Go See Do Explore

Travel by Any Means Necessary

Wordless Wednesday: Acireale At Night

Acireale at Night

Exploring Eastern Sicily

Mediterranean View from Taormina

From winding roads to volcanic vintages, our Sicilian adventure was a feast for the senses. This sun-drenched island at the toe of Italy’s boot captivated us with its contrasts – ancient ruins cloaked in modern grit, rugged coastlines giving way to sweeping vineyards, and a culinary heritage as bold as the very volcanoes that shape the land.

Our Sicilian exploration began with an “upgrade” to an SUV rental – a mixed blessing on the island’s narrow, twisting village lanes. As one local guide quipped with a smirk, “There are no rules” when driving here. We quickly learned to embrace the organized chaos, asserting our place in Sicily’s self-centered driving universe. Our itinerary took us from the eastern city of Catania along the fertile slopes of Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano. With our four-wheeled steed, we could freely veer from the tourist trail to uncover the island’s viticultural gems.

Vineyards at Palmento Costanza

The vineyards draped along Mount Etna’s formidable flanks produce wines of uncommon terroir. At Palmento Costanzo, gnarly old vines were trained in the ancient Greek albarello style on stubby “living stakes.” Their pre-phylloxera rootstocks, spared by Etna’s sandy volcanic soils, yield grapes with a storied pedigree.

At Nicosia, a more modern yet artisanal approach ruled. After tasting their stellar volcanic wines, the true showstopper arrived – a decadent spread of local charcuterie, cheeses, fruits, and breads that could sate an army. This was la dolce vita at its finest. When not indulging in Mt. Etna’s finest wines, we sampled Sicily’s coastal cuisine. Simple but sublime, our meals showcased the region’s bounty from air, land, and sea. We reveled in pistachio-studded delicacies, briny seafood fresh from the Mediterranean, and crisp fruity wines from Etna’s lava-enriched soils.

Aci Castello

Aci Castello

In seaside Aci Castello, we marveled at the rocks beneath an imposing medieval fortification. Nearby Aci Trezza’s so-called “Cyclops Rocks” evoked Homeric legends. One humble trattoria in the hills served up a feast so authentic, the proprietor gently scolded us for not devouring every last morsel of her “forest cheese” – a unique, honey-laced cheese from the lush slopes of Etna. Even our jet-lagged late-night pizza delivery ranked among the best I’ve ever tasted, the blistered wood-fired crusts beckoning another slice.

Greek City under Catania

We finished our Sicilian exploration by diving in Catania’s history. This seaside city’s historic core endured heavy bombardment during WWII, lending a weather-beaten charm to its baroque streetscapes. Below ground, a once-buried ancient Greek settlement – its ruins blackened by Etna’s volcanic stone – stood as a poignant monument to the layered history of this indomitable place.

As we reluctantly departed Catania’s bustling stazione, I reflected on the raw, passionate energy that coursed through every vignette of our Sicilian journey. From the feisty motorists to the sun-drenched vineyards to the soulful, soil-driven cuisine, Sicily seduced us with its fiery spirit. This beguiling island may be just a toe, but it deserves more than a mere dip into its depths.

Sicilian Antipasti

Sicilian Antipasti

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read more about our Italian Adventure, check out our La Dolce Vita Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

An Afternoon in Paris

The Eiffel Tower and the Seine

The City of Light unveiled her charms to us during a whirlwind layover in Paris. Though our time was short, we seized the opportunity to experience some of the French capital’s most renowned landmarks on foot.

After landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport, we effortlessly navigated the metro system into the city center. Pro tip: make sure your phone’s operating system is fully updated if you plan to use transit apps during your travels. Having to update our phones before utilizing transit slowed us down during our already limited time. The metro whisked us away, our anticipation building with every stop closer to our first destination – the iconic Eiffel Tower.

Glimpsing the wrought-iron lattice piercing the skyline, we hurried toward the famous monument. Though the surrounding gardens were fenced off in preparation for the 2024 Olympics, the tower itself offered ample opportunity for photos. We opted to admire its grandiose architecture from the ground rather than ascending to the top, content to bask in its majesty from the ground.

Arc de Triomphe

We continued our walking tour to the Arc de Triomphe, the imposing triumphal arch in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle. We happened upon a military ceremony unfolding at the base, though its purpose eluded our research efforts. Observing the soldiers added to the enchantment of our short day in Paris.

We continued walking to the Champs-Élysées, this famed boulevard lined with luxury boutiques, cafés and theaters. We meandered along, admiring the Parisian ambiance, until arriving at the Place de la Concorde. Here, the iconic Egyptian obelisk stood sentry, though much of the area was cordoned off for Olympic preparations.

Louvre Gardens

Continuing through the courtyard of the Louvre, we caught a tantalizing glimpse of the museum’s iconic glass pyramids before pressing on toward the River Seine. Our wanderings brought us to the Île de la Cité, one of two natural islands in the river. This small patch of land held particular significance, as it offered an up-close perspective of the beloved Notre Dame Cathedral while it is undergoing extensive renovations in the wake of the 2019 fire.

Construction on Notre Dame as of June 2024

Seeing the progress made in rebuilding of the iconic church was both heartening and surreal. The storied cathedral symbolizes Paris’s resilience and determination to preserve its heritage for future generations. We felt privileged to capture this moment in its lengthy restoration through our lenses.

Our Parisian self-tour concluded on the Île Saint-Louis, a slender island in the Seine just east of the Île de la Cité. As day slipped into evening, we sat at a cafe, raising a glass to the marvels we had witnessed on our that day. Though we had merely skimmed the surface of Paris’ treasures, the afternoon kindled a longing to return.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. Check out our La Dolce Vita trip report to read more about our Italian Adventure. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

La Dolce Vita: Our Epic Italian Adventure

Venice at Night

Venice at Night

We are back from our epic summer travels, this year we took two and a half weeks to explore Italy from Sicily to Venice. Here is an overview of what is to come in this recap:

  • Layover in Paris
    • Eiffel Tour, Arch de Triomphe, Trivoli Gardens, Louvre Gardens
  • Catania Area, Sicily
    • Etna Wineries
    • Free Walking Tour Taormina
    • Hiking Mt. Etna
  • Naples
    • Free Walking Tour
    • Pizza Making Class
    • Archaeology Tour of Pompeii
  • Florence
    • Uffizi Gallery
    • Academia Gallery Tour (Michaelango’s David)
    • Duomo Complex
    • Tuscany Wine Tour
  • Bologna
    • Market & Food Tour
  • Venice
    • Doge’s Palace
    • St. Mark’s Basilica
    • Free Walking Tour
    • Murano Glass Museum
Crater in Mt. Etna

Crater in Mt. Etna

When planning our Italian odyssey, one of the biggest questions was how to travel between the dazzling cities. Renting a car seemed like overkill since we planned to spend most of our time in cities where the car would have to remain parked. So we decided to embrace the classic mode of Italian transportation – the railway system known as Trenitalia.

Our first Trenitalia experience was the overnight Intercity Notte train from Catania to Naples. As dusk fell, we boarded our private cabin, complete with bunk beds and a sink for freshening up. The gentle rocking of the train soon lulled us into a peaceful slumber…until we awoke to the realization that we were aboard a ferry! The entire train had been loaded onto a boat to cross the Strait of Messina. An utterly unique experience.

Despite the firm mattresses, there was something magical about that overnight journey. We awoke to a traditional Italian breakfast of espresso and pastries, along with an Italian newspaper – a delightful old-world touch.

Market in Bologna

Market in Bologna

For our other Italian train journeys, we opted for the high-speed Frecciarossa trains in business class. The luxurious reclining seats, complete with trolley service offering snacks and beverages, made the transits between cities an enjoyable experience in themselves.

One tip we cannot emphasize enough: pack light! The narrow aisles and corridors of Italian trains make hauling large suitcases an exercise in frustration. We marveled at the overstuffed bags some tourists lugged around, realizing that our carry-on-sized cases were the way to go, especially when walking from stations to accommodations over cobblestones.

Looking back, our decision to embrace Italy’s iconic rail system was one of the highlights of our trip. Traveling from city to city without the hassles of driving allowed us to soak in the breathtaking scenery whizzing by our window. The trains connected us efficiently while offering a uniquely Italian experience in themselves. It was an adventure getting from here to there, and we relished every mile along the way.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Morning in Muir Woods

Light filtering through the trees at Muir Woods

Just outside the city of San Francisco lays a natural sanctuary waiting to be explored – Muir Woods National Monument. Nestled just a short drive away from the city, this verdant forest offered a peaceful retreat from the urban chaos. Join us on a morning hike through the towering redwoods and immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature.  On our recent trip to San Fransisco, we took one morning away from the city to immerse ourselves in the redwood forest.

As the first rays of sunlight peeked over the horizon, we began our journey to Muir Woods. The drive from San Fransisco was a bottleneck and I was worried we weren’t going to make it in time for our entry window into the park. Luckily we made it in time and we were able to relax, step out of the car, and fill our lungs with the crisp morning air, invigorating us for the adventure ahead.

Entering the towering redwoods, we were greeted by a symphony of bird songs and the gentle rustle of leaves. The sunlight filtered through the canopy, casting a soft glow on the forest floor. The scent of damp earth and pine needles enveloped us, transporting us to a world far removed from the city.

Looking up into the Redwoods at Muir Woods

We set off on the trail, following the winding path that meandered through the ancient forest. The towering redwood trees soared above us, their majestic presence a reminder of the passage of time. Each step brought us closer to the heart of the forest, where a sense of peace and tranquility reigned.

As we hiked deeper into the woods, the sounds of civilization faded away, replaced by the gentle murmur of a nearby stream. The cool, shaded trails offered respite from the morning sun, inviting us to slow down and savor the sights and sounds of nature.

Along the way, we encountered the remnants of a bygone era – fallen trees covered in moss, ferns flourishing in the damp undergrowth, and the occasional glimpse of wildlife darting through the foliage. These simple yet profound moments served as a reminder of the interconnectedness of all living things.

Cathedral Grove in Muir Woods

Cathedral Grove

Reaching the iconic Cathedral Grove, we paused to marvel at the sheer size and beauty of the ancient redwoods that surrounded us. Their massive trunks stretched towards the sky, their branches reaching out like fingers to touch the heavens. Standing in their presence, we were humbled by the grandeur of nature.

As we made our way back to the trailhead, our hearts were full, and our spirits rejuvenated. The morning hike in Muir Woods National Monument had been a journey of self-discovery, a moment of quiet reflection amidst the chaos of everyday life. We left the forest feeling grateful for the opportunity to experience its beauty and serenity.

In the end, Muir Woods National Monument was not just a destination; it was a sanctuary for the soul, a place to reconnect with the natural world and find peace in its embrace. So, next time you find yourself in San Francisco, make sure to set aside a morning to explore this magical forest – you won’t be disappointed.

Morning in Muir Woods

Thank you for joining us on this virtual hike through Muir Woods National Monument. Remember to take only pictures, leave only footprints, and always respect the beauty and serenity of nature.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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A Weekend in San Fransisco

Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco has a magnetic allure that pulls you in from the moment you arrive. With its iconic sights, vibrant neighborhoods, and endless energy, this city knows how to captivate even the most seasoned travelers. Join us as we uncover the highlights of our recent San Francisco adventure.

We began our exploration by checking into the funky and affordable Citizen M hotel. This European chain has mastered the art of packing style and comfort into cleverly designed micro rooms. While cozy for two people, the innovative tech features, lively lounges, and prime location made it the perfect home base.

San Fransisco Cable Car

No visit to San Francisco is complete without riding the historic cable cars. We queued up early to nab coveted outside hanging spots for a thrilling journey to Fisherman’s Wharf. This iconic wharf area oozes old-school charm with its bustling marina, street performers, and mom-and-pop eateries serving up piping hot sourdough bread bowls of creamy clam chowder.

Otter at the Aquarium of the Bay

Otter at the Aquarium of the Bay

The Aquarium of the Bay provided an up-close look at the incredible marine life of San Francisco Bay. Winding through an underwater tunnel surrounded by sharks, rays, and tropical fish was an amazing experience. But the playful otters frolicking in their habitat stole the show.

A short stroll led us to Ghirardelli Square, home of the legendary chocolate company. We indulged in mind-blowingly thick shakes at the old-world ice cream parlor, surrounded by chocolate sculptures and table inside a cable car replica.

Craving a respite from the crowds, we ventured to Fort Mason. This former military fort, now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, offered a refreshing taste of local life with its quiet trails, friendly dog walkers, and stunning bay views.

Sailing San Fransisco BayNo San Francisco experience is truly complete without a visit to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. A narrated boat tour provided unbeatable vantage points of this modern wonder while filling our minds with its rich history and architectural significance. I was glad I brought my coat because it was chilly out on the bay!

After our tour, we headed to dinner in Chinatown at the modern China Live, which was a different take than we experienced on our last visit when we did a Chinatown food tour. The food was phenomenal and their house-made condiments were so good we brought some to take home.

Mission San Fransisco de Assisi

To experience a side of San Francisco few tourists see, we explored the Mission District. This vibrant neighborhood overflows with colorful murals, trendy eateries, and the medieval Mission San Francisco de Asis church. But our quest focused on something more…a legendary local burrito. After a tip from a local, we indulged in the ultimate Mission-style behemoth at Pancho Villa – a gargantuan tortilla stuffed with perfectly seasoned rice, beans, salsa, and all the fixings. Certainly a spiritual experience!

As the fog rolled in to end our journey, we felt incredibly fortunate to have uncovered so many of San Francisco’s diverse facets. From its famous sights to its quirky subcultures, this dynamic city has an unmatched power to enchant all who wander its hilly streets. If you have a passion for exploring, San Francisco needs to be at the very top of your travel bucket list.

Chinatown at Night

Chinatown at Night

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Riding the Rails: Amtrak’s California Zephyr

Red Rocks in Colorado

Red Rocks in Colorado

Peering out the window, you watch as the majestic Rocky Mountains give way to the arid deserts of Nevada, and the towering Sierra Nevadas loom on the horizon. The gentle rocking of the train lulls you into a state of tranquility as you take in the ever-changing landscapes. This is the magic of train travel – the opportunity to truly experience the grandeur of America at a pace that allows you to savor every mile.

Amtrak’s legendary California Zephyr route from Chicago to Emeryville (near San Francisco) is an iconic journey that epitomizes the romance of the rails. At over 2,400 miles long and traversing seven states, it’s one of the most scenic train rides in the country. From the craggy cliffs of Colorado’s Glenwood Canyon to the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada, this transcontinental odyssey promises endless vistas and a window into the very soul of the American West.

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Our adventure started in the bustling metropolis of Chicago (above), where we stayed in the lavishly appointed Allegro Royal Sonesta, near the train station. Before boarding the train, we stopped for lunch at Sarah Grueneburg’s wonderful Monteverde for some of the most fantastic Italian food I have ever had. After lunch, we headed to Union Station where we boarded the distinctive double-decker Superliner train. Having the option to book sleeper accommodations made the prospect of spending multiple nights onboard far more appealing. While the traditional coach seats offer a no-frills experience, the first-class sleeping cars provide a welcome oasis of comfort and privacy.

From cozy roomettes to spacious bedrooms, the sleeper options range from functional to more comfortable. Our quaint roomette may have been compact, but it came equipped with seats that converted into beds, access to a shower, and turndown service each evening. Best of all, meals in the dining car were included – a welcome perk that added to the indulgent experience.

As the miles rolled by, we soon discovered that one of the biggest draws of long-haul train travel is the opportunity to take in vistas that are simply impossible to witness from the air. The California Zephyr’s route is a veritable showcase of America’s natural splendor, from the snow-capped peaks and winding rivers of Colorado to the otherworldly desert landscapes of Nevada.

Observation Car on California Zephyr

Spending time in the glass-enclosed Sightseer Lounge observation car, we were transfixed by the passing panoramas. The train’s leisurely pace allowed us to fully appreciate the subtleties of light and shadow playing across the rugged terrain. We watched in awe as the train snaked through narrow mountain passes, canyons, and long tunnels bored through solid rock. This disconnection from the hustle of daily life was not only welcomed but essential to fully embracing the unhurried rhythms of rail travel.

Amtrak’s long-haul routes are a throwback to a more elegant era of travel. Gone are the hassles of airports, the indignities of cramped planes, and the impersonal sterility of it all. In their place is an almost nostalgic experience that encourages you to relish the simple pleasures of the journey itself. Mornings began with a hot breakfast in the dining car, where the gently rocking motion of the train added an extra dimension to the experience. Midday meant whiling away the hours with a good book or enjoying conversations with fellow travelers over lunch as the landscapes rolled by. As evening settled in, we would adjourn to the dining car once more for a leisurely three-course dinner accompanied by a glass of wine. The ambiance was warm and convivial, with strangers quickly becoming friends united by a shared sense of adventure.

California Zephyr with Union Pacific Engine in Emeryville, California

California Zephyr with Union Pacific Engine in Emeryville, California

It is important to note that Amtrak is infamous for delays. While we arrived in Denver ahead of schedule, shortly after leaving, one of our engines was out of commission and we sat in Granby, Colorado for several hours while they disconnected it from our train. We were delayed once more when we pulled into Grand Junction and they hooked up a Union Pacific engine to our train to help pull us through the Sierras. All-in-all, we arrived in Emeryville about 3 hours behind schedule, which is not too bad for Amtrak time. If you are planning a journey on Amtrak, patience is key, and give yourself more than enough time to reach your destination.

As our train finally pulled into the Emeryville station, there was a tinge of melancholy at the journey’s end. The California Zephyr had worked its magic, immersing us in the grandeur of the great American landscape while connecting us to the romantic spirit of rail travel’s halcyon days.

Long-haul train journeys aren’t just a way to get from one place to another – they’re an enchanting opportunity to embrace the thrill of the open road from the comfort of rolling accommodations. If unhurried indulgence, spectacular scenery, and a touch of nostalgia are what you crave, then all aboard! The adventure of a lifetime awaits on Amtrak’s transcontinental routes.

Tips for the Long-Haul Traveler

Dever Union Station

Dever Union Station

While the allure of a multi-day train journey is undeniable, amenities are limited, and a bit of preparation can go a long way toward ensuring your comfort:

  • Pack minimally and organize your belongings neatly to avoid clutter in the compact sleeper spaces
  • An eye mask and earplugs are essential for quality sleep amid the motion and ambient light
  • Bring entertainment like books, magazines, or downloadable content, as WiFi can be spotty
  • Have a portable battery pack to keep devices charged, as outlets are limited
  • Be sure to get out and stretch your legs frequently by walking the sway-friendly aisles

Most importantly, embrace a mindset of patience and unhurried living. Delays are common due to the freight rail priorities (or as in our case, equipment failures), but rushing defeats the purpose of this relaxing mode of travel. Slow down, savor the experience, and create lasting memories from a bygone era of exploration.

California Zephyr in Glenwood Springs

California Zephyr in Glenwood Springs

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Top 10 Places to Return

Top 10 Places We Want to Return

We’re travelers at heart, always seeking to uncover the hidden gems that make destinations unforgettable. Recently, we had a conversation about the places we would most like to revisit on the Go See Do Explore Podcast. While our wandering feet have carried us to incredible corners of the world, some places linger in our memories more vividly than others – calling us back to rediscover their charms. From rugged islands to vibrant cityscapes, these are the spots that ignite our wanderlust anew:

Jordan Pond House

Acadia’s Coastal Majesty
The craggy cliffs and crashing surf of Maine’s Acadia National Park have a magnetic pull that’s impossible to resist. We were instantly enchanted by the park’s windswept trails and sweeping ocean vistas during a visit in 2019. With more hikes beckoning, we yearn to return and delve deeper into Acadia’s untamed beauty on Mount Desert Island.

 

Sylvan Lake

Black Hills Grandeur
An oasis of lush pine forests amid South Dakota’s arid landscapes, the majestic Black Hills left an indelible mark on us. From the chiseled granite faces of Mount Rushmore to the bison-dotted meadows of Custer State Park, this region warrants a longer sojourn to uncover its myriad wonders fully. Camping under star-studded skies tops our must-do list.

 

Enjoying a Glass of Wine at Bonobo

The Siren Call of Traverse City
With its sparkling beaches, award-winning wineries, and vibrant arts scene, Traverse City exerts an irresistible pull on us. This idyllic Lake Michigan town has become a home away from home, its natural splendor and culinary delights providing a welcome respite from everyday life. No matter how often we visit, we find ourselves longing to return.

 

U.S. Capitol Building

Washington D.C’s Monumental Allure
The cherry blossoms in peak bloom, the world-class museums of the Smithsonian – Washington D.C. is a cultural powerhouse that we would love to experience in full. A whirlwind day trip years ago only whetted our appetite for the nation’s capital, with its dazzling diversity of cuisine and history beckoning for a more immersive exploration.

 

L.A. Cetto Wine Barrel Fountain

Valle de Guadalupe’s Vinous Paradise
An off-the-beaten-path gem, Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe wine region left us spellbound with its sun-drenched vineyards, olive groves, and world-class vintages. From savoring robust reds to wandering medieval-style villages, this Baja California valley promises an immersive experience unlike any other wine destination.

 

Marigot from Fort St. Martin

St. Martin’s Joie de Vivre
The mere mention of St. Martin conjures up memories of languid days spent beach-side, sipping crisp rosés and feasting on Nicoise delicacies for us. The island’s dual Dutch and French personalities infuse it with an irresistible je ne sais quoi that has us dreaming of a return to soak up more of its inimitable charms.

 

Toledo train station

Toledo’s Timeless Romance
Like stepping into the pages of a historic novel, the ancient Spanish city of Toledo casts an unbreakable spell. We were utterly captivated by its winding cobblestone lanes, Moorish architecture, and centuries-old traditions during their visit. To fully immerse ourselves in Toledo’s living museum is a dream we are determined to realize.

 

Lagoa do Fogo

The Azores’ Wild Allure
Adrift in the Atlantic, the remote Azores islands are a nature-lovers paradise that stole our hearts. From hiking kaleidoscopic crater lakes to savoring wines with a hint of sea salt, this Portuguese archipelago is a feast for the senses. After a tantalizing glimpse, we yearn to immerse ourselves in the full Azorean experience.

 

Paseo del Morro

Puerto Rico’s Vivacious Spirit
Pulsing with an infectious energy and vibrant culture, Puerto Rico has us hooked on its charms. Whether strolling the azure streets of Old San Juan, kayaking through bioluminescent bays, or savoring mofongo, the island casts a spell that has him fantasizing about putting down roots in this Caribbean paradise.

 

Quinta das Carvalhas on the Douro

The Douro Valley’s Vinous Serenade
Rolling hills cloaked in lush vineyards, charming quintas plying world-class ports – the Douro Valley is a wine lover’s dreamscape that left us spellbound. After a tantalizing day trip from Porto, she’s intent on returning to fully savor the region’s old-world hospitality and scenery that seems plucked from a storybook.

The world is overflowing with extraordinary destinations, each weaving its unique tapestry of sights, sounds, and experiences. While the journey continues, these are the places calling us back to get intimately reacquainted – and we can’t wait to answer their siren songs.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Must-Have Apps for Travel

Apps for Travel

This blog post was inspired by Episode 10 of the Go See Do Explore Podcast. Listen to it here!

Travel is an adventure, full of wonder and possibility. But let’s be honest – navigating unfamiliar places, finding the best experiences, and staying connected can be daunting without a little help. That’s where travel apps come in, acting as indispensable digital guides on your journeys. From curating once-in-a-lifetime activities to translating foreign languages, these apps are modern explorers’ best friends. So pack your bags and download these must-have apps – they’ll have you seeing, doing, and exploring like a seasoned pro.

Some of the links below are affiliate links and as such, I earn a small commission from purchases that allow me to continue telling you my stories without costing you anything extra. 

Transportation and Navigation Alls

Getting there is half the adventure, but a smooth journey makes the destination that much sweeter. Start your travels on the right foot with apps like FlightAware to track flights in real time or airline apps for stress-free mobile boarding. Once on the ground, Google or Apple Maps attached to a smartwatch can keep you from staring at your phone while navigating in a new place. Apps like Obi and CityMapper become your urban scouts, deftly guiding you through the concrete jungles via public transit, rideshares, and more.

For road trips, Roadtrippers and iExit spotlight all the quirky roadside attractions and essential pit stops along your route. GasBuddy ensures you never overpay for fuel with its price comparison powers. Parking apps like ParkMobile and Park Whiz make finding parking in cities a breeze. Having the app for one or two rental car companies can save you time and hassle if you need to rent a car in a pinch.

Outdoor Adventure Apps

The great outdoors is calling, and these apps are your entry into the wild world of adventure. Camping aficionados will fall for the Ultimate Campgrounds app, a comprehensive database of public campsites from national forests to local parks. Booking campgrounds can be done through a variety of apps including Recreation.govReserveAmerica, Campendium and HipCamp. RV Life is a great app for campground reviews, especially when it comes to a park’s connectivity.

Plan epic hikes with Topo Maps or use AllTrails to discover nearby routes. For paddling pursuits, the Go Paddling app, reveals the best put-ins and waterways.

And no outdoor adventure is complete without exploring national parks. With the National Park Service app, you can virtually tour parks before arriving, with insider tips, trail maps, and the ability to track your conquered parks. An indispensable companion for your bucket list adventures.

Tourism & Experience Apps

One of travel’s greatest joys is discovering the unique heart of a destination. But how to find those off-the-beaten-path gems? Tap into the wealth of apps designed to connect you with authentic local experiences.

For an immersive cultural experience, nothing beats free walking tours booked through apps like FreeTour.com. These passionate guides, often locals themselves, offer an unvarnished look at their cities through fascinating storytelling. GetYourGuide and Viator are great resources for finding great tours in your destination, as well. For the flexibility of self-guided tours, Rick Steves’ Audio Europe provides a free virtual docent in your pocket all over Europe. Guide Along is a GPS-based driving tour app that is a great way to get the lay of the land.

When you want to dive into a destination’s top attractions with ease, turn to apps like Klook and CityPASS. These brilliant bundlers offer discounted admission to major sights and let you skip the line. Prefer to wing it? Apps like Yelp and OpenTable make it easy to read reviews and snag last-minute reservations at buzz-worthy restaurants and hot spots. Don’t forget Groupon for discounts on attractions. Unsure about tipping culture in your destination, check out Globe Tips.

Practical Travel Apps

Of course, no epic adventure is complete without a few inevitable snags and stresses. But apps like these can help you sail through travel turbulence like a pro.

Revolut is a multi-currency mobile banking app that eliminates pesky international transaction fees, giving you the best exchange rates on-the-go. Need to decipher signs, menus, or conversations? Google Translate provides real-time audio and text translation in over 100 languages. WhatsApp is important to have while traveling to communicate with hotels, restaurants, and tour guides as standard SMS texting is uncommon outside of the U.S.

For those travel hiccups, having the right app can save the day! MyTSA will let you know security wait tims so you know when to head to the airport. Mobile Passport can help you breeze through customs, while apps like Bounce and Luggage Hero offer a temporary place to store your luggage between trips. The ingenious Timeshifter app is designed to help you conquer jet lag by creating a customized sleep schedule for your routes.

With these travel apps in your carry-on, every journey becomes an inspired adventure waiting to unfold. So pack that smart suitcase and get exploring – the world is yours to go see and do!

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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6 Tips for Travel while Working Remotely

Inspiration from this post came from Episode 6 of our podcast. Listen to it here!

As travel bloggers, we’re often asked how we manage to travel so frequently while still getting work done. The truth is, with some strategic planning and the right tools, working remotely from almost anywhere in the world is possible. On our latest adventure through Europe, we put our digital nomad skills to the test – and today, we’re telling you how we did it.

From tapping into time zone differences to finding the ideal workspace, join us as we dive into the heart of combining work and wanderlust. Get ready to be inspired to embrace the remote lifestyle and take your office off the beaten path.

Mastering the time zone game

One of our top tips for working on the road? Use time differences to your advantage. When heading west to mountain time, Chris was able to start his workday bright and early, wrapping up by mid-afternoon. This allowed us to fully immerse ourselves in exploring destinations like the Black Hills in the evening hours when most of the crowds had departed.

Heading east provides its perks too. In Europe last summer, we found ourselves with crowd-free mornings to wander cobblestone streets before Chris clocked in. With a 5-6 hour time difference, he could work until the late evening hours just in time for a leisurely European dinner.

Strategizing your schedule for flexibility

Of course, making remote work a success requires careful coordination with your employer. Before any big trips, Chris makes a point to arrange his schedule around our travel plans as much as possible. This ensures he can be fully present for meetings and deadlines while still leaving room for epic adventures.

It’s also crucial to build in breaks that allow you to actually experience your surroundings. For Chris, this means taking short walks every few hours – whether it’s strolling to the beach in Traverse City, grabbing coffee in Custer, or simply stepping out on the balcony to soak in views of the Douro River in Porto.

Choosing the right home base

Where you stay can make or break the remote work experience. When traveling together, we prioritize accommodations with dedicated workspaces separated from the main living area. This ensures I’m not inadvertently photo-bombing Chris’s video calls!

One standout was the Roosevelt Inn & Suites in North Dakota, which featured full kitchens and separate living rooms – the perfect set up for Chris to work uninterrupted. Other stellar options are extended-stay hotels like Country Inns & Suites with living room alcoves.

Don’t forget to check reviews and listings for bandwidth speeds too. While Chris doesn’t need ultra-high internet for his daily tasks, a stable connection is crucial for video meetings and large file transfers.

Choose travel-friendly gear

Just like packing his favorite travel gear, Chris is selective about the tech equipment he brings when we travel. A few must-haves? A lightweight laptop with long battery life and a portable second screen solution like a trifold monitor or an iPad that can double as a secondary display.

A travel router with VPN capabilities to keep his online activities secure across public networks is a must. This proved invaluable during our transatlantic cruise when we could share a premium internet package across devices. Having multiple cellular data options through different carriers ensures Chris has the power and connectivity to work from anywhere that has cell signal. Don’t forget, international power adapters are a must when traveling overseas.

Cruising into productivity

Speaking of cruising, our recent transatlantic voyage allowed us to truly test the limits of remote work at sea. While the ship’s traditional satellite internet proved challenging for video calls and large file transfers, Chris was able to participate in meetings by calling in using a VoIP service.

He also got resourceful by remoting into a cloud server when bandwidth was too low for uploading and downloading files directly. This allowed work to progress smoothly, even in the middle of the Atlantic with zero cell signal.

For the best connectivity, cruise lines are rapidly rolling out SpaceX’s Starlink internet which provides higher speeds and reliability. Chris experienced the benefits first-hand on a previous cruise and can’t recommend it enough for aspiring cruise-working digital nomads.

The remote work mindset

More than any specific strategy or gear, the most important element of working remotely is the right mindset. It requires flexibility, creative problem-solving, and a willingness to adapt to different environments – but the payoff is worth it.

As Chris says, “I want people to know that I can do my job wherever I am.” With thoughtful planning and a bit of tech-savvy, you too can embrace the nomadic lifestyle.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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