Friday, January 25, 2019

Lucerne, Switzerland

Switzerland is clean, scenic and a little more expensive than other European destinations.
We found it reasonable for a few days stopover to Austria and Germany.
If you are driving, be sure to purchase a vignette (sticker for the car windshield) at a gas station before you cross the border.

I chose Lucerne because I was interested in a compact city that was more natural beauty, less business hub. And, I was really interested in seeing the covered bridges with their ornate paintings. I have many other places in this amazing country on the list. But, this was a great start.

Beautiful Alps, Lakes, and awesome chocolate await! 

 The Lion Monument is a beautiful rock relief that commemorates the Swiss Guards that were massacred in 1792.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Istanbul, Turkey

The former Constantinople, Istanbul is one of my favorite cities on the Planet.
Existing in Europe and Asia, it is rich in history, culture and so, so good food.

A few things to note: US citizens need to get a Visa. It is easy to do online. Currently it costs $20.

Where to stay -
If you stay in the historic district, all the major sites are easily reached by walking.

On the Do not miss list:

The Basilica Cistern -
[For a fun introduction, watch the movie "Inferno" before your trip]

 An added bonus is the pleasant temperature when you venture inside the Cistern.

 Medusa stones in the Cistern

Topkapi Palace, The Blue Mosque, and Hagia Sophia are also close by. Do not Miss!

*NOTE:  Women need to cover their hair & shoulders. Tourists wearing shorts should have knees covered. The Blue Mosque is an active mosque, so be respectful. Luckily, it's such a tourist attraction, that they offer a cover-up for men & women to use at the entrance. Also, you can buy scarves everywhere in Istanbul. Bonus souvenir to bring home!

 Inside Hagia Sophia

A visit to Istanbul should include a visit to the Grand Bazaar. Watch your wallet, be prepared to negotiate and walk away (even a few times), but DO enter this amazing maze of shopping delight. There are deals to be had and some nice vendors. Patience and knowing your spending budget makes it a more pleasant experience.


Lastly, do enjoy some amazing Turkish cuisine. Dark chocolate pistachio baklava and organic thin Turkish Delight were my favorites. Every meal was amazing! Lots of vegetarian options, great soups, breads, and kebabs for the carnivores.

The Perfect Daypack

Daypacks are convenient for hands-free movement and storage. But, the inability to see what's happening behind you can be a safety concern.

I did a lot of research to find a daypack/backpack for the hubby.  It needed to be secure, comfortable, and able to hold raincoats, snacks and the inevitable purchases along the way.

This one met and exceeded all those requirements.

The security feature was tested while in Florence, Italy.
After being bumped while shopping (by a well dressed woman who quickly ran out of the store and disappeared into a huge crowd), we found that she was unsuccessful in unlatching the zipper. All contents were still secure.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is one of Europe's beautiful capitals. That's common knowledge, but what I took away from Prague, was a very interesting and important travel lesson.

I was there over a Friday the 13th weekend. Yes, it was as ominous as it sounds.
Unable to book a hotel or Airbnb, I found assistance at the train station tourism office.
The location was geared toward a younger crowd...very modern industrial meets vampire hotel. And, it turned out perfect.

Unfortunately, I got sick. The good news is that it was all manageable. I was able to find a nearby restaurant that served amazing soup. As the weather had turned cooler, I easily picked up a scarf in one of the shops along a main street. The bed at the hotel turned out to be an amazing cocoon of comfort on a rainy Sunday spent indoors recuperating.

A few notes on the City - lots of attractions (Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Astronomical Clock) easily accessible on foot, you do need to watch your pockets (especially over a crowded weekend like mine), and if you miss the below dessert then don't tell me about it. Ever.

 Hotel Room Wall

Hanging with Death on Friday, the 13th

There should be one of these on every street corner.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


This small country has so much to offer. Slovenia is very affordable, friendly and easy to get around. Even better, there are no toll roads.

**If driving from Italy or a bordering country, be aware that you will need a vignette (sticker for your car to enter the country). They sell weekly, monthly, etc. vignettes at gas stations prior to reaching the border.**

Ljubljana, the capital is easily seen on foot.  You must try their dumplings!

The visitor center has loads of useful information. Also, finding people who speak some English is not difficult in Ljubljana.

The Old Town district is charming and picturesque. The Triple and Dragon bridges are not to be missed.

The Central Market (go on Fridays) is close by.
This small capital even comes complete with a castle on a hill. So much to love about Ljubljana!

Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge are not to be missed! You can find free parking nearby the Lake. The walk through the Gorge is easy for all ages. No hiking or difficult terrain. It does get cool, so if you are visiting in September (my preferred month in Europe), bring a sweater in late afternoons.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is one of my favorite destinations in Europe. The currency exchange is extremely favorable, the city is rich in history, and you will not find better goulash in the World.

Walk the Chain bridge from Pest over to Buda.  Visit the Buda Castle. Take in the sites along the Danube (You will definitely recognize the Parliment building), and relax in one of the thermal baths, like the SZÉCHENYI.

As with most European tourist destinations, be mindful of pickpockets. Otherwise, we felt very safe while visiting. The people were friendly and helpful. Visit the Central Market Hall and mingle with the locals while getting some great food and soveniers. Don't forget the paprika!
Love, love this city.

Santorini, Greece

This destination had been on my bucket list for a long time. Yes, it is as postcard beautiful as you imagine. A few things to note:

I would avoid Summer in Santorini as tourism is high, and cruise ship traffic is heavy.

The weather in the Mediterranean is also warm, so consider your comfort level for time of year to visit.

Secure your transportation before landing at the port, or ask for the taxi cost from the driver before agreeing to the ride.

Traveling via ferry offers amazing views and an efficient means of reaching Santorini from Athens or other Greek Isles.

Don't miss out on the numerous boutiques as you walk the towns on the Island.
Traveling via local bus is economical and easy. Just be sure to be ready at Sunset to capture some beautiful photos!

Cappadocia, Turkey

Turkey is a beautiful, complicated and unforgettable destination. The combination of historical significance and natural landscapes, make it a must-see. With careful planning and safety awareness, it is a safe trip to consider.

Cappadocia is located on the Asian side of Turkey, and is easily reachable via short plane ride from Istanbul.

Some essential things to do in Cappadocia:

- Balloon ride at Sunrise
- Stay in Cave Hotel
- Tour of Imagination Valley
- Fairy Chimneys

I highly recommend the town or Urgup for a base.

Try the giant beans and pistachio baklava that is available across Turkey.

Eat incredible food & enjoy all that Turkey has to offer! 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Travel Safety

I will just say it. I have an ugly travel purse. On purpose. And, it's perfect.

My goal was a slash-proof strap (it has metal in the strap), RFID Blocking, and locks on the outside compartments. This purse has all these qualities, and two water bottle (or umbrella) pockets.

I have tested this purse in many countries. It gives me convenience, security and peace of mind. And, no one would be tempted to steal the purse itself lol.

Leave your handcrafted, quality leather purses at home. This Travelon purse is your new best travel friend.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Dubrovnik, Croatia

My love for this City (as well as my love for Game of Thrones that filmed here) is very real.

Dubrovnik is easy to get around on foot, but there are stairs, many stairs. It is a great offset to the wonderful food that you will encounter here.

For US citizens, the currency exchange is great.

Walk the streets of the Old Town. Eat at an outside cafe. It is a magical place.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Italy - Tuscany & Umbria

The land of food and fashion never disappoints. There are so many places that are a must for the first timer (Rome, Florence, Venice). I want to share some of the surprises that you may not have considered. Tuscany and Umbria should top your must-see list. Many small hill towns offer wonderful regional food, great artisans and beautiful sunsets.

Montepulciano is a wonderful hill town that is both accessible and easy to navigate. The views are amazing, so the drive is worth it. (I do not recommend trains for getting to all the small towns.) Don't miss the leather and copper artisans likeBottega del Rame. There are many specialty shops for every taste.

Chianciano is another great small hill town complete with thermal spa and olive trees. Stay in an aguriturismo for an authentic and memorable experience.

Todi, in Umbria at night.

There are so many places to see in Italy. Go, eat and sleep there soon!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Baden Baden, Germany

This beautifully quaint Black Forest German town is famous for its curative waters. It attracts celebrities, royals, and (in our case) the tourist who just happens to stop by on the way back from Switzerland. A drive through the Black Forest is beautiful. I also understand where some fairy tale inspirations may have originated (spooky at dusk)

Close to the border with France, Baden Baden (meaning "bath") is definitely a must-see if you are in the area.