LEGOLAND Deutschland Resort Travel Guide

LEGOLAND-Deutschland-Resort-Travel-GuideJust a train ride from Munich, Germany, in beautiful Günzburg, LEGOLAND Deutschland Resort is a budding brick-builder’s paradise. The whole park is themed around the colorful LEGO bricks, which you’ll find oversized on rides, pieced together for fantastic photo ops and assembled in models throughout the park, as well as the entire section of Miniland, which offers LEGOized reproductions of ten areas around the world + imaginary Star Wars universe. That’s 20 million LEGO bricks in that one section alone!MinilandLEGO-R2D2If you’re always stepping on stray LEGOs around the house, then you already know this is a place you should go. But even if you’re little ones aren’y yet hard-core LEGO devotees, they will still have a blast because everything in the park is geared for ages 2-12. The park is the ultimate little playground, but it can get very crowded, especially during the summer months. We’ve put together these LEGOLAND Deutschland Resort Travel Guide, so that you can make the most of your day or two in the park. Now, we are talking about making the most of your time, but be prepared for your kids to find at least one place in the park they love and don’t want to leave like Adventure Land. Let them go at their own pace and enjoy the sights and attractions! Actually, we HIGHLY recommend coming back a second day. 🙂

Edutainment

LEGOLAND Deutschland offers a little education with their fun-filled experience at the theme park. Located in LEGO X-TREME, LEGOLAND ATLANTIS by SEA LIFE is a great place to cool off in the summer, and the kids learn a lot while enjoying amazing views in the aquarium. Also in LEGO X-Treme is the LEGO Academy, where you explore your creative side.

Shows

LEGOLAND Deutschland offers numerous shows throughout the park, and they change throughout the season. From the Castle Theatre to LEGO Arena, from Monkey Theatre to LEGO Studios, your family will be entertained. Be sure to check the show schedule when you visit the park. On busy days, you should arrive at least 15 minutes prior to show time to see a show.LEGO-Monkey-Theatre

Food

LEGOLAND Deutschland Resort’s food is delicious with international options at many vendors. My family’s favorite is Schnitzel Depot. Who doesn’t German Schnitzel?! If you’re in the mood for something sweet, make a stop at Ice Cream Station for some yummy ice cream. However, you may also pack a picnic and bring your own food (we especially appreciate this with children who may not want to wait in line or desire smaller portions).LEGO-Schnitzel-DepotLEGO-Ice-Cream

LEGOLAND Deutschland Resort Travel Guide Tips

  • Bring bottled water, snacks and consider bringing a picnic.
  • Set a budget. You can spend as little or as much as you like. If you bring your own camera for pictures, pack a picnic and limit souvenir purchases, you can still have a great time with rides, shows, demonstrations, etc. Plan according to your family budget and know that souvenirs and food are typical amusement park prices and plan accordingly. We purchased the Family F&B Ticket in advance, where we saved up to 30% of our delicious food and felt fortunate to enjoy the full LEGOLAND Deutschland experience.
  • Measure your children before the trip and determine which rides they will be able to enjoy.
  • Bring a camera.
  • Dress comfortably for a day at an amusement park. Wear comfortable shoes. In the summer, plan for water rides. In the winter, plan to be outside in the cold.
  • Don’t forget to put on or bring your sunscreen!

I hope this LEGOLAND Deutschland Resort Travel Guide proves to be helpful for your next trip. I highly encourage you to bring your family and friends there!

Family Summer Vacations are Important Not Just Fun!

family-vacation-quotes

It’s August and as summer vacation time begins to wind down I am more than a little emotional thinking about the last summer of my boy’s high school years.   We just got back from our annual summer family vacation and this time it was our family’s first cruise together.   Some years we have had big vacations (Florida, Colorado, California, Europe, New York, and DC) and others years we’ve taken shorter and closer to home summer vacations like San Antonio and Galveston.   But I have always made sure we do something to get away for a few days because I am a huge believer in the importance of family summer vacations.

Cruise Summer 2015 3021

“We can’t afford it”, “I can’t take the time off from work” or “The kids are too busy with summer activities” are the standard excuses that most people give.   They may all be great reasons why you shouldn’t but there are many more reasons why you should.  But first,  I want to be specific here, it’s okay to go on trips with other families or friends sometimes but I believe that you will not get the same benefits from those trips.  I’m talking about your family, whether it’s both parents or a single parent and your kids (and not your kids’ friends tagging along to keep them entertained).   These trips should be about you and your core family and the time you spend bonding, sharing experiences. and getting to know your children even better.  They are forced to interact with you, no distractions like video games, TV, etc.  Some distractions are okay occasionally, but make sure you have rules about it.  We’re here to bond kids, okay?

Here are some of the many benefits that you and your family will gain:

  1. Your kids grow up really fast and won’t be kids forever….

My twin boys, Jack and Jared will be seniors in high school this year.  It seems like they were in grade school the day before yesterday.  If your kids are still really young it probably seems like time is crawling.  But believe me when I tell you  (and everyone else who has kids) that your time with them will fly by.  Don’t say to yourself that you will take a vacation when they’re older, or when we have more money, or use a million other excuses.  Just do it. There will be a time after they graduate from high school and have busy lives of their own when it just won’t happen.  Don’t allow them NOT to go on the family vacation.  You’re the parent here.

Family Photo San Antonio 2010.JPG2

I’ll be honest. some vacations will be more successful than others but here’s where planning skills come in.  That’s what we have the internet for!  Take in consideration your kids’ ages and select appropriate activities for them.  There are many websites available to help you plan that dream family vacation.

  1. Vacations mean spending quality time with your family

This is a huge benefit.  Families are consistently on the go. There’s work, school, sports and numerous other activities that distract you from each other.   Vacations force you to spend quality time together.   You will actually eat meals together and those are invaluable moments to get to know your children’s better.  Take advantage of it!

Cruise Jack and Jared 2015

  1. Vacations are about creating memories.

The big summer family vacations my family took when I was growing up are huge memories that I have from my childhood.  I may not remember everything that happened during the school year or the million things that my parents did for me throughout the year but I have precious memories from the vacations we took together as a family.  Surprisingly, I can remember so many things from the age of 5 when we made that classic family driving trip to the Grand Canyon and California.   I wouldn’t trade those trips for anything.  My father died when I was 9 years old and most of the memories I have of him are from the vacations we took as a family.

These are the memories that your children will remember years from now.  They will talk about the good things that happened on the trip and yes the bad things too.  Vacations are not always perfect but even some of the bad experiences can be learning moments and hopefully you can laugh about them later.   Take lots of photos and videos too because that will help embed those memories in your child’s mind.   I still love to look at my families’ old home movies.

  1. Vacations give you permission to relax and are healthy for you.

Parents and children constantly have their heads in work and school work.  Our kids have much more homework these days than we ever did as children.  They are under so much stress to keep up their grades to ensure they get into the colleges they want and to be involved in extracurricular activities.  Most families don’t even eat dinner together anymore.  Everyone is too busy going in different directions.   Go have fun together for a change.  Be sure and don’t schedule too many activities though on the vacation, remember this is all about fun and not stressing out about having to be somewhere every minute.

     5.  Vacations are about seeing new places and experiencing new things.

You don’t have to break the bank on vacations.  Whether you go far and take a luxurious vacation or do something nearby that is more economical, it will be beneficial.  You and your children will have several new experiences that they otherwise would not have.  My husband took my son, Jack scuba diving for the first time on our cruise which was an unbelievable experience for a father and son to share.  My other son Jared and I went on our first submarine ride together to see the wonders of sea life but stayed dry while doing it.  We loved it (both the sea life and staying dry).

Cruise Jay and Jack Scuba 2015

These are just a few of the many benefits.  Go with a great attitude, be ready to let loose and have fun.   I guarantee you will never be sorry that you took the time to take a family vacation.   Our recent cruise was priceless to me.  The four of us shared a cabin and yes it was uncomfortable and annoying at times but the night time banter that we had when we were all trying to go to sleep was priceless.

Here are just a few of the memories that I have from this trip that I will treasure forever:   Jack singing one of my favorite songs during Karaoke night just because he knew I loved it and wanted him to sing it.  I almost cry every time I think about it.   Also, watching Jared laugh his head off at the Comedy Shows  was priceless.  Jared loves comedy and kept us entertained the whole trip with his puns and sarcastic wit.  But the best memory of all was just being together for five days as a family of four.  How do you put a price on that?

Cruise Jackie and Jared

So it’s not too late to work in that last minute trip this summer before school starts!  Go make some memories and Bon Voyage!

Cruise Summer 2015

Top 10 Restaurants in Ljubljana

Ljubljana-RestaurantsLjubljana has a vibrant culinary scene. There are kitchens that turn out the very best dishes which left us drooling on the tablecloth and others that deliver special, sincere service. Ljubljana has hand-picked the best foods around Europe and adopted them as their own. Here are our top 10 favorite places to eat.

1. Druga Violinadruga-violina-krompirdruga-violina-strukeljDruga Violina uses locally grown produce from a nearby farm, only serves traditional Slovene dishes and located in the city’s old town, but there’s a twist in the tale with the “second violin.” It’s actually a project for people with special needs, who complete tasks on a farmland near Ljubljana and also work as servers in the restaurant. Try their daily specials (meat, chicken and vegetarian) – our kids and adults LOVED them. Also, try pražen krompir. In 2002, this Slovenian love for this dish resulted in the creation of the world’s first Society for the Recognition of a Sautéed Potatoes as a Main Dish and organized a World Sautéed Potato Festival, held each year in a different Slovenian town, so it is fitting that when you visit Slovenia, that you enjoy this dish. 🙂 Lastly, you must order their Ljubljanski štrukelj , which was the perfect “coda” to our musical culinary concerto!

2. Gostilna Delagostilna-delaGostilna Dela has a special focus given to creating employment opportunities for local youth that would be otherwise excluded from the working world. A variety of daily menus are on offer (meat, fish and vegetarian), and you won’t find a restaurant more in tune with the desires of its customers. Trying the homemade štruklji, and thank us later.

3. Gostilna Na Gradu
Gostilna-na-graduLocated on the grounds of the Ljubljana castle, this friendly restaurant is posh without feeling pretentious. Much of the menu is determined entirely by the local ingredients available form the nearby food market. Try their sampler appetizer plate with some pâtés and their daily specials, which they pick up that day in the market.

4. Gostilnica XXIgostilnica-xxiGostilna Rimska XXI is perfect when you want to try traditional Slovenian cuisine in an attractive setting. The chefs use local ingredients. Try žlikrofi or Istrian fuži.

5. Restavracija JBJB-ravioliChef Janez Bratovż is famously known for his ravioli with pistachio, foie gras, goat cheese and covered in a cream sauce. Try the polenta or bear meat appearing from time to time.

6. Güjžina
gujzinaGüjžina offers traditional cuisine from the region of Prekmurje, which is situated in the far northeastern corner of the country and influenced by neighboring Hungary, Austria and Croatia. Try the award-winning bograč and the gibanica, considered the best in the city.

7. Pri Škofupri-skofuRun by women, Pri Škofu serves some of the best prepared local dishes and salads in Ljubljana, with an ever-changing menu. Try their ginger soup and traditional cherry and cheese dumpling.

8. Restaurant Asgostilna-asGostilna As has an eclectic international menu with delicious salads and pastas, but the prosciutto stands out. The atmosphere in the restaurant and its rooftop terrace make it a super cool place to enjoy an appetizer and light meal in the evening.

9. ŠpajzaspajzaOld Town’s Špajza offers less common meats on their menu, such as rabbit, lamb and even kid goat in its homely decorated establishment.Try the žrebičkov z jurčki, if you want to feel like Andrew Zimmern.

10. TaBarTaBarTaBar offers a huge variety of Slovenian food. With the small portions (remembers that they are tapas), it is a great way to sample the best of local delicacies. Try their prosciutto, which is considered a Slovenian specialty, oxtail, sea bass and sausage.

For those wanting a culinary experience beyond simply eating in a restaurant, consider joining Ljubljananjam Food Walks, created and led by born and raised local Iva Gruden. There are also cooking classes on traditional Slovenian food, like Cook Eat Slovenia. On Fridays between March and October, there is Odprta kuhna market, which has become a staple for many Ljubljana people and foreigners alike.

Photo Journal: Secret Walks in Zagrebarium

zagrebarium-croatiaMy family stopped in Zagreb, Croatia while traveling with our Eurail passes, but little did we know that this modern-city has its roots established during Victorian times. Zagreb, Croatia is probably best known as a large city which managed to stay romantic with unlimited possibilities for visiting music and theatre events, art exhibitions, museums and enjoying pleasant walks, interesting architecture and lots of parks in the center of the city.

But, thanks to the Secret Zagreb’s Zagrebarium, we think Zagreb is also the steampunk capital of the Balkans. Once my family started exploring the city with Iva, owner and tour guide of Secret Zagreb Walks, we learned that Zagreb has a well-preserved historic Austro-Hungarian Victorian district, so from there it’s only one minor conceptual shift in thinking to make Zagreb all things steampunk. To Iva’s credit, she has fully embraced the steampunk vibe, going so far as dressing in costume and creating a steampunk-themed map—that my kids have declared as one of the best maps and still look at since we got home.

The tour begins at the beautiful Zagreb Main Station. From there you will see traces of the city’s great expansion in the 19th and early 20th centuries and hear stories of amazing minds and incredible events that happened in Zagreb! I don’t want to give an spoilers, but if you are a red-head, you are in for a great story…and beware. 😉 Also, did you know that the fountain pen was invented in Zagreb? This and other interesting facts will be told. Some stories will grab your kids attention that they will be talking about them for days. You will also follow the footsteps of Nikola Tesla in Zagreb, reveals the connection between great 20th century rock stars and Croatian scientists, searches for links between superstition and science and gives insight into earth-shaking events.

The tour will end, as you enjoy a short yet memorable cable car ride up the world’s shortest funicular, where you can see the whole city on a hill. But watch your time, as you may want to cover your ears when the cannon goes off from the tower. It was a highlight for the kids on the tour.real-posh-zagrebariumIMG_9953IMG_9957IMG_9958IMG_9961IMG_9966IMG_9967IMG_9975IMG_9982IMG_9994IMG_0007First thing is first, if you have never been to Zagreb, you MUST come! Next, you need to book the Zagrebarium tour, where Iva searches for the fantastic side of Zagreb. You will hear interesting tales of amazing minds and incredible events as you explore the city’s best-known sights and some hidden gems. Then, the following days you can explore independently and see for yourself how magically ingenious Zagreb is. Oh, and make sure to see the changing of the guards at St. Mark’s Cathedral! Your whole family will pull out their phones to record this ceremony performed since the 17th century.

7 Amazing Swimming Pools Around the World

Summer is here, and you know what that means – POOL TIME! One of our favorite things to do whenever we are visiting a new place is to see where there is a pool! Even when my family road tripped across Greece last month, it didn’t matter what time we arrived at St. George Lycabettus Boutique Hotel, as long as there was still some time to use the pool. We quickly checked in, and the kids changed into their swimsuits at record speed for some pool time. Our obsession with pools reached even new heights where despite living across the beach on the Adriatic Sea, we actually drove an hour away just for the infinity pool at Porto Montenegro! (It may cost to drive and utilize, but it was soooo worth it!) Oh, and we still talk about our time poolside during the Spark.Me conference at Hotel Splendid, which lived up to its name. Who said the coast is not also a great place to enjoy a pool?! 😉

Anyway, as our thoughts remember all the great pools we have visited, it is time to pull you into our obsession with splashing, cooling off and laying by the pool this summer, here are 7 amazing swimming pools around the world that will leave you reaching for swimsuit and a plane ticket to one of these amazing destinations across the world.

1. Lido Pool, Porto Montenegro, Tivat, Montenegro. It sits in Montenegro’s dramatic Bay of Kotor.LidoPool
2. St. George’s Rooftop Pool, Athens, Greece.stgeorgepool
3. Arena Badeschiff Pool, Berlin, Germany.ArenaBadeschiff
4. Berkeley Rooftop Pool, London, England.
Beyond the green leaves and scented blooms of The Berkeley’s secret garden is a pool tiled in iridescent white and gold mosaic that sits beneath a sliding roof, retractable when outside temperatures permit.TheBerkeleyPool
5. Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch, Scottsdale, Arizona.HyattRegencyPools
6. Giola Lagoon, Thassos, Greece.
This is a natural pool in the Greek Islands.GiolaLagoon
7. River Bluff Water Experience, JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa River, San Antonio, Texas.
It has a Cyprus tree-lined 1,200-foot lazy river, zero-entry pool with its animal-shaped fountains and five water slides.jwmarriottpool
We cannot think of a better way to spend the summer than being poolside with a good book. What do you enjoy to do in the summer? What pool amazed you around the world?

Family Travel: Athens, Greece

One of the great things about Greece is that “family” is still a special strong bond that holds the Greeks together. “Paidiá, kalosírthate!” (Children, welcome!) is what you and your kids will hear when you come to Athens. One of the challenges of family travel is finding the balance of your desire to see the glories of Athens and your kids’ eagerness to play.

First things first, make sure to stay at a hotel that has everything for everybody, such a swimming pool and free WiFi. Stay in the neighborhoods of the Plaka, Monastiraki, Syntagma or Kolonaki – all are walking distance to top historical sights. We suggest staying at Pallas Athena with its family suites, A for Athens because of its price and St. George Lycabettus Hill for its amazing view. We especially love the rooftop pool at St. George. Kids could cool off there all day while the parents enjoy the view of Lycabettus Hill AND Acropolis of Athens.

To see the heart of Athens, walk around the Plaka and Monasteraki neighborhoods. Yes, they are very touristy, but they also have a lively and friendly vibe. Plaka is a pedestrian-friendly warren of ancient streets nestled at the base of the Acropolis. Climb the hill to see Areopagus, also known as Mars Hill. Be careful of the “slippery rocks,” due to centuries of high volume foot traffic in the area. The kids actually liked sliding down them. Read Apostle Paul’s famous speech spoken on that very spot from Acts 17:22-31, as your kids can see the Bible come to life. Afterwards stroll up to the Acropolis, where fans of Percy Jackson will love to see where Percy, Annabeth and the rest of the demi-god gang spent their time in Athens. After your family has explored the Acropolis of Athens, head back to shop in Monasteraki with more antique, arts, crafts and clothing shops than Plaka. It’s also home to a large Flea Market every Sunday morning.

Now that you have worked up an appetite, walk back to Kolonaki neighborhood to Omorfo. This family-owned restaurant is filled with mostly locals savoring traditional Greek favorites like veal with zucchini in egg and lemon sauce, pastitsio and stuffed tomatoes. Your family may also want to try Philos Athens and Zoe’s Premium Latteria in the same neighborhood. What better way to end the days of shopping and exploration that enjoying some ice cream?! Conveniently at the the Monasteraki Square, The Ice Cream Shop easily serves the tastiest ice cream in town. They also serve milkshakes, which are hard to find in Athens, and the parents’ favorite frothy, freddo espresso-cappuccino.

Dreaming About San Giorgio Mykonos

san-giorgio-2My jaw hit the floor when I stumbled upon the San Giorgio first at TBEX in Greece, and I haven’t been able to wake up from this dream! I’m starting a savings account just for this place because if I don’t stay there at some point, I’ll have serious life regrets. What a stunning combination of modern and bohemian, filled with textures and simplicity. San Giorgio is a place where I feel like my mind could escape, and I could exhale – a paradise found in Mykonos. There some heavenly place on this earth, and this is one of them. Definitely take a minute to scroll through the rest of the photos. It’s absolutely divine! I hope to visit San Giorgio, my dream hotel soon. 🙂

Photos from San Giorgio Mykonos Facebook page.san-giorgio-1san-giorgio-3san-giorgio-4san-giorgio-5san-giorgio-6

10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Travel

 

Truly understanding and appreciating a new culture can take months or even years. When traveling, most of us don’t have that luxury. Those for whom a few days to a week is about the best that can be hoped for have to figure out how to get the most out of limited time. A checklist of museums and attractions is a common instinct, but it won’t give you the deep connection that makes travel rewarding. After years of planning events around the world I have learned that taking a few simple steps allows travelers to better connect to new places, make amazing memories, truly feel at home in a strange land, and always have the best travel stories to tell.


Beijing1. LEARN THE LANGUAGE
. I know that this is obvious, and the obvious response is that it’s difficult and time-consuming. But you don’t have to be fluent to get the benefits of putting in a little effort, and it will make you much more comfortable. Learn the most important phrases: “Hello,” “Where is the bathroom?” and the most important in any language: “Thank you.”  I also like to learn to ask for the check and how to say the equivalent of “Cheers!” every place I go. Ask a native speaker to check your pronunciation; with those basics you may even convince passerby you are a local. And on that note…

2. DRESS THE PART. The more different you look the more different and isolated you will feel. People in obvious Paying respects to Shakespeare in Budapesttourist garb always look so awkward, and are easy targets for scams. Do some quick research – Pinterest is a fabulous resource – on what the locals wear and pack your suitcase accordingly. Are they more casual or more dressy than you are used to? Are they having fun with colors and prints or are they in muted earth tones? Do they all have scarves or head coverings? Most importantly check out the shoes, because they will tell you what the most fashionable and practical choices are. Are most of the women wearing cute ballet flats? Low heeled boots? Wedges? They probably know that it’s the best way to be comfortable in the lifestyle and climate and look fashionable at the same time. Nobody in New York City is wearing white or super high heels; follow their lead because they know something you don’t. Dress like a local and you may even find other tourists asking you for directions.

Love In the Time of Cholera at the home of the author in Cartagena, Colombia3. READ LOCAL LITERATURE. You may not be able to pick up the language in a week, but pick up a translated novel that takes place in the city or region you will be exploring and start it before you leave, giving your mind a head start on adapting. In Paris read Émile Zola, J. M. Coetzee in South Africa,  Haruki Murakami in Tokyo, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar in Istanbul, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Colombia. Walking the streets of Cartagena reading Love in the Time of Cholera imagining Florentino Ariza spying on his beloved Fermina Daza from his park bench gave me a stronger connection to the city, as if we shared a secret. And during the afternoons when it was too hot to do anything but lay by the hotel pool, my mind was still exploring as I turned the pages.

4. CATCH A LIVE PERFORMANCE or festival, outside of the tourist zone. While I’m sure the hotel’s dinner buffet hula dance extravaganza is lovely (and you should learn the history of the hula in Hawaii), find out where the locals go for a good show. One of my favorite traditions is finding a great jazz club no matter where we are, from Shanghai to Krakow. Sitting in a small club, surrounded by locals and visitors from around the world with a shared love for jazz, introducing ourselves to the band members (from Poland, playing New Orleans jazz, in Istanbul) after the set and drinking with them and their friends until 4am is still one of my favorite memories. In New York or London, skip the long-running big spectacle shows that everyone has seen, and pick instead an avante garde performance. Go downtown to see an Off-Off-Broadway play. You are much more likely to be surrounded by locals and to feel as if you are one.

Krakow, Poland5. HANG OUT IN A CENTRAL SQUARE. There are the classics like Washington Square Park in New York and Trafalgar Square in London, but try hanging out in Krakow’s Rynek Glowny and Prague’s Old Town Square too. Learn the history. See the commerce. Listen to the conversations and the protesters. Take pictures, but also eat the street food, tip the musicians, feed the birds and read your book on a park bench. Don’t rush on to the next attraction; just sit, rest your feet, take it all in and fall in love with your surroundings.

6. And while you’re at it? TALK TO PEOPLE. As always in a big city anywhere in the world be cautious and streetwise, but often the locals are as genuinely curious about you as you are about them. Ask them questions. If they’re interested, buy them a pint and get their life story. Some of my favorite travel stories are just repeating someone else’s. In a tiny restaurant in a hillside German town we ended up spending hours with a chef from Ibiza, his Russian winemaker friend, an American GI (who was initially just looking for an ATM), and a dog named Snob, all of whom remain seared into my memory years later. It all started because we asked questions.

7. JOIN A TOUR LED BY AN EXPERT DOCENT. There are plenty of big group options that teach you less than a common guidebook, but with a little research you can find engaging, unique, and highly intellectual tours. A 6am bicycle tour through Montmarte, while the shops are just opening up and the empty wine bottles still litter the streets of Paris, will give you a unique perspective of the city. An artist-led graffiti tour of Bogota will teach you more about the culture, politics, and history of Colombia than any other. A historian who has hiked the entire length of the Great Wall of China can point out things nobody else would notice.

Early morning bike tour through Paris
We were guided around London a few weeks ago by a docent from Context Travel, a network of scholars and specialist in disciplines including archaeology, art history, cuisine, urban planning, environmental science, and classics who lead in-depth walking seminars for small groups (6 or less). With her we not only got a personalized tour helping us to understand the city’s history and major landmarks, we discussed the upcoming election, the conflicted feelings on currency and immigration, and the true purpose of Her Majesty the Queen, and were surprised with a visit to what once was The Texas Legation in London. The company’s website makes it easy to pick a city (they currently operate in 25), pick an interest, and reserve a guide. It is well worth it.

8. FOLLOW CURRENT EVENTS. Watch or read their news (BBC World is a great resource when traveling). Even if you can’t IMG_7971take a tour, do a little online digging to understand the struggles of the people. What are they concerned about? What have they been through? No matter how pretty and peaceful a place can seem, there is always a group of people who are unhappy. Understand them and you come closer to understanding the whole culture. If you are in a place where your country’s policies are not appreciated, find out why and try to see yourself and your politicians from their perspective. People around the world want to be heard; offer them an ear.

9. MEET UP WITH A FRIEND. If you know someone who lives there, even if only casually or from years ago, reach out and ask them to meet up. If you don’t know somebody, chances are there’s a friend of a friend somewhere. Maybe a coworker once studied abroad and maintained some connections. In this global village, you can find people with similar interests via Twitter or Instagram in advance of your trip and meet up when you get there. You will let down your guard and forget you are in a strange land for an hour or two. Locals anywhere rarely get to experience their own tourist attractions, and usually love to show off their neighborhoods when someone visits. Give them that chance.

Off-Broadway Play in NYC10. Most importantly, BE YOURSELF. What do you like to do at home? If you’re into sports, arrange to see a game while traveling or find out where there’s a pub showing a match. Soccer isn’t my favorite sport, but watching a big match with a rowdy crowd in a European pub is an experience everyone should have at least once. Do you enjoy live music? Hiking? Theater? Exploring new restaurants? People do those things around the world. Find your passions and experience them in a new place, because it will make you feel at ease, it will ignite your spirit, and it will show you how alike we all really are on this planet. And that is the very purpose of travel, isn’t it? That and the stories.

Tea in Beijing

 

 

For more information about CONTEXT TRAVEL: https://www.contexttravel.com

 

Follow my travel adventures on Instagram at @SeeJayneGo

12 Places That Make Montenegro Dreamy

From the beach, bumming luxury-lover to the hiking history-buff, Montenegro is a country that’s vibrant, dynamic and filled with wild beauty that makes the country dreamy. Depending on your accommodations, choices of food and length of stay, a trip to Montenegro could be a history-filled outdoors adventure, quick and cheap holiday or a luxurious getaway – and that’s the best part about it: you can make it anything you want it to be.

Here are 12 places around Montenegro that I feel fortunate that I am surrounded by and they need to be placed on your next travel itinerary.

1. Tara Canyontara-canyon
2. Stari BarStariBar
3. Sveti Stefansvetistefan
4. Kotorkotor
5. Jaz and Bečići Beaches, Budvabudvabeach
6. Lake Skadarlakeskadar
7. Biogradska Gorabiogradskagora
8. Velika Plaža, Ulcinjvelikaplaza
9. Porto Montenegro, TivatPortoMontenegro
10. Our Lady of the Rocksladyoftherocks
11. Ostrog Monasteryostrogmonastery
12. LovćenLovcen

You’re almost completely guaranteed good weather in Montenegro in the Spring. Later on in the summer, you can expect about 12 hours of sunshine a day and temperatures in the 30s (80s – 90s Fahrenheit). You’ll also hardly see a drop of rain in July and August. Since moving to Montenegro, I am a big fan of this country in this month (April), May, September and October, when the weather is a cooler and the crowds are much smaller. You’ll still see plenty of sun, but the temperature will be more comfortable, around the mid 20s (70s Fahrenheit).

Do you have any suggestions on where to go or what to see in Montenegro? Leave them in the comments below!

City Wonders Ancient Rome

CityWondersDark Rome Tours, a City Wonders brand, offers small group tours in Italy with expert, English-speaking guides and Skip the Line Access to help you get the best from your vacation. After being suggested to try Dark Rome Tours from our friends at Blogger Bridge, I reached out to them telling them that a girlfriend and I would be visiting Rome for the day, and they graciously booked us for the “Skip the Line: Colosseum Tour with Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.” We were pleased beyond our expectation!

Our Italian guide’s name was Davide, and he was entertaining from the start. His English vocabulary was better than some Americans that I know. 😉 We walked around historic Rome (Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill) for three hours and Davide shared stories – some that I knew and others that I hadn’t. We use headsets, which was helpful because we could wander away from our guide but still hear him.AncientRomeThe Colosseum is one of the iconic tourist attractions in the world with thousands of visitors each year. The crowds are huge and the waiting time can be long. Fortunately, we walked by quickly after getting our bags checked through security. The hill is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands 40 meters above the Forum Romanum, looking down upon it on one side and upon the Circus Maximus on the other.

The Colosseum was built between 70 – 80 AD by Emperors Vespasian and Titus and could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 people. It was used primarily for gladiator contests and special events, such as mock sea battles and wild animal hunts. A gladiator school was built adjacent to the structures and wild animals were housed in the underground portion of the Colosseum. The structure is considered an architectural achievement of the Roman Empire.ColosseumFloorWe learned that the Roman Forum was the town center of Rome. It was the political, religious and shopping center. It contained the Senate, speakers platform, temples and shops. Unfortunately, marble and metals from the structures in Rome were removed from the Roman Forum and the Colosseum to build churches and other structures during medieval times. Davide asked us every step of the way, “Why do you think that this ancient structure is still here?” The answer was because it had been redeemed as a church or the words on the arches honored God. If they did not, but they exhausted the Roman gods, Constantine and rulers that followed destroyed the temples.SenateThe 15th century Church of St Lawrence was built with Roman Forum marble. The Temple of Saturn, built in 490 BC, is believed to be the oldest temple in the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum area was originally swampy and formerly used burial ground. The Roman engineers found a way to build proper drainage, which made the construction of the Colosseum possible. They build the first basilica here, which original was a meeting place for the Romans not a church as modern people now them to be.SaturnFollowing our tour of the Roman Forum, we made our way uphill to the famous Palatine Hill, the home of the Roman Emperors, which overlooks the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. It is a popular tourist destination and provides a great view of the surrounding area.PalatineHillDavide was extremely knowledgeable and interesting. I was very pleased with the quality of the tour and guide. It was nice to have a guide to point out interesting things at all three sites. I can’t imagine visiting the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill without a guide like Davide, who really enriched the experience. Our tour ended in Palatine Hill which afforded us the opportunity to linger longer after the tour was done.

This was an amazing tour experience for us – priceless memories that will last a lifetime. We fell in love with ancient Rome. I would not hesitate to use them again. I find that a good guide always enhances my experience, no matter how much I know about a site. A guide also helps me focus on what specifically interests me. I like the idea of someone else taking care of the details. 😉 Because Davide packed this tour with some much history and interesting facts, I could not imagine writing and sharing all the stories. That being said, it is worth booking this Dark Rome tour the next time you are in Rome.

When in Rome, explore as the Romans did! 😉