Just Me

Hello friends! It’s been brought to my attention that many of you may not “ know” me personally, so I figured that I should remedy that 😉

First, the basics … my name is Ann Fantini. I’m an extremely proud Mom to three amazing adult children and one pretty awesome daughter in law. I’ve been married to a wonderfully supportive guy that also just happens to be handsome, hysterically funny and deeply kind for just over 33 years. Proof that you can find lasting love at a college keg party! We’re also parents to a very lively, rambunctious Black Lab named Rosie.

Our family

So, why am I doing this? Starting a travel/ lifestyle blog at this stage of my life? There is no one answer, so I’ll give you the most relevant and meaningful ones. The first reason is my incredible passion for travel and exploration. I’m one of those somewhat crazy, obsessive travel planners. I basically start planning a trip in my head every time I see or hear of a destination that’s new to me. At any given moment, I have 3 or more trips either in my head or actually physically mapped out.

The next reason is that I feel my perspective on travel and life in general may inspire others to explore the world around them and open themselves to new possibilities. Helping others plan trips and adventures is incredibly rewarding to me. I’ve been doing it for friends and family, so why not broaden my horizons and help YOU?

What many don’t know about me is that I was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease in 1983, at the age of 21 ( in case you’re wondering my age 😉). Sjogren’s Syndrome is a disease that typically attacks the body’s moisture producing glands and organs. It’s known mainly for its classic symptoms of dry eyes and dry mouth but it can affect so much more. I’ve been very fortunate that so far, I do not have any major organ involvement . My symptoms have been for the most part manageable but they do still affect my daily life. In addition to Sjogren’s, I have fibromyalgia and a host of musculoskeletal and orthopedic issues. These issues have led to 2 major surgeries within the past 4.5 years. I’m a multilevel lumbar spinal fusion warrior and I’ve had a fully torn hip tendon anchored back the bone.


I’m sharing all this, not for sympathy or praise, but to raise awareness of invisible illnesses and also to help you understand my perspective on the things that I will be blogging about. My physical issues do affect me, but I refuse to let them DEFINE me. We all have our struggles, it’s how we face them and handle them that defines us. As humans, we are so much more adaptable and resilient than we sometimes realize. The underlying message for me is to try and stay focused on what you CAN do rather than what you can’t. Look for the victories in your everyday life.

One last thing to share is my passion for giving back. I am so grateful for the life that I have and feel very fortunate to have the time and ability to give back to my community. As a young mother I was always involved in my children’s schools and sports activities. I was still volunteering in our local kindergarten up until a few years ago when my physical issues made crawling on the floor or being climbed upon too difficult for my body. But as they say, when one door closes, another opens. That new door was the opportunity to work with Uncommon Threads. Uncommon Threads is an amazing women’s empowerment program that serves disadvantaged women in our local community and surrounding areas. This cause is near and dear to my heart . I’m so thankful for the chance to work alongside such a special group of kind, caring women and to help make a difference in the lives of so many❤️.

A recent Uncommon Threads event

I think that’s enough about me for now. I’m really not used to talking about myself, I’d much rather hear about you! If you have any questions at all for me, whether about travel, lifestyle, chronic illness or anything at all…please reach out! I would love to hear from and get to know you!

Ciao for now!

My Packing Strategies

Hello my friends! Before I work on the next destination piece, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about packing over the years. Packing is a very personal thing and most is learned through trial and error. I will never claim to be a packing pro..but I have found some strategies that work for me.

First of all, as I’ve mentioned before, I do have some physical limitations. Because of this, I’ve tried to streamline my luggage and pack lighter. Maneuverability is key for me, so I look for very lightweight bags with good handling wheels.

The most obvious place to start when planning your packing list is your location. Definitely look at the average temps and rainfall ( or snow) for your destination and time of year. For most destinations, light layers are always a good choice. Also really think about what you plan to do while away. If you’re going to an All Inclusive resort on a tropical island to soak up the sun, relax and maybe get some spa treatments, you can get by with minimal clothes! If you’re planning an active holiday, make sure you are prepared with the appropriate attire and most importantly foot wear ! Nobody is happy when their feet are aching 😩.

Your Carry-On

Packing your carry on bag appropriately is ESSENTIAL! We learned this the hard way. On our first trip to Italy, we arrived in Rome and our checked luggage did not. I had packed our toiletries, medications and clean underwear in our carry on which was great. However, wearing the same clothes for 72 hours after an overnight flight, not so great😩. Now I put at least one complete outfit for each person in our carry on bags. Think about the first 2 days of your trip and plan an easy to pack appropriate outfit to stash in your carry on.

Always bring your valuables, medications and electronic devices on board with you as well, this includes chargers, cords, and adapters. Basically think about anything that you can’t live without or can’t easily replace and bring it onboard. For me, this includes my make up and hair products/ tools 😉.

I use a small carry on bag that I recently purchased from Amazon.com and I love it! It fits under the seat so I can prop my feet up..perfect for us vertically challenged folks! It has a strap in back to slide on top of my checked luggage, 4 wheels and a telescoping handle for really easy maneuvering.

My favorite carry on!

In addition to my carry on luggage, I use a zippered tote bag as my personal item. I throw a cross body purse inside to use as my purse throughout the trip. Depending on location and plans, I may also throw in a small wristlet or evening clutch. The tote also holds all our airport essentials such as passports, boarding passes, itineraries. I still prefer printing out copies of things, I’m always afraid that I’ll hit a wrong button on my phone or some glitch will occur and I won’t be able to access things electronically. I use a simple manilla folder and organize my papers in the order that we’ll need them. Ex: boarding passes, train tickets, hotel confirmation etc

Our quart size clear plastic bags with liquids also go into the tote for easy access going through security. So thankful that I typically travel with my hubby, so I can cram more liquids into 2 bags instead of one😉. I’m not risking my make up getting lost in transit 🤣.

Again, think about your destination when packing liquids. If you’ll need sunscreen then portion some into a travel container! If you’re not picky about shampoo, conditioner or soap, you can save space by planning to use the hotel’s or purchase some when you arrive. I use regular old quart size ziplock baggies for liquids, and always stash extra quart and gallon bags in my luggage.

Other tote items include, kindle or iPad, snacks, magazines, tissues, a scarf or wrap, glasses/ sunglasses and of course wallet.

Zippered tote bag

Your Checked Luggage

Moving on to your checked luggage. We typically check one bag each. Nothing larger than a medium size bag and preferably one medium bag and one small ( carry on size).

After our lost luggage in Rome, I made a big change in my packing strategy. Instead of packing our clothes separately in one bag for each of us, I now mix them. It takes a bit more thought and planning but here is my reasoning. There is more of a chance of one bag being lost in transit than both. So if my bag got lost with ALL my clothes and he had his..well that just wouldn’t be fair, right?? So now, I put outfits together for each of us in each bag along with appropriate foot ware! Genius😉

Are you using packing cubes? I’ve found them to be extremely helpful in fitting more in my bag and especially for keeping things organized! I purchased mine at TJ Maxx…they typically have a good selection of handy travel items and very affordable!

I have 2 sets of these.

You can pack your cubes in any way that makes sense for you. I like to keep similar items together, ex: all undergarments in the smallest cube. I pretty much fit all our clothes in the cubes, arrange in suitcase, then fit shoes and accessories around the outer edges and filling in spaces. Rolling my clothes individually allows me to fit the most in each cube. Any larger, heavier items such as jackets, I fold flat and lay down first in my case.

What to Bring

Again, what you pack is very individual and depends entirely on where you’re going and the nature of your trip. I do have some general tips that apply to any and all types of travel.

#1 : A neutral color palette. By sticking to mainly neutrals, you’ll be able to mix and match a multitude of outfits from just a few pieces. I always include denim when packing..it’s a neutral, appropriate in every season and almost any venue. Pack at least one great pair of jeans that make you feel good! The rest of my palette usually revolves around white, black and grey. You can use accessories to add pops of color and change a look.

#2: Light layers. Unless you’re going on a ski trip or another cold weather adventure, light layers almost always work. I pack a denim jacket that I can pair with everything from shorts and a tank, to maxi dresses. A lightweight cardigan is a staple for me as well. A lightweight chambray button down shirt can act as a top or be worn open as a layering piece. Some other good options are a light trench or rain poncho and a large scarf or pashmina. *tip, I wear layers on the plane so it’s less to pack. A typical travel outfit consists of leggings, a white tank or T, a chambray button down, scarf, cotton trench and slip on sneakers.

#3: Dresses 😉. For those gals like me that don’t want to sacrifice style for comfort. I practically live in dresses when traveling …weather permitting. Easy, comfortable dresses can be worn with sneakers for day touring and transition to evening by changing into sandals or boots. Dresses take up very little space, and even less effort when getting dressed.

#4 : Footwear. Let’s face it, shoes can be heavy and they can hurt our feet and make us miserable. When traveling it’s tempting to pack those pretty high heeled sandals that you’ve been dying to wear…Don’t 😉. Unless you’re going to a destination wedding or some other formal event, you will not need them! A pair of cute, comfortable white sneakers, whether leather or canvas can be worn with just about anything..bring those 😉. If you’ll be in a warm climate, a pair of flat sandals or wedge sandals are always appropriate. For cooler climates, flat or wedge booties can also be worn with everything from jeans to dresses. I try to stick to 3 pairs of shoes…the pair I wear on the plane ( slip on sneakers), one pair in my carry-on ( lightest pair), and the bulkiest or heaviest pair in my checked bag. You may need to add an additional pair of specialty shoes that pertain to any specific activities. For instance, on our recent Italy trip, I added hiking sandals 👍

These got me through 11 days in Italy
Along with these for hiking Cinque Terre!

That’s basically my tips and strategies for packing! I hope you’ve found it helpful!!

Ciao for now 😘

48 Hours in Milan

Hello my friends and welcome back!

I am just back from an incredible trip to Italy and wanted to share with you while it’s all fresh in my mind . Italy has become an absolute favorite destination for me…the combination of ancient history, delicious food and wine, warm people and utter beauty everywhere is just incomparable. Where else can you find fountains created by masterpiece artists alongside laundry hanging from balconies?? It’s all just wondrous to me!

I do try to visit new to us destinations on each visit and plan our travels accordingly. For this trip we flew into Milan and began our adventure!

I definitely do not recommend renting a car for city transportation in Italy. The public transit system is much easier and safer! Malpensa Airport in Milan has the very efficient Malpensa Express to transport you to the city center for about 8 euro. The airport is well outside of the city center and taxi fare will run about 95 euro, and take close to an hour. By using the train you will save close to 30 minutes and lots of money! Just follow the train signs in the airport and purchase your tickets at the counter or kiosk.

A very important tip for Italy train travel is to VALIDATE your ticket at the little machines BEFORE boarding your train. This applies to tickets purchased in the kiosks and at ticket counters. If you’ve bought tickets ahead online and printed them, you can skip the validation. They do not always check tickets, but if yours is not validated and checked you will be fined 50 euro on the spot!

Where to stay

The magnificent Duomo

As I’ve mentioned previously, we look for areas within walking distance to major sites, restaurants and shops. In Milan, this meant staying in the area of the Duomo in the historic center. Unbeknownst to me, I had chosen dates that fell during Fashion Week. Hotels were hard to find and finding affordable ones even harder. Hello Airbnb! Airbnb is a great option, especially in an expensive city like Milan. I found a small yet stylish studio apartment in a very secure building that was about an 8 minute walk to the Duomo. With less than 2 days to explore we didn’t want to waste a lot of time figuring out public transit, or spend a lot on taxis. If you feel the same, then I highly recommend the area of the Duomo as a base.

The area surrounding the Duomo is home to scores of shops and restaurants. The famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, home to all the top designer stores, is practically adjacent to the cathedral.

Inside the Galleria, named for the first King of the Kingdom of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II and built in the 1860s
No discount retailers here!
Fashion week photo ops everywhere!

My shopping bestie will be heartbroken to know that not only did I not purchase any designer splurges..I never even set foot in a shop here ! I love retail therapy probably more than most…but when I travel I’m more focused on experiences than purchases. I do try to find some small mementos, but I look for things that are handmade and representative of the area. On this trip, I picked up a lovely small watercolor from an artist’s studio and a hand painted ceramic ornament for our Christmas tree. Are you a vacation shopper? Do you splurge or keep it simple?

What to do

Speaking of keeping it simple…with less than 48 hours to see Milan, I looked for ways to maximize our time. My usual MO is to find small group tours that fit our interests. Food and drink is always interesting right?? So after checking into our Airbnb, we set out to meet up with our guide for a Navigli Canal evening tour. For any tours, I always use TripAdvisor.com to narrow my search, read reviews and get pertinent information. You can book tours directly through TripAdvisor or Viator.com.

Our first challenge was finding our way OUT of our apartment building. Yes, that’s right…neither of us was paying attention when we were led to the unit, and the building was a bit of a maze. Picture 2 overtired, middle aged tourists fresh off an overnight flight riding an elevator and running up and down stairs for 15 minutes trying to get out of a maze like apartment building with NO numbers on any doors🤣. I felt like we were in one of those Escape Room games! Comic relief at its finest🤣.

Once we made it to our meeting point, we were in for a real treat. Did you know that Milan had canals? At one time there were five navigable interconnected canals used for transport. Most of these were filled in during the 1930s to pave the way for more modern transportation. The Navigli Grand Canal remains and has become a vibrant area of shops, bars, restaurants and nightlife.

Navigli Grand Canal at sunset
Golden hour in Navigli…so pretty!

Apperitivo is Milan’s version of Happy Hour and it’s a custom I can totally get behind! Most bars and restaurants offer some version between the hours of 4-7pm. With apperitivo, you get some type of tapas like bites when you order a drink. This can range from a single piece of bruschetta to a full buffet of small plates! We pretty much made a meal out of our 3 stops along the tour. The small group of 14 felt like being out with friends and Vincent, our guide, was fun and engaging. The perfect introduction to Milan.

The Campari Spritz is Milan’s drink of choice for apperitivo.

And again, if you can plan something for your first evening abroad it really helps with your internal body clock and adjusting to the time zone!

Day 2

Since this would be our only full day in Milan, we packed in as much as we could. We began with another small group tour that included visiting the Duomo, Sforza Castle and seeing DaVinci’s The Last Supper. By using a guide you will also get skip the line access…this is a huge benefit in addition to the knowledge and expertise of a local guide.

Isn’t it magnificent?? I can understand why it took over 600 years to complete!
The size and scale inside is just incredible. It is the second largest Catholic Church in the world, ranking behind St Peter’s Basílica in Rome.
The cathedral is home to 3400 statues, more than any other building in the world. One of the most famous is of St Bartholomew after being skinned alive!

Packing tip : if you’re visiting churches you will need your shoulders and typically knees covered. It’s not always enforced everywhere but best to be safe than to be turned away.

The highlight of this quick visit was definitely getting to view The Last Supper. If you are at all interested in art and history this is a must see! It is imperative to purchase tickets in advance, as they are sold on a timed entry and they do sell out even months in advance. This is another reason that we opted for a guided walking tour that included our tickets. If you choose to visit on your own, you can find tickets at http://www.cenacolovinciano.vivaticket.it

Seeing this masterpiece in person was awe inspiring!

Having a guide to view this work of art truly enhanced our experience, especially relating to all the symbolism in the work. To stand in the room of the Santa Maria delle Grazie Church, where DaVinci spent over 3 years working was simply wondrous. Photos just don’t do it justice. When you’re standing there, you can fully appreciate the depth of the work. His perspective was so perfect that the painting feels like an extension of the room. Absolutely remarkable!

Santa Maria delle Grazie which houses The Last Supper

Food & Drink

As I mentioned we thoroughly enjoyed the apperitivo tradition in Milan..but one can not live on Happy Hour alone 😉. We had a different pizza experience at Spontini in the neighborhood of the Duomo. This pizza shop has been in business since 1953 and sells delicious huge slices of thick crust pizza, unlike your typical Napoli style thinner crust. No seating, you pick up your slice(s) and stand at communal counters to enjoy! Great spot for a quick, tasty and budget friendly meal.

I also made a point to visit the roof terrace at La Rinascente for a cocktail. La Rinascente is a huge department store located right by the Duomo. In addition to all the designer brands, there is also a food market and rooftop dining. We managed to grab 2 seats in the lounge area just before the crowds descended. Our most expensive drink of the trip, but the views and atmosphere were worth the splurge.

Prosecco with an amazing view of the Duomo spires!
How gorgeous are these cake confections ?? Too pretty to eat!

We spent our final evening strolling through the Brera District. The Brera is known as the artistic heart of Milan and its cobblestone streets are lined with fashionable shops and artisans. There are plenty of outdoor cafes, terraces for dining and of course Gelateria galore! It was the perfect end to our whirlwind visit!

Ciao for now !

Destination Spain : Part IV Marbella, White Villages and some packing tips

Hello my friends! I apologize for taking a while to get around to this installment, BUT…I’ve been busy traveling so stay tuned for another exciting journey coming soon 😉

In this chapter I will take you to lovely Marbella on the Costa del Sol as our final base destination. From there we will explore two of the incredible “ White Villages” of Spain.

The dreamy promenade in Marbella

Many of you have asked me to include some practical tips such as packing advice, so I’m happy to share what works for me. Packing is as much an art as it is a skill, and it takes a bit of practice and most of the time there is luck involved so don’t get discouraged if you feel over or under prepared for a trip! Now, I will start by saying that I am not one of those extremely efficient travelers that will tell you how to pack for a month abroad in a carry on! 🤣. Nope, not me! I’m a bit of a clothes horse , I like comfort and I like OPTIONS!! Can a lot of you relate??

My general rule is 1 small to medium sized checked bag, one manageable carry-on, and a tote bag. We often use public transportation when traveling, a small suitcase and a carry-on that can fit on top are much easier to maneuver on trains, busses, and especially wheeling over the mostly cobblestone streets we tend to be navigating. Having spine and other orthopedic issues makes me very aware of size, weight and maneuverability of my luggage. I look for extremely lightweight and compact luggage. I’m very fortunate that I do have my dear hubby to help carry the load when I’m struggling! So definitely consider whether you’re traveling solo or not when choosing luggage.

I used these 2 pieces on our most recent 11 day trip.

Now let’s get back to Spain, before we forget the reason we’re here😉. I promise to give more packing tips later!

The next and final stop on our tour of Andalusia was Marbella. I first learned of this beautiful seaside resort area from a dear friend that had vacationed there for several years. Coincidentally, I unknowingly chose the same resort that she had frequented! The town of Marbella sits along the beautiful Mediterranean Sea and lies under a backdrop of the Sierra Blanca Mountain range in the province of Malaga. We arrived by train to Malaga, the capital city of the region and had arranged a private transfer to the Amare Beach Hotel. The hotel is directly waterfront, beautifully decorated in an artistic modern style and fit well within our budget. We chose a partial sea view room and were not disappointed!

If you prefer a more glamorous stay, the area of Puerto Banús is the luxury marina area. In Puerto Banús you will find yachts, designer shops, luxurious accommodations and upscale restaurants and nightlife.

Yachts in Puerto Banus
with the Sierra Blanca mountains as a backdrop

Plaza de los Naranjos

Our stay centered around Marbella’s Old Town where you’ll find a maze of small cobblestone streets overflowing with tapas bars, shops and beautiful flowers. The heart of Old Town is the beautiful Plaza de los Naranjos (Orange Square) with its stunning tile benches, greenery, fountains and even a carousel.

We used Marbella as a base to explore two of Andalusia’s incredible White Villages. Ronda and Sentenil de los Bodegas. These villages are characterized by their whitewashed walls and red tile roofs.


Ronda received the title of city around the time of Julius Caesar, but it’s history dates back to prehistoric times. Remnants of civilization going back to Neolithic times can be found here!

In addition to being the birthplace of the bullfight, Ronda was also a destination for both Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway. Both found the beauty of the area compellingly inspirational to their writing and monuments to both men have been erected in the city.

The most breathtaking feature of Ronda is its El Tajo Gorge. This natural gorge divides the city between the “new” 15th century section and the ancient Moorish settlement. It is truly something to behold!

Bridge spanning the El Tajo
El Tajo Gorge

Sentenil de las Bodegas

This incredible town is literally built under a rock. When I first glimpsed photos of it, I knew I had to visit! Like Ronda, settlements here date back to prehistoric times and inhabitants most likely chose the location for its insulation capabilities. Homes are built right into the natural rock which keeps temperatures cool in the hot summers and warm in the cooler months.

Living under a rock!
I found this all so amazing!
We found the perfect spot for wine and tapas!

There are a few ways to visit the White Villages, if you have a car you can easily drive from Malaga or Marbella. There are also group or private tours available. We used a private tour guide so we could customize our time and it worked out perfectly. My best advice is to always begin by researching your destination, see what’s available and what suits your needs and budget!

And on that note, our journey through Andalusia comes to a close. I hope you enjoyed and maybe find some inspiration for your travels!

Ciao for now ❤️

Destination Spain, Part III

Hello my friends! First of all thank you all so much for coming along on this journey. I truly appreciate each of you and welcome any feedback you may have.

In this installment, I’m going to take you to my absolute favorite location of our trip to Andalusia…GRANADA !

It doesn’t get much better than this😉

Have you ever arrived somewhere and just instantly fallen in love with the place? That’s how I felt with Granada..it was love at first sight❤️. Everything about Granada was such a delight to all my senses. The sights, the sounds, tastes, smells, everything was just magical almost mystical to me.

We arrived by train directly from Seville, about a 2.5 hr comfortable ride. I had picked a lovely small boutique hotel in the Albaicin neighborhood of the city. This is basically the ancient Moorish quarter, and still retains the narrow winding streets of that long ago era.

The streets of the Albaicin reminiscent of it’s Moorish roots.
The Moroccan influence makes Granada so colorful and vibrant!

Our hotel, El Ladron de Agua is a beautifully restored 16th century noble house that uses the spirit of the poet Juan Ramon Jimenez as it’s inspiration. The unique hotel is part charming rustic accommodations meets modern art gallery. Instead of room numbers, each room carries the name of a poem written by Juan Ramon Jimenez. We absolutely loved everything about our stay here! I highly recommend it, and they typically offer booking discounts directly through their website http://www.ladrondeagua.com.

The sitting area and gallery of El Ladron de Agua.

I haven’t written very much about food yet..but that is about to change. While many of you are most likely familiar with the term Tapas, did you know how it originated? When you think of Tapas you probably envision a small appetizer or plate right? So the actual translation of Tapas is a cover or “ top”. The culture of Tapas originated in Spain when patrons would be given a small slice of bread to use as a cover to place over their wine glass in an effort to keep fruit flies away! That tradition has grown into the serving of small bites when ordering a drink at a bar or restaurant. In most of our travels that meant a little dish of olives or nuts, sometimes a small plate of meats and cheese even.

Well the spots we visited in Granada take Tapas to a whole different level! I mean seriously…at one restaurant we were given an entire plate of chicken AND french fries just for ordering one beer and one wine at the bar. Had we known we were getting what was basically a meal, we would never had ordered the grilled vegetables…so much for our light lunch 😉.

Tapas to share are very reasonable even in this somewhat touristy restaurant in Plaza Nueva…and we got free chicken & fries!

All our food choices in Granada were perfectly delicious. From the breakfast churros..YUM, at the little cafe next to our hotel to the delectable Gambas al Ajillo…mouthwatering shrimp in garlic and olive oil that we kept going back for at the tiny, authentic Taberna Gamboa.

To die for with crusty bread and a crisp white wine!
How perfect is this little spot?? Everywhere you turn in Granada, you find something special!

When not eating we did do plenty of sightseeing. The most well known symbol of Granada is the glorious and majestic Alhambra . This stunning palace was originally constructed as a small fortress in 899 AD. It was rebuilt as as palace in the mid 13th century by the last Muslim Emirate of Granada and in 1492 after the Christian Reconquista it became the court of Ferdinand and Isabella. It was here in the Alhambra ( the Red Palace) that Christopher Columbus received the endowment for his most famous expedition.

The Alhambra
The intricate carvings and architecture are just glorious!
All the characters and symbols that cover the walls, pillars and ceilings hold special meanings and tell a story.

I strongly recommend taking a guided tour to make the most of your time here. There is just so much to see and experience! I always recommend a small group tour over larger tours and read lots of reviews. You can look for tours at TripAdvisor.com and also Viator.com.

The rest of our time in Granada was spent exploring the Albaicin and all it’s meandering cobblestone streets. The Gypsy quarter sits high up along the way to Plaza San Nicholas and is home to several authentic Flamenco bars.

Quiet private garden in the Albaicin
Traditional Flamenco bar

At Plaza San Nicholas you will typically find a lively gathering of locals playing music ( for coins) and visitors all congregated for the spectacular view of the Alhambra, even more stunning at sunset!

You will also find beautiful pomegranates throughout this lovely city and with good reason. The Spanish word for pomegranate is Granada 😉

Ah Granada, you stole my heart! Maybe someday it will steal yours too??

Ciao for now❤️

Destination Spain, Part II

Enjoying historic Córdoba

Next stop Córdoba! I have to admit, I’m not one of those Hurry up and see a million places in one trip type of travelers. It’s very easy to get caught up in the need to see everything mentality, but is it enjoyable? Memorable? Or do you feel frazzled, rushed and not remember one place from the next? This is why I’m not a fan of tour group style vacations, with a different stop every 24- 48 hours.

Flexibility is key for us. I choose my key destinations very carefully so we can stay typically 3-4 days in each. I look for a spot where it’s easy to do day trips if we desire.

Córdoba was an easy day trip from Seville. Roughly 45 minutes by train and definitely worth visiting. Train travel throughout Europe is generally very easy and affordable. Much easier than dealing with car rental as many places do not have easy parking or do not allow cars within pedestrianized city centers. The site http://www.renfe.com will give you the train schedules and ticket prices throughout Spain. I prefer to purchase our tickets in advance through the website only because.well…type A 😉. Most tickets can also be purchased at the station.

Legend says that rubbing the foot of Maimonides brings good luck and fortune

During the Golden Age from the 8th-11th centuries, Córdoba was the most populous city in Spain with a thriving Jewish population. It is said that between 5 and 10,000 Jews lived in Córdoba prior to the 1492 expulsion by Isabella and Ferdinand. The most well known was the scholar Maimonides. A tour through the ancient Jewish quarter is filled with culture and history of his time.

The Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba

Probably the most famous site in Córdoba is the incredible, and I mean stunningly incredible Mezquita. This ancient place of worship began as a Mosque, with construction beginning in the 700s AD. Most of the architecture in Southern Spain is strongly influenced by the Moroccan and Arabic styles. The examples of this in the Mezquita are just incredible.

Intricate details in the Mezquita

After the Christians took over Córdoba during the Reconquista in 1236, the Mosque was converted to a Roman Catholic Church. Most mosques were destroyed and churches built on their sites. However the Mezquita was deemed too beautiful to be destroyed, so it was converted and a Roman Catholic nave was inserted into the Mosque itself!

The Catholic area of the Mezquita

If you do visit Córdoba, I recommend a short small group walking tour to take full advantage of the wealth of history there. I found and booked our 2 hour tour through http://www.tripadvisor.com.

Well my friends, that’s enough history for now!

Next stop will be Granada…my favorite of this trip! ❤️

Ciao for now..

Destination Spain! Part 1

The Real Alcazar, Seville . For all you Game of Thrones fans, the Water Gardens of Dorne were filmed here 😉

Hola mi amigos 😉

It’s beginning to feel like Fall in New England. I love crisp autumn days but I do hate to see summer leave. Early Fall is one of my favorite times to travel as we’ve enjoyed mostly beautiful weather for touring and the height of tourist season is typically over.

In September 2017 we had an amazing experience exploring the Andalusia region of Spain. Andalusia is a large autonomous southern region with Seville as it’s capital city. Seville and the surrounding area has always been of special interest to me as my youngest sister spent time living there, first as a student abroad and again post graduation.

As I’ve mentioned I’m a tad of an obsessive planner…but this has proved to work in my favor and hopefully in yours as well! The advances in technology have literally brought the world to our fingertips. All it takes is a few clicks and we can be transported just about anywhere! I find that to be so miraculous and exhilarating!

I plan almost 100% of our trips on my own…usually from my recliner in the hours between 11pm and 2am 😉. As with most of our travels, I begin by looking at maps and reading about locations. Once I have a general idea of a destination, I begin my research. I utilize http://www.tripadvisor.com religiously. You can read reviews, trip reports, ask questions, find tours, hotels, even flights directly from this site.

With this most recent Spain adventure, I knew I wanted to begin in Seville for its rich culture and historic sites. Of course I was able to get lots of great information from my dear sister❤️.

We prefer smaller boutique hotels, inns or B & B’s over larger chain hotels or resorts when traveling abroad. It’s totally personal preference but if I’m in Spain, I want my accommodations to reflect that. Of course if you can stay somewhere using points or rewards by all means take advantage of that😉 . I also pay close attention to the location of our accommodations. We love to be within walking distance to some sites, restaurants and nightlife without being right in the thick of a city center. Hotel Las Casas de el Arenal checked all the boxes for us in Seville.

Courtyard of Hotel Las Casas de El Arenal

We were able to spend 4 lovely nights here. It was a perfect spot from which to explore and it was moderately priced with breakfast included.

After a long overnight flight, it can be tempting to crawl into bed for several hours. I highly suggest to NOT do that. For us the best way to adjust to a time difference is to stay on a normal schedule. This does not mean you can’t take a little siesta but a quick power nap should be sufficient. For this reason, I like to plan something for our first afternoon/ evening in a destination. Most destinations, unless quite remote, will have a variety of tours available. There are tours across all budgets and interests. I look for a short 2-3 hour walking tour that will give us an introduction to the area. This gets us acclimated to our surroundings and allows us to see places we may want to go back and explore in more depth. One of the best take aways from this type of tour is getting a local’s perspective on their neighborhoods. A small group tour also gives you the opportunity to meet other travelers, which we love!

Tapas and Flamenco tour with our new friends Pei and Philip ( we’ve stayed in touch and even met up in Brooklyn last year).

I’ve learned over the years that a little planning ahead goes a long way to a more enjoyable trip. Whether your trip is strictly rest and relaxation or more active and adventurous, planning can truly enhance your experience. Another important lesson I’ve learned is as much as I’m an OCD planner…it’s important to leave unscheduled time to just “ be”. BE in the moment, BE present, BE able to roll with the punches and make adjustments. Sometimes the absolute best moments are spontaneous and unplanned!

Now, back to Sevilla! Here are just a few of the beautiful sites you might want to visit.

The Real Alcazar

The Real Alcazar is a royal palace that was built for the Christian King Peter of Castile. It was built on the grounds of an Abbadid Muslim Fortress and is a preeminent example of Mudejar architecture.
The intricate detail is absolutely incredible!
Impressive gardens

The Seville Cathedral

Construction began on the current beautiful gothic church in 1434. Its interior nave is the longest of any church in Spain. The total area of the building is 23,500 meters and it is the third largest church in the world.

The tomb of Christopher Columbus
The Giralda ( the bell tower) was registered as a UNESCO world Heritage Site in 1987

A Stroll through Triana

A leisurely walk across the beautiful Puente de Isabel II bridge will bring you to the lively, down to earth neighborhood of Triana. This area is a wonderful place to visit markets, grab some tapas and a drink along the Guadalquivir River.

The Guadalquivir River
Triana neighborhood

Of course no visit to Seville is complete without taking in an authentic Flamenco show and sampling delicious wine and tapas!

Highly recommend this quaint, authentic neighborhood spot!
And this restaurant was probably our favorite meal in Seville. Delicious modern tapas at very reasonable prices! Really the food was lick your plate amazing!
This was 4 glasses of wine, 3 dishes, 2 coffees and 2 desserts! I’m seriously craving this whole meal right now 😉

Next stop Córdoba and Granada

Ciao for now ❤️

The first spark

What is it that entices you to plan a trip? Is it a celebration ( wedding, honeymoon, family reunion, birthday)? Is it getting away from the office, the kids, school, daily life ? Is it seeing a great deal advertised or a recommendation from a friend ? Or is it some combination or other force? For me, I’ve traveled for all of the above reasons but the true guiding force is a wanderlust in my soul. This world we live on is so vast, so beautiful and has so many incredible things to share with us….I want to see and experience all that I can while I can! Hence my tag line…

Life’s too short, buy the ticket!

At any given point in time, I literally have 3-4 future trips all mapped out , either in my head or in black and white. At the same time, the seeds for yet more destinations are floating in my brain. I may be a tad obsessed with planning! Which brings me to my next question. As this blog begins to take shape, what is it that YOU would like to see for content? Are you interested in my planning process? How a trip takes shape, how a dream becomes a reality? Do you want to know the sites and tools I use to plan and book? The tips I’ve learned along the way?

Or would you rather just see photos and commentary on destinations? The sights to see within an area, the restaurants, accommodations etc?Of course having the proper clothing and essentials packed is key to enjoying a trip, so I will most certainly show you some packing tips and what I feel are cute but appropriate travel outfits!

In researching travel blogs and vlogs, one thing I’ve noticed is how many young…and I mean under 30 young, bloggers there are! I think that is absolutely awesome and amazing..makes me wish I had jumped onto this sooner! Yet it also got me thinking that my perspective, as a more ahem…mature traveler may be helpful and interesting to a different target audience. Maybe just maybe there are lots of us so called middle aged folks out there that can relate and take away more from my tips and thoughts than they could from the younger generation. That being said, I truly adhere to the notion that age is a number, do what you want, wear what you want etc…but just an FYI..I won’t be packing or modeling any crop tops 🙂

I think that’s enough for now, hopefully I haven’t bored you to tears. Please follow me and let me know what things travel related you would most like to see! I will leave you with some pics of our last trip abroad to the Andalusia region of Spain. Maybe the next post will take you on that journey?

Flower girls outside a cathedral in Seville before a wedding ceremony.
View of the Alhambra in Granada from Plaza de San Nicolas
The El Tajo de Ronda gorge in the white village of Ronda
Enjoying Plaza de los Naranjos in old town Marbella, Spain

Ciao for now….

PS. Unless otherwise noted all photos are my own 😉

Never too late!

Hello friends and fellow travel enthusiasts! Please bear with me as I’m just figuring out how to navigate the blogosphere. My goal for this first post is to basically introduce myself and pique your interest. My theory is that it is never too late to learn something new or to follow your passions.

My passion for travel and exploration is something that I hope to share with you. For me the planning stages are almost as exciting as the actual trip. By sharing my research and planning tips as well as my travels, I hope to inspire that same passion in you.

It is through travel that we can learn to fully appreciate all cultures and societies. Travel opens our eyes, our minds and our hearts to the wonders of the world around us. So please follow along and let’s explore together!

The Real Alcazar, Seville Spain 2017