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6 Weeks In The Dominican Republic – A Trip Report

Bavaro Beach Punta CanaWe’ve just left the Dominican Republic after renting a condo in Punta Cana for 6 weeks to escape the miserable New England winter weather, and we’re happy to report is was a great success.  Here’s what you need to know about vacationing in the DR.

Overall Impressions of the DR:

  • As I walked along a sidewalk in St. Kitts today, it struck me that I truly miss the lyrical call of every person passing by offering a cheery, “Hola!” – almost like a song, and always accompanied by a smile.  The Dominican people are a pleasure to know – easy going, likely to be singing, quick with a smile, handshake and hug.  We enjoyed meeting ‘the locals’ and conversed with them as best we could.
Exuberant Spring Festivals

It feels like only yesterday when we were celebrating Christmas and yet Pottsitauny Phil has promised that Spring is already fast approaching. Now is the time to plan your escape to another part of the world this Spring.   Why not take this opportunity to plan a journey to one of the world’s best spring festivals?  Here’s a look at  some of our favorite Spring festivals that are well worth putting our your bucket list.

Brazil (Mardi Gras Carnival)

Brazel CarnivalIf lavish carnivals are your thing then head down to Brazil where the world famous Mardi Gras carnival will be taking place on 5 March. Here Rio de Janeiro comes alive with people dancing in the streets all day and night. Extravagant parades feature colorful floats and costumes that surround you as everyone dances to the rhythm of a Samba beat. Come together with the locals to celebrate this African-American tradition and leave all your worries behind.

Get Steeply Discounted Ski Lift Tickets Online

Okay, which one of you asked Santa for snow this winter?  Whoever you are, you certainly got your wish!  With so much snow on the ground, there's nothing to do but head to the mountains for some record breaking runs. We've found a terrific website to...

Princess Resorts Punta Cana – Take A Tour

Here's our latest video tour of the four Princess Resorts in Punta Cana Dominican Republic. Tour All 4 Princess Resorts in Punta Cana Slideshow: Wicked’s trip from Boston, Massachusetts, United States to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic was created by TripAdvisor. See another Punta Cana slideshow. Create...

Favorite Cheap High-Quality Hotels in Top European Cities

ParisWe’ve selected our favorite inexpensive accommodations in three of our favorite European destinations, London, Paris and Budapest to help you stretch your vacation budget.

When you think about the term ‘cheap accommodation’, what comes to mind? Visions of dingy shared hostel dorms with iron bunk beds and thirty people to each bathroom? Subsistence meals from all-you-can-eat buffets? Poor security and sketchy neighborhoods?

These types of lodging certainly exist, but cheap doesn’t automatically mean substandard. If you want to save stretch your budget when traveling, there are plenty of youth hostels and cheap hotels available that will give you a great stay.  Here are some of our favorite top value hotels and hostels: 

Milan Shopping Musts

Doce & GabbanaShopping in Italy is absolute heaven for all fashion lovers! When you think about Italy the first things that may come to mind are: Pizza, legendary football, delicious wine and of course fashion. Italy is the residence for legendary designers such as: Armani, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and many more. If you are a fashion lover you should get fully prepared before entering this “heaven for elegance” country. We have decided to make life easier for you and sum up the top places to shop in Milan:

1. Vintage and second hand shopping
Cavalli e Nastri
Address:
Via Brera 2, Milano or:  Via De Amicis 9, Milano
Official website

This multicolored shop is an absolute pleasure for hours of browsing. Hand-made beaded dresses, faux fur coats and hats, vintage jewelry, and designer’s bags you maybe could never afford before: Hermès, Channel, Dior and many more! 

Historic Paradores of Spain – Cultural Hotel Gems
Parador Nacional de Gibralfaro, Malaga

Parador Nacional de Gibralfaro, Malaga

Being such a popular destination, it can sometimes feel impossible to get away from the well beaten tourist trails in Spain. The amazing Paradores change all this for returning visitors, and along with a few insiders tips make for a truly unique and surprising vacation. The Paradores are historic buildings including convents, castles and monasteries which were identified as culturally significant structured and restored into modern accommodations full of character and retaining plenty of original features. There are around 100 dotted across Spain. Each Parador promise the very best of nature, local produce and regional cuisine; as well as the opportunity to stay in utterly unique surroundings.

Literature lovers shouldn’t miss Alcala de Henares, a world heritage site just outside Madrid. This was the world’s first city specifically founded as a university in 1499. It is the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, the famous Spanish novelist, playwright and poet who gave the world Don Quixote. 

6 of London’s Best Hidden Attractions

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. 

Paris On Our Mind – Tried and True Paris Tips

Paris cafe for breakfastHere 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.

30 Words French TranslationAnd 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.

Lobster Rolls, Frog Jumping Contests & White Water Rafting – It Must Be Summer in Maine

Northern Outdoor RaftingThis 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.

Rafting the Kennebec

NorthernOutdoors.com

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 Program – Meeting The Friendly French, No Kidding

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!); Paris Market - Wild Asparagusthen 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!”

Cat Island Bahamas – The Paradise You’ve Been Dreaming Of!

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...

Cat Island Adventure – Day Two

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. 

Cat Island – Day One

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 Fall Foliage Trains – Scenic Views Without The Traffic

          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...

Dublin ‘On The Cheap’ Gets Easy!

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...