Capturing Travel Memories with Photography

Zurich, Switzerland

Taking pictures while traveling has never been so easy, so inexpensive and so popular.  Gone are the days when we must be selective on what shots to snap in order to ‘ration’ our film, thanks to digital photography.   Most travelers, with few exceptions, make their goal to capture the ambiance of where they are and what they are seeing during their adventure and exploration.  Of course, there are those who feel that photography takes away from what they are experiencing when traveling.  I, on the other hand, want to collect those visual memories from each and every special destination and experience to re-live in years to come.

A photo is a purposeful attempt at taking a beautiful image and capturing the moment.  Taking the right amount of time to take quality photos can greatly enhance your travel experience in several ways:

  1. Photography makes you more aware of your surroundings and the overall experience of who you are with and what you are seeing and observing.  Look for the perfect picture.  Look at different angles, framing, lighting, and content.  Look at buildings, colors, faces on people, the clouds and sky highlighting an object or setting.   Look how differently nature appear at sunrise or sunset.  Once you begin looking for photos, you see much more of the world than if you are just ‘walking through it’.
  2. I want to remember my trip. Photos help you remember.  The undeniable test of a photograph’s ability to help you remember doesn’t come the day after you take it; it comes years later.  It may be a year, it may be 10 years but looking through your journey in photographs to a destination will be a very welcome and satisfying experience where you can rekindle many remarkable moments.

    Venice, Italy

  3. People will actually want to see your vacation photos. They may not necessarily want to see you in front of landmarks throughout your entire ‘album’ but they will be interested in the destination itself.  They may not want to see ALL of your photo collection, but they may become inspired, or simply awed by what you have seen and are now sharing with them.  Keep in mind that the better pictures you take the more interest will be shown by friends and family, plus you will enjoy them far more in the end!

    Cairo, Egypt

    Travel photography is not about owning the largest, latest and greatest, most expensive camera.  You can do it successfully with nothing more than a smartphone or a small size pocket camera.  The key to quality and meaningful photography is paying careful and close attention to your surroundings.  Take your time, enjoy, frame and shoot!

    Falkland Islands

If you love to travel and you enjoy taking pictures and saving memories, travel photography is one of the most gratifying hobbies out there.  Not only do you get to show off your skills, but you also get to relive your travels whenever you want.

So on your next trip, take the time to pay attention to your surroundings and take those shots which inspire you and you will be rewarded for many years to come.

Happy Travels!

 

Passport Requirements When You Cruise

This can be a confusing topic for most travelers , so here is information which provides  you with guidelines and recommendations the next time you plan to cruise.

Basically, whether you are cruising the Caribbean and Bahamas on a popular ship like the Carnival Vista or taking a cultural European river cruise on the Rhine River with Avalon Waterways you SHOULD bring your passport.  On a Caribbean cruise you don’t necessarily have to have a passport but you MUST have a passport when you travel to and throughout Europe and other parts of the world.  Let’s explain:

U.S. Citizens on a closed-loop cruise, one that begins and ends at the same U.S. port, can use a driver’s license or government –issued ID card and a certified and/or notarized birth certificate, certificate of naturalization or certificate of citizenship.  Destinations on closed-loop cruises that permit passport-free travel for U.S.citizens include Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

So here’s the catch and why cruise lines and travel agents strongly recommend that all guests travel with a valid U.S. passport during their cruise:

  1. If you have a medical, family, personal or business emergency and need to fly back to the U.S. before your cruise ends a passport is required or you could experience significant delays and complications.
  1. If you need to fly to meet your ship at the next available port should you miss your scheduled embarkation in the U.S. port or if you miss a ship’s departure from a port of call. (i.e. too many margaritas in Cozumel and you just could not make it back to your vessel!)
  1. Some ports may have their own entry requirements. Each individual cruise line can provide this information if there are exceptions.

Keep in mind that if you are cruising outside of the Western Hemisphere you definitely need a passport.  If your itinerary includes ports of call in South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Eastern Med, Australia or New Zealand you’ll need a passport.  Depending on where you are headed you may also be required to fill out additional visa or reciprocity paperwork.   For example, when cruising to the Baltics with a stop in St. Petersburg, Russia allows cruisers to enter without a visa as long as they remain on official shore excursions, but requires a complicated visa application for those who will tour on their own.  Another example is when individuals enter Argentina or Chile as part of a South America departure, they are required to purchase a Reciprocity Fee for the country they will fly into prior to traveling.

Passport pic for FB

So there you have it. Although it is acceptable to travel without a passport in some instances we highly recommend that you have your valid passport in hand.  Why give yourself added stress if you have an emergency and need to get home with only a driver’s license?   For more detailed information, passport applications and renewals you should visit https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.html

One more passport travel tip:  Keep a copy of your passport separate from your actual passport in your hand-carried luggage, wallet, etc.  This applies whether you are cruising or taking a land-based vacation.

Keep Calm and Travel On!

Grapes to Crepes

Enjoying Fine French Traditions

A recent vacation to France took us to Paris for Bastille Day, and then on to the Champagne Region, Normandy and parts of Brittany.  We experienced the sophistication and architectural beauty of Paris, gained intriguing knowledge of how true Champagne has been lovingly developed and is being produced in this unique region of France, were reminded of the historic significance to the United States and Europe of the Normandy region and became immersed in the pleasingly delightful French countryside as we drove from one small village in northern France to another.

I would love to share with you an adventure from our perspective of two French iconic traditions – Champagne and Crêpes, so here goes…

grapes to crepes

When you take a sip of ‘champagne’ at a special occasion such as a wedding, New Year’s Eve or romantic dinner are you really drinking Champagne or is it sparkling wine?  Chances are you are not enjoying the ‘real thing’!  Did you know that for a sparkling wine to be labeled “Champagne” it must be produced from within the regions’ border?  Champagne is a legally controlled and restricted name.  The region we speak of is France’s most northerly wine region, due east of Paris. In this kind of cool climate, the growing season is rarely warm enough to ripen grapes to the level required for standard wine making.

Vilmart Champagne

The all-important fine and delicate bubbles which make it stand out from less ‘exciting’ wines and the high prices that Champagne commands make the consumer feel special, pampered and exclusive.   Compare for yourself – try real Champagne in a taste test against a domestic sparkling wine – and you will notice the difference in one sip.

Champagne crop

On our visit to the Champagne region with FestivalPros.com we learned that one of the area’s greatest assets is its chalk soils, which provide incredible drainage, forcing the vine to “stress” as it searches for a supply of water making the root system stronger.  The stress from this movement helps preserve acidity in the grapes.  The  chalky soils have also proven a beneficial natural element for another reason and it is fascinating!

Veuve Cliquot Cellar 2

Roman soldiers created elaborate systems of caves that now lie beneath many Champagne houses (wineries) in the Reims, France area.  These caves maintain a cool temperature year round, approximately 12 degrees Celsius, which is ideal for Champagne production and storage.  As the city of Reims was being bombed during World War I, the Champenois lived in these same caves as their bottles of Champagne while transforming some of this hidden space as hospitals and schools.  During a private dinner in the Cellars St. Petersburg at the massive Veuve Cliquot limestone cellars, we learned that over 90 million bottles of Champagne are stored there in the seemingly endless cave system.  A massive and very impressive presentation of history, pride, and a stunning atmosphere left us in awe about what was and what is.

Veuve Cliquot cellar

We learned of Madame Cliquot  the fascinating woman behind the iconic yellow label: Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin.  One of the world’s richest women at the time, she arranged perilous champagne deliveries to Russia one day and entertained Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte on another. She was a daring and determined entrepreneur and remains an important port of the history of Champagne and its’ development.

Dom Perignon Sign

We also learned about Dom Pérignon while visiting a small village of 800 residents, Hautvillers, which is also his final resting place.  Although considered an extraordinary champagne, Dom Pierre Pérignon did not invent champagne.  He worked in Hautvillers as a monk and perfected the process that created champagne as we know it.  Hautvillers is still home to many small Maisons de Champagne.  An astounding fact we learned about the Champagne region of France:  there are over 35,000 champagne producers in this fairly small region and over 2 million wineries in the country of France.   83,000 acres of vineyards produce an average of a million bottles of Champagne a day!

Leaving the Champagne region  behind us, we now discover French crêpes.  France’s Crepes flatBrittany region is where the techniques and tools were created and perfecting the crepe to the art it is known for.    Crêpes were originally called galettes, meaning flat cakes.  Crêpe making has evolved from being cooked on large cast-iron plates heated over a wood fire in a fireplace to today’s hot plates that are now gas or electric.  The batter is spread with a tool known as a rozel and flipped with a spatula.  Crêpe lovers use their imagination what to add to their dessert treat – drizzles of chocolate, fresh fruit, powdered sugar, or delicious flambé sauces.

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In Brittany, crêpes are traditionally served with cider.  On February 2, crêpes are offered in France on the holiday known as Fete de la Chandeleur, Fete de la Lumiere, or “jour des crêpes”.    Crêpes are popular not only throughout France but elsewhere in Europe where the  usually thin and delicate pancakes are known by other names and adaptations, including the Italian crespelle, Hungarian palacsintas, Jewish blintzes, Scandinavian plattars, Russian blini, and Greek kreps.  We ran across a few ‘less quality’ crêpes that were very large, doughy and thick – perhaps a fast food version!

By and large, France offers an impressive array of dining temptations, fine wines and Champagne.  We experienced many outstanding meals but even when the food was not quite as expected, the bread never fell short and was always amazing. Add a bite of Brie, a chilled glass of Champagne and that may be all you need!

With this statement and this photo, we say

  Bon appétit and bon voyage!

Bread

 

 

 

 

 

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How Do You Choose Your Next Destination?

Everyone has a destination, but we all have a different way of getting there.Muir Woods (2)

How you choose your next destination is not always an easy process although it can be wonderfully satisfying as you take the steps to decide.  We live in a special world which contains endless historical, beautiful and awe-inspiring memory-making places.  Whether you plan just one ‘vacation of a lifetime’ or are in the position to travel for pleasure often, planning the journey is many times ‘half the fun’!

You may not be aware of your travel ‘passion’ until you start experiencing the myriad of possibilities for travel.  Look at what you already know you like to do and then be open to additional suggestions, recommendations and options.  Talk with friends, family and co-workers, fellow-professionals, conduct online research.  Be open to most anything!

 

Relaxation

The ultimate in stress relief.  The destination is about relaxation, no schedule, no worries.  The destination takes care of you.  Think all-inclusive resorts, Hawaii, the Caribbean….

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Adventure

This type of travel  could be so many things, you just need your imagination, the drive and the energy.   Hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, trekking, canoeing, rafting, zip-lining, paragliding, mountain biking, diving and yes, the list goes on!

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World Wonders

A relative handful of mankind’s creations possess the enduring worth to inspire us – generations of us.  Most world wonders stand as icons to which we are drawn such as the pyramids and Sphinx of Egypt, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu and the Roman Colosseum to name just a few.

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History & Culture

Explore the timeless treasures of Europe, from Italy’s art and architecture and the breathtaking scenery of Croatia and Iceland’s dramatic geological features to enjoying the festive music and colors of Spain and Portugal and the multitude of iconic sights and sounds of jolly old England.  Wear comfortable walking shoes, have your camera close at hand and dive into rich history and culture which may change the way you look at your world forever.

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Big City Immersion

The United States boasts some renowned big cities.  Some would argue that this would include only New York City and San Francisco, but others include Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles on the list.  And we can’t dismiss our cities with big personalities, like New Orleans, Boston, Philadelphia and Seattle.  No matter your preference, you can certainly become immersed in one of our big cities!

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Event and Festival Travel

A growing segment of the travel industry is Event and Festival Travel designed for the discerning traveler looking for unique and highly memorable experiences in some of the great cities of the world.  Would you like a bird’s high view of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona?  How about watching the Bastille Day festivities from your private VIP Penthouse Terrace for the Military Parade and a Private yacht dinner cruise on the Seine while watching the fireworks over the Eiffel Tower?  St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin?  Il Palio in Siena?

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River Cruising

If you seek to explore our world through local cuisine, exposure to local talent and way of life, river cruising may be a good fit. Unlike ocean cruising, river cruise ships are much smaller giving you a more personal, relaxed experience.  But don’t think you will be bored on a river cruise!  Up early and off to see one, if not two towns or cities with the tours included in your cruise fare for itineraries on the rivers of Europe including the Rhine, the Moselle, the Danube and Douro to name a few.  Visit Provence or Burgundy in France.  Many choices, many ships!

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In closing, we would like to say that travel and destination selection is a personal choice requiring insight, a thorough thought process and time spent on information gathering.  Yes, it can be enjoyable because there are so many amazing options but can also be overwhelming for the very same reason!   Plan, dream and travel on.

As Hans Christian Andersen wisely said, “To travel is to live.”

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Affordable Luxury Cruise Experience

The words affordable and luxury rarely go hand-in-hand but we recently experienced one such instance in our travels to Bermuda from Miami while on board MSC Cruises MS Divina. During our 7-night stay in the MSC Yacht Club, an exclusive sanctuary of refinement, we were pampered and catered to by attentive private butlers with white glove service and waist coat attire. Although our beautifully designed and comfortable balcony Yacht Club stateroom was not much larger than a standard contemporary cruise line balcony stateroom, we thoroughly appreciated the well-appointed marble bathroom, the memory foam mattress and Egyptian cotton sheets, the welcome basket of fresh fruit and bubbly, and chilled Champagne.

But, it was not all about the stateroom and butler! When we arrived at the busy and often hectic Port of Miami we were immediately escorted to a private, tented area and were greeted by a Senior Butler who checked us in and made sure our luggage was sent on board ahead of us. After he personally brought us into the cruise terminal and we passed through security, we received our stateroom key cards and were provided with a private room where we could relax with mimosas and refreshments while waiting for customs to clear the ship. During this time we had a great time meeting fellow Yacht Club guests, many who had been in the Yacht club multiple times and who “just keep coming back – because we love it so”!

Once on board the lovely MS Divina, we were escorted to our Private Concierge Reception where we met our own private butler and his assistant, the dining room Maitre’D to discuss and plan our dining preferences, and given a tour of new ‘home away from home’ for the next 8 days. At this point we knew the Yacht Club experience would be a ‘cruise within a cruise’! MSC Yacht Club has dedicated an impressive amount of space on the ship so we would have exclusive access to the Top Sail lounge offering complimentary cocktails, wine and beer throughout the cruise as well as tempting desserts, afternoon tea and tasty midnight snacks. During our cruise we developed a tradition of pre-dinner drinks and appetizers together and loved this relaxing time!

For breakfast, we liked heading up one deck to our exclusive pool deck. Not just continental breakfast, mind you, we had our choice of light fruit, eggs & breakfast meats or the European way – freshly baked hard rolls with salami or prosciutto with a selection of cheeses. Lighter fare lunch was also served in our private pool area (complete with bar, or course). We noticed that many of the Yacht Club members never ventured out to dine around the ship, but we must confess that we became addicted to the best pizza on the high seas so we would also visit the casual Calumet Buffet to feed that addiction!

For our evening dining experience, the MSC Yacht Club extends to our private dining room, Le Muse. Please note that the dining room is on the opposite end of the ship and requires a great deal of walking and although the experience is worth that walk, MSC Cruises has informed us that on their next ship, the MSC Seaside,
the private dining room will be located IN the Yacht Club venue.

As our 8 day/7 night cruise came to an end, it was so very fitting that we were personally escorted by our butler, Jacques, off of the MSC Divina through a private area away from the departing crowds. A delightful experience and we shall return!

Look for future blog posts regarding our insights from our enchanting Bermuda visit and also more on the beautiful vessel, the MSC Divina.