conjunction with the Taj Mahal and sometimes the nearby abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri. While that’s a lot to take in, be sure not to skip this monument that if it were found in any other city, would be considered the star of the show. Just because it’s nearby to that other famous monument doesn’t diminish it in the least. I suppose that if you’re going to be overshadowed by something, it might as well be the most beautiful building in existence. Yet, here in Agra, the Agra Fort may be second fiddle, but I promise you’ll never see another sideshow looming so large.

 

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