How to Visit the Doge’s Palace & St. Mark’s Basilica Without the Crowds

saint marks basilica st. mark's basilica without the crowds

Visit the Doge’s Place and St. Mark’s Basilica without the crowds? St. Marks’ Basilica and the Doge’s Palace are two of the most popular places to visit in Venice, and although they are must-see stops for travelers, they also tend to be very crowded. It can be hard to enjoy these historical sites as you are standing in lines, jostling elbows with fellow travelers, and trying to see around selfie sticks and flag-waving tour guides. Walks of Italy, an American-based walking tour company, has come up with an eloquent solution for this dilemma. They have designed a tour that allows late entry into the Doge’s Palace which is a time that the palace is typically quiet, and most importantly they have received permission to run exclusive after-hours tours inside St. Marks’ Basilica. So you get to experience St. Mark’s Basilica as very few people do, alone with only your tour Read the Rest…

Casanova’s Venice: Discovering 18th Century Venice with Context Travel

Rio dei Mendicanti Canaletto Ca' Rezzonico Context Travel

During our trip to Venice, we did a Context Travel walking tour themed around Casanova’s 18th century Venice. Giacomo Girolamo Casanova was an Italian adventurer, author, and womanizer who was born and lived in Venice during the gilded and decadent eighteenth century. Perhaps best known for his daring and amorous exploits, Casanova’s autobiography is considered one of the best sources of European lifestyles and customs of the 18th century. Between the 13th and 17th centuries, Venice had amassed significant power and wealth through trade although its power was rapidly fading by the 18th century as the republic was no longer a major center of international trade. In the 1700’s, or Settecento, Venice became known as a place for leisure and pleasure, with the 18th century being considered the most hedonistic period in Venetian history. This period is often symbolized by gilded palazzos along the Grand Canal, lavish fashions, elaborate parties, elegant cafes, mask-wearing Read the Rest…

Guide to Planning a Route 66 Road Trip

Route 66 road trip

A Route 66 road trip is a driving adventure along what is probably the most famous road in the world. Historic Route 66 spans over 2,400 miles and crosses 8 states, starting in Chicago, Illinois and terminating at the Pacific Coast in Santa Monica, California. Given its “66” designation in 1926, it became a well-traveled highway, bringing together people from all walks of life. John Steinbeck would refer to Route 66 as “the mother road, the road of flight” for those trying to escape the Dust Bowl and ravages of the Great Depression in the 1930’s. Later it would support a countless number of vacationing families from the Midwest heading to the Grand Canyon or Disneyland. As more Americans took to the highway, a roadside culture would spring up along Route 66—motels, diners, gas stations, tourist attractions—to cater to a population that was increasingly mobile. Today it is that classic road Read the Rest…

Wedding at Sea: Our Cunard Queen Mary 2 Wedding

Cunard Queen Mary 2 wedding at sea cruise

I have been wanting to write a post about our Queen Mary 2 wedding at sea for a few months. In August, Laurence and I got married at sea aboard the Cunard Queen Mary 2 ship as we sailed from New York City to England. We had struggled for a few months to decide on a wedding location given that we have different nationalities, residences, and family and friends spread out across the world. We already wanted to do a transatlantic cruise aboard the RMS Queen Mary 2 as a way to get to the UK and once we booked this, we decided to also hold our wedding here. We were married by the ship’s captain, Captain Kevin Oprey, about halfway between the United States and England while sailing on the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean. It was a wonderful experience for us, but a wedding at sea is not for Read the Rest…

10 Places to Experience the World of Salvador Dalí in Costa Brava Spain

Salvador Dalí in Costa Brava Spain

Most fans of Salvador Dalí are familiar with the fact that the surrealist artist was born in the Costa Brava region of Catalonia Spain, but not everyone knows that this region is the best place to experience the inspirational world of Dalí. The Costa Brava region of Catalonia is situated in the northeast corner of Spain and is best known for its sunny beaches, all-inclusive resorts, rugged landscapes, hiking and biking trails, fine dining, and for being the birthplace of Salvador Dalí. It is in this area of Spain that Dalí drew inspiration for many of his surrealist works and it is here that fans of his work can best get a sense of the artist’s life and actually visit the places that inspired him. The three most famous places which form the so-called Dalian Triangle are the much-visited Dalí Theatre-Museum in Dalí’s hometown of Figueres, his adulthood home in Portlligat, Read the Rest…

Planning a California Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles

JUCY RV campervan California Pacific Coast Highway 1 road trip

Driving along the California Pacific Coast Highway is perhaps one of the greatest road trips in the world. Over the past five years, I was very lucky to have the opportunity to visit many of the towns and city’s along the Golden Coast. But it was not until this past summer that we did the full road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles following Highway 1 coastal route the whole way. We did the road trip in style, driving a bright green-and-purple JUCY campervan! Along this famous route, you’ll drive through big metropolitan cities and tiny coastal towns, gliding by redwood forests, classic California beach towns, lighthouses, major wine regions, marine wildlife, Spanish colonial sights, outdoor adventure opportunities, state parks, and even Hearst Castle. Not to mention the wonderful scenic views that will have you pulling off for impromptu ogling and photo ops all along the Pacific Coast Highway! We’ll Read the Rest…

Porvoo Finland: An Easy Day Trip From Helsinki

day trip to Porvoo Finland from Helsink

Last winter Laurence and I stayed in Helsinki for several days and took a day trip to Porvoo Finland. Settled in the Middle Ages, Porvoo is the second oldest town in Finland and is well-known for its historic Old Town and colorful riverside warehouses. The town is also notable for its local artists, including Finland’s national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg whose home can still be visited today. It is also a popular destination for shopping, dining, river cruises, cycling, and pleasant scenic strolls along the river. You can also easily explore the Pellinki archipelago from Porvoo. It is a perfect Helsinki day trip as it is located about an hour away and is a town that is easy to explore on foot. We’ll share tips on how you can also visit Porvoo on a day trip from Helsinki as well as some of our favorite things to do in this historical Read the Rest…

The Most Fashionable Afternoon Tea in London: Prêt-à-Portea Tea at The Berkeley

Prêt-à-Portea Tea at The Berkeley London

Afternoon tea in London is one of those quintessential travel experiences and I was very excited to try the Prêt-à-Portea tea at The Berkeley. The name for this fashion-inspired tea is a clever play on the phrase prêt-à-porter which refers to ready-to-wear clothing (a.k.a. off-the-rack) within the fashion industry. There are of course hundreds of places serving afternoon tea in London, from the traditional to the quirky, but for fashionistas looking for something different, I’d suggest booking an afternoon tea at The Berkeley. First served in 2005, Prêt-à-Portea brings a creative twist to the traditional English afternoon tea with cakes and pastries resembling the latest catwalk designs from the collections of the world’s top fashion houses and designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Elie Saab, Valentino, Alexander McQueen, and Chanel. Feel like eating a Oscar de la Renta princess gown sponge cake, a Alexander McQueen hat vanilla shortbread, or Manolo Blahnik Read the Rest…

12 Ways to Find Ernest Hemingway in Key West Florida

Dry Tortugas Hemingway in Key West Florida

One of the most notable people to live in Key West was writer and avid traveler Ernest Hemingway, and as a visitor you can still find many traces of Hemingway in Key West. In April 1928, Hemingway and his wife Pauline Pfeiffer would come to Key West to pick up a car and while waiting for the delayed car to be delivered, Hemingway would explore the city and eventually fall in love and make Key West one of his homes. It would be during this time that Hemingway would fall in love with deep sea fishing, write several novels, welcome the birth of his sons Patrick (1928) and Gregory (1931), meet his third wife, and make many life long friends. Of course, it is impossible to recreate the Key West of Hemingway’s time, a much smaller and more isolated city during the Great Depression, but one can trace and recreate a bit of Read the Rest…

Seeing the Best of London in a Full Day London Walking Tour

full day best of london walking tour with city wonders

During my first visit to London, Laurence and I did a full-day London walking tour with City Wonders to get a good orientation of the city and see some of the most iconic sites. The tour takes you through the heart of the capital city and during the day we saw so many recognizable landmarks, including the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament. In addition to seeing all these iconic London sights, we also got to visit and partake in some fun London experiences, including a visit to the Tower of London before the crowds, a short boat ride on the River Thames, witnessing the Changing of the Guard in front of Buckingham Palace, and savoring a formal afternoon tea in a London hotel. We’ll share what we saw and did during this City Wonders Best of London walking tour, everything Read the Rest…

Visiting Amish Country Ohio: A Great Family Destination

visit amish country ohio

Amish Country Ohio is located in northeast-central Ohio and contains the largest community of Amish in the world. The Amish community is centered in Holmes County with over 40% of the county’s current population being comprised of Amish people. The area is generally referred to as Amish Country Ohio and is a great place for visitors to learn about the history and local traditions of the Amish and Mennonite peoples, purchase traditional Amish handicrafts, eat a lot of hearty Amish food, and enjoy the great pastoral scenery of this region. Visitors can easily find plenty of things to do to fill up a weekend itinerary, whether it is sampling locally made cheese and chocolates, marveling over the famous local wooden furniture, viewing the amazing Behalt cyclorama, petting giraffes, touring a traditional Amish farmhouse, taking a scenic countryside drive, or enjoying a local comedy theater performance. I was lucky to grow up near Read the Rest…

A Walking Tour with San Francisco Native Tours

Corona Heights view San Francisco Native Tours

San Francisco Native Tours is a new walking tour company in San Francisco that focuses on locally-led walks around this popular city. They strive to be different from many other walking tour companies by only hiring native guides who have grown up in the city, being actively involved in the local community, and keeping the group sizes small and friendly. Now, of course, there are dozens of walking tours companies in San Francisco and visitors have a large range of options. Although the large array of tour company choices can be overwhelming, it is great that there are options available to suit every taste and preference. We’ve taken a number of tours in the city over the years, and we’ll give you all the information you need to learn more about San Francisco Native Tours to find out if they are a good fit for you, and Laurence will provide Read the Rest…

Cambria California: Planning A Visit to This Central Coast Gem

Sunset Moonstone Beach Cambria California

Between Los Angeles and San Francisco lie many of my favorite oceanside spots in California, including the seaside town of Cambria. Cambria actually lies right smack in the middle of California’s two great cities, 240 miles from both Los Angeles and San Francisco along the scenic Highway 1. Cambria has a lot to offer visitors, including great shopping, beaches, scenery, outdoor recreational activities, and excellent dining spots. It is also located a very short drive from the popular Hearst Castle and the elephant seal rookery near San Simeon. If you are planning a trip along California’s Central Coast, be sure to consider spending some time in Cambria. It is both a great weekend getaway for those of us living in California and a great stop for visitors wanting to explore the Central Coast. We’ll share our tips for planning your own trip to Cambria as well as our favorite spots in Read the Rest…

The Wilds: An African Safari Experience in Southeast Ohio

The Wilds Ohio sign

The Wilds is one of the largest conservation centers in North America, set on about 10,000 acres of land in Southeast Ohio. It is home to a number of rare and endangered animals from around the world, including cheetah, rhinos, camels, antelope, zebra, and giraffes, as well as a number of local native species. Visitors can not only do regular bus safaris to see the animals, but the Wilds also offers horseback safaris, fishing safaris, ziplining, a butterfly habitat, education programs, summer camps, and overnight lodging. This non-profit open-habitat safari park is a pretty amazing place given that this is reclaimed land which was strip mined for coal from the 1940’s to the 1980’s, which destroyed most of the natural wildlife and resources in this area. If you are in Ohio, this is definitely a place to consider adding to your itinerary. We’ll give you all the information you need Read the Rest…

A Weekend in Redding California: Romance, Local Culture, & Outdoor Adventures

Burney Falls weekend in Redding California Shasta Cascade

We recently spent a lovely three-day weekend in Redding California, which lies within the Shasta Cascade area that covers a large portion of northern California. Redding is an approximate 2.5 hour drive from Sacramento or 3.5 hour drive from San Francisco, a perfect distance for a weekend getaway. Redding and the surrounding area is definitely most known to travelers for its scenic natural wonders and the opportunity to engage in a multitude of outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking, sailing, and biking. However we wanted to combine a healthy dose of outdoor activities and natural scenery with some local culture and romance. During the days, we hiked, explored caves and dams, visited museums, and gushed at majestic waterfalls, but in the evenings we dined well, gazed at romantic sunsets, and stayed in a cozy bed-and-breakfast. Keep reading for our tips on how to plan your own weekend in Redding and Read the Rest…