About Me

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I'm a 30 something who loves to travel.  I have a full time job and enjoy writing (or blogging) about my travels.  I've traveled through several countries in Europe as well as Russia and Egypt.  I also enjoy domestic travel in the United States, including Disney.  My long term travel goal is to do a round the world trip.  

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reality vs Expectations

I appologize for the lack of posts, I've been having log-in issues that I'm trying to sort out with Google, so on with the post...


Whenever you go on a trip you have certain expectations about what to expect and what will be the highlights. Often though things go differently then planned.

Sometimes it's simple things - when I went to Scandinavia and Russia I was excited to see the hermatige, go bobsledding and seeing the midnight sun, among other things. The hermatige was cool, but not a thrill, nearly feel asleep walking around. Bobsledding was fun, equivalent to a tame rollercoaster. The midnight sun was really at 11:45 and it was cold and windy. The biggest highlight? Berlin at world cup hanging out in the fan mile. I'll write about that another day. In Egypt I couldn't wait to see the great pyramid, but it was a bit disappointing, for a great pyramid. The Valley of the Kings were really cool, so was Abu Simbel and the hot air baloon ride at dawn. I'm still disappointed by the Great Pyarmid, but seeing these other things more then made up for it.

You can plan every aspect of your trip, but things will happen and force you to change plans. Getting lost, museums being closed, plane problems, lost luggage - the list goes on and on. But you need to embrace these things and adjust to the challenges they create. Often a good story will come out of it. What fun is it to come home and tell everyone about how your trip was perfect, exactly as planned?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wanderlust and Lipstick - Book Review

I just finished reading Wanderlust and Lipstick by Beth Whitman. It's a book/guide for women traveling alone. The book is pretty good and an easy read. Beth gives encouragement to women to travel outside the normal spots and to fight the excuses not to travel. The book simply covers just about every aspect of travel, guiding women to and through travel.

The most informative chapter, in my opinion, is the one about staying healthy. Everyone worries about pick pockets, how to get to the hotel, but unless people have medical problems they usually assume they will be healthy on vacation, which isn't always the case. This book makes you realize that things can happen and makes some suggestions to help yourself in case you do get sick.

What I didn't like about the book? It was basic at times.

An experienced traveler could skip this book, but its a great resource for more novice travelers or those looking for encouragement.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Knoxville and the free trolly

Knoxville is a nice little city, though very quiet. The city center is only about 5 blocks by 8 blocks (rough estimate), so it's quite walkable. It's also clean and there aren't a lot of vagrants around. Aside from Market Square there doesn't seem to be much signs of life. Maybe this was because of the poor weather, or maybe it's because I'm used to NYC. I did end up at a movie on Tuesday night, I was the only person in the theater, I almost felt bad about it.

One of the most interesting thing I did there was ride the free trolley. I did it for 2 reasons. One, it got me around the city for free, two - I would be able to see some different ares of the city without walking. I found so much more then just a free mode of transportation, I found a social experiment. The trolley takes you from a couple different areas outside the city center to the city center. Basically on the West side of the city is World's Fair Park and after that is the U. of Tennessee and the suburbs, the park kind of separates the city from the rest. Being free, the shuttle doesn't attract high society. Actually, as a "Northerner" it seemed to have Southern goobers... The people seemed to be one step above being homeless. I expected

to see more students and tourists on the trolley, I saw very little of either. After taking the trolley the first day, I decided to drive the following day. But I did get to see quite a bit of the city. I should have known there wouldn't be many tourists on it since there were very few signs showing where the trolley stopped even though it stopped quite often. But the trolley is a good deal if you're visiting the city and can figure out where it stops.

When I packed for my trip I forget the wire to charge my ipod and ended up going to Best Buy, this took me through the suburbs of Knoxville. They're like the suburbs in most other places. Residential areas and then sections of strip malls with all sorts of shopping along the major roads. All the same types of stores you'll find in other areas of the nation.

One of the nicer spots in Knoxville is Volunteer Landing. When I had heard about it before I thought it was going to be a 2 mile stretch of waterfront with fun and cool activities. It's really just a 2 mile stretch of walkway along the water with 3 restaurants and a fun activity or two. Half of the walkway has a view of the docked river boats. If you're looking for a spot to walk and see the water, it's great, if you're looking for a good time, you might have to go somewhere else.




I visited the Woman's Basketball Hall of Fame. I'm not a huge fan of Basketball, but it seemed interesting and admission was only a few dollars. I was the only person there, but the museum was nice. It was fun to look at all the funny uniforms woman wore over the years. I also liked that I got to see real Olympic medals. The museum has a downstairs section where kids or adults can practice different types of basketball drills. I would rate the museum as a good place to take children. It will only take an hour or 2 (maybe 3 if you're really into it) to go through the museum.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dollywood

As a fan of Disney, I wasn't overly impressed with Dollywood. But, for the location and price I thought it was a good park. It's a cross between a Renaissance Faire and an amusement park. There are sections with the "good" (faster and more daring) rides, then a section with more traditional fair types of rides. There is also a section with renaissance faire types of shops and attractions - leather making, hat making.

The good: It is a nice theme and felt homey and countryish. It also had a good selection of food throughout the park, though when I was there several places were not open due to smaller crowds. I ate at a buffet place with BBQ types of foods, the food was good though I hadn't intended to spend quite so much on lunch. The lines were very short, I never waited more then a couple minutes for any ride.


The bad: You "may" get wet on almost every ride, not a great selling point when it's not hot out. It's a long walk (unless you know the back way up the steep hill) to get to the better rides at the back of the park. The park layout wasn't very good. I don't like going to an amusement park, paying admission and then being asked to pay the regular rate to play a carnival game that I can play at any street carnival. I'm also not a fan of carnival rides at amusement parks, I prefer a better themed ride that's more complex and that I can't find in other places.

Overall it's a good park and a nice place to spend a day if you're in the area. If you're used to a Disney Park then you'll be a bit disappointed at the atmosphere. If you're used to Great Adventure parks you'll probably be disappointed with the rides.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Zorbing

The thing that attracted me to Knoxville was the idea of going zorbing. I figured Tennessee was a lot closer then New Zealand so I would go there, and I Knoxville is a city so I could spend time there, done!

Zorbing is a fun activity created by the Kiwi's, like many other fun activities. They put you in a giant plastic ball and roll you down a hill. There are 2 ways to do this, wet or dry. For the dry version you get harnessed into the ball and your body does whatever the ball is doing, upside down, sideways, etc. When doing it wet, which is what I did, you are put inside the ball with a bucket of water and when you are rolled down the hill so you slide around in the ball, primarily laying down on the bottom of the ball. I found that your head tends to point downhill most of the time. The website says it takes about a minute to roll down the hill, and it was plenty of time for the thrill. The closest thing I can think of to compare it to is that it is like going down one of those giant water slides, for a minute. It's a lot of fun. The wet version has two different tracks, a straight hill and a zig zaggy hill. I did both, the zig zaggy hill does send the ball back and forth a lot more so your body shifts around a lot more as you're going down the hill. I have tight muscles in my neck and shoulders, mom didn't want me to do this convinced I was going to get hurt. However, I had no problems. If you have a similar minor problem you should probably stick with the straight hill wet zorb at least the first time, the zig zag does put a little more stress on the body. If you have more serious neck or back problems you should probably avoid this activity. You can also try and run in the ball as it goes down hill, but you'll need socks for that.

Getting into the ball was interesting. The first time I did it the guy put the hole to the ball in front of me, shoulder height. He told me to take a step back and do a superman jump into. I thought he was joking, but that's actually a good way to get in. To get out they point the hole towards the ground and you go out feet first, it's not graceful, but it gets the job done. Then you have a photo session with the ball. It's clean old good fun and safer then trying to do this on your own...

Zorbing is pricey though. Each roll down the hill is about $40 with tax, there are discounts if you buy packages of rolls though. You can also buy an outfit to wear, the outfit wasn't as nice as I thought it would be, but I have a Zorb t-shirt now. Whether you buy the outfit or not, it's not a bad idea to wear a bathing suit as you will get wet! They also take photos as you go down the hill and after with the ball, the disc for each roll is $20, a rip off, but since I was by myself I didn't have much other choice. $20 seemed particularly harsh when on my first roll the camera wasn't working when I was coming down the hill, I only got pictures of me with the hill and the ball.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pigeon Forge - Vegas for kids

Zorb Smokey Mountains is located in Pigeon Forge, TN. It's a place I had never heard of and it seems the NYC bubble was keeping an interesting place off my radar. Often people not from large cities think that the people in large cities are out of touch with what goes on in other places, sometimes it is true. I actually only know one person who knows what Pigeon Forge is, everyone else I know couldn't even figure out why you would go to Knoxville let a lone Pigeon Forge.

Pigeon Forge struck me as the type of place that people who live within a half days drive might go to for a family summer vacation. It's Vegas for kids! Driving down the main road in Pigeon Forge is like a miniature Las Vegas Blvd. The road is lined with chain restaurants, mini golf, souvenir shops, hotels, go-cart places, arcades and other random attractions for families. It's cheesy middle america and I loved it! There is also Dollywood and its water park. A family could spend a week here as long as they bring plenty of money. I overheard someone from my hotel say that he goes there every other month, I suspect that he's not unusual. There's a lot of fun things to do there and while it's not fancy, it's entertaining. Pigeon Forge also has a couple different outlet centers. I went to one small one but wasn't impressed with it, I didn't even get out of my car. I went to the Tanger Outlet and that had a much better selection of stores. I didn't have much room in my luggage, but I did get a couple things there.

5 miles south of Pigeon Forge is Gattlinburg. Gattlinburg is a nicer area, though similar to Pigeon Forge in some ways. It's more of a walking type of place, a smaller main road and a quainter feel. The road is lined with hotels (if I went back I would look to get a hotel on the river with a view of the river), restaurants and shops. There are also touristy activities - Rippleys Believe it or Not, a Wax museum, and you can take a chair lift to the top of a mountain. I didn't do too much when I was here as I had already spent quite a bit of money that day. I think Gattlinburg is a better place for older children and adults, but either way it's a nice spot to spend some time if you're in the area.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

European Discovery Day 14 & 15

Day 14 (May 21): Paris and back to London

This morning your scheduled tour ends at your accommodation. Then back to London for my last night in Europe.

6:15 came way to quick this morning. At 7:45 we left Maya, Kenny, Vicky, Kreena and Alberto at the hotel as they were not returning to London. I didn't get to say goodbye to Alberto or Vicky. Bye guys! Then we dropped off Michael, Ryan, Mikki, Kamala, Mark, Simon and Anne at the airport since they were leaving later this morning from Paris. It was sad leaving all these people behind, I don't know if or when I'll see them again. After the airport we started back to London, it was a quiet ride. Our first stop would be the Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge where the Canadians and Germans fought in WWI. It was a nicely set up memorial, you could walk through the trenches, it gave you an idea of how aweful it must have been to fight like that. Then we were back on the bus for another hour and a half to Calais and the ferry to Dover. We had lunch on the ferry and then another 2 hour drive to London, we got to the hotel at 3:30.

We didn't say too many goodbyes as we were all meeting at the Goose at 7:30. Nicola came back to my room with me since she was staying at a friend's in another part of London. I actually had a double room this time, my roommate was leaving on the European Magic the next morning. After checking in we headed to the Contiki Basement to check email, we ran into Lisa, Kristen, and Yolandi who were having issues with the Royal National since their travel agent had booked their hotel for the wrong night, they eventually found a place to stay. Then Nicola did a little last minute shopping and went for dinner.

At 7:30 we met up at the goose, where it all started, with Mike, Monica, Laurie, Garry, Yolandi, Lisa, Kristen, Catilin, Jenny, Cindy, Christine, Mike, Mel, Dane, Jen, Reuben, Hansie, Chris, Sophie, Jess, Narelle, Brian and Ali. We all got to meet Hans's girlfriend, Ronnie. Throughout the night people slowly left, and we said our goodbyes, it was sad. Finally Chris, Nicola and I decided to leave, leaving just Hans, Reuben, Ali, Jen and Dane behind. Chris and I got Nicola into a taxi and said our goodbye. Chris and I discussed maybe taking the underground to the airport together the next day.


Day 15 (May 22): London and flying back home

Today I have a little time in the morning to explore London before I head back home.

This morning my roommates 6am wake up call woke me up and I never really got back to sleep. I laid in bed for a while and finally got up, took a shower and headed out to the Contiki Basement to check in for my flight home. I ran into Jenny and Caitlin who were off to the London Eye. They inspired me, I abandoned my plan to take the underground to Heathrow with Chris after checkout, but I did call Chris and invite him to go on the Eye with me, but he declined. So off I went to the London Eye for a ride, with a quick stop in Trafalgar Square to buy a last minute gift. Being back in Trafalgar Square brought back memories of how I had been afraid when I got here two weeks ago. I'm so not intimidated by this city now! I started to hyperventalate just thinking of how much I had progressed as a traveler, and how scared I had been that first day.

I took my 11:00 flight on the London Eye, the view was great, but the ride was so long. Ok, the ride was only 30 minutes but it was so lonely doing it by myself, after 13 days with 47 people, being by myself sucked! After my ride I headed back to the Imperial Hotel to pick up my luggage and then left for the airport at 1:00. I took the wrong branch of the Piccadilly Line of the Underground, fortunately I realized before it was too late. I had lunch at the airport and tried to spend my last few pounds before heading home. It was tough saying goodbye to London as the plane took off, knowing it was the real end of my trip. I tried to watch Ray on the flight home, but found it too slow in the beginning and my ability to concentrate hampered by the lack of sleep over the past two weeks. In the end I watched the Incredibles which cheered me up a bit. The best news of the day was that my flight got in early, hey, if I'm not with my tour, I might as well be home!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Amazing Race

I've recently started watching the Amazing Race, I watched a couple seasons this summer and am watching the new season on TV. This season the racers have gone to Vietnam and for some reason it's making me want to go to SE Asia.

TAR has been to SE Asia a couple times and it always seems really interesting, culturally. But this last season with the trip to Vietnam is pushing me toward making my big trip after getting my dental work to SE Asia. When I think of Australia and New Zealand I feel like, yea, they would be cool and great places to go, but I don't think the cultural differences will be enough to make it an adventure. Plus I think SE Asia is more likely to change and become westernized and Oz and NZ will probably not change as much if trips there had to wait a couple years. But 2 years of dental work might change my mind. Another place I am considering is Africa to go on a safari, but I think that is most likely to happen if my friend who also wants to do that will do it, I don't have much faith that that will happen.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

European Discovery Day 13

Day 13 (May 20): Paris Sightseeing

On our city tour, see the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Nôtre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre, shop on the Champs Elysées and stroll by the Seine. Tonight, why not experience a Parisian cabaret?


Another late morning, didn't have to get up till 7:15! It's a good thing since yesterday I started to get a cold and today I have a cold. At 8:45 the bus left for the Paris Opera House and the optional perfumery demo. I'm not really into perfume and I was congested so I skipped the perfumery. I headed to the Musee Louvre with Nicola, Alberto, Laurie, Garry, Chris, Lisa, and Ali. We quickly got in the Louvre using the back entrance that Hans had showed us the night before and our museum cards we bought. We even managed to find our way around in spite of the fact that they ran out of English maps.

Our first stop was Venus de Milo, pretty girl, too bad she doesn't have any arms. Then we headed through the grand gallery, from the Da Vinci Code, to the Mona Lisa. There was a line to see her, but you could take pictures, but they didn't come out well since she had glass or something covering her. After the Louvre we headed to Notre Dame, which was very nice. After that we all stopped for lunch at a little cafe by Notre Dame.

After lunch Alberto, Nicola and I separated from the rest of the group to go to see The Thinker at the Musee Rodin. We tried to take the Metro but I think we ended up in the wrong station and after examining the map for 20 minutes decided to just walk to the Musee Rodin. We passed the Musse d'Orsay along the way, but didn't go in. While walking Alberto started to drive me nuts. He was walking with his map completely open and every now and then he would tell me where we were, except he would off by 2 blocks. Nothing like doing stuff that screams "tourist" to everyone around. At the Musse Rodin the gardens were beautiful and The Thinker was cool. We took a minute to sit down and rest our tired feet and figure out the Metro. We managed to take the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe without getting lost.

When we got to the Arc de Trimophe it took us a few minutes but we finally found the walkway to the arc. Once in we climbed up a bazillion steps and finally were at the top. At the top we took some pictures and ran into Mike and Mel, we also sat down for a bit to rest our extremely tired feet. The view was really nice, but not as cool as the night view from the Eiffel Tower. On the way down we ran into Michael, Monica, Caitlin and some others. It's amazing how many people we could run into in a day in such a big city, we had run into Maya and some others in the Louvre and Simon and his group at Notre Dame. After the Arc we took a walk down the Champs Elysées for some shopping and delicious Sorbet that I would find. After a couple shops we ran into Maya, Anne, Roshni and Kreena. After that we all headed back to the hotel on the Metro.

After we got back I decided to take a walk to the internet cafe so I could send my "I'm in Paris" emails. When I got back I called mom, hung out with some tour mates in the lobby, and repacked a bit. So much for getting some rest before Moulin Rouge. Kamala, Mikki and I met up with Becca and Zeeni, but not until we were accosted by Frenchmen. We tried walking, but ended up taking the bus to Moulin Rouge, we found a nice little sidewalk cafe to have dinner at before the show. The waiter was very nice, especially considering Becca was the only one who spoke any French, and she didn't speak much. After dinner we finally went to see Moulin Rouge, it was a little weird, but a cool show. But I was so tiredd (should have taken a nap) that I was falling asleep at one point. At the end of the show we lost Becca and Zeeni so the 3 of us left together. Outside Kamala went across the street to take pictures while a bunch of Frenchmen decided they liked Mikki and I. I am not liking these Frenchmen! Anyway, we tried running across the street, yelling at them, but it took a few minutes to shake them, when we got to the bar to meet up with the rest of the group who had gone to the earlier show or had skipped the show all together.

By the time we got to the bar several people had already headed back to the hotel. But the rest of us had fun, I even danced. We left around 2:30 and we all decided it would be a good idea to walk back to the hotel. So Chris, Alberto, Simon, Kamala, Mark, Roshni, Kreena, Mikki, Vicky, Kenny, Michael, and some others walked. But our group got split up half way when someone got hungry and I didn't see the rest of them till morning. But we got to be the loud obnoxious people walking down the street, we didn't get back to the hotel till 3:10, I thought Hans said it was a 20 minute walk? Maybe if we were sober if would have been 20 minutes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tennessee Hotels

I stayed at 3 different hotels when I was in Tennessee, here are reviews of each.

First was the Knoxville Airport Hilton. It was conveniently located right next to the airport. It was a 2 minute walk from the terminal on a covered walkway. The hotel was nice, clean, the room was very large and had a flat screen TV. The bathroom was bit small compared to the rest of the room, but large enough. It's not the cheapest hotel in the area, but the extra cost is worth it for the convenience to the airport. If you're flying in late or flying out early I do recommend it. The free shampoo was really good too, I used that for my whole trip.

Comfort Inn, Pigeon Forge. Located at the south end of Pigeon Forge next to a Denny's the Comfort Inn was nice and a good value. The room was tastefully decorated, large, the bathroom was very large, the bed was comfortable, I had a balcony. Not as nice as the Hilton, but it certainly had all the amenities you would need. There was also an indoor pool with hot tub and access to an outdoor pool at the hotel next door. My only complaint was that there was not enough seating at the breakfast area, though the breakfast spread was very good for an included hotel breakfast.

Hotel St. Oliver located in the Market Square area of Knoxville, the location was great. The hotel had a lot of character; however, it was worn out. This is a budget hotel I found listed in the Moon Guide to Tennessee. For the price it was a good hotel, but it's not the type of place I would recommend to my Mom. The rugs and curtains were stained, and the wallpaper peeling, but the room seemed to have been cleaned. The mattress was comfortable, but it really needed to be replaced. Actually, the housekeeper took my towel, it was a cheap white one I had gotten zorbing and I didn't intend to take it home with me, but since I left it on a counter I thought it was odd that he would take it. I decided that was his tip. One nice touch is that I was actually shown the room before I had to commit to it, maybe I should have looked a little closer at the room. This hotel is good for a budget traveler who likes a more unique hotel instead of the standard chain hotel. But if you're a chain hotel kind of person, this is not the place for you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

European Discovery Day 12

Day 12 (May 19): Lucerne to Paris

Through the French countryside to the romance of Paris. Enjoy a first view of the sights of this spectacular city of light.



Today we got a little later of a start since we were going to the top of Mt. Stanserhorn, so I got to sleep till 6:30, wahoo! We took an 8:10am train up to the gondola that would get us to the top of Mt. Stanserhorn. What a phenomenal view! And, because it was still cloudy this morning, it was actually warmer at the top then in town. We got a nice chance to walk around before coming down so the bus could leave at 9:30 for Paris.

Today I decided to be a flowerbox, I sat in the front row of the bus with Chris. Our first stop was after 3 hours for lunch. I found the French to actually be pretty friendly, but I was a little overwhelmed by the trying to pick out food, I ended up with quiche. Actually, the most stressful part of the whole trip would be the first rest stop in each country, trying to order food in a new culture. After lunch it was a 2 and a half hour ride on the bus, the highlight of this part of the drive would be playing Horse. This is as easy game that anyone can play, see a horse and be the first to call it. One point for real horses, two points for pictures of horses. At this next rest stop the woman was rude, so being an annoying American, I kept going back to her.

Back on the bus Hans gave us a history lesson on France, something about Napoleon. At 7:30pm we finally got to Paris, we had 30 minutes to check in before dinner and our evening tour of Paris. The hotel was nice, but the rooms were smaller than a shoebox for sandals. We had a pretty good dinner at the hotel, Chicken, rice and salad.

At 9:00 we headed out to the Eiffel Tower and the city tour. The first stop was the Eiffel Tower, with a drive through the Arc de Triomphe on the way. We had a bit of a line to get into the Eiffel Tower, but we made the best of our time by starting the wave. The view from the Eiffel Tower was amazing, especially with the late dusk sky. I give credit to those who were afraid of hights, but still went up as I know it wasn't easy for them. Good job gals! Anyway, back to me. I bought myself a giraffe Eiffel Tower and a blinking Eiffel Tower. But the funniest thing was when Mike bought multiple blinking Eiffel Towers and then tried to sell one to one of the peddlers. Mike offered 5 euros, but the guy would only pay 4 and Mike didn't have change for him. Then Michael tried to buy one from him for 2 euros, telling him they were made in China and the cost was really low. Amazingly the guy stuck around quite a while for all the torture we would inflict on him.

After that we did our drive around Paris, we saw a lot of things... The Paris Opera House, The Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee Rodin, Hotel de Ville, and a bunch of other stuff. We got back to the hotel around midnight and got to bed a little after 1:00am.

Monday, October 5, 2009

European Discovery Day 11

Day 11 (May 18): Florence to Lucerne

A spectacular Alpine drive as we pass Lake Como and head for Switzerland. Lucerne awaits with its cobbled streets, and our orientation tour takes in the beautiful wooden Chapel Bridge. This afternoon, there’s also a chance to visit Mt. Stanserhorn.


I was up again at 6:15 for breakfast, and the bus left at 7:30. This morning I got to sit with Lisa, from Australia. We had our first stop at 11am for lunch, I've found that after 3 hours on the bus I start going crazy, thankfully we usually stop by the time we hit 3 hours. After lunch we were back on the bus, we passed Lake Como, which was very beautiful, apparently also expensive. We got into Lucerne around 1:30 - 2:00. We skipped the ride to the top of Mt. Stanserhorn because it was too cloudy to see anything. Hans took us up to the Dying Lion Monument which was carved in honor of the Swiss Guards killed in 1792.

After that Hans took us over the famous Chapel Bridge to a watch and Swiss army knife store. I bought a Swiss army watch and a really cool Swiss army knife for myself and some other souvenirs for family and friends. After I went off with Chris and Alberto looking for a store for Alberto to buy a pen and a cafe to warm up in. We found a store and Alberto bought a very nice Mont Blanc pen for his Dad. Then we searched and searched for a cafe, we ended up in a McDonalds. At either 4:00 or 5:00most of us met up for a boat cruise through Lake Lucerne, which had cheap drinks. The views were very nice, it's a very nice city but unfortunately it was so cloudy you couldn't see much.

After checking into the hotel, finally a decent hotel, we had dinner at the hotel. The party then moved to the hotel bar where people tried to burn off their last Swiss Francs, if they could afford to buy a drink. The bartender was crazy and sold Simon a drink for 20 Swiss Francs that had 17 shots in it. I did try some, and it was pretty good, but due to an aversion to Peach Schnapps I didn't have too much. But Lisa had a good time with the bartender...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Adventures in Pigeon Forge, TN

I thought I would try a different way of posting. I thought I would tell everyone what I did in one big post, then do reviews on particular things in later posts.

I flew out of NY on Sunday evening and after a stopover in DC landed in Knoxville around 9:45 at night. I stayed at the Airport Hilton, which was a good move since the airport and probably the city was dead at that hour of night. I don't even know if I would have been able to get a rental car.

Monday morning I picked up my rental car around 8:00 and drove to Pigeon Forge. I decided since this was going to be the only day when the weather was supposed to be nice that I would Zorb and go to Dollywood. First, I Zorbed, which was tons of fun, then I went to Dollywood. The timing worked out well since Zorb opened at 9am and Dollywood at 10am. I stayed at Dollywood until 4:30-5:00 and went back to Zorb since the guy forgot to give me my CD with the pictures on it. After that I checked into my hotel, Comfort Inn. I rested for a while since I was exhausted from all the fun I had been having. I decided then to go for a drive to Gattlinburg, a nice little town 5 miles south of Pigeon Forge. I didn't do much more then just walk around and check out a couple shops, but it felt good to be out and about and seeing things.

After that I decided it was time for some shopping in Pigeon Forge, I tried one of the outlet centers, but it was lame so I went to the Christmas shops. I did get myself and ornament for my Christmas tree. Back at the hotel I opted for a quick dinner at Denny's. It was actually one of the better Denny's I've been to, and then took a dip in the hot tub, ahhhhhh.

The following morning I was heading to Knoxville but decided to take one more roll down the Zorbing hill. And what kind of trip would it have been if I didn't go to the outlets? I stopped at the Tanger outlets and they were very good, a nice selection of stores. I was also able to get myself a belt and a new pair of sunglasses, both things I had forgotten to bring on the trip. I did buy myself a new wallet too, I was at the outlets so obviously I needed to buy something that was just a good deal. At this point I noticed one of the benefits of only using a carry-on, I couldn't buy much. If I had a full size suitcase I probably would have bought more stuff, but since I had limited space I found myself being very careful as to what I bought, this probably saved me a bunch of money.

What does the future hold in blog posts? Reviews of Pigeon Forge, Gattlinburg, Hotel reviews, My experience Zorbing and at Dollywood.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

European Discovery Day 10

Day 10 (May 17): Rome to Florence

We drive to Florence where our local expert guide takes us on a walking tour of the Duomo, Giotto’s Belltower, Piazza della Signoria and the Basilica of Santa Croce. Enjoy a demonstration of Florentine leathercraft. Tonight join the locals at a restaurant or club.

Today I was up at 6:15, again. We were off to Florence at 7:30am. We arrived in Florence around 12 or 1 in the afternoon and Hans took us to a leather demonstration. I decided everything I was interested in was more than I was willing to spend so I was quickly off to explore. Anne, Nicola, and I took a slow shopping walk up to the academia to see the David. Lucky for us it was cultural week in Italy so we didn't have to pay to get in, I like free stuff! While on line we ran into Mike who was also going to see the David. The David was quite impressive, the detail was amazing (I never saw a statue with veins before), no artwork I would see after could compare to this one.

After that we walked back to the meeting place while doing some shopping and stopping at a church, I believe the Cathedral - Baptistery. At 4:00 we met up with the group in Piazza Santa Croce to get the bus to the hotel. While walking to the bus it started to rain.

After we checked into the hotel we had until 6:30 to be ready for dinner, giving everyone ample time to make themselves pretty. At the optional dinner, which was quite nice and a lot of fun, I sat with Roshni, Kreena, Nicola, Kamala, Mikki, Yolandi, Lisa, Kristen, Anne, Kenny and Vicky. I wasn't overly impressed with the anti-pasta, but the pasta, lasagna and steak were all very good. We had a wonderful opera singer for entertainment, and some dancing music, I even did the Chicken Dance. Yes, I had some wine with my dinner too. I also dragged Simon onto the dance floor to dance and got to dance with Alberto.

At 10:30 we were rounded up to leave, as tonight was the nice for Space. I decided not to go, opting to have drinks at the bar with a bunch of other people who didn't want to go to space. Unfortunately, the bar in the hotel was closed, so ended up just hanging out in the room with Nicola talking till 12:15.