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The folks at Google Labs have developed a computer to phone calling system that works from any GMail account. If you don’t have a GMail address, get one today at Google.com – yes, it’s free.
To make a call – sign into your GMail account on any computing device and click on “Call Phone” that appears in the left column. You’ll be directed to download the application once.
There's a new airline battle that's just begun that you should keep an eye on. American Airlines has made a move to topple one of the largest online travel sites by refusing to supply pricing information to Orbitz.com and demanding that Orbitz remove American Airlines...
I'm just back from Las Vegas where Clint and I took a one day excursion into Death Valley with Pink Jeep Tours. We really had a great time and Death Valley turned out to be way more interesting than I had imagined. Here's a link to...
The dilemma for visitors to London is that by the time they’ve enjoyed the ‘must see’ attractions, they’re left with little time to experience the hidden gems that the city has to offer.
Beyond the historical buildings, markets and West End theatre, there is a vast number of lesser known sites of interest that can easily be missed if you don’t seek the council of a local. Luckily for you, dear reader, your author is a born and bred Londoner – 30 years to be precise – and spend much of my time exploring the city’s nooks and crannies, both for work and leisure.
Gathering all of my London knowledge, I’ve come up with a list of six of the city’s best lesser-known attractions.
Coronet Cinema – For most tourists, going to the cinema is not necessarily on their list of things to do. But London is home to some truly unique picture houses. One of the finest is the Coronet Cinema in Notting Hill, west London. A major part of the London arts scene, this cinema dates back to the late 19th century and specializes in non-mainstream movies.
It is still just the 'big boys' (legacy airlines) that offer emergency airfares. The low cost carriers like JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit etc simply do not offer these types of fares. I found it very surprising that while American, Continental, Delta and United all...
Here are some Paris travel tips that will make your journey safe, comfortable and fabulous. I’m always spouting, “When you see a super great deal – make yourself drop everything and go!” That’s exactly what happened to us last month when Linda and I had the opportunity to fly off to Paris at a fabulous promotional rate. We had a little over 2 weeks to pull our trip together, so we focused in right away. Here’s what we did:
#1 A Quick Brush Up On Our High School French
Linda found a terrific language learning program – EarWormsLearning.com. Despite the crawly name, the concept is amazing. They believe that you learn better, faster and with more recall when you learn with music. So their language lessons come with music playing in the background. We loved it and listened on our iPods all the way to Paris.
And for extra reassurance, we picked up a quick translation guide – 30 Words ($9.95). These are terrific passport sized accordion folded translations of tourist phrases that are waterproof and tear-proof – perfect for toting around.
This summer is an old fashioned SCORCHA! – so it’s time to head to the cool, clear mountain villages of Maine where breezes blow and temperatures are comfortable. While throngs of tourists cling to the rocky coastline (which is impressive we must admit), more discerning families head inland where spring fed lakes and rumbling rivers guarantee a refreshing vacation stay.
Be A Really Cool Family – Go White Water Rafting On The Kennebec River! You can’t get much more refreshing than a plunge down the rapids in an inflatable boat. The adrenaline rush all the water and amusement parks are trying to duplicate is right here in northern Maine on the Kennebec, Penobscot and Dead rivers. Until July 15th it’s value season at Northern Outdoors – you can take 35% off standard summer rafting and lodging prices. AND all summer long, kids raft at half price on weekdays. On Wednesday it’s single parent day, two kids pay half price with a single paying parent. These rivers will give you the ride of your life!
Paris Greeters, a volunteer organization of amiable Parisians who look forward to welcoming visitors to their city are changing the impression that Paris is a less than friendly city, one tour at a time, every day.
As Linda and I make our away across the city from the broad perfumed boulevards of the Champs Elysee to the gritty, lyrical lanes of the Left Bank, we are giddy with anticipation. We are about to meet a new friend that we met a few weeks ago online thanks to the Paris Greeters organization. Our Paris Greeter / guide, Laurent, has volunteered to show us his city on this particular Saturday afternoon. We’ve been in touch by email to set a time and place to meet, discussed our mutual interests, and exchanged photos so we can recognize each other outside the Metro station.
Within minutes of meeting we are talking, laughing and already appreciating the nuances of Left Bank neighborhoods and seeing French culture through new eyes. Beyond a litany of Louis’ and their royal accomplishments (how DO they keep 18 Louis straight?) we stroll by a Pierre Herme´ pastry shrine (you really can’t call it a bake shop when there are 50 people waiting in line to get in the door!); then on to Gelati D’Alberto where the iced delights look like rose blossoms, and of course we can’t resist ogling the decadent cheeses and fragrant produce at an open market. Oh to be a Parisian on market day! Laurent schools us on choosing restaurants to dine in, “NEVER enter a restaurant that has ‘French Cuisine’ on the sign or menu”, he admonishes, “they are just for poor unsuspecting tourist!”
Don't wait another minute to discover Cat Island in the Out Islands of the Bahamas - you'll find miles and miles of gorgeous (undeveloped) beachfront and delightful laid-back intimate resorts. I'm just back from a fabulous vacation at the Fernandez Bay Village on Cat Island...
We’ve been on Cat Island at the Fernandez Bay Village for just over 24 hours and have already begun to loose track of what day of the week it is. Yesterday afternoon we meandered among the 17 cottages and villas- all perched just off the water’s edge on Fernandez Bay. SeaGrape is our home for the stay – a quaint two bedroom villa constructed with local limestone and white washed lumber with comfortable rattan furnishings and gaily colored cushions. We can look right out to the turquoise bay from every room and the sound of lapping waves is music to our (previously frosted) ears.
Just a quick post to say we've arrived at Cat Island in the Out Islands of the Bahamas - piece of cake. A quick non-stop flight to Nassau on JetBlue ($104 each way) and then Tony the owner of Fernandez Bay Village 'picked us up'...
New England is blessed with some of the most spectacular fall foliage displays in the world. The diverse variety of hardwood forests climbing dramatic mountainsides and reflected in shimmering lakes guarantee scenic overload. This year skip the traffic jams on the highways and view the...
If you're heading over to the Emerald Isle, don't go unless you've spent some time exploring VisitDublin.com. The site is loaded with tons of ways to save money and guarantee a fabulous visit. The site is a prime example of a tourist bureau doing things...
Just because the stores and museums are closed, doesn’t mean Sunday mornings need to be dull in NYC. Beat the heat and the city noise by heading to a rooftop garden restaurant for brunch close to the heavens. Few cities are as vertically exuberant as New York, with skyscrapers reaching for the clouds everywhere you look. This summer there’s a new trend in dining, “high-altitude brunches” where great food meets awesome views – a perfect pairing. Here are 6 locations around the city to enjoy cooling breezes, spectacular views and delicious cuisine:
#1 230 Fifth Let the bubbly flow on Saturdays and Sundays (year round) at the Champagne Party Brunch. This is Manhattan’s largest rooftop venue, offering 14,000 square feet of palm-decorated dining and stunning views of the city including the Empire State Building.
#2 Hotel Gansevoort Super chic hotel in the former meat packing district. The Plunge Bar invites you to a “Get Up Get Down Brunch” (Sat & Sun) where diners are wowed with 360 degree views of the Hudson River and Manhattan.
Local food markets give a glimpse into the soul of a destination. The crops that local farmers grow and the culinary creations that food artisans produce speak to the history of the location and the traditions of its citizens. Nothing is more pleasing and engrossing than roaming among the stalls of a neighborhood farmer’s market or the grand food halls of a metropolitan city. In China I was almost afraid to look (bugs on a stick?!), in Vancouver the smells and colors were dazzling, in Hawaii I found vegetables I had never seen before in my life, and the markets in Rome and Paris were sensuous. Now that it’s harvest time around the world, don’t miss the opportunity to visit a luscious food market wherever you roam – here are some of the world’s favorites:
New York – Chelsea Market, a hub of foodie activity
San Francisco – Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, large Organics Markets, operates 3 times per week
New Orleans – Crescent City Farmers Market, Uptown and Downtown fabulous fruits
Seattle – Freemont Sunday Market – more than fruits & veggies – treasures of all description
Hawaii – Hawaii Farmers Markets Online, several gorgeous markets on every island
Vancouver – Granville Island Public Market, The ethnic diversity of Vancouver makes this market a sensory explosion
Mexico City – Mercado de la Merced, nirvana for chili pepper lovers – every color of the rainbow!
Beach It In Paris – yes, Paris!
Each July and August since 2002, Paris creates its own beaches right along the banks of the River Seine (by the Pont Neuf, Notre-Dame and Pont au Change). Industrious crews bring in over 3,000 tons of sand to create an urban beach right along the city’s beloved Seine River, for all Parisians (and visitors) to soak up some rays and participate in (my favorite activity) – eye popping people watching! But it doesn’t stop with sand – we’re talking palm trees, chaise lounges, umbrellas, hammocks, wifi, games and books, grassy lawns and raised decking – a sun lovers paradise for sure! Find all the details at Paris Plage
Swim The Seine, really – no pollution involved
A number of giant swimming barges (floating swimming pools) have been anchored along the banks of the Seine creating the illusion of being able to swim in the river. Perhaps the most notable is the Josephine Baker, where a 25 meter pool can delight 375 swimmers at once. After your refreshing swim, relax in the cafe, on the sun deck, or work out in the gym facilities. Their sliding roof makes this spot perfect on any day, in any weather. Here’s where you can find all the info on the Josephine Baker Swimming Pool.
The Azores - The Most Beautiful Eco-Friendly Islands That You´ve Never Heard Of I should have brought along a Thesaurus to even attempt to describe to you how incredibly beautiful the islands of the Azores are. Clint and I just hopped a short 4 1/2 hour nonstop...
It’s been a long cold winter and you haven’t had a good dose of sunshine and sand between your toes in a long time. Spring breezes may have you itching to dig in the garden, but for me, Spring brings yearnings for crystal clear waters lapping on endless miles of pristine beaches. Yes my friends, May and June are the perfect months to fly off to the Out Islands of the Bahamas where temperatures are in the 80’s and life is a beach! Grab your flip flops and several bathing suits and you’re ready to go.
If your vision of the Bahamas is Nassau and Paradise Island, you have a whole new world of soft adventure waiting to explore. There are roughly 700 islands in the Bahamas chain, and one is more beautiful than the next.
Just when I thought the scenery couldn’t get any better, we ventured off to the eastern expanses of Sao Miguel Island where we were totally wowed! Now let me say we had already experienced 7 days of incredibly beautiful landscapes and were in a bit of panorama overload, but the eastern regions of the island woke up our senses once again and had our jaws dropping at the wild and dramatic coastal views. Everywhere were glimpses of riotous pink azaleas in full bloom cascading down steep headlands. Cows munched precariously on upland pastures – I thought they should have a sign, “Beware of Falling Cows – instead of falling boulders!” What touched me the most was seeing charming little picnic parks tucked all along the winding roadways. Families in the Azores take to the parks every weekend all year long to enjoy family gatherings. Each park has a dramatic scenic view, picnic benches, masonry barbecues, sinks for food prep, toilets, and often playground equipment for the kids – and always a profusion of flowers in bloom – Martha you should see this!!
Incredible sites along the way included a lava formed swimming pool in the middle of the ocean (talk about your infinity pool!), Europe’s only tea plantation where bright green tea plants blanket the hillsides (and you can tour the tea processing plant), cascading waterfalls, farmers collecting milk from the fields with horse and wagon, and chanting groups of religious Pilgrims who encircle the island for 7 days during Lent, visiting every church, cemetery and memorial. It’s time to head off to Furnas to soak our well traveled feet in the hot springs!
Sorry for the delay in posting about the finish to our trip. We had very sporadic access to the web. One day I was muttering to myself about the lack of internet access, and then took a look around and realized we were staying in the middle of a volcano crater – no wonder the signals were a bit challenged! Here’s a recap of the marvelous sites we visited on the Island of Sao Miguel and the capitol city of Ponta Delgada.
Ponta Delgada is a study in black and white. Streets and sidewalks are decoratively adorned with intricate mosaic designs executed in small blocks of black basalt rock and white sandstone. Tightly woven streets are lined with white stucco buildings accented with black basalt trim. Numerous city parks were planted with cheery flowers, but alas with the unusually cool weather while we were there, they were yet to ‘pop’, so the city appeared a bit colorless in spots. I am certain that in a week or two all the trees will have leafed out and flowers will provide bright accents making Ponta Delgada a charming seaside city. The city reminded me of the wonderful mosaic displays in Lisbon, and we learned that while Ponta Delgada’s designs are done in black with white accents, Lisbon’s are done in white with black accents. Sao Miguel has the black basalt stone and Lisbon has the white sandstone – so they trade!
To be honest, we didn’t spend much time in the city center. The countryside is so appealing that we scurried out to explore at every opportunity. We hired a taxi (who’s driver spoke good English) for approx $20 an hour (for the 4 of us) and headed off to explore. Our first visit was to Vila Franca Do Campo, the first capitol city of Sao Miguel. There we sat across from the harbor ramp choked with brightly colored fishing boats and had one of the best meals of our trip at the Atlantico Restaurant. Fresh fish was abundant throughout our stay – with many varieties we had never heard of – we often just ordered the filet of fish of the day and were never disappointed. The Azores has a robust tuna fishing industry – although it was still early in the season to see a catch being brought in.