Miami Weekend Takeover

Short trips are a perfect way to step out and recharge and there are few places that give you more variety in relaxation and fun that a weekend getaway to Miami. Miami has long been one of favorite places as it is almost like taking an international trip on a domestic budget.  The warm weather and international vibe make the city a huge melting pot with a little something for everyone.

Your hotel choice on a pop in flight to Miami sets the tone for what kind of weekend you should expect.  You can stay in the middle of the madness in prime time South Beach with a low Ocean or Collins address.  Just make sure to read up on the hotel instead of just looking at pictures as the lobby in some of these hotels can far outpace the reality of the rooms.  You can also go for some of the hotels on 17th and higher that tend to deliver a bit better on the rooms while a little more walking is required for fun.  If you are on the beach side of the street, however, you normally get direct beach access which is always a plus.  If R & R is your top priority going up to mid-beach area or Downtown Miami are great bets for a more relaxed and luxurious atmosphere.

I like the best of both worlds so I usually stay on Collins. I spun off from my usual SLS and hopped across the street to the Delano. The hotel is a great boutique concept with a good mix of business travelers, partiers and families.  While it is a little slower than my typical SLS expectations, the pool is to die for.  Heated to a baby hot tub temperature it is a great way to relax from a day at the beach or meet new friends who are kind enough to send over a bottle of champagne (if you are lucky).

One of my favorite things about a weekend in Miami is that you never know what you can expect. If you are open to let the opportunities find you, then you really never know where you can end up.  This trip in taking a quick beach day detour for sunblock we came to the Ritz Carton restaurant’s showcase of a new grill and White House Chefs tour.  Soon as I caught a whiff of what they were serving up I was sold and what started as a short walk to Walgreens became a great taste of new creations both on the grill and behind the bar.

While weekend trips can be short, they abbreviated length puts you on notice to make the best of it. If you can to rest dive in, if you came for fun plaster a smile on a friendly ear and get out there.  With a good attitude you can easily get everything you want out of a quick trip and when in Miami you can make sure the city owes you nothing when you pop in and pop out.

Buckle your seatbeat! My guide to traveling with young children

One of the question I am most frequently asked about my travel plans is how do I successfully travel with a young child. Well I am not sure how successfully I do it as I have endured pee, pooh, puke and screaming in my adventures in traveling with my son but travel we do as we are 2 continents and five countries down as we celebrate his 18th month.  While I am no expert in how to do it without tears, and I mean my own tears not his, I have learned some tips to survive the journey.

1 – Study your child’s habits and proceed accordingly: Knowing what your child’s daily habits are an important way to cut down on surprises during a trip. If they nap every day at noon, you wanting to see a landmark on a given day does not change that habit for them. As best you can keeping with a child’s normal schedule helps cut down on them acting out of character. This means even testing what they do if they are off schedule so you can know how bad it can get. While I do not suggest you plan a whole vacation around your child’s home schedule knowing what you are in for helps you keep calm when they are not their normal sunshine state. Please note if your child is typically a wild child or requires bribing to get them on track this will not change and you should still proceed accordingly (vacations do not make angels out of children, especially small ones

2 – Plan Smart: From travel gear to snacks on hand, there is a lot that preparation can do to keep you relaxed and your kids happen. One of the best decisions I made was investing in a small stroller/car seat combo that makes the transition from plane to walking to car a breeze. This doesn’t mean try to bring your house with you because that is stressful in other ways. Just pack 3 to 4 essentials and realize that sometimes nothing will make your kid happy so you have to keep it moving. When it comes to fights a lot of great planning can come in your seat selection. This of course takes planning or surcharged rates but being close to loved ones, bathrooms or even, crib accessibility on overnight flights can be key to a win.

3 -Shit happens: Literally and figuratively shit happens. Knowing the unexpected will happen gives you a chance to make peace with it. So if you pull the unlucky card to have the stomach sickness inflight with a small child you can do what you can and forget about the rest. Place your bet on the fact that your child won’t be a perfect angel and you can be responsive to the things that don’t go as smoothly as you would hope.

4 – Get over yourself: Part of the concern we have is what others will think of us when our kids are not perfect travel buddies. Yes you will get the annoyed glares when you walk on the plane but don’t take it so personal. Most of us have travelled with and without children so we know both sides of the coin.   Children are as much a part of plane expectations as people stealing your armrest and the occasion passenger with BO. Swallowing your pride, offering an occasional apology when it is due, and working to make your child comfortable and no menace to others is the best you can do, getting worked up about falling short of perfection will only stress you and your child.

Beating down the streets in Barcelona

barcelona-12On a weeklong Mediterranean cruise you run into a lot of cities that are beautiful or memorable, but if I had to choose one that was the perfect blend it would without doubt be Barcelona. With the city being easy to navigate, full of history, breathtakingly beautiful, with a plectra of fun family options and as a bonus filled with friendly people Barcelona was the highlight of my cruise stops.  With 3 days behind me on my tour I happily hopped off the boat for my half day tour and full day exploration of Barcelona.

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There are almost too many great choices on tours for Barcelona. Unfortunately procrastination had me with only one so I left for a half day shopping and church tour. This would give me a tour of the city’s most famous church, but more importantly access to a local tour guide who could point me in the right direction of things that were in line with what I wanted to see while in Barcelona.  The first stop of the tour was Sagrada Faimilia.  This renowned masterpiece by Gaudi is a masterpiece containing chapels, crypts, a nativity façade, and still work that continues today.  It is definitely a memorable church in the European tour because of the meaning behind all of the design.  From the towers that represent the Gospels and life of Jesus to the facades that represents crucial portions of Christ’s life it is a great way to reflect on the marvels of architecture and the enormous belief behind each step of the church.

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barcelona-6It is at this point that I realize that Barcelona is waaaayyy to amazing just to dedicate one day to! From our tour bus I saw so many places that begged me to come for a visit.  Unfortunately the tour was over and upon the drop off at our shopping location the tour guide gave me some suggestions and I went on my way!  barcelona-5 barcelona-13 barcelona-11 barcelona-7From the Gothic Quarter you are in a perfect location to explore.  As off the beaten path is the usually the way for me I started away from Las Rambas and discovered the alleys of shops and restaurants in the Gothic quarter.  It is a mix of architecture and design that walks you back in time while still throwing in some very modern conveniences.  The people of the city are incredibly friendly and I often stopped and talked and shopped and of course ate and loved every second of it.  The parks and museums along the way were just icing on the cake in a city I felt right at home in.

barcelona-2 barcelona-8As I strolled back down Las Ramblas heading back towards the boat I still wanted more of Barcelona.  This is definitely a city I could live in and a highlight on my cruise itinerary.

Taking on Sicily with a stop in Palermo

horse-drawn-carriage-in-palmeroOutside a scene from the Godfather, planning a trip to Palmero, Italy had never been on my radar.  The blessing about a cruise itinerary, however, is it can force you to explore parts of a country that previously were not at all on your map.  After getting a little of a late start from a full day of exploration in Rome, we hopped off the boat and on to a Palmero adventure.

As with many cities that have an active tourist influx, there was an assortment of choices of what to do in Palmero right off the boat.  Of course with research you can have a pretty good idea of what is a highlight on your list.  As I had not gotten around to that part my hopes were to grab some good food at best and make the most of it.  What caught my eye upon exiting the boat was the horse drawn carriage tours.  My daughter has a mild horse obsession and I thought it would be a great way to make some ground in exploring Palmero under the guidance of a local.

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Of course with this being Italy negotiation is key and the optimal time for that is before you agree to anything.  This was a lesson in retrospect for me, though and after hearing the price we hopped in and off to our tour.  palermo-12 palermo-3Palmero is an old town and the balance between the old and new results in a busy city patiently waiting for the stream of horse drawn tours all through the city.  These tours offer several city highlights that you can choose to hit or miss during your tour.  We started with a stop at an old opera house that looked relatively interesting.  After getting locked in and a small panic attack at the thought of being locked in this Italian opera house we thought pass bys were just as good as full time exploration.  I got to see the Theatro Massimo stairs of the famous Godfather scene which covered what I knew of Palermo before I went.  Churches like the Oratorio di Santa City are always breathtaking and a good way to slow down parts of your trip and just enjoy and be thankful.

Probably what we like best about this type of tour option is the ability to customize it to just what you want, when you want.  If I say the Fontana Pretoria that struck my fancy I was able to say yes I love it stop or nope I’ve seen 5 keep moving.  One of my favorites stops was the tree garden, Orto botanico di Palermo, within the city.   orto-botanico-di-palermo-3Something about trees that have lived from hundreds of years put in in total awe of Mother Nature.  The fact that I got to combine this with hop offs in stores, churches, and landmarks alike put this tour pretty high on the top of my list on how to get around Palmero. 

Travel Review: The Intercontinental Sydney

Intercontinental Sydney (5)As with many historical cities, there are many parts of Sydney that are a throwback to a historical era long pasted.  Although located in the Circular Quay and surrounded by historical foundations of the city such as the Botanical Gardens and the Rocks area, the Intercontinental Sydney is not one of those throwbacks.  Instead the hotel is a modern perspective of the future of the city focused on the innovation and comfort that comes from a blend of old and new.

Intercontinental Sydney (3)With the hotel being just a block away from the Circular Quay you can easily take advantage of being in one of the most transportation parts of the city.  A short walk to the Central Business District puts you within a short strech to the train system and for the more scenic route a block away from the entrance of the several water ports of the city’s ferry system.  Although I love mobility my favorite feature of the location is actually its closeness to the Botanical Gardens.  The Gardens is a huge park wonderland with features from ponds and lakes, to rose gardens and even some historical homes that are open to the public.  It is a great place to take a picnic, enjoy a view of the Opera House or just read and relax under a tree.  In perfect understanding of one its best features by association the hotel even offers meal options that let you customize a picnic (be it romantic or casual) and head over to the Gardens for a day of relaxation. Intercontinental Sydney (1)Intercontinental Sydney (2)Intercontinental Sydney (4)

In its modern ease the hotel provides a renovation that equally places pieces of the past with the smooth lines and minimal approach of more modern design.  From the sleek lobby to the beautiful seating in the lounge you saw pieces of both the new and old that appeal to those who prefer the sleeker side of things, but still love the heritage, culture and history you can find in Sydney.  Likewise the rooms offer modern design features and modern appeal like a digital greeting and TV guide, combined with some flashback components such as the more antique feel of the bathroom décor.   Other amenities are completely modern such as their indoor pool and work out facilities, offering all of (or even more) of the conveniences of home to ensure you have a fantastic stay. Intercontinental Sydney (10) Intercontinental Sydney (6) Intercontinental Sydney (9)

 

 

 

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