Friday, October 24, 2014

Destinations : New Zealand & The Amalfi Coast

We're back today with my monthly series called Destinations.  Each month I am interviewing travelers all over the world near and far about destinations they've been to, what they packed, how they got there and so much more. 

Today I have 2 amazing bloggers sharing their chosen destinations with you.  I'm so excited to welcome Jess and Margo to share some amazing places in the world with you today!



Rotorua, New Zealand

Ironically, the most beautiful place on Earth looks like another planet! New Zealand has the most diverse ecosystem I've ever seen. One minute you're in the tropics, the next you're in an alpine forest. Every single friend who came back from New Zealand was in awe. I had to see it.

I flew to Australia then Auckland and rented a campervan and drove four hours to Rotorua.

 In a van...down by the river (not kidding). We rented a campervan from Mighty. This is a great way to see the North and South Islands. You can even take the van on a ferry to get between islands.

Rent a campervan and take your time! New Zealand roads are well-paved but narrow and often snake through the mountains so you have to tread cautiously. Google info about how long it takes to get from point A to point B grossly underestimates the amount of time. 

It may sound cliche, but layers are absolutely necessary as you travel through North and South Island and varying climates and elevations. You will definitely need a GPS because you can drive hundreds of miles without seeing civilization.

Pohotu Geyser shoots 100 feet in the air several times a day. It is located in Te Puia geothermal park. Definitely hitch a ride on Skyline Rotorua for a panoramic view of Lake Rotorua. It's stunning. Bonus: Sheep and alpacas forage on the hillside as you sip a cocktail taking in the view.

New Zealand isn't a cheap destination, but you can save during shoulder season. Go in late March, early April when it's cooler but still not wintertime. Visit Global Girl Travels to see all the destinations on my 9-day campervan trip through New Zealand.

Guten Blog Y'all

The Almalfi Coast

Living in Europe and traveling frequently for work and leisure, I've been incredibly fortunate to cover a lot of ground on this continent, the Almalfi Coast is hand's down my favorite destination in Europe. The villages, food and views are nothing short of spectacular. From honeymooners to families, the Almalfi Coast has something special for every traveler.

Fly into Naples then take a one hour bus or car ride south, passing the infamous Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii on the way.

I recommend staying at Hotel Villa Franca in the village of Positano for it's convenient location, restaurant and jaw-dropping views.. Here I shared a few shots of the hotel and my stroll through the village (I stand by my post title!).  

Count on better deals, fewer crowds and great weather during the shoulder seasons, late spring and early fall. As is the case with nearly everywhere in Europe, in the summer the toasty villages will be mobbed with other tourists.

Breezy white linens, vibrant pashminas, a few swimsuits and comfortable walking shoes (so many steps!) will do just fine. If you forget anything, stroll the local markets for handmade leather goods.

The 43 mile long coastline includes 13 charming villages, each with their own dazzling personality and endless restaurants and activities. When planning your time, I recommend:
1 | Gorge. The restaurants up and down the coast are bar none some of the best in Italy. My favorite is Restaurante L'Abate in Sorrento. I shared my tasty experience here.
2 | Explore the gardens at Villa Rufolo in Ravello. Nearly 700 years old, the villa and gardens are perched high above the shore with priceless views of the coast and bright blue Mediterranean. 
3 | Take the free boat taxi from the main dock in Positano to the Bagni d'Arienzo beach. Surrounded by rocky cliffs, this cozy beach is speckled with bring striped orange and white umbrellas, right out of an Italian dream. Be sure to check out the restaurant too!
4 | Work off the lemoncello and tiramisu on the Sul Sentiero degli Dei hike for positively spectacular views of the coastline.
5 | Hop the hydrofoil for a quick day trip to Capri! This dramatic island made famous by Hollywood stars is an easy and worthy day trip from Sorrento or Naples. 

Don't overbook your time! Slowly sip your espresso, stare off at the sea, watch the fisherman putter off into the distance, embrace the beauty and charm. You're going to love it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Travel Tips : Tips for Traveling Through Europe

Europe is one of those places in the world that will always be a tourist destination, whether for the history of the continent or the cities that are famous for so many reasons, Europe has it all.  But with all the glory of visiting Europe (and believe me, it’s amazing) it also has its quirks and things that many people, Americans especially, have a hard time getting used to.  All those quirks however are some of the best things about the continent if you can accept them and enjoy them.  So today, here are my top tips for visiting Europe and how to get the most out of your stay there.

Enjoy the wait.
You will wait a lot in Europe, waiting for a server to bring you menus at a cafĂ©, waiting in lines for public transport or waiting in a car in traffic.  But waiting is all part of the European experience.  For one, most of European countries are small but jam packed with people and cars and bikes and everything in between, there isn’t a lot of space to hold all the people that live there, so there is a lot of waiting.  For another, waiting is often part of the ambience of European lifestyles, such as living at a slower pace and enjoying the moments while you wait.  This is especially true at cafes and restaurants, you’ll wait a while for a server and a while for your food and then a while for your bill.  But that’s part of the experience, sit and talk, sip a cup of coffee or just admire your surroundings, because they are well worth your admiration. 

Ask for the Bill or Menus.
Europe, as I mentioned above, is about a slower pace and that includes having to ask for things at restaurants.  In Europe it’s sometimes the opposite of the US, when we’re being rushed in and out of restaurants as fast as possible.  In Europe, waiters don’t want to bother you while you eat and people linger longer.  Don’t hesitate to ask for what you need though, like menus or the bill when you’re done.  And don’t feel like it’s bad service if you have to ask, that’s commonplace in Europe.

Venture off the Beaten Path.
Europe is a master at “off the beaten path.”  That’s often where you’ll find the best restaurants, the most picturesque scenes and the best spots to really take in whatever European country you’re visiting.   You’ll be shocked at how different the “local” areas of Europe are from the tourist areas and you’ll be so glad you ventured away from the tourist sights for a bit to explore.

See what you want to see.
I hear from a lot of people often that they come back from a trip to Europe and are totally overwhelmed the majority of the time they are there because they are trying to fit in everything they are “supposed to” see, instead of just taking it in and enjoying the areas.  The key to a great European experience is to see what you want to see and not worry about seeing everything.  This is especially true in the big cities like London and Paris and Rome, which all have so much to see and do.  Pick a handful of sites to see or things to do and don’t worry about doing everything in the guidebook.  The key to Europe is to do as the Europeans do and enjoy life, take in the scenery around you and just be.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Palace Hotel {Copenhagen} : A Hotel Review

Before I get into the review of our hotel in Copenhagen today, you'll notice that I've changed up my layout for reviews on True Colours, both for hotels and other travel related reviews like my review of Iceland Air last week.  Hopefully this will be a better and more efficient way of outlining the good and the bad of each place I review and help you as readers see these properties as places you'd like to look into!

Hotel Review Guide

If you've been following along on my Europe trip posts so far, you'll remember that we had a hell of a time (excuse my language) getting to Copenhagen to begin our trip.  Flight delays, booking new tickets, etc., really put a damper on our first few days, so much that actually ended up missing out on a whole day and night in Denmark because of it.  So what should have been 2 nights at the Palace Hotel in Copenhagen, ended up being only 1 and while the hotel was fine for our short stay, I wasn't blown away by it.  I initially chose it for the central location, which was great, but there were shortcomings too.  See my review of it below!

Copenhagen, Denmark


When we stayed: October 2014  |  Price Range: $200/night | Website: Scandic Palace Hotel

What I Loved
Location - The central location of this hotel really can't be beat.  It's across the street from Tivoli Gardens, a quick 15 minute cab ride from the airport and only about a 20 minute walk to Nyhavn.  We found the location really convenient for a couple days in Copenhagen.

Room Size - For Europe, our room was really large based on local standards.  But we were upgraded, so that potentially could be the reason for the size.  The layout however was strange and for all the space we had, there were hardly any places for our luggage.

Free Wifi - It's really a let down for us when we travel when we have to pay for wifi at hotels.  So we were happy to enjoy reliable and free wifi at the Palace Hotel during our stay.

View looking toward our balcony from the room.
What I Didn't Love
Run Down - The hotel looks like 10 years ago it would have been beautiful, but it desperately needs an upgrade.  Even a fresh coat of paint would go a long way in the rooms, and everything just felt really old and run down, which for the price, I expected more.

Overpriced - While Copenhagen is incredibly expensive, I still felt this hotel was overpriced for the condition it's in.

Notes to Keep in Mind
Upgrade to a room with a balcony if possible - I contacted the manager before we traveled to see if there was any way for us to be upgraded to a room with a good view and they did come through for us on this.  We had a great room with a balcony overlooking Copenhagen City Hall and the square adjacent which made a nice spot.

Take advantage of free breakfast - While we actually didn't do this on our only morning there (we opted for Danish pastries from the local bakery a block away instead), we passed by the breakfast buffet and it looked pretty good.  

View from our room.
Thanks to the hotel for our complimentary upgrade upon arrival!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 2 : Copenhagen

Our second day in Copenhagen, we slept in (after much needed missed sleep the previous days) and spent a quiet morning at our hotel.  Venturing out only for Danish cinnamon pastries, which were amazing, and eating them in bed in our hotel was the perfect way to get going on the first full day of our trip.  We spent the rest of the day wandering the city, starting first with Tivoli Gardens (which unfortunately was closed on Sunday), then venturing over toward Nyhavn once again, stopping for lunch on the way and then spending the afternoon wandering the waterfront and the Grand Palace.  We had gorgeous weather in Copenhagen, with blue skies the whole time and weather that was chilly, but still pleasant.  Eventually we made our way back to our hotel and headed to the airport for our flight to Amsterdam that evening.  We really enjoyed our time in Copenhagen over all and while it’s not a city I would immediately rush back to, it was really enjoyable and interesting to experience Scandinavia for the first time. 

Tips for Copenhagen:  
-Lots of stores and restaurants are closed on Sunday, so work that into your schedule.
-Everything is so much more expensive than you think.  I was prepared for the high cost of everything and was still blown away by how much money we spent while there.  Bring more than you think you’ll need.

Photos courtesy of Nick Nieto Photography

Other Day by Day posts from this trip: