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RTW 6 1/2 – The Balkans Edition

From Beignets to the Balkans – It’s Time to Hit the Road!

Posted by on Jun 23, 2011 | 2 comments

From Beignets to the Balkans – It’s Time to Hit the Road!

My business trip to New Orleans is all done and tonight it’s time to fly off to Europe to start my big summer travel extravaganza around the Balkans! I’m so ready to focus solely on travel and my dear readers (big hugs to you all) for the next several weeks. My first stop is Chamonix, France for the Mont Blanc Marathon this Sunday and it will take some doing to get there.

Thanks to absurdly high summer airfares, I had to get creative in my flight routings. Tonight I’ll be flying overnight to Paris and then connecting tomorrow to Barcelona (the cheapest destination from Atlanta when I booked). Then another connection to Geneva reaching Chamonix – with a little luck – by nightfall. After a day of recovery, race day is Sunday morning and I should mention that I’m probably more under-trained than I’ve ever been for a marathon – so this should be interesting. Wish me luck!

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France for the Fearless: Chamonix & the Mont Blanc Marathon

Posted by on Jun 29, 2011 | 2 comments

France for the Fearless: Chamonix & the Mont Blanc Marathon

It is 7am and I have awoken in an Alpine wonderland. Arriving in Chamonix late the night before, I checked into the Chalet Vert et Blanc in the dark, not knowing what dawn had in store outside my window. I sensed it would be exceptional but I hardly expected this.

I am, quite literally, staring at a glacier. Glacier des Bossons, to be exact. I expand my gaze and realize I am surrounded by 360° chin-dropping views of the Alps. Their jagged, snow-covered peaks rising like marbled glass in the distance. I have flown over the Alps many times but never seen them up close. I wonder now what took me so long.

Best known as an Alpine ski mecca and the host to the world’s first Winter Olympic Games in 1924, the resort town of Chamonix transforms into an extreme sports playground in the summer. From hiking famed Mont Blanc to canyoning, mountain biking and paragliding, it’s more a place for the fearless than the feeble. Mountaineer Mark Twight once called it “the death-sport capital of the world.”

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Spain, France, Italy, Tunisia & Mallorca: A Week at Sea in the Mediterranean

Posted by on Jul 8, 2011 | 0 comments

Spain, France, Italy, Tunisia & Mallorca: A Week at Sea in the Mediterranean

The marathon is done (thank God) and now it’s time to move on to the fun part of this trip! After a lovely day in Geneva, I flew on to Barcelona to meet my friend Shannon who was flying in from Atlanta the next day. We’ll be traveling together for the next 2 ½ weeks, starting with a 7-night cruise of the Mediterranean.

I’ve always wanted to cruise the Mediterranean. It seemed like the perfect way to get around to a variety of beautiful places and only have to unpack once. And when you’re traveling for a month to a dozen different countries, a week in one bed is a good thing! So when we found a terrific itinerary that included Italy, Spain, France and Africa, we couldn’t pass it up.

Shannon’s flight into Barcelona arrived right on time Thursday morning and I found her in the arrivals area without any trouble…I love it when a plan comes together. We headed into Barcelona to check into the Hotel Gaudi near Barcelona’s colorful promenade, Las Ramblas. I’d found it on Trip Advisor and at $108 US for the night, it was a real steal. Right off the main avenue of Las Ramblas, it also had A/C and free wifi – two musts for me in Europe in the summer.

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The Meaning of Mykonos

Posted by on Jul 11, 2011 | 3 comments

The Meaning of Mykonos

It was the first time I ever needed a passport. My very first trip “across the pond.” At the time, it seemed like a big adventure. Just a trio of 20-something girlfriends hitting the Greek island of Mykonos for a week. I had no way of knowing how much that trip would change my life. You see, from the minute I stepped off the plane on that tiny little granite island in the middle of the Aegean Sea, I was hooked. It was quite simply the most beautiful place I’d ever laid eyes on.

From the exquisite beaches edged by clear turqoise waters to the white-washed homes adorned with blue shutters to the imposing shadows of the windmills that welcome every traveler to the harbor – Mykonos is a work of art.

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Montenegro & the Bay of Kotor

Posted by on Jul 12, 2011 | 4 comments

Montenegro & the Bay of Kotor

It’s often described as Southern Europe’s most spectacular fjord. Though it’s technically a submerged river canyon, it’s easy to understand the sentiment behind that label.

Surrounded by sapphire bays on one side and Mount Lovcen on the other, Kotor’s Stari Grad (Old Town) is protected by sturdy walls built in the 9th century that have protected Kotor from centuries of would-be invaders. The marbled lanes of the Old Town contain a labyrinth of churches, cafes and shops – each piazza more delightful than the last.

Up the face of Mount Lovcen are miles of ancient fortifications reminiscent of a mini Great Wall of China including a castle and a monastery. If we’d had more time – and I do wish we had – we would have climbed them, the views over the bay are said to be spectacular.

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In Dubrovnik Summer Sizzles but Winter is Wiser

Posted by on Jul 15, 2011 | 0 comments

In Dubrovnik Summer Sizzles but Winter is Wiser

With marble streets surrounded by blistering white city walls edging the emerald-colored Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is a real stunner. We arrived at noon from Montenegro after one of the most scenic bus rides I’ve ever taken along the Bay of Kotor. As you follow the cliffside road by the sea, you get your first views of the city walls of Dubrovnik from above. It’s almost enough to make you gasp.

We made our way from the main bus station to the old city and entered the city walls through the Pile Gate. Just a few steps from the Stradun (Dubrovnik’s main boulevard) we located our apartment for the next two nights, Apartment Bete. We’d booked through AirBnb for the first time and I was curious to see what the apartment would be like. It turned out to be just as advertised and the owner was lovely. After settling in, it was time to head out into the heat of the day and see the sights.

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