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Blog, France, Independent Travel, Italy, Stories, Travel

Expect the Unexpected!

That is – when traveling independently. Whenever my husband and I travel, there is always some independent travel element. Often it is at the beginning and/or end of a cruise. We like to fly into a city and experience its sites on our own.

Our first taste of independent travel was in 2007 when we flew into Rome for three days prior to our Greek Island cruise. We walked to the Roman Coliseum only to find long lines. I know we are all warned away from allowing people to approach us at these sites but in this case we ignored the warnings. A young college student sold us on a guided Coliseum tour that skips the lines. Our guide was a young history student who provided a first rate tour of the structure. But what sticks in our memory was an add-on tour of the Palatine Hill – the birthplace of Rome. We learned about the mythology of Romulus and Remus as well as the history of the Roman Emperors who called the Palatine Hill home. I definitely recommend that you consider touring this area on a visit to Rome. In addition to John Lateran Cathedral, we also visited the Basilica of St. Clement which is three layers of Church – the current basilica, a 4th century church, and a 2nd Century Mithraic Temple. Neither stop was something generally found in a group tour.

Basilica of St. Clement in Rome with three layers of churches going back to the 2nd century or even earlier.

Our next vacation was a three-week independent trip through France with a close couple of friends. I prided myself in my somewhat limited understanding of French. What I could not translate was a sign that apparently warned that the road ahead was closed due to paving. We reached the hilltop town only to find that the center of the road was closed and there was no other way to go through the town. The only time our Garmin ever set us on a bad route was that day. We drove over Montagne Noir (Black Mountain). There was a several thousand foot drop at the edge of the road and I was convinced that, if we went over the side of the road, they would never locate our bodies! We made it to the top and stopped to pay respect to the memorial of the World War II resistance leaders – an unexpected but welcome surprise.

Montagne Noire (Black Mountain), Dordogne, France WWII resistance fighters’ memorial.

These are a few examples of the joys of independent travel. Even when traveling with a group, I urge you to take a little time on your own just to explore. Some of your best memories might be these unexpected encounters.

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Active Travel, Blog, Stories, Travel

10 Reasons to take a cycling vacation

When I tell friends about my cycling vacations, their first reaction is that I must be an athlete. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I consider myself the “un-athlete”. So why do I take biking vacations?

Here are some of my reasons:
1. Even “un-athletes” can ride a bike. It just takes practice.
2. You can see so much more on a bicycle. Imagine reaching the top of a hill to see a view of the Austrian Alps in the distance. On a bicycle, you pull over to the side of the road to enjoy the view and snap pictures – frequently.
3. You can “smell” so much more. My husband and I rode through a balsam-scented forest that we will never forget.
4. You can eat more terrific, regional food. Meals are guilt free because you will work off the calories.
5. Opportunity to make friends. Cyclists are a friendly group and often ride in packs.
6. You can spend all day outdoors.
7. Plenty of chances to connect with the local residents. Somehow the different languages were never a barrier.
8. The sense of accomplishment after riding several miles and taking that last hill feels great.
9. You might get a chance to ride the cobbles. Unlike the Tour de France, the stretch of cobbles is short and our speed is slow.
10. It is FUN. When I cycle, I feel like a kid again.

With the recent introduction of e-bikes that power you up hills, even non-cyclists can take a bicycling vacation. So pull out your old bicycle and start riding. Remember, you never forget how to ride a bike.

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A change of pace – A love for travel!
August 1, 2018
Blog, Stories, Travel

A change of pace – A love for travel!Featured

Dear Colleagues, Customers and Friends,

I loved nearly every minute of my 32+ year career in the software application industry but it is time to do something more creative. My next career is to share my love for travel by assisting friends and family in arranging their personal travel plans as an independent travel consultant.

Over the last 20+ years, I have explored exciting destinations across the globe, especially Eastern and Western Europe, including bicycling, cruises (river and ocean), and plenty of walking.  For each vacation, I completed the research needed to select the hotels, tour guides, activities, and restaurants, creating memorable experiences.

Memories include walking the ramparts in the evening in Carcassonne after all of the tour buses left for the day, accidentally getting in line to climb the Duomo in Florence resulting in a magnificent view of the entire city at the top, experiencing the changing of guard in Athens and Monte Carlo, taking a hot springs bath in Budapest, and viewing Monet’s Waterlilies at the Orangery in Paris.

Drawing upon my travel experience, I plan to help my customers determine what to pack, how to navigate cities using cabs and public transportation, find the best restaurants, schedule guides to provide an in-depth introduction to their own native homelands, jump to the head of the line with museum passes, navigate highways and manage un-attended toll booths, use a laundromat in a foreign country, utilize technology to enhance a travel experience, and so much more.

Most of all, my desire is to make each of my customer’s vacations special.  As you plan your own leisure travel, please keep me in mind as a professional travel planning resource.

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10 Reasons to take a cycling vacation
August 15, 2018