12 Things Your Partner Needs To Hear More Often

The daily maintenance of a relationship is so much easier when you employ even a few of these twelve phrases.

 

1. That You Want To Make Their Life Easier

2. That You Want To Keep Dating Them

3. That You Like Having Them Around

4. That You Want To Know About Their Day

5. What They Bring To Your Life

6. That You Support Them And Their Decisions

7. That You Find Them Attractive

8. That You Find Their Choices Attractive

9. That They Are A Priority

10. That You Still Appreciate Them

11. “I’m Sorry”

12. “I Love You”

Say It Loud, Say It Proud

How to Let Go of the Stress and Pressure That Weigh You Down

“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens, and response is something we can choose.” ~Maureen Killoran

 

I don’t know about you, but I often find advice to release stress and pressure to be great on paper but incredibly difficult to apply.

Just say no more often! Sounds good, but my twenty-month-old son still needs constant care and I need to earn money, so there’s a lot I can’t just not do.

Get out in nature! I do try, but it’s been cold and grey, and often I don’t get time to myself until night—when it’s even more frigid.

Exercise more! I have the best of intentions, but I’m pregnant, frequently exhausted, and there’s that whole time thing again. I just can’t seem to create more of it, try as I may.

I suppose this is true of most good advice: It’s far easier to make a list of great ideas than it is to actually apply them. And it’s hard not to resist all those well-intentioned suggestions as overly simplified and maybe even unrealistic.

That, I’ve realized, is my biggest problem—one that you can perhaps relate to as well: While my circumstances can be challenging and limiting, most of the stress and pressure I feel originates with some form of internal resistance. Resistance to what was, what is, what might be, what I’m doing, what I could be doing, who I am… the list goes on.

And it might look like this:

  • Rehashing the past (and pressuring myself to somehow fix my mistakes)
  • Dwelling on worst-case scenarios (and pressuring myself to find ways to avoid them)
  • Fighting my current reality (and pressuring myself to change it)
  • Worrying about what I have to do (and pressuring myself to do it perfectly)
  • Obsessing about what I should be doing (and pressuring myself to figure it out)
  • Fixating on what I can’t do right now (and pressuring myself to get around my limitations)
  • Wishing I had more time for myself (and pressuring myself to somehow create it)
  • Judging myself in comparison to others (and pressuring myself to be better than I am)
  • Agonizing about what people think of me (and pressuring myself to meet their expectations)

If you’ve done any of these things yourself, I’m sure you know they’re exhausting.

That’s not say we are the sole cause of our stress. Sometimes life demands that we do more and deal with external challenges beyond our control—job loss, health issues, financial troubles, divorce…

And it’s true that there are lots of little things we can do to relieve some of the tension. But the first thing we need to do is relieve the pressure where it’s generally the most intense: within our own minds.

How to Relieve the Mental Pressure

There are two things I’ve found to be highly effective in quieting my inner voice of resistance.

1. Allow yourself to feel the feelings under your thoughts so that you can calm and release them.

All too often we get caught in a thought loop as a way to avoid feeling our feelings, because stressful as it may be, thinking about our circumstances allows us to avoid facing our deepest wounds. But we have to face them to heal them. As they say, the only way out is through.

I’ve found that underneath my varying forms of internal resistance, there’s usually:

Shame/guilt:

About things I think I’ve done wrong, about who I am (when I mistakenly assume my poor choices define me), about expectations I failed to meet or might fail to meet (my own and other people’s). And this triggers my core childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m fundamentally bad.

When I feel it:

When I’m rehashing the past, judging myself in comparison to others, and agonizing about what people think of me.

Fear:

Of the unknown, failing, succeeding then somehow ruining it, losing control, not doing enough with my life/making the most of my time, not living up to my potential, hurting or disappointing other people. Once again, this triggers my childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m not good enough, and never will be.

When I feel it:

When I’m dwelling on worst-case scenarios, worrying about what I have to do, and obsessing about what I should be doing.

Anger:

Toward myself for what I think I did wrong, toward other people for how I think they did me wrong, toward for myself for maybe causing them to do me wrong (because I often find a way to blame myself), toward life for being unfair. This triggers my core belief that life should be fair, formed, you guessed it, in childhood, when life felt very unfair.

When I feel it:

When I’m rehashing the past and fighting my current reality.

Emptiness:

Because I’m not connecting with myself, others, my passions, the world at large, or anything that would fulfill me.

When I feel it:

When I’m fixating on what I can’t do right now and wishing I had more time for myself.

When I can get below the thoughts and identify one of these feelings, I can sit with it. I can cry it out—the ultimate release!

I can empathize with myself and tell myself what I need to hear—that I’m a good person who’s always done her best, that I will do my best in the future and can handle what’s coming, that everyone else is doing their best, and we all deserve understanding and forgiveness.

And I can also do what I really need to do to feel better:

Maybe take a warm bath if I’m feeling ashamed to remind myself that I deserve comfort even when I think I’ve messed up.

Maybe do something fun and childlike if I’m feeling afraid of the future to help me find joy in the present moment.

Maybe write a forgiveness letter if I’m feeling angry to help me empathize, accept, and let go.

Maybe call someone I love, journal, or do something creative if I’m feeling empty, to meet my need for connection.

The point is, after we feel our feelings, we can do something to address the specific root cause of our stress in a moment instead of arbitrarily choosing an activity from a one-size-fits-all list of stress-relievers.

So ask yourself: What am I thinking that’s stressing me out? What’s the feeling underneath it? What does that feeling have to teach me? What does it need to hear? And what can I do to help ease that pain?

2. Get out of your head (and perhaps into your body or a state of flow).

It’s ironic but true that two pieces of seemingly contradictory advice can be equally helpful and powerful, and such is the case when it comes to relieving stress. Or at least it has been for me.

On the one hand, it can benefit us to look closely at what’s going in our minds so we can understand it, challenge it if necessary, and calm the feelings underneath our thoughts.

On the other hand, sometimes we simply need to disengage from our mind’s stories—about our unfulfilling work, our mounting bills, our insensitive relatives, and so on. To recognize we’re getting caught up in a mental maze from which we may never escape unless we consciously choose to get out—and then make that choice.

Our brain’s default mode network (DMN), which is designed to protect us, tends toward negativity, often focused on the past, the future, and the intentions behind others’ behavior. Research has shown a link between a disproportionately active DMN and depression and anxiety—and has also shown that meditation can help influence the default network.

That’s why it’s so important that we learn to get out of our heads, either through traditional meditation or by getting into our bodies or a state of flow (when you’re so consumed in a task that you forget about everything else and lose track of time).

It’s not just about temporarily quieting our thoughts. Mindfulness can actually change patterns of brain activity over time, enabling us to more frequently get out of the default mode network—where we inevitably feel stressed!

How do we get out of our heads and into our bodies or a state of flow?

Here are a few ways to practice mindfulness through movement:

Yoga

As you sync your breathing with your movements and focus your attention on the subtle muscle shifts required to get into and hold each pose, you’ll find your mind naturally quieting. There are lots of different styles of yoga. My favorites are vinyasa and Bikram, since I find the heat particularly soothing.

You can find all kinds of yoga videos on YouTube, and odds are, when life gets closer to normal again, you can find a free or donation-based class near you. I personally find it easier to practice in a class than on my own, since the presence of other people holds me accountable, and there are fewer cookies and TVs nearby to distract me!

Tai Chi

I have less experience with Tai Chi, but I did practice for a while in college, as part of an acting class. Acting requires you to get out of your judging mind, and Tai Chi is a perfect practice to facilitate that, since it’s all about integrating mind and body through slow, low-impact, controlled movements and breathing.

Tai chi is less physically taxing than most yoga practices (aside from restorative yoga, which is incredibly relaxing), which makes it perfect for anyone who’s more physically limited. It’s particularly popular among the senior crowd, since it’s easy on the joints, but it’s a powerful and effective mindfulness practice for anyone, of any age!

Mindful hiking or walking

Any form of movement can be meditative if you focus your attention on the sensations in your body, and hiking and walking outside bring the added benefit of immersing you in nature—a natural stress-reliever!

Studies have shown that just twenty minutes in nature can significantly lower your stress hormones. And it can also stimulate all the body’s senses, as we tune in to the sound of running water trickling nearby, the scent of pine (known to lower depression and anxiety), the colors in a picturesque sunrise, the feeling of leaves crunching beneath our feet, and the taste of a freshly picked piece of fruit.

Here are a few ways to get into a mindful state of flow (suggested by flow researcher Steven Kolter):

Through social triggers

We often think of flow as something we achieve individually, but group activities bring the added benefit of facilitating deep connection as we move in sync or work toward team goals. This might mean getting into a collective state of flow as part of a sports team, dance troupe, or through synchronized swimming.

I remember one particular piece of choreography from a community theater show I did as a kid. There were at least twenty of us, seated, doing clapping motions with each other’s hands, tapping our own and each other’s legs. We all needed to move perfectly in sync to get it just right, which required intense focus, and I have to say it was deeply gratifying to move as part of a whole—to lose myself in the group and become immersed in something bigger than myself.

Through creative triggers

Any creative activity can get us into a state of flow if we enjoy it and lose ourselves in the task. Painting, playing an instrument, dancing, jewelry making, even doodling—pick whatever calls to you so deeply you can’t help but concentrate on the present, losing your sense of self-consciousness because the act itself is so fun and rewarding.

Through environmental triggers

Rock climbing is a perfect example, since you need to be fully absorbed in the moment to safely navigate the rock formation. As you push yourself to your physical limit, balancing and adapting to the changing terrain, you’ll find yourself going deeper and deeper into a state of flow.

Though I’ve never done outdoor rock climbing—which I imagine is all the more thrilling, since it’s riskier and you’re totally immersed in nature—I participated in a climbing course as an experiential therapy treatment for bulimia in my early twenties. I remember all my worries falling away as I focused on not falling off the beam, and I recall appreciating my body for what it could do instead of judging myself for everything I thought I was doing wrong.

The beauty of most of these practices is that we can adapt them to our needs and available time. You can take an hour class or just practice for ten minutes. You can work on a painting for two hours or sketch for a brief window before bed.

Easier said than done? Of course! It’s far easier to watch Netflix in our one free hour of time or mindlessly scroll in that brief window before bed. (Guilty as charged.) When I do that, all my heavy unfelt feelings fester, settling deep into my brain and my bones and suffocating me like an invisible straitjacket.

But I know when I do something that’s good for me, I feel it—and I want more of it. And my resistance to doing it naturally fades away, along with my stress.

So really, we just need to show up once—really show up. Be so present that we allow ourselves to fully live that moment so we can love that moment, and that love will bring us back. Back to the practice, back to our bodies, back to ourselves. Our deepest selves, underneath the stress and pressure. The true self who knows we don’t need to be more, we don’t have to do more, we just have to let ourselves enjoy more. Because within that enjoyment there’s peace and healing. And no matter what our negatively biased brains tell us, we absolutely deserve it.

 

Mihran Kalaydjian Introducing Breeze (zepur gi tarnam) Զեփյուռի նման

Mihran Kalaydjian Introducing Breeze (zepur gi tarnam) Զեփյուռի նման I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times; but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers. When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with it fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze.

LIKE A BREEZE

Lyrics:

I’ll be the gentlest breeze that
Descends from the mountains to rest at your door.
Like a knight seared by your love
I’ll surrender my sword at your garden’s gate.

And I’ll watch for you, night and day.
Only hurry back to your garden
So I can see your face, put my heart to rest.
Drunk with your love, I would die at your door.

Disguised as Spring I’ll enter your garden
to cling to your rose like the singing nightingale.
I’ll kneel by your door as a sacrifice for your life.
I’m your Shahen; I’ll sing you a thousand songs.

Again I’ll watch for you, night and day
Only hurry back to the garden
So I can see your face, get drunk with your love.
Put my heart to rest so I can die at your door.

How to Reap the Benefits of Meditation Without Meditating

 

The benefits of meditation are far reaching and have been well known for centuries. However, the idea of formal meditation doesn’t sit well with some of us.

The idea of sitting cross-legged for extended periods and delving inward puts many of us off before we’ve even got started. Even the word “meditation” can be a very real barrier to entry for some. What a shame, as the many benefits of meditation can be good for us all.

Those benefits can include:

  • reduction in the stress we feel
  • A deeper sense of calm and relaxation in our lives
  • Reduced feelings of anxiety
  • A better understanding of what we truly think/feel/want
  • Less feelings of anger, hurt, or disquiet
  • Being more present
  • Being more content
  • A better understanding of who we really are

This little list is just starting to scratch the surface. Meditating can be that powerful.

If meditating in a more traditional way for extended periods feels right for you, all power to you— please continue with your journey. If that isn’t you, don’t worry, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be.

If you recoil a little when meditation is mentioned but still want to reap some of the rewards, I hope to offer several ideas that might work for you. But first, a bit of personal reflection.

I Confess I Do Not Have a Formal Meditation Practice

As someone that writes books and a blog all under the broad umbrella of simplicity and that can often be found leafing through books and words by Thich Nhat Hanh, Bruce Lee, Sun Tzu, and Lao Tzu, it may surprise you to know I do not consider myself to have a formal meditation practice.

Perhaps somewhat out of step with the trend of our time, my morning routine (if I even have one) does not have time carved out for sitting cross-legged in a quiet room, reflecting on the universe at large.

Don’t get me wrong, I admire that others do this, but it never really felt like a fit for me. I’ve tried to make it a habit, at a few points in my life, but it just hasn’t stuck.

If I’m honest, I think the word “meditation” itself intimidates many of us. We perceive it to mean we need some special point of entry, or skillset, to reap the rewards.

All this said, perhaps paradoxically, I am also totally sold on the benefits of meditation and I want them to be a part of my life. I just happen to believe you can get those benefits in other ways. Your formal practice doesn’t have to be formal, and you don’t even have to call it a “practice.”

This is where the art of meditating without meditation comes in.

Meditation without Meditating in Action: My Top 6

Here are some of my favorite ways to achieve some of meditation’s powerful benefits without actually feeling like I am meditating.

1. Walking

Walking is my ultimate reset. It blows away the mental cobwebs that can accumulate. It provides new stimulus and re-energises a tired mind. Complex problems I’ve been struggling with can suddenly feel like they fall into place on a good, long walk. A fresh perspective can somewhat magically drift into view.

I like to walk early, before the rush and before the noise of human traffic drowns out the birds singing. Depending on where I am, I like to walk as close to nature as possible (a nice park, a beach, a hike over rolling hills). This is as close as I consider I get to a formal meditative practice.

2. Being at one with the outdoors and nature

The natural world is a passion for me. Something that breathes life and color into any day, if I just make time to stop and notice what is going on around me. I find it grounding and uplifting all at once.

Nature presents us with a constant wonderland. It’s easy to take this for granted. We can fix this by spending some time just being at one with nature and reconnecting with the great outdoors, and we’ll feel so much better for it.

Be amazed by that spider’s web glistening with the morning’s dew.

Take in the sun rising and setting.

Make time to watch the clouds moving overhead, soak up the inspiration that comes from the view.

Be endlessly in awe at nature’s ability to evolve, adapt, and deal with challenges.

Enjoy the offerings of new life and renewal each and every spring, by making deliberate time to stop and notice.

3. Losing myself in music (art)

Some would say this is cheating, as you are using outside stimulus to get a response; I say call it what you will. The benefits that people claim to get from meditation, I have and feel from losing myself in music.

Music is transformative. It can lift our mood on our darkest days, it can ease anxiety when we feel on edge about something, it can shift our mindset.

We can leverage different music at different times to support our state of well-being. Music is one of life’s true pleasures for me, one of the very last things I would want to give up.

However, if music isn’t quite as powerful a force in your own life, perhaps there is something else that is. Literature can, and does, serve the same end. Or a beautiful painting or sculpture that really moves us, or even a really great movie. All of the above can be transformative, life-affirming, and even life-changing ways we can apply ourselves.

4. Seeking stillness

Seeking stillness may sound like a total contrast to the earlier suggestion to listen to music; maybe it is or isn’t, but this time is necessary for me. This is time to let my mind just drift without expecting too much of anything from it. Letting it wander where it wanders. In a results-orientated culture, we can spend too little time here.

Cut to the core, this is actually what meditation is all about. For me, all it really means is taking the time to get in touch with our own thoughts and finding a point of reflection. It’s cutting out the external world for a while and tuning into frequency us. It’s about reconnecting with the signal, amongst the noise.

This is time to turn off the phone, unplug from the internet, and make space for some calm in our day.

Disconnecting a little from the busy world around us, to reconnect with ourselves.

No special cushion necessary, unless you want one, no special seating position necessary unless it helps trigger the state. Just make a commitment to be mindful and find some stillness in your own way.

5. Creating

For me this means writing and playing guitar.

Writing, in particular, is something I spend much time on. I feel better on days and weeks that I have made time to write creatively. Ideas flow freely and come out on the page. I make sense of thoughts and words and try to communicate as effectively as I can, then I refine (edit). When I am truly in a writing flow, this creative process can definitely feel meditative.

6. Exercise (calisthenics, yoga, and breathwork)

I am a fan and practitioner of calisthenics (working with one’s bodyweight as the weight). I find this form of training both physically demanding and endlessly interesting. I enjoy the raw simplicity.

Learning new moves or practicing well-worn moves, trying to perfect them, also has a meditative effect. I’m totally in the practice, and often have to be if the move in question is getting hard or has a balancing element. Trying to create whole body tension for some moves also means I need to be aware of where my breath is (am I holding it somewhere or letting it flow?).

Yoga is relatively new to me and I have been slow to embrace it, perhaps somewhat surprisingly as my wife is a yoga practitioner and teacher and has encouraged me to give it a proper go for years.  Knucklehead that I am, I finally took note and I’ve come to really enjoy this time. I now make time for working on the mat through my week, amongst other exercise I do.

As I am new to the yoga poses themselves, and how different teachers teach, I find I have to be totally present for yoga. No time to think about what comes after or what has just happened; to keep up with the class I have to listen. This has a calming effect on body and soul on the best days.

The breathwork, and constant queues to focus on breath, have also made me aware of where I tend to keep tension (physically and mentally).

Reframing Meditation

What’s great about this list is that you can use these practices interchangeably, and they can happily co-exist at the same time.

I think the “meditation” label puts as many off as it attracts. In busy and distracted times, this is a missed opportunity for us all to feel the benefits.

When we forget the labels, all we’re doing with the practices above is resetting a little. The art of meditating without meditating if you like.

Give it a go. String these resets together on a regular basis and feel the benefits for yourself. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be open to further experiments in formal meditative practice after doing so. If not, just find your own way. Keep what works for you, discard what doesn’t, and call it what you want, or call it nothing at all.

The Best Beaches in Italy

There’s plenty to recommend Italy already: The rolling hills of Tuscany, the canals of Venice, the charm of Cinque Terre, the wine and food of…well, everywhere. After all, there’s a reason it’s consistently ranked among the most-visited countries in the world, with tourism revenue well into the twelve figures.  But add the incredible number and variety of beaches to the equation, and suddenly the country becomes a mandatory item on every traveler’s to-do list.

Ready to traverse the boot? Read on to start plotting the perfect itinerary. And if beach-hopping across Italy isn’t in your future, this list is still worth a look: these places are beautiful enough to cure even the most severe cases of Monday blues, mean reds, or winter doldrums. And after a few glimpses, you may find yourself tallying up your vacation days, scoping out your savings, and planning your next Italian excursion.

 

1) Acquafredda di Maratea Beach, Basilicata

Six miles outside of the hamlet of Maratea, this rugged stretch of shoreline has the same blue water and dark gray sand of the Amalfi Coast, but it’s further north with none of the accompanying throngs of tourists. It’s a prime place for beachgoers in search of rustic beauty: In spite of neatly arranged sun loungers and beach umbrellas placed by local hotels, the rocky shoreline and cliffs jutting up on either side of the cove preserve the untamed feel of the area

2) Marina Grande Beach, Positano

 

As if the views of deep greenish-blue seas weren’t enough, the stacks of pastel houses hugging the cliffs make Positano’s main beach feel like something plucked from a midcentury postcard. With over 300 yards of dark sand—large swathes of it dedicated to tidily arranged rows of beach umbrellas and lounge chairs in Technicolor shades of orange and blue—this spot always feels open and roomy in spite of summer crowds. Start in town with a leisurely outdoor lunch overlooking the Mediterranean, then sleep off the limoncello buzz with a snooze on the sand.

3) Camogli Beach, Liguria

Northwest Italy’s coastal towns tend to live in the shadow of the neighboring French Riviera, but that means beaches like Camogli’s have all the Mediterranean beauty with a fraction of the crowds you’ll find in Nice or St. Tropez.

The beach in this little fishing village is pebbly but picturesque—the ancient Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta is perched on a promontory at the harbor’s northern end, with mountains rising up behind it. This spot has something for every traveler: swimming lessons to keep the kids busy, beachside drink service for the laid-back crowd, and rowboats, canoe rentals, and diving lessons for the adventure-seekers.

 

4) Scalo Maestro, Marettimo

Just off the western tip of Sicily, the island of Marettimo (population: 700) has the kind of wild beauty that gives every moment here a dreamlike quality. The tiny beach of Scalo Maestro is one of the few you can access from the shore, and its gentle slope and clear, calm waters are particularly swimmer- and snorkeler-friendly. Once you’ve had your fill of beach time, charter a boat for a tour of the island: it’s the only way to access Marettimo’s hidden sea caves. You can’t truly appreciate the magic of the Aegadian Islands until you’ve gone swimming in a sun-dappled Mediterranean grotto.

14) Lago di Braies, South Tyrol
It may not be on the ocean, but this gem nestled in the Dolomites is guaranteed to satisfy beachgoers in search of beautiful scenery and a refreshing dip. The lake boasts clear, blue-green waters and white sand—a striking visual contrast to the dense pine forest and snow-dusted peaks that surround it. A day hike is the best way to see everything Lago di Braies has to offer: Pack your swimsuit, a towel, and a lunch, then venture out on the beginner-friendly footpath that circles the perimeter, pausing to picnic and swim at the first beach that suits your fancy. Be sure to stop at the Braies bungalow—built on stilts over the lake, it’s a cross between an alpine ski lodge and a Tahitian overwater cabana—for photo ops and rowboat rentals.
15) Scala dei Turchi, Sicily
One of the most visually striking beaches in the world, Sicily’s Turkish Steps are a must-visit for aesthetic reasons alone. The bright white marlstone has been slowly eroded, creating a sloping staircase that leads right into the sea. Go at low tide for the best views, and wear sturdy shoes for the journey—the climb is not for the faint of heart. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, pack a flashlight and stay until the sun sets. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better visual than that of the cliffs awash in gold and silhouetted against a fiery sky.

10 Most Beautiful Churches in Armenia That You Must Visit

Armenia being one of the oldest countries in the world was also the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion back in 301 AD (that’s more than 1,700 years ago!). Its millennium old monasteries can usually be found situated on highlands among-st picturesque landscapes where they are less vulnerable to attacks. Armenia, also known as the “land of churches”, has around 4,000 monasteries and churches. Here’s our curated list in random order for the 10 most beautiful churches in Armenia that you must visit at least once in your life!

1. Khor Virap Monastery

It’s no wonder why Khor Virap is one of the favorite attractions of most travelers in Armenia. The majestic Mt Ararat positioned right behind the church makes a fantastic backdrop for a panorama view of the church. The locals also believed that Mt Ararat protected the monastery against a strong earthquake in the past.

                               The absolutely stunning Khor Virap against the majestic Mt. Ararat.

It is believed that St Gregory the illuminator was imprisoned here in this dungeon was dug 7-8 meters underground for his preaching of Christianity to the people in Armenia. It was such a miracle that despite being imprisoned for 13 years, he was still alive when they found him. It turned out that throughout the years, there was this Christian lady who continued to give him some bread surreptitiously.

Tip: For those who are claustrophobic, it’s advisable to not enter the pit. It was quite challenging climbing down the vertical ladder into the pit.

The pit where St. Gregory the Illiminator was imprisoned for 13 years

2. Noravank Monastery

This monastery is most famous for its two-story church whereby you will have to climb up to the main entrance via a narrow staircase made from stones jutting out from the face of building.

 

 

3. Echimiazin Armenian Apostolic Church

This was the first cathedral that was ever built in Armenia and also the oldest cathedral in the world. Sadly the main church building has been under construction for the past few years, hence we were not able to get a nice shot of it. The photo below shows the main entrance to this Church. This place was also the headquarter for all the churches in Armenia.

And yes, this is the majestic view of the Echmiadzin church in summer when it was not under any renovation. Very beautiful right?

4. Zvartnots Ruins

Zvartnots is also known as the “temple of ruins” and it is listed as a UNESCO heritage site. This place was the first circular 3 story church built back in the 6th century which only lasted for 3 centuries before it was destroyed by an earthquake. Some of the pillars and the altar of the church were relatively well preserved and you could also still see its exterior circular architecture.  The Armenians later learnt to built more stable rectangular based churches instead of circular shaped

5. Geghard Monastery

This was one of the most interesting and unique monasteries that we’ve seen during our time in Armenia and also my personal favorite. This entire cave monastery was carved inside a rock mountain, how is that even possible back then with limited tools and technology?! Its name “Geghard” means spear and this spear was actually referring to the same spear that was used to pierce Christ after he was being crucified on the cross to check if he was still alive. Many pilgrims head here to see the relic of the “spear” and hence they eventually renamed the monastery to Geghard Monastery (Spear Monastery).

Can you imagine, this entire church was carved inside a rock mountain! Look at the details on the pillars and sides of the walls. Also, the                                                         exact spot where we were standing in the photo below was said to have the best natural acoustics ever. We did try humming a tune and it                                                     immediately sent tingles up our spine! The echo was unbelievable and even the slightest whisper could be heard clearly and beautifully!

 

Remember to try singing a tune at this exact spot if you ever get a chance to be here!

 

6. Sevanakvank monastery

Most people travel to this monastery situated on a hill adjacent to the beautiful Lake Sevan to get a glimpse of the unique green cross stone that was made from limestone. This place was originally built for the priests that have sinned as this monastery was isolated and far away from the city and women. Also, this was one of the only 3 churches in Armenia that has Christ illustrated on the cross stone.

 

The maze on the right of the photo used to be the dormitory for the monks

7. Tatev Monastery

Another stunning fairy tale like monastery that literally took our breath away. This was in fact Daniel’s favourite out of the lot that we’ve seen! But this monastery is definitely more beautiful during summer

During winter, the road that leads up to the spot where you could capture a nice panorama shot of the monastery was too slippery and                                                          dangerous.

                                                 Useful tip: During winter, the cable car that leads up to the monastery only operates on Sat & Sun.

This is the breathtaking panorama view that you can get when you travel here during summer. Super amazing right?! Photo not taken by us obviously since we were there during winter.

8. St Grigor Lusavorich

The St Grigor Lusavorich cathedral is also the symbol of the 1700th anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity as a state religion in Armenia as well as a tribute to St Gregory, the illuminator, who was responsible for introducing Christianity to Armenia. This church is one of the newest church in Armenia and was built only around 6-7 years ago.

Useful tip: Visit this church twice! Once in the day and again at night. This church is particularly beautiful at night after being illuminated by the floodlights.

9. Odzun church

This church was different because of its pink felsite stoned walls. Most of the other churches that we’ve seen were grey/dark colored, so this was indeed quite refreshing for us! Especially with its picturesque setting of the magnificent ridge as the backdrop, this church quickly became one of our favorites.

10. Sanahin monastery complex

The Sanahin Monastery was very impressive because of its remarkable archways. The Sanahin was especially rich in Khachkars (cross stones) where more than 80 of them survived till date. If you’re visiting this complex, do remember to pay more attention to the intricate details on the khachkars. Most of these khachkars depict the traditional cross growing out of a grain with branches at its sides. According to our guide, this symbolizes “life”.

 

 

I Just Called To Say I Love You – Piano cover

I have a love song in my heart and its lyrics are a serenade dedicated to you.  

” I Just Called To Say I Love You” 

====================================================================

Title: I Just Called To Say I Love You

DedicatedYou are the most beautiful love song, the most beautiful music ever created, the most beautiful person in this world.

Lyrics:

I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder

No New Year’s Day to celebrate
No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away
No first of spring, no song to sing
In fact here’s just another ordinary day

No April rain
No flowers bloom
No wedding Saturday within the month of June
But what it is, is something true
Made up of these three words that I must say to you

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart

No summer’s high
No warm July
No harvest moon to light one tender August night
No autumn breeze
No falling leaves
Not even time for birds to fly to southern skies

No Libra sun
No Halloween
No giving thanks to all the Christmas joy you bring
But what it is, though old so new
To fill your heart like no three words could ever do

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care, I do
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart

Can we sing it one more time please
I just called to say I love you (I just called to say, I just called to say I love you)
I just called to say how much I care, I do (I just called to say, I just called to say I do)
I just called to say I love you (I just called to say, I just called to say I love you)
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart, of my heart, I love you from the bottom of my heart

 

 

 

The 8 Most Underrated Cities in America

Are those sky-high rents, $10 beers, overhyped restaurants, and so-packed-you-can’t-move museums of America’s great cities starting to bring you down? It might be time to consider a trip (or even a move) to one of these eight overlooked gems, where you’ll find equally excellent food scenes, historic sites, and world-class art.

 

     

  1. Boulder, CO

Know someone headed to Colorado? They’re probably bound for Denver—CO’s urban playground of art, culture, and food—or any one of its premiere ski towns (Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, Telluride, Steamboat Springs). But just north of the capital is a nature-lover’s paradise. Boulder’s location at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains means world-class hiking and skiing are literally at your doorstep. (Don’t miss the trails through the Flatirons in Chautauqua Park, known for their iconic sandstone slab rock formations.)

The area’s local farms are to thank for the top-notch food scene: hit up Emmerson Restaurant, a Pearl Street newcomer, for fresh pastas and cocktails from a former LA Weekly “Best Bartender.” If you happen to be in town in the warmer months, check out Boulder’s summer music series. At day’s end, retreat to Basecamp Hotel, a stylishly affordable boutique that capitalizes on its mountain town ethos: hanging canvas tapestries take the place of headboards and Coleman coolers stand in for mini-bars in the 50 rooms, and there’s an indoor rock-climbing wall as well as an outdoor deck and fire pit for roasting s’mores.

 

   

2. Portland, ME

A charming waterfront, 19th-century brick architecture, cobbled streets, a surplus of seafood—Portland, Maine is every bit the New England stereotype, but with a true cosmopolitan edge. Stroll around the Old Port, past lauded restaurants like Eventide Oyster Co. (famous for its traditional clam bakes, brown-butter lobster rolls, and Maine oysters on the half shell) as well as less-expected gems like the vegetarian-focused Silly’s and Miyake, whose menu is influenced by washoku—the Japanese dietary practice that emphasizes vegetables and fish—and comes from a twice-James-Beard-nominated chef. For the best of both old and new, check into the Danforth Inn, a 1823 Federal mansion that contains quirky objets d’art and a Shanghai-inspired bar.

  

  

3. Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis has quietly but confidently stepped up its style game with design-forward hotels and pioneering global restaurants. In the North Loop, a logging warehouse has been transformed into the Hewing Hotel, which takes “lodge-luxe” to a new level with its original pine timber beams, vibrant local art and photography, and rooftop Social Club. From here, it’s only a six-minute walk to The Bachelor Farmer, a cozy-chic Scandinavian restaurant that’s earned accolades for its Nordic-influenced toasts and the city’s first-ever rooftop garden. For great made-in-Minneapolis souvenirs, swing by The Foundry Home Goods shop for handcrafted wares like wool blankets and porcelain dish sets.

 

 

4. Asheville, NC

Taking a drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway tops our road trip bucket list, but it’s worth extending your journey with a detour to Asheville. There’s a lot to love about this North Carolina gem. The culinary scene–an intoxicating mix of serious Southern recipes and playful global influences—is one of the best in the south. The drinking scene isn’t far behind: its 18+ craft breweries have earned Asheville the nickname “The Napa Valley of Beer.” And the live music, from impromptu street performances to the Bluegrass Festival and legendary music halls like The Orange Peel, is in a class all its own. Our perfect day in town might involve lunch at buzzy Spanish tapas joint Curate; dinner at The Admiral, a popular gastropub that churns out plates like glazed sweetbreads and shaved country ham; and a show at The Mothlight, which hosts both big-name bands and local up-and-comers.

 

5. St. Louis, MO

Chicago gets the lion’s share of Midwest love, but this second-tier city to the south deserves a closer look. This year marks the completion of an ambitious five-year, $380 million revitalization of St. Louis’s famed Eero Saarinen-designed Gateway Arch and surrounding parklands, which now includes a subterranean museum and a land bridge that creates a much-needed link between the grounds and the city itself (which was formerly separated by a highway). Not to be outdone, the 105-acre Laumeier Sculpture Park in Sunset Hills was one of the country’s first of its kind and makes for a perfect springtime picnic and stroll. No visit is complete without a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery (now a National Historic Landmark) before a hearty American dinner at Olive + Oak, whose chef Jesse Mendica was a James Beard semifinalist last year. Afterwards, rest your head at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, whose highlights include dead-on arch views and a rooftop pool.

6. San Antonio, TX

Were it not for the sheer size of Texas (which lays claim to not one but three top-tier cities including Dallas, Houston, and Austin), San Antonio might have landed itself a top spot on first-time visitors’ to-do lists. The notion isn’t so far-fetched when you consider the city’s trifecta of history, culture, and food. After checking off the Alamo, head to the UNESCO-listed San Antonio Missions, which protects four other 18th-century Spanish Colonial mission churches built along the San Antonio River. For stellar barbecue, shops, and people-watching, The Pearl District is a pedestrian-friendly pocket home to the River Walk, a waterway lined with old-world taverns and riverfront restaurants that’s become known as “The American Venice.” Lately, the city has even added stylish hotels to the mix. Our favorite: Hotel Emma, a historic 1800s brewhouse turned boutique with a notable restaurant and taproom called Southerleigh.

 

7. Baltimore, MD

This all-American seaport has been likened to a more affordable D.C. Sure, some industrial areas are still rough around the edges (You’ve seen The Wire, right?) but you’ll hardly notice what with all that’s going on in regards to culture and food. Its past life as an immigration portal means Baltimore has built a community that prizes diversity and creativity, best seen at prized institutions like the Baltimore Museum of Art, Walters Art Museum, and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. Not to mention the micro-breweries, farm-to-table restaurants, and trendy cocktail dens that have taken hold of the dining scene in just the last few years. After stopping by James Beard Award-winning Spike Gjerde’s Woodberry Kitchen for dishes that spotlight Chesapeake-sourced ingredients, check into the new Sagamore Pendry Baltimore hotel, whose pool overlooks the harbor.

8. Buffalo, NY

Some 70 years after the Great Depression delivered a mighty blow to this once wealthy industrial boomtown, Buffalo is finally on the upswing. Forward-thinking creatives are beginning to repurpose the gritty grain silos and Frank Lloyd Wright architecture that once defined the city landscape, while the arrival of younger residents seeking out Buffalo’s still-affordable housing options has reenergized the city’s social scene. You won’t go wrong at corner taverns like Arty’s Grill and Gene McCarthy’s, which keep the fun going until 4 a.m., or getting a taste of what Buffalo does best (yes, we’re talking wings!). Don’t miss the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, a bastion for 20th-century American art, or Hotel Henry, a stylish 88-room sleep built inside an abandoned 1870s asylum designed by lauded American architect Henry Hobson Richardson.

The 10 Best Places to Avoid Noise, Light, and Air Pollution

Looking to get away from it all? Science has proven that nature travel can improve almost every aspect of your wellbeing, from increasing your attention span to improving your mood. To get the most benefit, it’s worth seeking out places with minimal noise, artificial light, and air pollution.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy. Quiet places are disappearing fast, even in protected areas; nighttime light pollution covers nearly 80 percent of the planet; and there are no places left that are entirely free of air pollution.

Go to These Places to Avoid Noise, Light, and Air Pollution

But there is hope; there are several well-organized resources for finding the darkest, quietest, and cleanest places left on Earth, including dark skies associations, noise experts, and the World Health Organization’s survey of air conditions worldwide. I combined them all to pick 10 of the best places to find clear skies, bright stars, fresh air, and the purest sounds of nature.

Flagstaff, Arizona

Flagstaff was the first city named an International Dark Sky City by the International Dark Sky Association, and was in the top five for cleanest air in a recent State of the Air survey by the American Lung Association. This small city isn’t particularly quiet, but active civic measures to keep down noise pollution mean that it’s easy enough to find peace in the surrounding areas at places like Meteor Crater and Walnut Canyon.

Roisey, France

Roisey, located in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region of France, has been determined by the World Health Organization to have the cleanest air in the country. Thanks in part to its location in a national park as well as altitude over 4,200 feet in some places, skies are also often very clear. Add to that an official population of just 909 people, and you have a great choice for getting away from it all right in the middle of Europe.

Te Anau, New Zealand

 

Global testing by the World Health Organization has found Te Anau to have some of the cleanest air worldwide. Its location at the entrance to Fiordland National Park makes it a basecamp for hikers and “trampers” who can see night skies so clear that there’s a small cottage industry offering night sky tours in the area. The presence of helicopter touring companies means it might not always be the quietest spot, but if you are hiking into the fjords or along the Kepler or Milford Tracks, you can escape the noise as soon as the heliports shut down each evening.

The Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve in Mt. Cook National Park is another superb New Zealand option, free of most air pollution and attracting stargazers from around the world.

Campisabalos, Spain

Located about 100 miles north of Madrid, Campisabalos is another city that sits high on WHO’s list of the best air in the world. Dark sky maps put it solidly away from most light pollution; if you want even darker, travel a bit southeast to the Parque Natural de la Serrania to the west of Cuenca, which also includes the Enchanted City, a geological wonder created by natural erosion approximately 90 million years ago.

Mojave Desert, California

Trevor Cox, a professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford and author of a book on natural sound phenomena, recommends the Kelso Dune area in the Mojave Desert. Cox visited the spot specifically because there are interesting sounds—the dunes make a growling or bellowing sound when you move the sand around that gives them the name “singing sands”—but Cox notes that the area is extremely quiet.

“Kelso Dune in the Mojave Desert … has no flights and no cars, and actually no sound at times because there is very little wildlife,” he says. “It is a special place.”

The dunes are also located in a formidable area of dark skies, and the National Park Service’s “half the park is after dark” motto definitely applies here.

Lapland Region, Finland

Way up in the northern Lapland region of Finland, the municipality of Muonio topped WHO’s most recent clean air list. While you pull in the fresh air, you can take in some superb views of the northern lights; Finns often ski or snowshoe into the countryside to see the lights, but VisitFinland.com has put together a list of more comfortable options, including heated tents and glass igloos.

Muonio has the longest snow season in all of Finland, so if you don’t get clear skies right away, strap on some skis while you wait for a good night to see the lights.

San Pedro de Atacama Region, Chile

Clean air, high altitude, and the driest desert in the world combine to put the San Pedro de Atacama region at the top of the list of the darkest, clearest places on Earth. Don’t believe me? Check out this timelapse video. In addition to being free of light and air pollution, the desert environment also offers minimal sound from wildlife.

Grasslands National Park, Canada

Gordon Hempton, founder of One Square Inch of Silence, did an acoustic survey at Saskatchewan’s Grasslands National Park and found that it has “the quietest, purest sounds,” he said. And much of the park is nearly absent of light pollution, according to Dark Site Finder. You won’t find much air pollution here either; the air in Canada is some of the best in the world, according to WHO.

Canary Islands, Spain

Mountainous geography and a location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean make La Palma and Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands among the purest destinations on the planet. Teide National Park on Tenerife includes the highest peak in the Atlantic Ocean for peak baggers, not to mention stargazers.

Haleakala Summit, Hawaii

Hawaii has some of the most consistently clean air on Earth—even bustling Honolulu gets good marks from WHO—and the ability to get up above the clouds into thinner, cleaner air on top of Haleakala, in Maui, means there is even better stargazing here than at sea level. Visitors can stay overnight to see the stars and take in the sunrise, giving you the best of both worlds. The Mauna Kea observatory on the Big Island is another superb option, although staying overnight is not possible there.