Friday, August 30, 2013

TripAdvisor's Top 25 Destinations in the World 2013

I have been to 28% of these places. How many have you been to?

1 – Paris, France

5 – Barcelona, Spain
7 – San Francisco, California

10 – Sydney, Australia
11 – Berlin, Germany
12 – Istanbul, Turkey
13 – Bangkok, Thailand
14 – Chicago, Illinois
15 – Tokyo, Japan
16 – Cape Town Central, South Africa
17 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
18 – Buenos Aires, Argentina
19 – Marrakech, Morocco
20 – St. Petersburg, Russia
21 – Beijing, China
22 – Shanghai, China
23 – Siem Reap, Cambodia
24 – Chiang Mai, Thailand
25 – Queenstown, New Zealand

See other TripAdvisor lists and the original list and travel tips here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

8 Amazing Train Rides

I found this article about cool train rides and I thought I would share. I traveled by train a few times, I went from H√łnefoss, Norway to Bergen, Norway and I have take a train to get from airports to the city centers in Stockholm and London. You can find the article that inspired this post here

1. The Shanghai Maglev – China
Speed: It once topped out at a 311 miles per hour during a speed test (top operating speed is 268 mph)
Travels: It connects riders with the Shanghai International Airport and the city's metro system in less than ten minutes.
How it works: This train runs its entire route suspended on a bed of air slightly above the tracks. No contact between wheels and rails means that the entire system is frictionless, allowing the train to become one of the fastest things moving across the surface of the Earth.

2. The Indian Pacific – Australia
Travels: Runs from Sydney to Perth and back on a weekly basis (a single trip takes four days and covers 2,704 miles).

3. The Hiram Bingham Rail – Peru
Travels: The Hiram Bingham rail takes you from Poroy up parts of the Inca Trail ending at Machu Picchu. This isn't the only train to make this service but it it iss the most luxurious. The Hiram Bingham offers dining cars, a bar, an open air observation deck and free tour guides when you arrive at your destination.

4. The Bamboo Train (aka the Norry) – Cambodia
Speed: 30 mph (48 kmh) 
Travels: The bamboo train departs from the northwestern city of Battambang to near by villages
Cost: $5

5. The Orient-Express – Europe (Paris-to-Istanbul)
Travels: Paris, Venice, Rome, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Istanbul:
The Catch: This line only runs about once per year. Although Orient-Express company runs its Paris to Venice line regularly, it only connects that through to Istanbul in September as an annual tribute to the glory days.

6. The California Zephyr – United States

Travels: 2,500 miles from Chicago to San Francisco taking 51 hrs and 20 mins (crossing 7 states!)
Cost: This trip can cost you as little as $204 for just a seat or $1,760 for a Superliner Bedroom which includes all your meals and a private bathroom.
Bonus: Book another passage on Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited, running from Chicago to New York City and do coast to coast in a single trip.

7. The Trans-Siberian Railroad – Russia
Travels: Covering 6,000 miles of track and eight time zones, this train crosses approximately one quarter of the planet in a two-week journey. Ultimately, this line links up Moscow with the eastern port city of Vladivostok.
Cost: For this particular train, the Golden Eagle, the service is priced well out of pretty much anyone's budget, at over $15,000 per person, this train is dripping with comforts such as a champagne reception, full butler service and even heated seats.

8. The Bernina Express – Switzerland and Italy
"Life doesn't always run in a straight line. It would be boring if it did. Welcome to the Bernina Express, an Alpine switchback ride, taking you from a land of towering glaciers to one of swaying palms." Says Rhaetian Railway's website. 
Travels: Starting at the city of Chur (or Coire) and ending in Tirano, Italy. During the trip you will travel through 55 tunnels and 196 bridges! 

Have any of you been on any of these trains? Or traveled by train? 

Monday, August 26, 2013

When Vacations Attack

This month I have 2 really crazy stories about bad things happening while people are on vacation.

The first one is when a bull that was being transported for a festival in Spain escaped and started running around in traffic! Nobody was injured. You can watch the video here.

{Screenshot from the video}

The second one was taken from a helmet cam of a motorcyclist near Hope, British Columbia. They were traveling along Highway 7 when a young black bear ran out in front of him and the two collided! Pretty CRAZY! Watch the video here.  

Do you have any crazy stories to tell?

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I have been so busy with the house (which I am sure that you are tired of hearing about) that I almost forgot to post my monthly Pinspiration. Well here it is, and its an easy one!

It all started with this picture I found on Pinterest.

I loved the idea of using a decorative cupcake tower as a way to clear the clutter of my bathroom counter. And in my last house that was a MUST since we only had one sink.

My mission was to find something similar. I had no real luck online so I enlisted the help of my mother-in-law and she was able to find one pretty quick and she mailed it right to me! It had a mirror thing-y on top of it that would not allow me to put tall bottles on the top tier. So I had to take that off. I still need to paint it to match the colors in my bathroom but so far it has worked out great!

Happy Pinning! 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

America's Free Attractions

When you're on a vacation its always fun to find something free to do. After all you spent all this money to get there and then stay there for however long. I love taking advantage of a free museum or park. Below is a list of America's best free attractions in some major cities. Enjoy!

Original article can be found here.

Smithsonian Museums, Washington, D.C.
The National Zoo, National Museum of Natural History, and National Air and Space Museum — which displays The Spirit of St. Louis — are the biggest crowd-pleasers among the Smithsonian's 18 institutions in D.C.

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
Most national parks encourage you to tune into nature; this one celebrates jazz in its birthplace, New Orleans. There’s live music at the visitor center in the French Quarter and the Old U.S. Mint six days a week, and a kids’ music workshop on Saturdays at Perseverance Hall in Louis Armstrong Park. The visitor center also hosts free talks, video documentaries, and exhibits on local jazz history. You can pick up one of two self-guided audio tours, “Jazz Sites in New Orleans” or “Jazz Walk of Fame.”
I am going to consider this if I take my Norwegian friend here when she visits!

The Getty Center, Los Angeles
Maximize your time at the Getty by visiting on a Friday or Saturday, when this sprawling hillside art complex is open late — allowing you to take in sunset views. The light-filled museum interiors display an impressive collection of European and American art. What they don’t tell you is that it will cost you $15 to park, or you can take public transportation for less.  

Conservatory at Bellagio, Las Vegas
Take a breather from the hectic atmosphere of Vegas at the Bellagio’s 13,000-square-foot Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. After, step out onto the Strip to witness the light-and-music show put on by the Bellagio fountains.
We stayed here last year when we took my brother for his 21st birthday. Check out the pictures from the fountain and the conservatory. 

Staten Island Ferry, New York City
Even in the most expensive city in America, you can find great deals like free admission nights at MoMA (otherwise $25), discounted Broadway tickets, and lower hotel rates in July and August. Then there’s the thrill of one of the world’s most beautiful ferry rides on the Staten Island commuter ferry — which also happens to be free 24/7. Board at sunset, when Lady Liberty is silhouetted against a pink-and-orange sky. You’ll pass the Statue of Liberty, with a panoramic view of glittering downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Jersey City.

Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia
Folks line up to see the 2,000-pound Liberty Bell — enshrined in glass — and tour Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution drafted. (Look for George Washington’s “rising sun” chair.)

Royal Hawaiian Center, Honolulu
Free cultural programming sets the remodeled Royal Hawaiian Center apart from your average shopping mall. You can drop by for a traditional Hawaiian massage (lomilomi), lei-making, Hawaiian quilting, or a crash course in playing the ukulele or dancing the hula. There are also free performances, including Polynesian song and dance, and hula ‘auana, which is hula’s modern form. It’s an added bonus that parking is unusually affordable for Waikiki: free for an hour with validation.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Moving Week!

Sorry for the no-post-Friday but holy cow, what a busy past 4 days I have had! We closed on our new house on Thursday and then moved out of the hotel Friday and brought some essentials from the storage unit to the new casa! Things like a mattress, sheets, towels...stuff like that until it started raining! Boooo! So on Saturday we had clear skies and my husband rented a small U-Haul trailer and began the process of bringing all the boxes to the new house while I unpacked and watched the painters paint all the walls pretty colors!

The trailer was a big help! Sunday we unpacked more and organized the garage, we didn't make any trips back to storage units because really needed to make a dent in the stuff we already had at the house!

And today I am back at work while my boo deals with the movers for our bigger items and the delivery of our new items. Needless to say I am hoping to come home to clean, fully unpacked home :D

Here are some of our freshly painted rooms! Keep in mind that these are taken with my iPhone so the lighting and quality are not the best. All paint is Sherwin Williams/HGTV Livable Lux color palette - Top from left to right: Master in Dovetail, bedroom 2 in Silvermist and Snowbound. Bottom from left to right: bedroom 1 in Softened Green, game room in Serious Gray and Expressive plum in the nook.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

10 Reasons to Take a 10 Day Vacation

When was the last time you took a 10 day vacation? Mine was last year to Kauai, and it was wonderful! Taking a 10 day vacation might be hard for most Americans because it's instilled in us from an early age that you have to work to make money to make a life for yourself … and then there is the fact that we only get 2 weeks of vacation and 1 week of sick leave a year. LAME, I wish we had more. 

1. Most importantly, a 10-day vacation gives you the time necessary to surrender, to capitulate, to truly vacate. 

2. Travel consumes a smaller percentage of your total vacation time. 
This is very true for us since our two last trips have been to Hawaii. We spend a total of about 10 -12 hours just getting there!

3. Because travel consumes proportionately less of the 10 days, it also opens the door to a traveling vacation with multiple stops. 
I have yet to convince my husband that a multi city trip is fun. We are still trying to plan our trip to Thailand and Cambodia (hopefully locking that down in the next few months).  And to be honest I am torn between that and Croatia and Slovenia …. What do you think?

I have been on two Trafalgar Bus tours and I loved them! You spend about 12-14 days traveling Europe and getting to see all the important stuff and skip the lines! My first one was Italy and we pretty much saw the whole country (all but the south) and my second one was Imperial Europe where we hit the big cites of Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria.

4. You’re gone long enough that you’re forced to offload your duties at work. 
This one isn’t a big deal for me; my work pretty much stays at work. But it’s a HUGE one for my husband; he checks his work phone all the way up until he goes to bed. But when you are time zones away they have to be able to work without you.

5. You’re gone long enough that you’re forced to budget financially for the vacation.
We definitely budget but we still splurge (after all we are still DINKs, duel income no kids). We always go to a grocery store and buy snacks and breakfast items and we find a cheap local place to eat a few times during our stay.

6. A 10-day vacation leaves sufficient time for the creation of memories through experience and the catharsis of do-nothing relaxation. 
We aren’t really the "do nothing" types but this past trip to Kauai did leave us plenty of free time which we chose to go to the Allerton Gardens and it was one of our favorite things and we are so glad we went!

7. You have the time to actually develop rhythms of life unique to that particular vacation.
I don’t know about this one, unless you are renting a house I'm not sure hotel life equates to normal life.

8. You get the joy of seeing the week and weekend vacationers leave. 
We like to travel over holidays to take advantage of the time off (and we don’t have constraints like having to get kids back to school or anything like that). So when we travel over Thanksgiving we do see the crowds leave the next day while we chill in the ocean.

9. You can avoid the dreaded vacation hangover. 
We do like to have a few days remaining when we get back. Time to re-charge and unpack… and upload all those pictures!

10. You come home a better spouse, parent, employee — a better person. 

Find the original article here

Monday, August 12, 2013

How to Build a House: Part 2

After I last left off on the house building saga it was July 9th and they were almost done with the brick. Well they finished that up the weekend of July 13th and here has what's been going on since:

July 13th: The electrician was out putting all the outlets together
July 14th: Started tile work (they finished this on the 24th)
July 15th: Installed the granite counter tops! (OMG, they look so good!)
July 16th: Installed all the light fixtures and, smoke detectors, and vent covers
July 18th: Planted our trees out front
July 19th: Put the fence up, new fire place is installed
July 21st: Installed all the faucets and toilets, floated the office floor in preparation for hardwood flooring
July 25th: Still working on touching up the walls and painting stuff and they completed the landscaping.
July 26th to today: It has all been touch up work, fixing trim, re painting and making sure everything works.

We have been going out there every day after work now to check on the progress. We really have nothing better to do since we're cooped up in the hotel.

We did have them take down the fireplace and change the stone. We were told that the stone in another house was type A and it was actually type B. So we ordered type A when we should have ordered type B.

Even though they have their own 3rd part inspector we hired our own and he had quite a list (mostly because the house wasn't don’t yet) and I am SO glad that we hired him. He noticed a few things that we didn't  some trim that wasn't painted outside and little tiny piece of brick that wasn't installed. And they know how everything is supposed to be brought up to code.

We also went ahead and waterproofed our fence to prevent sprinkler and rain damage.

We are in the final stretch and should be in the house this weekend! Fingers crossed, knock on wood! 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Extreme Travelers - Most Countries Visited in One Year by Scheduled Ground Transport

British travel blogger and filmmaker, Graham Hughes has accomplished something quite incredible.  He has visited all 201 countries and 15 territories without stepping foot on a plane!

All I can say is WOW! And I wish I could do that!

It took him 1,426 days (almost 4 years!) to cover all 160,000 miles (257,494 km)! This adventure has made him the Guinness World Record holder for "Most Countries Visited in One Year by Scheduled Ground Transport".

He describes his trip by saying, "I've fed the crocs in Australia, hunted the dragons of Komodo, befriended the orangutans in Borneo, played with the lemurs in Madagascar, washed the elephants in India and eaten live octopus in South Korea."

During his travels he kept his budget to just under $100 a week (Yahoo's article says per day but Graham's site says week) but still hit some bumps along the way. He spent a week in a Congolese prison and was arrested from sneaking into Russia!

You can check out his travels on his Nation Geographic show, Graham's World.

{The Odyssey Expedition}      {YouTube}      {The Check List}         {Yahoo! Article}

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Disappearing Wonders

Below is a list of disappearing wonders that you might want to see before they are gone. A few of these are on my bucket list as well. Read the full article here

1 - Great Wall, China: Portions of the 2,000 year old wall have already disappeared and it will be up the Chinese to make sure to maintain the other portions for generations to come.

2 - Memphis and its Necropolis, Egypt: The city of Cairo is creeping closer and closer to the pyramids.

{Made by me and Google Maps}

3 - Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve, Honduras: One of the last tropical rainforests in Central America it is threatened by illegal logging, poaching, hunting and the introduction of new species.

4 - Old City of Jerusalem, Israel: Heavy tourism and lack of maintenance on the 220 historic monuments around the city.

5 - Everglades National Park, United States, Florida: From water pollution of contaminated storm water many things are causing a decline in marine life in Florida's Everglades.

6 - Petra, Jordan: The dramatic rise in visitors is taking its toll on the soft and easily eroded red sandstone monument.

7 - Galapagos Island, Ecuador: Since the presence of humans its estimated that 5% of Galapagos' species have become extinct.

8 - Angkor, Cambodia: The amount of tourists will be to blame of the destruction of these temples. I would imagine in the near future you will no longer be able to walk on and through them.

9 - Great Barrier Reef, Australia: With ocean temperatures on the rise the reef is expected to turn white and die. The reef is home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusk. So its safe to say a whole ecosystem will be gone.

Background image shows and extensively bleached reef near Great Keppel Island on the southern Great Barrier Reef in early 2006.  The insert shows a normal looking coral on the left-hand side and a bleached coral on the right hand side.  The dinoflagellates symbionts which leave the coral is it bleaches are also shown. 

10 - Machu Picchu, Peru: With the addition of a train and the risk of landslides this city in the sky could erode and disappear forever. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Travel RoundUp

1 - Even if they are fake and a part of your shoes TSA is going to confiscate gun paraphernalia.

3 - If you have a connecting United flight in Houston and you're an elite flier then you are in luck! They just started a luxury car service that will take you from plane to plane if you have short connecting lay-over. Pretty sweet if you ask me!

4 - You might not be able to get room service in your hotel rooms anymore. Some hotels are doing away with the service claiming it doesn’t make them any money.

5 - Wouldn’t you hate to go on a beach vacation and then there is an oil spill?!?! That’s what happened in Thailand recently. Check it out here.

6 - Looking to communicate with friends or family overseas? Here are some great options that Debbie over at Buisson International has researched and used.

7 - I thought this was a nice thing to do. It's kind of sad so I'll let you read it.

8 - India sent its last telegram on July 14th; they have been using this form of communication for over 160 years!

9 - A woman had been living inside the Cancun airport, no word on if she is still there. See the article here.

10 - Hawaii has a plan to get rid of their homeless people, ship them back to wherever they came from!

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