Posted in Destinations, Italy

Venice, Italy

  • The Grand Canal - Venice, Italy
 

Our Itinerary:

Nice, France to Venice, Italy

Duration: 2 Days

Travel: Depart Nice, Italy 09:00 – travel by rental car.

We drove from Nice to Venice as it had been a life long dream to spend my birthday in Venice.  When we landed in Nice we picked up our rental car – an Opel Mokka – with the intention of driving to Venice.  After several wonderful days in Nice, we loaded up into the Mokka and hit the road!  Now it should be noted that the Mokka may say it is rated for 5 Adults and their luggage, but what it really means is 3 1/2 people with small overnight bags.  Alas, that was not us.  Instead we had suitcases jammed all over the vehicle.  A tight fit indeed.  It should also be noted that this particular SUV has all of the power of a squirrel pushing a skateboard.  The driving in Italy can only be described as break neck.  I suspect this is the reason why Italy produces so many professional race car drivers.  More on the drive here.

Hotel: Hotel Villa Adele – 3.5 Stars out of 5.  Average price $84 per night for a triple room with balcony.

This hotel is a well situated within 10 minutes from the Historic Venice Downtown in a nice, quiet area.

There are only 18 rooms in the hotel – spread over three floors.  Unfortunately, there are no elevators.  And our room was on the top floor.  That said, I loved the hotel.  The rooms were very historical – and unique.  A really good value for the price and location.

There is a breakfast that is offered during the early hours as well…though we didn’t manage to wake up early enough to partake.

Within a couple of blocks from the hotel is a stop for the local transit (passes can be purchased from the front desk).  From there it is a short journey to the Grand Canals.

 

Must See/Do in Venice: Take public transit to the Grand Canal.

Places we visited on this trip, and reviews of them:

  • Caffè Lavena – Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square). 2 Stars out of 5.  This restaurant is the exact reason why you should never eat in the touristy areas.  But in our case, even though we knew better, we were starving.  We were still starving after we left.  I started with the coquille saint jacques – see pictures – which were so over cooked they were nearly impossible to get out of the shells.  I then had the Ravioli – again see the pics – which really looked as though they dumped canned cat food on top…kinda tasted like it too.

The service is overly pompous – and odd.  We wanted water.  There were four of us.  The waiter brought one small bottle (6 Euros).  We requested more.  Again, one bottle.  Ugh.  That was the real sign of things to come.

  • Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) – The main attraction on land in Venice.
  • Pizzeria Capri – 5 Stars out of 5.  A must stop for some of the best pizza you will have!  Fantastic service, great prices and amazing food.

Resources for Travel to Italy:

Posted in Destinations, Italy

Must See and Do in Rome

Unless you have endless time in Rome, you will have to make a list of activities and sights that you want to see.  And prioritize them.  Nothing happens quickly in Rome.

There is just so much to see and do.  Take my word for this.  Just wandering the streets takes hours as every shop and every cafe offers treats that are just too good to pass up.

Here are some of the things that I think you really have to do:

Gallery Borghese: My absolute favorite part of our visit to Rome.  Go fawn over works such as  Apollo and Daphne,  and David (as in David and Goliath). Be sure you book your tickets in advance – space is very limited.  Each visit gives you two hours to tour around inside the gallery – and it really does take that long to properly take it all in.

The Colosseum (DUH) you can’t go to Rome without seeing it.  But try to do a night tour instead of the day one.  Not only is it a lot less expensive and not nearly as crowded, but the dark just adds another layer to the tour.

– Shopping (another DUH).  Try the Via del Corso – it is a handy Metro ride from almost anywhere in the city.  On the main road you will find all of the extremely pricey shops such as Armani and Dolce and Gabanna.  If paying $900 Euros for a t-shirt isn’t your thing, go a block or two off the main road – this is where you find the great little shops and cafes.

Most of Rome is laid out like this – the expensive, designer shops are on the main roads, and the bargains and mom & pop shops are all along the streets behind.  Be patient.  There are tons of great little shops – and finding them is half the fun.

 

Resources for Travel to Italy:

Posted in Monaco

Monte Carlo, Monaco

  • View from the train on the way to Monaco

Our Itinerary:

Nice, France to Monte Carlo, Monaco

Duration: 1 Days

Train:

Hotel: None – was just a day trip.

 

Must See/Do in Monaco: The Casino Monte Carlo.

Places we visited on this trip, and reviews of them:

 

Posted in US

Seattle, Washington

Coming soon.

Posted in Italy

Northern Italy by Car

We packed in like sardines into our handy Opel Mokka.

Toll roads are crazy when you know nothing about them and they only yell at you in Italian.

 

Resources for Travel to Italy:

Posted in Italy

Milan, Italy

  • Sforza Castle

 

Our Apartment in Milan

Itinerary Coming soon…

Resources for Travel to Italy:

Posted in France

Paris, France

  • Parker enjoying the best hotdog ever.

France.  In February.  While South of France may be just fine in February – Paris on the other hand is darn right frosty cold.

Our Itinerary:

Nice, France to Paris, France

Duration: 2 Days

Flight: Depart Nice (NCE) 07:05.   Arrive in Paris (ORD) 08:35 on EasyJet Airlines.

Flight Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars.  Bare bones airline, but hey, it got us there in one piece and on time.

Hotel: Kyriad Massey – Opera.   5 Stars out of 5.  Average price of $86 per night.  This hotel is one of the best deals I have found while travelling.  As there were four of us – none of which wanting to share a bed – we were absolutely delighted with this room.  It had enough room for all of us and our bags.  

The hotel also features a great little buffet style restaurant serving daily breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets for a great price.  The food is fresh and plentiful.

Getting Around: Located a short walk from the hotel is a Paris Metro subway train station.  Hop on board and you are You will have to change trains once – then stay on until you hit the Notre Dame stop.

Posted in Canada

Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Ahh The Island.  One of my favourite places to visit in Canada. 

Getting to the Island can either be a great experience or a bitter, nasty, frustrating one.  It kinda depends on you.

You see, to get to the Island you either need to fly in or float over…and by float I mean on board BC Ferries.

Taking the Ferry across the bay is a very enjoyable experience by itself.  It is the getting on and off that sucks.

First off, if you are travelling anywhere near the summer months or a long weekend, go to the BC Ferries website and make a reservation for the crossing time nearest to when you will be there.  During the hot spot times there can three and four sailing waits to cross!  Do not miss half your vacation sitting at the terminal waiting with the other schmucks that didn’t prebook.

Once you get to the terminal follow the signs and instructions on which lane to wait in.  Listen to the nice Ferry folks – they are not trying to trick you.

If you are hungry and/or thirsty be aware that there is a mad panic like rush of passengers from their parked vehicles to the restaurants and shops.  Choose wisely here.  Unless we are starving, we will go find good seats for sightseeing and eat later on in the sailing…but the choice is up to you.

When you draw near to the other side, you will be prompted to return to your vehicles and prepare for off boarding.  Again. Listen to the nice Ferry folks.  Be prepared.  

When you leave the ferry, you will have to go either left or right – know in advance which direction you are needing.  There are a ton of vehicles just like you getting off the boat – don’t be that guy that holds everyone else that is prepared up.

Must See and Do on the Island:

Goats on the Roof aka Old Country Market, Coombs.  By far the best market you will ever shop in.  There is literally everything in here.  Plus the goats on the roof are legendary in and of themselves.

The Amazing Sandcastle Competitions of Parksville.  Another absolute must see.  The gorgeous sandy beaches quickly become packed with other gawkers but it is worth it.

 

Posted in Canada

Edmonton, Alberta

Being from Edmonton, I thought I would use this spot to shout out to a few of my favourite digs and dives.

Restaurants:

Sumo Sumo Sushi, Sherwood Park.  Absolutely the best sushi in the area.  Be sure to try the volcano rolls!  OMG.

Bodega Tapas Bar.  Half price bottles of wine.  Need I say more?  The selection of wines changes daily, so even more reasons to stop in often.  Oh and be sure to have some tapas while you are at it.  It is really, really good and their prices are excellent.

The Rec Room, South Side.  This place is just so much fun! Be sure to try the race car simulator and the old school type games in the back corner.

Guru Indian Restaurant.  We have been coming here for years.  Still the best Indian food anywhere around.  Amazing.  Be sure to have the Chai tea as well.  It is worth the wait.

Check back next week for favourite things to do in the area.

Comment below: What are your favourite restaurants in Edmonton and area??

 

Posted in US

Long Beach, California

  • Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in all her splendor

Why Long Beach?  Why not Los Angeles or San Diego?

Speed baby!!  Long Beach is the home of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Once a year Ocean Drive transforms and the City embraces all that Indy Car racing has to offer.

If you have never been, you must go!  Even if you have been to races at other venues, you haven’t seen anything until you have seen it done at Long Beach!

GPLB offers an action packed week long event, with various events happening all over town during the week building up to the race.  

Go to GPLB.com for full race details.

Be sure to shop around early for the best deals on hotels – they sell out pretty fast.

Flight: The best way to fly in is to fly directly to the Long Beach Airport – it is my favorite US airport!  You pick your bags up outside, and there is almost always a food truck there that serves some fantastic chow!

You can also fly in to LAX and shuttle to Long Beach…but LAX is definitely missing all of the charm and personality that Long Beach offers.

Hotel: I have stayed at the Vagabond Inn (150 Alamitos Ave) on two of the times I went.  Average price during race weekend is $152 US per night.  

Hotel Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars.  I’ll be honest with you, this place is a dive.  It hasn’t been updated in at least ten years.  The rooms smell musty.  There are no extras – it is a bed and a tv.  There is a pool.  Both times I have stayed there the pool has been freezing cold.  Now all that said, it is super handy as it is located two blocks from the race.  Easy peasy.

The first year I went, I stayed at the Extended Stay (4105 E. Willow St).  Average price during the race is $80 per night.

Hotel Rating: 4 our of 5 Stars.  The hotel is great.  Clean.  Complete with fridge, stove etc.  No pool.  The only downside to staying here is that you are stuck taking a taxi to the race and back.  Fortunately, it is super easy to catch a taxi leaving the race as there are loads of them waiting outside the main entrance.  Unfortunately though it becomes a royal pain in the butt when you want to attend the race events like Thunder on Pine and others.

All said and done, if you are going to go to the race, search early – and find a hotel as close to Ocean Drive as you can get within your budget.