Travel Tour websites… Why go it alone?

Egypt Rock TempleA girlfriend of mine is going to Italy in May and was looking up travel tours. I’ve never done a travel tour… OOPs, I take that back. My mother found a 10 day river cruise in Egypt that we went on. It was a FABULOUS trip. A travel package was critical in seeing all of the different sites. We needed a tour guide, he gave us the history behind the Abu Simbel Temples, Giza Pyramids, the Sphinx — there was so much to see. Incredible!

Other than that, I’ve normally gone on a trip and done my own planning. Why? Well, I don’t enjoy being on a constant schedule. If I am on a vacation, I want to relax a bit.

However, trips/tours make life easy, especially when the package is all inclusive (airfare, hotel, transportation), it takes the stress out of planning.

I came across these travel websites that were interesting.

horse riding tour

In The Saddle – This is a tour group that specializes in horseback riding holidays. Wow, right. I know, you’re wondering if I am an accomplished rider. No, but I found their trips interesting and adventurous. Check them out. I might have a sore bottom, but it would be worth it for a different type of adventure.

AdventureWomen – For 35 years, they have been focusing on unique adventure tours for active women. This is great, because in the past there were places that women could not travel alone (i.e. Botswana, Russia, Morocco, India, etc.), or if they did, it was at their own risk. If you are a woman, you’ll enjoy this website.

GROUPON Getaways – A girlfriend speaks highly of their travel packages. She bought a trip to Ireland through them. She said the hotel in different locations was great, they had a rental car, it was a good deal, everything went smoothly, hard to pass up.

Global Drifters – A new site I came across through their Blog. Clicking here and there, I found their travel packages. They are a younger company, visit and see what you think. Their tag line, “Not a Vacation, but an Experience.” They offer small group tours for the independent traveler.

Can you tell I am getting Spring fever?

Anyone open for a horse riding tour? Mongolia, to see the Eagle Festival? Bhutan maybe or back to Italy?

Hoping winter is coming to an end. It’s time for an adventure somewhere in the world!

Japan: Becoming a Geisha / Maiko for a day!

I was transported back to my childhood days when I read Josy’s post, “Maiko Makeover – Dress up like a Maiko in Kyoto.

As my parents traveled the world when I was child, my mother started bringing me dolls from each country where she traveled. I had two favorites. The first was a Japanese Geisha doll in a beautiful glass container. The second was a pair of dancing dolls from Thailand. While I don’t have the dolls anymore, I was able to find a good representation on http://www.pixabay.com, see photos.

F0A4B597-AC57-48E5-A734-E4C20BB16EA1The geisha doll was absolutely beautiful. As you can see in the photo, the doll’s face was painted white, stunning kimono, the sash at the waste, her white socks with black sandles and incredible hair piece. Oh, and the cute umbrella was fascinating to me. Certainly in Indiana we did not see this type of dress. It was a treasure.

So, when I came across Josy’s post, I smiled and had to look twice at the photos. WAS THAT REALLY JOSY dressed as a geisha? Yes, indeed it was! Josy was in Kyoto, Japan and in her post she explains in detail how she went for a Maiko Makeover. By the way, a maiko is an apprentice to a geisha. Josy takes us step by step through the stages of getting the makeover, which is fascinating. She includes location and price as well… all we need is a plane ticket over to Kyoto!

I learned something new. I didn’t realize that going for a makeover in Japan is a big touristy thing to do. If you are an avid hiker, you’ll enjoy Josy’s Blog, “A Walk And A Lark,” you’ll see spectacular photos from her different hiking adventures.

Thanks, Josy, for bringing back such nice childhood memories for me!

Visit Atlas Obscura -> An adventure guide to hidden wonders in the world.

Travel the worldLast week I was going through my Junk folder on Outlook. As expected most of it was junk; however, I came across an email from, “Atlas Obscura.” Normally, I would not open an unknown email, but the subject header said, “You can spend the night in this formerly abandoned Scottish village.”  This piqued my interest, I want to visit Scotland one day.

Before opening the email, I decided to research “Atlas Obscura.” Turns out it is an online magazine created in 2009 by Joshua Foer and Dylan Thuras. They wanted to create an atlas / guidebook for people to learn about and explore obscure places around the world. They certainly have done that.

If you sign up for their weekly newsletter, you’ll be amazed at the different places you can explore. On their website, you can choose a country (Germany, for example) and you’ll be brought to a map of Germany where they have pointers you can click on with stories for that particular area, i.e. the world’s largest cuckoo clock, the oldest Jewish Cemetery in Worms, the “floating railway” to name a few.

On Eventbrite, I noticed they have Atlas Obscura Society Chicago. For the remainder of February and into March, they have some interesting events going on, i.e. learning about volcanoes and the birth of the most precious stones, interactive history of comics, murder mystery soiree, scavenger hunt, roller skating in the movies, immigrant stories and connections. I wrote to one of the field reps to see what the age range was for people attending. Have not heard back yet.

If you enjoy traveling and you’re getting bored with the normal tourist attractions, I highly recommend visiting “Atlas Obscura’s” website. You’ll definitely find obscure things to explore on your next adventure.

Chicago: Painted Lighthouses by artists, many with disabilities

Lighthouse 2If you’ve been to Chicago, you know our Magnificent Mile is gorgeous in the summer. The flowers are in bloom in front of all the shop windows, the Chicago river looks fantastic and tourists are everywhere. We really enjoy summer, because we know that soon winter will be upon us.

Lighthouse 3A few days ago, I was walking down Michigan Avenue and I saw a lot of painted Lighthouses. Each one had it’s own theme. The Lighthouses on The Mag Mile™  are displayed for the public to enjoy celebrating people with disabilities. There are 51 six-foot lighthouses to see. I found a few and took pictures.

Lighthouse 4My daughter saw one that looked really spooky she said, with hands painted as if they were coming out of cracks in the wall. I was looking, but didn’t come across that one.

Lighthouse 1It’s a wonderful project, fun to see how creative the artists have been. The Lighthouse Art Display runs from June 19 – August 11, 2018.

Florence – YES, I found a 99 cent store…

DC6A821E-F171-4F8F-93CE-85290D3A99F4The Family Dollar stores are all over America, but I didn’t expect to find one in Florence. I thought you might enjoy seeing this, so if you travel to Italy you can save money by buying water and other small items here! They really have quite a bit, it’s amazing how the store looks small on the outside, but upon entering it’s quite big.

If you save on water, etc….  you can enjoy a gelato!

Chicago: Goodbye Crate & Barrel… Welcome biggest Starbucks in the world

Crate and Barrel 2Change is good, I know, but Crate & Barrel, the flag ship store, 3 stories high with all glass windows has been on Michigan Ave for 28 years. I still remember the excitement when the store first opened. All the “oohs and aahs.” Just a few years ago, we learned that Macy’s was buying Marshall Field & Co., now Crate & Barrel is gone. Please, allow me a few sniffles.

This picture will go down in the retail history books. I wanted to get the last photo of Crate & Barrel with their signage. Chuckling though, because somehow, the way I took this picture it looks like the second “leaning tower of Pisa!”

As most of you know, the papers say retail is dying, not 100%, but enough to have different store closings. This is sad, but we have to go with the times. When I look at this photo, I can absolutely see a Starbucks there. It’s a beautiful store with it’s open windows, elegant escalators and the location on Michigan Ave can’t be beat. This is prime real estate. The biggest Starbucks in the world. WOW – in Chicago!

I didn’t realize this, but Howard Schultz, executive chairman of Starbucks, said that 30 years ago Chicago was where they opened their “first” Starbucks outside of Seattle. This is sentimental, of course. So, 30 years later, Schultz is going “really big” with Starbucks Reserve Roastery, which will be a four story, 43,000 sq ft interactive coffee shop. They will roast, brew and package coffee there.

Is Amazon next? Chicago is still on Amazon’s top 20 list for a second headquarters. So, maybe, just maybe, we will have TWO heavy hitters from Seattle moving into Chicago!

Stay tuned, book your flights is all I can say! Tourists will be coming!

Falconry at Adare Manor Castle Hotel in Ireland

IMG_2060I’ve always been fascinated by eagles, falcons, and owls. They are powerful and mysterious. So, I was excited when my ex/husband suggested that after our daughter’s graduation (University of Limerick) that we head over to Adare Manor Castle Hotel (Adare, Ireland) for some Falconry and Archery.

Right now, they are doing a lot of refurbishing at Adare Manor, so, I was unable to take a picture to share with you.

Our Falconry Instructor was a nice fellow. He had a variety of birds for us to look at. First, he would tell us about the bird. Then with heavy glove on he assisted us to hold the birds, being very careful of their feet/talons. With the falcons, we could FEEL the strength in their feet through the glove. When they go for their prey, watch out!

Sometimes in photography, we get a FUNNY shot. For example, if you look at this owl, at first glance the owl appears to have headphones on, BUT then if you zoom in, you’ll see that when I took the photo, the eagle was directly behind the owl. Very amusing!

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Here are a few more photos I thought you might enjoy. Owls have amazing eyes! I have never seen one up close, have you?

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Next, a falconry show must have a falcon, right. Here you go…

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Now, this owl had enormous FEET.

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Finally, the Eagle…

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And for the grand finale… drum roll please… I bet you were wondering how I did in Archery. Well, I got a bulls eye, right in the middle of the apple – 3 times too! I have two brothers, so you KNOW I’ve been bragging about my Archery skills! A friendly bit of competition is good.

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Ireland is beautiful and a lot of fun. Similar to Seattle with the weather and they really enjoy their outdoor sports, I like that.

The Falconry fellow said Adare Manor should be open to the public November 2017. THEN we can go back for Trap Shooting! I smiled and thought, “Good marketing! I’m on board for that!”