Thursday, December 19, 2013
Friday, November 29, 2013
Recently I’ve been doing some research on hospitality ratings for a business plan I’m putting together. I ran across some terms I didn’t understand and of course, that urged me to dig deeper. Turns out these ratings are not an easy topic to come to grips with. So today I want to get you the basics on hospitality ratings. Hopefully this will help you sort through what’s a just frill and what means quality!
The Michelin Guide is a series of annual guide books published by the French company Michelin for more than one hundred years. The term normally refers to the Michelin Red Guide, the oldest and best-known European hotel and restaurant reference guide, which awards Michelin stars for excellence to a select few establishments.
AAA Five Diamond Award is the highest level of the AAA Diamond Ratings System for restaurants and lodgings administered by AAA (formally known as the American Automobile Association). All properties must first meet AAA’s basic requirements before being evaluated by one of AAA’s inspectors. Once evaluated, a rating of One to Five Diamonds is assigned, based on lodging and restaurant published guidelines for facilities, amenities, and service.
AAA began in 1902 as a federation of independent motor clubs. In 1937, the first AAA representatives were hired to inspect lodgings and restaurants, and in 1963, AAA began assigning ratings from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’. In 1977 – AAA’s 75th (diamond) anniversary – the ratings became known as the AAA Diamond Ratings System for lodgings. Restaurants began earning Diamonds in 1989. The AAA Five Diamond award is similar to a Five Star rating on a hotel. However, AAA chose to use diamonds instead of stars. It is also similar to the business called the International Star Diamond Award that the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences sells to hotels, restaurants, and other industries.
The Automobile Association (The AA) is a British motoring association founded in 1905, which was to provide reliable car coverage and travel information. It is often used as a guide for reliable services across the UK.
Well hopefully this helped to shed a little light on the situation. I know I this cleared up a lot of my questions. At the very least I hope you now know that there is more than TravelAdvisor out there!
Monday, November 25, 2013
Nuremberg: With the majestic Alps to the south and the medieval Imperial Castle perched proudly at the top of the Old Town hill, Nuremberg is a spectacular back drop for one of Germany's oldest Christmas markets. The Kinderweihnacht, or Children's Market, provides plenty of family fun, featuring an old-fashioned carousel, Ferris wheel, steam train and Nativity scene trail. Over 180 traditional stalls, blanketed in red and white cloth, ensure that this extremely popular market remains authentic. Modern and mass-produced goods are strictly prohibited and officials police the stalls to ensure that the vendors are offering the visitors hand-crafted wares in keeping with the tradition of the market. Favourite food delights at the market include the Nuremberg “plum people” (small figures made from prunes), spicy gingerbread, sweets and Nuremberg sausages.
Rothenburg ob der TauberHome to the Christmas Museum, Rothenburg is a magical place to spend the festive season. Surrounded by imposing town walls, steep-roofed gable houses line narrow cobbled streets, creating a romantic and festive atmosphere. Although some dislike the Disney-esque nature of the city, its unspoiled beauty is irrefutable. The Reiterlesmarkt is held on a medieval stage and Rothenburg is illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights. Unlike cosmopolitan Berlin and Cologne, Rothenburg has an entirely different feel, with smaller markets and a more intimate setting. Christmas pastries, white mulled wine and bratwurst can all be bought. Rothenburg's Schneeball (snow ball) is a must-try for those with a sweet-tooth, made from strips of sweet fried dough covered in powdered chocolate or sugar. The market gets its unusual name from the legend of the Rothenburg rider. Once believed to float through the skies with the souls of the dead during winter, the wild horseman has evolved into a friendly messenger and a bringer of luck.
MunichThe gothic town hall that flanks the wooden huts of the Marienplatz creates a spectacular setting for the Christmas market. Selling predominantly Bavarian produce, unique Christmas gifts and delectable treats can be found here. Concerts are played daily and you can look down on the sights of the market, well away from the hustle and bustle of the crowd, from the balconies of the spectacular town hall. The Kripperlmarkt is just a short walk away and specialises in all things Nativity. For something completely different, the Tollwood Market is an urban cultural festival offering a diverse range of international music, drama and cuisine. With over 20 different markets in Munich, there is something for everyone; from a medieval market with gospel choir, to the gay-friendly Pink Christmas Market, where wares are sold from pink and purple pagodas with added cabarets and shows.
Berlin: The city's main market is held beneath the spectacularly poignant Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church), making Berlin a great destination for a unique Christmas market experience. This historic and cosmopolitan city has something for everyone with over 60 markets scattered around the centre. The Gendarmenmarkt is hosted in one of the city's most beautiful squares and boasts culinary temptations from some of the country's top chefs as well as a festoon of entertainment including: jugglers, acrobats, fire artists, choirs, dance groups and music ensembles. A 30 minute walk away is Potsdamer Platz Market, which promises a more modern and adventurous event featuring Europe's largest mobile toboggan run. The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church Market pledges that you can find a present for everyone among the traditional wooden huts; all while nursing your hot cocoa and nibbling on roasted almonds. The Spandau Market celebrates Advent with a Nativity scene featuring live animals. Across the city, the Lucia Christmas Market is Nordic-Scandinavian themed, offering a romantic and intimate atmosphere. If it's nostalgia and tradition that you're looking for, the Staatsoper and Opernpalais Market is for you. From here you can enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride through the old centre of Berlin.
StuttgartStuttgart is an excellent spot for those looking for a hint of nostalgia. Heralded as one of the most beautiful markets in Europe, the main Stuttgart market is held beneath the stunning Old Palace. Inside the palace the festivities continue as you meander through the stalls of the Renaissance inner courtyard, the aroma of cinnamon and vanilla filling the air. Stuttgart is a fantastic destination, providing easy access to other must-see markets. Only 20km away are the famous Ludwigsburg (north) and Esslingen (south-east) Christmas markets. In Esslingen you can see high-wire artists, fairytale stilt walkers, fire-eaters, minstrels, and acrobats tumbling around the streets in wheels of flame. This medieval market provides an unusual atmosphere with unmissable attractions including the Land of Dwarfs, archery and medieval arts and crafts.
Ludwigsburg is held in the baroque market square and promises visitors romance and history. The spectacular Ludwigsburg palace is the backdrop to this beautiful and spirited market.
DresdenWith accounts dating back to 1434, Dresden's Christmas Market, traditionally known as Striezelmarkt, is the oldest in Germany. With the backdrop of the River Elbe, Dresden is annually turned into a Winter Wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights: romantic, festive and charming. The Striezelmarkt boasts both the world's tallest Nutcracker, and the world's tallest Christmas pyramid. Smoking figures, Herrenhut Advent stars and Dresden's traditional Pflaumentoffel, a chimney-sweep crafted from dried prunes, can all be bought here. Peruse the stalls and watch the traditional glass-blowers, carvers and bakers practice their crafts.
The highlight of the market is the Stollen Festival on the second Saturday in Advent. Held on 8 December in 2012, a giant stollen cake will be processed through the streets, ceremoniously cut and distributed among the crowd for a small fee (the proceeds go to charity). There are numerous other markets of note to be found around the city including those held in the stable yards at Residenzschloss, the famous Frauenkirche Market and the intimate market held in Loschwitz.
This one is a little different: Schloss Guteneck
Hosted in the grounds of the beautiful Castle Guteneck, this medieval market plays host to the Middle Ages. Fanfares, processions, minstrels, clowns and jugglers can all be seen roaming through the stalls. Although the fair is only held on weekends throughout December, it offers something different every day, from falconry to fire-dancing. The evening's events revolve around the various Advent celebrations, along with live Nativity scenes. A variety of music can be enjoyed throughout the festivities, including baroque flautists, choirs, brass bands and concerts in the barn. The aroma of mulled wine and flame roasted-almonds scents the air, while fried doughnuts and Langosch are the fair's more unique culinary choices.
Finally, my FAVORITE-
Cologne: Cologne is host to a number of Christmas markets throughout the run-up to Christmas. The most famous of these is held in the shadow of the Cologne Cathedral, the largest in Germany and a UNESCO World Heritage site. With the imposing Gothic backdrop and the largest Christmas tree in the Rhine, the 'Am Dom' Market offers over 160 stalls selling the traditional Yuletide wares and their famous Glühwein (mulled wine). Traditional music fills the air, providing the perfect atmosphere for Christmas shopping. For children, the Alter Markt is the place to go, with a Santa's grotto, puppet theatre and stands filled with toys. The Rudolfplatz will transport children both big and small to the world of the brothers Grimm, with fairytale figures and festive illuminations.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Bold Bags: Black is not your friend. A majority of luggage is designed in black- sorry, I have no idea why. Don't be afraid to let your bag express your personality. This will help others from picking up at claims by mistake. It's also very useful if the airline does misplaces it. You'd be surprised what the airlines will notices and I've seen more than a few guests get a lucky break this way.
Ship It: Services like Luggage Forward or Luggage Free allow for a worry-free travel experience at the airport. You can send your bags straight to your Hotel, Cruise Ship, or even Golf Course. It can be pricey if overnighting- around $150 for a 50lbs bag- but it's not really that much more than the airlines and it's a LOT less than UPS.
Spy on Your Stuff: Just like you're smartphone, you can have GPS coordinates on your bags at all time with the Trakdot. The small box will send location updates through SMS, email or through the Trakdot app and website.
Good Luck to all you traveling this Holiday Season. Hopefully your Holidays are bright!
Monday, October 28, 2013
Sunday, October 20, 2013
I've never been, so I find this very exciting! But not to worry, this means I'll get to take a few other trips throughout the year. No way is my best friend Daniel going to let me get out of diving that easily! So here are my thoughts on 2014 so far:
February 16th-20th: California
- Disneyland for atleast 2 days.
- Maybe rent a car and visit Yosemite or Wine Country.
- Maybe cross the boarder into Mexico.
- Diving/Snorkling with Daniel
- Chillin' with my friend Lexi on her dad's boat.
- Enjoying the local food.
- Possible locations: Belize, Honduras, Eastern Caribbean
- Definitely Royal Caribbean- NO CARNIVAL or Disney(which location-wise is limiting).
- Going to hit at least 2 new countries on this cruise.--- can't forget to work towards my 30 by 30 goal!
- I have to get home some time this year!
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
1. A very large trip towards the end of the year, after saving as much as possible!
|Manchu Pichu, Peru|
|Melody Cave, Scotland|
2. Two more affordable trips to closer, yet still exotic destinations!
|Wreck Diving, Bonaire|
|Turks and Caicos|
3. Disneyland for a few days in February and then weekend trips every other month to places within 10hrs of central Florida.
|The Keys, FL|
|St. Augustine, FL|
Ok, I'm going to need some feed back. Help me out here. I have to make my decision before the 22nd of this month... which is really flippin' soon!
Thursday, October 3, 2013
I have started to research the tropical land and seascapes of the Caribbean and what I've found is more than just honeymooners and boozecruises... although there are plenty of those! Here are some of my tips:
Prices vary considerably in the Caribbean depending on the season. To get the best rates, travel during off-season (from July 1 through September 30), which coincides with hurricane season. Many hotels, restaurants and airlines lower their rates (some, up to 50%!) during this period. Don't be crippled with worry about storms: some Caribbean islands fall south of the "hurricane belt" and are rarely affected by the rains. High season is generally from mid December through early January, so it's best to avoid it!
Keep a close watch on travel sites that offer frequent fare sales. Be flexible with your dates and try to travel outside high season to get the very best rates on air fares. Many low-cost carriers such as JetBlue and AirTran have entered the Caribbean market, so there are deals to be found if you're vigilant.
Entertain the advantages of renting a villa or condo versus staying at a luxury resort. Some condos or villas can hold between two and twelve people. If you're traveling with several family members or friends, you can easily find a home that can accommodate your entire party in separate rooms.
A beautiful 3 bedroom villa with a private pool and maid service may only run $2000 for a week. With 6 people traveling, this winds up costing only $47 per night per person -- far cheaper than any island resort. There are also small guest houses on many islands that cater to couples and honeymooners. Look into these as they are normally family run, may include some meals, and the prices can be highly affordable. You all know my 1st choice!
Some of the very best dining in the islands is the local fare being served from small shanties on the beach grilling fresh seafood or corner stands with scrumptious and budget priced dahls, rotis and johnny cakes. You can gorge yourself on fresh local food cooked by islanders on less than $10 per person.
The natural beauty of the islands allows for a variety of activities such as sailing, hiking, horseback riding, bird watching, river rafting, zip-lining, golfing, or touring historical sites. I've recently become a fan of diving, but just be care that you're going with a legitimate operation- Safety first!
Coupled with the array of beach activities available, it can be fairly inexpensive to find engaging sports for everyone to enjoy. Of course, most islands also have cultural centers where you can see how life was in the past, as well as museums and other public events.
Hope these help you. I'm excited to plan a trip soon. Keep an eye out for it ;)
But as I said, you are not forgotten! I recently was able to touch base with one of my great travel companions who will be visiting my this November and she reminded me of something I've been meaning to share with you all. She is my ticket to affordable travel!
Now how is that possible? Ever heard of a Buddy Pass?
A buddy pass is a coupon that is exchanged for an open seat on an airplane. When using a buddy pass, one doesn't pay for the actual flight, but pays for taxes and fees. Passengers using buddy passes are non-revenue, standby passengers who get the last open seats on flights after revenue passengers and airlines allocate buddy passes to employees that they can give to friends and relatives.
If you ever have the opportunity to travel this way, TAKE IT!!!! Often times these open seats are in first class! That's how I got to experience the luxury of Delta's First Class. It's been hard to go back to coach, but I really have NO money so I simple must.
This is why I have founded my new goal in life: Marry A Pilot!
Just kidding, but if he's dreamy then maybe I'm not ;)
Safe Travels, Friends!
Monday, August 26, 2013
Saturday, August 17, 2013
I was skeptical, just kinda nodding along in agreement when she would mention it. Then I see her using it in the break room at work the other day. It's soooooo perfect! She is learning all three realms: Reading, Writing, Pronunciation. Plus it works like a app game, which in this generation is the perfect solution to "homework". I downloaded it and played through 2 sets of the Basics. It was such a nice review. Each leason focuses on 5 to 8 works and proper usage.
So here it is: Duolingo
Duolingo offers extensive language learning lessons and tools with a gamified skill tree which users can progress through, and a vocabulary section where learned words can be practiced. Users gain “skill points” as they learn a language, such as when they complete a lesson. Skills are considered “learned” when users complete all the lessons associated with the skill. Up to 14 points are awarded per lesson, with one deducted for each mistake. Users start with four “lives” on early lessons, and three on later lessons, a “life” being lost with each mistake. A user must retry the lesson if they make a mistake after all lives have been lost. Duolingo also includes a timed practice feature, where users are given 30 seconds and twenty questions and awarded a skill point and seven or ten additional seconds for each correct answer.
If you've ever wanted to learn a new language, this is the ticket!
Friday, August 16, 2013
1. San Diego, CA
2. Portland, OR
3. Washington DC
4. Orlando, FL
5. Chicago, IL
Now, I'm going to help you plan this out. Maybe next year will go a little smoother ;)
San Diego, what a city?! It's really beautiful. Take my advice and stay near the downtown (Gaslamp District) the trolly will take you everywhere you need to go. My choice for major highlighs would have to be the zoo, the USS Midway, and Balboa Park. Here's a great itinerary I stumbled upon. I couldn't have planned it better myself... other than to space it out! I would suggest this same trip but over 2days!
Portland is every Foodie parent's dream vaca! And while you're stuffing your face there are some pretty cool things to see along the way. A very good friend of mine lives here now with her young family and she suggested the following: Spend an afternoon at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), including a tour of the USS Blueback Naval submarine. Drink a heavenly seasonal Burgerville milkshake, made with local huckleberries, caramel apples, or chocolatey hazelnuts. And finally, get a bird’s-eye view from the Portland Aerial Tram.
Washington D.C. was a family favorite for my clan growing up. My dad lived there when he was in the Coast Gaurd so he knew all the tricks and tips. We went several times while growing and I've since been with friends. I know it as one of my homes! Here's the best part- It's CHEAP! All of the 17 branches of the Smithsoniam (this includes the ZOO!), there are several weeks worth of sights to see. Plus the area is steaped with rich revolutionary hiertage and military pride. I ALWAYS see the changing of the gaurds at Arlington- I remember doing this as a family, it really taught me so much respect for our armed forces. I also suggest picnicing on the Mall lawn. It really takes the rush out of a long day of exploring!
Orlando... well I live here, so you would think I would be it's biggest advocate. That would be wrong! But I know why everyone comes here, I work for that very company. That being said, there is more to Central Florida than a mouse and his 4 theme parks that couldn't possibly be covered in a single trip! My suggestion: Half the stay doing theme parks, half the stay at the beach- Clearwater is amazing, sometimes you can even see dolphins!
Chicago- My one true love! At least it is in this country. The heart and soul of this city is in it's communities. My favorite being Lincoln Park. I suggest staying there and taking the EL into the Loop area. It's a fun lesson on mass transit for the kids! Once in downtown you have so much you can see and do. Everyone picks the Shedd Aquarium and it is amazing, but head down the road just a bit and also check out the Adler Planetarium! They have really cool exhibits that should interest the whole faily.
Hope this makes next summer a little easier!
1. The Classic- The Trans-Siberian Railway
On this amazing trip you will pass through eight distinct time zones, and travel over 6,000 miles – one third of the way around the world! The best option is with the golden eaglel uxury trains, but the price is pretty high. Although you have to consider just how big of an experience this truly is!
2. The Palace on Wheels
India’s original luxury train. Every Wednesday, the Palace on Wheels sets off for her seven day journey from Delhi to Delhi. The train visits Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Ranthambhore, Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Bharatpur and finally Agra, before heading back to Delhi. The Palace on Wheels travels by night, whilst its guests are sleeping on board in private luxury cabins. During the day, the Palace on Wheels is parked at the station as its guests explore the ancient Rajasthani forts, crumbling ruins and exquisite palaces. SO COOL!!!!
3. Rovos Rail
This multiply journey company has earned a reputation for world class rail travel and offer a variety of enticing itineraries that will take you though the heart of the African bush to a time when the journey was just as important as the end destination. A few of their highlighted trips are:
The Pretoria to Cape Town itinerary
These 48 hour journeys are a wonderful addition to a luxury South Africa safari. Covering a distance of 1600 kilometres, you will see why South Africa is often referred to as the “world in one country”. You will travel through the golden grasslands of the Highveld, to the starkly beautiful semi desert region of the Great Karoo before trundling through the fertile and lush valleys of the Cape Winelands – finally ending your journey in the vibrant city of Cape Town, nestled beneath the imposing mass of Table Mountain. Highlights of this trip include a visit to the historical town of Matjiesfontein and a stop at Kimberly to visit the Big Hole.
A luxury Durban rail itinerary
This luxury rail journey between Pretoria and Durban takes place during the summer months and includes game drives in two exclusive private safari reserves. The journey starts in Pretoria and meanders its way through the grasslands of the Highveld region and the scenically spectacular escarpment between Belfast and Waterval Onder before stopping at Malelane (on the border of the Kruger National Park). The journey then continues onwards towards Swaziland where you can enjoy an afternoon game drive at Mkhaya Game Reserve. You will then travel on an overnight journey to the Hluhluwe Game Reserve where you will stop for an amazing safari where you will the endangered white and black rhino and a variety of other species. The last stretch of the journey takes you into KwaZulu Natal – arriving in Durban in the afternoon.
4. The Wine Train.
Watch the sunset from their elegantly restored, vintage Pullman cars as you pass through wine country. This train travels through some of the most famous vineyards in the world and gives you an unobstructed view of the golden, Napa Valley sunset. Dine in elevated style in the Vista Dome Car, or chose a more traditional rail dining experience with a Gourmet Express Package.
5. Hiram Bingham Train.
Totally just made my Bucket List! This train has it all. Cocktail and traditional dances at the greeting, guides roaming the train, 2 hour tours of the Ruins... SIGN ME UP! I've already texted my friend, we are so going to experience this first hand some day.
It sails in October, so if you have a passport and you're looking for a fun getaway this is it.
2. Weather. Now this is one that goes both ways! If they are predicting a hurricane and you still choose to fly into Miami, well I think we know who is at fault in this situation... However if the forecast says mostly sunny and it rains for about an hour every day of your Disney trip there's nothing you or I or the hotel can do to make it stop. Just load up your poncho and tough it out!?
Monday, July 29, 2013
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Lesson 1: Sushi
I have just the chart for this!
Saturday, July 13, 2013
This trip is all for me! I'll be traveling back to Venice to catch a cruise that I've been dreaming about for the last 4 years: 7 Night Greek Isles & Turkey Cruise The itinerary is so perfect, you would think that I planned the whole thing ;) Just kidding, but it really is a dream cruise for me. Croatia, Turkey, and several ports in Greece?! Motherload doesn't even begin to describe it. Who knows, I might even splurge and pay for one of the ship's excursions... probably not! I love planning my own.
2014 is going to be the year of travel for me. I plan to change companies and move in the process, this will hopefully result in more financial stability! I'm hoping that will mean that I will have more time to dedicate to my passions.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Sadly, this year I have neither the funds or the time to get back to Kansas. We exhausted every option searching for a way to keep the magic going another year- I fly into Denver, we camp the Rockies. I fly into KC, we camp the Ozarks. I fly into Cheyanne, we camp... in a field. Some were more desirable than others. But try as we might, we just couldn't make it work- sorry Tim Gun!
So now you're asking yourself, why do I care? How could she possibly think this would be interesting to her readers?! STOP WASTING OUR TIME! Well calm down everybody! Geez, I'm getting there.
In all my research, I came across some pretty amazing camping locations! Today, I'm going to share my top 5 from my research. I had never even heard of a few of these.
1. Lake McConaughy, Nebraska- From what I've read, I'd say that Eagle Canyon Hideaway is the best area to camp. It's tucked away on the south side of the lake. The place is the cleanest, friendliest, great food, and cute log cabins according to the reviews. But it was the pictures that won me over!
Few visitors to Key West take the ferry 70 miles to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Even fewer camp under the stars next to historic Fort Jefferson. Those who do are rewarded with world-class snorkeling, kayaking, wildlife watching and an island almost all to themselves.
3. Limekiln State Park, New York- The park features breataking views of the Big Sur Coast, the beauty of the redwoods, the rugged coast and the cultural history of limekilns. The park has 28 campsites. Hike half a mile through fragrant redwoods to four kiln towers, adjacent by a stream.
Yet after all this research I still can't go camping... I'll probably suffer some major withdrawl. Look out everyone!
Monday, July 8, 2013
The flights on Tuesday to Wednesday were smooth sailing and we landing only 15minutes behind schedule. We hopped a taxi and headed straight to the apartment, which turned out to be a real gem! The place wasn't glamorous or even very large, but it fit our needs just find and really forced us to become familiar with the bus system. That was great, we felt like locals by the 2nd day.
After settling, unpacking and taking a short nap we hit the town. The leaning tower is so... white and clean. The area around it was amazing as well. Holly bought some art and we wondered down some winding streets to find a little restaurant. It was a great day and on the way home we stop by the grocery store!
Now I know what you're thinking- "What's so exciting about a grocery store?" but that is one of my favorite things to see in a foreign country. It really let's you see how they live, what they eat. For example, they have huge butcher section since most people buy fresh cut meats- not frozen. And the deli section? So many types of Salami that I've never even heard of! It's really amazing to me.
The 2nd day was our trip to Rome and while the city may not have been built in one day, we did a pretty good job of conquoring it in that short amount of time! We stuck to the route I had already planned- see the previous post about planning excursions- but we ended up doing it in reverse. We had heard that the Colosseum would get busier as the day went on so we decided to hit that first. Then it was off to the Pantheon and Campo dei Fiori. Another traveler told us we couldn't miss the Forum and it was right next to the Pantheon so it wasn't like it was out of the way. Then the day ended with brief stops at the Vatican City and the Trevi Fountain. Here's my piece of art-
On Friday, the day before the wedding we went on this big adventure of Public Transit to visit Lari. The Bride and Groom had some tours planned for their guests and we didn't want to miss the experience! Still we were almost out 40Euros because we didn't know we needed to validate our train tickets.* Then we waited several minutes for our Bus connection and I thought Holly was going to have a heartattack on the bus from the narrow roads and Italian drivers! However, once we got there it was the most amazing day! The countryside views from the village are some of the most breathtaking we saw.
*Italy sells two types of train tickets- Instant and Commuter. This is an awesome option for its locals, however for travelers it can be confusing. An Instant ticket must be use for the exact train it was sold for or it is no longer vaild, where a Commuter ticket can be sold for a destination but can be used at any time within 30 days. Once you have decided to use that ticket it must be punched and validated... we did NOT know this last bit.
Once we were there, Patricia and Semir had 3 tours and a meal planned out for us. It was really considerate of them to plan these outings for their guests! We toured the local Butcher shop, Italy's smallest pasta factory, and an All-Orangic Vineyard- where they still cut every vine by hand!!!! It was really fantastic and it all tied back together with the wedding, because they were using items from each location.
Saturday was the day of the wedding and we rented a car. Italian driving is something I am familiar with from last summer so I was well prepared, poor Holly was not. Still our little Fiat 500 handled those little roads just fine! We reached the wedding and enjoyed a beautiful evening of Italian and German hospitality. It was the highlight of the trip.
Still with all the beauty of Lari, I think Florence turned out to be our hidden gem on this adventure! We could have easily spend another 3 days there. All the museums and piazzas! It was spectacular and the day flew by. My favorite part was the view from the lounge at the top of the Continental Hotel- a tip we received from a fellow traveler. It has a nearly 360 degree view of Florence! I also recommend the mojito. ;)
All in all it was a wonderful trip. I had the opportunity to travel with a good friend and the blessing to visit another. PLUS! The Vatican puts me one country closer to my goal: 30 before 30. Only 8 more to go! I'm thinking Greece, Croatia, and Turkey might be next. Then Australia and New Zealand, which would leave China, Japan, and Cambodia for my 30th birthday! I'm liking the sound of that.
Happy Travels my friends!
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Now you can buy day trips and tours if you're in a popular destination and visiting another popular area. These can vary in price and quality. The more a company tries to squeeze into a day, the less enjoyable the experience will likely be. Take my advice and never try for more than 4 stops in a tour.
So let me give you an few examples from my up-coming trip~
Rome in a day-
Historical Site- Of course it's going to be the Colosseum! It's only a 20minute walk from the train station!
Natural Site- Well, we'll be walking through Parco del Colle Oppio to the train station from the Colosseum. I also really want to see the Trevi Fountain- I know it's not natural, but it is a water feature.
Local Experience- Holly would like to see the Vatican City, so we most likely will try for that. I personally would like to find a street market. I've read so many good things about Campo dei Fiori Market and it's on the way back from Vatican City to the Colossuem.
Dining- I'm a wander at heart, so I like to let the city tell me. I may ask a local around lunch time it there is a good place in my path. The locals always know.
So there it is. Via walking the whole circut takes less than 2 hours. If I get a metro pass for the day I can make the connections in half that time! Check out that route: Here
See how simple that was?! Now the hard part- budgetting. The train ticket from Pisa is 65EU rt., Colossuem entry is 15.50EU, and Vatican City is free to enter with a musuem fee of up to 16EU depending on the access you're interested. Add in lunch and a little shopping we're looking at 120EU each. Not bad for such a BIG location.
Let's try this again.
This one is harder, because the sites are less known- yet easier, because of a beautiful tool called City Spy Maps! You can print one out or just use the online view for planning. I like to pick one up when I get to a city because they're usually bigger and easier to read.
Dining- We're going to have a longer day on this excursion because it's closer to Pisa, so chances are we'll eat twice on this trip. I'm big about breakfast in the apartment which means lunch and dinner in town. The Spy map has several listings and I like the look of the Sunday Brunch at Meykadeh!
Natural Site- Piazza Michelangelo is said to have the most beautiful view of the Florance Skyline, so we're going to try that hike.
Local Experience- Verabis Vintage is this hidden maze of rugs, pottery, and mirrors. This market will be a place to get lost in.
Historical Site- Baptistry of St. John displays these huge bronzed doors- The Gates of Paradise that took over 21years to complete. We also might take some time to visit a musuem- Pitti Palace, but we probably won't get through it all!
Budget: Rail tickets estimated at 30EU rt, dining at about 30EU total, and the musuem is only 8.50EU. So less than 70EU!
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
This is my friend Paddy-
She and I met in an Acting Class in college back in 2006. She's German and was the one who helped me move to Europe as an Au Pair. It was her idea! She is getting married! To a wonderful man that she has been dating since she went back to Germany in 2007.
My dad use to be stationed in Italy under the U.S. Coast Guard and doesn't trust his daughter to those wild Italian men, so I'm not allowed to go alone to the wedding. That's where Holly comes in!
This is Holly-
We met a year ago when I moved to Florida. She is a wonderful person who shares my love for adventure and travel. She lived in the south of France as a young child for 2yrs or so and has been to Italy many times, but remembers very little of it. She has agreed to be my bodygaurd from the evils of Italian seducers! ;)
Tues. 6/25- Leave MCO at noon, with a layover in JFK. Final Destination: Pisa
Wed. 6/26- Arrive Pisa at 8am and meet Apartment leaser (Check out our awesome vacation rental!) Spend the rest of the day exploring Pisa
Thurs. 6/27- Day Trip: Rome
Fri. 6/28- Tuscany and meeting up with Paddy to assist with last minute wedding details.
Sat. 6/29- Wedding in Lari.
Sun. 6/30- Daty Trip: Florence
Mon. 7/01- Leave Pisa around 9am, another layover in JFK and arrive in Orlando 7pm
Short, but sweet! Plus experiencing life achievements with close friends! So exciting.
Yellow brick road from abandoned theme park - The Land of Oz
Sunday, June 9, 2013
|This piece of wall is the only that it is completely legal to graffiti in the city.|
|Not exactly what you get in the movie.|
Edinburgh- My favorite city in the WORLD!!!! While the walking tour here is amazing, what I highly suggest is the HAUNTED walking tour. I also suggest hiking up Arthur's Seat, the view is well worth the walk!
|This natural wonder takes you high about the city, allowing you to spy down on the Royals if they're in town!|
Luxembourg- Places of interest include the Gothic Revival Cathedral of Notre Dame, the fortifications, the Grand Ducal Palace, the Gëlle Fra war memorial, the casemates, the Neumünster Abbey, the Place d'Armes, the Adolphe Bridge and the city hall. I think top on my list would be the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial, because I'm so patriotic.
Budapest- I have not yet had the pleasure of exploring this city, but a good friend told me that it took her breath away- even in the dead of winter. I highly recommend getting a little lost in this one! Take a walk in the evenings down the great Danube and stop in a street side cafe. Explore the culture and visit Castle Hill, the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings.
Istanbul- Don't miss the Silahtarağa Power Station, now the art museum SantralIstanbul. Then hit the shops! Istanbul has numerous shopping centers, from the historic to the modern. The Grand Bazaar, in operation since 1461, is among the world's oldest and largest covered markets.
Saturday, June 8, 2013
Venice- Everyone scrambles to pay a fortune for a brief ride in one of those gonadals, but I say forget 'em! I had the best of times simply strolling along the many streets and dipping into the shops. You have to try Carpaccio! I thought it was going to be gross, but I loved it.
Rome- "When in Rome..." you've got two options: Cliche or Once-In-A-Lifetime! Since Sandman Tours doesn't extend into Italy you probably thought you were off the hook for a walking tour, right? Think again! Be prepared for a taste explosion on this unique style of tour: Eating Italy. Are you brave? Do you have a death wish? Rent a scooter and do as the Romans do... run red lights!
Florence- Great places to walk include along the Arno and across any of its bridges; through narrow, medieval back streets in the Santa Croce area; and in the Oltr'Arno - on the south side of the river, in many ways like Rome's Trastevere or Paris's Left Bank - but far, far smaller. There are also superb shopping streets, such as the Via Tornabuoni, the Via del Parione, and the Via Maggio.
Milan- what makes Milan interesting compared to other places is that the city is truly more about the lifestyle of enjoying worldly pleasures: a paradise for shopping, football, opera, and nightlife. Milan remains the marketplace for Italian fashion. Must See's:
the Duomo, one of the biggest and grandest Gothic cathedrals in the world
La Scala, one of the best established opera houses in the globe
the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, an ancient and glamorous arcaded shopping gallery
the Brera art gallery, with some of the finest artistic works in Europe,
the Pirelli tower, a majestic example of 1960s modernist Italian architecture
the San Siro, a huge and famed stadium
the Castello Sforzesco, a grand medieval castle
... Sorry, that was way more than 2 things!
Dubrovnik- Croatia is Top on my bucket list currently. I read an article in Food & Wine that Croatia was producing the best wine in the world in 2012. So 1st thing to do: DRINK WINE! Walk on the walls around the old town, great views. It is highly recommended to visit the walls during the early morning hours or the late afternoon hours during mid-summer months as it can become hot.
Athens- Mythology is a passion of mine and no one tells a story like the Greeks. If you're there during the summer attend an event at the Athens and Epidaurus Festival. It runs during the summer and offers a wide spectrum of events covering almost every taste. Try to attend a performance at the ancient theater of Epidaurus -a truly unforgettable experience. See the Parthenon before it crumbles.
Vienna- There are 21 marketswith stands and small characteristically Viennese hut-like shops that are open daily (except Sunday). Additionally many of these have true farmers' markets, often on Saturday mornings. There is a large variety of sellers and markets, from the upscale to the dirt cheap. You have to try some Schnitzel!
Munich- Guess what?! We've back in Sandeman land! Which means awesome walking tours for FREE. Get excited people. The tour begins on Marienplatz (Mary’s square) at 10:45am and 1pm every day in all weather. Have a beer! The Hofbräuhaus may be the most famous (and certainly the most touristy) beer hall, but there are countless more beautiful beer halls scattered throughout the city.