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.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

No good plan goes unpunished

I planned to go to Ireland in May, I was going to visit with one of my tourmates from my Egypt tour.  After talking about it, my Mom decided she wanted to come with me too.  Not so bad, except that she now needs a hip replacement and is having it done 2 weeks before I was planning on going.  I think you can see the problem here.

So I was on to plan B, picking a plan B.  Hmmmm, Paris in Spring sounds lovely.  I could go to Disneyland Paris, the D-Day sites.  What could be better???  Somewhere with cheaper airfare.  I know airfare is up these days and I was bordering on the Summer season, but $1500 seems obscene.

So what the heck could Plan C be???  A lot of the other places I've been thinking about are more like 2 full weeks plus types of trips.  Then I had a thought, what is the Norwegian Epic doing?  With those solo cabin rooms it could be perfect.  It might just be perfect.  The week I was looking at the ship is sailing out of Barcelona on a 7 day cruise through Italy and some little island off of Spain.  And the airfare is well under $1000.  I think we have a winner.  But stay tuned, things are changing quickly!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Pencil Museum

On Contiki's UK tours there is a stop in the English Lake District.  During this stop they offer some activities - kayaking and doing rope courses.  Normally I might be interested in doing something like this, but since my leg was still a little sore from surgery over the summer I didn't think I would be able to do this.  It rained anyway so I was better off.  Instead our driver drove us into the town of Kesik, where we visited the Pencil Museum. 

My bus buddy, Stephanie, mentioned this when she saw it in her Rick Steves book and it became a bit of a joke so we had to go.  I'm not going to tell you that this was the best museum I have ever been to, it was not.  But we had fun there as a group.  We saw a video on pencils, and saw the worlds largest pencil!  What more could you want?  It was actually a pretty good museum for something that had become a joke to us.  We were even given free pencils with our tour.  My only complaint?  The museum shop was expensive, it offered a lot of fancy pencil sets.  I wanted a little something for my nephews, they ended up with pencil sharpeners...

Worth mentioning is that the people who did do the kayaking and rope courses did have a good time, even in the rain.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall is a famous Roman Fortification in Northern England and I got to visit it on my Contiki tour.  Most of it is in ruins, there is the outline of the walls of the fort, but few actual walls.  So, you can see how it was laid out. 

One thing that was not in the brochure was that Hadrian's Wall is at the top of a hill, it makes sense, but isn't necessarily expected.  It's a big hill too, and I got some great pictures of sheep walking up the hill (I was walking they were grazing).  Once at the top of the hill you have to purchase tickets for 4.50 pound, which considering we only had about 20 minutes to explore the actual fort I thought was a bit pricey.  Once I went in and started to explore the winds really picked up.  I was reminded of one of the things I hate about skiing - the cold wind makes my ears hurt.  I explored the grounds a bit but didn't stay too long as my ears simply hurt too much.

The fort is much larger then I thought it would be and it's a fort.  Hearing it called Hadrian's Wall I expected it to be more of just a wall then a fort.  Perhaps I should have researched it a bit before I went.  But the site was well cared for and had many postings telling you which area of the fort you were looking at.  While you can see the wall from where the road is, you will only see the wall, you will not see the remains of what the fort looked like and how it was set up.  They do seem to offer tours, or at least someone does, if you're really into roman history I think that would be better then just walking around the fort, which I think is fine for the casual visitor.

Hadrian's Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the type of attraction that might be on peoples bucket lists.  While it was not one my favorite things I've seen (I have been to the pyramids, my standards are high), I'm glad that I went.  Even when I saw people from my tour relaxing and having hot chocolates at the bottom of the hill I felt like they had missed something, not that I had wasted my time.

Just a reminder that you can find me on Twitter @Travelingiraffe (note there is only 1 "G")

Monday, March 21, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bath and Bristol - so close, yet so far away

Bath and Bristol, two very different cities that are not so far apart geographically.

Bath - a quitessential English city

Bristol - a modern city with just an occasional flash of charm.

I was only in Bristol for a few hours, but I was not impressed.  I was sorry we left Bath so early to get to this city.  It was modern with a river going through it and there was the occasional church or pub that had that old world charm that one looks for in a British city - at least that's what I think people look for.  It was disappointing, especially with so many lovely cities in England like Bath and York. 

Bath on the other hand was an awsome little city.  You stepped into this city and felt transported to England.  The Bath Museum wasn't so great, but the architecture was lovely.  I stopped in a tea shop and had tea with a scone, what could be more British then that?  And the shops all felt and looked local, it was a warm city that I would love to go back and visit again. 

For the rest of you, skip Bristol and spend a few days in Bath, you wont regret it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Touring Plan Follow Up - Disneyland

In Disneyland I used my touring plans to tour the parks and I have to say it worked out pretty well.  I did have a couple waits that were longer then I expected, but I got well more then the average person gets done in a day too.

Here's how day in at Disneyland went (as well as my memory serves me):
Fast Pass for Space Mountain
Matterhorn Bobsled
Peter Pans Flight
Buzz Light Year
Space Mountain
Big Thunder
Jungle Cruise
Indiana Jones
Haunted Mansion
Pirates of the Caribbean
Ice Cream lunch at Golden Horseshoe while watching the show (had an early dinner)
Columbia Sailing Ship
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
Monorail
Captain EO
Autopia
Late Lunch/Early Dinner at Blue Bayou
Sleeping Beauty Walk Through
Snow White's Scary Adventure
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
Small World
Mickey's Toontown Fair, including a picture with Mickey
The Railroad
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
Wait for Wishes and Fantasmic
That's 22 - 25 attractions (depending on how you count) and I also did some shopping!

Day 2 - there were extra morning hours at Disneyland and I was up so I went there first, then went to DCA for the day.

Space Mountain
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
Alice in Wonderland
Pinochio's Daring Adventure
Breakfast in Disneyland

At DCA:
Soarin
Fast passes for Soarin and World of Color
Toy Story Midway Mania
California Screamin
Mickey's Fun Wheel
Aladdin show
Tower of Terror
Soarin
Lunch at the bar at Ariels Grotto
Walt Disney Imagineering at Blue Sky
Tough to be a Bug
Bakery Tour
Tortilla Factory tour
Left the park for shopping at Downtown Disney
Monsters Inc Ride
Waited for World of Color
Tower of Terror

The problem at DCA is that by mid day all of the headliners had long lines and I had already ridden them anyway.  I wasted a lot of time trying to ride Monsters Inc, it was closed most of the day so I went by it a couple times to see if it was open. 

Also worth mentioning is that in those 2 days I noticed a lot of rides having issues.  In addition to Monsters Inc being closed, Indiana Jones was closed the day before when I went to ride that.  Toy Story kept stopping while I was riding it, I also had a long stop when I was on Buzz Lightyear, and also Haunted Mansion stopped briefly.  Rumor around DCA was that Soarin also had issues that day.  I can honestly say that in a week at Disney World I never noticed that many attractions down. 

I got a lot done on both days.  Incase you're wondering about a couple attractions - Muppet Vision 3D and Spalsh Mountain were closed and Grizzley River Run involves water, it wasn't that warm and I was wearing jeans and sneakers - I wasn't risking getting wet.  While I was able to move around the parks pretty quickly since I was by myself I also didn't know the parks so couldn't move quite as quickly as I would have liked, but the touring plans really helped to get me started with the big attractions in the morning.  I also used the Lines application from Touring plans, which helped to keep me from trying to ride an attraction that had a long wait.  I also got myself some badges for reporting posted wait times.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The cost of charging for luggage

I don't usually delve into the TSA and airline policies, since I'm not that well educated on the matter.  But, every now and then a story jumps out at me...

Before 9/11 and the TSA airlines were responsible for carry-on screening - the time before airlines charged for checking your suitcase.  Also, before everyone started trying to carry-on as much as possible.

The Washington Post had an article about how it's costing the TSA to screen these bags at check points and how the TSA wants more money from a security fee (travelers) to pay for this. 

I've finally gotten over the whole pay for your suitcase thing, though I often fly with Jetblue anyway, and now you want me to pay more money for security because I have to pay for my suitcase to go on the plane.  If I didn't distrust the TSA then I might not be so annoyed.

but an even more intersting question is...  If the airlines were still conducting the security would they be so excited about the money they make off the luggage fees, since they would be the ones forking over the extra money for the extra screening.  Well I'm sure they would find a way to make the flyer pay anyway. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Illuminations and the evening shows

My last trip to Disney World was the first time I got to see Illuminations and I really really liked it.  Maybe it's the whole world and Earth and World thing, but I think it's my favorite evening show at Walt Disney World.  Don't get me wrong, I really do enjoy Wishes and Fantasmic, but I connected with Illuminations.

Wishes is primarily a fireworks show, it's a really good one.  But I've also had a front row seat to the Macy's 4th of July Fireworks show, it takes a lot to impress me.  I'm impressed, but I also know that at least once a year I can go see a fantastic fireworks show in my own backyard.

Fantasmic is fantastic!  After I saw it the first time I had to drag my friend to see it on our trip - it rained and none of the characters came out.  I love the characters and the story at the show, as well as the special affects.  What I don't like?  How early you need to get there (though seating is a plus), if it rains they cancel it, and it's not shown every night - making it a pain for scheduling. 

But Illuminations.  I love the globe, the fireworks and how World Showcase is integrated into the show by lighting up each of the pavilions.

I originally wrote this before I went to Disneyland, I thought the best way to deal with my update was to just add to the post my thoughts about the Disneyland shows.  Wishes is still fireworks, the music is great the coordination with the fireworks is great, but it's still just fireworks.  I wasn't in love with fantasmic here, I hear the show itself is better, but I found it was too crowded and hard to see since the show is done pretty much in the middle of the park instead of in a dedicated area.  The experience of watching Fantasmic here took away from the actual show. 

World of Color on the other hand was really good.  I'm still sticking by my love of Illuminations, but this show was special too.  And they have much better organization for seeing the show (with the use of fast pass) that it wasn't as overwhelming as seeing Fantasmic.  Though it is a bit disturbing that I got there over an hour before and couldn't get that good of a spot.  This is one event where the dining package could be worth the cost, just to get the good seats.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New York Times Travel Show

This weekend I went to the New York Times Travel Show, it's the first time I ever went to a travel show and it was just ok.

If you want to enter contests, and collect brochures, this is the place to be!  Bring address labels so it's easier to give out your information.

If you want to learn about destinations, travel, tour companies - it's ok.  Obviously there are lots of vendors there - Greece had a giant set up with lots of tour companies there.  There were all sorts of tour companies there, there were locations.  There are seminars on travel and tons on contests.  But after about an hour or two of being open it started to get very crowded and if you wanted to talk to someone, it was hit or miss.  I can also say that I didn't meet anyone at any table who tried to suck me into anything, a few spoke to me, but no one pushed me.  Which left me wondering why are they there?

But my biggest disappointment was there there wasn't anything there for the locations I'm considering for this year.  I found one person who dealt with Ireland and it wasn't what I was looking for.  There wasn't anything in a few hours drive of my that jumped out at me for a weekend trip.  If you want the caribbean though, the place was flooded!

What I would do differently, I would only go again if I had something in mind - say an African Safari.  I would find out what vendors would be there, if I was interested in any of them and then I would get there early so I could talk to the vendors and see if I could get a discount by booking through any of them.  Also, I would budget a little more time so I could do the rock climbing wall.

My apologies if this post is a little random - I have a headache, it's late and my mind is racing a bit as I write this.