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, September 29, 2011

Fort William Henry Hotel & Conference Center

In August I finally used my winnings from the New York Travel Show - a 2 night stay at the Fort William Henry Hotel, Grand Hotel.  Overall the stay was fine, but there were definitely some bumps in the road.

I made my reservation about 2 weeks ahead of time and confirmed my reservation the day before heading up to Lake George.  The room was supposed to be a lake view room with 2 beds.  However, when I arrived I was put into a room with 1 bed.  The most annoying part of this was that I found out when I walked into the room, the desk clerk never told me about the change.  The problem is that I was traveling with a friend who I was not confortable sharing a bed with.  I did call and inquire about this and was told that there were no rooms with 2 beds available in the Grand Hotel, only in the lower end sections.  My friend and I opted to stay in the room and each of us slept on the couch 1 night and the bed the other night. I'm not sure what happened with this, no explanation was given, nor was there any effort made to apologize for the error.  Since I didn't pay for the room I didn't push the issue.

The other bump that happened was that when I went to check out I was asked if I wanted to put the room charge of $650 on my credit card.  That lead to a 5 minute search for my gift certificate.  Not a big deal, but just another example of the lackluster customer service at the hotel.

As for everything else, the hotel was quite nice.  Our room was a little dark for my taste, but was nicely decorated.  The bathroom was large and clean.  The view was picturesque of the lake.  The pool was nice, but I missed that there was no hot tub at the outdoor pool.

The restaurant, the White Lion, was nice. I had breakfast their and the food was good and reasonably priced.  I didn't find the wait staff to be the best, but they weren't bad either.  I mention that because I have seen many complaints about them.

The housekeeping staff also did a good job.  When we called for additional sheets and blankets they came quickly.  The room was clean and well stocked.  They also never interrupted us as sometimes happens when housekeeping wants to clean rooms.

The common areas were ok, nicely decorated and clean.  But I swear the one elevator smelled a little like pee the first day we were there.

The hotel website says they have internet, but the internet was only available in the sitting area on the first floor, I'm not sure if they charged for it.

Overall, the hotel was nice, the Grand Hotel is supposed to be the nicest in Lake George.  It certainly looked like it from the outside.  But I hope their are hotels with better service.  If I returned to Lake George The Fort William Henry would not be my first choice.  I think that's sad.  I thought one of the reasons hotels offered such promotions was to bring in new customers, but their customer service didn't match the quality and price of the hotel.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Norway's Maritime History or Not

I'm watching a Rick Steve's video podcast about Norway's Maritime History, the museums in Bygdoy.  I was in Oslo when I took a Contiki tour back in 2006 and I went to Bygdoy, but I never went to any of the museums there, so as I'm watching this I was thinking - I didn't see that.  As opposed to the joy I get when I watch shows and say "I've been there!"

Where I hung out instead, not too bad!
The reason I didn't go is that I'm not really in Viking History, I'm into all sorts of history, but more modern history topics.  And I like boats and the sea, but when I walked up to the museums and saw how much money they wanted, I decided that this wasn't what I came to see, I wanted to see the beauty of Scandinavia. 

In the end I don't regret my decision, I saw what I wanted to see in Scandinavia - beauty!  Sometimes I think I should have gone to one of these museums, but I don't have a feeling of regret about it.  I think we all need to have goals in our trips, maybe it's seeing the Mona Lisa or the Vatican, or maybe you just want to relax and you can count your success with how many pina colladas you had on the beach.  In the end the only person you need to satisfy with your trip is you, so do what you want to do, even if it means skipping the major sites of a location.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sagrada Familia: Where Art and Architecture Blend Together

I'll get it out of the way at the start - this is my favorite church, EVER! 

With all the fabulous things I have seen in my life, this is one of two that stopped me dead in my tracks.  Sagrada Familia is the type of place where I could spend days just exploring the intricacies and simply being present.  In my last post about Gaudi I talked about Art and Architecture meeting - this is where it blends.  Oh, the other thing that stopped me was David in Florence, I could have stared at him for hours.

Model of the church when completed
The church has 3 facades, but only 2 are completed: Passion Facade and Nativity Facade. I thought the Passion Facade was overdone, it just has a little too much going on to appreciate the scenes. 

Nativity Facade
The Passion Facade is so dramtic and clean (it's supposed to have a boney look) that it really relays the drama of the Passion (as in Christ on the Cross - THAT passion). 
Passion Facade
But the top of the church has lots of interesting things, yes some of those things are fruit.  And the arches or butresses that hold up the church, they're supposed to look like trees, it's not just your imagination.  Guadi was very into nature, and it is a leading element of the design.

The inside of the church has a very churchlike design.  A cross layout, the alter with jesus on the cross hanging over it, choir areas, stained glass.  At first glance it's an obvious chatholic church.  But Gaudi's touches make it so unique.  There are soft flowing lines, the pillars are designed to look like trees, and the ceiling is like a conopy of leaves, that whole art blending into architecture thing!

 I thought I would be here for an hour but I was here at least 2 hours, I would have stayed longer, but I had other things on my list for the day.

Just some tips for visiting, which you MUST do if you're in Barcelona.  Go early or get tickets in advance.  I arrived at 8:30 (they open at 9:00) and there were probably already 50-100 people on line.  Also, bring cash, they don't take credit cards.  I also think that you'll need to get the audio guide, it's well done and explains the nuances of Gaudi's designs.

If you're interested in more about Barcelona or Gaudi please click the links of past blog posts.

I have tons of photos, it was hard to choose which to post and which to leave out.  I will be posting many more photos as part of the photo of the week on Mondays.

Reminder: I can be found on Twitter @Travelingiraffe

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gaudi's Barcelona - Where Art and Architecture Meet

Barcelona from Park Guell
I'm riding around Barcelona on my first afternoon in the city and I'm more asleep then awake, I guess 4 hours of sleep on a plane wasn't enough.  I decide I had to get off the bus soon and as I try to think where to do that I looked up and see Sagrada Familia.  I wasn't planning on seeing the church now, but if it woke me up, then it did the job so I got off the bus.  It was time to explore Gaudi's Barcelona...

Park Guell
Antoni Gaudi was a modernistic architect with a very unique sytle, he has left his fingerprint all over Barcelona.  He's best known for his work designing Sagrada Familia; but, he is also know for Park Guell, Casa Batllo and Casa Mila.

I'm going to skip Sagrada Familia for now, except to say that it's magnificent!  It's so magnificent that it deserves its own post.  My next stop after waking up was Park Guell.

Maybe I was tired and cranky but the first thing I thought of when I walked in was the time Disney did that cheesy overlay on Cinderella's Castle, not a good sign.  Looking at it now I'm not quite so repulsed by it, it reminds me more of gingerbread houses and they're kinda cute, right?  Ok, the highlight here was that I bought a bunch of really cute necklaces for 3 euro each, I bought one for every girl I know.
Park Guell

I only ever saw Casa Mila from the outside and it's a pretty cool looking building, and not totally out of place.  It blended in with the nearby architecutre, but was also distinct.

Casa Mila
At this point, I wasn't totally digging Gaudi, I thought he was a little out there.  But I went to Casa Batllo anyway, I had heard great things.  The outside of the house doesn't do much for me, too bright and out of place on the block.  I slowly started to adjust to the place, as I started to see his designs giving flow to the house.  How much thought was put into functionality, and not just making things look good, this place really started to grow on me - this is where I started to see his architecture as a form of art.  Some of it is over the top, but the combination of nature and curved lines actually started to sit well with my contemporary design leanings.  There were a few weird things, but overall I really liked this place. 
Casa Batllo
Whether you like Guadi's work or not, he really does have a style all his own. He designs with a purpose and a lot of his work is not only functional, but is also a piece of art. I'm not sure I would hire Gaudi to design my house (ya know, from the grave - he did passed away years ago), but I wouldn't rule out the possibility either.
Casa Batllo Dining Room

Seating for a courting couple

This is the second part of a series on Barcelona, the first post can be found here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Photo of the Week: England

From:  London - The Changing of the Guard
Hey, not all jobs are created equal - Happy Labor Day!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

British Museum

Rosetta Stone
The first time I visited London I didn't have much interest in the British Museum.  But on my trip last year it was at the top of the list.  The difference?  I had been to Egypt and wanted to see the Rosetta Stone

The British Museum is great.  The main atrium was large and open with lots of natural light.  There were also benches where you could rest while you planned your attack on the museum. 

Off the main room is the Rosetta Stone, other then being a big rock with 3 languages (Dolmotic, Greek, Hyroglypyics) on it, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  Well, it is a BIG rock with tiny print on it, I think that was what surprised me most.  In the Egyptian temples hyroglyphics are so large, but on the Rosetta Stone it was tiny. 

I did visit the rest of the Egyptian exhibit, which had some really impressive pieces.  The collection wasn't even close to as large as The Met in New York City.  But, the pieces were better, if you don't factor in that the Met has a temple.  Hmmm, Temple vs Rosetta Stone - I think Rosetta Stone wins for it lasting influence.   

Next I went to the Greek exhibits, which were impressive in the calabre of the art - heck when you steal from the Parthenon you will get some good art.  But like most ancient greek art, it wasn't in great condition - missing arms, legs, heads, etc.  Don't get me wrong, what they had was well cared for, it just hadn't lasted the test of time before being rescued for the elements. 

After this I decided to head back to my hotel.  After flying in that morning, and visiting St. Paul's I was a bit exhausted.  But for the price of FREE - the British Museum is more then a bargain!  I did hear that the British govenrment is considering charging to visit the British Museum, so if you're to London soon that should definately be high on your list.

Reminder: I can be found on Twitter @Travelingiraffe