Thursday, June 20, 2013

Planning your own excursion

Recently I've done a lot of research into Day Trips and Excursions for my upcoming trip to Italy. These are a great way to see more of a country without have to live out of a suitcase (not that I mind that at all!) However, sometimes it is better economically or personally (like if you're traveling with kids) to find a central location and explore the areas one day at a time.
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.
After you decide that you want to plan you excursion on your own, the next most important thing is to identify what are your main attractions for the day. This is entirely dependent on the type of traveler you are. I recommend take the quiz I previously posted on this blog. It will help you pinpoint sites that you may want to research more.
No matter what kind of person you are, I would stick with this formula: 3 sites+1 dining option= successful Day Trip. It doesn't matter which meal of the day your choose, but it tends to usually be lunch. I know my tastes on attractions tends to lean towards 1 Historical Site, 1 Local Experience, and 1 Natural Site. I love Museums, but I often have them as a rainy day back up plan. I don't like to spend too long in one place during an excursion and sometimes you can really get lost in those museums.
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

Italy 2013

14 Days, that's the current count down. I'm getting very excited and I wanted to post the current schedule of events. My original fight plan has changed, as have my housing arrangements. So here's the deal... e-o:

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.

Creepily personal: Abandoned Update

So many of you like the Abandoned Photo Reel I posted a few weeks ago. Just found this new picture to go along with the previous post and it was a bit to close to home. You'll see why.
Yellow brick road from abandoned theme park - The Land of Oz

Update on helpful Travel Apps.

So a few months back I posted a list of travel apps and I recently stumbled upon this new list. There is some overlap, but I wanted to post an update so check it out:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Finale of Alice's Adventure

Prague- Walking tour of the city and The Lennon Wall.
This piece of wall is the only that it is completely legal to graffiti in the city.
Copenhagen- This was a city for wandering! Obviously, find your way to the docks and snap a pic with The Little Mermaid... and all those random elephant statues they have there. I also highly recommend Tivoli Gardens. This was the most influential theme park Walt Disney visited in his trips around the world. He considered it a huge inspiration for his Disneyland, in California.
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!
Zurich- Most of Zurich's sights are located within the area on either side of the Limmat river, between the Main railway station and Lake Zurich. The churches and houses of the old town are clustered here, as are the most expensive shops along the famous Bahnhofstrasse. The Lindenhof in the old town is the historical site of the Roman castle, and the later Carolingian Imperial Palace.

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

Alice's Adventure Continues!

Pisa- Go ahead, take the silly picture! You know you want to and besides, everyone else is. It's OK to be cliche every once in a while. Now get out of my way, we're in Wine Country!!! I know I'm excited to see it all for myself this month.

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.
Berlin- This is a big city, so you might be VERY tired after the 3.5hour tour. Still, it's worth it: The start point for this tour is in East Berlin at 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM at the Brandenburg Gate, in front of Starbucks. (S/U-Bahn Brandenburger Tor). If that's too much, then grab one of those hop on and off buses. You can cover a lot of ground on those without exhausting yourself too much. You can't come to Germany without trying Döner, it is a flat bread, filled with Lamb or chicken meat and vegetables,you can get it at many Turkish stands.
Frankfurt- I'm completely biased since I lived here for 8 months. I love the city, it's a beautiful blend of modern and historical. The Rhomer is in the heart of the city and you should see it, but my must-sees will take you out to the far sides of the city. The Palmengarten is one of my favorite hideaways in the city. It's acres and acres of beautiful gardens. A relaxing way to pass the afternoon. Then grab a traditional bite: Currywurst at my favorite little dive- Culux. It's about a block and a half north on Oeder Weg from the Ubahn station Eschenheimer Tor.