Thursday, June 30, 2011

Visiting Venice…Take Galoshes

When my sister and I visited Venice last summer, we ran into some unexpected weather. Only spending 2 days in this lovely city, we were not met with much sunshine. However, we were certainly not going to let that ruin our time there, so we pulled out the umbrellas, unfolded the map, and prepared to make our way through the charming areas of Venice.

Spending much of our day touring Doge’s Palace, visiting Rialto Bridge, and scouring our way through the narrow streets, we eventually decided that it was time to partake in the delicacies that Venice had to offer. Coming to St. Mark’s Square, we were halted by the sight before us. Now, I’ve heard for years that Venice is a place that everyone must visit at least one in their life because the city is literally sinking. Completely surrounded by water, I found it to be quite unique that only one car seemed to rest in the city. However, as much as I loved taking the water taxis from place to place, I didn’t think I would need to take one through the middle of St. Mark’s Square.

There, in the middle of the square, were people wading nearly knee deep in water. The rain that had fallen most of the day had practically flooded the square. Looking at my sister, we wondered if we might be exiled to one side, but luckily there was a narrow strip of ground that was dry. Deciding that I’d rather not walk around in wet, squishy tennis shoes and wet jeans, we opted to make our way to the dry pathway. As we passed through, I noticed there were many people who smiled, rolled up their pants, and walked on through.

By the time we made it back to the hotel, we learned that we could have rented galoshes…who knew? I guess when you live in Venice though; it’s not such a bad thing to invest in a pair. Either that, or just hike up your jeans and trudge on through.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Greece or New Zealand???

I need your help...or maybe really some advice. I'm trying to decide between two unbelieveably beautiful destinations to visit next year, around May. A good friend of mine is moving to Wellington, New Zealand and I would love more than anything to go visit her and to see a place I've dreamed of seeing for years and years. To see the waterfalls, the beaches, and all the beautiful scenery, it just seems like an amazing place to see.

However, I have been doing some research and looking into various places in Greece, and let's just say, I am completely in love with Greece and I haven't even been yet! If I go to Greece, I'm thinking I'll only be able to go for a week, maybe a little bit longer. I've already decided that part of mine time would be spent in Athens and the other part of my time in Santorini.

So, this is where you guys come in...what advice do you have for me in choosing between these two places? Is May a good time to visit either of them? What do I absolutely, without a doubt, HAVE to do in these places?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

For All You Travel Readers Out There

Sorry I've been away for a few weeks now. I've been a bit preoccupied, but I am back and have some more reading recommendations for you guys!

The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman: Rachel Friedman certainly has an interesting and exciting story to tell in “The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost.” Traveling to Ireland, Australia, and South America, Friedman and a girl she meets in Ireland, both try out new and exciting adventures. To get the perspective of someone who’s followed the rules most of her life, done was is expected of her, and finds accomplishment in even the smallest of things, I found that I could really relate to Rachel Friedman. The way she talks about arriving at the airport in Ireland and her attempts to get to her hostel unscathed…I could definitely see myself in her shoes. This book is a fabulous read and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to stop with the excuses and just get out there and see the world. Friedman brings to light many of the excuses we Americans make for not traveling and sadly…I’ve heard myself making those very same excuses.

Whose Panties Are These? By Jennifer Leo: If you want a book filled with hilarious tales of women’s travels, then I highly suggest you pick up this book. Not only will you read about a woman having hemorrhoid problems in Holland while she hopes to have a romantic getaway with her fiancĂ©, but you will also read about a woman who experiences what it is like to have a bug crawl into her ear and the nonchalant attitude of her husband, as well as a woman who wonders if eating Lebanese chicken will make her breasts bigger. I never turn down a book that deals with humorous travel experiences. For those of us who have yet to set out on our own major adventures, it helps to relieve the tension when reading about other mishaps along the way.

Italian for Beginners by Kristin Harmel: A good friend of mine sent me this book and included a very heartfelt note inside telling me that from one Roman Holiday lover to another, this would be a great book for me to read. Normally, I am not a travel fiction kind of ready; however, this one was so incredibly good that it was hard for me to put down. I literally found myself turning the pages and getting lost in the story. I love books like that, ones that keep you so engrossed that the thought of having to put it up makes you mad. This is a book that details the life of a 34-year-old woman, Cat Connelly, who is quite unlucky in love. She also has mommy issues. She goes to Rome to see a long lost love and finds out he’s a dud. However, along the way, she meets Marco, Nico, and Karina, as well as a few other fun characters, and soon finds herself dealing with old “ghosts,” all while finding her true self.

Go Your Own Way by Christina Henry de Tassen: I read this while I was on vacation and honestly, I’d probably give it a 3 out 5 stars when rating it. It is a book that is much similar to Whose Panties Are These? But it is much more serious. These women tell their stories about traveling the world and only at times are some of these stories humorous. Mostly, you learn about the experiences of women traveling solo and the challenges they can sometimes face. It is a good book and I would recommend it, but just be aware that if you are looking for something more light-hearted, you might try Jennifer Leo’s books.

What are you guys reading and what travel books do you recommend?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Swimming with Stingrays in Grand Cayman

For anyone who has ever been to the Cayman Islands, you know that swimming with stingrays is one of the highlight tourist attractions. Several years ago, my family and I visited the islands and did the whole tour of the island, visited a turtle farm, took a nice trip through Hell (there really is a city there called ‘Hell’) and finally, swam with stingrays.

That experience made quite an impression on me as this last time, we opted to swim with them again. It’s funny because when a lot of people think of these creatures, their first expressions are ones of fear; however, these are some of the gentle and amazing creatures of the sea.

The last time we went out to a sandbar in the middle of the ocean and were standing in water waist deep, just watching and touching them as they swam by us. This time, we were literally in the ocean and unfortunately, we had to wait for the divers to bring them up to the surface for us to see them.

Swimming in clear blue water, it was fairly easy to see where they were, but the current was so strong that we kept being pushed back into the rope that helped to hold the boat in place. I didn’t do much exercising on the cruise, but spending 45 minutes treading water and working to swim against a strong current and I promise you, you will feel it later.

That's me holding Romeo

One of the divers went down to bring up Romeo, a male stingray. Opting to provide us with a bit of stingray knowledge, he asked if any of us would like to hold him. Being the one closest to Romeo, I decided (after a bit of encouragement from my mom) to hold him. Now, there is a specific way to hold a stingray so that they one, won’t swim away from you, and two, they won’t take on a defensive “attitude.”

Being instructed by the diver, I placed my hands on the front area of his fins, with his face pointing towards me, and kept his eyes just below the water. I’m telling you, it was one of the neatest experiences being able to hold this stingray. He felt so smooth, yet a bit slimy. It’s not the kind of feel that makes you want to jerk your hand away though.

The instructor told me to just let him go whenever I was ready and so I did. He swam away and I immediately looked to my parents and asked if they’d gotten that on video. With a thumbs up from them, I was grateful that I’d though to bring my video camera on this trip; to capture moments just like that one.

My sister and me on the boat