Tag Archives: Travel

The Truth About Getting Into Vatican City

28 Jul

While in Europe last month, my husband and I made a last-minute decision to fly to Rome. We actually ended up visiting Vatican City twice while we were there- The first day, we made our way into The City through the walls, and returning to visit the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel.

Since the trip was so last-minute, I didn’t have time to research anything. We got off of the metro line at Ottaviano and with only my smart phone app map, started to wander aimlessly. It was no issue. We had no time constraints. Getting “lost” is a great, wonderful part of travel. There were many shops to keep our attention in this beautiful area, and we were not in a hurry.

It was what was being constantly asked and told to us that was the issue. Dozens of tour reps lined the streets and continually asked us if we had our tickets to the Vatican Museum yet. When we said no, they proceeded to tell us that a ticket with a tour guide was the only way to get in without standing in the long queue (the queue WAS wrapped around the building). One rep even told us that the ONLY way into The Vatican at all was with a ticket (through his company). Also, we were continually told we were going the “wrong way.”

Now, I wasn’t that uninformed  gullible. I did start to feel hounded- As if I was in Mexico, but instead of being offered jewelry on the beach, I was being offered a tour of the Vatican Museum. I later found out from others that these tours were going from anywhere from €75-90 per person. Even online, I see website sites selling “skip the line” passes for $72 per person. I’m going to give you some great advice in a minute. However, we found our way into the walls of Vatican City (for free, yes, you just walk right in, no ticket or guide needed)….And behold St. Peter’s Basilica!


​It was after we returned to our hotel and doing a bit of networking and research that I discovered that For €30 per person (18 and up; €21 ages 6-18), you can skip the long line, walk right up and enter the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. You won’t have a tour guide (honestly, I don’t want to know how long that tour would be). If you have the time and if you are a huge history buff, a tour guide might be AMAZING for you (you can upgrade this special purchase ticket to include a guide if you’d like). The museum is massive and I couldn’t ever see myself doing a guided tour. To see this museum’s immense collection would take days. As you enter, there are special posters that plot a choice of four color-coded itineraries. They are repeated throughout the museum and are easy to follow. I loved it and I loved being able to come and go as I pleased. My husband and I spent a few hours there on our own. I thought we’d never get to the Sistine Chapel! If you think a guided tour is for you, then go for it!

If you would like to take advantage of this pricing, e-mail us at bluegrottotravel@outlook.com. 



Bermuda Pool Party

25 Apr

If I’m not choosing a hotel based on the fact that it has a whirlpool tub, I’m most likely choosing it based on its amazing pool. What about location, you say? On the roughly 20.6 square mile island of Bermuda, location is a non-factor. No matter where you stay on the island, sweeping views of lush blue hues are merely a hop, skip and jump away.

These gorgeous colors, combined with an infinity pool is just what the doctor ordered for some ultimate R&R on your next Bermuda getaway. Here are two of my favorites.

Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort & Spa


A cruise ship leaves the harbor, as I relax poolside after my massage

Minutes from the center of town, and thus overlooking the harbor, is the beautiful infinity edge pool at Newstead Belmont Hills. I had a fabulous deep tissue massage at the spa and went down to the pool to check it out. It was a gorgeous June afternoon and tourist season was in full bloom, but you couldn’t tell it here. The pool scene was quiet and serene. The pool is breathtaking and actually has a good depth to it, unlike most hotel pools.  I think I’ll actually stay here next time I come to Bermuda.


The Fairmont Hamilton Princess


On a partly cloudy day, this pool is just what the doctor ordered  

The makeover of the Fairmont Hamilton is utterly impressive. Not only do they now have this jaw opener, but they have kept their original salt water pool as well. Even on a cloudy day, this perfectly placed pool is a wonderful place to relax. There are plenty of chairs and umbrellas at this larger resort.


Oh look! The sun came out!

The Fairmont is within walking distance to town and is a larger resort than Newstead. Add to that the on-site marina and all of that said, the pool crowd can get a bit noisy at times. I still love this pool for its modern, fresh style and abundance of seating options.


No matter which hotel you choose, you’ll find yourself staring out into the harbor: Watching cruise ships come and go, party boats crank up the latest reggae and soca mixes, and children learning how to sail.

If “worse comes to worse” and you choose to stay elsewhere, the beautiful pink sand beaches are merely a hop, skip and jump away.

Passports with Purpose

16 Dec

Passports with Purpose

Passports With Purpose was founded in 2008 by Debbie Dubrow, Pam Mandel, Beth Whitman and Michelle Duffy as a way to build community among travel bloggers and to give back to the places we, as travelers, visit.

Each year the Passports With Purpose founders select a charity based on several criteria along with their sense of what would inspire them and the Travel Bloggers community.

This year, we raised one hundred thousand dollars to fund five wells in Haiti with Water.org. It is inspiring and humbling to be part of such a great cause. PwP is still accepting donations through its website. Click here to donate to this worthy cause.

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.

An American in Paris

8 May

Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness. -Ray Bradbury

I got lost both times I was in Paris.

Was I frustrated? Sure. But, there is a huge advantage to being lost. You get to see things you wouldn’t have otherwise seen. You are literally off the beaten path. At first, you start to try to think logically, pull out your smart phone’s GPS app and type in the first landmark that comes into mind. However, I beg you, stop for a minute. Take a look around, You might just find yourself getting caught up in the street names and the beauty of the architecture. You will discover that there is so much more to a city than its’ famous landmarks. You might just find a great little cafe with the best lemon tart you’ve ever had.

Go on, get lost.

 Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. -Anatole France


3 May

Welcome to the official blog spot for Blue Grotto Travel. I look forward to sharing stories and insights about various great travel destinations with you. Keep an eye out for my live blogs, which will kick off with my May 2012 trip to the island of Bermuda. July will include stories of Las Vegas, Roatan, Cayman Islands, Cozumel, and Belize City.

Before you book your next vacation, call us at (817) 312-1107 or contact us through our Facebook page (link on the right). We have access to some great rates and there is never a consultation fee.