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Why Mallorca is A Great Vacation Spot

Reading Time: 8 minutes
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!

 

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3 Essential Stops in Rome in 1 Day

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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

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Spending A Day in Capri

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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

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How To Spend 1-2 Days In Barcelona

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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!

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50 Tips for Traveling In and Around France

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Paris.….is always a good idea…..

When traveling to Europe, there are a lot of things to consider….the time of year, the weather you wish to experience, and whether you are on a budget.

I have been to France around 10 times and have fallen more and more in love each time. This post will cover information on a few areas of France: Paris, Nice, Cannes, and Monaco.

Tip 1: Pack a carry on in case your luggage goes missing.

Thankfully on this trip my first day in Paris; I arrived 6 hours late after missing a connection in Philly due to weather. When I was at the airport; I made a report and my luggage was missing for 2 solid days. On the third day, we were headed down to the South of France and my luggage happened to show up 47 hours later to my hotel. In my shop are the Columbia Convertible Pants that make life a lot easier Similar Columbia Pants

Tip 2: Concorde La Fayette is a great place to stay for 3 reasons: Reason 1: Take Air France Bus 2 directly to this hotel which is Porte Maillot. It stops at Etoile, Porte Maillot, and Rossy CDG Reason 2. This hotel has a subway/metro in the hotel (go down the stairs through the tunnel and you are there) Reason 3: cheap transportation   Paris Metro Map

Tip 3: Prepare to Walk

Staying at the Concorde La Fayette (2 miles south of the Arc de Triomphe) to the Notre Dame Cathedral, Musee D’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Louvre, and of course the Eiffel Tower and back without the use of a subway.

Tip 4: Stroll down the Champs Elysees and take it all in.
Renault has a wonderful restaurant on the Champs Elysees.

Tip 5: Visit Versailles at least once in your life.
Take the 45 minute RER train ride to see the great palace. It is something to see- gold embossed tips to the palace and the grounds are just gorgeous.

Tip 6: Plan to arrive at Versailles in the morning before 9 AM to queue
Lines develop way before the entry time and the wait can be hours; so get up early and sleep in another day.

Tip 6: Many Museums are closed on Mondays- Weekly Closing Days of Paris Museums
Before you visit make a list of the places you want to visit and check hours, holidays, and days closed.

Tip 7: Hop On, Hop Off Tour Bus is a great deal: 4 bus lines averaging an hour each route approximately 25 euros per person.
Allows you to see everything from a visualization standpoint and the proximity of things when you are in a double decker bus going around the city. Many of these include a boat ride.The hop-on/ hop-off bus is called L’Opentour …50 stops, 4 routes, and 1 ticket (I would suggest the 2 day pass) One day pass is 29 euros; 2 days is 32 euros and kids are 15 euros ages 4-11.
-Boat hop on, hop off- batauxbus Paris

Tip 8: If you use the metro a booklet of 10 tickets is a good deal: you get 10 tickets for the price of 8. (over time this may change)
Great if you want to quickly zip around the city or know where you want to go in a hurry.

Tip 9: Bring water everywhere with you. You will need it.
Prepare for standing and walking a lot. A few snacks would also be good if you think about it (especially with wait times in line for certain places)

Tip 10: Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night is the best; especially around 11:30 PM
Again, check on the times of closing and if you can get tickets in advance

Tip 11: A pullstring bag is essential because at times you will have a lot of snacks but you can fold it into your pocket when you have nothing.(Backpacks are too cumbersome)

Tip 12: Know the exchange rate 
Exchange rate was 1.60 US dollars to 1 euro and at times is 1 USD to .85 Euros; fluctuations occur often so know what you are paying.

Tip 13: Use points for hotel stays instead of money if you can

Tip 14: Bring an umbrella or Package of 5 ponchos
This comes to personal preference. I like carrying a poncho (1.99 at Walmart) more than an umbrella, but whatever you have to keep you dry is a must.

Tip 15: Bring Clip on Hand Sanitizers
Many places in France have “ran out of soap” or is just not available. Be prepared.

Tip 16: Remember that Air conditioning is not good anywhere in Paris unless you stay at the Charles V

Tip 17: Build in time to just sit, relax, and have no real plan for at least one day in Paris. A Place to Stroll

Monaco

Tip 18: You must have lots of money to go into the Casino. Everyone can walk on the grounds and go in the doors, but to actually play in the Casino; you must be independently wealthy or have wealthy friends. Regardless, it is fun to walk around the area. You never know who you will see.

Tip 19: You must be in a coat and tie to get into the Automobile Club in Monaco.
We were wandering around the Grand Prix area and found the Automobile Club; shorts will not work.

Tip 20: Treat yourself to ice cream while you people watch in Monaco

Tip 21: Remember that you are a 45 minute train ride from Nice, 30 USD round trip  You can get tickets on the day you travel

Tip 22: Trains to Monaco are every 30 minutes from Nice.

Tip 23: Once you arrive in Monaco, you can walk everywhere (the Casino and the Palace are on different cliffs-40 minute walk uphill both ways) I recommend a taxi based on time and getting to see things. There is quite a distance between these areas; there is also the Monaco Bus Service which was $4USD each way depending if you mind stops every 4 minutes.

Tip 24: Little train ride at Oceanographic Museum: 30 minute ride takes you by the Casino and by the Palace, but you must stay on the train, no stops cost 7 Euros for adults, 4 euros for kids.
– Go to Oceanographic Museum first…………if you exit the train station…..go to the right and follow the signs.
-You can walk the grounds of the Prince’s Palace without paying; 4 euros for an inside tour (not worth your money imo)

Cannes

Tip 25: A 30 minute ride from Nice to Cannes via train. Once you arrive in Cannes from the train station walk 1/4 mile to the beach.

Tip 25: When you are in Cannes, take the little train ride to see the city. 10 euros for the big tour
The narrator does a good job of explaining the town; the little train allows you to enjoy the sights.

Tip 26: When you think of Cannes, many think of the film festival. Check out the Red Carpet.

Tip 27: Nice has rock beaches and Cannes has sand beaches and so does Antibes (sand beach) Know and plan accordingly.

Tip 28: Walk around the harbor- gorgeous yachts

Tip 29: Long promenade to walk

Tip 30: Good for a day trip; no more than a day would be advisable here.

Tip 31: Shopping name brands is good: Chanel, Gucci, Prada; all the good brands!

Tip 32: Likely to see famous people walking around.

Tip 33: Haagan Dazs located across from the red carpet..another 15 USD for 2 sundaes.

Nice, France

C’est la vie……………………

Tip 34: Stay at Le Meredien
Use points to stay here (Starwood) Our room was 425 euros a night with an exchange rate of 1.5-1.6…..you do the math! We were able to stay 3 nights and get the 4th night free using points for the three nights.

Tip 35: The promenade is about 10 miles long and continues toward Monaco. Wonderful shops, hotels, and exercise along the water.

Tip 36: The train station is about a mile from Le Meredien (centrally located on the promenade)

Tip 37: Le Meridian is the only one with a beach pool and a pool on the top of the hotel (uncommon in France)

Tip 38: Wireless is 30 euros a day at the hotel (go downstairs and get it from the McDonalds for free; the lobby area you can access the wi-fi)

Tip 39: Just about all McDonald’s in France have wi-fi

Tip 40: Walking to the waterfall is about 3 miles from Le Meridian hotel.

Tip 41: The airport is about 7 miles away, but will cost you a whopping 40 euros! Consider negotiating with the taxi driver before getting in.

Tip 42: If you fly Easyjet (remember that every bag is 22 euros) one carry-on only and no more than 20kg or 44 pounds

Tip 43: If you miss your flight on Easyjet you have to rebuy another one unless you bought insurance

Tip 44: Bus service is a good option from the airport to your hotel. This is not always possible.
We took a bus from the airport to the hotel, but our return flight was super early and the bus was not running. (Bus fare is 7 euros per person, but you must know what stop to get off at)

Tip 45: People do not speak good English here……….especially at the airport.
In Paris, many people speak English and speak it well. As you go to the South of France, many young people speak English but some store owners, airport employees, bus drivers, taxi drivers may speak French only.

Tip 46: Use credit card for transactions.

Tip 47: There is a ferry that will take you to St. Tropez or Corsica (must view dates and times) (Cannes to St. Tropez and Nice to Corsica)

Tip 48: On the promenade there are music groups, dance groups, and rollerbladers, segways, and bikes all day long. It is approximately 4-5 lanes across and next to the beach so you do not cross roads. Performances all the time.

Tip 49: Make Nice your home base.
We stayed for 5 days and 4 nights on this trip and visited Cannes, Monaco, and Nice.

Tip 50: Should you have extra time, stop off in Eze or Grasse and visit the Fragonard factory.

**Always book travel insurance**