Category Archives: Travel

Trips, vacations, traveling

Traveler Wows is Born!

My travel experiences have been wonderful.  From airports, airlines,  restaurants, hotels, sightseeing to different cultures and most have been wonderful. Therefore, I thought it’d be best if I created a travel blog where I can share my journeys.

My new blog is called Traveler Wows. “Why that name” you’re probably asking. It wasn’t easy coming  up with a travel blog name.  It had to be easy to spell, catchy, related to travel and most important of all, it had to be available. Every thing I tried was already taken. I spent almost two hours researching for a name that was available, catchy and travel related.

After a while trying and frustration kicking in, I began thinking about my trips. Every time an amazing image, like the Colosseum, came across my mind, I remembered my reaction, as well as my family’s reaction. The word I mostly heard was, “WOW.” Then I began to think of all the delicious first-time meals we had and what was the first thing  said when presented with such fabulous plates and it was also a “WOW” moment. But, it didn’t end there. In order to take a break from the researching, I then began checking my e-mails when I came across one from a travel company which was offering a last minute trip to India for $699! WOW, that was a great deal but we needed to act soon. At that moment, I told my husband about it and his reaction was, “WOW.” That’s when it hit me.  The word “WOW” needed to be part of that name. I finally knew what my new travel blog would be called and that’s when Traveler Wows was born.

A “WOW” Moment

At Traveler Wows you will learn about my trips and experiences. I will share the stories of the good and bad. I will provide tips and suggestions on restaurants to visit, hotel reviews, airline reviews, landmarks, how to avoid the lines and much more. My goal is to WOW you with Traveler Wows!

From Venice to Florence

Leaning Tower of Pisa

After our fabulous two-day stay in Venice, we hopped on a motor coach bus with our tour guide, Simone, to continue towards Firenze (Florence) through Tuscany. The views were breathtaking and though the trip was quite long, I enjoyed it very much.

On the way we made a small detour to the city of Pisa’s famous Piazza del Miracoli to visit the leaning tower of Pisa, the Baptistery, and the Duomo . By the way, did you know that it took about 200 years to build the tower? No wonder it started leaning. Well, that’s not the real reason it started leaning. But the history is interesting. To learn more about its history click on the link provided:   http://www.towerofpisa.org/leaning-tower-of-pisa-history/.

There were many tourists visiting the tower. There wasn’t much time to wander around since we had other prearranged stops, but were able to capture some spectacular views of Piazza Miracoli and its buildings on camera. All are beautiful and impressive. Its history is interesting and worth the tour. There are many restaurants to choose from and wouldn’t you know there was a McDonald’s about 1300 feet away and they had the best spot of all restaurants around. The street vendors were very aggressive trying to push their merchandise on tourist to purchase. At one point we were surrounded by quite a few but managed to get through to our bus. Uff, that was tough!

Our tour continued towards a local Tuscan farm and winery in Montecarlo, Fattorial Il Poggio, (https://www.fattoriailpoggio.net) in the countryside where we enjoyed wine tasting with local food specialties. The meal and wine were delicious. We were in a great group – with some quirky folks. In our group there was a lady who decided to drink beer instead of tasting the wine. She claimed she was taking medicine and couldn’t consume alcohol. We could tell it didn’t sit well with the host. Among the group was a Franciscan Priest who had a bit too much wine. He grabbed a bottle and took it with him on the bus. I don’t recall every thing he said and did but I do remember laughing at his actions. There was a lot of singing on the bus as well – Volare, Que Será, Será, That’s Amore and other famous Italian songs. I think we were all tipsy from the wine.

We arrived at Florence after 5:00 p.m. and checked in to the Gran Hotel Cavour (http://www.albergocavour.it/en/).  It’s a beautiful hotel and our room had spectacular views of two church towers. The hotel was just about 1400 feet from Piazza del Duomo, so we headed out to wander the beautiful streets of Florence. We had dinner at Yellow Bar Restaurant next to the hotel. It was quite a large meal which consisted of the antipasto (starter), the primo (appetizer), the secondo (main course), the contorno (side dish) and the dolce (dessert). We were hungry so we went for the full course of a starter which I don’t recall what it was, ravioli as an appetizer, steak with caramelized onions as our main course, spring risotto as our side dish and of course, we could not leave out their delicious tiramisu for dessert. It was a lot of food but so delicious. With full tummies there was nothing else to do but return to the hotel and go to sleep.

The next day began with a Florence city tour. We visited the Academia of Fine Arts and saw Michaelangelo’s famous statue of David. The tour was nice, but  I wasn’t impressed with the  museum’s tour guide or knowledge. He focused too much on how Michaelangelo was Catholic yet created a statue of David without circumcision. I did not care for that detail nor consider it relevant and don’t think it was part of the history. Other than the tour guide, it was a great experience. We visited a leather factory and saw a demonstration of their process.  We then walked to the Duomo and viewed the baptistery’s Gates of Paradise. We continued with our tour guide, Simone, to the museum of Signoria Square, Ponte Vecchio and ended at Mercato San Lorenzo for some shopping.  That night we gathered with our group for dinner at an authentic Tuscan restaurant in the countryside. Another delicious meal with lots of live entertainment, wine and prosecco azul for an end of day. Florence was amazing!

Our Trip to Venice

Our first international trip was to Venice, Italy. However, we didn’t exactly have a budget for this kind of trip. My only hope was to research and find something that would be budget friendly. Then it occurred to me, if only there was a way that I could place a trip on lay-a-way. Out of curiosity I googled, “vacations on lay-a-way.” Jackpot! There it was – a travel agency that allowed a deposit and a 10-month payment plan for the vacation of your dream. I was ecstatic! I immediately researched the agency, read the reviews and began to explore the website.  I was ready to book the trip of my life. I chose an 8-day enchanting Italy trip including Venice, Florence and Rome. So, on October 20, 2013, my husband and I embarked on our first international trip.

It was a long tedious trip which departed at 5:05 p.m. from Orlando and arrived at 11:20 a.m. in Venice, Italy. We had a layover in New York with a connecting flight to Spain and then Venice. The airline to Spain (Iberia), though decent, had the most uncomfortable seats ever. I didn’t think of choosing or upgrading so we were stuck with what was given to us. They were the last seats right before the bathrooms at the very back of the plane. There was no overhead compartment for those seats and leg room was very limited. The only thing that kept me sane throughout the trip was the Puerto Rican baseball team who were traveling to Spain. They were not disruptive at all but made us laugh so much. They walked back and forth the aisles. I don’t think they slept during the entire flight. My husband jokingly said, that they literally “walked” to Spain.

Between the layover in New York and in Spain it took us roughly 24 hours to travel from Florida to Italy. But I was so happy to have arrived at magical Venice. Yes, for me it was magical. The weather was in the mid 50’s, the sun was shining, the water shimmered, the breeze carried the scent of the ocean… indeed it was magical. I was in awe and kept whispering to myself, “this is for you my son,” whilst keeping him in my mind and heart.

We walked to the Amadeus Hotel but were not able to check in until 2:00 p.m. However, they were nice enough to keep our luggage behind the counter so we could explore around the vicinity. We stopped at Ristorante Roma on the corner of Per San Marco and Cannaregio for lunch. We had our first pizza in Italy. I would not recommend this location though. The pizza was stale and tasted like a frozen pizza, the service was bad and it was too expensive for what we received. It didn’t faze me at that moment though. I was so happy to be there and really didn’t care much about it. After lunch, we walked around a bit and snapped a few photos until we were able to check-in to our hotel.

The hotel was small and old with a charming decoration appropriate for its time period. The hallway was narrow and was decorated with beautiful art from its era. The decorations consisted of lots of reds, flowers, crown molding and chandeliers giving the sense of being in a 1960’s.  The room was quite large with two large windows. We requested a double bed but instead got two twin beds pushed together, which we didn’t even notice until we looked at the photos upon arriving home. There was also a chaise in the room. We didn’t spend much time in the room. We freshened up, placed our valuables in the safe and left to stroll around at our leisure.  At that point, we had gone over 30 hours without sleep but figured it’d be best for us to continue than take a quick nap. We needed to make sure we got accustomed to Europe’s time.

We strolled the Venetian streets and famous bridges until our welcome dinner time around 9:00 p.m. at the Sivoli Ristorante in Hotel Principe. I don’t recall what the dinner consisted of, most likely because it wasn’t much to brag about. Our welcome dinner continued until about 10:00 pm. We then made our way back to our hotel, showered and finally went to sleep in a bed!  We had never traveled so far and were not sure what jet lag was until this trip. That night I experienced chills and dizziness. I don’t know if it was jet lag related or because we slept with the windows wide open in 50-degree weather or if it was all the wine we had! All I knew was that I was extremely tired, so I took Tylenol and slept well afterwards. My husband experienced the same as well.

The next day, we were awakened by the 7:00 a.m. wake-up call. We had a good night’s rest so woke up refreshed and energized. We showered and went downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant for a well-deserved breakfast.  The hotel had a full breakfast buffet which was very good. After breakfast we were to meet with our guide, Simone, in the lobby and at 9:00 a.m. depart to our first destination.

Our first stop was the Murano Glass Factory where we attended a glass blowing demonstration. Afterwards we were invited to tour their store.  While they allowed us to snap pictures at the glass blowing process we were not allowed to snap pictures in the store. I guess I missed the part where they mentioned it because I was caught snapping pictures at their beautiful glass chandeliers. In less than a minute there were three men dressed in complete black suits surrounding me. They told me that photography was not allowed in their store. I apologized and put my camera away but that was not enough to send them away. As I walked through their store I could feel them behind me. If I turned right they were there, if I turned left, they were there. We purchased a few goodies and headed back to meet with our tour group. They watched my every move even following me back to the vaporetto. I felt like a convict and so embarrassed but didn’t allow it to ruin my vacation.

Our next stop was St. Mark’s Square where we had a guided tour of the beautiful St. Mark’s Basilica. We also visited Doge’s Palace, Porta della Carta, Rialto bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and had some leisure time to shop and explore at our whim.

For lunch, we decided to explore on our own instead of the tour guide’s recommendation.  We had lunch at Rossopomodoro Cucina e Pizzeria Napoletana. Our lunch consisted of pasta bolognesa  which was delicious. We accompanied it with red wine and finished the meal with a delicious tiramisu a la Nutella. Afterwards we had coffee at a small quaint cafe by the gran canal.

Of course, we could not leave Venice without the traditional gondola ride through Venice’s winding canals accompanied by music.  We shared a gondola with two couples that were in the same tour with us. It was the perfect ending to a beautiful trip to Venice, Italy.

To be continued. . .