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Monthly Archives

June 2018

0 In Bucket List/ Budget/ Couples/ Europe/ Family/ Female Travels/ Itinerary/ Random Musings/ Spain/ Travel/ Travel Advice/ Travel Tips

Why Mallorca is A Great Vacation Spot

Mallorca is an island off the coast of Barcelona. It is a two hour plane ride from the mainland of Spain and provides a variety of things to do and see. Mallorca is a great vacation spot If you are a beach lover or an adventure seeker; this island is for you! If you are visiting for a day on a cruise ship; this will also help you decide where to spend your day!

What You Should Know About Visiting Mallorca:

-Travel guides suggested that a bus was adequate for travel around this island, but ……not really!

-We discovered how big Mallorca was and opted to take a taxi to our hotel and then try to get a rental car. The airport to the Marriott……………30 euros

-Michael Douglas has a house between Cala Deia and Valldemossa

-We rented a car for 325 euros (approx)for a week

-Most cars are stick shift

-You must want to drive a lot when you come here…………everywhere is an hour

-Mountains, beaches, desert, and grasslands are on this island…………very unique

-Boat rides available to Menorca

-Snorkeling tours available (don’t need to do that, but you can snorkle anywhere there is water)

Marriott is located in Son Antem (middle of nowhere) but no good hotels have beachfront because they do not own the beach………..Hilton is the same way.

-If you are coming in for a day in Mallorca; talk with a taxi driver about driving you all day where you want to go and negotiate a set price!

-Marriott resort is quite large and you could spend the week here.

-I would not suggest renting bikes because there are no road names and if you got lost….you could die (overexaggeration, but you are in the middle of nowhere)

-Would highly recommend the Marriott Resort in Son Antem even without the beach for a few reasons: you stay in a villa, you have pool per villa, entertainment at the hotel nightly, the hotel grounds are beautiful.
 

What You Should Know About Port de Soller

When we went to Port de Soller, you head toward Palma from the Marriott and then toward the mountains. There are no “street signs”
-If in doubt, head to Palma
-In order to go through the tunnel, it is 5 euros each way. You can go through the mountains but it will take you an extra 40 minutes to get there.
-At Soller, also spelled Soiler they speak Cantonese, French, Spanish, German, and some English
-in the summer watch for jellyfish…they are plentiful on the beach.
-If you walk up the hill (opposite the lighthouse) around the bend, there is a beautiful spot to swim
-Lots of people rent paddle boats that have slides
-You can take a boat ride (2 hours to Sa Calobra) you can also drive which we did. Take a passport or you can not go.
-Anywhere you go, you should load up on snacks and drinks in case you break down.
-There is a train that can take you from right outside Palma to Port de Soller but there is not air conditioning on the train

What You Should Know About Visiting Sa Calobra

One of my favorite places in the world…Sa Calobra , minus the drive…………..it was the scariest drive I have ever been on…
-Along the way, the random donkeys…………we stopped and petted them.
-The road from Soller is about 20 km, but took about 3 hours because it is steep and back and forth.
-You have to pay to park and its per 30 minutes (no credit cards)
-You walk through 2 caves to get to this beach.
-2 places to get food, both only accept euros (NO CREDIT CARDS)
-Again, pack food and drinks for the ride
-Don’t get ice in your drinks (water is not safe to drink)
-Evian water from the grocery store is the best bet and its cheap.

What To Know About Formentor

Formentor is a long drive to get here..highest point on the island
-on the way, there is a beach
-most popular for British people
-you can park on the street but watch for stones (puncture tires)
-go early to Formentor (otherwise traffic will be a nightmare)
-take cash because no credit card machines at Lighthouse, beach, etc.
-really nice beach area
-running water to clean off when finished at the beach.

What You Should Know About Cuevas del Drach

These caves were amazing.
-Known all over the world.
-Martel lake, one of the world’s largest underground lakes.
-concerts in the caves (boats with an organ)
-beauty of the caves is exceptional because of the lighting and music.
-located in Porto Cristo

What You Should Know About Cala Mondrago

This is an unbelievable place! There are three coves you can swim in and out of.
-Bring a raft to float
-bring goggles/ snorkel
-About 7 feet deep in the deepest spot.
-One snack stand, cash only

What to Know About Platja d’es Trenc

Follow the signs to Platja d’es Trenc
-Best Sand Beach in Mallorca
-Go past the first parking lot all the way to the beach.
-It is 7 euros to park, but if you eat at the cafe; it will be 7 euros off your parking or 2 drinks for free, depending.
-The middle of the sand beach is a nudist area; pass by and you will have a piece of the beach to yourself
-2 restaurants on the beach (both cash only)
-take a raft to float

What You Should Know About Camp de Mar, Andratx

-If you had to stay on a beach, Grupotel Playa, Camp de Mar was the nicest we found.
-Pool/ beach and restaurant over the water (takes credit card)
-Nice drive about 40 minutes from Palma

What You Should Know About Valdemossa

Valdemossa, A different perspective of Mallorca
-this chatelet is where Prince Albert vacations (14 rooms)
-Mountain area
-the town is quite lovely
-15 minutes from the ocean
-Peaceful and tranquil.
-Smokey Mountain like drive

What You Should Know About Cala Deia

Cala Deia is a Long drive to the bottom, but make the drive
-Pay to park
-1 euro an hour

What You Should Know About Banyalbufar

When you arrive in Banyalbufar, follow the signs to the beach.
-There are parking spots along the way or you can park on the boulder.
-It is a long, steep walk either way.
-Take water (you will need it)
-Rock beach
-At the top of the hill, there is a cute cafe with reasonable prices and wonderful food.
-Croissants with powered sugar (a speciality)
-Spaghetti was amazing

What to Know About Palma

-You need about an hour in the city of Palma driving around to see everything.
-Cathedral is the best sight in the town.
-Give money to the guys posing!
-Hard Rock is near the harbor
-There is shopping and boutiques

Mallorca is an amazing place to visit! The most difficult challenge is deciding where you spend each day! If it is your first time visiting and you have 6-8 hours; you may want to get a driver and negotiate the price for the day. My recommendations would be: Platja En Trenc Beach for a few hours and have the driver go to Port Soller if time allows or Valdemossa Area where the boutiques and Pearl Shops are located. If the beach is not something you want to spend time at, the Cueva del Drach is spectacular and is a unique experience that is hard to beat!

Mallorca is known for pearls…if you are looking for a neat souvenir to bring home.

Questions, Just Ask!

 

0 In Bucket List/ Budget/ Couples/ Europe/ Family/ Female Travels/ Italy/ Itinerary/ Travel/ Travel Advice/ Travel Tips

3 Essential Stops in Rome in 1 Day

Rome is an amazing city and even if you are blessed with just one day, here is a way to make the most of the day in the Eternal City!

  1. Stop 1: Vatican City

Buy Vatican Tickets 

If you are coming into the city from a cruise ship, be leery of booking time at the Vatican for the early morning; you may be better served to buy your tickets when you arrive; even across the street, there is a skip the line Vatican Tour (you will pay a little more, but will get in within 30 minutes) whereas buying tickets and finding you are two hours late into port will result in the same and you will have paid twice. With that being said, if you are in Rome (arrival the night before), then buy your ticket in advance and report 30 minutes early. If you are on a cruise and want to have everything in order before your trip, then book the tickets for 1:30 PM or 2 PM and do the Stops on this page in reverse order!

When inside the Vatican Museum, you can spend as much time or as little time you would like; the guides are all fantastic. If you are tight on time, move ahead and keep going; the guides will try to keep you with them, but if you only have a day and want to see everything….keep moving…and pass other groups (essentially “get lost”). Make sure when you get to the Sistine Chapel, you take a moment and look up without being in a hurry.

On the way out of the Sistine Chapel, move on to St. Peter’s Basilica; it is absolutely stunning! If you do the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica with wait time getting in and starting (estimate 2 hours)

In order to move with this itinerary to see everything; catch a taxi to The Colosseum!

2. Stop 2: Colosseum

Buy Colosseum Tickets

Buy your tickets in advance here. There will be lines wrapped around the Colosseum; this is not your line! Make sure you keep walking around and there are lots of guides that will show you the line for those who prepurchased tickets! The Colosseum has a lot of history in the building and there are areas that explain all about the history. When you finish here, go out the back to the Roman Forum and see the ruins! Your ticket into the Colosseum will also get you into this area. It will be about a 45 minute walk through and it is totally worth the experience. (estimate 2 hours for The Colosseum and Roman Forum).

In order to move with this itinerary, catch a taxi to the Spanish Steps

 

3. Stop 3: Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona (estimate 2-4 hours here)

When you arrive at the taxi stop near the Spanish Steps, you will embark on a beautiful walking tour. There are signs that guide you to each spot. Just make sure you go into the Pantheon. Watch for pickpockets- keep essentials close to you and pay attention….your phone, wallet, and camera can be off of you in 2 seconds flat!

4. Stop 4: Late Lunch: In Piazza Navona: Ai Tre Tartufi (Piazza Navona 26-27)

On the way back to the train station back to the cruise ship, ask the taxi driver to take you by Castel Sant’Angelo.

A few additional pictures in Rome. A Modern City with Ancient History….there are so many things to do in Rome, but these are the top stops to visit in 1 Day

and yes, that is a pyramid in Rome!

Hope this helps with your planning!

Questions, please ask!

~ Heidi

0 In Airlines/ Bucket List/ Budget/ Couples/ Family/ Female Travels/ Itinerary/ Oceania/ Travel/ Travel Advice/ Travel Tips

9 Things You Should Know Before Going to Tahiti, Moorea, or Bora Bora

1. Know What You Are Getting Into

What You Should Know about Visiting Tahiti, Moorea, or Bora Bora:

  • It is 8 hours from LAX (Los Angeles) to PPT (Papeete aka Tahiti)
  • If you do not live in the LA area, it can be a very long day of travel
  • Plan to sleep on the plane
  • How much you want to spend and how much you are willing to spend
  • Do you want to experience everything, but really don’t want to save for a year to do this…stay tuned.

What We Did:

  • Living in Columbus, Ohio; used Southwest Credit Card points to fly out to Los Angeles
  • Click Here for the Southwest Credit Card
  • The sign up above will provide 2 roundtrip tickets from Ohio to California which is what we did; spend $1,000 in 3 months and you receive 40,000 miles. (this link provides me with a few miles at no cost to you)
  • Knowing that the flight from Columbus, Ohio to LAX is approximately 5 hours; we went to Disneyland for 1 day when we arrived for 2 reasons: 1. make sure we did not have weather delays for our flight 2. it is a long day if you are on a plane for 5 hours then layover and another 8 hours of flight time. This can start the vacation in a bad place; we opted to wear ourselves out and have a blast a Disneyland and the next day took off for Tahiti. Highly recommend this.
  • We visited Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora on this trip.

2. Know Your Budget

What You Should Know:

  • There are lots of websites out there that will take your money and lure you to believe you need to spend more money.
  • Stick with your budget

What We Did:

  • There are a lot of choices with places to stay in the South Pacific and costs range
  • We stayed 5 nights in Tahiti with a package deal that included airfare and hotel
  • We upgraded the hotel to an overwater bungalow for all 5 nights
  • We did 3 full days in Tahiti
  • 1 full day in Moorea
  • 1 full day in Bora Bora

3. Know The Time of the Year

What You Should Know:

  • There are really only two seasons in the South Pacific.
  • November – April: Hot and Humid, Rainy Season, Hurricane Season
  • May to October: Cooler Season and Dry Season, Sailing Season

Weather is 70’s-80’s year round. Night time is around 10 degrees cooler.

What We Did:

  • We went in June and the weather was fabulous.
  • During the day: shorts and short sleeve t-shirts
  • Night time: shorts and a sweatshirt
  • It did rain for a few hours on two days and it was considered the dry season when we went.

4. Know the Flight Costs and How to Get a Deal

What You Should Know:

  • The cost from CMH to LAX is can range from $300-$600 roundtrip or $5.60 each way with flight miles on Southwest.
  • The trip to Tahiti can cost $800-$1500 roundtrip from LAX.
  • The Air Tahiti Nui flight from Tahiti to Bora Bora is around $450.00 roundtrip. You may be able to buy tickets once you arrive, but if they are sold out; you will be limited on options getting there.
  • There are two higher speed ferries that operate from Tahiti to Moorea is around $11.00 USD each way. You can purchase ferry tickets on the day you are going; there are more than 7 trips a day (no need to buy ahead of time). More information on Aremiti 
  • Rental cars are reasonable.

What We Did:

  • We used the Southwest Flight Miles: $11.20 per person
  • We booked an Air Tahiti Nui Package: $1172 includes flight to Tahiti and 5 nights hotel stay.
  • We stayed at Le Meridian 
  • We upgraded to the Overwater Bungalow for all nights
  • Le Meridian Hotel is the nicest hotel of the options given for Air Tahiti Nui; some hotels have obnoxious birds that can keep you awake all night
  • Stay here even if you just stay in the hotel and not in a bungalow.
  • The pool and amenities are nice; but not super updated and renovated with bells and whistles. keep in mind Tahiti is circa 1970s; similar to Kauai
  • We flew to Bora Bora for a day; took the earliest flight and returned on the latest flight of the day costing $420.00 per person roundtrip
  • We went to Moorea by Ferry for a day.

5. Book Hotels and Excursions Before You Go

What You Should Know:

Some people will show up on a vacation and figure out hotel accommodations when they arrive. In Tahiti, this is not advisable. Hotels, hostels, and homes are booked. Just make sure you have a plan. It is advisable if you have a desired excursion that you book it before you go; with that being said, you can also talk with your hotel and they will help you book local excursions.

What We Did:

  • We did a package deal with Air Tahiti Nui and knew we would be staying at Le Meridian hotel. After booking the normal hotel option; we upgraded to the overwater bungalow.
  • Knowing that we were going to Bora Bora for a day; we wanted to do a snorkeling adventure and we booked with Pure Snorkeling by Reef Discovery; picked us up by boat at the airport in Bora Bora to start the excursion. Video of the Snorkeling We went on one of the most amazing four stop snorkeling trips possible with Pure Snorkeling: stop 1: manta rays, stop 2: eagle rays, stop 3: coral reef, stop 4: aquarium like experience-thousands of fish.
  • We booked the Moorea excursion with the hotel when we arrived.

6. Rent a Car

What You Should Know:

  • You will need a driver’s license to rent a car in Tahiti
  • It is advisable to know how to drive a stick shift car or call before going to make sure an automatic is available

What We Did:

  • We rented a car for the entire trip and it cost around $600.00 for the time there
  • Automatics were not available

 

7. Have a Plan/ Itinerary

What You Should Know:

  • The South Pacific is beautiful and you can drive around Tahiti and enjoy your entire stay there.

What We Did:

  • We arrived in Tahiti at night and took a shuttle to the hotel. The next day we rented a car and drove around Tahiti, Day 2 we took the Ferry to Moorea and did the Lagoonarium Snorkeling with Reef Sharks, Day 3 Back in Tahiti all day (Kayaked under our bungalow, drove around the island, hiked to a waterfall), Day 4: flew to Bora Bora for the Day (pre-booked the Snorkeling Package); Day 5: Drove around the island and snorkeled.

8. Bring Essential Items

What You Should Know:

  • The South Pacific is damp and humid. Mosquitos are everywhere; spray yourself and bring mosquito netting especially if you stay in an overwater bungalow.
  • 70’s and 80’s are nice temperatures, but remember at night near water it can be a lot colder
  • Bring at least one sweatshirt and a pair of jeans
  • Bring tennis shoes and water shoes

What We Did:

  • We brought mosquito spray and mosquito netting; our overwater bungalow did have the netting with holes in it.
  • Mosquito illness signs are posted in the airport so be aware that it is a serious concern.
  • Bring a spare set of clothes including a swimsuit in your carry-on, just in case.
  • Bring sunscreen because the cost in Tahiti was around $10.00USD for a very small bottle
  • The UV sunshirts are a great idea if you snorkel and spend time in the water (esp. Bora Bora)

9. What Should We Expect to Spend

What You Should Know:

  • It really depends on how much or how little you really want to spend.

What We Spent:

  • Flights and Hotel $1200 per person from LAX to PPT
  • Flight Miles and tax from CMH to LAX $11.20 per person
  • Upgrade to overwater from standard hotel $600 total for 5 nights
  • Flight from PPT to Bora Bora $450.00 per person
  • Ferry from PPT to Moorea $22.00 per person
  • Excursion to Lagoonarium $45.00 per person
  • Excursion from Bora Bora Airport all day snorkeling $145.00 per person
  • Rental Car in Tahiti $350.00 for 5 days
  • Food Costs $300.00 per person for 5-6 days
  • Taxi Ride around Bora Bora $55.00
  • Disney Tickets $105 per person

**All of these costs were then paid for by credit card points so it resulted in no cost for the trip**

Will talk about credit points in another post.

Questions? Just ask!

~Heidi

 

0 In Bucket List/ Budget/ Couples/ Europe/ Family/ Female Travels/ Italy/ Itinerary/ Travel/ Travel Advice/ Travel Tips

Spending A Day in Capri

Getting to Capri

How to get to Capri…….from the train station or ship port; take a taxi to Molo Beverello where you will catch the high speed hydrofoil (ferry).  Make sure you get on one of the earliest ferries that you can. The ride from Naples to Capri is around an hour. You can buy your tickets onsite. For the first visit, you want to buy a roundtrip ticket; you do not want to try to buy a return ticket mid-afternoon to find out that the tickets are sold out to get back to Naples. Tickets can be purchased in advance. If you buy the ticket, it is for a specific time so if your cruise ship is late or the train is late, you may have to repurchase the ferry ticket. The Ferry Schedule  changes based on the time of the year. Peak Season is June-August and September-May is the off peak so check times and availability. If you arrive from a cruise ship; do this on your own UNLESS you are combining Capri with Pompeii; then it would be suggested to go with the cruise ship company as the ship will wait for cruise tours to return and time for both destinations would be a concern.

Map of Capri 

When you arrive in Capri on the hydrofoil, you will come into Marina Grande.

Suggested Itinerary for the Day

9:30 AM  Blue Grotto (Grotto Azzurra) and Ride Around the Island of Capri    

By the time you get tickets for the Blue Grotto Boat Ride, wait for the boat to load, ride around, go into the Blue Grotto, and return, it is about 2 hours.  You will be dropped back at Marina Grande.

The Blue Grotto and Ride Around the Island of Capri only includes the ride to the Blue Grotto. When you arrive, plan on 14 Euros per person to get into the Blue Grotto (Cash only) by row boat.

When your boat pulls up outside the cave, you will see row boats come to boats (there are usually a lot of boats waiting) and load a few people in and they disappear into the cave. It is absolutely beautiful!

Remember that the row boat will likely have water on the bottom (white shorts can become see through). Just know you will have to lay back in the row boat to get into the cave as the top of the row boat often will hit the cave.

Early morning is best! No matter how long you are on the island, by making this your first priority you will ensure the best opportunity to see it. With that being said, if the weather is too rough, it may be cancelled.

 

11:30 AM  Chairlift to Monte Solaro or Take a Drive Around the Island

Chairlift to Monte Solaro Information  

Video of the Chairlift to Monte Solaro

The chair lift to Monte Solaro provides a beautiful landscape portrait of the Island. It is a view you will never forget.

The ride to the top will take 15 minutes.

Faraglioni: From this location, you can see the stones that come out of the water.

Cost: 11 Euros

12:00 PM Visit Villa San Michele

Much of Capri is scenery and environment. Villa San Michele is a up the hill from Marina Grande. It will take over an hour to hike to it.

12:30 PM Anacapri

Anacapri is the second largest town on the island and is much cheaper, more quiet, and tucked away. There are not as many shops, but a short walk to the beach.

1:30 PM Piazzetta

There are a lot of restaurants and cafes along the Piazzetta. Just stroll down and stop one or two places..Typically I will eat a meal, shop for a bit, then stop for dessert.

2:30 PM Via Camerelle and Via Tragara

Shopping area with beautiful streets and avenues; lots of boutiques and perfumes.

3:30 PM Beach near Marina Grande

 

5:00 PM Departure at Marina Grande

When you visit Capri, try to find a Citrus perfume to take home. A little different, but definitely a good souvenir.

No matter how you spend your day, you will love visiting the island of Capri.

XOXO,

Heidi

0 In Bucket List/ Budget/ Couples/ Europe/ Family/ Fashion/ Female Travels/ Itinerary/ Spain/ Travel/ Travel Advice/ Travel Tips

How To Spend 1-2 Days In Barcelona

How to Spend 1-2 Days in Barcelona

Whether you are just visiting Barcelona for an entire day or you are boarding a cruise ship in Barcelona with time on both sides of the trip and are not sure what to do; there is so much to do and see. It is recommended that you do the things most important to you first so you do not miss out on those things.  Do not wait until the afternoon or late in the day as some shops may close early or you will find delays with travel to the destination, long lines, or unforeseen circumstances. Many shops are closed on Sundays, so it is advisable to look over the list of places you want to visit and check times and days of operation.

Barcelona for a Short Visit

In order to save some time figuring out the easiest way to get to many spots; the Hop On / Hop Off Bus provides service to each of the famous sites every 20-30 minutes. The price of two days is usually the same price as one day. Here is a map of the stops. 

The Hop On / Hop Off Bus is also a good way to become familiar with Barcelona; you can stay on the bus the entire time and get acclimated to the city; then when you start to repeat; get off and sightsee. The drop offs and pick ups are well – marked. My advice is to ride it to the Sagrada Familia first, then ride the entire route without getting off; headphones are provided in several languages and you can learn about the city.

Sagrada Familia  

 

Sagrada Familia is a large Catholic Church in Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain. Gaudi gets the credit for the architecture.

Is one of the best and most famous sites in Barcelona. It is advisable to go early in the morning as lines can be a few hours and tickets are limited. In order to avoid this, there is an option with the Hop On/Hop Off Bus to get a VIP entrance ticket for Sagrada Familia.

Placa de Catalunya 

This is in the heart of Barcelona. It is where the old town meets the new areas; lots of shopping and a spot for tourists and residents. If you take a taxi anywhere in the city or ride the bus, you will pass by many historical spots.

La Ramblas

This is famous for the tree-lined sidewalks. Lots of shopping; locals and tourists are both in this area; amazing food (tapas). La Ramblas has so many food choices and all of them are delicious. The prices in Barcelona are comparable with France, the Netherlands, and Germany. Food costs are 1.5x the typical American cost.

Casa Mila

This translates as the stone quarry. It was Gaudi’s residence until his death. It is a World UNESCO Heritage Site.

Casa Batilo

This translates as the House of Bones. This is located near Avinguda Diagonal.

In Barcelona, you will find yourself wandering around and grabbing a coffee or sitting at a cafe watching people stroll. Take the time to enjoy your surroundings.

Additional Museums and Places to Visit:

Columbus Monument

Picasso Museum

Santa Maria Del Mar

Barcelona Cathedral

Magic Fountain

If you are looking for something a little bit out of the ordinary, you may be interested in Montserrat

Shopping Areas:

The Portal de l’Àngel

Passeig de Gracia

Guide to Avinguda Diagonal

Additional Places of Interest:

Hard Rock Cafe

Barcelona Beaches

Soccer Fans

 

There are so many wonderful places to visit in Barcelona. This is a short list and after you visit, you may have some different recommendations! Enjoy the journey!