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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Travel Tips for Holiday Times

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Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.


This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).


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TOP 5 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO IF YOU PLAN TO VACATION DURING ANY HOLIDAY


Believe it or not,  the holidays are upon us. Yes, if you are planning to go away for any holiday, even Flag Day, it's time to plan. For those who observe, this can mean anything from Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwaanza (Kwanzaa) and New Year's Day.



1. If you plan to travel during any holiday, then you should know that the prices are always going to be higher to travel to a destination and to stay. However, attractions and activities prices are usually the same. In fact, there may be some deals, sales or rewards during holiday times.



2. Speaking of activities, they will probably be numerous. Holiday time is tourist season times and local businesses depend on these times for their profits. (Information from news channels). If you travel at other times, you may notice some shops are not open or have limited hours (even Disney, believe it or not).



3. Book early. Cruises sell out fast, flights will be lower the further out you book, preferred lodging will be available. As soon as you are sure, book. If you are booking on your own, here are our tips.







4. Plan your activities, particularly during December but don't forget to leave some down time. It's your vacation after all, relax.. Departments of tourism and chamber of commerces will either send you pamphlets or allow you to download. If you are going to a small town, local events will sell out fast or have long lines. If you plan to dine out on the holiday itself, you will need reservations. Check out our tips here. One great publisher for guide books is Frommer.



5. Know where you're going. Seasons are reversed past the equator, some countries celebrate other holidays or may not observe what you're celebrating, bad weather can alter plans. Holiday time is the one time you should have travel insurance. If you're driving, allow plenty of time for traffic and have your car serviced.




Saturday, June 10, 2017

Intro to...Paris: Pilgrimage to Giverny: Monet's House

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This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).

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5 TIPS TO KNOW WHEN VISITING GIVERNY: 
The Gardens and House of artist Claude Monet


View of the house from the Gardens (editorial use)

1. Visiting the Gardens is usually tourists' main objective. But try to visit the house (not a problem if it rains). It helps to make the visit to Giverny complete. Buy a combo ticket and plan to stay in Giverny for the day. Finish up with the Musee des Impressionmisme down the street.



2. Visiting the house also makes you feel like you are getting to know Monet personally. Studying the art is one thing (always an insight to an artist's soul). See where he lived makes it intimate.



3. Even if you're not into art, you'll love the architecture and the era of the house. Monet loved Giverny and lived there from 1883 until he died in 1926. It seems as if the past and present are in the house at the same time, even almost 100 years later. History buffs will appreciate it.



4. You may feel inspired. Monet helped to inspire the Giverny Colony of impressionist artists who started living there circa 1887. If you're a beginner, don't worry, the gift shop will help you get started. You can also take home a little bit of Monet with you in many forms from socks to umbrellas.



5. You should know that the house and gardens were declared public in 1980 after extensive renovations and the creation of The Foundation Claude Monet. We certainly thank them for that because it makes touring the Gardens and the House possible. You can tour on your own or take a guided tour.

The Gardens from the House: a view to be envied


For more information: The Foundation Claude Monet

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Cycling and Traveling: Things to do

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Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.


This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).




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On the Road with your Bicycles
Copyright Marcia Crayton

(Note: this blog entry is about traveling with your bicycles. Some people go from city to city or state to state by bicycle. I haven't done that. Yet!)

You've probably seen travelers hauling anything and everything to enhance their vacation. What I see most often are bicycles. There's nothing like having your own bicycle, if possible. I've brought mine from Maine to Florida, literally up and down I-95. 

So, if you're new to cycling or if you're new to traveling with your bicycles, here's what you may need to know:


Traveling with your bicycles. Copyright Marcia Crayton



1.  Protect your vehicle. Get the bike rack that's best for your car. Most people who travel with their bikes and take long road trips have SUV's but not always. If your car can handle it, install a hitch. The bike racks that attach to car trunks can be complicated and may damage your paint if you're not careful.


Hitch Bike Rack. Copyright Marcia Crayton



2. Get the best bike rack you can afford and for the amount of bikes you want to take. If it goes into a hitch, you should be able to lock your rack to your car. Consider racks that swing down (to access the trunk area) or swing away (the entire assembly, bikes and all, can swing like a door) so that you can load and unload the car without taking the bikes off.  Make sure you lock your bikes to each other and to the rack.


Sightseeing with your bicycle. Copyright Marcia Crayton

3. Remember that it rains on the road. Your bikes will get wet. Covers are hard to find and hard to attach. They don't always stay on.


Remember to lock your bicycles. Copyright Marcia Crayton




4. Logistics: Consider your lodging and if you can bring your bikes in or if they will stay on your vehicle the entire trip. This means your hauling them everywhere: to eat, shop and sightsee. Investigate parking. Some parking garages are tight. (If you have cargo on top, you have to be able to have clearance or be able to remove the cargo, not always easy or practical).


Map out your trip. Copyright Marcia Crayton

5. Stop at the visitors center and get information for bike routes and trails. Cycling on vacation is sightseeing on wheels.  Don't forget your clothing, helmets, gloves and any bags or gear, backpack beach chairs, saddlebags, etc.

So, mount up, and enjoy!




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Thursday, May 25, 2017

5 Things to do in Universal Studios Orlando

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Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.


This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).

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5 Things To Do in Universal Studios, Florida

There are three theme parks at Universal Orlando Resort: Universal's Islands of Adventure, the new Universal's Volcano Bay (water park) and Universal Studios Florida. Enjoy a walk through Hollywood and check out 5 highlights in the Studios side of the resort:




Universal Studios, Florida (editorial use only)

1. Enjoy the Hollywood "sets." Disney's Hollywood Studios backlot feel is practically obliterated to make room for the new Star Wars area, but Universal has retained it's Hollywood theme and will make you feel like you're on a movie set. The attractions are more or less related to movies or TV shows. Although some favorites are gone (the "I Love Lucy" exhibit and the "Back to the Future" ride), the characters make appearances. Look for Doc Brown.


Universal Studios Florida: The Blues Brothers Show (editorial use only)

2. Act like you're part of a movie: the performances by the Blues Brothers cast (not the original) will invite you to participate. Or, you might see Marilyn Monroe!


Homage to Jebediah Simpson (editorial use only)

3. The "Back to the Future" ride may be gone, but in its place you can see two of the vehicles. Also, you can Visit Springfield, the home of the Simpsons, which replaced BTTF. I'm not even a fan of the show but you'll feel like you stepped into the series as you stroll through the area. The anchor feature is The Simpsons Ride, a simulator experience. 

Gringotts Bank in Diagon Alley (editorial use only)

4. Visit Diagon Alley. Again, you don't have to be a Harry Potter fan to be awed. Shop, eat or ride the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (the walk through the bank alone will have your jaw dropping). Do like everyone else and block traffic waiting for the dragon to spew fire from the top of the Gringotts building. For you old-timers, this area took the place of the old "Jaws" attraction. (If you have a park-to-park ticket, ride the train to Islands of Adventure and disembark in Hogsmeade.)


E.T. Adventure in Universal Studios


5. Be a kid again and ride the E. T. Adventure. You board "bikes" and fly to E.T.'s planet. As you walk through the queue line, relive aspects of the movie to prepare for your trip.



You'll feel like you're on the backlot of the actual movie set at Universal Studios Florida (editorial use only)



Check back soon for 5 more things to do in Universal, Florida! Happy Travels!

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Cruising to Alaska: Part 1

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Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. 

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For a quick introduction to a region, country or state, a great alternative to doing it yourself is an organized tour or cruise. It allows you to literally sit back and enjoy the view while someone else arranges, organizes and worries about the details. You can get information that will make a later trip a whole lot easier to plan (don't forget to take business cards or pamphlets). 

Ruby Princess

How: We decided to take cruise and it was a good decision. Flying is an option to see Alaska but it can be expensive if you want to see more than one city or region. A road trip would be complicated, if not impossible (for example, Juneau is initially accessible only by ship or ferry).  For the extreme adventurer, there are other ways to explore Alaska because a cruise will only get you to certain areas. Popular cities such as Anchorage may be part of a combo package (cruise and land tour). 



With which cruise line: We traveled with a group and they decided on Princess. Other options for the average or budget minded are Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. Other lines that sail (this list is not complete) are Disney, Holland America, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, Seabourn, Silversea (some cruise lines are owned by the same parent companies). Sites such as Cruise Critic function as a search engine so that you can see all of your options.



How much: As usual, do a little research or speak to a travel agent before committing to a cruise line. If you have sailed before, you may want to stick with a familiar line. Make sure you know everything that is included in the price. Alaskan excursions can be expensive, especially to experience the major attractions. Let's face it, for an Alaskan cruise, the destination is the main reason for traveling there. You could just tour the downtown areas of each port, but that will not give you the best experience. Saving on the cruise price will enable you to put your funds into the excursions so that you can truly see Alaska.



Excursions will vary in price and quality. Reading reviews on such forums such as Cruise Critic and TripAdvisor will give you some insight into the value and quality of activities. Always read them from the perspective of the reviewer, however. Some have an axe to grind and will rate a likable tour with a low score for minor issues such as the quality of the snack. A good travel agent will be very helpful in this area, also.

Where: Our itinerary included Seattle, Ketchikan, the Inside Passage (which is not a true port, but a main reason for seeing Alaska for it's natural beauty), Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. We returned back to Seattle. 



Alaska is the largest state in the USA with less than one million people. According to the US Bureau of Land Management, the federal government owns about 65% of the land, creating millions of acres of national parks, forests and regions. The remoteness of the bulk of the state limits a lot of the touring. 

The state is very proud of its Native American heritage as evidenced by the totem poles, decor and souvenirs at each port. Approximately 15% of the population identifies itself as Native American. Tourism is a growing part of the economy, but many of those working in the tourist industry spoke of their jobs being seasonal. This makes sense since the cruising season is April to September (more or less).



When: Finally, part of the reason to visit Alaska is to see its natural beauty. I traveled in late July. If I did not think global warming was real before, I became a bonafide believer after this trip. Not only did we experience almost 80 degree weather in Skagway, we practically had to go up to the glacier's nose to see it. Any precipitation we experienced was rain. If I sailed again, I would choose May or June. Apparently, southern Alaska most definitely has a summer season.


Clothing: On board, choose regular cruise wear that's appropriate to the weather (it can range from the high of mid-70 degrees to a low of mid 40's Fahrenheit): jeans, layered clothing, outfits for formal night, etc. However, we never experienced anything lower than 55 degrees. For excursions you will need waterproof shoes or boots; warm socks (perhaps thermal), a rain jacket; perhaps a hoodie, a vest; gloves; hat. I had my old lightweight rain suit, the type that pulls over clothing. Eskimo gear was not needed (!).

Friday, February 3, 2017

An Intro to...India: Part 2 - Where to Go

Note: this article is solely for the first time traveler to India from the perspective of a first-timer (me!). Also, take precautions when you are traveling to another country. Check with the state department for any travel warnings and be very much aware of international news. Use common sense and be flexible. You might actually have to change your destination.


Disclaimer

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.


This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).


Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr. Purchase our fine art and decor or stock photos on ShutterstockZenfolioImageKindmcraytonphoto.comiStock by Getty Images , and Dreamstime.




An Intro to...India: Part 2 - Where to Go
Our "limo" from Delhi to Agra

The purpose of our trip was to celebrate a milestone birthday of a friend. We focused on Agra, Jaipur and a little bit of Delhi. The main purpose was to see the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal, in the haze

1. If you normally wing it on your own, you may decide to go with a guide. For the first time, we traveled as complete tourists: arranged transportation throughout the trip, guided tours in all cities and luxury hotels. It was an unusual experience for me, although many people experience travel this way. Not only is there nothing wrong or or inauthentic by traveling this way, but for certain trips or portions of a trip, being chauffeured and guided can actually be a preferred way to go. Since we had children with us, it was safer. Of course, there will always be those who prefer to go at it on their own. Bravo!


The best in women's travel wardrobe


2. To get a good view of the country, fly into Delhi and travel by van or train to other cities. We landed in Delhi and were met by the van and driver arranged by the hotel in Agra, some 130 miles away. If you've flown straight from the USA, east coast, you may want to stay over in Delhi and get a fresh start the next day.
Fort Agra

3. In Agra, the top sights for us were: the Taj Mahal, of course; the Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah, also known as the Baby Taj; Fort Agra; various artisan shops and one of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. 


Jaipur
4. A journey by train, in the recommended first class, took us to Jaipur, almost 150 miles further east. There, our top sights were Amer (Amber) Fort; Jaigarh (Victory) Fort, home to Jaivan Cannon; Jantar Mantar, a fascinating collection of astronomical instruments completed in 1734 that is still accurate in telling time within 2 seconds; City Palace, residence of the current Maharaja of Jaipur, who recently turned 18 years old; and more local artisans.

5. We determined that a van would best transport our group of 11 from Jaipur to Delhi for our return flight, so we journeyed the 166 miles early in the morning for an afternoon flight. Other options could have been a domestic flight (inexpensive, but one must be careful about the baggage restrictions) or another train ride.
A chance to make it big in Delhi

Delhi was not the focus of this trip, but our driver graciously gave us a brief tour of the highlights and even dropped us off to walk around the city for an hour before taking us to the airport. 

Next article: detailed tours of each city and sights. Stay tuned.

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