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).

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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.

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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.

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Fish in Chattanooga

The Tennessee Aquarium lived up to its reputation. My brother-in-law described its inhabitants to my daughter with promises to visit. Nine years later, we finally did, and although he was disappointed that part of the aquarium was closed for renovations, with little expectations, we were entranced.

Tennessee Aquarium

With enough fish and exhibits to keep you busy for at least a couple of hours in its two buildings, the Tennessee Aquarium is located just a few hundred feet from the banks of the Tennessee River. Inside, ramps bring its visitors down level after level and then back up. In the River Journey, exhibits tell the story of the freshwater aquatic creatures and their habitats in the Chattanooga area. Alligators grinned at us, and fish and turtles made us smile.

IMG_1866 Breathing

In the Ocean Journey building, undulating jelly fish mesmerized us.

Jellyfish

Tiny sea horses awed us. Waddling and diving penguins entertained us.

Penguins

And butterflies flew among the orchids.

Orchids

If you go, allow yourself plenty of time. The entrance fee is $24.95 per adult and $14.95 per child (3 to 12 years).

Ribs, Hushpuppies, and Fried Okra

On our trip down south, we ate a lot of barbecue. After all, that’s what the south is known for, right? We tried the local spot, Smokey’s BBQ, in Madison, Alabama, and the chain restaurant, Sticky Fingers, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Pulled pork, roasted chicken, country style ribs, cole slaw, baked beans, and corn bread. Smoky, sweet, vinegar, and mustardy sauces. Our party tried them all. And except for the corn bread, everything was gluten free.

Sticky Fingers BBQ

Combo Plate: Sticky Fingers Carolina Sweet

But while everyone else ate the ribs and pulled pork, I tried the Brunswick Stew. At Smokey’s, sweet strings of pulled pork competed with potato and peppers in the warm and mildly spicy broth. The stew was not thick but chunky. The meat distinct from the potatoes.

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Brunswick Stew

I ordered fried okra. Dipped in a batter and deep fried, cooked okra has an unusual texture, somewhat slimy between the crispy fried outer later. Definitely not for all. Because we were there at closing time, our party was served the restaurant’s leftover peach cobbler and corn bread. Both yummy.

I ordered Brunswick Stew again when we dined at Sticky Fingers in Chattanooga. Though the ingredients were similar, the Brunswick stew was thicker, its meat strewn throughout the stew, its pieces less distinct from the other ingredients. We liked the sauces so much at Sticky Fingers, we bought a sampling of their barbecue sauces (the Memphis Original sauce is particularly good). Both restaurants offer stuffed potatoes: a baked potato filled with pulled pork. Huge and satisfying.

Though it’s atmosphere was unassuming (looking more like the inside of the fast food place it is), the food at Smokey’s relies less on its sauces than Sticky Fingers. The pulled pork and the ribs, were flavorful on their own. But don’t get me wrong. I’ll go back to Sticky Fingers next time I’m in town or to one of its other locations (there are Sticky Fingers in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida).

If you’re hankering for hushpuppies or catfish with your barbecue, you might want to check out the Old Greenbriar Restaurant located in Madison, between Decatur and Huntsville, Alabama. Unlike Smokey’s and Sticky Fingers, the Greenbriar Restaurant is rustic and full of local atmosphere.

Trip taken December 2013.