Westminster Abbey

31 Oct

Most English sovereigns have been crowned and buried in the abbey. From the soaring arches to the tombstone paved floors, this abbey is steeped in English history. Over the centuries, burial here has been the greatest honor that could be bestowed.

From the moment I walked in, I was in awe. I remember the chills I got as I learned bits and pieces of historical moments that have occurred there. As I stood where Princess Diana’s funeral had been, I was overcome with goose bumps. I was standing in this beautiful masterpiece where so many important members of history had stood- and in some cases, I was standing on them. Tombs are below your feet, in the walls and everywhere in between.

I wish I had gotten more photographs of the abbey. I did try to respect the “no photography” policy, even though many people did not. As with most museums and historical sites, you can elect to take a guided tour or a listening tour of the abbey. I chose to explore the abbey on my own- it’s just my personality. If and when I return to Westminster Abbey, I will most likely take a tour in order to gain more in-depth knowledge. That said, you can spend a half day in the abbey, taking in every room and every monument. You can also take some quick glances in each room, but you will still spend a good 2 hours minimum in the abbey. Take this into consideration when planning your time in London.

Whether you consider yourself religious, not religious, or anywhere in between, do not miss touring this historical and architectural masterpiece.

Appleton Estate, Jamaica

21 Oct

Tucked away in Jamaica’s countryside is Appleton Estate. When you go on the Appleton rum tour, you will get an overview of the history of the estate, get to see how the rum is made, and get to sample many types of rum.  I don’t always drink, but when I do, I prefer rum (Insert the most interesting man in the world here). The tour starts with free rum punch, sugar cane for…er, chewing, and a short video. Next you start the walking tour. Bring a hat and wear sunscreen. After the tour is the fun part- the tasting! There were 12 varieties of rum available to taste. Afterwards (if you can still stand up), stop by the gift shop to purchase your favorites. I recommend the rum cake/rum cream combo. The rum cream is great on vanilla ice cream and it’s packaged pretty enough to give as a gift.

This tour is often packaged with the “South Coast Tour” which also includes YS Falls and Black River Safari.

Minisub Diving in Cozumel

29 Sep

A friend and I decided to give this excursion a try during a recent cruise. I had never been scuba diving before and I thought that this would be the perfect precursor to the beginning scuba class I had planned later that week.

We took a short taxi ride to a hotel where our adventure would begin. The sub dive apparatus was displayed for us on dry land. After an introduction which included the use of appropriate hand signals, the machines were lowered into the water. We ducked beneath the water and reemerged with our heads in the “bubble.”

We were attached to safety lines at various points of the dive. At our depth (10-15 feet) I did not experience much pressure in my ears and sinus cavities. Our two instructors helpfully took pictures with my underwater camera. They squeezed bread from plastic bottles into our hand so that swarms of fish were captured in our pictures.

Our guides also ventured off to find other marine life to hold while they snapped more pictures of our adventure.

When the dive was over, it was an easy process to get out- just down and out of the “bubble.” On dry land, there was a tip jar, which we obliged. We were also invited to use the property grounds, including the pool, afterwards.

It was such a fun experience! Yes, your head gets wet in the sub dive, unlike helmet diving. Don’t expect the mini subs to advance at rocket speed under water, either. It’s a great experience for anyone who is curious about scuba diving, avid snorkelers, or just the curious explorer.

For more information on sub diving in Cozumel, visit here and type in minisub in the search box. The dive is also available in Cabo San Lucas.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

7 Sep

I consider PV my first real vacation. In fact, the first time I went I had won the vacation from a local radio station. Perhaps it’s that nostalgia that led me to return, as I often time do not visit the same place twice, unless the impression is a grand one. There is so much to do in PV, where do I even start?

A must is Los Arcos Underwater National Park. There is some great snorkeling (and diving) there. It is often a stop on most snorkel/beach tours. Once at the beach there is usually an optional horse (donkey?) back tour up to a waterfall. DO it! Watch the sides of your legs, as the horses get really close to the rocky “walls” and other horses and riders.

Los Arcos Underwater National Park

The Malecon is the shopping district of downtown Puerto Vallarta. As with most tourist meccas, bargaining is key. While downtown, ask how to get to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe and have a peek inside.

The Malecon

Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe

When it is time for dinner, instead of going back to your all-inclusive hotel, “splurge” at El Panorama. You’ll have to get a taxi, as the hill is very steep to walk. Once you arrive at the restaurant, you will be blown away by the beautiful view! The food and service are excellent. The caesar salad is prepared at your table, and the sexy coffee will “light you up.” I suggest a reservation around 6-6:30 so you will be able to see the sun set. If you are lucky (and we were) you might even see the pirate ship firing off some fireworks in the bay.

Sexy Coffee at El Panorama

View from El Panorama

If tequila is your fancy, do a tequila tour. Not only do you learn why Jose Cuervo isn’t the “real thing” but you get to sample copious amounts of tequila at the end of your tour.

Puerto Vallarta is great for couples and families alike. It’s one of my favorite destinations and I am looking forward to returning.

Bath, England

29 Aug

Almost 100 miles west of London is the beautiful city of Bath. The Roman baths are located here of course, among beautiful greenery, plenty of shops and eats, and Roman architecture.

Walk  to the Royal Crescent (just follow the signs). It’s nice 15-20 minute walk if my memory serves me correctly. Stop and admire the large green lawn that serves its residents, as well as the surrounding parks.

Venture down the quaint streets and sample the shops and food. Back near the Roman Baths you will find a very small fudge shop where you can watch the fudge being made and of course sample some!

The Roman Baths are amazing. When I walked in I could just imagine the place being occupied by the Romans and Victorians. There are many archaeology exhibits as well. I hear you can taste the bath water, but I did not. Bath is a great day trip when staying in or around London.

Go Here: Palace of Versailles

20 Aug

I remember the chills I got while walking up to the Palace of Versailles. Located only 20 km southwest of Paris, the rich history and stunning architecture will absolutely blow you away. You could easily spend a day there, seeing all there is to see and learning about the members of royalty that have called Versailles home.  There is rich history in every detail. Even the details of the decor have details. Versailles Palace is a MUST if you ever go anywhere near Paris.

Bally’s Las Vegas

13 Aug

Let’s face it, Bally’s isn’t the newest hotel on the strip. With the Cosmopolitan and Vdara looming nearby, there are certainly “more attractive” options. The site first opened in 1963 and was even once the MGM Grand.

Bally’s prime location (and super discount) was a factor in me choosing to stay there recently for a convention. As you can see, my room was very nice for the price. My room was a “recently upgraded” North Tower Deluxe room with marble bathrooms. These rooms are regularly $139 a night but there are always specials.

Many people want the new and more glamorous Vegas when choosing a place to stay, but fail to realize that these older hotels are constantly updating and renovating their rooms. I must say that I am certainly reformed. I always stay somewhere different when I go to Vegas- usually at a “new” hotel. Location won on this trip, and so did I.

Spotlight on: Turks and Caicos

10 Aug

I’m not sure why my husband and I decided to go to Turks and Caicos a couple of years ago. I think it just sounded exotic.

If you are looking for a getaway to an island with great beaches, no tourist traps, and fewer people, Turks and Caicos is a great choice!

We stayed on the island of Providenciales, the third largest island by area of the Turks and Caicos Island chains. There is little to do in Providenciales other than the beach and a little shopping. Many people may enjoy this simple lifestyle. Unlike Mexico, there are no beach vendors hounding you to buy another sarong or bracelet. There are miles of beach and plenty of space between you and the next tourist. There is a local casino in Providenciales that will send a shuttle to pick you up (if that tickles your fancy).

My husband and I went during March (AKA Spring Break), and never felt crowded. Perhaps it’s the fact that Turks and Caicos is little known, or because it’s a little off the beaten path of normal Spring Break venues (think Daytona or the Bahamas).

The bottom line: If you don’t want to be bothered by the hustle and bustle of other Caribbean islands, appreciate the natural beauty of the Caribbean, and have pure rest and relaxation in mind, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos is the place to be.

Carnival Liberty

8 Aug


I recently set sail on the Carnival Liberty. The first word that comes to mind when I think about this ship is: Clean. I do mean clean in its simplest form. The common areas were clean, the staterooms were clean, the gym and spa were clean. My suitemate and I came back to the room to shower and noticed our shower head was missing! I quickly found an attendant outside who deeply apologized because they had just been sanitized! How many hotels do you know of that routinely sanitize their shower heads? We were impressed. Not to mention grateful for a ship with a seven-day itinerary who took pride in deep cleaning at every chance.

Beyond the cleanliness, we enjoyed wonderful food (eat in the dining rooms for the best food and service), activities, and entertainment (the adult only comedy shows were great!). I must mention the steak house. It is well worth the $35. Do not eat lunch before having dinner at the steakhouse!

It would be near impossible to touch on all of the areas of the cruise, but I will try! We visited Belize, Roatan, Cozumel and Grand Cayman. In the mean time, if you have any questions, I’d love to answer them. Post away!

Flying the (Un)Friendly Skies

17 Jul

People always tell me that they’ll never fly this airline, or that airline is never on time. As much as I’ve flown, I can safely say I’ve been lucky. I’ve had no complaints in all of my years…..my flights have been relatively on time, I haven’t had any delays, the agents and staff have always been helpful…..up until recently.

While traveling last month, I had an unpleasant experience with an agent that works for a particular airline. I’m not going to go into detail. I’m not going to let one bad agent spoil the bunch. However, I got to thinking: what makes people so loyal to one airline over another? What experiences help make or break a relationship between an airline and a passenger?

It used to be; when I flew I’d pick the cheapest airline I could that fit my schedule. I didn’t care if it was Continental or Delta. As long as it got me there, I was okay with it. Now days, I still like to price out my flights, but I also consider how many miles I have with what airline and any advantages to using the airline credit cards to make my purchases. I also consider the probability I have for an upgrade.

If I happen to sit on the runway for 4 hours on a plane operated by American Airlines, I wouldn’t think that it would in any shape or form affect my decision to fly with them again. Maybe it’s just a matter of personality. I’m not the type to let one bad experience shape the way I view something.  On the other hand, if I absolutely LOVE Southwest, I’m not going to fly with them if they are more expensive than half of the other carriers.

Which airline(s) are you loyal to? What has helped shape (or break) any relationships you’ve had with different carriers?

Update: The airline offered my traveling partner and I both $100 vouchers due to the inconvenience we experienced.