Archive | September, 2018

Jbird’s travel tips for Italy

29 Sep

This was our first time to Italy. I’ve always heard friends say how much they loved Italy. Now I know why. Last year I was in California and met a lady named Alecia and we became friends. She’s fascinating and talented and told me all about her AIRBB in Guardia Sanfranmondi, Italy.  It sounded sooo cool. We had already booked the river cruise so we added Italy to the trip.

We arrived in Naples at 9:15 pm. Alecia and her driver Pasquale picked us up and off we went on a new adventure. As we left the airport we drove down this one highway and on each side of the road were prostitutes. Naked or just in sexy underwear. Not by hotels, just along the side of the road. I feel bad that at first I laughed but then you think about how vulnerable they were. Very sad and dangerous. We did find out later that the mafia is involved in all that area.

First stop was Del Monicos where there were cases and cases of pastries and fresh pizza. I now know that Italian pizza is the best in the world and I need to learn how to make that soft juicy crust that you fold over and eat like a taco. We also enjoyed rum soaked cake and my very first ever espresso.  Soooo fun. We had a rather nervous drive to Guardia, curvy roads, fast driver, but we made it to our place safely. We fell into bed about midnight and Alecia said “just sleep in and then we’ll get together at a café”. At 7:30 there was a loud BOOOOOOOOOOOM  followed by fireworks and then several church bells. We slept with our window open so it was very loud. OMG, we didn’t know what was happening but maybe we were being welcomed to the town. It was actually a celebration for St. Antonio and it was a day long event. Needless to say we were up early and off we went with Alecia to our first café visit and getting organized for the week. Cafe’s were also the only place to use internet. (They would ring bells at 7:30 am every morning and it would sound like an alarm clock and it was to wake everyone up!

It was fun because Alecia knows everyone and she was greeted everywhere and we were introduced to many locals. Alecia is from California but lives in Italy 8 months and speaks fluent Italian. She told us there are many dialects and sometimes what she says may come out wrong.  Our days consisted of walks from our 900 year old apartment to the main street and we would hang at different cafes, walk, a little shopping, and lots of visiting. We could have visited Pompei, Capri, Roma,….but it was so cool just hanging in Guardia that we just did that. Locals became friends and we were treated to special dinners, private tours of the castle and a fabulous art museum. The museum became an archaeological digs. They came across Roman artifacts which many were displayed. Sooo exciting. Denny would get up early and walk to a cafe and explore the town and then I would get up at 8:30, head to the cafe and our day would begin with walking, talking, napping, walking, talking eating and then bed. The shops would close down from 1-5 for siesta. What a way of life. We learned how to make pasta. I was able to do several little paintings. Denny read 3 or 4 books.

That week healed my stomach. Many of you know I can have significant issues traveling. In Guardia we ate all fresh, non processed food, sparkly water, and exercise. Maybe the macchiato drinks helped too. I do believe the afternoon rests helped tremendously. I didn’t even have any Valium with me on the trip. There was no such thing as giant pop drinks, when you drank a macchiato they gave you a cup of water to drink immediately afterwards to keep you from being dehydrated. They also serve after dinner drinks called Digestives. Limincello was the most popular.  I have looked up digestive drinks and am going to try Ginger Beer non alcoholic, lime and ice and do that after dinner. Also herbal teas are suggested. We were also told to eat salads last instead of first. Interesting.

I would say that to be in Guardia you need to be able to go up and down hills and steps. There are B&Bs that aren’t as far away from town as we were though. There are also drivers available if you are unable to walk far but if walkers are needed it could be a little difficult with the narrow cobblestone sidewalks and streets. Of course there are no ADA codes. There is no air conditioning but we were used to that since we don’t have it here in Colorado. A guide is needed because no English is spoken at all there. Alecia was very good in communicating and even though we didn’t do any sight seeing, she is also able to plan day trips and will be your guide for those trips. Our trip was totally off the beaten path and if that sounds interesting to you, please let me know.

We spent out last day in Naples. We took the local bus who goes there daily and since we had 2 21″ suitcases, they were easy to be on the bus. Also only 6 euros instead of 100 to get to Naples. Once we arrived Alecia took us to her favorite places which was a pastry shop, a coffee shop and a restaurant. Naples was crowded, a lots of traffic but beautiful old palaces, buildings, churches, and the Mediterranean Sea full of sailboats and yachts. Many weddings were also taking place in the beauty of the city.  My favorite was the local outdoor market which was huge and went several blocks. It is not just a Saturday market, it is there everyday full of frest veggies, fruit, fish (live eels and octopusses). The locals shop there and so do the restaurants.

By 3 we were done and Alecia discussed cab fare with the driver and we dropped her off at the Metro and we went to the Capodichino Hotel. It is only a few blocks from the airport. We stayed in bed from 4 pm until 4 am when we left to head home. It was a great hotel. The downside was being charged 15 euros for a 2 minute drive to the airport.

Long flight tips: Pick an aisle seat if there are 3 seats or more. I was by the window 2 people had to have 2 had to move for me to get out.  That caused me a little anxiety a made me to pee more. Don’t sit by the engines because it was very loud and hard to even hear the movies that were provided. I’m definitely in love with neck pillows. I chose not to wear a bra traveling on the plane because I don’t like being all squished around my ribs. I also wore leggings, loose dresses. I  chose to travel only with dresses because I had put on a few pounds and all my clothes that needed zipped and buttoned were just too snug. I didn’t want to fret about weight while traveling and wearing loose clothing was not only comfortable but flattering. I saw a tip about having cheap slippers so you can take your shoes off while on the plane so if you go to the bathroom you are protected from the inevitable wet stuff on the floor. Bring your own earplugs to watch movies. The ones they gave out really hurt my ears. I would definitely download “Online Passport” or something like that on your phone. You totally will miss the waiting lines in customs.  I also had energy bars just in case the airline food was tooo weird to eat. International flights generally have pretty good meals. Don’t know what to say about jet lag. This trip’s jet lag wasn’t as bad as coming home from India but do be prepared that you will be out of whack for a few days and you will wake up a lot earlier than normal. Knitting was a great hobby to travel with. Knitting needles are allowed and knitting during long layovers or hanging in cafe’s was great fun.

That’s it for now. We all must take advantage of our time to follow our dreams whatever they may be. We have too many friends who are now not able to travel due to health problems, alzheimers, cancer, injuries, unhealthy. One doesn’t have to go to Europe or exotic places but experience something that you have dreamed about doing and DO IT.  Maybe a painting class, a quilt retreat, a train trip, see friends that you haven’t seen forever,….


Jbird Travel Tips

26 Sep

We had such a wonderful 2 week adventure in Europe.

First week on the Seine River traveling on the Avalon Tapestry II was so relaxing and interesting. We traveled along the coast of France from Paris to Normandy and back. The boat only held 130 passengers so it was fun and easier to connect with others. Meals were delicious and not huge portions. Wine, coffee, and sodas were included in lunch and dinner meals and they would have afternoon happy hours for 1/2 price drinks. They carried non alcoholic wine which was fun for me. I think I was the only one drinking it. Our room was just fine and plenty of room for clothes and they only allowed one bag person so we really packed light. The tours that were included were well done and the guides were knowledegable and were very passionate about the areas we visited. I am not a big fan of bus tours but I did enjoy the trip to Bayeaux, apple orchards, distillery, and my favorite was Auvers-sur-Oise where Van Gogh spent the last year of his life. I loved walking the paths he walked and visiting the room he rented, seeing the café he would eat his meals, and actually seeing the sights he painted. Loved loved loved it. I was truly inspired to paint after visiting the Monet home and gardens in Giverny. Again to see where the artist sat and flowers he planted were so inspiring and seriously stirred my desire to paint. I had so much fun using the little set of water colors I purchased at the gift shop there. Another favorite was riding bicycles that were provided by the boat along the Seine in 2 different areas. Very fun and good to get our bodies moving. Enjoyed the Segway ride but it was on the scary side because of all the people on the sidewalks and crossing traffic and it wasn’t fun going over a bump and falling and hurting my elbow.

Tips for River Boat Cruise: Going down the river was very calming. There was river traffic of barges, barges that had become homes hooked up along the banks, swans, the lock system. Much better than the big cruise ships. There were extra tours that were available but we didn’t do them and they could be a little pricey but passengers who did them liked them.  We were there in high tourist season so the Normandy Beaches and the Monet Gardens were very crowded which takes some fun out of the tour but going at a less busy time would be better. A few passengers rented their own cars and toured on thier own. Beware of busy towns thought because the traffic is crazy. There were ports where you could walk off the boat and walk around on your own which is always fun and once again the bicycles were in good shape and fun. 10 passengers did back to back cruises and that isn’t a bad idea. We stayed on the lowest floor of the boat which saves some money and it was fine. There was some boat noise that we never did know what it was but it wasn’t 24 7. By sticking to the included tours, bringing your own drinks like soda, (I’m not sure about alcohol) you save some money by not spending 2 euros for each soda. Staying away from souvenirs or other purchases if possible and these river tours are really reasonable if you get a deal on a flight also. Avalon is a step up from Viking. We did have our laundry done on the boat and it wasn’t horribly expensive but traveling light we really did need it done. Gratuities at the end of the trip is also some expense but deserved. Nice bathrooms in each room. TV in room and it was fun to be able to watch movies. All in all totally recommend. We booked through Cruise Holidays of Topeka. Judy and Dick have done most of the river tours and can help you with whatever type of cruise you would like.

I’ll write the Italy adventure tomorrow!!