Thursday, December 19, 2013

Online Spanish Translation

Whenever I've traveled to a Spanish speaking country, I take a small traveler's dictionary with me. Helps me out when I need to ask about a simple item. But isn't it frustrating when that hand held dictionary doesn't have the exact word or phrase you need? At times like those, it's helpful to be able to use an online spanish dictionary.

You can also get online help if you a require a more complex spanish translation, such as when trying to understand a document written in Spanish.

Isn't the Internet wonderful?


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Emigration Museum Antwerp Belgium

The new Red Star Line Museum located in the historic warehouses of the shipping company in Antwerp opened on September 28, 2013.

Mirroring the Ellis Island story, the museum brings to life the journey of more than two million people who emigrated via Antwerp to New York, among them iconic passengers such as Irving Berlin and Albert Einstein.

Wheelchair accessible, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online, at the information desk of Antwerp Tourism & Congress in Grote Markt and at the museum. Cost for adults 8 Euros, seniors are 6 Euros and 12 to 26 year olds are only 1 Euro.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Rainforest World Music Festival

The 3-day 2014 Rainforest World Music Festival takes place June 20-22 in the Sarawak Cultural Village in Borneo, Malaysia.

The 2013 festival featured concerts from 10 a.m. to midnight each day, with 21 groups performing, including local folk singing groups and groups from Jamaica, Korea, China, Australia and Japan. Throughout the festival, talks were given and workshops were offered in singing, dance, ethnomusicology and music --- everything from gamelan playing to Irish dance.

In 2013, a one day all event adult pass cost around $37 and a three day pass was around $101.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Special Events for Strauss' 150th Birthday

To celebrate the 150th birthday of Richard Strauss, the Gewandhaus Orchester in Leipzig, GErmany, will perform a series of Strauss works from April 3, 2014 until the special birthday concert on June 11.

The Leipzig OPera will perform the Strauss operas "Elektra," "The Knight of the Rose" and "The Woman Without a Shadow." Contact the Gewanhaus and the Leipzig Opera for tickets and more information.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Let's Go To Puerto Rico

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Puerto Rico, The All-Star Island for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I've been to Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, the time I have spent there has been way too short. All it managed to do with instill in me a desire to go back for a full-fledged vacation.

With over 270 miles of coastline, Puerto Rico has a beach for everyone. (Actually, Flamenco Beach in Culebra, is often cited as one of the best beaches in the world.) Wandering Old San Juan and El Morro is taking a trip back in history. And the food! My favorite is mofungo and it doesn't make any difference to me whether it is chicken, beef, or shrimp ... I love them all. And let's not forget the rum!

Puerto Rico contains the only rain forest that is under the U.S. national park service. I did get to hike in El Yunque and it was a wonderful experience. Next visit I want to travel around the southern part of the island and spend some more time on the beach.

Live your own 5-star vacation story in Puerto Rico. Visiting Puerto Rico is easy with no need for a passport or dealing with foregin currency. Whether you are visiting for the accommodations, things-to-do or food, Puerto Rico has it all. Like on Facebook and Follow @PRTourismCo on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest happenings on the island. Start planning your trip by visiting

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2014 New Zealand Oyster Festival

In the port of Bluff, near Invercargill on New Zealand's South Island, the Bluff Oyster and Food Festival will be held May 24, 2014, to celebrate the Bluff oyster, a local delicacy.

Tickets cost $25 each and can be purchased in advance through Ticket Direct New Zealand.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Phone App About Beaches in North America

The app Waterkeeper Swim Guide, available on iOS and Android devices, has data on many beaches in Canada, Mexico and the United States. The app detects the user's location and shows which beaches are safe to swim in, accessing recent data from government agencies and local Waterkeeper Alliance chapters. The data is also available online at

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicester

In Leicester's city center, just steps away from where the king's bones were found buried in a car park in August 2012, a new Richard III Visitor Centre will open in March 2014 with the exhibition "Richard III: Dynasty, Death and Discover." Richard, who died in 1485, was the last king of the House of York.

The larger space will expand the current exhibition, Richard III: Leicester's Search for a King," located a short hop away in The Guildhall near the Cathedral. The Guildhall is open daily from 11 to 4:30 and admission is free.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Damage Done to Offa's Dyke

Offa's Dyke, a protected World Heritage Site located in Wales, was damaged in August when someone used a bulldozer to carve out a 50 yard section and used the dirt to fill in a nearby road. This criminal offense is being investigated by local authorities.

The dyke is a popular walking trail, a 1,200 year old earthwork stretching about 80 miles from the Wye Valley to Wrexham. The dyke is thought to have been built in the eith century by King Offa of Mercia.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tour Aruba's Desalination Plant

With little reliable rainfall, Aruba's water needs are provided for by a high-quality desalinization system, resulting in expensive water costs for local residents and little greenery away from resorts and the few golf courses on the island.

The positive, for everyone, is the purest tasting drinking water directly from the tap. This translates into zero money spent on bottled water.

Free tours of the plant, which is the world's second largest, are available on Thursday mornings at 9:30. Call 297 585 4805 to reserve a tour. (The world's largest desalination plant is the Jebel Ali Desalination Plant (Phase 2) in the United Arab Emirates.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Follow the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail

The NZ Wine Trail is a 240-mile self-drive touring route that covers the major wine producing areas of both the South and North Island, including Wairarapa, Hawke's Bay and Marlborough.

A map of the route is available online, along with same 6 and 7 day itineraries with suggestions for sightseeing, dining, winery visits and more.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Reopening of Black Watch Museum

At Balhousie Castle in Perth, Scotland, the Black Watch Museum reopened on June 25 following a one year renovation and expansion.

One of the most famous regiments in Scotland, the Black Watch was formed in 1715 to calm the troubles in the Highlands and it has fought in many of the biggest conflicts of the past 300 years, including the American Revolution, both World Wars, and more recently in Afghanistan and Iraq. Open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 4, admittance is approximately $11.50 per adult.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Andes Gondolas in Chile, South America

Chile's Valle Nevado Ski Resort located in the Andes Mountains less than an hour's drive east of Santiago, has opened the first mountain gondola system in the country -- starting from the day-visitor parking lot, enabling skiers and nonskiers alike, a convenient way to reach the Bajo Zero restaurant, located at mid-mountain.

Seventy gondolas holding six passengers each travel nearly 1,000 meters to reach a point 400 meters above the valley floor. One day tickets, valid for unlimited round trip rides (approximately one hour) cost about $30 per person. A ticket that includes lunch at the restaurant is also available.

The gondola operated year-round from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Train from Quito to Guayaquil - Tren Crucero

Four-day, three-night journeys between Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador, aboard the 54-passenger train Tren Crucero are available from Tren Ecuador.

Running from the coast up through the Andes, with views of tropical forests and volcanoes, the train ride varies from 50 to 86 miles each day, with passengers staying in hotels at night. The itinerary includes visits to villages, markets and ranches. On two of the four days, steam locomotives are used.

The train departs about every two weeks. A cabin costs $1,270 per person double occupancy, with the single supplement $97.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

D-Day Anniversary Cruise With Silversea Cruises

The 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, is the focus of a cruise May 30 to June 8, 2014, being hosted by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. The Silver Cloud of Silversea Cruises will feature historians, such as Tom Brokaw, giving talks plus officials from WWII museums of the UK and France.

Sailing from Lisbon, the ship will call at England's Portsmouth, the Isle of Guernsey and the French town of Saint-Nazaire and send five days in Caen, Normandy. Cabins start at $16,998 per person double.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Discover Echo Beach with Canggu villas

Canggu is the kind of place you can head to make the very best of all worlds. Despite being just 10KM to the north of bustling Kuta, it almost feels like you’ve headed to a different island entirely. The pace of life slows down, the noise is basically non-existent and the beauty of the place is enough to drop jaws left, right and centre. It’s also a surprisingly affordable resort, though those looking to splash out in a big way need only head about 20 km to the nearby town Seminyak where all-things super luxurious are ready and waiting on silver platters.

As far as staying in the resort goes, there’s really no better option on the cards than the stunning Canggu villas dotted all over the place. For those intent on staying right in the centre of where all the action is, there’s always a stunning villa to suit. And likewise, anyone preferring to be a little further away from the beaten path and connect with nature in the most tranquil areas possible will always find Canggu villas to suit with exceptionally low prices.

Of course, the huge black beach is the biggest draw of all and serves as a magnet for millions of visitors every year from all over the world. Choose a villa from the best in the business and this stunning strip of coast can be your own front yard for an unforgettable trip to a remarkable and unique corner of the world.
And just in case you didn’t know, Echo Beach at Canggu is also reputed all over the world as one of the finest beaches for surfing you’ll ever come across. So if a bit of the wet and wild action is up your street, you’ve found your perfect place!

Choosing a Villa

Technically speaking, choosing from the various Canggu villas on offer couldn’t be easier. There are so many amazing options across the resort designed to fit all tastes and desires that getting it wrong really isn’t an option. Instead, it’s all about deciding what kinds of luxuries you’d like, how many people you’re planning on bringing along and what your idea of fun and games it.

For those with kids in the mix, there are plenty of fully family friendly options around with more entertainment and amenities than you could ever need. If complete and total privacy is the order of the day, secluded villas with their own private pools are just a few clicks away and never cost as much as you’d expect. And for those looking to push the boat out in a big way, the sky’s really the limit when it comes to luxuries and refinement.

Quite simply you name it and you’ll find any number of stunning Canggu villas to suit!
Holidays to Bali are all about getting enjoying well-deserved time to yourself dong precisely what it is you want to do, when you want to do it. This is what makes Canggu such a dreamy location as no matter what it is that floats your boat, you’ll find it so close at hand just waiting for you to make the most of it!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Warsaw's Museum of the History of Polish Jews

The new Museum of the History of Polish Jews opened in Warsaw, Poland this past April. The main exhibition is still being installed and is due to open in 2014. In the meantime, the new, 43,000 square foot building is hosting temporary exhibitions, film screenings and performances. As of July, 2013, all exhibitions were free. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and it is closed on Tuesday.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Guided Walks in Ireland on the Cliffs of Moher

Ireland's Cliffs of Moher is located west of Dublin, about a 3-hour ride. There is now a new coastal walking trail that cost 400,000 Euros to build.

Starting at the visitor's center, the 12-mile trail offers views from the cliffs, which reach up to 700 feet above the sea below.  The path, at points, has steep ascents with no handrails and narrow flagstone steps. Facilities include a restaurant, a cafe, a gift shop, toilets and picnic areas. No dogs are allowed.

Guided walks must be booked in advance and depart at 10 a.m. daily. The visitor center entry fee is 6 Euros and includes parking.

Change to Stonehenge Area

By Mactographer (Own work) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

In southern England's Wiltshire county, the A344 toll road that ran next to Stonehenge has been closed. It will be torn up and planted over with grass as part of a refurbishment project designed to protect the site and improve the visitors' experience.

Plans include removing the tall fence, installing new paths and landscaping and building a new visitors' center. Upon completion in summer 2014, a shuttle bus from the visitor center will take visitors 1 1/2 miles along a portion of the old road, letting them walk the final path up to the ancient stones.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Madrid Royal Guard Walking Tour

The 500-year history of Madrid's Royal Guard is the focus of a 2-hour guided walking tour, available in Spanish and in English. At the end of the tour, walkers can watch the Solemn Changing of the Roayl Guad, which involves 400 troops and 100 horses.

The tour is not given in January, July, August or September or on days with official events. In other months, walkers simply meet at the Plaza Mayor Tourist Center at 10 a.m. on the first Wednesday. Tickets cost Euro5.90 (about $8)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tiber Cruises On Hold

The company in charge of all tourist cruises through Rome, Battelli di Roma has judged the water to be too trash-filled and dangerous to run the boats. In May 2013, the firm suspended the tours indefinitely pending a cleanup of the debris and rubbish in the river and along its banks, something that hasn't been done since 2009.

The problem was compounded by the very high flood waters of winter 2012, which left trash hanging in trees along the banks plus fallen branches and junk piled around bridges.

Part of the problem -- since 1906, the Tiber has been classified as "maritime" property and not "communal," which means the city of Rome is not responsible for its maintenance.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

White Nights Worldwide

In 2013, 23 cities worldwide each will hold a "White Night," an all-night celebration of free art, music, theater and other festivities such as fireworks. Paris' Nuit Blanche, in 2002, was the first such event. Each city chooses an overall theme for the evening. Restaurants, museums and stops stay open late and museum admission often is free. 

This year's events began January 28 in Bologna, Italy. Melbourne hosted Australia's first White Night even on February 23. The majority take place in countries in the fall, including Singapore (Sept 24, 25 and 31) and Jeruselem on October 6, with the final event being help in La Paz, Bolivia, on Oct 26.

For a list of cities hosting White night events and the dates, visit Choose a city from the list and in a search engine type in the city name and White Night 2013.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Learn to Surf in Costa Rica

Guests at the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica located on the northwestern coast, may take surf classes through the Four Seasons partner Tropicsurf. Classes range from a 2-hour lesson ($220 per person) to a full-day trip of about seven hours ($490 per person, two people minimum.

Suitable for beginners or advanced surfers, the classes are taught by expert guides. Room rates at the hotel run $475 to $2,395 a night.

Verdi Festival, Parma

This year in Italy's province of Parma, the annual Verdi Festival will celebrate the 200th birthday of Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901) September 30 to October 31. The program will include events and performances at the Regio Theatre in Parma and the Verdi Theater in nearby Busseto.

Performances include the operas "Falstaff, "I masnadieri" and "Simon Boccanegra." The composer's "Requiem Mass" and other compositions with also be performed.

Tickets went on sale June 11 online and at the box office at the Regio Theatre.

Brussels' New Flower Show

FloraliƫntimeIn Brussels, Belgium, in even-numbered years, the Grand 'Place is covered with 2,000 square meters of flowers. A new event, Floralientime, will now take place in odd-numbered years.

During Floralientime 2013 (August 15 to 18), several rooms in the City Hall will be transformed into a garden, with more than 100,000 flowers arranged by renowned landscape architects. The Grand 'Place will have a relation garden.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. with admission Euro5 (about $6.50). Tickets available at Visit Brussels shops ( amd at Brussels' Grand 'Place and Brussels Info Place (2 rue Royale), or, during the show at the City Hall Courtyard.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Forbidden Corner, Yorkshire, Great Britain

Talking statues, shrinking rooms, underground labyrinths, a griffin, a glass pyramid ... these are a few of the weird wonders at the Forbidden Corner ,one of Britain's oddest attractions. Initially one man's private pleasure garden, the park was opened to the public in 1994.

Admission is only through prebooked tickets which are available online or by telephone (+44 (0) 01969 640638). It is Open from 12 to 6 Monday to Saturday and 10 to 6 on Sunday from April 1 to October 31 and Sundays only from November until Christmas.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Should You Get Travel Iinsurance?

It depends. For my  husband and myself there are two main reasons we get travel insurance.

The first is our age and health. Either of which might cause us to have to cancel out trip. Travel insurance will cover any non-refundable payments we have made.

The second has to do with where we go which is a bit off the beaten path. We have sailed the Amazon River and Antarctica. We have been to the interior of Peru. We've been to the Galapagos Islands. If we were to become hurt or ill enough to require evacuation, it would be very expensive. Our travel insurance will cover that emergency expense.

Get a Free 10-Day Look with Allianz Global Assistance, the world leader in travel insurance. Get a free quote now.

As we get older, the insurance becomes more expensive. But considering some of the places we go, I don't give buying it a second thought. Although she always checks before getting it for us, our travel agent knows we want it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Our Trip to Costa Rica

This past April my husband and I did a custom two week trip to Costa Rica. I had been there several years ago with a girl friend and loved the wildlife and nature.

With my husband's rising interest in wildlife photography, I decided this was a trip I had to do again ... but this time dragging him along.

We had a great trip. I had promised him that the wildlife was so prevalent he could get great shots, not only from our visits to various parks and preserves, but also from our hotel properties. And I kept my promise.

If you are interested in reading about our trip  -- and seeing some of the pictures -- you'll find the posts on my travel blog: Travel Snippets and More.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Commonwealth Games 2014

The United Kingdom's 2014 Commonwealth Games will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, July 23 - August 4, 2014.

4,500 athletes from the UK's 71 nations and territories will compete in 17 sports, including track and field, rugby, lawn bowls, swimming, gymnastics, weightlifting, table tennis and shooting. A few events will be held outside the city, in Angus and Lanarkshire.

Tickets will go on sale in the summer of 2013, with prices expected from £10 (about $15) to -- for opening or closing ceremonies, £1000. For more information, visit

Saturday, June 22, 2013

UMT International

As my readers know, I try to find the unusual to present here. Whether it is tidbits about cities celebrating centennials or warnings about travel delays, I try to post information about something that might not be obvious elsewhere.

This time I found UMT International, a company that makes after market accessories for boats such as boarding ladders, t-tops, dive tank brackets, deck showers and bow seats. Their facility is located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Anyway, looking at this site was a learning experience. I love to be on the water but have never owned any kind of boat. (Does my husband's canoe count? LOL) I never realized what is involved in having a boat in terms of the decisions that need to be made about what kind of this item or that item I may want.

For instance, would I want boarding stairs that are heavy duty or lightweight? Would I want them side accommodating or as a boarding ladder?

I can see where if I was ever fortunate enough to have a boat of my own, and needed some after market accessories, that it would be important to work with a company that had a lot of experience along with quality options.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Christian Home Exchange

Home exchange is nothing new. There are lots of good reasons for doing a home exchange. It is a great way to stretch your vacation dollar. You stay in a home free while the homeowner you are swapping with stays free at your home. You have all the conveniences of a home while away including a full kitchen, laundry facilities and lots of room for all family members. There are neighbors to provide assistance if you should need it or to simply ask for a restaurant recommendation. Additionally, your own home is not left empty ... you know someone is there taking care of things just as you are doing for the homeowner you are swapping with.

What I found new-to-me is Christian Home Exchange, a service provided by St. Hans Ministry Exchange, Inc. A non-profit organization, the exchange works with Christians around the world for ministry exchanges and home swaps. Whether the purpose of the swap is for study or a retreat, or simply an opportunity to get away from the every day, the service provides assistance for exchanges among like-minded individuals. All members of the exchange know that they will be sharing in their common faith during the house exchange.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sixtieth Macau Grand Prix

The 60th Macau Grand Prix will be held in Macau, China, November 14 - 17, 2013. The race is known as the only street circuit racing event with both motorcycle and car races. The difficult 3.8 mile track features sharply twisting corners and long straightaways.

Tickets cost $6.25 on practice days and $16.25 to $112.50 on race days and are available in advance online and via the ticket hotline. Contact the Macau Grand Prix Committee.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Airport Removal of Body Scanners

If you've flown since the first of the month, you may have noticed a difference going through security. Congress passed a law -- effective June 1 -- that requires all full-body scanner used in US airports to produce only a generic outline instead of an image of a naked body.

Remember all those complaints about the body scanners being too graphic. Well, if you were one of those complaining, you were right.

There are two manufacturers of body scanners and one of them was not able to meet the June 1 deadline. To compensate, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been removing 250 backscatter x-ray scanner from the 30 airports where they were used and replacing them with millimeter wave scanners.

The TSA currently has 660 millimeter wave scanners and some of them are being transferred from smaller airports to larger ones. Some of the smaller airports will end up going back to using simple metal detectors.

Monday, June 10, 2013

China Rail App

The tour company China Travel Guide has launched a new free app for iPhone, China Trains, which allows users to check China's train schedules, plan trips to many cities, look up trains by number and check ticket availability, all in English.

Tickets cannot be purchased from the app, but schedules can be downloaded for offline use. The app is available from the Apple App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Singing Bowls

Have you seen these in your travels? Perhaps you've been to Tibet and seen the singing bowls there.

Crystal Singing Bowls provide the same sense of serenity for mediation and relaxation as other types of singing bowls.

If you've always wanted a singing bowl but getting overseas to buy one has not been possible for you, they are now available to be purchased in the U.S.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Korean Garden Expo

A 3.5 hour ride from Seoul, South Korea, via bullet train ($36 each way), the International Garden Exposition in Sucheon Bay runs until October 20th. It will include indoor gardens, urban gardens, herb gardens, forest paths and exhibits on ecology and wetland management.

The expo site is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 9 to 7 on weekends. It is located a 10-minute bus ride from the rail station.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Norway and Munch at 150

In 2013, Norway is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its most famous artist, Edvard Munch, with painting and photography exhibitions, commissioned works of music, tours of sites where Munch lived and more.

A short guided tour of the first house Munch bought, in Asgardstarand on the Oslo fjord, can be taken June 1 to August 31. The performance "Of Lifeblood" combining tableaux, original music and dance, will happen in and around Munch's Hvitsen home, June 2 to 23.

"Munch 150," the most comprehensive exhibition of his works ever displayed, takes place June 2 to October 13 in the National Gallery and in the Munch Museum.

For more information, contact Munch 150. A magazine about Munch 150, in Norwegian and English, can be downloaded for free.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Wagner's 200th Birthday Celebrated in Zurich

Performances and exhibitions are being held in Zurich, Switzerland, this year to commemorate Richard Wagner's 200th birthday. From 1849 to 1858 the composer lived in the city, where he began to compose the operas that would become the famed "Ring" cycle.

The exhibition "Valkyries Over Zurich" at the Kunsthaus Zurich May 24 to August 18 will show photographs and set designs plus drawings of early Wagner stagings. There will also be performances of Wagner's works in June and July including "Tristan and Isolde" and a contemporary staging of "Das Rheingold."

For more information, contact Festpiele Zurich.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hertz Buys Thrifty

Hertz Rent a Car bought out Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group in November 2012. This takeover means that only three rental car agencies -- Hertz, Avis and Enterprise (Alamo/National/Enterprise) -- now conrol over 95 percent of the US car rental market.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

App For Visitors To Mexico

With the Mexico Tourism Board's free "VisitMexico" app, travelers can find information about Mexico's six regions and 32 states, with in-dept content for 27 destinations. News, weather, maps, events, videos and activities are featured.

The app is available for Apple, Android and Blackberry platforms and can be used in English or Spanish. Download from the iTunes store, (for Android users) or at

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Great Britain Travel and Tourism Updates

For whatever reason, Britain does not see the importance of investing in tourist information offices. The Britain and London Visitors Centre near Piccadilly Circus has closed. Now the only publicly funded tourist office (and there an impartial one) is the City of London Information Center across from St. Paul's Cathedral.

The new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will open its northern section on July 27, the one year anniversary of the opening ceremonies and will include footpaths, playgrounds and picnic friendly areas. The southern half is scheduled to be opened in the spring of 2014.

Kensington Palace has just been refurbished and now hosts a worthwhile series of exhibits on its past residents, including William and Mary and the Hanovers. The highlight is the exhibit on Queen Victoria who was born and raised in this palace.

For Harry Potter fans, the wizarding world is abuzz over the opening of the "Making of Harry Potter" studio tour in Leavesden, a 20-minute train ride from London. The attraction lets Harry Potter fans see the actual sets and props used in the films, along with exhibits about how the special effects were created. Visitors must book a time slot in advance and it is recommended to book as far ahead as possible.

Advance tickets are now available online for the Roman and Medieval Bath in Bath, a 90-minute train ride from London.

Along England's southern coast, the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard will soon have a new museum displaying the 16th century warship Mary Rose (Henry VIII's favorite ship) along with numerous Tudor era items found inside the wreck.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Allow Extra Time at Vienna Train Stations

Expect train stations in Vienna to be in a state of disarray for the next few years as the city works on rebuilding the central station and remodeling several others. The West Station (Westbahnhof) has already been renovated, with the 1950s shell filled now with modern services, shops and restaurants.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Save Money When Visiting Zurich

The ZurichCard offers visitors to Zurich, Switzerland, unlimited second-class travel by tram, bus, rail, boat and cable card for 24 or 72 hours as well as discounts at museums, shops and restaurants.

The card also offers a 25 percent discount on a 90-minute guided rickshaw tour of the city. Cardholders also get a 10 percent discount on a 30-minute helicopter tour.

The card can be purchased at Zurich airports and rail stations or in advance through Zurich Tourism.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Paris Travel and Tourism Updates

Avoid the lines and buy your tickets online. You can now book ahead and print out a receipt that acts as your entry pass for such sights as the Eiffel Tower, Monet's gardens at Giverney, the Musee d'Orsay as well as for some activities like church concerts and Seine River cruises.

The Picasso Museum is still closed and not expected to reopen until the end of this year. The Rodin Museum is under renovation through 2014. What is available to see could change daily so be sure to check the web site before going. However, the museums gardens will remain open.

Classic Walks offers tours that let you skip the line at major sights. If you would prefer not to walk, check out TripUp's pedicab tours.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Italy Travel and Tourism Updates

Same day tickets for the Vatican Museum.... ones that will let you skip the line.. are available from the tourist information office in St. Peter's Square. The price is the same you would pay if you reserved them online.

Massive crowds line up to see Florences's cathedral, the Duomo, which is free to enter. Here is how to skip to the front of the line, if you are already planning to visit the cathedral-related sites such as the Duomo Museum, Baptistery and Campanile. These require a combination ticket and the trick is to buy the ticket first at the less-crowded museum. You're allowed to use your ticket to enter the cathedral through its exit, bypassing the long lines at the front door.

Florence's Uffizi Gallery is still undergoing renovation but many new rooms are now available to the public. Also in Florence, Lorenzo Ghiberti's Renaissance-era Baptistery doors have been newly restored and are now back on display at the Duomo Museum.

The best late evening hours sightseeing, from April till September, is at the Palazzo Vecchio. The Medicis ruled from this fortified palace. The site typically stays open until 12 midnight plus the tower has been reopened, allowing visitors a great view of the cityscape.

In Venice, the downside of visiting the Accademia is that it is still going through a renovation and major expansion that has been going on for years. Things are still in disarray but the advantage is that there are no longer crowds and long lines and it is not necessary anymore to buy a ticket in advance.

If you are visiting Naples, you no longer need to make an appointment to visit the Secret Room at the Archeological Museum. The Secret Room houses erotic pottery, frescoes and statues that were once used to decorate brothels and bedrooms in Herculaneum and Pompeii.

Be prepared for hotel accommodations to cost more. With the economic uncertainty, highly visited cities such as Florence, Venice, Rome and Padua, are charging an additional tax on hotel rooms. The tax must be paid in cash at checkout and varies from one Euro to five Euros per person, per night and is based on the number of stars assigned to the hotel under the government rating system.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How To Check Flight On-Time Stats

The definition of a flight that is "on time" is one that operates within 15 minutes of its schedule. A good website to visit for this type of information is Click on Flights and then On-Time Performance Rating.Type in the departure and arrival cities and you will see a chart showing each of the airlines that flies the route, the flight number and the on-time percentage.

This website is easy to use and provides a wealth of information on almost every airline in the world as well as on  nearly every airport.

Another website where you can find current information on flight delays at a specific airport in the US is It is managed by the FA and draws its information from the Air Traffic Control system.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Airline Reviews

Many travelers have multiple flight options for getting from here to there. Not only are there departure and arrival time options, but total length of trip, price and choice of airline.

So all things being equal, how do you decide which airline to take? Loyalty programs might make a difference to you. But if they don't check the airline reviews on Skytrax.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Luxury Travel in New Zealand

Have you always wanted to visit New Zealand but were concerned about the quality of accommodations and transportation options available?

Most travelers I have spoken to who have been to New Zealand know how easy it is to do on the cheap. There are plenty of campgrounds with cabins and even communal kitchens where you can cook your own meal. Lots of inexpensive small motels. You can grab easy group transportation.

But that type of travel is not for everyone. You may not be aware that there is a luxury travel side to New Zealand. You can go guided fishing in Taupo, play golf at the Wairakei International Golf Course, and Heli Hike the Franz Josef Glacier.

Luxury accommodations range from five star hotels, to boutique hotels, to private islands, luxury lodges and even luxury camping. Each type of accommodation is unique to itself, with its own distinct sounds, sights, personalities and tastes.

 And transportation? Why ride in a car or bus when you can fly from destination to destination and maximize the use the your vacation time.

New Zealand is no longer just for backpackers. If you are looking for exciting luxury travel, you can now find it in New Zealand.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cash Only At The Vatican

Currently, only cash is being accepted in Vatican City for entry tickets and purchases in its stores.

Because of banking laws relating to the European Union, member nation banks may only do business with member nations.

Since the Vatican is not a member of the European Union, the Bank of Italy, which had been handling credit card and ATM transactions, had to withdraw its services.

Update from me on July 10th -- when I learned about it -- that the Vatican is now accepting credit cards which are being processed through a Swiss company.

Details in the article below 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Leave the Sneakers Home When Traveling to Europe

Don't want to look like a tourist?

Particularly in Europe, sneakers are worn only for sporting events. Crocs, white tennis shoes, and Birkestocks are especially looked down upon by the Italians and Spanish.

Instead, wear a comfortable pair of leather walking shoes when in any European city and keep them in good shape. Lace-up white tennis shoes will brand you as an American tourist -- and don't even consider wearing sneakers with Velcro straps.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hop Around The World With Hopper

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of DISH for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
The Hopper™ is a Whole-Home HD DVR Functionality system, available from DISH, that covers your entire home. It lets you watch both live and recorded television anywhere. And that anywhere includes while you are traveling. You can even watch recorded TV without having an Internet connection.

Sign up for a DISH package staring at $24.99 per month (12 months with commitment for 24 months) and Hopper™ is free. With Hopper™ you can use your smartphone or tablet to watch your favorite TV programs while waiting for your flight. Help your in-air time go by as you use Hopper™ to watch your recorded programs while in the air. You’ll never miss your favorites because you can either watch them while traveling (using DISH Anywhere) or you can set it to be recorded to watch later. And if you forget to set up the recording, Hopper™ lets you set up the recording with DISH Anywhere.  Plus, with PrimeTime Anytime™ you can record 6 different shows at the same time during primetime giving you three hours of on demand primetime ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC programming available to you for up to 8 days from initial air date.

The DISH Anywhere app (for Android and Apple devices) or use the online portal, to watch both live and recorded programs – anywhere, anytime. With any DISH subscription you get DISH Anywhere at no additional charge. With Hopper Transfers™  you can move your recorded programs to your iPad before leaving home and enjoy watching them wherever you are, whenever you want – in the airport, on a plane, on a train, in a car or on the beach. Additionally, with AutoHop™ you can instantly skip commercials in recorded primetime TV on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC.
Learn more about the Hopper by liking it on Facebook (LIKE DISH on Facebook) and following on Twitter (Follow DISH on Twitter).

 photo 730e2884-47bc-4bc4-90d2-ea67ab288570_zpsf5f56aa8.jpg
Visit Sponsor's Site

Monday, February 11, 2013

View The Naxca Lines From The Ground

Visitors can now view a few of Peru's Nazca Lines from an observation tower, the Mirador, located along the Pam American Highway 20 kilometers north of the city of Nazca. The steel tower is 13 meters (39 feet) tall, and from the viewing platform at the top of the steps: the hands, the tree and a bit of the reptile.

The tower was used by Maria Reicher during archaeological work in 1976 and donated to the state for tourism use. Access is free.

Tour Stieg Larsson Sites

If you will be visiting Stockholm, and are a fan of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series, you might be interested in taking a guided tour of the real-life locations in the novels. The 2-hour tour starts from the home of the fictional character Mikael Blomkvist, at Bellmansgatan 1, and ends at the Stockholm City Museum.

The tour is offered 11:30 a.m. Saturday from October to May, with an additional tour offered at 6 p.m. on Wednesday from June to September. Tickets can be purchased at the Stockholm City Museum ( and are 120 kronor (about $18).

Friday, February 1, 2013

Can You Insure Vacation Rentals?

I recently received the following advertisement.

Get a Free 10-Day Look with Allianz Travel Insurance, the world leader in travel insurance. Get a free quote now.

My husband and I always take travel insurance when we travel and Allianz is the company that we use. We have been fortunate to not have to make any claims but we've seen enough travelers get hurt or sick while away to know that we want to be insured.

One of the items covered is trip cancellation costs. If one of us becomes ill or there is a death in the family, for example, we are covered for any non-refundable expenses.

But what about a vacation rental? Friends of ours travel to the Outer Banks of North Carolina every summer. They have a big family and rent a big house. I'm pretty confident that their rental fee is due well in advance and is probably not refundable unless the home owner can re-rent it for the same time slot.

Could they buy insurance from Allianz to cover that expense? I'll have to do some research.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Common Packing Mistakes

The tendency to overpack ... throw in the boots in case of rain, throw in your entire stack of unread books in case of downtime. Below you will find a guide on what NOT to pack, helping to keep your luggage under the weight limits and much easier to handle ... maybe even to the point of being able to fly with only carry-ons.

1. Check what is prohibited.
The Transportation Security Administration has a whole list of items that are simply not allowed, in both carry-ons and checked luggage, such as weapons. Check the list and, if you are not sure, leave the item home.

2. Toiletries
Those full sized bottles of lotion and shampoo are not only heavy, they take up a lot of space and, if you want to fly with only a carry-on, are too big for the TSA 3-1-1 guidelines. Use trail-sized toiletries (Target has a great selection) or, if you MUST have a specific shampoo, buy small plastic bottles to fill with your favorites.

3. Clothing
If every item you pack cannot perform double duty, nix it. Pack clothes in mix and match neutral colors. Use scarves and shawls, ties and belts, as an addition to turn daytime outfits into colorful outfits for the evening. Accept the fact that you will hand wash a few items along the way. Choose clothing made from wrinkle resistant, quick drying fabric. If you'll be traveling to a cold climate, think layer. You don't need bulky coats and wool sweaters. Instead opt for silk long-johns, under a quick dry shirt, under fleece, under a windproof/waterproof jacket.

by: diane robbins

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Booking Air on Non-US Airlines

The better known travel sites, such as Expedia, Travelocity and Kayak, all favor U.S. airlines. But there is a world of other airlines out there, many of them offering seats at a lower price.

For your next trip abroad, you may want to use some of the following sites to research your air -- recommended by readers of International Travel New.


ITA Matrix - site doesn't sell tickets but it shows flights and info

Air Treks -  according to an ITN reader, particularly useful for multiple city long-haul travel


Sky Scanner - checks several airfare selling sites

by: diane robbins