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Should You Risk Food From Street Vendors When Traveling?

Of course, street vendors run the gamut from the hot dog guys on every New York street corner, to the spring rolls in Hong Kong, to the Muffin Man on the beaches of Puerto Vallarta.  What do you think – are you asking for trouble if you indulge in street fare?

Our advice is to avoid street food when at all possible. Street food is usually not prepared in ideal conditions and is an infamous source of contamination. The worst that typically happens is travelers’ diarrhea and children are most at risk. The cause of the diarrhea is usually from bacteria that have grown on food that has been improperly refrigerated or cooked.

Of course, another reason for street vendor food being risky is the poor hygiene prevalent with the vendors. They just don’t have access to hot, soapy water needed to kill germs growing on their hands.

If you must eat street fare you should frequent stands that appear popular and have many locals waiting in line. You are less likely to get sick eating in cities in Western Europe, Japan, Singapore and North America because food preparation and standards are established and enforced.

If you do decide to have food from street vendors on your next trip, just pack Imodium in your backpack as a little bit of insurance.  Bon Appetit!

The Best Islands in Greece

With so many amazing islands to choose from, we compiled this list of the islands we think are your best travel bets.

  • Hydra – One of the first islands to be discovered, this island still maintains its old world charm. Interestingly, donkeys outnumber motorcycles so you know that you will be in for an interesting experience! Be sure to spend time enjoying the small restaurants dotting the island.
  • Crete – Crete is one of the better known islands due to its amazing history and intense inhabitants. You can enjoy ancient ruins, amazing beaches, craggy mountains and even the most modern hotels imaginable!
  • Dounoussa – Part of the Small Cyclades, this fishing island is full of charm. With two great beaches, travelers craving peace and quiet will love this rarely visited gem.
  • Santorini – Another popular island, you just have to schedule a visit when visiting the Greek Isles. Depending on when you are planning to go, you could visit the ancient site of Akrotiri, which has been frozen in time since an eruption over 3,600 years ago. The site will remain closed through late 2008 while repairs are conducted.
  • Cos/Kos – Popular with doctors, due to its history with Hippocrates, Kos has much to offer other travellers as well. A relatively flat island, it is a popular tourist spot with cyclists who love to spend their days exploring by bicycle. Another popular excursion is visiting the Archaeological Museum of Kos, which has many objects from various excavations, as well as a statue believed to depict Hippocrates.
  • Corfu – Featuring lush vegetation and many ancient sites, Corfu is a popular tourist destination. The attractions are busy, but this unique island offers a fabulous blend of Italian influence and cosmopolitan flair.
  • Hios – This Island has so much to offer that it is surprising that it hasn’t become more touristy!  It offers amazing beaches, beautiful scenery and superb medieval sites. If you prefer a quieter vacation is an island paradise, this island is for you.
  • Rhodes – Located in the Eastern Aegean, Rhodes City is unusual in that half the city is modern and cosmopolitan while the other half is a reconstructed ancient fortified medieval city. Truly an amazing place to experience. The Archaeological Museum can’t be missed and of course, you’ll want to spend time in the medieval city.

The Greek Islands are an excellent way to relax, rejuvenate and to experience the ancient ruins.

Five Top Spots For Culinary Travel

A popular trend the last couple of years is culinary travel. That’s where you travel to different locales with the express purpose of enjoying culinary treats. Some tour companies specialize in this type of travel, but with a little research, you can easily prepare your own culinary travel itinerary.

Here are a few ideas to get you started!

    1. Tuscany, Italy – Renowned for its restaurants and wineries, Tuscany is an ideal destination for a culinary vacation.  There are many top rated cooking schools, such as the Coselli School of Tuscan Cuisine where you can learn to prepare local Tuscan dishes. Other ideas are to visit Chocolate Valley (between Pisa and Montecatini) or enjoy olive oil tastings in Badia di Passignano.
    2. Fez, Morocco – While you might not think of Morocco for your culinary trip, you definitely should. There are many opportunities to stay at guesthouses with wonderful chefs who will show you how to prepare regional specialties like couscous, tagines and chicken pie (b’stila). You’ll also learn about regional spices like turmeric, cardamom and cubeb pepper.
    3. Kirkland, Washington – Closer to home, you have a wonderful opportunity to visit the Heathman Hotel for an amazing farm to table experience. Chef Scheesher is also a farmer who gets the food for his menus from the three-acre garden. Wines are also featured from wineries in California, Washington and Oregon.
    4. Catalonia, Spain – Spain is really getting into culinary tourism.  There are many interesting locales such as the elegant bed and breakfast, Catacurian located in the Priorat wine area. Here, Chef Alicia will dazzle you with her wonderful cooking demonstrations where you can learn everything you wanted to about Catalan cuisine. Also included in her packages is a chance to visit local wineries for private tastings and to learn about the area’s superior olive oils.
    5. Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico – If you’ve always wanted to learn more about Mexican cooking, consider Chef Ana Garcia’s program. This talented chef has learned the art of Mexican cuisine from traditional family methods passed down through the generations. This package is bound to become very popular as Chef Ana is starring in a national television series.

Culinary travel is a tasty and fun way to learn more about the culture and traditions of the area you are visiting.

Top Ten Travel Destinations Ideas For 2015

Well, 2015 is almost here and it’s time to start planning your trips for next year.  There are so many amazing, interesting and intriguing places to visit; we compiled a listing for our top ten travel destinations (in no particular order) for 2015.

    1. Beijing, China – This ancient city boasts many sites like the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  Be sure to also visit the Beijing Zoo for your once in a lifetime chance to witness Bengal tigers and the cute cuddly panda bear.
    2. Namibia, Africa – A terrific place to go with family, this economically and politically stable African nation is a must see for 2015.  Consider how much your family would love touring the Sossusvlei dunes of the Namibia desert – by hot air balloon!  Or, why not sand board down the dunes instead.  An African safari is another must when in Namibia where you can experience wildlife in an unbelievable setting.
    3. Northern Ireland – If you like history and beauty – but prefer a country that speaks English, then consider a trip to Northern Island.  Truly breathtaking, you can experience Dunlace Castle, The Mornes Stone and the mysterious Beaghmore Stone Circles.  Of course, you’ll want to spend some of your time enjoying the locals as you visit one of the many charming and fun pubs!
    4. Salta, Argentina – You may never have heard of Salta, but it is a place you should strongly consider visiting.  You’ll enjoy amazing wine, breathtaking Spanish colonial architecture and an abundance of charm.  Adventurous types will enjoy whitewater rafting in the Juamento River or paragliding from Mount Bernardo!
    5. North Island, Seychelles – If 2015 is your year to splurge, consider visiting the North Island. This secluded island has only 11 villas so you know you’ll be chilling without hoards of tourists. You can enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling, sea kayaking and a spa while you take in the breathtaking surroundings.
    6. Laos – If you’ve been to Laos, then you know it has some of the best sightseeing around. You can visit Southeast Asia’s largest waterfall and spend your time meandering around some the best preserved temples and monuments – anywhere. If you can, try to visit La Residence Phou Vao (an Orient Express resort) where you can enjoy the breathtaking vistas of the surrounding rivers and mountains as well as take pleasure in the lush gardens and infinity pool right on the resort site.
    7. Antigua, Guatemala – This former capital had been the economical and political center of Guatemala for over 200 years before an earthquake decimated it in 1773. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring quaint cobblestone streets and active volcanoes. Put it on your must see vacation destination list!
    8. Cairo, Egypt – Everyone needs to behold the legacy of the Ancient Egyptians at least once in their lifetime. If you visit, be sure to see Great Pyramids as well as shop the Khan El-Khalili bazaar.  Cairo is a rich and interesting city offering attractions that explore Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
    9. Serengeti Plain, Tanzania – Viewing the Serengeti plains is like nothing else on earth. Enjoy spectacular views of lions, elephants and giraffes. You know you’ve always wanted to go on Safari, so dig out those binoculars and plan a trip to Tanzania!
    10. Fiji’s Yasawa Islands – If you’ve seen the movie Castaway, then you already have a good idea of how the Yasawa Islands look.  Expect to see rugged peaks, emerald lagoons and lush vegetation – a true island paradise. Since 2000, dozens of village owned resorts have sprung up on some of the islands. These islands are the perfect place to experience amazing beaches, superb diving and snorkeling and the fabulous culture of the locals.

Planning A Destination Wedding

A hot idea right now is the destination wedding.  That’s where the engaged couple, family, and friends head down to a particular destination and the couple exchanges their vows and often has their honeymoon at the same time.

Planning a destination wedding is quite a bit different from planning a wedding in your own town since it involves travel and picking everything you need from a far.  So whether you’ve always dreamed of getting married in France, exchanging vows on a beautiful beach in Tahiti or basically any location you fancy, it is a great way to celebrate the start of your new lives together.

Here are just a few tips for any of you who might be planning your own destination wedding!

    • Truth be told, a destination wedding can be less expensive than a traditional wedding!  Even with the travel, reception, dress etc. the bill will likely add up to far less than if you would had the wedding in your hometown.  The reason they are usually less expensive is that they don’t have as many guests and depending on the hotel/resort, you may be able to pick an all inclusive or package deal to save you money.
    • The guest list – Well, your guest list is wholly dependent on your budget and of course, which friends and family are willing to part with serious cash and vacation time to join you.  It’s best to set realistic expectations and recognize that your guest list will be small because not everyone can afford the travel costs associated with your wedding.
    • Plan early and let guests know – With a destination wedding, you need to give your guests as much notice as possible.  They will want to make arrangements to take time off work and to determine if the trip is in their budget.  A cute way to let guests know is to send ‘save the date cards’ at least six months (more is preferable) in advance.
    • Find someone to help you – It is imperative that you have a wedding planner or someone on site at the hotel/resort where you are getting married to handle the planning, secure the vendors and handle all the details.  Many hotels/resorts offer package deals that include a coordinator to help you.
    • Details are important – You need to understand the legalities involved with getting married in another country so that you can be assured that your marriage is legal when you return to the United States.  Check out the US State Department to get all the details on getting married in various countries.

Above all else, a destination wedding should be a fun and fabulous time with your loved ones and friends.  With careful planning, there is no doubt that the wedding will be an event long remembered by those in attendance!  Have Fun!

Hidden Travel Locations to Consider

A friend of mine wanted to travel somewhere this year that isn’t a typical touristy place people visit.  So, I started doing some research for her and found three locales that I thought I would share with the readers of this site!  Hope you get to travel to some places off the beaten track this year!

    • Jura Region, France – Located in eastern France, about an hour or so drive from Geneva is the Jura Region.  Described on one website as ‘like Wisconsin crossed with Switzerland’, this is an ideal place to visit if you love all things cheese.  Amazingly, there are close to 200 creameries making cheese in this region and tourist counts are low.  Wine shops also abound making this a food lover’s paradise.  You will also love the landscapes varying from mountains, forests, rivers, immense lakes and picturesque grottos!
    • Wroclaw, Poland – Around five hours drive from Warsaw, lists the city of Wroclaw (pronounced vrot-swav) described by some as having the prettiest plaza in central Europe.  This city is a haven for people who love handcrafted items like linens, jewelry, clothing and more.  Tourist numbers are low and you can get a true sense of how the Polish live.
    • Sangkhia Buri, Thailand – This village located around 220 miles northwest of Bangkok has been described as incredibly relaxing and calming.  With a mixture of cultures, the town is on the banks of a lake flanked by two amazing temples.  An interesting thing to do is to rent a canoe and paddle the lake to visit the various temples.  If you like places that are off the beaten track and where the locals don’t depend on tourism, then you’ll love this village.  You’ll find authentic cuisine and friendly people in a relaxed atmosphere!

Oftentimes we get caught up visiting touristy countries and then complain about how many tourists there were.  If you want a vacation that’s more authentic and will give you a real sense of the local people, consider a trip to one of these three destinations.  It’s sure to be a unique trip of a lifetime!

Shop Till You Drop In Barcelona!

If you’ve ever been to Barcelona, then you know it is a city of impeccable style.  Just take a look on any of the major streets, and you’ll find senoritas dressed to the nines in the latest fashions.  In fact, Barcelona is where you can find the best in Catalan, Spanish and international design.

When planning your own trip to Barcelona, be sure to schedule in some time for shopping.  It’s best to begin a tour of Barcelona on the streets around the Passeig de Gracia, which makes up the most important shopping area and where you’ll find well known fashion and design stores just waiting to gobble up your tourist dollars!  If fashion is not your forte, you’ll also find wonderful bakeries, interesting herbalists and pharmacies, antiques dealers and stores specializing in traditional crafts.

Here are just a few shops you’ll defenitely enjoy…

    • If you like department stores, then be sure to visit the branch of El Corte Ingles, Spain’s largest department store chain.  Located on Placa Catalunya, it is the ideal place to find everything you need.  If you don’t enjoy browsing through many shops, then one trip to El Corte Ingles is all you need to do!
    • Be sure to visit one of the galeries (fashion malls), for example Boulevard Rosa on the Passieg de Gracia – it has hundreds of stores selling clothing and accessories that you aren’t likely to find back home.
    • If international fashion labels is more your thing, Passeig de Gracia is the place to be.  On top of the international designers, you’ll find funky shops featuring young local designers.
    • For all your souvenirs from Spain, make a stop at La Caixa de Fang – it has a great variety of Catalan and Spanish ceramics.  If you have cigar lovers in your family, L’Estane features everything they could need, including Havana cigars.
    • While Spain is renowned for fashion, it is also well known for its food.  No visit to Barcelona would be complete without looking around La Bouqueria on La Rambla, one of the most amazing food markets in Europe.  If you like Antiques, come on Thursday as antiques are sold in the Placa Nova on that day.  Cheese, honey and sweets are featured in the Placa del Pi on the first and third Friday, Saturday and Sunday of each month.
    • If you like to keep in touch with news of home while you are away, you’ll find that most city center newsstands stock English language newspapers.  If you want a top selection of foreign papers and magazines, then visit FNAC at Crisol and L’Illa.  You can also pick up DVDs, CDs, and books from these locales.

Barcelona really is one of the great Mediterranean cities.  Few other places have as much history, mixed with a modern vibe.  Any shopaholic can get their fix too by visiting some of the recommendations I’ve made.  I hope you get a chance to visit this vibrant city and experience everything it has to offer!

Six Tips To Keep Your Feet In Tip Top Travel Shape

If you are like me, you do a lot of walking when you are traveling.  Probably much more walking than you do in your regular day to day life.  My friend is a podiatrist, and she suggested I write a blog of travel tips for your feet!  I thought that was a great idea since more than once I have had painful blisters and other feet issues when traveling.  Hope your feet enjoy these few ideas!

  • If you are having any pain before you go away, visit a doctor or podiatrist because foot pain shouldn’t be ignored.
  • Start doing regular walking before your trip to get your legs and feet in shape for the trip.  Remember to do your walking in the shoes you’ll be traveling in!  Want to break them in BEFORE you travel!
  • Skip the fashion and pack sensible comfortable walking shoes.  Also remember to pack proper socks!  Think about the type of weather you’ll be encountering so that you bring proper footwear.  Never bring a new pair of shoes on a trip.
  • Like a good Boy Scout – be prepared.  Pack bandages, medicated foot powder, first aid cream, nail clippers and tweezers.  Your feet will thank you should you have a nicks, blisters or slivers while away!
  • You should only walk barefoot on sandy beaches that are safe and in areas immediately surrounding the pool.  At all other times, you should have footwear on so that you don’t pick up any foot related viruses.  Don’t forget to always apply sunscreen to your feet!
  • At the end of a long day of shopping, sightseeing or hiking, give your feet a break.  Why not soak them, massage them and keep them elevated so that they are ready for the next busy day!

Hope these tips help you start each travel day ‘on the right foot’!

Why Not Travel To Rome For Your Summer Vacation?

Are you starting to make your travel plans for this summer?  Do you want a travel experience like no other?  In my opinion, making plans to travel to Rome is an ideal way to spend your summer vacation.  If you have older children, a trip to Rome is a learning experience they will never forget.

  • Parco Scuola del Traffico – If you have children between the ages of 4 and 18, one of the most unique Rome experiences for them is to learn to operate an Italian vehicle on the streets of Rome.  Parco Scuola del Traffico is a driving school where children as young as four can learn to drive mini cars and ride scooters.  It really is cool, as the streets inside the school have the same layout as in real life with stoplights, crosswalks, gas station, billboards etc.  Depending on the ages of your children, they may learn to drive mini electric cars (ages 4-6), mini motor cars (6-12) or motor scooters (12-18).  If you don’t know Italian, phone ahead to find out if the instructor who speaks English will be on duty.
  • Museo Explora – The first Italian museum created just for children, Museo Explora is a fun spot divided into four sections and resembles a small town.  A great learning experience, children learn through hands on, personal experience about the four different themes: society, me, environment and communication. Visits are scheduled, last almost 2 hours and need to be booked in advance.
  • Bioparco – No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to Rome’s zoo.  With a strong attention to the conservation of species, it is a fun place to spend the day.  It holds 1200 animals in a 17-acre area in the heart of Rome.
  • Hydromania – Another place you can´t miss is the huge water park called Hydromania.  Featuring a giant wave pool and the fastest slide in Italy, your kids will have blast enjoying a hot day in the water.  Not many tourists come here, so it’s a neat place to see locals enjoying family time. Plenty of change rooms and many options for eating, it is a nice change of pace from museums and galleries!

If you plan to travel to Rome with your family, it really is a great destination featuring loads to do that interest both the adults and children in the family.  Include some of these family favorites in your own itinerary and your children will return remarking that it was one of the ‘best trips ever’!  Have fun!

Five Tours You Must Do In Italy

Italy is a popular spot for summer vacations. You can’t miss these tours when visiting this charming country:

  1. Venice Sightseeing Tour – Everyone should visit Venice at least once in their lifetime.  If you are short on time in Venice, I recommend a three-hour sightseeing tour that includes a scenic boat tour on the waterways of Venice.  Be sure to pick a tour that includes going past the San Giorgio Maggiore, the Public Gardens, the tip of Sant’ Elena and the Lido beach resort.  You might want to choose a tour that includes a visit to the lagoon islands of Murano, Burano or Torcello.
  2. Chianti Tour – Consider a bus tour to Greve in Chianti. The tour includes a stop to the ancient hamlet of Montefioralle and you will have a chance to view the towers of the ancient castle.  Once in Greve, take a tour of the village and be sure to visit and taste the delicacies of a local butcher shop, such as Falornis.
  3. Best of Tuscany – To see Tuscany in the shortest possible time, I recommend a best of Tuscany tour.  These tours are about 9 hours in length.  You will have a chance to visit Siena and San Gimignano.  Of course, any Tuscany tour needs to give you an opportunity to view olive groves, vineyards and the iconic Tuscan views.  Be sure to take the opportunity to taste the great wines and savor a delicious gourmet Tuscan meal.
  4. Ancient Rome Tour – No trip to Italy would be complete without a stay in Rome.  Consider booking an ancient Rome tour that will take you through Capitol, the Roman Forum, Capitol Hill, and the Titus Arch.  This tour includes a bus portion passing by the Primade Cestia, and St. Paul’s where the Apostle of the People is buried.  With so much history in Rome, it can be difficult to choose a tour because you want to see and do everything!
  5. Ancient Ostia – If you are a history or archaeological buff, a hidden treasure tour to add on to your stay in Rome is a trip to Ostia.  Just 30 minutes from the Capital, is an extraordinary archaeological site – Ancient Ostia.  This was the city harbor founded by the ancient Romans at the mouth of the Tiber, later it was hidden by flood and oblivion for years.  Its remnants are unbelievably preserved and give you an amazing view of the Roman civilization and evolution.  Definitely a tour not to be missed.

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