Barcelona Day Trip: Cava Tasting in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia

A mere 45 minutes by train from the buzzing city of Barcelona, lies one of the most exciting day trips.

My Flytographer photoshoot in Barcelona

Have you heard of Flytographer?! If not, prepare to be blown away.

Best Places In Europe For Fall Travel

Fall is my absolute favorite time to travel to Europe.

5 Tips For An Amazing Parisian Experience

Paris. Oh, Paris. I am not the first person to fall in love with this city, nor will I be the last.

3 ways to experience Europe with more authenticity

There are times when we can put the emphasis less on sightseeing and more on experiencing our surroundings at a relaxed and comfortable pace.

My Experience with Flytographer in Paris

I love to capture memories of my experiences when I travel. You probably do too, right?  

 

1 day Paris Itinerary

Paris. Oh, Paris. I am not the first person to fall in love with this city, nor will I be the last. It has inspired the world’s best poets and writers, given birth to some of the greatest art the world has ever seen, and it is home to some of my favorite things in the world— namely croissants, red wine, french fries… and now you can add macarons to the list. It is the perfect blend of modern and history, with just the right amount of class and sophistication. What is there NOT to love about the city of light?

I wanted to share with you a helpful guide to experiencing this city, based on my recent personal trip. It's a logical itinerary of activities that give you insight into the city, people, and culture, while showing you the must-sees and top attractions. It is a great starting point, especially if you are a first-time visitor.

How to Combine your Obsession with Game of Thrones and Travel

The Game of Thrones season finale may mean life feels a little empty but you can cheer yourself up with a trip to Northern Ireland and the dramatic locations where the series was filmed. 

I recently had a client depart for a month long trip to Europe, with half of that time spent in Ireland/Northern Ireland with—you guessed it—a focus on Game of Thrones sightseeing. Unbeknownst to me at the beginning of our vacation planning, some of the most majestic locations in Northern Ireland have become part and parcel of Westeros. 

NFL International Series: Travel + Sports

I love travel!! I love sports!!

If you know me, these are two very true statements.  So any time I have the opportunity to create crossover with those two passions, it’s absolute win in my book! About a month ago, they released the information for the NFL International Series.  3 games in London, and 1 game in Mexico City.  

I have been to many, many NFL games in my life, but never in another country. To me, that sounds like an absolute dream! Being able to explore London (and beyond!), plus root for your favorite team all in one swoop?! Sign me up.  

It sounded like such a great idea, I decided to create 3 simple itineraries that would make the whole process easy and enjoyable. They’re a baseline of how to make a trip like this come together successfully.

Top 3 Reasons I Love Prague

Prague is the capital city and largest city of the Czech Republic. With it’s romantic riverside location, it remains one of Europe’s best-preserved cities. It’s easy to see why Prague charms everyone who visits, with its location enhanced by beautiful bridges, and an impressive skyline punctuated with medieval church spires. The historic Old Town is a collection of ancient squares and winding cobblestone streets, all in the shadow of her majestic 9th century castle that looks eastward as the sun sets behind her.

Prague is also a modern and vibrant city full of energy, music, cultural art, fine dining and special events catering to the independent traveller's thirst for adventure.

How to Vacation with Two Different Travel Styles

I remember about 5 years back when I first traveled internationally with one of my dearest friends on the planet. I had already been friends with her for over 15 years, so surely we have had plenty of time to know each other’s personalities and likes. But traveling with someone is different. 

Why wasn’t she in more of a hurry to get down to breakfast before it was over?

When was she going to realize that my internal itinerary that had outwardly been expressed as “no real plans” was being thrown off? 

How come she wanted to spend SO MANY HOURS inside a museum?

Different Ways to Experience Ireland

Ireland is magical. There is beauty to be found across the whole country, and so much of that you get to see by actually driving from place to place.  Whereas sometimes driving on vacation is a necessary evil, in Ireland it’s part of the specialness. So, whether you take an extended vacation and see the whole country, or get specific by just picking one half or the other and take your time to see and do more at each of your stops, there will be no shortage of things that leave you speechless.  

A First-Time Trip to Europe

Creating itineraries for people who don’t travel very extensively can be exciting. It also can be a bit challenging in it's own way. Whereas you can have some clients who know exactly what they like and what they want to do, the flip-side is having clients who don’t know too much about what they might enjoy while traveling. Case in point- I just had a honeymoon couple return from an absolutely amazing trip in Europe that had never been, yet wanted a fully customized, off the beaten path trip that was all their own.

The hard part at the beginning though, was being able to uncover what the experience was they were after. Our literal starting point was: “We want to spend about three weeks in Europe.” No specific countries, no specific type of trip… just Europe.  A whole entire continent of goodness.

The Beauty of Solo Travel

A dear friend of mine recently returned from a solo trip to Lisbon that had amazing written all over it. She only had a short time in the city, but we made sure we created an itinerary that fulfilled all that she wanted to do and see.  

The outcome of this trip was nothing short of amazing. Each time I got an update from her, it made me fall more in love with this destination, and I had a newfound appreciation for it’s beauty by experiencing it though her eyes. 

This was a trip she took on her own. Yes, she’s married, and certainly she has the best friends in the whole entire world who are also world-travelers (duh!).  But sometimes our own schedules and those of the ones we love and feel comfortable traveling the world with, simply don’t line up.  What I love about her is that she didn’t let that deter her from making memories and seizing the opportunity to make this trip happen anyway. The result is something she will always cherish, and from the sounds of it, was worth it 100%.

In Melanie's own words:

There is nothing like the rush of renewal that came over me as a result of my tiny solo trip to the Iberian Peninsula. I couldn’t quantify the value of a few fleeting days of reflection and self-indulgence. I reintroduced myself to the curious, excited woman I used to be, who’d somehow gotten herself buried beneath a growing mound of life stresses and obligations. I feel reinvented, bursting with positivity and gratitude that I wish were always closer at hand. I’m reminded how lucky I am to live the life I do, and now, as I go back to it—the reality and normalcy of it—I will treasure my memories of lovely Lisboa in the quiet, reverent corners of my mind, so as never to forget to always stay just a little bit wild and a whole lot free.

If the beautiful city of Lisbon excites you, or if just the idea of going somewhere on your own because you deserve it and you absolutely CAN, then contact me to discuss how we can make it a reality! The sooner the better!

How to live in Paris like a local

It’s Bastille day today!! How appropriate that I am spending my morning researching Paris apartments for a family trip over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I’m feeling an extra special French connection. 

 The beautiful view from an apartment you can rent in Paris!

The beautiful view from an apartment you can rent in Paris!

Something I wanted to share with you today, is the beauty of the wide array of options you have when it comes to traveling and the types of accommodations you stay in.  In this day and age, multigenerational families are traveling together more and more.  When you want to stay together as a family, and have room to spread out and not live on top of each other your whole vacation, there are great options to make your stay comfortable. 

The trick comes in finding something you can trust.  There are plenty of sites out there that allow you to rent someone’s personal apartment or home, in virtually any city worth visiting across the globe.  But as with anything that is on the web, you have to be careful. 

I love to give my clients the option for renting apartments or villas when they need a bit more room, and that will be the ideal way for them to all stay together. However, I am very careful to try and provide them with trustworthy and vetted options. 

For this Paris trip, the goal is to find a 3 bedroom apartment that has room for the parents, grandparents, and two kids.  They want at least two bathrooms, and to have it feel “Parisian and chic”. I am certain we can make this happen, and in the end, they will be far more comfortable than if they were crammed into two tiny Paris hotel rooms.

If this is the kind of thing you would like help with when planning your family trips, or you just prefer the ability to stay in accommodations that give you more of a sense of place, I’d love to help find the perfect fit! Contact me to discuss.

Planning a Paris Vacation

It is one of the most known and visited cities in the world, and rightfully so.  Everyone should visit Paris.  Everyone. 

I have been hard at work planning a detailed itinerary for two fabulous women, a mother and daughter duo, headed to Paris for the first time together. They have been incredibly gracious in letting me shape and guide their trip, ensuring they experience all of the must-see’s in this beautiful city, as well as spend time simply soaking up the essence. 

I have also sought out some of the best guided tours for them, both private and small group, because they appreciate the expertise of local guides to show them the most interesting parts of the city. Not all tours need to involve large groups of fanny-pack wearing tourists following a guide holding an umbrella, or a big red double decker bus (although who doesn’t want to hop on one of those every once in a while just for kicks?!).

Choosing the right tours and working with the best companies provide you with an opportunity to gain priceless insight and knowledge from people who know their city well and have a love for sharing it with travelers. 

Part of my job as a travel advisor is to play matchmaker and seek out the best way for someone to experience parts of the destination that interest them. Here is a closer look at some of the ways they will get to experience Paris by allowing me to prearrange and book some fantastic opportunities.

The Eiffel Tower at Sunset: If you’ve ever tried to visit the Eiffel Tower on your own during the busy season, you know that without some preplanning, you are looking at spending a good amount of time queuing before you make your way up. This small group tour not only allows for travelers to skip the line and head right up, it’s timed so that you are looking over the city at the most beautiful time of day. You can listen to a short presentation about the tower, and spend as much time on your own on both the 2nd and 3rd deck admiring the beautiful hues of the sky as the sun sets over the city.

Paris Landmarks Private Walking Tour: Having a personal guide to show you around the Notre Dame and Isle of Cite is a fantastic way to explore not only the tourist must sees, but the hidden gems that not many people know about, and would be hard to ever find on your own. The expertise of a local is invaluable for things like this.

Baking Class: What better place to learn how to create french baguettes and croissants than from a French baker in his own Parisian bakery? And after you become a master baker, you get the opportunity to become a master eater. It’s a win/win.

 

These are just a few examples of how working with a travel professional can take your travel experience from good to amazing. As I always say, I am interested in giving you your best experience while traveling, and whatever that means to you, I want to make it come to life. If baking flaky croissants might be in your future— or something equally amazing— contact me to start planning.

From Russia with love

The last few days have been downright chilly.  Probably not what you would call a legitimate cold front, more along the lines of a pansy west-coast definition of cold.  But it did remind me of probably the coldest place I've ever been in my life... Russia in winter. The following is a blog from Winter of 2010, when I arrived in Moscow with a hoodie on and some flimsy hand mittens from Walgreens. Coldest moment of my life. I actually really enjoy places that look and feel like winter, but more from the perspective of looking out a window sitting next to a fireplace. I did end up going back to Russia in the summer and Moscow can be a very interesting place to visit. However, it probably won't ever make my list of recommendations for winter time.

 

I’m in Russia, but I have yet to start feeling the love. For starters, this internet I’m on? It cost me $60 bucks. No, that’s not a typo. For 24 hours of connectivity to the world, I pay the price of what it probably costs to provide wifi to the whole hotel. You’d think I would at least get a nice glass of champagne with my purchase. No such luck. I’m also tired. Like, my head wants to split in two, type tired. Right now I’m debating on trying to tough it out and stay up til dinner, or let it get the best of me and just wake up in the middle of the night and be a starving, ravenous monster. I’m leaning towards monster.  

I’d love to say that I’m going to spend some of my free time seeing some of the sights in this country because I’ve never been here before, but that would be a big fat lie. I don’t plan on stepping outside of this hotel unless I’m making a mad dash to the bus that is going to take me to the track. It’s cold here.  scratch that, it’s freezing. My flimsy California cold-weather attire had the nerve to show up here and think it was going to do something against this kind of cold. As soon as I walked outside I started coughing like I had been a smoker for the last 50 years of my life. My lungs just didn’t know what to do. I think I actually saw the driver chuckle at me.

Which brings me to the one thing I have experienced in Russia thus far. The lack of smiles. I keep grinning at people and offering a polite acknowledgement and it has yet to be returned. This must be a cultural thing, akin to what nice Midwest folks think when they visit New York, just on a slightly grander scale. I’m going to make it my mission to find a Russian that will crack a smile for me. I know it’s in there somewhere; maybe they just save them for warmer weather. Which by the way is totally understandable. The one man who did smile at me was actually hitting on me. He wanted to give me his number and offered to take me around and show me the sights, to which I had to politely decline. Not because of the weather though…just because it was downright creepy.  

Other than that, I’m doing great. I just plan on resting up and getting ready to jump on Sunday. I will be up against a strong field of Russian long jumpers, half of whom I probably have never heard of, but who nonetheless will go out and pop a world leading mark and disappear back into obscurity. I swear, this country produces long jumpers like nobody’s business. Until next time…

***Let’s make today “smile at a stranger day” and hold the smile until they are forced to smile back!