Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I'm Traveling Anyway

Security is going to be tighter. Flying will be more difficult. Flying will be more uncomfortable. Lines will be longer. Waits will be longer.

But I'm going to travel anyway. My husband and I just booked a trip to Europe. It was a trip I've been looking at for months and an end of the year special came through that made the price right.

Yup, some people will say I'm crazy but if I stop flying and traveling, THEY win.

Terrorists and Ticket Agents

Yes, I know, it's been forever since I've posted to this blog. But this recent terrorist event really has me livid. Talk about dropping the ball!

Sure, people are blaming the State Department for the fact he had a visa. People are blaming Homeland Security. People are blaming security in Amsterdam.

Hey!!! Let's talk about the ticket agent here. One way ticket.... Paid for in cash.... No luggage.... DUH!!!!!! Where was their head??????

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

For puffins: Ingolfshofdi , Iceland

If you want to see puffins up close and personal, this is the place to do it. But it was also the hardest thing we did the whole trip.

The Ingolfshofdi cape juts out into the North Atlantic. It is at the end of a huge sand flat and is on private property.

The farmer who owns the land does a daily tour to the cape (every day except Sunday). He has his tractor hooked up to an open hay wagon and everyone climbs in the back for the 30 minute ride over the flats.

That's the easy part. Once you get to the cape, it is time to climb the escarpment. The climb is on soft sand and is TOUGH! We were exhausted when we got to the top. But what we found up there made it worthwhile.

There were 100s, if not 1000s, of puffins. And we could easily get within 3-4 feet of them to take pictures. Also, on the top of the escarpment, we saw skuas, very large birds of prey that we first saw in Antarctica.

If seeing puffins up close and personal is on your list of things to do in Iceland, this is the place to do it.

Another good place to see puffins is the west side of the escarpment at Vik, where it's only a short walk from the parking lot. They are on the hillside and flying from there to the sea. Not as good as seeing them at Ingolfshofdi but if one doesn't want to make the climb, this was the second best place we saw them.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jokulsarlon, The Glacier Lagoon

We were very lucky the day we stopped here. The weather cooperated and the sunlight really set off the cobalt blue of the water.

This lagoon is filled with ice that has calved off of a glacier, into a river that flows out from under the glacier. It is really quite beautiful. Boat rides are offered on the lagoon and we decided to spring for it (2800 ISK pp). We thoroughly enjoyed it.

We next did something we hadn't planned. Based upon the suggestion of some hitchhikers we gave a ride to, we crossed the bridge to the west side, and turned down a road leading to the ocean shore. We walked to the shore and there, as far as we could see, were the remains of the ice that had flowed the rest of the way down the river and now lay melting into the ocean. Pretty neat.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Follow up on 'How much does it cost to ship baby items by air'

I recently wrote on this topic based upon information I had from a friend of my daughter.

A regular reader of Travel Snippets just sent me this information: her son and DIL had to pay an extra bag free for their baby since she was a free passenger. AND they had to pay for the stroller and car seat. This was with American airlines, going coach, to Hawaii.

So definitely check your airline's policy for baggage when flying with an infant. You might be pleasantly surprised or you might be in for a rude awakening.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Seydisfjordur, Iceland

(Figured it was time I got back to writing about Iceland. A VERY busy couple of weeks have really kept me going.)

Seydisfjordur is a small, sleepy town at the end of a fjord on Iceland's east coast. The eastern coastline of Iceland has many of these fjords and small towns.

Seydisfjordur has two claims to fame. It is promoted as the most picturesque coastal town in Iceland. And it is where the once a week ferry, from Europe, docks.

We booked two nights at the Hotel Aldan. This was a chance to have an easy day, sleep late, and re-energize for the rest of the trip.

The Hotel Aldan is actually made up of three historic buildings. The check in and dining room is in an old apothecary. Our accommodations in Hotel Snæfell, a former post office, were very bare but comfortable.

Breakfast was included in our rates and were more than adequate. We ate dinner at the hotel the first night and it was pricey and an average meal. For the next night we hit the supermarket which was right across the street.

We drove up each side of the scenic fjord. We took an easy hike to a waterfall. We strolled around town and shopped, once the gift shops opened at 2 PM. As I said, a very sleepy town.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How much does it cost to ship baby items by air

Well, if the baby stuff and the baby is traveling with you, it might very well cost you absolutely NOTHING.

Friends of my daughter are heading to England for two years. They left today with about a dozen suitcases. They envisioned a pretty big 'extra luggage' fee, even though there are 5 of them, with the baby.

At the airport, the desk agent told them that baby items went free. WOW! After pointing out which bags were baby items, the agent did unzip them and glance into the bags just to confirm.

And, yes, all of the bags containing baby items went at no additional charge.

If you'll be flying with a baby, be sure to check with your airline. I don't know if all airlines do this. But it might be smart to pack all baby items in their own bags if you'll be traveling with a lot of luggage. Could save you some money.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, Iceland

After backtracking from viewing the Ásbyrgi formations, we now planned on seeing as much of Jökulsárgljúfur National Park as we could. There are two roads in the park, one down the east side of the canyon and one down the west.

I had read that the road down the east side was better maintained. Also, the western road would have to be a round trip drive as the road becomes an 'F' road and we could not take our rental sedan on it. However, the woman at the visitor's center said that the formations at the end of that road were worth seeing. So off we went down the western road.

It was a washboard dirt road but we made it to the end and hiked around the formations. These were also basalt but on their side and really strange looking. (And for those that need to know, in the parking lot, even at this location in the middle of nowhere, was a bathroom.)

Retracing our route, we headed south on the eastern 'better maintained' road. No way! This road was worse: dirt, rocky, washboard, potholed. But it was also the way back to the Ring Road so we kept going. Our plan was to stop and see three waterfalls: Dettifoss, Selfoss and Hafragilsfoss.

We managed to see two of the three. We stopped at Dettifoss and Hafragilsfoss. Dettifoss is billed as the most powerful waterfall in Europe. It was impressive but a little note here that I live within 1 1/2 hours of Niagara Falls so I do have something very powerful to compare it to. That said, it was impressive.

To see Selfoss would have meant an additional hike beyond Dettifoss. Having already done a bunch of hiking, and still having a long drive ahead of us on a lousy road, we decided to cancel that and continue on our drive. Finally, finally, finally, we were back to the paved Ring Road, on our way to Seydisfjordur.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

More on Iceland Coming Up

I've got a lot more to write about Iceland. But just finished up with 10 days of a visit from our grandchildren. So, yes, I'm a bit behind on everything.

Hope to have a new Iceland post out in a couple of days. Thanks for subscribing and being a regular reader of Travel Snippets and More.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ásbyrgi, Iceland

We departed Husavik, heading north around the cape, planning on approaching Jökulsárgljúfur National Park from the north side. The north side is where the visitors' center is located and, also located nearby, is the entrance to the Ásbyrgi canyon.

The Ásbyrgi canyon is a horseshoe-shaped depression and is, officially, part of Jökulsárgljúfur National Park. There is one road in (south) that takes you between incredible basalt formations. At the end of the road is a parking lot, with signs pointing to several hiking trails. We picked the one heading to 'the pond'.

The trail was not very long and was a very easy walk. Finally, it lead down to the pond. And what a treat. This pond was absolutely beautiful, backed by a tall basalt foundation, surrounded by lush greenery, with clear water and ducks and ducklings. There were benches along the edge and we sat and enjoyed the view and the quiet.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Protocol Rules For Public Pools In Iceland

There is a very specific protocol to follow if one will be using any of the town pools in Iceland. I was very happy that I had come across a list of 'rules'. Otherwise I would have made some very significant faux pas.

Two things are very important. Outside shoes are never worn in the locker room. And one never enters the locker room wet.

So, with your bathing suit and towel in hand, check out this the instructions for pool etiquette from Frommer's.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Husavik, Iceland

Husavik is billed as THE place, in Iceland, for whale watching. We had prebooked reservations, with North Sailing, for their 10 AM departure. We would be leaving the Lake Myvatn area that morning, and we were told to allow 1 1/2 hours for the drive.

This really puzzled us as the road sign said the distance to Husavik was 50 km. Why did we need 1 1/2 hours? This advice had been given to use by Iceland Saga Travel and since, so far, they were dead on with everything, we decided to follow their advice and, actually, gave ourselves 2 hours.

So leaving our hotel in Reykjalio, we departed at 8 AM. We zipped along on the road at about 90 kmh, for about 10 km. And THEN, the road turned into THIS...

No wonder we were told to allow 1 1/2 hours.

We did arrive in Husavik in plenty of time. We drove around the very empty streets for a while, found our hotel (a Fosshotel, where we couldn't check in until 4 PM), and then checked in for our whale watching trip.

The boat we were on was, by far, the smallest we've ever been on for whale watching. It certainly got us close to the water. We saw quite a few humpback whales and a minke whale. Didn't see any of the great fluke displays like we saw in Antarctica but we did see some good activity.

Having an afternoon to fill, we drove south, out of Husavik, towards the direction of Akureyri. The road we were on went over a wide, shallow river and turned left to join up with the Ring Road. Instead we turned right and drove north, along the river. We had beautiful weather and saw a lot of new (for us) birds. It was a great relaxing afternoon.

For dinner we decided to head back to the pier and one of the restaurants we had spotted. During the day it had been mobbed but it was quieter in the evening. The name of the restaurant is Gamil Baukur and we highly recommend it. I ordered the lamb and got three huge pieces of tenderloin with a load of sides. It was the best lamb, at the best price, that I had all trip.

Evening, still looking like daylight, found us strolling around the harbor and up some residential streets that overlooked the town. These pictures, of the boats

and the town, were taken around 9:30 PM.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Akureyri, Iceland

I was reviewing my blog and realized I had totally missed writing about our short stay in Akureyri.

My plan for the afternoon was to visit the botanical garden. Although uphill, it still was in walking distance of our hotel. So off we headed.

It is not a very large garden but, considering the climate and short growing season, both my husband and I were very impressed with the variety of plants and beautiful blossoms.

It really was a photographer's dream. While there were many plants that I was familiar with from home, some were very new to me like this Himilayan Blue Poppy.

As we headed back to the hotel, I spotted what looked like a shortcut down the hill behind our hotel. We started down a very well worn dirt path. My husband was concerned it was a path that would take us nowhere until I pointed out the streetlights all along the way.....I have to admit I've never before seen streetlamps along a dirt path.

My way to relax that afternoon was to head over to the public swimming pool. I had been reading about how every town has their own pool, all geothermally heated. I was determined to try at least one. There is a very specific protocol for bathing in these pools and I'm going to do a separate post about it. I'm just glad I had read 'the rules' before I headed into the locker room.

The pool area at Akureyri is huge. Besides a pool for lap swimming, there are several hot pools of varying temperatures, a kiddy pool, slides, a steam room and a sauna. I spend about 2 hours there and wished I could have stayed longer.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Review: Frommer's Iceland

I purchased Frommer's Iceland in preparation for our trip. I reviewed several Iceland tour books and settled on Frommer's for several reasons.

Frommer's does a great job with things like hotel reviews. But I wanted more. Since we were using Iceland Saga Travel for our accommodations, that wasn't my main focus.

In my opinion, Frommer's Iceland excels in several ways. The city/town maps are excellent. It lists a wide range of eating options. I love the tidbits of information given in inserts. And the lists of things to-do work perfectly for this early-60's couple.

In general, when I decide to buy a guide book, it's usually a Frommer's guide that I end up buying. And this Frommer's Iceland guide met all my expectations.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Review: Canandaigua Lady

So, trying to figure out what 'something special' we can do for our 40th anniversary. Not an easy thing to do...and then it hit me...

We had just been to Canandaigua Lake the previous Saturday for the Finger Lakes Riesling Festival. And I had spotted information on the Canandaigua Lady. So we called and made reservations for their Sunset Dinner Cruise.

This is a paddle wheel boat that, literally, used the paddle wheel for propulsion. As such, the ride is very quiet. We had an excellent meal, a beautiful evening, saw a lovely sunset, and, in general, spent our 40th anniversary doing something very special.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Iceland: Krafla Thermal Area

The Krafla thermal area is just east of Lake Myvatn, right off the Ring Road.

Our route the next day was taking us northwest to Husavik. I saw information, on a map, about a thermal pool towards the east and insisted we head out, after dinner, to check it out. And am I glad that we did. I can't believe we almost missed this!

(Be sure to click on the panorama shot, below, for a sharp image.)

In the opinion of both myself and my husband, this was the best (most interesting) thermal area that we saw in Iceland. Yes, the Geysir area has Strokkur and there are no geysirs at Krafla. But in terms of formations, fumeroles, mud pots, etc., Krafla was WAY more fascinating.

Monday, August 17, 2009

40th Wedding Anniversary

Yes, this is totally off topic of course.

But today is our 40th wedding anniversary. And I want to shout it to the world!

40 years with the same guy...through thick and thin, ups and downs, and ....

still very much in love with each other.

And, yes, he still sends me flowers =sigh=

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Iceland Images - Akureyri to Lake Myvatn

Our first morning with the car, we left Akureyri with fog hanging down over the fjord. Crossing the causeway, we had the fjord (and the town of Akureyri) on our left.

As we make our way along the fjord, we can see the road rising along the mountainside ... with the fog waiting for us.

We finally reach the fog.

Over the mountaintop in complete fog. Where is the road??? And then..........

We started down, finally out of the fog, and this beautiful valley was before us.

Godafoss. One of many beautiful waterfalls in Iceland and our first planned stop after Akureyri.

Our next stop was Lake Myvatn with plans to drive around it. It is advertised as THE waterfowl watching place, with loads of ducks and other fresh water birds. See any? Neither did we. :(

Dimmuborgir, located on the east side of Lake Myvtn, are peculiar lava formations created when a pool of moltan lava was formed. When the lava exited the pool towards Lake Myvatn, these weird formations were left behind. There are well marked paths through the area, clearly marked as to length and difficulty.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Broadway Joe's Bar & Grill, Buffalo, NY

Going to be in Buffalo, New York the last weekend of the month?

Then head over to Broadway Joe's Bar & Grill at 3051 Main Street.

The weekend of August 28, 2009 is Grand Opening Weekend, with loads of bands and booze AND a pig roast.

You really don't want to miss this!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Review: Hotel Akureyri, Iceland

We had a one night stay at Hotel Akureyri in Akureyri, Iceland. Our accommodations were on the 2nd floor which means 2 floors up (ground, 1st, 2nd). As is typical of Icelandic hotels, there was no elevator and the room was small.

Still, our room faced the fjord for a great view. The beds were comfortable and the room was quiet. There was a very nice buffet breakfast that included our first taste, in Iceland, of smoked salmon and herring. And there was a waffle maker!

It more than adequately served our purpose for a comfortable overnight stay in Akureyri before we began our drive on the Ring Road.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Photos of Iceland From the Air on the Way to Akureyri

We flew from Reykjavik to Akureyri. Akureyri is the second largest city (in terms of population) in Iceland and we decided to start our, clockwise, Ring Road trip from there.

Heading northeast on a two engine prop, my husband was able to get some great shots of the landscape below us.

After arriving in Akureyri, we picked up our rental car, headed to our hotel, Hotel Akureyri.. It was conveniently located, within an easy walk of the city center.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Whale Watching and Horseback Riding Out of Reykjavik

As mentioned previously, we had an extra unscheduled day in Reykjavik. Figuring that two full days in the city would be enough for us (and they were), I had pre-reserved, from home, an excursion with Ishestar for their Horses and Whales itinerary.

Our current itinerary had whale watching also schedule out of Husavik. And we also had planned to go horseback riding towards the end of our trip, when in southwest Iceland. So, all going according to plan, this could duplicate things for us.

In retrospect, this turned out to be the right thing to do. While the horseback riding experience, on the unique Icelandic horse, could have been better, we were so busy during the rest of the trip that we had no time to do it elsewhere. And we lucked out on the whale watching with an absolutely beautiful day on the water where we had our first look at puffins and minke whales.

The big problems with the horseback riding were a late pickup and a HUGE group. By the time everyone paid or showed their voucher, was up on a horse and settled in, we were tight on the clock. Plus, we were only about 20 minutes out of Reykjavik, so we really didn't 'get out into the countryside' as much as we would have liked.

That said, one very nice thing that was done by the guides was that they broke the group up into those that wanted to go slow and those that wanted to go fast. So we did have a chance for a good ride.

After the ride, our tour van RACED to the harbor for our whale watching part of the trip. We got onto the 1 PM departure at about 1:01 but they knew we were coming. Fortunately it was possible to buy a sandwich on board as we had not had time to eat.

We first went to an island where puffins congregated and it was neat getting to see them for the first time. Then out to where the captain could see flocks of seabirds congregating over the water. He knew that was where the fish were and that is where the whales would be.

We did get to see several minke whales. With beautiful sunshine, and a relatively calm sea, it was a great day.

For someone spending time only in Reykjavik, and wanting to have both experiences, I would recommend this tour. It gave a great taste of both. The horses were wonderful. The guides were helpful. And we did see whales.

However, if someone wanted to only experience the horses, I would suggest looking into a full day (or overnight) tour that took place an hour or so from Reykjavik. The southwest part of Iceland is loaded with horses and riding opportunities and there are some that offer day trips from the city.

Note: If going whale watching, take WARM clothes. It is windy and cold on the water. We even used our gloves and hats.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Public Restrooms in Iceland

I know a lot of people don't care about this but it's an important subject for me. So I'm writing about it.

In general, every gas station in the country has a public restroom AND they are CLEAN!!!

In Reykjavik, the City Hall has public restrooms. Amazingly enough, the tourist information center doesn't. But when I inquired, I was directed to 'the green building' across the square. So out we go looking for the 'green building'. Both my husband and I are stymied. We can't find it. So taking a break and sitting down to rest for a moment, I look up and there, right in front of me, is a green, circular stand-alone 'WC' (water closet). After knowing what to look for, we discovered several around the city.

Every restaurant has restrooms but you must be a patron.

Fact is, in our two week trip throughout the country, we never had to look far for a bathroom.

And the majority of parking areas in the national parks also had bathrooms, some only one in an upside down 'V' shaped hut.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Where to eat in Reykjavik

We've got two recommendations. Both inexpensive and extremely casual. And classics based upon all we have read.

Saegreifinn (Sea Baron) - This restaurant is located on the waterfront, a few blocks from the tourist information office. Walk over to the street running along the waterfront, turn left and look for the bright blue building on the water side of the street.

This restaurant is very laid back. You go up to the counter to place your order and EVERYONE comes for the lobster soup. With a basket of bread, this makes for a very nice lunch. Hungrier? In the refrigerated case to your left are skewers of seafood one can order. Thirsty? Grab a bottle of beer from the cooler to add to your order. Or, for free, help yourself to a plastic cup and one of the pitchers of water at the bottom of the same case. Good? We went twice for the soup.

Saegreifinn, Geirsgata 8; 101 Reykjavik; 354-553-1500

Baejarins Bestu - The pylsur (hot dog) seems to be the national food of Iceland. It can be found just about everywhere. From what we understand, the pylsur is made with some lamb but I was never able to confirm that. So, while in Iceland, do what the Icelanders pylsur.

THE place for a pylsur in Reykjavik is Baejaris Bestu. When looking for it we had been told to 'just look for the line'. On a corner one block from the waterfront, opposite a nondescript parking lot, next to another nondescript parking lot, is where you'll find this hot dog stand. (Actually, it is also right across the street from the Radisson SAS hotel.) And, yes, there was a line.

Baejarins Bestu, 101 Tryggvagata

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Review: National Museum of Iceland

Even though we are not generally museum goers, since there are so many to offer in Reykjavik, we decided to pick one to go to.

We decided on the National Museum of Iceland for several reasons. One is that we wanted something more general than the other more specific topics museums. And also because it is free on Wednesday.

We arrived at around 10:30 AM and learned that, during the summer, there is a free tour, given in English, at 11:00 AM. We decided to wait. In the meantime I visited the gift shop and then followed the sign to 'lockers', on a lower level. I discovered that the lockers are free and they made a good place to dump our jackets and my purchases while we toured.

The museum was completely redone in 2004 and is quite interesting. The displays are broken down into 200 year segments. All of the displays are in Icelandic and English and, with the renovation, there are now a lot of multimedia displays. It was easy to spend a few hours here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland. More than 50% of the population of Iceland lives there. Considering that the total population of Iceland is just over 300,000, the number living in Reykjavik is not large and it is a small city.

We had scheduled 3 full days in Reykjavik with the intention of taking a tour on our third day. Because of adjustments we had to make to our late-booked itinerary, we opted out of the tour. Now we had 3 full days to spend in the capital. For us, too much.

Our plan for the first day was to hook up with a free city tour given every day at 1:00 PM. So we wandered on our own for the morning, spending some time looking over brochures at the tourist information office from where the tour left.

Our tour lasted a bit over 2 hours and is done for tips. It is well worth the time and we learned a lot of interesting things about Iceland and Icelanders. It was an excellent introduction for our first day.

Reykjavik has, in my opinion, a lot of museums for its size. Not generally museum goers, we did visit the National Museum of Iceland. But after wandering neighborhoods for 2 days, popping into and out of shops, and, in general, adjusting to the time change, after two days we felt we had seen all we wanted to see.

And even if one is an avid museum goer, in my opinion, 3 full days in Reykjavik is all that is needed to thoroughly visit what the city has to offer.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Review: Guesthouse Sunna, Reykjavik, Iceland

As mentioned in my earlier post, we arrived at our destination, Guesthouse Sunna, on Tuesday, at 8 AM Iceland time (4 AM our body time). Our room was not ready (as we had anticipated) but the very nice young man at the desk said that the room had already been vacated and he would ask housekeeping to make it up right away.

In the meantime, breakfast was being served. We were very tired and didn't want to go in search of a restaurant so we paid for breakfast at the guesthouse and ate there. (Price was 1200 ISK per person...just short of $10.) By the time we were done eating, our room was ready.

We had a studio. As requested, it was on the ground floor (although in another building). The room was huge with queen bed (with two thick comforters in duvet covers and thin pillows....which we learned is typical all over Iceland), galley kitchen area, sofa, table with chairs. The room was quite comfortable except for one thing.

It faced the street and it was noisy. Very often people and car traffic didn't quiet down until around midnight. We were exhausted at the end of each day so it pretty much didn't bother us. But we would strongly suggest anyone staying at Guesthouse Sunna (assuming they can handle the stairs) to specifically request a quiet room back off the streets.

Another thing we also learned (which does not reflect negatively on our accommodations) is that the city center for Reykjavik is by the harbor, as one would expect. However, what was unexpected to us is that the rest of Reykjavik is UP. This definitely precluded our popping back to the hotel for anything and made us plan our days carefully.

With no restaurants near our guesthouse (or any of the other guesthouses/hotels in the area), we either timed our days so we had dinner near city center or, on the way back at the end of the day, we stopped at the very convenient grocery near the guesthouse to buy food to eat in our room.

In general, our stay at Guesthouse Sunna was fine. The room was clean and comfortable. The front desk staff was extremely helpful. The buffet breakfast served each morning (included in our night's rate) was more than sufficient. In a quieter room, we would have no hesitation staying there again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Arriving in Iceland

All international flights land at Keflavik International Airport. As this blog shows, my husband and I have traveled quite a bit. This was the first country we've visited where we had to go through security to get INTO the country. Yes, of course, we had to go through passport control and customs. That is typical. But security?

Our carry on luggage was scanned. We had to walk through a metal detector. No liquids are allowed other than the 100 ml/3 oz size, packed in the standard one-quart sized Ziploc bag.

For money exchange there is a bank branch right outside Arrivals. And right next to the bank are ATM machines. We had the option of getting instructions in English and all worked perfectly.

Also outside of Arrivals was the desk for FlyBus. This is the easiest and cheapest way to get into the capital, Reykjavik. We boarded a standard sized bus and were taken to the main bus terminal where everyone got off the bus. We were a bit puzzled but then realized we needed to board one of the smaller mini vans for the final leg of our transfer to our hotel.

Finally, after departing our home airport at 11:00 AM Monday, we arrived at our destination, on Tuesday, at 8 AM Iceland time (4 AM our body time). As expected, our room was not ready. But the young man at the desk told us that the previous occupants had already checked out and he would ask housekeeping to make up the room right away.

In the meantime, breakfast was being served. We inquired about paying for breakfast that morning (all breakfasts AFTER a night's stay were included) and by the time we were done eating, our room was ready.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Review: Icelandair

We flew Icelandair out of JFK. Truthfully, not like we had any other choice of airlines. Anyway, if you don't expect anything, you won't be disappointed. The plane was much smaller than we expected (3 x 3 with about 35 rows).

The seats are narrow and not terribly comfortable. Soda and water is available for free. Food and alcoholic beverages are available for purchase. I knew all this before the flight. Still, it would have been nice to have some food served on the (almost) 6 hour flight.

All that said, we arrived safe, sound and early.

Tour the USS New York Nov 1 - Nov 7

The USS New York will be arriving in NY harbor on Nov 1, 2009 and commissioned in the US Navy Nov. 7.

During that week, if you are in New York City, you will be able to tour the ship. The most significant thing about the ship is that the bow is made with 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center.

With a motto of "Never Forget", I'm sure it would be a very exciting opportunity to see this new ship. If you'd like more information, you can check out the official website.

LaGuardia Terminal Evacuated

Hundreds of passengers were stranded at LaGuardia airport when police closed the main terminal at around 5:30 AM, today, Saturday. Apparently a man approached security with a bag containing batteries and wires. The terminal was finally reopened shortly before 9:00 AM.

For more on the story

Friday, July 31, 2009

Where to eat in JFK?

I can tell you where NOT to eat: Terminal 7.

We were departing from Terminal 7 for our trip to Iceland. Unlike Terminal 4 where we departed for our South America trip, most of the restaurants in Terminal 7 are AFTER security.

Since you can't get through security without your boarding pass, and most international ticket counters don't open until 3-4 hours before departure, if you have a long layover (like we did) and want to eat, do it before heading over to Terminal 7.

Before security, the choices in Terminal 7 are Starbucks or Subway. That's it!

Check the beach before traveling to Cancun, Mexico

One thing tourists to Cancun, Mexico come for is to enjoy the beach in front of their hotel.

Now some tourists are arriving to find crime scene tape blocking their access to the beach. What's the crime? Moving sand from the sea floor onto the beach in front of the hotel plus suspicion of illegally building a breakwater that affects the natural flow of sand onto the beaches of other hotels.

To read the full story: Mexico shuts Cancun beach, alleges sand was stolen

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Review: Iceland Saga Travel - No Complaints

I recently wrote about the improving exchange rate (for those of us in the U.S. ) of the Icelandic krona against the U.S. dollar. Since that time, my husband and I discussed the possibility of taking advantage of this and making our long discussed visit to Iceland. So in May, with barely two months out from our desired departure time, I contacted Iceland Saga Travel for assistance with our arrangements.

With contact being solely via email, I gave Bob, owner of Iceland Saga Travel, the task of making our arrangements. I knew this would not be easy. Accommodations outside the capital of Reykjavik are scarce and book up quickly.

We started with IST's own independent itineraries as the basis for our trip. I added a few days here and there and Bob set out to work on it. As expected, we did have to be flexible with our itinerary because some places were booked solid at this late date.

Emails flew back and forth, with Bob being very quick at responding and answering all of my questions. At last, all was finalized and we sent off our payment. Approximately a week before our departure date, all vouchers arrived, sent overnight express. Included with the vouchers was additional information such as brochures about our accommodations and maps.

Everything worked like a charm. We had no problems with any of our reservations. All accommodations met or exceeded our requirements. I would have absolutely no hesitation recommending Iceland Saga Travel to anyone planning a trip to Iceland, whether it be for 2-3 days in just Reykjavik or weeks touring the country.

Your Rights If Stranded on the Tarmac

The fact is that the passenger has none. Whether it is a mechanical problem, bad weather, or lots of air traffic, passengers currently have no options once the plane leaves the gate.

But now, noise made by passengers being held captive on airplanes that just sit on the tarmac has finally gotten the attention of Congress. Legislation that would let passengers get off planes delayed on airport tarmacs is moving through the House and Senate as part of a bill reauthorizing and funding the Federal Aviation Administration.

In my opinion, something like this is way overdue.

From USA article: Fliers trapped on tarmac push for rules on release

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How to keep your camera and photos safe when you travel

Protect your camera strap from being slashed by replacing it with one from Pacsafe: Carrysafe Strap. My husband replaced the strap on his Canon camera that announced to the world EOS DIGITAL. Pacsafe also makes purses with unslashable straps and unslashable backpacks.

Protect your digital photos by making a copy of your memory cards. We use the Digital Foci Photo Safe and keep the memory cards in one place and the Photo Safe in another.

And from Eric in London, a particpant on the GAP travel forum, The Watering Hole:

After seeing 2 small compact cameras lost / stolen in Spain recently:

Its not the camera thats the real loss, its all those photos.Don't use just 1 large memory card - eg 4gb or even 8gb (!).

Use a collection of smaller ones. So if you loose the camera ( be it cheap or very expensive - but still much loved) you loose only 1 or 2 days pictures at the most. Not the entire trip.

Think about how you use your camera. Do you take about 1GB worth of pictures per day? I know people who can easily chew up 4 GB per day. Bring memory cards, as Eric suggests, in those 'per day' sizes.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

10 Quick Tips for Safe International Travel

1 - Before you leave, check out what the locals wear and bring similar type clothes. Don't wear expensive jewelry. Dressing too casual or too flashy can mark you as a tourist. Try to play it safe by blending in. Of course if you are visiting the bush in Africa, no one expects you to dress like a Masai warrior. (Obviously, there ARE some countries where you are going to look like a tourist no matter what you do.)

2 - Use travel accessories that allow you to travel light. You'll be able to maneuver quicker. You're more likely to have a free hand. And you are less likely to have to leave your luggage unattended.

3 - Keep your money safe by putting it in several pockets. The bulk of your cash should be in your Eagle Creek Nylon Hidden Pocket. Keep small bills handy for small purchases. Don't flash your cash. Beware of people who create a distraction and crowded areas. Put a cheap wallet, with just a few dollars in it, in your back pocket to tempt the pickpocket away from more valuable items.

4 - Pack your medicines in your carry on bag. This is so important I'm going to write it again: Pack your medicines in your carry on bag. Also, if you wear glasses, pack an extra pair in your carry on too

5 - Get through customs quickly and easily by leaving all medicines in their original containers. If the medicine is unusual or narcotic, bring a letter from your doctor. If you have any questions about whether or not you can bring a drug into a country, contact that country's embassy or consulate first.

6 - Make a copy of the photo page of your passport. Carry extra passport sized photos with you.

7 - Bring as little cash as possible. Use ATMs. Bring one or two credit cards. Be sure to call your credit card bank and let them know you'll be traveling and where and when. You don't want your purchase denied because the bank doesn't know you are in Asia. And at an ATM, practice the same safe procedure you do at home: protect your PIN and put your money away before leaving the ATM area. Also, withdraw as much local currency as you think you'll need for your entire visit so you don't have multiple withdrawals and multiple ATM fees.

8 - Leave your itinerary with friends and family. Also leave copies of your passport, airline tickets, drivers licence and credit card(s) that you plan to bring with you. Or you can do like we do. We scan our documents and then email them to our Yahoo address. That makes them available to us wherever there is internet access.

9 - If you'll be in one place for more than two weeks, register at the nearest embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens can register through the State Department's travel registration website at If there is an emergency in the area you are traveling, the embassy will know you are there.

10 - Learn to say a few things in the local language. At minimum, learn how to say Please, Thank You and Help. There are many resources on the internet for learning a language whether it's French, German, or Japanese.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Turtles Delay Flights at JFK

It seems Diamondback terrapins are very common to Jamaica Bay which borders JFK airport.

And it seems that this time of the year, every year, some of those terrapins make their way onto the runways at this New York City airport.

This year, though, the 'invasion' was so large that they actually contributed to delays of up to 1 1/2 hours.

Can you imagine being a passenger anxious to get somewhere and finding out your flight is being delayed by turtles???

For more on the story

Friday, July 3, 2009

Antarctica - Cruise Only

If you want to see Antarctica on a cruise only basis, better hurry.

Cruise lines like Holland America and Princess have offered South American itineraries that sail, for a few days, in Antarctica.

But in April, an amendment was passed by member countries of the 50 year old Antarctic Treaty. It was agreed that ships carrying more than 500 passengers should not be allowed in Antarctica.

So if you hope to see Antarctica from the deck of one of the larger cruising ships, then you better make your reservation soon. I just checked and Holland America has at least one sailing in December of this year and Princess has one in January of next year. Who knows what will be after that.

Need an agent to answer your questions and to work with you on your booking? Email Ellen at

Airlines Dealing With Obese Passengers

United Airlines has joined the growing list of airlines that require 'passengers of size' to purchase a second seat.

United's new policy reads: " For the comfort and well-being of all customers aboard United flights, we have aligned with other major airlines' seating policies regarding passengers of size.

This includes passengers who are:
unable to fit into a single seat in the ticketed cabin
unable to properly buckle the seat belt using a single seat belt extender
unable to put the seat's armrests down when seated

If there are unused seats on the United flight, the passenger meeting these criteria will be given a seat next to an empty one. If the flight is full, the customer either must purchase an upgrade to a cabin with available seats or change the ticket to the next available flight and purchase an additional, second seat. The price of the second seat will be the same as paid for the original seat and there will be no rebooking or change of flight fees charged.

If there passenger cannot purchase a second seat and there are no empty ones, the passenger will not be permitted to board and their fare will be refunded with no penalty.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cheyenne Woods Graced Local Golf Course

Cheyenne Woods, who is Tiger Wood's niece, was playing at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, New York. She had been competing in the Wegmans LPGA tournament before missing the cut.

Locust Hill is about 20 minutes from my house. The LPGA tournament is, obviously, a very major golfing event held here every year.

Wegmans, one of the major sponsors, is our local, home grown chain of supermarkets. And I use the term supermarket loosely. Their premier store in Pittsford is a local tourist attraction. (Even Cher was taken there when she did a local concert.) Shopping at the Pittsford store of Wegmans is a shopping 'event'.

I wonder if Cheyenne was taken there and given the VIP tour? Wegman's sells a large variety of items but I think even they don't sell ladies golf clubs.

Monday, June 29, 2009

New TSA Rules

New TSA (Transportation Security Administration) rules began being phased in on May 15th.

They require all airlines operating within the U.S. to collect the full name, date of birth and gender of each passenger. Allegedly, the new rules were put in place to help prevent the problem of misidentifying passengers with those who have similar names and are on the 'terrorist watch list'.

It may take a few months for all of the airlines to be able to integrate this information into their systems. Once that is accomplished, this new rule will apply to all airlines that fly into, out of, or over the U.S.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Review: Views From The Left Seat

I subscribe to this blog and was SO glad to read a new post.

The author is a commercial airline pilot and the posts are from his perspective. They are well written and sprinkled with his excellent, and interesting, photographs.

I think this blog should be on the Subscribe list of anyone who flies. Take a look. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Views From The Left Seat

Sunday, June 21, 2009

How to save money at motels

I recently found out one way to save money at a motel. At least at a motel in the Marriott chain.

We drove up to a Fairfield Inn and I approached the desk to check out the rate. Normal rate was $139. AAA and AARP rate was $132. I really wasn't happy with the price but the weather, which had prompted us to stop in the first place, was lousy.

I went outside to my husband, who was waiting in the car, and told him the rate. I then came back in and asked 'Is that really the best you can do?".

The desk clerk asked me if I was a 'senior'. Since I over 60, I said 'Yes'. She could give me the 'senior rate' of $118!!

Now I know.... In the future, I'll be sure to ask for a 'senior rate'.

Kettle Creek, Potter County, PA

My husband is a fly-fisherman. A while back he picked up a book entitled, something like, 'The best 100 trout streams in the U.S.'. He seems to have, now, made it his mission in life to fish as many of them as possible.

This is turning out to be less difficult than he originally thought as a significant number of them are just a few hours from our house, in central Pennsylvania.

Near the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, just west and south of PA Rt 6 (which runs along the northern part of the state), are loads of trout steams, many of them Class A. We decided to take a week and spend it in the area.

After my husband narrowed down the possible locations to use as a base, it was now my job to find accommodations. And did I get lucky!

I found Kettle Creek Adventures. Run by a lovely couple, Dave and Brenda, Kettle Creek Adventures offers accommodations in their beautiful home. Located just across the road from Kettle Creek, their new, huge, lodge-in-the-woods offers both B&B and self-contained accommodations. We opted for the B&B and had our own room, private bath and were treated, each morning, to a fantastic custom made breakfast.

From their wrap around deck we were able to watch wildlife in the evenings and mornings, and Dave, a licensed guide, gave us directions to great fishing hotspots.

As readers of this site know, we typically do not go back to the same place twice. We made an exception here and are returning to Kettle Creek Adventures next year.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Review: Cape May, New Jersey

Just returned from our second visit to Cape May, New Jersey. The last time we went was October, 2007. It was just my husband and I at that time and the purpose was to do some bird watching. Cape May is on the Atlantic migratory bird flyway. Cape May Point State Park is a great place to watch for the birds of prey. There is a wooden overlook with benches and lots of spotters to help you identify the birds that are seen.

That September we had a mix of weather, everything from chilly to an 80 degree day. It was a very nice place to visit so we decided to take our grandchildren there this past week, just as they finished school.

Being June, the motel prices are a lot higher than they are in October. Not only that, the base room price covers only two people in the room. Over two, the additional charges ranged from about $15 pp to $22 pp. I finally found a place to stay in the area I wanted (all the way at the end of Beach Avenue) and we had to send in the cost of one night for a non-refundable deposit.

Well, I don't know if it was because it was just the third week in June or the weather, but lots of motels had vacancies. If I was to come again at this time, I think I would come without a res and try to negotiate a better rate at one of the many places with a Vacancy sign up.

As for the weather, it certainly was not what I would have expected for mid-June. We had very cool weather and even pouring rain (fortunately on the day we were leaving anyway).

In spite of that, our 7 and 9 year old grandchildren had a great time. We hiked at the state park and we managed to grab an afternoon with some brief sunshine for them to play in the surf.

We ate dinner at Lucky Bones, which was very good. To keep the restaurant check in line, they offer a lot of sandwiches. We also ate at Mangia, Mangia. The food was excellent, the service was lousy and the bill was high. There are lots of pizza places. Charlie's Place on Beach Avenue offers a reasonably priced menu.

Lots of restaurants open for breakfast and lunch but not for dinner. And lots of restaurants just not open. We were wondering if it was still too early in the season. We even saw an ice cream place still closed.

I highly recommend Cape May as a family destination. Just keep in mind that Cape May, like any seashore community in the summer, can also be an expensive destination.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Costa Rica Entrance Fee

Contrary to the information I had for an earlier post, Costa Rica has not implemented the plan that would have added a flat fee of $15 to all air tickets.

I don't have information, though, as to whether or not it did drop the 3% hotel tax. If anyone has any information on that, please let me know.

Free e-guides

I found a site offering some neat, and FREE, e-guides. They open in a .pdf file and you can then print them off to take with you.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Clever Use of Color

If you've got the time, take a look at the Orange Country website.

I love the orange county web design. I think it’s neat how orange, the name of the county, is used throughout the site.

Just thought this was a pretty good way to 'remind' people of the name of the county they are looking at.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Travel Quotes

I'm a member of Twitter. I found a site called TravelCash that I was curious about. Read a bit and found these quotes some which I found quite interesting and some which gave me a chuckle. Thought I'd pass some along:

Kilometers are shorter than miles. Save gas, take your next trip in kilometers. – George Carlin

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home. - James Mitchener

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going. - Paul Theroux

Remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable - Clifton Fadiman

A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. - John Steinbeck

Monday, June 1, 2009

Review: Celebrity Infinity

First, I must start off by saying this is not my personal review. It is from a letter written to ITN (I posted a review here: International Travel News), a great newsletter that I subscribe to. The writer took a cruise on Celebrity's Infinity in April, 2008.

The traveler had booked a suite with balcony at a cost of $8,328 per person. To say they were very disappointed is putting it mildly. In a nutshell, the writer described the Infinity as an "outdated and dysfunctional ship".

Their complaints ranged from a broken toilet (that took 4 days to fix), water in their Jacuzzi that was "black and brackish", to a TV that didn't work right and ceiling lights that kept burning out.

They felt their veranda sliding doors looked like they had never been cleaned and the chaise lounge, on their veranda, looked dirty and worn.

And that was just the cabin. The letter continued with complaints about the dining room (both food and service) and the spa (service). And the fact that a letter, with pictures, had been sent to the CEO of Celebrity and the client received no response.

As it usually does when it receives letters like this, ITN sent a copy to Celebrity Cruises and also received no reply.

I've sailed with Celebrity (although many years ago) and the trips were great. I sure hope this ship isn't a sign of deterioration of the line. If anyone has any additional information on this ship or Celebrity, I'd love to know. You can email me or just leave a Comment.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bargains Galore For Travel To Mexico

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has lifted its advisory against non-essential travel south of the border. So if you want to travel cheap, think about a trip to Mexico.

The Mexican government has earmarked $92 million for a public relations campaign to improve the country's image and to get tourists to return.

Occupancy rates in Cancun have dropped to about 50% of what they were a year ago. The beaches are empty and you don't need a reservation at top notch restaurants.

For more on this story

Thursday, May 28, 2009

When in Cape Town, Don't Feed the Baboons

Chacma Baboons are a protected species. About 350 of them live in and around Cape Town. In the past, tourists and tour operators have fed the baboons to be able to get interesting photo ops.

Now the baboons have become aggressive, stealing snacks from people and even breaking into cars. Unfortunately, some of the more aggressive baboons have had to be killed by park rangers.

In hopes of stopping the feeding of the baboons, city authorities will now impose a fine of ZAR1,500 (about $150) PLUS six months in jail on anyone caught feeding the baboons.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

JetAmerica: New Low Cost Airline

A new low cost airline is getting ready to take off. Planning to start flying in July, JetAmerica will be flying Boeing 737s between Newark Liberty Airport and Toledo, Ohio, South Bend, Indiana, Lansing, Michigan and Melbourne-Vero Beach, Florida.

Fares will run around $69 for one way but very early bookers could snare of the $9 seats that will be available on each flight. There will be a fee to check bags or to have a soft drink.

Technically, JetAmerica will be classified as a public charter since it will sell tickets only on its web site, determine its own flight schedules and also determine what cities it will fly to.

For more information, check out their web site at

Monday, May 25, 2009

Do Not Fly Into Santiago (Chili) With Any Food

Fresh or dried. Sealed or unsealed packages. Makes no difference.

Those of us who have traveled internationally have to fill out Customs forms upon arriving in a new country. One typical question: Are you bringing in any fruit or vegetables? And, I think about fresh food, not the package of dried fruit I have with me, and I check off 'No'.

Well, if you do that on the Chilean customs form, and you have any type of fruits or vegetables with you, you will have lied. In Chili they mean ALL fruits and vegetables.

The Chilean authorities are extremely vigilant about preventing the importation of pests because they export so many agricultural products. Once in a while, a Customs agent might let in a sealed package of nuts but, in general, they are very strict and will confiscate your package of dried fruit, roasted nuts and trail mix.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Take Advantage of Summer Freebies

I saw an article in USA Today that I thought was very timely, considering the current state of the economy.

If you are looking for free things to do this summer, check out the article:

Summer travel '09: Freebies across the USA

See what's 'playing' for free in your state!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Florida Rt 1 versus I95

Let me start by saying how much I dislike driving on I95. But if you coming up the east coast from Florida, one doesn't have much choice. Unless.....

Recently driving north we entered a horrific rain storm as we approached Daytona. It was getting late, and the dark wasn't helping, so we called it a night, hoping next morning would dawn bright and clear.

No such luck. Rain continued the following morning as we got onto I95 and made it all of one exit. Yup, you read that right....we got on one exit and got off the next. Between the heavy rain and the spray kicked up by all the cars and trucks, we, literally, could not see.

So, instead, we headed over to Rt 1 which parallels I95, figuring a slower road and less traffic would work better. And it did. We were amazed at what a pleasant road Rt 1 offered. Yes, we had to slow down for a town or two. But, in general, speed limit was 65 (same as I95), very little traffic (no 18 wheelers) and beautiful countryside.

Definitely our recommendation if you want to get off the interstate between Daytona and Jacksonville.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Don't Leave Home With It!

What is 'it'? 'It' is your garage door opener.

Taking a trip? Flying out of your home town airport? Leaving your car in the airport long term parking lot? Leave your garage door opener at home!!!

Think about how much ID you probably have in your car: insurance docs, registration doc, receipts, etc, etc.

Now, suppose your car gets broken into? You have just handed the thief your home address AND a way to get into your house: the garage door opener.

So leave the garage door opener home. And don't leave your home address in your car. Check with your state's DMV but I understand it is OK to black out your home address on your insurance ID card. If not, keep it in your wallet or purse.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ground Transportation From PBI

In the past, whenever I've traveled to West Palm Beach, I've always been picked up at the airport (Palm Beach International). But not this time.

This time I was coming down to Florida to pick up my step-mom's car and drive it north. So no one at the airport to meet us (my step-mom and dad are no longer driving) and no rental car to get.

We had three options for a ride from PBI to the condo: taxi, SuperShuttle, and private shuttle. I figured the taxi for the most expensive. Before leaving home I had called a private shuttle and they wanted $35. I also called SuperShuttle and their rate was $25, but they don't take reservations. OK, we'd give SuperShuttle a try upon arrival.

Fast forward to arrival at PBI and a stop at the Ground Transporation counter. Yes, SuperShuttle was $25 but it would be almost an hour before a shuttle would be there to take us. My husband and I looked at the display board listing taxi fares to area locations. Even though the location we needed was not on the list, looking at nearby localities we figured the taxi would be on the expensive side. But after being up since 4 AM, traveling all day, we looked at each other and decided to spring for a taxi.

The taxi fare? $35...same as the private shuttle. No where near the rate we anticipated based upon the displayed fares. In this case, the taxi turned out to be the right decision.

dot travel?

I think most of us are familiar with the URL extensions of .com, .edu, .net, .org and others. And I've known for some time that the travel industry has been campaigning for a dot travel extension.

Guess I must have missed the announcement because it looks like dot travel is, currently, in use. With some restrictions on who can use it, .travel is being used by organizations, associations, and private, governmental and non-governmental agencies in the travel and tourism industry.

Doing some research I turned up the ICANN list of accredited registrars. I have to admit I had no idea there were so many top level domains.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Be Sure To Cancel Your Credit Cards Before You Die

I have no idea if the conversation presented in this post really happened or not. But after some frustrating experiences I've had with banks recently, I have no trouble believing it.

Either way, made for a nice chuckle and good start to my day

Remember to cancel your credit cards before you die!

Monday, May 11, 2009

One Way Now Available With American Airlines AAdvantage Miles

It is now possible to use miles from your American Airlines AAdvantage account to book one way travel. American Airlines is calling them Flex Awards.

The trip can be, literally, a one way trip. Or, it can be a round trip, booked using different mileage levels for each direction. For instance, a flight could be business class in one direction but coach in the other.

In addition, the online booking form has been improved. I'm really excited about the new look, the new options and how easy it is to use.

You can read more detailed information at American Airlines website.

Rochester's Lilac Festival

Rochester, New York is in the middle of its annual Lilac Festival. No matter what the weather (really), people flock to see the beautiful lilacs in Rochester's Highland Park. People visit from all over the country, and all over the world, to see these lilacs.

We are fortunate in that we live nearby and can visit the park at any time. We've made it a point to go to the festival either mid-week, or even better, just go see the lilacs a day or two before or after the festival. On a weekend, with beautiful weather, literally 1000's visit the park and parking nearby can be a problem. (Definitely take advantage of the parking at Monroe Community College and take the shuttle.)

If you plan on coming to the festival, be sure to wear good walking shoes. And walking on the grass is permitted. While there are paved paths throughout the park, you'll need to walk off the paths to get close to the lilac bushes, to smell their fantastic fragrances and for taking pictures.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Wool Socks

My husband got me started on this. I used to wear regular old white cotton athletic socks for all of my walking. Not anymore.

Now, doesn't matter if it is winter or summer, when I travel I take wool socks with me. Wool socks are great whether I'm doing serious hiking or marching along city streets. They are thick, cushioned and very comfortable. I have several pair of Wigwam brand wool socks that have, literally, been all over the world with me and still look practically new.

In the winter they keep my feet warm and in the summer they do a great job absorbing sweat. And, no, they don't make my feet hot in the summer. They are a lot more comfortable than cotton socks which keep the moisture against my skin.

If you'll be doing any kind of serious walking on your travels, give wool socks a try. Just remember that they are usually thicker than cotton athletic socks so make sure your footwear can accommodate the extra fabric.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island

I just read that the crown of the Statue of Liberty will be opening again on July 4th. That is great news and a perfect day for it to reopen.

I grew up in New York City and I am one of those who have made it to the top. It was fantastic and I'm glad that now others will be able to share the experience.

It's been many years since I've been back to Ellis Island. I really should make another trip. All of my grandparents came through Ellis Island and I've done searches for them at I was fortunate in being able to find the records of my paternal grandmother.

I really would like to visit again, now that it has become part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. This is part of my personal history.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Save Money on Your Trip to Venice

If you'll be visiting Venice, and will be using one of the many passes available (transportation, museums, etc) you can save money by buying them online.

Venice's online reservation system, Venice Connected, offers these passes at a discount if you buy them online at least 15 days in advance of your visit.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Free Copenhagen Concerts

If you'll be visiting Copenhagen, on a Wednesday, this summer, try to take advantage of one of the free concerts.

From May through August, Copenhagen Castle Concerts puts on free performances of classical music in the churches of historic royal residences in and around Copenhagen.

The concerts start at 5 PM in May and June, 5:30 PM in July and 4 PM in August.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Don't Plan a Waterford Tour

The Waterford Crystal factory, in Waterford, Ireland, closed at the end of January this year. The company is looking for a buyer or financing.

When it was open, more than 300,000 visitors a year took the factory tour. Now, of course, the tour and visitors' center are 'temporarily' closed.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Travel Guide For Mexico and Central America

If you are new to traveling to Mexico or Central America, this book is a great resource.

First, let me tell you what this book is not. It is not a destination guide although there is a brief overview of each country.

What the book is filled with is loads of practical 'how to' information. It covers pretrip planning, how to find a place to stay, how to shop and then how to ship, healthy, safety, photography and more.

It is loaded with checklists, is well organized and offers plenty of money saving tips. This book is a worthwhile purchase for help in planning your trip.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Shortage of Coins in Argentina

I just came across this travel note. The government has been putting millions of dollars of new coins into circulation but coins are still had to get.

It is a real problem in Buenos Aires where riders need coins for the bus and train. In fact, there is a black market on coins.

Because of this, the government is working on an electronic ticketing system for public transportation in Buenos Aires.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

tripadvisor travel map

I thought this was a pretty neat idea. So I started adding the places I've been. I got kind of excited and decided to share with my readers.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Unusual Hotels of the World

This is kind of neat. The website showcases 149 unique properties around the world. These are the kind of places where your lodging, alone, is a story itself.

Some of the samples are rooms in an Ottoman palace, treehouses, a jumbo jet and an underwater hotel. It is a neat site to spend a moment just browsing.

Global Entry: Frequent International Flyers Can Clear US Customs Faster

US Customs and Border Protection has a program called Global Entry and more airports have been added to the program for travelers returning to the US. Currently, special kiosks are at Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Dulles, JFK, Chicago and Los Angeles.

A Global Entry member goes to a kiosk and inserts their passport and has their fingerprints scanned. Standard Customs declaration questions are asked on a touch screen and the kiosk then issues a receipt to be handed to a Customs official in the inspection area.

The fee is $100 and is good for a 5 year membership. More information is available at any of the airports listed above or at

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Take Precautions Against Swine Flu

A friend of mine was considering canceling the family vacation. They were headed to Disney World and she was worried about the swine flu. If it was me, I would go without any hesitation. Yes, the swine flu is not something to be minimized but I also believe a few extra precautions can make for a safe and healthy trip.

Carry antiseptic cleaning solution. Use it often, especially after touching something a lot of people touch, like a handrail. Use it every time before handling food.

Keep a package of antiseptic wipes with you. Use them to wipe down tables in cafeterias and restaurants. Also the backs of chairs where people grab them to pull them out. And don't forget the sides of the chairs where you touch them to pull then closer to the table. Not only do I also use them to wipe down cafeteria trays, I also use them to clean my airplane tray table.

For convenience and economy, have a pump bottle of antiseptic solution in your car. Use after pumping gas. And before eating that snack you just bought at the convenience store.

I think just a few extra precautions can help keep me healthy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Round of Little Travel Tips

If you are travel around Europe by train, don't wait until your day of departure to get your tickets and information for the next part of your trip. By getting what you need ahead of time, you'll have time to find an English speaking agent (if you need one) who can give you all the information you need, including departure times and track number. You can also use the time to find the track location. That way you don't have to worry about any of this when you are actually heading for your train.

Traveling to Asia? If your local Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese restaurant has bi-lingual takeout menus, carry a few copies with you. That way if you are in a restaurant with no menu or one you can't read, you can give your bi-lingual copy to the waiter who can then point out to you what the restaurant can prepare. And bring extra copies of the menu with you .... you might find the waiter wants to keep a copy.

When booking an international flight from the U.S., check the fare for the same flight offered by the domestic airline's international partner. Because of taxes and fees, it might actually be cheaper to book the air with the international partner.

If you like to buy shipboard souvenirs, try to sail the ship's last itinerary of the season. That's when the ship's store puts the 'local' merchandise on sale, as it prepares to bring in new merchandise for the next sailing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

St. Augustine, Florida

What a disappointment.

In all of our drives to and from Florida, I never had an opportunity to visit St. Augustine until our trip last month. And was I ever disappointed.

I'm not sure what I was expecting. Well, yes, actually I do. I expected to see the historical old Spanish Quarter as just that...historical and old.

Instead, the old Spanish Quarter is now a pedestrian mall with the old homes renovated into shops.

Sure, the oldest schoolhouse is still there, held together with chains. But it was obvious where the it had been patched as the wood boards were still clean and new. It was obvious that no effort had been taken to age the boards before installing them.

There were plaques on the outside of some of the buildings listing when it was built, by whom and who lived there. But it was really hard to imagine what it might have really been like, trying to 'see' past the racks of clothing, souvenirs or restaurant tables.

We stayed at the Best Western in the Spanish Quarter, which promoted itself because of its location. And that was accurate, as we were able to leave our car and walk to everything. Fortunately, we were staying only one night. If we were planning on staying longer, I discovered that there were many bed and breakfast options just one street off the pedestrian mall.