Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Azores - The Hawaii of the Atlantic

There are places so beautiful that you want to keep them a secret.
The Azores is such a place. The abundance of natural space, lack of tourists, and temperate climate make it an Eden in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

A great place to start your Azores adventure is on the Island of Sao Miguel. Ponta Delgada, the Capital, is a charming town that is walkable and inviting.

The beautiful tiled streets echo their connection as an autonomous region of Portugal.

A walk along the harbor reminds you that this vibrant city was once a simple fishing village.

Beautiful arches, churches and charming cafes dot the island.

 Hydrangeas and Belladonna bloom everywhere.

Beaches and lakes complete this idyllic paradise.

Geo-thermal hot springs provide not only a therapeutic, relaxing soak but also can cook your dinner!

This traditional Azorean stew cooks underground for six hours. It is delicious.

Speaking of food, there is an abundance of amazing food to be found.

Limpets, a local favorite, grace this pasta dish. I was fortunate enough to run into a local man who was gathering limpets.

Another unique surprise in the Azores is the Gorreana tea plantation. It is the only tea plantation in Europe.

With so many things to do and see, be sure to save yourself the stress of driving steep, narrow roads and hire a tour guide.  Green Visions Tours was amazing.

There are nine volcanic islands in the Azores. Explore and enjoy. But, keep the secret for your closest friends!

Happy traveling.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Savannah - The many facets of a Southern Gem

Savannah, Georgia is one of the places that stays with you. The strolls down the Spanish Moss lined streets take you back to another era. Yet, the ever evolving culinary delights propel you into new territory.

If you are planning your first visit or returning again, here are some highlights on the not to be missed list -

Starting with breakfast, this unassuming restaurant is a perfect start to your Savannah experience.

 Clary's Cafe - come hungry.

Once you are fueled, be sure to visit all the shops by the River. Here are a few of my favorites:

Savannah Bee Company -

Check out the orange blossom body lotion and their heel balm. 

Byrd's cookies is another crowd pleaser. Although not exclusively in Savannah, if you need to pick up a gift, don't forget these mini bite size cookies.

Be sure to stroll and enjoy the architecture, art and history that abounds. The parks offer green space relief during your walk.

For a refreshing stop, pop into the Gryphon Tea Room for Afternoon Tea. The former pharmacy and SCAD bookstore, it is full of charm and delicious delights.

Try the blueberry lemonade

A note on fine dining - Savannah's historic district boasts a dizzying array of celebrity chef and award winning restaurants. Featured on the Chef's Table, the Grey should be on your gastronomic bucket list. Located in an old Greyhound bus station, it is another example of how Savannah keeps reinventing and evolving.

Aside from the ghost tours and many other excursions, you cannot visit Savannah without at least a nod to the Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil experience.

One of the things that I love in this walkable city is how manageable it feels, even though you never get to everything. Next time, time.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Packing Light - The Simplicity Guide

Early in my travels, I learned the downside to overpacking for a trip. Dragging around too much stuff, worrying about lost luggage, and wasting time looking in zippered pockets to find things (and looking...again and again) was not ideal. If you are still suffering from any of these issues, read on.

To travel with less stress and more freedom, here are some tips.

Leave with one carry-on suitcase - 
This is a must. Not only will you start off your trip lighter, but you will gain precious time starting your holiday, not waiting at the luggage carousel for checked luggage.
And don't worry, keep reading for suggestions for handling shopping finds, souvenirs, etc.

Bring a one week wardrobe -
I follow this rule whether I am traveling for one week, or three weeks. Everywhere in the World, people need to wash their clothes. I have yet to find a country where I could not find a way to launder my clothes. Be mindful of your fabric choices also. Quick dry, hand wash items give you an edge on keeping laundry from being a chore during your trip. The rise of AirBnB has also made following this rule super easy, as many places have washer/dryer available.

Color choices are also important. I base my wardrobe on the anchor neutral (Black, Navy, Grey or Cream) that will pull all the pieces together. Being able to mix/match your wardrobe items will expand your options. Not overthinking what you are going to wear also leaves you more time to enjoy your trip.

Another option (I plan to try on my next trip) is to bring items that you have marked to give away to family/friends or to donate. Wear them during your trip, and donate along the way. *Research donation options before your trip. The intent is not for us to leave garbage when we travel. Make sure the items get disposed of in a helpful way.

Minimize your products/toiletries - 
I know some of us love our grooming and personal care products. But, simplifying can be done. One great product that I swear by is shampoo soap. They last around 50 washes with no TSA liquid limitations and hassles.

Re-think the electronics/personal devices -
If half of your suitcase is filled with chargers, gaming devices, and computers...decide whether you are really getting away from it all...or not. Modern technology does aid us in our travels, but we can all unplug a little more.

Shopping Abroad - 
Finding items that will remind you of your trip (my weakness is Christmas ornaments) is always a fun part of the journey. You can plan for these items in your packing strategy. I always pack snacks. Space becomes available as the snacks are consumed.  Also, I recommend packing a flat, expandable tote bag with luggage ID tag on it. It can act as additional luggage, and is also handy as a beach bag. Another option is to ship items back home.

Do a Test Run -
A good way to determine what you really need is to pack your bag ahead of time.
Waiting until the night before your departure when you are worried about watering plants, stopping the mail and the hundred other things you may have forgotten, is not that time.

Place everything in your bag (yes, the one carry-on bag). Make sure that all items fit comfortably and your bag zips easily.

Next, think through your trip (Day 1 - outfit, toiletries, lingerie, etc.) and unpack your bag.
As you remove items, determine whether you need everything that you have packed. Do you need all the shoes, too many short sleeve tops and not enough layering items? Go through the trip wardrobe and edit as needed. Once you have this formula down, all your trips can follow this pattern, adjusting for season/weather.

Packing Techniques -
I have made learning the art of folding and packing things a personal quest. However, It does not take an origami master to learn a few folding hacks.

Some people find success with rolling their clothes, with or without the use of tissue paper. I am not a fan of this time-consuming process, but try it out for yourself.

My favorite method is to group clothes by length, and cross items. First, I place pants and longer items flat on a bed. I then place shirts and sweaters over them in the opposite direction. Finally, I place socks, lingerie, and smaller items in the center of the cross. I fold the pants/longer items over the shirts, then cover with the shirt ends, making a square bundle. I place this bundle on one side of my suitcase.  *If you have larger clothes or thicker items, consider the rolling method.

Another tip is to wear your heaviest items (i.e, coats in Winter) onboard the plane, rather than packing in your bag.

Hopefully these tips will make your next adventure lighter & easier.
Happy Travels!

Monday, June 17, 2019

ETIAS - How Travel to Europe will change in 2021

I love traveling to Europe. The food, culture, sites and close proximity to so many neighboring countries make it so easy to love. With the added perk of having a common currency, the Euro, Americans have enjoyed multi-country hopping with little fuss within the European Union. However, that will no longer be the case for certain countries in Europe.

New changes are coming for American travelers. Although it is not a huge deal, here are the basics of what you need to know as of now.

 What is ETIAS?

(*The below is from the ETIAS website which provides reliable, up-to-date information)

"ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System.

The European Union has created this visa waiver program to protect and strengthen its borders. The main goal of the ETIAS visa waiver for Europe is to identify possible threats or risks associated with visitors traveling to any of the Schengen Area countries.

The ETIAS visa waiver program will be needed to enter a Schengen member country.

Beginning in 2021, all visitors that currently do not need a visa to enter Europe will be expected to apply for an ETIAS travel authorization.

The ETIAS for Europe will grant travelers authorization to visit the ETIAS Countries 

 So fellow travelers, before you pack your bag in 2021, please do & remember the 

1) Apply online for the ETIAS visa waiver.
     The application should only take around 10 minutes, and the cost is expected to be
     around 7 Euro. Quick & Easy!
2) Be sure that you receive your email confirmation.

3) "You can enter the Schengen member states for as many times as you want, for as long
     as your ETIAS is valid, and you have not stayed more than 90 days in a 180 days
     period." You will NOT need a separate waiver for each member country.

4)  Every traveler (including children and seniors) will be required to have the
     authorization. Those under the age of 18 and over 70 are exempt from paying the fee.

5) Just FYI, ETIAS and Schengen Visa are NOT the same.
     If you have the ETIAS, you do not need the Schengen Visa. More on that, if you are
     like me and just want to know more -

So, stay tuned! 2021 is not here yet. More countries are poised to join the EU, and there could possibly be more countries that become part of the new ETIAS program.

With a little planning, you can still enjoy a Belgium waffle, Italian gelato and German beer with one easy ETIAS waiver 💙

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Solid Choice

The strategy to ensure the perfect travel toiletries can be difficult. Carrying too many 3 oz. bottles is not convenient. Running out or being dependent upon hotel (or possibly Airbnbs) to have adequate offerings can be hit or miss. Buying abroad can be fun, but I always ended up leaving products behind. Finally, I found the best option to solve the shampoo and conditioner dilemma.

Shampoo bars are amazing. The organic ones that I have vetted are non-drying and last around 50 shampoos. They pack easily in a soap case.

Best of all, they are better for the environment. No more single use plastics and tossing bottles everywhere you visit.

Whether you use these for travel or for home use, they will really simplify your life.

My favorite scents are coconut and orange.  Here are  a few of my favs...


Saturday, April 6, 2019

The dreaded four SSSS

There is nothing like travel surprises. Some are great, some not so much. The later was the case when I received a SSSS designation on my boarding pass. Below explains what this means, what you need to know, and how to possibly avoid it in the future.

Referred to as Secondary Security Screening Selection (SSSS), it means that you will be delayed in that trek to the bathroom, book store and your other pre-boarding rituals.

My first screening took 60 minutes. It can take as little as 15-30 minutes.You will be pulled out of general TSA screening. A supervisor will be called. You will wait. Most likely, there will be three TSA agents involved. It will feel awkward, but don't panic. Sometimes these screenings are random, so cooperate and know it is to help keep us all safe while flying.

You will get a full body pat down. Every item with you will be searched, thoroughly. Items will be swabbed. Once you are free to go, keep that stamped boarding pass. I repeat, do no lose this piece of paper! If you cannot produce it at the gate, you will be required to repeat this process. At the gate, you may be searched again or asked additional questions.
Side note - My checked luggage (which I rarely bring) was also pulled and searched. I found a nice note in my suitcase later telling me that it had been searched.

If you do not see the SSSS on your next trip, lucky you! The Scarlet Letter of Travel may have passed you by.

If you continue to receive the SSSS on future flights (as I did), the reasons are likely that you booked a last minute flight, purchased a one way ticket, have an unlucky name, or had erratic travel patterns. I guess not everyone appreciates the nomad wanderer. It is possible that you have been placed on a travel watch list.

What to do? Visit and apply for a redress number. Homeland Security will respond via letter within 50 days. If you receive a redress number, include it each time that you book a flight. In most cases, that will prevent at least one four letter word from ruining your day.

Happy travels!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Alaska - Anchorage & Seward

Alaska offers visitors so much to see and do. If you are short on time, I would suggest a first trip to include Anchorage and Seward. Both are easy to access and enjoy.

You will need to decide the time of year that works best for you. Summer offers long days. Early Spring limits your access if you want to venture into Denali, etc. but there are less crowds and glaciers are not diminished. Prices can also be lower during shoulder season.

Anchorage is the perfect base for your visit. From the moment you arrive at the airport, the view is picturesque with the backdrop of Mountains. Keep a lookout for Moose and enjoy the shops and check out work by local artisans.

Below are a few must-see stops when you have a week or less to enjoy Alaska:

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center - If you want to help locals care for animals, plan a visit to see the wildlife and support their efforts. You can walk or drive through the  park.

There are also easy hiking opportunities close by. Tip: Stay on the trails and/or bring bells to shake occasionally. This deters bear from crossing your path.



Visit the glaciers! North of Anchorage, Matanuska Glacier is easy to access.

Tip: Watch your step. It is easy to venture a little further out than you intended on the ice! Oops.


Seward, Alaska offers great boat trips to see the glaciers and wildlife.

Hopefully, this small glimpse into our beautiful and wild 49th state entices you to visit soon!

Friday, March 1, 2019

Travel Jewelry

A frequent question arises regarding the bling dilemma while traveling.
I like to follow the advice "never take anything that you would dread to lose".
Hopping trains, running through airports, pickpockets, and other distractions can make that bracelet disappear before you know it!  

Tip: Many people buy new clothes, shoes, and accessories prior to a trip. This can be a mistake for several reasons. Stick to well developed, comfortable looks that are easy to pull together. This includes your jewelry looks.

I have created a jewelry travel wardrobe that removes worry while delivering a little style on the go. Here are a few of my favorites -

These stud earrings have traveled so much, they should have a passport. These beauties are Ideal cut Swarovski crystals from DiamondIdeals. Showstopper looks paired with budget friendly smarts. Always keep a pair of these in your travel bag. Versatile for casual to dressy.

This necklace echos my design style, but doesn't come with the same worry about loss.
It also comes with a lifetime warranty.

Lastly, my latest find comes my favorite Italian designer, Jennifer Tattanelli. This leather and Swarovski crystal bracelet comes in a multitude of colors, sizes, and can be combined for double, triple, and other variations.

Enjoy exploring without the worry of hotel safes, checking pockets and needless hassles.
Leave your fine jewelry at home. Shop these and sparkle in your travel jewelry.
And, tell them that the Travel Temptress sent you!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Takayama, Japan

Japan, my mother's homeland, brings to mind so many wonderful memories.
Today, I would like to share one of my favorite places to visit in Japan.

Takayama (means High Mountains) is a city in Japan's beautiful mountainous Gifu Prefecture (Hida Region). Tip: There are other places named Takayama, so check your map!

It is around five hours by shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo. Enjoy nice views and a chance to try wonderful train food like a bento box!

There is much to see and do. Here are my top recommendations:

Visit Shirakawago and Hida no Sato. Both have wonderfully preserved historic areas with traditionally built houses. Remarkably, they were built without using any nails.

There is a bus station right outside the Takayama train station. It takes about an hr. by bus to reach the town of Shirakawago (recognized as an Unesco site).  Ogimachi, an section located in Shirakawgo, has the highest concentration of the farmhouses.

A closer alternative is Hida no Sato. There are over 30 traditional houses and is an open air museum. It is located right in Takayama.

Another great thing about visiting Takayama is its historic Old Town. Quaint streets lined with buildings that date back to the 1600s, you can experience what Japan was like in the Edo period. Visit the shops and take a break with some delicious matcha tea snacks.

Lastly, another once-in-a-lifetime experience is to spend the night in a Buddhist temple.
Zenkoji temple offers overnight stays to guests from around the World. Sleeping on tatami mats in traditional Japanese style immerses you in the culture and history.

A stroll around Takayama offers a peaceful journey into Japan's past. It is a must-see on a trip to Japan.