When Traveling, Remember the Moscow Rule

While traveling in Paris many years ago, my American friends introduced me to the Moscow Rule. Not to be confused with the Moscow Rules, this rule has to do with shopping and souvenirs and is fairly simple. If you see something, buy it, because you may never see it again.

My friends told me that this rule originates from people standing in line in Moscow. If you lived in Moscow under Communist rule and saw people standing in line, you joined them, because whatever they were waiting for you most likely needed or would need and you may not have the opportunity to buy it another time.

Although I try to remember this rule when I travel, the times I forget are the times I regret. Like the time I didn’t buy the metal toy truck in Cape Town because I knew we’d see several more during our trip (we didn’t).


Or when I didn’t buy a drum and then had to resort to the airport gift shop. Or when I passed up a pretty necklace at a price I saw quadrupled in future stores.


Sometimes it’s easy to remember, like buying Lindt chocolates in Zurich, wool scarves with the family clan in Edinburgh, or maple syrup in Vermont. I find it more difficult to remember when I see something different. Is it something I truly want? Is the price a good one? Will I see it again?

Maple Syrup

To prevent those post traveling blues, remember the Moscow Rule: if you see something unique, something you’re unlikely to find online or anywhere else, snatch it up, because you may never see it again. Most likely, you won’t regret the purchase, and the memories it holds will bring smiles for a lifetime.


On the Road: Looking for a Burger

You’re in unfamiliar territory. You’re driving (or flying) for miles, and you need a burger. Or at least someone in the backseat does. Besides the obvious and familiar chains, where do you find a good and quick burger when you’re far from home? Here are a few places we’ve found while driving up and down the West and East Coasts.

The West Coast, South West, and Texas

In-N-Out Burger: The menu at In-N-Out is simple and old fashioned: just burgers (made with 100% beef), fries (fried in vegetable oil), shakes (made with real ice cream), and beverages. If someone in the family doesn’t eat meat, they can order a grilled cheese. If you’re gluten-free, be sure to order the “Protein Burger,” a burger wrapped in a lettuce leaf instead of a bun. Messy but yummy.


All Over (Almost)

Five Guys Burgers and Fries: We first discovered this burger place on a trip to Florida only to learn there was a location close to home. With another simple menu, Five Guys Burgers and Fries specializes in burgers and hot dogs with your choice of a plethora of toppings. And the fries are good and plentiful. But don’t come here if you’re allergic to peanuts. Five guys uses peanut oil and offers peanuts to customers as they wait for their burger. If you’re gluten free, just get a burger without the bun. The burger is gluten free, even if the bun isn’t. Five Guys is located in 47 states. If you live in Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, or South Dakota, you’ll just have to travel.

Five Guys

New England

A small New England burger chain, Wild Willy’s has only six locations in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. While its burgers are made with certified Angus, all natural beef or even bison, Wild Willy’s offers more than specialty burgers. There you can get a grilled chicken or steak sandwich, or salad with fries or onion rings and a shake. If you’re gluten free, make sure to ask for a gluten-free bun, and check to see if the fries or onion rings are fried in a dedicated deep fryer. Last time we checked, both were gluten free at the Worcester, Mass. location.

Washington, D.C.

While traveling in DC in April, we discovered another simple and fast burger joint, just off the highway, Burger 7. Burger 7 offers a healthy alternative to those who crave a burger but are trying to eat healthy at the same time. The menu includes grass fed hot dogs and hormone free beef, turkey burgers and veggie burgers, whole wheat buns and lettuce leaf wraps, potato fries and sweet potato fries both cooked in olive oil, plus shakes made with organic milk. Burger 7 has three locations in the DC area, but we ate at the one in Tyson’s Corner.


Where else can you get a burger? Do some sleuthing on the internet if you’re visiting a particular place or check out these links for favorite burger joints in Los Angeles,  Boston, the Midwest, in South Carolina, and across the U.S.

Who serves your favorite burger?

Trip taken 2012 and 2013.

In-N-Out photo used under Creative Commons from whatleydude.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries photo used under Creative Commons from kennejima.

Where Were You on April 15th?

Where were you on Patriot’s Day? The day of the Boston Marathon, the day of the bombings?

After checking into a hotel in Baltimore, I waited for the elevator, glancing up at the big screen TV hung on the wall. I don’t remember the exact words – just Boston Marathon and explosions, those words enough to grab my attention, to shock and to scare me.

Far from Boston, we ventured out for dinner. The Inner Harbor of Baltimore was eerie, the mood tense and ominous as more and more police appeared, on bike, in boat, in cars, in helicopters.

Police cars lined up near harbor

Back home, only 30 miles west of Boston, my daughter texted me to assure me she was safe. Back in our hotel room, we watched the news.

I know people who were on bikes at the Prudential Center, just a block away. I know of people who were delayed as they ran the course, realizing that the delay prevented them from crossing the finish line at 2:50 p.m. I’ve heard stories of people in my town and in neighboring towns who were dining nearby, volunteering in the medical tents; people who walked into one of the explosions.

We awoke Friday morning at home to the news and Boston’s shut down, spending the day glued to the TV, relieved when Suspect No. 2 was cornered and later apprehended.

An American flag undulated on the back of a pickup truck in front of us as my daughter and I drove into Boston on Saturday. A man walked down Newbury Street with another flag draped around his shoulders. The streets were full of red, white, and blue: families wore Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox shirts, people wore college sweatshirts –from Boston University and Boston College.

Barriers prevented us from walking down the cross streets of Exeter and Dartmouth towards Boylston Street where police and FBI gathered evidence.

Police and FBI at Exeter Street

In front of the Nike store, we joined others writing and drawing sentiments with chalk on the sidewalk.

Writing sentiments on chalk on sidewalk

We saw flowers and stuffed animals and therapy dogs at the eastern end of the Boylston Street makeshift memorial.

Flowers and people at barricade on Boylston Street

We read signs in front of cafes and stores offering free coffee and discounts to responders. We spoke to a man who lost his daughter on 9/11.

On Sunday, I ordered Boston Strong t-shirts for each member of our family. I’ve watched videos and read articles of people across the country and around the world routing for Boston, singing “Sweet Caroline,” and raising money for The One Fund Boston.

I was in Baltimore when Boston was bombed. Where were you?

Trip taken April 2013.