European Adventure 2015

This trip was outstanding! We started the adventure in Brussels, Belgium on August 20. We spent 3 nights at the Ibis Styles Stephanie. It was a great start. The hotel was in a great location and a good price.  There was a tram stop right outside the front door, but we chose to walk everywhere. It was easy to get around and everyone was willing to help us out if we asked. This city has a lot to offer any visitor. Grand Place, the central square, is definitely a spot to add to your list. You’ll find a ton of restaurants and shops in that area. Public transportation is very easy to use in Brussels. We took the time to head out to the Atomium. This structure was built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, and was definitely worth visiting.

August 23-30…Rhomantic Rhine River Cruise.  This was certainly a great way to travel. We boarded in the afternoon, and were able to unpack for an entire week! The ship was the Avalon Felicity. River cruising is definitely something I’ll do again. The ships are small compared to the ocean cruises. There is so much included as well. It may seem like a high price when first booking, but once you’re there, you’ll wonder why you didn’t pay more. Like most cruises, you never have to worry about food. 3 meals a day, plus snacks are included. Also, wine and beer with dinner. Plus most of the tours in each port are included. Knowledgable guides took us through various cities. We learned a lot about every place we stopped. Some of our favorite highlights were Heidelberg Castle, Cologne, the Maginot Line, Black Forest. There was so much to see and do. If you felt like doing nothing, that was also possible. You could hang out on the ship and just relax.

August 30 – September 1..  Basel, Switzerland. We stayed at the Alexander hotel here in Basel. It worked well for what we needed. It was clean, included breakfast and was close to everything. The public transportation was free here, so we could easily get to the old town area either by tram, or walking. A highlight here was the Old Town Hall. A beautiful building!

September 1 – 3.. Frankfurt, Germany. We traveled by train from Basel and arrived into Frankfurt about 2 hours later. Our hotel, the Excelsior, was across the street from the train station. Very convenient! The hotel was quite large, and the rooms were some of the biggest we’d seen on our trip so far. They even include a free mini bar!  Our day in Frankfurt consisted of walking along the Main river to the Aldstadt (old town). From there we wandered to The Zeil. This is a pedestrian shopping area. We walked to the end and continued past the Opera House and through the financial district back to our hotel.

September 3-5.. Amsterdam, Netherlands. Once again we boarded a train and relaxed for the 4 hour trip to Amsterdam. I had set up a ride from the train station to our Amsterdam hotel (The Prinsen). Our driver was fantastic. He took us through the canal area and gave us some ideas of what to experience. The hotel, once again, was in a great location. We could easily walk to all of the hightlights.  On the first day we stopped in a Hoppe. This bar was established in 1670. It is obviously very popular based on the crowds that were there. The city was very easy to get around on foot. The one thing you must watch for are the cyclists. They are everywhere, and go very fast. Always look both ways for cars, and bikes!! The Van Gogh Museum would definitely be on my list when I return to Amsterdam. It was closed while we were there.

September 5-10.. Denmark.  We flew from Amsterdam to Copenhagen. I’m very fortunate to have friends in Denmark who made this part of our trip easy and outstanding! They toured us all over. Tivoli Gardens is a must if you’re in Copehagen. It is the second oldest amusement park in the world. We also made a stop at the Little Mermaid statue, toured 3 castles, the Louisianna Museum and tried the herring.

All in all, it was an amazing trip! I think that if you’re heading to Europe, cover as much as you can. Some places would need more time, and some less.  When you’re ready to plan your European adventure, keep me in mind.  resi@travelmasters.ca  www.facebook.com/TravelMastersResi

  
  
  

Aruba

Aruba has been on my list for a while. We arrived on May 30. Staying at the RIU Palace Antillas. There are a ton of choices for hotels on this island. The RIU is all inclusive, which makes this a simply relaxing week. We were pretty tired today after traveling, so just spent the afternoon looking around to see what this resort has to offer. Like any other RIU, or most all inclusives, it has everything you could ask for. 3 a la carte restaurants..you do have to make reservations early in the morning, but once that’s done, you’re good to go. The buffet is available if you prefer to not try the other restaurants. The food in the buffet was pretty amazing! Tons of variety.

Palm beach is beautiful and great if you enjoy long strolls in the sand. It is always windy in Aruba, which feels great in the hot weather. You do want to remember to wear sunscreen of course.   Different areas of the island can be a little less breezy. And of course, the time of year that you go can also make a difference. It is a small island measuriung 19.6 miles long, and 6 miles wide.  There is plenty to do if you don’t want to just lounge around on the amazing beaches. We did a half day tour while there. It started with a stop at the Butterfly Farm, then the California Lighthouse. We got to see just how dry this island is. There are varieties of cactus growing all over. The tour also included visits to the Alto Vista Chapel, the Natural Bridge and the Ayo Rock Formations. All in all it was a great way to see a bit of Aruba. 

There is tons of shopping all around the island for those of you who wish to partake. Downtown Oranjestad has a lot of variety for all your souvenirs, t shirts etc. And if you choose to stay at a non all inclusive resort, there are many restaurants to choose from for your dining pleasure! 

Even though it’s a small island, there are a nice variety of tours that are offered. From a comfortable air conditioned coach tour, to riding an atv around the island! There is a lot to explore. And if you prefer to just spend time relaxing, the beaches are outstanding! 

If you want a nice vacation on a great island, Aruba could be for you. When you’re ready, let me know and I’ll build the perfect package for you!

resi@travelmasters.ca    

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Disneyland!

Best time to go? Anytime! Disney is one of the most fun places for all ages on this planet. Of course there can be lineups that don’t appeal to everyone, but you can avoid some of those by including the Fast Pass option with your tickets. 3 days was enough to cover Disneyland and the California Adventure parks. The Park hopper option included with our passes, made it easy to take in parades, shows, and rides at both parks quite easily. There are so many options, that it is a good idea to check out the schedules before arriving so that you can plan your days accordingly.  

This year Disneyland will be celebrating it’s 60th anniversary. There will be magical celebrations beginning May 22, 2015. If you’re looking for something exciting to do this summer, add a Disneyland vacation to your list.

The rides – So much variety! There are some nice calm rides like “It’s a Small World” that carries you on a whimsical boat ride while listening to singing children from around the globe, to the California Screamin roller coaster that will thrill anyone. My favorites were Splash Mountain, Star Tours, and Thunder Mountain at Disneyland.  Radiator Springs Racers and Grizzly River Run at California Adventure. 

Hotels – There are a lot of choices for hotels in this area. You can choose to be within walking distance of the Disneyland resort, or a little further away. Prices vary and it’s always best to book well in advance to make sure that you get the choice that fits best for you. Our hotel was a 10 minute shuttle ride from Disney. The shuttle was included in our stay and worked perfectly for us. I have previously stayed at hotels within walking distance and enjoyed those as well. Both options are great. 

Food – If traveling with small children, I would suggest bringing along some snacks of your own. There are many choices for meals throughout both parks. As well, there are restaurants in Downtown Disney (between the 2 parks). We found some fairly healthy choices, and the standard burgers, fries etc. The Dole Whip was fantastic. Also, if you’re really adventurous, try the Jumbo Turkey legs. Not my fave, but they sure are popular.

There really are so many things to do within these 2 parks. You’ll also want to add some time for shopping, either in each park, or in Downtown Disney. And remember to schedule pool time at your hotel as well.

In the area – If you’re planning a longer stay, you can also add Universal Studios, Sea World, Legoland to your vacations. 

The possibilities are endless!

For more information, or to book your Disney Vacation, contact me: 

Phone: (888) 960-8601  Email: resi@travelmasters.ca    www.facebook.com/TravelMastersResi

Photo moments are available with all the Disney characters

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of those places that can be ideal for total relaxation, or a busy adventure. I think for a first time trip, the more active adventure is a good choice. I recently took a small group to Costa Rica. We began the journey in San Jose. We chose to stay an extra night at the start because of a late night arrival. This turned out to be a great idea. It gave us the opportunity to wander around San Jose for the afternoon before our active tour began the next day. 

An early morning start the next day took us through the city and toward Tortuguero National Park. This is on the eastern side of the country. We spent 2 nights at the Evergreen Lodge. There are a few lodges in the area. All of them accessible by boat. For a little more money, you can opt to fly from San Jose to Tortuguero if you want to avoid a bus ride and a 1 hour boat ride. But the experience of traveling by bus and boat was great! 

While at the Lodge, we were able to feel what it’s like to be in a rainforest. The lodge itself had a variety of options to see and experience this area. Howler monkeys were around each morning. If you’re a bird watcher, this entire trip is one that you must add to your list. The list of birds that we saw each day is endless. My favorite were the Great Green Macaws. Traveling by boat in the area was quite interesting. One afternoon was a trip into Tortuguero to visit the Sea Turtle Sanctuary. This was quite interesting and would be a great addition to your tour. The stroll along the beach of the Caribbean sea was awesome, even though it was windy and rainy. Of course the temperature is warm, so it wasn’t too difficult. Waterproof clothing is a must!

The next 2 nights after leaving Tortuguero were in Sarapiqui at the La Quinta Country Inn. This place was amazing. We were able to go to the Tirimbina Biological Reserve right next to our resort. A visit to the Bat Sanctuary was informative and scary all at the same time! Pineapples are abundant in this area, and a tour of a pineapple farm is a must while there. We also went white water rafting on the Sarapiqui River one afternoon. This was easier than I thought it would be. There are more challenging rapids in other areas, but we were quite happy with our adventure.

Next stop is Arenal! We were thrilled to see the clear skies and sunshine when we arrived and were able to get some great photos of the Volcano. Our resort, the Mountain Paradise Lodge was likely our favorite hotel on this entire trip. We also had a few hours to just relax. Perfect timing midway on our trip. Of course the adventures keep coming. A visit to a local farm provided tons of information on the variety of fruits and vegetables that are grown in Costa Rica. The canopy tour through the jungle offered spectacular views of flora and fauna in the area. Then a visit to the hot springs was an afternoon highlight for all of us.  

Our last stop was at the Punta Leona Beach Resort. This is one of the largest resorts (area wise), that I have ever been to. The weather was quite warm, and we really appreciated the air conditioning in our rooms at night. The beach was quite nice. The Pacific Ocean was very inviting. There were white faced monkeys very close to the breakfast area each morning. So much fun to watch them. One other highlight was seeing the Red Macaws flying around this area.

After 12 days of touring this beautiful country, I would easily say that this is one place to add to your list of amazing places to see and experience!

resi@travelmasters.ca  www.facebook.com/TravelMastersResi  

          

San Francisco

We thought about a trip to San Francisco for a while. I was doing some research for a client and I came upon a 3 day Cruise from Vancouver – San Francisco.  This sounded like a great alternative to the usual, go to the airport and catch a flight.  It turned about to be a fantastic way to get there. The ship left port at 5:00pm and we cruised away on a beautiful sunny day.  We chose a balcony cabin for a few reasons. First of all, it’s a nice way to enjoy the passing scenery from the comfort of your room. We also love being able to order room service for breakfast. The best way to start the day is sipping a cup of coffee on that balcony! Because it was a short cruise, we had only 1 port to stop at.  This was Astoria, Oregon. It was a great little place. We made our way to the Astoria Column and climbed to the top. The views were incredible!  It was a great way to spend another beautiful sunny day!  The next day was at sea. If you’ve cruised before, you know that there are plenty of things to do on the ship. There are swimming pools, hot tubs, a casino, a gym, spa…Tons of options.

We woke up early on the arrival day into San Francisco. The ship cruised under the Golden Gate Bridge and that was something we didn’t want to miss. Arriving at the port was a really easy process. We left the ship, picked up our luggage and away we went. Our first stop was the Muir Woods. We hiked through this beautiful park of Redwoods. Next was a late lunch at Stinson Beach. The road to both of these is very windy and if you struggle with motion sickness, you may want to consider stopping every now and again. The views are spectacular all around! It’s an easy tour to do from San Francisco and I highly recommend both stops.

The next day was a drive to the Napa Valley with stops at 3 Wineries.  All 3 were outstanding. Beautiful grounds and great wines. The first was Cosentino, 2nd – My favorite, Mondavi and the 3rd was Inglenook, formerly known as Coppola. Ideally, it would be great to stay right in the Napa area to experience more. I’ll add that to my list!

In San Francisco, our first stop was Alcatraz. We had purchased tickets online before we arrived as they can sell out quickly. The tour was truly amazing.  I’d never seen the inside of a prison before…grateful for this little tidbit!  The included audio tour was very interesting and we learned alot about the history of Alcatraz. When the tour was done, like most tourist sites, there was a lovely gift shop. We wandered around for a bit and foud a book that was written by an ex inmate.  I wondered, in that moment, if he was still alive. I looked to my left, and there he was, signing his books!  You never know who you’ll run into.

There are so many restaurants to choose from. We found Joe’s Crab Shack on the way back to our hotel. It is located right on the Embarcadero close to Fisherman’s Wharf. Great food and drinks at reasonable prices.

We chose a hotel near the Wharf.  It was great to be so close by, especially at the end of the day after wandering and exploring the city on foot. We chose to ride the Cable Car up to Union Square.  This is a must when in San Francisco! If you’re a fan of shopping, the area around Union Square is for you. We found alot of great deals and a great variety all around. Back at the Wharf, we decided to indulge in clam chowder in a Boudin Bread Bowl. So good! Next time I will share!

If you’ve never been to San Francisco or the surrounding area, add it to your list.  It’s well worth it!

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