Category Archives: Travel Destinations

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…

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park Colorado: History, Hauntings, & Whiskey

The Stanley Hotel Estes Park Colorado

The Stanley Hotel is best known for being the inspiration for Stephen King’s bestselling novel The Shining and the subsequent film starring Jack Nicholson as the slowly driven mad overseer. The Stanley Hotel is located in Estes Park Colorado, the gateway to one of the most visited national parks in the United States: Rocky Mountain National Park. Set amidst the beautiful mountain scenery of Colorado, The Stanley Hotel was built in 1909 as a grand summer resort that catered to wealthy travelers from the East Coast. The Stanley Hotel has a storied history that begins well before Stephen King stepped foot on the property, and the hotel once hosted guests like Molly Brown, John Philip Sousa, and Theodore Roosevelt. Today the hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. Visitors to Estes Park flock to the hotel to take Read the Rest…

Louisiana Plantations Guide: 12 River Road Plantations

Nottoway Plantation Louisiana Plantations River Road New Orleans Baton Rouge

We recently visited 12 Louisiana plantations along Louisiana’s River Road between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Louisiana’s River Road parallels the east and west banks of the Mississippi River for about 70 miles (about 100 miles of actual road) through the Louisiana parishes of St. Charles, St. John, and St. James. Prior to the American Civil War, this river road was lined with approximately 350 antebellum plantation homes, from relatively simple farm houses to grand Versailles-like mansions. Many early Louisiana plantations grew rice, indigo, or tobacco, but by the mid-nineteenth century the majority were growing sugar cane, which became the most profitable cash crop in the state. Louisiana would become the most wealthy state in the country by the onset of the Civil War, made possible only by the forced hard labor of thousands of slaves who worked at these plantations. Not surprisingly, the Civil War and the end of slavery Read the Rest…

London Day Trip: Visiting Blenheim Palace and the Cotswolds with Zestrip

Zestrip day trip from London Blenheim Palace Cotswolds Lacock Abbey

Recently Laurence and I were invited to go on a London day trip to Blenheim Palace and the Cotswolds with ZesTrip. London is one of those cities in which you can keep returning and still find plenty of new things to do, but it is also a city that makes a great base for some really interesting day trips. We prefer to actually overnight in the places we visit; however, sometimes we are short on time and a day trip is a very convenient way to see places that you would not otherwise have time to visit. ZesTrip is a marketplace for tours in several locations that are designed and led by local experts, with activities ranging from city walks to hot air balloon rides to sit-down dinners. We were very excited to visit Blenheim Palace and a few of the Cotswolds villages on our private tour by car with Read the Rest…

12 Things to do in Marrakesh Morocco

Koutoubia Mosque things to do in Marrakesh Morocco Marrakech

Marrakesh is a sensory-rich city in Morocco where you can experience a unique blend of ancient traditions and modern conveniences. A city where donkey carts, spice sellers, and snake charmers intermingle with luxury spas, coffee shops, and tour buses. The city contains a number of culturally and architecturally important sites and Marrakesh’s medina was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Laurence and I recently spent almost 2 weeks in Marrakech, both visiting the city as tourists and using it as a base to catch up on some work. During our time in Marrakech we had ample opportunity to eat plenty of the local dishes, shop in the souks, visit the city’s museums and palaces, check out the world-famous Jemaa el-Fnaa, stroll in the gardens, and sleep in a riad. We also encountered getting lost, haggling in the souks, being scammed, and getting sick in the city, so we’ll Read the Rest…

Tips on Using & Buying the London Pass: Is it Worth It?

buying The London Pass tips advice

If you are planning a trip to London and want to spend some time admiring great artwork and visiting grand royal palaces, you’ll likely save money and time by purchasing the London Pass. The London Pass not only allows for free admission to over 60 of the top-visited attractions in London (i.e., Windsor Castle, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey), but it also allows you to skip the long entrance lines at several of these attractions and includes a 1-day free Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour ticket. In many cases, the London Pass is a good value and will save you money; however, in some cases, the London Pass may not be a good deal for you, especially if this is not your first visit to London or you have very limited time in the city. We’ll help provide all the information you need to know to decide if the Read the Rest…

Oak Alley Plantation: Our Overnight Stay at a Louisiana Plantation

Oak Alley Plantation tour overnight New Orleans Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation is one of over a dozen Louisiana plantation homes open to the public that line the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. In the mid-nineteenth century, over 300 plantations lined the river in this area, most of the plantations growing sugar cane which became the principal cash crop in this area by the early nineteenth century. Oak Alley Plantation is often considered the Grande Dame of the Great River Road with a lovely Greek Revival style main house and a number of dependencies built between 1837 to 1839. Oak Alley is no longer a working sugar cane plantation, but the original main house and a few other original buildings remain on the property as well as the famous 300-year-old alley of oaks that gives this plantation its name and photogenic fame. It is also famous for being shown in numerous TV shows and films, including Hush Hush Read the Rest…

Inside the Vasari Corridor in Florence: Touring the Medici’s Secret Passage

Inside the Vasari Corridor Florence Italy Medici

We recently had the pleasure of touring inside the Vasari Corridor in Florence Italy. The Vasari Corridor is an enclosed private passageway built in the 16th century by the Medici family to connect the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti. This narrow elevated passageway allowed the Medici family and their privileged guests to travel freely and unnoticed and to have advantageous views of Florence and its populace. The Vasari Corridor snakes across many of Florence’s most important landmarks as it makes it way from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Pitti Palace, including the Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, Santa Felicita church, and the Boboli Gardens. The Vasari Corridor remained closed to the public until the 1970’s when it was restored and opened for select special openings and for group tours provided by specialist tour companies. Today, you too can enjoy the privilege of going inside the Vasari Corridor in Florence and Read the Rest…

Attending the Edinburgh International Science Festival in the World’s Festival City

street art Edinburgh International Science Festival City Festivals in Edinburgh

We recently attended the Edinburgh International Science Festival which kicks off the annual festival activities in Edinburgh. Scotland may bring to mind images of rugged castles, grazing Highland cattle, lush green glens, sheep, bagpipes, haggis, and men in kilts. However, Edinburgh, the country’s capital, also lays claim to being the world’s leading festival city. Edinburgh is currently host to 12 major festivals held throughout the year, celebrating art, music, dance, storytelling, books, military tattoos, science, and even the arrival of the New Year. The Edinburgh International Science Festival is the first of these festivals, held for 2 weeks each Spring, and was founded in 1988 as the world’s first public science festival! The science festival hosts a variety of fun and informative workshops, demonstrations, and talks celebrating science and technology with events geared towards both children and adults. We attended several festival events around the city during the science festival Read the Rest…

Planning an Oxford Day Trip: A Perfect Day Trip from London

Exeter College chapel Oxford day trip from London England UK

Oxford is a university city situated about 60 miles from London, making a Oxford day trip an ideal way to get out of the bustling capital for a day or weekend to explore this compact historical city. Nicknamed the City of Dreaming Spires, Oxford is best known as the home of England’s oldest university, the University of Oxford, which is still one of the most respected in the country. However, while a trip to Oxford wouldn’t be complete without touring a couple of university buildings, Oxford has much else to offer. A visitor might go on a walking tour of the downtown, browse for souvenirs at the Covered Market, go punting on the River Cherwell, take a tour of a medieval castle, stroll in a pretty garden, enjoy a drink in a historical tavern, or even take a short drive to visit one of England’s most beautiful and famous country Read the Rest…

Exploring the Art at the Borghese Gallery in Rome

Apollo and Daphne Bernini Borghese Gallery Galleria Borghese Rome Italy

The Borghese Gallery is the perfect place for art lovers to admire art in a beautiful space without big crowds in Rome. While the Vatican Museums are filled with treasures and are a must visit site in the Eternal City, it is also one of the largest and most crowded museums on the planet! But luckily Rome is full of art, some contained inside museums, some tucked away in churches, and some weathering in its piazzas. The Galleria Borghese, or Borghese Gallery, features one of the world’s greatest private art collections assembled by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the 17th century in his Roman garden villa. The collection is particularly rich in ancient Roman, Renaissance, and Baroque art, with major works by Bernini, Titian, Caravaggio, Raphael, Correggio, Rubens, and Canova. A great thing about the Borghese Gallery is that it has a timed reservation system that keeps the crowds to a minimum; however, Read the Rest…

Discovering the Romantic Poets on our Grand Tour in Rome

Romantic Poets Grand Tour in Rome

During our modern-day Grand Tour in Rome this past October, we had the opportunity to learn more about the English Romantic poets and their history within the Eternal City on a tour with Context Travel. From the 16th century until the mid 19th century, many wealthy young English men would travel to Italy on a Grand Tour in order to finish off their education and gain a better understanding of art, culture, and history. However, many used it as an excuse to gamble, drink, party, and visit prostitutes. Three of the most famous English Romantic poets: George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron), Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats, would all visit Italy and the city of Rome would serve as a backdrop for significant personal events in the poets’ lives and as an inspiration for their poetry. The guided tour includes a visit to the last residence of John Keats, a wander through a Read the Rest…

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express Train: A Luxury Train Journey from London to Venice

Belmond Venice Simplon Orient Express

This past October we had the pleasure of riding the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train from London to Venice where we held our wedding ceremony. The original Orient Express train service ran from 1883 to 2009, and its name became associated with glamour, luxury, intrigue, and even murder! In its heyday, it was the most luxurious train in Europe and today this tradition lives on with Belmond’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE). The VSOE makes regular luxury train journeys across Europe, offering gourmet meals, private overnight cabins, and attentive staff within its wonderfully restored historical train carriages. The signature trip is the 36-hour luxury train journey from London to Venice which has to be one of the most elegant ways to arrive in Venice! We’ll share all you need to know to decide if this trip is a good fit for you, from the historical background of the Orient Express to how to book Read the Rest…

French Tea Time: A Guide to Afternoon Tea in Paris

Four Seasons Hotel George V La Galerie luxury afternoon tea in Paris

After many cups of tea, we’ve put together a guide to afternoon tea in Paris. People often associate Paris with outdoor cafés and coffee and wine culture, so you may be surprised to know that there are a number of great spots for savoring tea in Paris. The act of drinking tea in France dates back to the 17th century and it was long associated with being a pastime of the aristocracy. Whether you are looking for an indulgent afternoon tea served with a silver tiered tray of sandwiches and pastries at a grand luxury hotel or simply a cup of tea and a madeleine at a more casual spot, you are sure to find something that fits your taste and budget. We’ll also share some of our favorite French tea brands for those wanting to buy and savor tea at home. We are still exploring all the afternoon tea spots in Paris, Read the Rest…