Tag Archives: Travel

Beautiful Rome

Rome is such a magical city.  Unlike many other European cities, there are no skyscrapers dotting the skyline, casting shadows over their ancient and medieval monuments.  This is a city whose inhabitants consider themselves Romans before being Italian, and take great pride in their heritage and their food.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to Rome…I had heard it was a bit dirty, and the chance of being pickpocketed was higher than other places.  I found it to be rather charming, though.  Sure, there’s trash on the streets here and there, and the sidewalks are crowded with tourists and city dwellers.  I’ve been to many European cities and villages, and Rome had its own unique atmosphere.

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It was early November when I arrived.  The sky was dotted with clouds, and most of the weather forecasts called for rain almost each evening.  I live in Seattle, so a little rain isn’t going to scare me away.  Rome can be notoriously hot in the summer, so I was glad to be there in the fall, when there are also fewer tourists.  I booked this trip kind of on a spur of the moment.  I had been there once before, but only for about a day and a half…certainly not enough time to experience all that the city has to offer.

I had purchased a pass that included entry to several different attractions, but I didn’t use it.  I found that, with so much history surrounding me, I needed guided tours.  There’s a wonderful company I had heard about while surfing YouTube for travel ideas.  The company is called Walks of Italy, and they specialize in walking tours around the city, and grant visitors with unprecedented access to some of the city’s most famous sites.  I went on more than one tour with them: Pristine Sistine, Gladiators’ Gate at the Colosseum, the Catacombs, and an extensive tour of the ruins at Palatine Hill.

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Of all the tours, I think Pristine Sistine was my absolute favorite (they were all fantastic, though).  Our guide, Davide, was animated, funny, and very informative.  He’s the one that told us that Romans consider themselves Roman over Italian.  This tour gave us early access to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.  We didn’t have to push through large crowds, and it felt like a very intimate, private event.  There were only a handful of us in the group, too.  The tour ends inside Saint Peter’s Basilica, so tour groups are awed from beginning to end.

Seeing the Colosseum was a dream come true as well.  I found myself going there several times during my week in Rome, sometimes just to stand outside and marvel at it.  It’s so amazing to see this behemoth that was constructed 2,000 years ago, and picture the masses of people sitting around the arena.  IMG_2332

The catacombs are a definite must-see, as well.  I had a mishap with my camera, and pictures are not allowed inside the catacombs, so there aren’t any pictures of my tour.  We saw three different sites: The Capuchin Crypt, one of the least visited Roman catacombs, and the Basilica San Nicola in Carcere.  You can find out more about that tour, and see pics here.  In the catacombs we visited on this tour, we saw the oldest known painting of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, painted in the 200’s AD.  Even as an atheist, I found this tour very interesting.

The food was beyond amazing!  To replenish my body at the end of the day, I would gorge myself on carbonara and tiramisu.  Historia La Vacca won my vote as best restaurant in Rome.  The food was so good, I ended up eating there twice.  IMG_2740

If you haven’t been to Rome yet, put it on your bucket list.  Everything about it makes it a must-see.  Take a little peek at my Instagram: @thesolovoyager, for more pics of my trip.  Due to an accident with my camera, most of my pics were taken with my iPhone.

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Sailing

The summer has been crazy gorgeous this year, and I’ve been finding different ways to go out and enjoy the sun.  It’s pretty easy to find things to do around Seattle, and one of my favorite parts about living here is all the water we live around.  I came across an Instagram account for a company on the Waterfront called We Sail Seattle, and booked an hour and a half sailing excursion.  I had an incredible time!  I even attempted to catch everything on my new GoPro, which I had never used before.  I still have a lot to learn about filmmaking.

There were about 35 people on board the sailing yacht on Saturday, including myself. As someone who suffers from chronic back issues, I should have been in line to board first to get a more comfortable spot on the boat. I ended up at the very front, which had its perks, but also its downsides. I had an amazing view of everything, but I was sitting cross-legged on a hard surface with no back support. I’m not complaining, by any means, but simply pointing this out to anyone who may also have issues.

The weather was beyond perfect!  Beautiful, blue skies, and tons of sunshine.  It does get a chilly on the water, so take a jacket, no matter what time of year you go.

I can’t say enough nice things about We Sail Seattle.  The crew and staff were very friendly, and I will gladly go on other excursions.  Visit their website at www.sailingseattle.com for their most current prices, schedules, and excursions.  I paid $36 for an hour and a half.  There’s also a 2 hour sunset sailing for a bit more, which I will definitely try out before the summer is over.

Love Where You Live

I usually hibernate near the air conditioner during the summer, because I usually hate everything about it. I hate the crowds, the sunshine, and most of all I hate the heat! Give me clouds and rain any day! This summer is a bit different, though. I’m enjoying being out in the sun, and walking around the city and various open green spaces. 

When I travel, I always remember that I’m an ambassador for where I live. I cannot say enough great things about Seattle and the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Here are some pics I took with my iPhone today while out and about: 

Is There Such Thing As Too Much Disney?

Short answer: no! However, I just returned from my 5th trip to Disneyland this year, and I found myself being less excited than the last few times. Perhaps, it’s time to throw in the towel and limit myself to one Disney trip every other year. For one thing, it’s expensive. For the same amount of money I spend on one single trip (includes Park Hopper Tickets, flight, hotel, and food), I could take a nice trip to Europe.

It is Disneyland, though, so it’s difficult to complain. I still had a marvelous time. The crowds were bearable, which I believe was caused by the kids still finishing up their last days at school. The longest I had to wait in line was an hour at the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout ride, which was AWESOME!!!!!!! That was the only ride I found myself planning to ride over and over again while I was there this time around.

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Here is my biggest complaint: it is so difficult to eat healthy at either of the parks on the Disneyland Resort.  After completing my first round of Whole30 in April, I have adopted much better eating habits.  At Disneyland, it is almost impossible to eat healthy unless you bring your own food.  I didn’t want to lug a bunch of stuff around, so I decided to take my chances.  Bengal Barbecue is the best option for meats and veggies, and there are some healthy snack options at various kiosks through out the parks.  But, I never felt satisfied, and getting a healthy meal at any of the sit-down restaurants was nearly impossible.

On to more adventures, though.  I have some ideas for more trips in the future.  I’d love to plan a kayaking trip before the end of summer, so we’ll see if that is possible.  With a full-time job, it’s hard to plan a big adventure like that for the weekend.  Scotland is coming up in March, 2018, which is really exciting.  I’d love to head over to the East Coast and revisit Boston, and take a trip up to Salem.  There’s so much more of this beautiful planet to see, and I hope you’ll come along with me!

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Solo Trip To Disneyland

I wasn’t sure if I would blog about this experience, but I’ve finally decided to.  Disneyland is one of my favorite places in the world.  Even though I’m 34 years old, I still find so much enjoyment in everything Disney-related.  I have a mounting collection of Disney movies, both live-action and animated.

When thinking of Disneyland as a vacation destination, one may think of it as a perfect place to visit with family or friends.  Walking through the different areas of the resort, a majority of the crowd was made up of families with children.  There were also the small groups of friends that decided to spend a day or two at the parks together.  Then, there was me…all alone.

Unlike my other solo trips to other countries where friends and family were worried about my safety, those close to me worried that I would be sad and lonely on this trip.  While I did kind of wish I had a friend or two there with me, ultimately I was ecstatic to be there on my own.  I had an agenda, and I planned to make the most of my three days at the Disneyland Resort.

There are many benefits to traveling by oneself to Disneyland.

  1.  Many rides have a Single Rider line, which is separate (sometimes through the exit) from the main queue.  This is a great way to bypass the sometimes long lines, which can occur at the really busy attractions.
  2. Cast Members (Disney park employees for those of you who do not speak Disney lingo) are more likely to strike up conversations with you, which can lead to fun Disney experiences.  For instance, I was given access to a special seating area for the Main Street Electrical Parade.
  3. While attending a Character Breakfast at my hotel, Mickey, Minnie, Stitch, Daisy, and Pluto spent extra time at my table, reeling me further into the Disney experience.

Those are just a few of the perks.  Traveling alone, I was able to spend as much time in the parks as I wanted.  I opened and closed the parks each day I was there.  Since I was staying at a Disney hotel (review coming soon), I had early access to the parks one hour before they opened to the general public.  Originally, I had intended to take a little nap at my hotel after or around lunch time, but I was too excited to be there.  I didn’t rest until I knew the park gates were locked and all the rides were shut down for the night.

Don’t be afraid to experience things on your own.  Yes, Disneyland might be a mecca for family vacations, but it treats its solo guests pretty well.  I can’t wait to go back!  I may have to try a solo trip to Walt Disney World to see if I can tell the difference as a solo voyager 🙂


Solo Trip To Stockholm

People often ask me if I’m ever afraid to travel alone.  The short answer is yes and no.  It can be a bit daunting to jump on an airplane and travel half way around the world, especially when you’re going to a country you’ve never been to.  Certain places are off limits as a solo traveler, in my opinion.  There are places where I would not feel safe going by myself, and would much rather have a travel companion or go with a tour group.  For instance, I would not want to explore Egypt on my own.  There has been conflict in Egypt, and that part of the world, and I just wouldn’t feel safe going by myself.

Stockholm is definitely not one of those places, though.  Everywhere I went in Stockholm, I felt safe.  I was still cautious of my surroundings, but I felt safe and secure nonetheless.  I guess I’m a bit selfish when it comes to traveling.  I want to have the freedom to start and end my day whenever I please, eat when I want to, and stop and take pictures without inconveniencing a travel companion.  I love using my camera to soak in all the beautiful sights so I can feed my memories for years to come.  I also want to share what I’m seeing with my friends and family.

I did plenty of research before I left for Sweden.  I watched tons of YouTube videos of other people’s voyages to Stockholm, read blogs and books, and talked with people who had been before.  Everyone commented at how safe the city is, and I immediately noticed this first-hand while I was there.  People would ride their bikes to work, for instance, and they would just leave them unchained outside their buildings.  No worries or cares of someone coming along and snatching them up.

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The streets were clean, and the people were friendly.  Not overly friendly, but always willing to help when I had questions or needed directions.  They even seemed happy to welcome me into their country, and would flash a huge smile when they found out it was my first time there.

Public transportation in Stockholm was a breeze.  It was super easy to get around the city by bus, tram, and ferry.  It’s also very easy to get around the city on foot.  Most of the tourist areas are compact and close together.  Walking, you may be more inclined to pop into a shop or attraction that you may have missed had you been on the bus or tram.

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I even felt safe in the evenings.  There seemed to always be large groups of happy Swedes shopping and tourists soaking in the sights, no matter what time of day it was.  Police officials were not far from reach either, which made me feel even more safe.

Does anyone have any suggestions of other places that may be perfect for someone traveling alone?  I’m thinking Tokyo might be my next solo trip.

Norwegian Air Shuttle

My trip to Stockholm was full of firsts for me.  Not only was this my first trip to Stockholm, but it was my first 787 Dreamliner and first flight with Norwegian.  I searched high and low on the internet, looking for reviews and videos that would prepare me for my first Norwegian experience.

Departure

I had originally planned to only travel with carry-on luggage since my flight from Seattle to LAX was early in the morning, and my flight to Stockholm didn’t depart until the evening.  Now that LAX has a connector from Terminal 4 to the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), I figured I could sit in the lounge to wait out the 5 hour layover.  I was booked in Norwegian’s Premium Cabin, which granted me lounge access.  Norwegian, however, does not allow mobile or online check-ins for flights to/from the United States.  I had to leave the secured area of the airport and wait 3 hours for checkin to open at the TBIT.  There isn’t much to keep one entertained on the check-in side of the TBIT.

Once check-in was opened, I dropped my bag and headed through security.  I headed immediately to the Oneworld Business Lounge and waited out the remainder of my layover.  I had a lovely salad, glass of wine, and relaxed before the 11 hour flight.

ONBOARD: Having watched a few video reviews of Norwegian, I already knew what to expect when I boarded the aircraft.  The cabin is light and airy, and the seats give you plenty of space to stretch out for the long flight.  I have to say, the 787 is an amazing aircraft, and I’m glad I finally had the opportunity to fly on one.  The giant windows were fantastic.  I liked that there are no shutters, and you can still see out when the cabin crew have them blacked out for sleep time.  We hit a few bumps over Canada and Greenland, but the 787 really made everything smooth.  The aircraft is quiet too, compared to the others I had been on.

The seats recline a lot further than economy, but nothing compares to the lie-flat beds you find on other airlines.  The IFE comes out of the armrest, and when the people in front of you are reclined you’re pretty much stuck in your seat.  That is, however, unless you know your seat mate well enough to climb over them.  If I fly Norwegian again, I will be requesting an aisle seat for easier access to the lavatory and to get up and stretch.

A meal was served after we had been in the air for about an hour.  I had the beef, which was a bit dry, but still edible.  I had definitely had worse.  I opted for the chicken option on the way back, which was borderline terrible.

The cabin crew were very friendly; always happy to help and always with a smile.  I even overheard one of the flight attendants telling a passenger what a great company Norwegian is to work for.  It’s always nice to see/hear when people are happy with their jobs.

Return

I had a marvelous time in Stockholm, but I have one complaint.  The airport is HORRIBLE!  The check-in area is small and congested.  It’s very chaotic trying to maneuver through the crowds.  I found Norwegian’s check-in area, but was faced with a very long line of people.  I could see there was a separate line for Premium, however there was no sign and it was roped off.  I couldn’t tell if they were not allowing separate Premium check-in or if I needed to just let myself in.  I finally found a staff member willing to help, and he said I could just go right through.

The airport is not easy to navigate.  I searched for about 30 minutes for the lounge.  I finally found it, far away from Norwegian’s dedicated gates.  This lounge was HORRIBLE!  No plug-ins for electronics like most lounges have.  The seating was not comfortable.  Also, the food and drink selection was very substandard, compared to other lounges I’ve been in.  I spent about 10 minutes there, and made my way back toward my gate.  I had to go through Passport Control, and once through there I was restricted from moving around the airport.

Thankfully, Norwegian’s customer service is top-notch, otherwise I would have been in a terrible mood the entire way back.  The cabin crew were just as nice as the first leg of the trip, and they took very good care of me.  I even had the row to myself, so I didn’t have to climb over anyone to get to the bathroom.

Overall Experience

I am giving my Norwegian Air Shuttle experience 3.5 out of 5 stars.  I think they should offer a better Premium product, even if that means raising the price a little.  The food could be better too.  I also believe they should cut ties with Menzies, the company that runs the lounge at Stockholm Arlanda.  That was a terrible lounge, and I won’t take advantage of that privilege next time I’m there.