Category Archives: Travel Destinations

Our Wedding in Venice: A Photo Essay

wedding in Venice wedding day Jessica Norah Laurence Norah

A photo essay of our wedding in Venice. Two years ago today, Laurence and I got engaged at Point Reyes National Seashore in California next to a giant elephant seal. At that time, I was working full-time as a clinical psychologist and living in the San Francisco Bay area. A lot has changed since that time. I don’t share a lot of personal posts but I’ve been asked several times to share some photos of our wedding in Venice on the blog, and have always meant to do so but never got around to doing it. So I thought I would do it today on our engagement anniversary. It also gave me a good excuse to go back through our wedding photos. If you don’t enjoy wedding photos, this is your time to escape, otherwise, enjoy! As some of you know, Laurence and I actually had our legal wedding at Read the Rest…

Comprehensive Guide to the Top Harry Potter Sites in Edinburgh Scotland

Royal Mile Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh Scotland J.K. Rowling

Edinburgh has a deep connection with the wizardly world of Harry Potter and there are several Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh that fans can visit. Most notably, it was the home of J.K. Rowling when she wrote the majority of the Harry Potter books. Rowling has acknowledged her connection to the city stating that “…Edinburgh is very much home for me and is the place where Harry evolved over seven books and many, many hours of writing in its cafés.” Want to sit and sip coffee in the same café that J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books? See turreted buildings that may have been the inspiration for Hogwarts? See graves and streets that may have influenced the names of Harry Potter characters? Drink a pint of butterbeer in a local pub? We’ll provide all you need to know to find these places on your own or visit them on a Read the Rest…

Visiting Wentworth Woodhouse: The Largest Private House in England

visit Wentworth Woodhouse tour Palladian east front

Wentworth Woodhouse is the largest private home in the United Kingdom and it has the longest façade of any country home in Europe; however, very few people have ever heard of this spectacular English house! Starting as a modest Jacobean house in the 17th century, it would be rebuilt and expanded to enormous proportions by a series of aristocratic families. The house would become the seat of the Earls Fitzwilliam who would rise to be one of the wealthiest families in England due to profits from the coal industry. At one time, over 1,000 staff members would be employed to run and look after the 300+ room house and the vast estate. However, a series of scandals, inheritance fights, untimely deaths, and the nationalization of coal would soon lead to both the end of the Earl Fitzwilliam line and the shuttering of this great house. This grand Yorkshire house was closed to Read the Rest…

One Week Sri Lanka Itinerary for Couples: Luxury, Wildlife, & Tea

1 week Sri Lanka itinerary for couples romantic honeymoon

We wanted to share a one week Sri Lanka itinerary that we think is perfect for couples, which focuses on wildlife, romance, luxury, and tea. Specifically it includes staying at the top luxury resort in Sri Lanka, soaking up the beautiful scenery of Sri Lanka’s hilly Tea Country, exploring ancient sites, admiring waterfalls, staying in a luxury tented camp, and searching for leopards on safari. We were in Sri Lanka last summer speaking at a conference and afterwards we decided to head off on our own on a short trip around Sri Lanka. Laurence had already been to Sri Lanka twice so wasn’t interested in many of the main tourist spots and I wanted a short luxury trip that focused on tea and leopards. We checked out a number of tour companies and found Jetwing Eco Holidays who helps plan and execute customized and tailor-made trips. We’ll share a one week Read the Rest…

Edmonton City Guide: 20 Things to do in Edmonton Alberta

sunset spots things to do in Edmonton Alberta Yeg guide

After our recent trip to Western Canada, we wanted to share a list of some of the top things to do in Edmonton Alberta. As Alberta’s capital city, there are loads of things to do in the city from skiing and biking to visiting farmers’ markets and perusing art galleries. During our time in the capital, we did a Segway tour in Canada’s largest urban park, went to a hockey game, visited an art museum, searched for street art, rode a roller coaster in North America’s largest shopping mall, appreciated plants in a glass pyramid, and ate our way around the city’s growing food scene. We also made a day trip to nearby Elk Island National Park for some great wildlife spotting! We’ll share our tips for visiting the city and our list of the top things to do in Edmonton Alberta based on our recent experience. Basic Information on Read the Rest…

Afternoon Tea in Albuquerque New Mexico at St. James Tearoom

St. James Tea Room afternoon tea in Albuquerque New Mexico

Let’s face it, you’ve probably never thought of having afternoon tea in Albuquerque New Mexico. So you might be surprised that one of my favorite places for afternoon tea, St. James Tearoom, is located in Albuquerque. Albuquerque is home to lots of wonderful things like the breathtaking Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, a rich and diverse culture, tasty chiles, a booming craft beer scene, and interesting art, but it isn’t really associated with images of folks partaking in afternoon tea. I have been to St. James Tearoom twice, once back in 2010 and again in 2016, and can say that even after having afternoon tea in locations around the world, this is still one of my favorites. We’ll share a bit about St. James Tearoom, how you can make your own reservation, what you can expect during your tea time, and the details of our own afternoon tea experience in Albuquerque. Basic Read the Rest…

5 Day Isle of Skye and Scottish Highlands Itinerary

Glencoe Isle of Skye and Scottish Highlands itinerary trip Scotland

In August, I had my very first look at the beautiful Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye! Spectacular landscapes, castles, mysterious lochs, waterfalls, tasty seafood dinners, and Highland coos are a few of the many treasured memories associated with our Scottish Highlands itinerary. The Highlands make up the northwestern part of Scotland, and designate a primarily historical divide with the Lowlands area where there were once much larger cultural and language divides. Although a huge land area, the Highlands and the northern islands of Scotland are sparsely populated, primarily rural, rugged, and full of biodiversity. This area is perfect for those looking for natural beauty and an escape from cities. We did this first trip to the Highlands and Isle of Skye with Edinburgh-based small tour operator Rabbie’s Travel, and we’ll share our own trip experiences and lots of photos on that tour! We’ll also provide a general Scottish Read the Rest…

Tips for Buying and Using the Oyster Card in London

London Oyster Card

London is one of the top travel destinations in the world, but navigating this large city can be overwhelming for a first time visitor. Using an Oyster card, a credit card sized transport smartcard, is an easy way to save time and money if you are planning to use public transportation in London. An Oyster card can be used on just about every form of transport within London including public bus, tram, and rail services within the city. Our goal is help you decide if an Oyster card is a good fit for you and to help you effectively use your card on public transportation in London. First we’ll cover the main types of Oyster cards that are available, how to choose the best one, and how to buy an Oyster card. Then we’ll talk about where you can use them, how to use them for travel, how to recharge Read the Rest…

Hidden Edinburgh Attractions: 25 Lesser Known Things to Do in Edinburgh

Dean Village hidden top Edinburgh attractions Scotland

There are so many fantastic Edinburgh attractions and we keep discovering new ones as we delve deeper into this historical city. A first time visitor to Edinburgh will generally stay busy exploring the city’s many highlights such as Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, most of these main attractions are located within the UNESCO designated Old Town and New Town. However, for those visitors who have already seen the highlights, there is much more to see beyond these top Edinburgh attractions. So whether you have a long stay in Edinburgh or are visiting for the second or twelfth time, we’ll share some Edinburgh attractions we think are worth visiting that you may have not yet visited. These lesser known attractions include Edinburgh’s second castle, small museums on the Royal Mile, two National Trust sites, hidden gardens, walking paths, mysterious underground passages, local markets, and even a beach! We’ll also talk about lesser Read the Rest…

A Guide to Attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta New Mexico hot air balloon festival

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is the largest hot air ballooning event in the world and is said to be the most photographed event on earth! Each October, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is held in Albuquerque, New Mexico and hundreds of balloonists and thousands of tourists from around the world flock to the Land of Enchantment for a chance to witness nine days of spectacular hot air ballooning events. Events include the mass ascension of hundreds of balloons, a gas balloon race, balloon glows, balloon competitions, and more! This is a dazzling event of colorful beauty and one of my favorite festivals in the world. I have had the pleasure to attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta both in 2009 when I was living and working in Albuquerque and then again in 2016, so this post has been significantly updated with information from both visits! Interested in attending the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta yourself? Read the Rest…

Edinburgh Festivals in August: An Essential Planning Guide to 6 Festivals

Edinburgh festivals in August guide festival Edinburgh festivals in August guide

Edinburgh festivals are well-known around the world, lending the city one of its nicknames, Festival City. But did you know that six major festivals take place in Edinburgh during the month of August? Edinburgh is home to 12 major festivals each year, and half of these festivals take place in August. These six festivals celebrate art, theater, world cultures, books, and even the performance of military bands. Events range from the traditional (opera) to the intellectual (talks by famous authors) to the downright zany (performance of an acrobat doing handstands on eggs)! August is a busy but special time in Edinburgh as the historical capital city welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world. There are hundreds of events and performances each day in the city during August, and in one day we actually attended events from five different Edinburgh festivals! We’ll share our own experience of attending the Read the Rest…

21 Things to do in Edinburgh Scotland: The Highlights

top 21 things to do in Edinburgh Scotland

There are so many things to do in Edinburgh Scotland! We have been living in a village near Edinburgh since February and are still discovering so many new things each time we visit. But I wanted to share a guide to some of the top things to see in Edinburgh for those planning a visit. A first time visitor naturally wants to see some of the highlights of this gorgeous city that holds two UNESCO designations for its higgledy-piggledy medieval Old Town and its well-planned Georgian New Town. Our recommendations include visiting the city’s iconic medieval castle, climbing an extinct volcano, visiting the world’s largest monument to a writer, seeing Scotland’s crown jewels, sipping whisky, going underground to explore some of the city’s medieval past, viewing world-class art, and paying homage to a famous little dog. If you have control over the timing of your visit, you may want to plan Read the Rest…

Bucolic Beauty in Scotland: Best of the Scottish Borders with Rabbie’s Tours

Scott's View Scottish Borders highlights travel Rabbies

A visit to the Scottish Borders is an easy day trip from Edinburgh, and allows visitors to get a glimpse into a relatively unknown region of Scotland. The Scottish Borders is region located in the southeast part of Scotland, with the Southern section forming part of the border with England. It is sparsely populated, largely rural, and covered with rolling hills, wild moorland and meandering rivers. Like in many regions of Scotland, you’ll find historic towns, ruined abbeys, castles, footpaths, gardens, and farmland. Just south of the Borders, you can also visit the UNESCO heritage site Hadrian’s Wall and loads of places steeped in Roman history. The Scottish Borders is well known for its agricultural and food products, often referred to as Scotland’s natural larder and fresh local produce and farm-to-table meals are easy to find here. Short and long distance walking paths crisscross the entire region and are a great way to Read the Rest…

Ceylon Tea Trails in Sri Lanka: Luxury, Tea, and Colonial Ambiance

Ceylon Tea Trails Sri Lanka hotel resort Tea Country

Ceylon Tea Trails is probably the most coveted place to stay in Sri Lanka, and a perfect place for history and tea lovers like us. Nestled among the scenic tea-carpeted hills of the Bogawantalawa region, you’ll find five colonial-era tea planter bungalows which have been turned into a private luxury resort. Each of the historical bungalows has its own distinctive character and offers a boutique luxury experience in Sri Lanka’s Tea Country. Each of the bungalows offers 4 to 6 unique rooms and a dedicated butler, chef, and house staff. Ceylon Tea Trails was the first Relais & Châteaux property in Sri Lanka and remains one of only two in the country. A stay here is worry and bill free as rates include all meals, most drinks, laundry, taxes, and services. A typical day here includes waking up to a traditional Bed Tea each morning served by the butler, spending the afternoon by Read the Rest…

Planning a Day in Alexandria Egypt

Al-Haramlik Palace things to do in Alexandria Egypt

Alexandria Egypt has a very impressive and storied past, beginning with its founding by Alexander the Great around 331 B.C. Nicknamed the Pearl of the Mediterranean and affectionately referred to as Alex by locals, Alexandria is a Mediterranean port city and the second largest city in Egypt. During the Hellenistic period, it was home to both the legendary Great Library of Alexandria and the Pharos, a lighthouse ranking among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Alexandria was the setting for the stormy love story between Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Marc Antony as well as a cosmopolitan gathering spot for intellectuals in the early twentieth century. The city has definitely lost some of the grandeur of its past and today’s Alexandria is filled with concrete apartment buildings, office buildings, and traffic-filled streets. However, with a bit of searching travelers can still find bits of Alexandria’s glorious past, including Greco-Roman monuments, Read the Rest…