Posts Tagged With: travel

San Francisco and the Wine Valleys

Union Square, San FranciscoOk, so I’ve decided that San Francisco is one of the few places that I could realistically pick up and move to. It’s not a fantasy that could never become a reality. I think I could actually do it and be really happy with that decision. Aside from the beauty of San Francisco, it’s the lifestyle that I fell in love with. I love that the locals are active, and have a laid back enough attitude where they can still be successful in life but can step away and see that there is more to life than work. I love the balance between a large city and the waterfront. I love that in the middle of the afternoon, people are hiking, biking or running. I love that just outside of San Fran, there are vineyards that provide a break from life. Have I sold you on San Francisco yet? Well then, let me keep building my case.

Union Square: Simply awesome.  Large department stores border around this massive city square that hosts a number of local events. When I was there, a number of localsYountville gathered to dance and listen to live music.  Can you believe that? I couldn’t!

Cable Car Ride:It’s a must if you’re in San Fran! Jump on the trolley and let it take you to your destination.  Unless it’s during peak hours, it’s pretty easy to find yourself a seat and enjoy the ride. And on a side note, no you can not hang off the side of the trolley like you see in the movies!

China Town:Just cool. It’s like a mini city within the city. Full of culture, good food, and great souvenirs. If you’re going to eat there, try Capitol Restaurant. It’s kind of pricey compared to other restaurants in China town. But delicious.

AlcatrazAlcatraz: I think this is pretty obvious and really don’t need to list the reasons for seeing this. What I can suggest is buying your tickets online beforehand. Depending on the time of year you visit, it could be sold out.

Napa & Sonoma Valley:You have to do a wine tour. It’s kind of waste if you don’t. Usually hotels can help you out and recommend wineries to visit. At the very least, they can get you in touch with several of the tour companies. Make sure that you stop off in Yountville. Crazy expensive if you eat lunch here, but so worth the visit!  Need suggestions on which wineries to visit? I preferred the smaller wineries like Sutter Home, Madonna Estates and Cline Cellars. The experience is just as important as the wine!

Golden Gate Bridge:Another obvious choice, but it’s actually really easy to forget since there is so much to do in San Fran!

Fisherman’s Wharf:  If I were a local, I would come here daily for inspiration.  You can buy blown glass bottles from street vendors, enjoy a meal along the water, walk to Pier 39, or just take in the view. You really aren’t short of options.

Appreciate:I don’t say this very often, especially about cities in North America. But there is something to be said about the architecture, color pallets and roadways of San Fran. Just walk, get lost, explore. The streets will just take your breath away.

There is much more to do in San Francisco, and I suggest staying here for at least three or four days to really get a feel for this beautiful city.Streets of San Francisco

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How to Enjoy Travel

I have always thought of travel as an essential part of life; no different than eating or sleeping. It shapes who you are and your outlook on life.  It makes you more accepting of cultures, and instills excitement that I truly believe can never be matched. Travel is not only what you make of it, it’s also who you share it with. So how does someone maximize their travel experience? Actually it’s pretty easy! Here are just a few things to consider once you book your vacation:

Find the perfect travel partner! If you seek adventure, travel with someone who wants the same thing. If you are afraid to try new things, go with someone who will push you enough so you don’t back down from an experience. If you hate planning? Go with someone who is willing to get lost with you. Don’t travel with someone who will hold you back. It’s not about boarding a plane, flying across the world and just standing still.

Step out of your comfort zone: Had I never embraced this way of travel, I would have never stepped foot on a cruise, hiked up a 10,000 ft mountain, driven an ATV, taken an overnight train, or shared a room with complete strangers! You have to embrace that life is not about being comfortable. It’s about challenging yourself to try new things and to be open to it.

Talk to locals: Don’t shy away from making friends. I still keep in touch with people who I’ve met on my travels. It’s incredible to have a network of people on the other side of the world. You get to swap experiences, talk about your travels and develop genuine friendships. We are on this planet for a reason, don’t be scared to find out what others think their purpose is.

Eat, drink and do it again: If there is one commonality in travel, it’s food!  Go to restaurants, stop off at the local market, pick up something from a street vendor, or eat at someone’s house. Food brings us together. Try it all or at the very least try it once. Who knows when you will get the opportunity again!

If you can walk it…walk it:If there’s one thing I’ve picked up during my travels is don’t drive a car if you don’t need to. Walking the streets allows you the most freedom to discover. You can find hidden alleyways, paths and shops that you would miss out on had you been in a vehicle. Walking through a city is much more fulfilling.

Try: You don’t have to speak the language, you don’t have to agree with the culture, you don’t have to like the food. But try. There is something to be said about those who are miserable and dismiss any type of experience. Don’t be that person. If you go to France and don’t speak french, try. People will appreciate it, and to be honest it will help you enjoy your experience even more!

Don’t bring kids:I know what people, especially parents will say when they read this. I’m not saying you can’t travel with kids. I’m saying travel is not as enjoyable with kids. Be honest, do you think a 7-year old wants to tag along to see the Louvre? Do you think a toddler should be out until 2am at the local bar or hip restaurant? Just think about it.

There you have it. Just a few things that can help you out when you travel. It’s very important to not only travel, but to enjoy it. You’re already lucky to be able to take a break from life, don’t waste that time on not enjoying the adventure that is in front of you. Safe travels.

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Olympia: Where it all Began

I’m sure by now you have noticed that I’m a huge fan of sport. I like the competitiveness, the discipline and the energy of a live sport.  I enjoy looking around and watching fans scream, cheer and come together for the greaterOlympia good of their team. I was very lucky to visit the place where amateur sport began, and I could only imagine what it was like in those times.

Olympia was the first place to ever host the Olympic games. At the time, Olympic sports were very different. The athletes didn’t represent a country, instead they were meant to only entertain the world. Athletes (only men) would participate in neandrothol-like competition, at times to the death.  As time passed, we obviously witnessed the evolution of the Olympics, but to stand in the very spot where the first torch was lit, where historical greats stood to observe the games is really quite moving.

So what is there to do in one of the oldest cities? Surprisingly, a lot more than just visit the historical grounds. The reality is Katakolan (Olympia) is a port town, so it can’t be compared to larger Greek towns. Stay for 24 hours and then get out.  Here are some tips on what to see and how to get there.

Geotravel: Do not, I repeat do not pay for any type of tour. When you get to the Katakolan’s main town square, locate the Geotravel office. From there, you can pay 7 euros each for a small private drive to all the places on this island. The tour includes Olympia.

KatakolanCarriage Ride: Take a romantic carriage ride through the Olympia grounds.  The area is lined with pedestrian friendly paths and wonderful scenery. A horse-driven carriage will only amplify the experience.

Agios Andreas: A beautiful but tiny beach tucked away on the side of the main town. It’s packed, especially if there is a cruise stop that day. If you  plan on skipping out on Olympia and making it a beach day, get there early or truthfully, you won’t find a place to sunbathe.

Restaurants: You will run into a number of outdoor restaurants as you walk through the main street. Now, which restaurant to pick is up to you. I do recommend looking at the menu and ensure that wherever you choose to eat serves their specialty fried cheese dish. Unbelievable.Argos Atheos Beach

Arte Cafe: Once you are ready to wrap up your day, make sure to stop off at the Arte Cafe and enjoy Greek espresso. The difference between espresso in Greece and anywhere else? It’s served with a touch of cream. Very strange, yet very good. And the view…tranquil.

Olympia: I know a lot of people who visit Katakolan debate on whether or not they should skip out on Olympia. I personally recommend the visit. You don’t have to appreciate sport or be a history buff to be floored by what used to exist there.  It really is worth the visit.

IMG_9628So there you have it. If you happen to stop off in Katakolan or want to see the birthplace of the Olympics, I really do think it’s worth the visit.  Don’t spend to much time on the island, all you need here is 24 hours.

Until next time….

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Istanbul: Two Sides of the Coin

Turkey is a country that straddles two continents and one of the only countries that truly embraces the influences of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It holds the remnants and class of European Emperors, the mystique of Sultans and the history of a place once ruled by all fractions. The sights and smells of Istanbul are ones that can only be truly appreciated when experienced for yourself. However, an insight into this beautiful country will leave you either sitting at the edge of your seat in suspense or rolling over in laughter at the sheer madness that happens in the country that diffuses elements of two distinct worlds.

 Istanbul. A word that whenever said brings a smile to my face. A city that stands out on its own like no other. And, the home to many foreign sounds and smells, food and shopping malls that would make any avid shopper drool at the sight, size and organization of these gigantic fashion houses. A city with 13.5 million people could be nothing short of an unexpected escapade waiting to happen. In every nook and cranny of this city are people who are willing to greet you with a smile and sell you something.

The first time we visited Istanbul, we stayed in the central district of Beyoglu and off the main street of Istiklal Caddessi (Independence Avenue). Istiklal Caddessi can only be compared to a Canadian Yonge Street or a New York Broadway Avenue. A busy street full of shopping, North American restaurants blended in with kebab shops, baklava bakeries and tea shops lined with waiters calling you in for a glass or two. At the top or start of Beyoglu is Taksim Square which houses the largest statue of Ataturk; the father of the modern Turkish state. The square is lined with merchants selling flowers of every colour and style. Roses of yellow, pink, and red line the square and the smells are only accompanied by the smell of street merchants selling simit, a bread that looks like a mix of a bagel and a pretzel. The square is in constant movement and the hustle and bustle can only be compared to the busy movement of people in the historic area of Sultanahmet. I have never been one for travel books; except to see the list of must visit bars. The rest of my travel has always been on foot and by exploration. Some may be disgusted with the thought of avoiding all the “Must See” tourist sites, other would flourish with the thought of going off the beaten track and finding out what the real Istanbul has to offer. Sultanahmet is the home to Hagia Sophia, The Blue Mosque and a maze of markets which are all beautiful and well worth a see. I however have only seen the outside of these majestic mosques since Hagia Sophia charges an exorbitant amount to enter. When I find myself in these predicaments, I can do only one feasible thing: stand in front, take a picture and read about it when I get home. To me this isn’t the real city; this isn’t where the heart and soul of the city beat so this isn’t where you will find me.

Of all the busy areas a traveller can find in Istanbul, Nisantasi and Ortakoy are worth a visit. Often not noted in the travel books, Nistantasi is the home to trendy European cafes, beautiful people that could grace the covers of Vogue Magazine and the home to the beautiful mall of City Nistantasi. Sipping fancy cocktails in one of the posh bars, watching supermodels flock on the arms of famous people I know nothing about and dancing the night away at Reina is what champagne dreams are made of. Ortakoy on the other hand, is home to café lined streets, undisturbed views of the Bosphorus and the home of Topane, a group of Nargile cafes where one can smoke as much shisa (flavoured water pipe) as your hearts content. The mix of these areas infused with the smells and noise of Sultanahmet give each of Istanbul’s districts their own distinct feel.

The posh areas of Istanbul are just one side of the coin. Recognizing the duality in everything that happens in the city is vital in understand the fuel that makes the city run. In Turkey, a common practice for many is to visit a bath house called a hammam. After exhausting ourselves from trekking around the city by foot for many days, a friend and I decided to relax by getting a massage. I was expecting the typical Western spa experience, an experience I got, but it was nothing I could have ever expected and it was nothing like the spa experiences back home in Toronto. We were instructed by the bath attendants to disrobe and made our way into the main hall that housed a massive room decorated in white and blue marble. The steam room was decorated in the most intricate floral and geometric patterns that echoed the vision of artists long gone. The complexity of the patterns transported me to the 16th century and I envisioned what being in Constantinople had been like and what the life of a concubine consisted of. Visiting a hammam is a common experience for Turks who go and wash away the day and relax in what becomes an important social experience. For me however, this was cultural learning at its finest. It was also at this point that I wished that I had packed not just a bathing suit but a wet suit. What went from uncomfortable went to sheer shock as a bucket full of cold water splashed against me. I soon figured that the cold water was to shock the system which was followed by warm water and a thoroughly cleaning and the deepest tissue massage I have ever had in my 30 years. One hour and three luffas later, I had finally figured out that with travel, you need to let go. In certain situations you don’t fight the cultural differences; you just go with it and enjoy the ride!

Istanbul is the type of city you go into knowing that you will get out of the city whatever you put into it. You will experience foods, smells and sounds unlike anything you would find in the Western world. You will also find exactly that- the West. It is exactly this that makes you want to visit over and over again. The fact that it is one of the only cities that mixes the two: old and new, east and west so well and allows the two to live harmoniously together without one outshining or competing with the other is what makes this city a must see and experience.

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Maui: The Real Paradise Island

What can I say about paradise? Where to even begin? Hawaii, specifically Maui is probably the closest I will come to heaven….and I mean that literally.  I spent 2 short days in Maui, and I am certain I will be back at some point in my life just to see this beautiful island paradise again.

So where to begin? That’s a good question. There isn’t one place better than another in Maui.  When I thought one thing wouldn’t top the next, I was wrong.  There isn’t enough time to see all that this tiny island has to offer. You just have to go, explore and be open to anything and everything you come across.

So here goes:

 Haleakala Sunrise: You may think I’m insane waking up at 3AM and partially taking a bus and hiking up a 10,000+ foot mountain. Maybe. But there is no experience that has even come close to getting to the top of this mountain, to only see clouds above me and below me. At first, it’s cold, dark, even a little eery. But when that sun starts to rise, and the park ranger starts his ritual sunrise chant as the sun peaks out of the horizon, I will promise you that you will not feel more connected to this planet than in that moment. When I say it takes your breath away, I think that’s the biggest understatement of them all. (beware: it’s cold when you make the climb, but it is well worth it!)

Wailea Beach: You really didn’t think I wasn’t going to plop on the beach for a day, did you? Wailea is considered one of the best beaches in the world, so of course I had to go see that for myself.  This beach is between two of the swankiest hotels in town – the Four Seasons (where a salad is $41) and the Grand Wailea.  If you’re hungry and didn’t happen to bring wods of cash with you to the beach (because that’s normal!), I suggest taking a scenic walk to the shops at Wailea. Meal prices are a little bit more reasonable, and the view although not quite as enjoyable is still a nice one.  As for the beach itself, I can safely say it’s probably one of the top beaches I’ve been to, and I’ve seen my fair share of beaches. Sigh. 

Road to Hana: A scenic highway that twists through the spectacular rainforest, cascading waterfalls, and the coastline. As you drive there are some sharp turns, so if you aren’t comfortable driving, pay for a professional to get you there. Again, if you are a nature lover, this drive will be worth it. The drive doesn’t put you at ease, but the view sure does.

Red Sand Beach (Kaihalulu): Just one of the many reasons why I need to return to Maui. This beach is apparently very memorable just based on the red sand itself. This exotic beach has vibrant colors because of the eroded volcanic cinders and contrast with the crystal blue waters.  The only drawback? It’s a 10-minute hike down to the beach. But to see such a unique site, I would hardly call it a drawback.

Sea Turtles: I’ve seen some pretty interesting creatures, I’ve been to the San Diego Zoo! But, I have never seen see turtles quite so large or unafraid of humans. If they spot you in the water, don’t be alarmed because they will come close to say hello. They’re odd creatures, but kind of cute!

So there you have it. Just a few reasons to go to Maui. Personally, Maui was one of the nicest islands I’ve been to, and I definitely plan on going back. If you can afford the time, stay here for at least a week, it will be well worth it!

Safe travels!

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Florence: The Real Deal

Florence is the city that gave me clarity in my life and for that I’m eternally grateful. It’s the city that showed me what life is truly about and is the city that kick-started my passion for travel. Before visiting Florence, I was concerned about the irrelevance that surrounded me; stresses from work and working hard but for the wrong reasons. It became very clear, very fast that life….true life… about appreciating family, good friends, fantastic food & wine, and amazing conversation.  Florence taught me a life lesson in less than 24 hours. Pretty incredible, right?

When I describe the “energy” of cities in my other posts, I don’t think I get the message across. It’s almost like an X Factor. Something that makes it so unbelievable and incredible that you would live there or return at the drop of a dime. Florence is that to me. There’s a special place in my heart that I have for this magical city and aside from the important life lesson it taught me, there is also so much to do.

So here’s where to start:

Piazza della Signoria – The most famous square in Florence and very busy one at that. Should you want to visit this historic area, I recommend visiting it  first thing in the morning.

Il Duomo & Campanile – You really can’t miss this. This extraordinary cathedral spans across the middle of Florence. Climb the bell tower for unbelievable panoramic city views.

Ponte Vecchio – You can buy gold jewelery or stop for gelato. It doesn’t matter, you just need to go! This bridge is awesome as you walk towards it and even better when you’re on it.

Baboli Garden – Once you cross Ponte Vecchio, you will be lead to this hillside park. It’s such a peaceful area in the middle of such a busy city.

Piazza Santa Croce – This square is worth the visit.  It’s in front of the cathedral and pretty happening in the evening.

Shopping – You haven’t experienced true retail therapy until you visit Florence.

Statue of David  – Outside of the Palazzo Vecchio sits this grand marble statue.  But don’t be fooled! The real statue of David is inside the Galleria dell’Accademia.

San Lorenzo Market – An experience in itself! If you’re looking for some good deals head towards this market. There are tons of street vendors and so much to buy!

Like I said before, Florence is more than a city…it’s an experience. The people, the food, the vibe is just something that can not be captured in words.  My hope for everyone is that at some point in your life you visit this unbelievable city. I hope it changes your life the way it has mine.

Safe travels…..

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London: Hit or Miss?

I guess it really depends on who you ask and what their preference is. Personally, I found London to be the most disappointing European city I have visited to date. I went to visit friends who were living there, so I feel confident that I had the “full British experience” during my stay. I did some typical London tourist activities, but also lived like a local in a suburb and shopped at grocery stores and hung at the local pubs. In my opinion, I feel like I did enough to warrant me saying I would never go back to London again.

So what’s disappointing about London? I hardly want to focus on the negative, but it’s just too easy. I think the overall feeling of London is very plain and simple. The energy lacks. When I compare London to other large European cities like Madrid, Milan or Paris; London falls very short in a lot of categories. There is a lot to do, but once you do them…you kind of don’t care to ever do it again. So let’s start:

The London Eye: It’s the slowest moving “ferris wheel” I’ve ever been on. You get  awesome views of London, but by the time you get to the top….you just want to get to the bottom. The London views are nice…..but not that nice.

Tower Bridge: “London Bridge is falling down….” Yep, that’s the bridge we sing about! Is it as breathtaking as the Golden Gate? Negative.

Big Ben: Right out of the subway, you will see Big Ben. It’s just about as exciting as I’m describing it!

Tate Modern: I’m not one for art so maybe I’m being a little harsh here. But I hardly think the combination of bobby pins, ripped cloth and spray paint or birds made from metal clothes hangers should be deemed as “artistic” or even interesting for that matter. But hey, maybe I’m wrong.

Westminster Abbey:  If you didn’t hear about it before, I’m sure you know about it now. This is the church where Prince William and Kate married. It certainly is beautiful, but again, I felt like this Cathedral was missing a certain element about it. It’s a lot colder and unwelcoming compared to other cathedrals I have visited.

St. Paul’s Cathedral: Although similar to St. Peter’s in Rome, it’s quite unimpressive. This church is just smack in the middle of the city and tons of people eat lunch on the steps giving it a really bad curb appeal. I judge based on first impressions…..clearly!

Buckingham Palace: So everyone told me I must go. The palace itself is impressive. It’s huge and the grounds are well kept. However, the changing of the guard I didn’t quite get. I waited an hour to watch one guard replace the another guard’s shift. I would call this uneventful, not interesting.

Trafalgar Square: This is the heart of London in my opinion. Ok, it’s nice! There are tons of people and some cool places to grab a drink. Does it compare to Puerta del Sol or the Piazza della Signoria? Sure doesn’t.

Picadilly Circus: London’s response to New York’s Time Square. Again, it’s cool. But I would hardly say it was a highlight.

Leicester Square: A statue, a theatre, some benches. That’s about it.

Hyde Park: Now Hyde Park was a treat. It’s a very large park in the city. Super clean, but eerily quiet. Nonetheless, I would recommend the walk through. Wear some comfy shoes because it’s a pretty big park. If you want to take a break, sit on the lawn chairs that are spread throughout the park.

Regent’s Park: I will actually say that Regent’s Park is cool. It’s very peaceful and along the lake. It’s certainly clean which is a huge plus. Again, compare it to El Retiro in Madrid….it doesn’t hold a candle.

Primrose Hill: Home to celebrities like Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, this area is just steps from Regent’s Park. The homes are nice, the area nice. Is it worth the walk through? Again, depends on who you ask.

Abbey Road: I didn’t grow up listening to the Beatles….however, this was actually a highlight. Abbey Road had a great energy. Tons of die-hard fans cross this famous street and take photos in hopes of replicating the album cover. My hubby is a huge fan and I actually signed his name on the studio wall where the recorded. It was a great experience and I’m glad I went.

Harrods: Harrod’s is the Mecca of shopping, I cannot dispute that. Every floor has something to offer; clothing, furniture, groceries, Christmas ornaments. It’s spectacular….if you’re willing to dish out some cash.

Hamley’s Toy Store: It’s definitely not FAO Schwarz, but worth stopping in. If you have children, add this to your to do list.

Primark: If you get here early enough, you can find some pretty amazing deals on accessories, shoes, clothing and housewares. I recommend it if you like to sift through stuff to get the best deal.

Oxford Street & Carnaby: Home of great stores like Top Shop, Mango, Zara and tons of vintage stores. It’s worth the visit if you want to make some additions to the wardrobe.  Note that British fashion though is very trendy. If you’re looking for statement pieces that will survive a few seasons….good luck it’s tricky to find!

Canary Wharf: The professional area of London. Kind of cool with some hip bars where people go after work to unwind. It’s good for a Wednesday night and worth the visit.   

The Tube: I will give credit where credit is deserved. London’s subway system is simply incredible and very reliable. The only thing that sucks…..they stop at 11PM. Not good if you want to pub crawl! Oh ya, taxis are super expensive and not a good option.

Cleanliness: Call me a snob….I don’t care. Brits standard of cleanliness are completely different from mine. When things get old, they should be replaced! Maybe that’s a North American way of thinking, but personally restaurants and pubs should not have rusty toilets and antique faucet dials. Again, just my opinion but I know there are people out there who agree.

There is a lot to do in London, there is certainly no shortage.  If this is your first trip to Europe and you choose London I think you would enjoy it. However, if you have visited a few other places before, I think you may be on the same page as me. It’s very unimpressive and lacks the European feel of most countries. Is it lack luster? For sure. Is it worth the visit? Maybe.

Until next time!

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Madrid: My Dream

Spain was my dream. It was the one place on the map that I really wanted to see. I tried for years to get there, but other reasons would come up as to why I couldn’t. A few years ago I gave myself an ultimatum; I was going to be Spain or not going anywhere at all – and so the planning started.

I spent a few wonderful days in Madrid and it was magical. The vibe in Madrid is different from anywhere else I’ve been. It’s busy, but laid back. It’s modern, yet historical. Madrid is a city that made me feel like home from the moment I landed. Like any large city, there are a million things to do in Madrid – some more obvious than others. If you ever get a chance to spend some time in this awesome city, make sure to add these to your itinerary:

Hotel Atlantico – You can’t ask for a better hotel, for an affordable price, in an amazing location. Everything is within walking distance, the rooms are spacious and the rooftop patio allows you to take in views of the cityscape. I recommend enjoying the rooftop in the evening while enjoying a glass of wine and the complimentary chips. And just next door serves the best cappuccino in town!

Hop-on-Hop-off Bus – I’m a fan of these buses. It’s a great way to discover a city for twenty euros. The stops on Madrid’s bus include; Royal Palace, Paseo del Prado, Puerta de Alcalá. You can jump on and off at your leisure and buses come by every 15-20 minutes. It’s great!

Gran Via – Shop, shop, shop! Eat…, shop, shop!

El Prado – Madrid’s top art museum.  It really is something to appreciate both from the outside and on the inside.

Parque del Retiro – This park amplifies the seriousness of “siesta” in the Spanish culture. In the middle of the day, you will see people walking through the park, gathered together on blankets just unwinding from their morning stresses, or underneath a tree and quietly reading a book. No wonder its coined as the “Lazy Park”.

Royal Palace – You can’t help but to gawk at Madrid’s most beautiful building. It’s the largest palace in Western Europe, so take it in. It’s huge.

Puerta del Sol – Just steps away from the Hotel Atlantico, Puerta del Sol is the central square in Madrid. Here you can find lots of shops, cafés, bistros and street vendors. What’s better than Puerta del Sol during the day? Puerta del Sol at night of course!

Cathedral – Religious or not, Madrid’s Cathedral is a structure of beauty. It is the largest and most important church in the city and definitely worth the visit.

Tapas – The reason why I think the Spanish people are so thin! Rather than eating a lot of something, they eat a little bit of everything! The majority of restaurants throughout Spain serve tapas lunch and dinner. I embraced it, you should too!

Paella – Another food item to add to your must try list while in Madrid or while travelling throughout Spain. However, what I can say is the best paella I had was in Madrid! My suggestion, find a restaurant that has an aquarium with their catch of the day and order their seafood paella.

Churros con chocolate – There is obviously a food theme here, as you can tell! But that’s part of Madrid’s charm. Try their fried sugared dough and warm melted chocolate…simply delicious!

Would I go back to Madrid? Without a doubt. It’s a great atmosphere, with amazing food, great shopping, and freakishly beautiful people. What’s not to love?

Until next time…..

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About Diana….

My next guest blogger is not only a fellow traveller, but also a very dear friend.  Diana’s desire to travel the world is infectious! She was even blessed with the opportunity to live in Italy for a year. I’m extremely excited that she has agreed to share her amazing experiences on my blog!

I hope she inspires you to travel as well! ~Jenn

Travel has been an important part of my lifestyle ever since I can remember. From my first visit to Walt Disney World at age 1, to riding camels in the Sahara desert at age 30, each place I have traveled to shaped me into the person I am today.   I am a designer by trade and always looking to be inspired. I use my trips to give me ideas and enrich my thoughts about colour, texture and pattern outside of the ordinary.  I can thank my dad for dragging us on family vacations every summer and instilling the value of travel in my soul.  Through personal trips, educational ventures and work travel I’ve been to many countries in Europe, traveled across Canada and the United States, Hong Kong, Mexico, Egypt and the Caribbean.  In one week I can add Israel and Jordan to my list…

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Dubrovnik: Pearl of the Adriatic

What can I say? I have been watching Game of Thrones this season and I’ve been inspired!  The backdrop for filming this great series is the historical city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. I can’t help but to get excited when they show scenes of the “kingdoms”. Much like what’s depicted in the series, Dubrovnik isn’t in need of special effects – it just really is that stunning! It’s a beautiful coastal town full of medieval castles, history, restaurants and beaches. There’s a reason why Dubrovnik has been dubbed as the Pearl of the Adriatic.

To get to Dubrovnik can prove to be quite difficult. If you are cruising this will likely be a stop. However, if you decide to discover Croatia on your own I found transportation can be rather complicated and time consuming to get from point A to B as their train stations aren’t quite as reliable as other European countries and buses are long overnight hauls. I would recommend flying into Dubrovnik from either Zagreb or Split. Both flights are fairly short and the price to fly within Croatia is fairly inexpensive. Don’t let the prices fool you…all prices are set in Croatian currency (kune) not the euro.

So now, what’s there to see in Dubrovnik? Tons! I’m not a history buff, if you read my blog you would know that. But you can’t help but to see history around you and Croatians are extremely passionate about their roots.  I couldn’t help but to want to learn and see more! So, here’s where to start:

Ancient Walls and Old Town – This really should be top priority. It would be a sin to go to Dubrovnik and not spend time here. Every local bus leads to the Old Town and the drive is beautiful. Once you enter the Old Town you will be surrounded by nothing but watch towers, ruins, the ancient walls and the sea. It truly is unbelievable that the Old Town has been so well maintained. By day, climb to the highest points of Old Town and take in the amazing coastal view. At night, restaurants and cafes are open in every nook and cranny, entertainment and music is all around and the energy is just incredible.

Port – Still along the Old Town, this port is certainly not like the port in Monaco. Like the entire Croatian culture, they live a simple and non-excessive life. That is reflected when you stroll through the port. Here you will see a line of fisherman boats, rowboats and canoes. *Note: this is an incredible photo opp during a sunset!

Internet Café – I thought I’ve seen it all, but clearly I was wrong. As I was walking back to my hotel I came across an internet café. But not just any café, it was in the middle of a forest! Don’t ask me where the electrical connections were made, but it’s pretty awesome to be in a forest using technology of any sort.

Beach – You may hear conflicting recommendations here. When we arrived, our hotel staff and some other tourists we met recommended Banje Beach. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it that impressive. When we spoke to the locals they recommended Lapad Beach which was a lot more secluded and private. Regardless, the water is immaculate, but make sure to bring water shoes. Croatia’s beaches are made up of small pebble and rocks, don’t expect white sand!

Restaurants – Seafood! If you’re allergic, too bad. Bring your epipen! It’s a tragedy to order anything but seafood.

If you still aren’t entirely sold on Dubrovnik, it’s too bad. Croatia in general is a beautiful country with so much to offer. It’s slowly creeping up as a top tourist attraction, so try to go before it gets very expensive

Safe Travels!

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