Exploring Sao Miguel, The Capital of the Azores

Sao Miguel is the largest of the Azores Islands. It was settled in the mid 15th century where a military fort was established.  Sao Miguel is nicknamed “the Green Island” due to the abundance of mountains, trees and its very fertile soil. Driving around the island is amazing- the natural landscape is so beautiful. The landscape feels a bit like Ireland, Iceland and Hawaii all rolled into one magical place! We couldn’t wait to explore this island. We spent for nights on Sao Miguel with a quick trip to Terceira in the middle. Sao Miguel provided us a great introduction to the beautiful Azores Islands!

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Volterra

Volterra is a hill town slightly off the beaten path but a must visit! It is one of the oldest towns in all of Italy. The town is remarkable in that it has ruins or sites from the Etruscan, Roman, and Medieval period.  The ancient Etruscans named the city Velathri or Felathri, while its Roman name was Volaterrae. The town is located right in the heart of Tuscany, in the province of Pisa bordering the province of Siena. We couldn’t wait to explore this ancient, incredible (but hilly) town.

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Terceira, A Portuguese Island Gem

The Azores Islands are a treasure in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. These islands are quickly becoming a hot destination to visit. The combination of outdoor adventure and Portuguese culture make for an incredible vacation. My son and I decided these incredible volcanic islands were our summer destination.  With Delta offering seasonal service from NYC to Sao Miguel, it is easy to get to the Azores from the United States. We decided to spend a week visiting Sao Miguel and Terceira, 2 of the 9 major islands that comprise the Azores. Both flights and ferries connect the islands, so inter-island travel is also easy. We fell in love with both of these magical islands.

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Exploring Barcelona's Gothic Quarter

Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. This gem of Catalonia is full of incredible sights, art, shopping, and restaurants. But it’s the spirit and friendliness of the Catalonian people that truly warms this city. Barcelona has been on my list of places for so long (I have a very long list). I was not disappointed! Between the many, many museums, the Gaudi and Art Nouveau architecture, and the stunning Gothic quarter, I couldn’t wait to explore.

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Springtime in London

It’s no secret that London is one of my most favorite cities.  Any chance to visit I jump at. So recently I packed my bags and headed across the pond for a long spring weekend in London staying at the fabulous Corinthia Hotel and exploring some amazing sights. While the idea of spring in London may bring images of lots of rain to mind, our spring weekend was sunny, dry and full of wonderful adventures!

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Highlights of Portugal's Northern Region

The drive from Lisbon to Porto is very beautiful. Driving straight through takes about 2 and a half hours. We decided to make our trip a leisurely drive stopping at some of the highlights of Northern Portugal. We were not disappointed. Having a private car and driver was essential. Carlos, our driver, was friendly and full of interesting facts and information regarding all of our stops. The smaller towns, the churches, the architecture and the art were astounding. It was a long day for us but each stop was unique. We left Lisbon around 9:00 am arriving at our first stop an hour later in the charming, medieval town of Óbidos. 

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A One Day Adventure in Paris

During our visit to London, I decided to surprise my daughter with a one day trip to Paris. My daughter (even at 11 years old) has wanted to visit Paris. So, my husband and I thought it would be a great surprise by to take her on a quick trip to the city of lights. While this sounds crazy to many people (especially my European friends), it was an incredibly easy day trip! The hard part came in trying to decide what we were going to  do in Paris for one day since there is just so much to see! The art, the history, the food, and the shopping in Paris are truly the best. I planned a day that incorporated all of it. We saw so much of the city; I even surprised myself.

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London

London is one of my favorite cities to visit. My husband, daughter and I decided to head across the pond for a week. Having been many times, we didn’t plan to do all of the traditional sightseeing spots. We planned some really fun, unique experiences combined with a few typical sights that my daughter would really enjoy. London offers so much that it’s hard to decide what to see!  A visitor has their pick of museums, historical sites, culture, restaurants, shopping, and parks.

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Porto, Portugal's Colorful Northern City of Wine, Art and Culture

After spending several days in Lisbon, we ventured North to Porto. The second largest city in Portugal (after Lisbon), Porto is located on the shores of the Douro River and the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the oldest European cities. The historical center was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1996. Like Lisbon, Porto is steeped in charm, history and art. Porto is also the capital of Port wine production and surrounded by the Douro River Valley which is home to internationally acclaimed Portugese vineyards. Port wine is produced primarily in the cellars of Villa Nova de Gaia area. Wandering the hilly, narrow streets or the cobblestone alleys where the port wineries are, experiencing the incredible restaurants and watching the port boats dotting the Douro creates an incredible atmosphere.

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Unique Experiences in Lisbon

My children have become very discerning travelers. While my son loves to explore churches, museums, and historical sights, my daughter can get very overwhelmed with too much of that stuff. So, every trip we go on we try to find different things to do that provide a unique experience for her. Our trip to Portugal was no different! While we decided to do these three very cool experiences for her, they turned out to be some of my most favorite moments of our time in Lisbon.

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Exploring the Charming City of Lisbon, Portugal

Portugal has been high on my must-see lists. Last week we visited this beautiful country and fell in love with it. It’s a very popular destination right now having been ranked one of the safest places to visit. After our trip, I can understand why it’s so popular. Portugal is beautiful and steeped in history, culture, fantastic food and wine. I was wowed even more by the friendliness of the Portuguese people. From our guides, hotel staff, restaurant staff and even taxi drivers, the people could not have been nicer. I have been to many European countries and never experienced a group of people more open, friendly and happy to help visitors.

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The Tuscan Countryside

For lovers of art, architecture, and beauty, Italy is the place to go. There are so many stunning Italian destinations to visit that it is hard to choose. On our last Italian holiday, we decided to stay in the Tuscan countryside. The Hotel Castillo di Casole provided the most incredible Italian "home" for us. The hotel architecture, amenities, and service are amazing. It was also the perfect location for us to explore Tuscany  and its many charming towns. For any art lover, the Medieval and Renaissance art and architecture is astounding. We focused on several small towns including Mensano, Monteriggoni, San Gimignano, and Siena. I was in heaven exploring each one not just for the art and history but for the food as well!

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A Medieval Journey To York, England

York, England is one of the most beautiful Medieval cities in the world. York is charming and has retained its historical feel. It also makes for a wonderful day trip from Edinburgh. We were eager to get there while we were on our trip to Scotland especially because my son had studied York Minster, York's stunning Gothic Cathedral. The trip from Edinburgh to York is super easy- a 2 and half hour train ride from the Edinburgh Waverley station located in central Edinburgh right near The Balmoral. We took an early train and arrived in York mid-morning. York is a very manageable walking city. The city center is a short walk from the train station. The first thing we saw from the train station was a spectacular view of York Minster. We couldn’t wait to explore.

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Exploring Edinburgh and Stirling Scotland

I am a huge lover of British and Scottish history. I love the history, the art and the Royal stories. My son also got hooked on medieval history when he studied it in school. Nothing is more exciting to an 12 years old boy than knights, battles and castles. Since I am a guide at The Cloisters, the Medieval building of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, the Middle Ages is a period I adore. Needless to say, we were both excited to plan a trip to explore Medieval sights.  So, we packed our bags and headed to Edinburgh, Scotland for four days.

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Vintage Shopping in Paris

There is no question that Paris is one of the best shopping cities in the world. In every arrondissement, you will find fashion at its finest. Galeries Lafayette Haussman is one of my favorite large department stores and walking the Rue Saint-Honoré or Avenue Motaigne is trés chic. But if you are really looking for unique fabulous French items (think Chanel, Hermes, Dior...) Check out these two high end vintage shops.

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Be Your Own Guide At The Louvre!

The Musée Louvre is an incredible museum but can be very overwhelming to any visitor.  The old masters works feel heavier than those exhibited in the neighboring Musée d’Orsay, but the Louvre is a must see. With this list you can see some of the highlights of the Louvre in less than two hours! 

Fun fact: If you stretched out the three wings, the straight line would be 8 miles long. Its hard to choose artwork from a collection that displays 350,000 pieces. Happy touring!

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An Icelandic Adventure

For ten years, I have wanted to go to Iceland. The idea of hiking glaciers, climbing in volcanic craters, and seeing the many waterfalls and other natural sites has always fascinated me. Finally Memorial Day weekend, we packed our bags and headed north. From the moment I stepped off the plane, I knew Iceland was going to be unlike anything I’d every seen. The landscape changes from volcanic lava fields reminiscent of the moon to grassy farm field, to large white-capped mountains. Check out my top highlights.

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What to Wear in Iceland (and Still Look Fashionable)

What to Wear in Iceland (and still look fashionable)

You’ve finally decided to head to the land of Fire and Ice- Iceland! A trip to the Golden Circle sights is a once in a lifetime experience. Iceland’s weather can change every ten minutes so it’s important to be prepared for anything. That doesn’t mean you can’t look good while hiking and climbing in the wet weather. Weather at this time of year (spring/early summer) typically brings temperatures between 42 F-55 F.  During one day you can experience rain, sun, and wind. The key is layering, layering, layering!

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My Must See Paris Museums

Paris is one of the most beautiful, elegant cities in the world. It is a treasure trove of art, museums and sights. How to choose which ones to visit?? My last trip to Paris was only five days long. Enough time for me to visit my old favorites and include some new ones. If you plan to visit many of the museums and historical sights, purchase a Paris Pass. These can be bought online or your hotel concierge can purchase for you. One perk that makes for a great day is Paris Pass holders use separate entry lines which are often much shorter. Waiting on a long line is not a good way to start a visit to any museum!

Check out my favorites!

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