Monday, August 21, 2017

5 Night Taste of Croatia: Our Trip Overview, and What I'd Do Differently

When we first selected Croatia for part of our summer trip, neither Hubby nor I knew much about the country itself - we had only heard amazing things about sailing in Croatia.

 Day sail with Toto tours from Split, Croatia

We didn't have quite enough time for the kind of sailing trip we'd like to do there, since we were combining visiting Croatia with a trip to Austria for a wedding. Instead, we decided to get a quick feel of the country, so we would know better where we'd want to go visit for a longer trip someday.

Now that we've completed our trip, a couple of things have stood out as things we'd wished we'd have done differently! Here's a quick overview of what we did, plus the things we would recommend to others getting a taste of Croatia.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Exploring Croatia: Getting Around

The first thing I did when I was researching Croatia for our trip over the summer was to identify where in Croatia we wanted to go, and how we would get there. 

I usually try to sort those kinds of details out first, and to make sure that everything is actually accessible without being insanely expensive! (I learned my lesson on this the hard way when I had to take an 80 private transfer from the Nice airport once!)

CROATIA
Croatia is actually quite spread out for such a small country, so the next challenge was figuring out where to stay, and how to get in between places. After loads of research, I determined that we wanted to spend the majority of our time in Split, with at least one night in Dubrovnik. Split was a good jumping off point for the tours and sites we wanted to visit - specifically, Plitvice Lakes, and a boat tour of the Dalmatian coast and islands.



Friday, February 10, 2017

11 Day Wander in Athens, Mykonos and Santorini, Greece

My darling friend CG and her lovely boyfriend are taking a trip to Greece this spring/early summer! CG had a couple of questions about our Greece trip last year when they were planning, so I decided to write an itinerary post! This itinerary is actually fairly close to the trip we did last year (posts on that coming soon), with a couple of extra days thrown in, and a bit more of a romantic tilt to it (ours was a girls' trip).

DESTINATION:  
Greece - Athens, Mykonos and Santorini

DURATION:
11 days, 11 nights 

A view of the Parthenon from the hotel we stayed at's roof in the Plaka district.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Portugal: The Hotels

Looking for hotels can be a really fun or really frustrating part of a trip. For our Portugal trip, it was fun! There were a ton of options, so it took a bit of time and research to make sure we were ending up somewhere decent, but within budget. Our budgets were low for Portugal (we were shooting for $800 for the 8 nights), and we had no trouble sticking to our budget! We spent more in Lisbon, but were able to make up for the pricier Lisbon hotels with cheaper Lagos, Sintra and Porto hotels. Here's where we stayed and what we thought of each place!

Our room with a balcony at the Hotel Florida in Lisbon!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Porto, Portugal

Capping off our trip to Portugal was a visit to Porto, in the north of the country. We arrived to Porto in the early evening and checked into our hotel, then went exploring for snacks. We stumbled on an amazing little spot for a glass of wine and tapas style appetizers on Rua das Flores called Cantina 32, and spent a lovely hour sitting out on the pedestrian street with glasses of wine and beer and an amazing cheese platter. They also had amazing lemonade and lupini beans! Highly recommended! 

Cheese platter and sausage croquettes - make sure to get extra pumpkin jam!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Santa Cruz Island Kayaking with Channel Islands Outfitters

Living in California, it's easy to take for granted all of the amazing scenery and activities there are locally. Off of the coast of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties are a series of channel islands that make up the California Channel Islands National Park. We look at them every time we drive up the coast, and we'd toured near them on some whale watching trips, but we'd never been out to visit them!

SD came to visit California for work a few weeks ago, and we decided to do something we've been wanting to do for a long time - take a ferry out to the Channel Islands and have an adventure!


Heading out for our adventure!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Visiting the Incredible Quinta Da Regaleira in Sintra, Portugal

While researching Portugal and Sintra, there was one image that popped out to me as something I had to see in person - the Masonic initiation well at Quinta Da Regaleira.

Image from Flickr

I was immediately thrilled and enchanted by the idea of this spot - a winding staircase with moss covered stone walls and hidden passageways... and was determined to find it when we were visiting Sintra.

The Quinta Da Regaleira is beautiful and magical. The entire property is gorgeous - with outstanding park grounds full of paths and tunnels, lakes and grottoes, fountains and structures, including a chapel.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Trips I'm Planning: 11 Days in Austria & Croatia

A few months ago, I got the amazing news that my dear friend Sis is engaged! It's been a while since I've gotten to spend time with her (almost 5 years since our time in London, to be exact), so I am really looking forward to visiting her in Austria and being present for her special day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Stephen's_Cathedral,_Vienna
St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna

Hubby and I have been wanting to explore a few different parts of Europe, and he's never been to Austria, so at first I thought we'd explore Austria some more, or take a train to Prague for a few days, or check out Budapest or some cities in Germany. But he's had a hankering to see Croatia, and Sis has been on a couple of incredible sailing trips there, so we figured - why not check another country off our bucket list! 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Magical Sintra, Portugal

We decided to stay in Sintra for two nights of our Portugal trip almost on a whim. We wanted to stay somewhere close to Lisbon, but not *in* Lisbon, which made Sintra and Cascais very appealing choices. After I researched the area a bit, we decided on Sintra, since there were a handful of things we wanted to see there: Pena Palace, the Castle of the Moors, the Quinta Da Regaleira, Sintra National Palace, Monserrate Palace and Park... there are some amazing things to check out in Sintra!

 Castle of the Moors, Sintra

I, of course, had way too many things I wanted to see in the one full day that we had in Sintra - especially considering we arrived later in the evening on our first night, and were driving RW to the Lisbon airport halfway through the day. It's ok, though, because we still got an amazing sampling of Sintra, and a return trip is definitely in our future.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Renting A Car & Driving In Portugal

Renting a car in Portugal was easy, and totally worth it. Ok, slight correction - DRIVING in Portugal was easy - the car rental part was a bit of a hassle, but still worth it.


RENTING THE CAR
We started our driving adventure of Portugal in Lisbon. I had researched a few different car rental companies, and had finally settled on a booking with Budget Rental Car, through Expedia's website. Since we were planning on driving pretty extensively throughout the trip, and since RW was going to be traveling with us for half the trip, we ended up with a slightly larger car than we normally would rent in Europe.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Cabo da Roca & Óbidos, Portugal

Cabo da Roca and the little town of Óbidos were two spots in Portugal that I absolutely loved. We visited both spots on the day of our trip dedicated to driving from Sintra up to Porto.

 
Cabo da Roca

TRAVEL TIP: Road travel in Portugal often takes longer than estimated when you're using smaller roads instead of highways. Along our trip from Sintra to Cabo da Roca, we got stuck on a small, winding road behind a large (especially for European standards) RV from Germany. The drive ended up being an adventure in itself, as the couple in the RV actually needed our (and other motorist's) help in a couple of tight spots! Make sure you give yourself plenty of drive time, especially if you're going on a tour or have a reservation somewhere!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Off The Beaten Path in Portugal

One of the things we like the most about exploring a new place is checking out places that are along our journey from one place to another.

Hitting the road - and using an actual map rather than GPS!

Knowing we like to do this, we planned basically an entire day each for the drives between the Algarve and Sintra, and from Sintra to Porto, even though we'd spaced out our overnights so we never had more than about 200 miles to drive each day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Travel Photo Tuesday: Huntington Library, Pasadena CA


Another one of my favorite Los Angeles spots is the Huntington Library and Gardens in Pasadena, CA. The grounds are really magnificent! They have gardens structured from around the world - the photo above is from the Japanese garden, which is probably my favorite one. They have many different halls of artwork, a tea room as well as a few more casual places to grab a bite to eat, and a lovely museum shop as well!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Santorini, Greece: Blue Angel Villa and TravelKeys Vacation Rentals Stay & Post-Stay Experiences

Blue Angel Villa. The saga continues! I recently wrote about our booking and pre-stay experience with TravelKeys for the Blue Angel Villa in Santorini, and here I'll continue with a review of our stay and some post-stay drama. Quick recap: Shorty fell in love with the villa, which we then booked for 7 guests for 4 nights at $3,170.

Panoramic view from the rooftop of the villa - it was stunning.

Another quick disclaimer: I am not trying to nitpick the details of the villa in this review - I am just trying to give an honest review of what we were expecting from our booking process and what we ended up with when we arrived. The bottom line for us was that we were expecting something much different based on what had been presented to us, and when the reality didn't quite match, it was disappointing.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Santorini, Greece: Blue Angel Villa and TravelKeys Vacation Rentals Booking & Pre-Stay Experiences

On our trip to Greece, the place that Shorty was the most excited about was Santorini. In fact, the whole trip was based almost entirely around her desire to wake up to the gorgeous Santorini views on her birthday. She spent a massive amount of time researching places to stay. Which town was best? Which side of Fira offered the best views? Was a villa or hotel better? And in her research, she found photos of a villa that she absolutely fell in love with: the Blue Angel Villa in Fira, Santorini.

 The view that Shorty fell in love with and weaved many daydreams out of!