Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Travel Talk Essential Jordan Tour, Part 5: Dead Sea and Kerak Castle

After our tour stops in Wadi Rum and Petra, we left Wadi Musa to stay in Amman again, with a couple of day trip/ stops in between. The Dead Sea and Kerak Castle trip actually took place on two different half days.

After our morning Petra run, we left Wadi Musa for Amman, stopping to see Kerak Castle in between. As with other castles here, Kerak sits on top of a hill with a nice view of the city.
Kerak castle
Kerak is a Crusader castle that was constructed in the 1140s (fairly young compared to all the other stuff we've seen!). In the 1180s the castle was captured by the muslim Sultan, Saladin. Then it was captured by rebels. Then by the Egyptians. It was also the site of a terrorist attack. Quite the tumultuous history, no?
Kerak castle

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Travel Talk Essential Jordan Tour, Part 4: Petra!

So far I've talked about my Travel Talk Essential Jordan tour in Amman, Jerash, and Wadi Rum desert. On day 4, we left Wadi Rum and made our way for what is (to me) the highlight of the trip: Petra! Petra is the ancient Nabatean city built into the sandstone rocks and cliffs.

So, all I knew about Petra before was The Treasury, which you and I have seen on many Instagrams and of course, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I didn't realize how big Petra really was! It is 264 sq km (102 sq miles). So what I'm basically saying is, be prepared for a hike or at least a long walk.

The main trail goes from the Visitor's Center to the start of the steps to the Monastery, and it is 4km long (2.5 miles) - that does not include the steps though.

From the visitor's center you will walk through The Siq. It's a 1km crack in the mountain so you are walking in a narrow corridor surrounded by tall sandstone cliffs. There are a few things to see in the Siq, a taste of what's to come. At the end is a view you might have seen on Instagram as well. The narrow corridor opening up to the impressive Treasury!
Petra
And there it is, in full view. I wonder how long it took the Nabateans to carve this into the cliffs.
Petra
Now, if you really want to see the monastery but don't think you can cut it hiking up the steps, they do offer donkey rides (I'm not sure how much, depends on how good you are at negotiating, but one of the people on our tour group got one for 10JD). She did say riding the donkey down the stairs was a bit scary! Anyway, I decided to be healthy and hiked it.
Petra

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Travel Talk Essential Jordan Tour, Part 3: Wadi Rum Desert

So far I've told you guys about my tour through Amman and to Ajlun and Jerash. On the third day of the Travel Talk Tours' Essential Jordan Tour, we left our hotel in Amman and headed to Wadi Rum!

On this day we are joined by a second group who is doing the longer Egypt and Jordan tour. There was some change from the regular itinerary, since the political climate meant people were having more issues crossing the land border, so the group coming from Egypt was now coming by ferry and our guide / bus need to pick them up in Aqaba.

The change ended up good and bad for us, in my opinion. On the bad part, originally they were going to have us go to Aqaba too, but that was an extra few hours drive for our group for not doing much. Instead, we got dropped off at our Wadi Rum camp, Hillawi (Sand Rose) Camp.
Wadi Rum
The original itinerary says we were supposed to get lunch included in the camp that day, but with the changed schedule we arrived only after lunch. This was kind of a sticking point for us as well, as there was nothing going on that morning. We could've been picked up earlier and arrived in time for lunch. Oh well.

The rooms at the desert camp is pretty basic, but it has what you need. Wall outlets to charge your phones, en-suite bathroom with toilet and running water. There's no hot water in the private bathrooms, although supposedly there's hot water in the communal shower area. Since we were only there one night, I'm pretty sure everyone skipped the shower :P. Wadi Rum
Even though there's no hot water, there's pretty good wi-fi, especially in the dining area. I was there in December, so the nights can get pretty chilly. I had to use all the blankets and slept with socks and my sweater on, but it was manageable. Just a warning to pack appropriately.
Wadi Rum
 Anyway, while our guide and bus driver went to Aqaba, we settled in and was given the option to take a short camel ride through the desert. This was an extra 10 JD (about $15) and everyone in the group took it.
Wadi Rum

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Travel Talk Essential Jordan Tour, Part 2: Ajloun and Jerash

On the first full day of my Essential Jordan tour  with Travel Talk Tours, we visited Ajlun and Jerash and then returned to our hotel in Amman in the evening.

The tour guide picked us up at our hotel in Amman. We had the same tour bus, driver, and guide throughout the trip. The bus was a bit old, but it does have wifi!

The first stop was Ajloun (Ajlun) to visit a 12th century Muslim castle that sits on top of a hill in Jabal Ajlun (Mount Ajlun) district.
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When we got off the bus there was a guy selling hot mint tea for 1 JD. December in Jordan is a bit chilly (40-50 Fahrenheit) and Ajlun being at the top of a hill was a bit windy, so it was nice to hold a hot cup of tea in my hands, although the tea itself was a bit too strong and bitter for my taste (the tea at Hesham Restaurant in Amman was much better).

Ajloun Castle was a Muslim castle, but it was in fact built on top of the ruins of a Byzantine church, and you can see remnants of this as you tour the castle.
Ajloun Castle

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Travel Talk Essential Jordan Tour, Part 1: Amman

Last Christmas holiday, I took a tour with Travel Talk Tours to Jordan, to tick one off my bucket list item: to see Petra! I chose Travel Talk because the dates worked perfectly with the Christmas holiday at work, and it was cheap. Travel Talk frequently has deals (including 50% off last minute tours right now). The base price I paid was $599, although there is an additional local payment of £160 (approximately $215) that you pay on the first day of the tour. The price also doesn't include entrance fees to the attractions, but you can get a Jordan pass for about $100 that also includes the Jordan visa fee, so that's not too bad.

The Essential Jordan tour with Travel Talk is a 7 day tour that takes you to some sites in Amman (the citadel and the Roman theatre), Jerash, Ajloun, Wadi Rum desert, Petra, Dead Sea, and Kerak Caste.
Since talking about the whole tour in one post would be too long, I'll be dividing it up into parts! First is the part surrounding Amman, the capital of Jordan and where you will be flying into.

We stayed at The Art Hotel in downtown Amman (also called Al-Balad). This is the hotel you will spend the most time at, with 2 nights at the beginning of the trip and returning here on the last night. Downtown Amman is a pretty good area to be a tourist in. You can walk to restaurants, small shops selling souvenirs and clothes on the cheap (if you haggle), the market, and some other attractions. The cheap stores help if the airline forgot to transfer your luggage like they did to mine ...
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The room was good. It was clean, there was wifi and enough power outlets. The top mattress pad kind of slides though, and if you have a room facing the street, be warned that it will get rather noisy when traffic starts up in the morning!
Amman
All the Travel Talk hotels provide free breakfast. Here, it's primarily falafel and hummus. Most of the other meals are not included in the tour, though, which was fine with me. I like going out for food on my own anyway so I can choose exactly where I want to eat.

The best thing about the hotel for me was the proximity to a few great restaurants in Amman!
I first had fresh kunafeh at Kareem's in Watertown, MA and fell in love. Naturally as soon as I woke up, I headed to the most famous kanafe / kunafa shop in Amman, Habibah Sweets. It's a tiny take-out only place on an alleyway in downtown Amman, right near the hotel.
Amman

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

5 Things to Do on A Winter Wonderland Trip to Quebec City, Canada

Quebec City is a great winter destination if you're looking for one that does not involve skiing or snowboarding. Just a six-hour drive from Boston, Quebec City is perfect for a long weekend trip. Here are five things to do in the winter in Quebec City:

1. Visit the Ice Hotel / Hotel de Glace

The Ice Hotel a.k.a. Hotel de Glace is a must visit for those who are in the area for the winter season. Staying on the ice beds are not required, as the hotel is open during the afternoon to visitors. Day visitors can visit each room (each room has a unique decoration) during the day, as well as drink in the ice bar from a glass made of ice. Hotel de Glace is open until March 25, 2018.

A post shared by Fiona Chandra (@gourmetpigs) on


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Review: British Airways Concorde Room First Class Lounge at London Heathrow Airport

On a 13-hour layover in London Heathrow Airport recently, I had the fortune to experience the Concorde Room, British Airways' first class lounge. No, I was not flying first class (coach, totally) but I knew someone who was flying first class and got me in as a guest.
British Airways Concorde Lounge
British Airways has three separate lounges in Heathrow airport and the Concorde Room is open only to first-class flyers or Gold members of British Airways Executive Club or Emerald oneworld member flying on BA or partner airlines.

Thanks to that, the Concorde Room is quiet and fairly empty. The wine selection is better, of course.
British Airways Concorde Lounge
Even the cocktail menu was unexpected. I was expecting the regular highballs but they actually had unique craft cocktails on the menu here. I had the Fusion Fizz, a combination of Tanqueray TEN, jasmine tea syrup, lemon sherbert, and tonic. It was created by bartender Richard Tring, one of Bristol's best.
British Airways Concorde Lounge
There's no food buffet at this lounge. Instead, guests sit down for a three-course menu. With wine, naturally.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Summer Cookout at Element Boston Seaport Hotel

I recently had a staycation at the Element Boston Seaport hotel and had a summer cookout with friends. No, really, the Element hotel rooms are equipped with a kitchen and their patio has a grill that guests are welcome to use, as well, making it easy for both short or longer-term guests to "eat in" while they're staying here.

Element Seaport
Yes, we cooked this at a hotel
First off, the Element is a new hotel that opened up in Seaport last year, just across the street from Lawn on D.
Element Seaport
Element has rooms and suites, both of which are equipped with kitchenettes.
Element Seaport

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

WaterFire Lighting in Providence, RI

WaterFire has become one of the top attractions in Providence, Rhode Island in the summer. WaterFire is a sculpture/art installation by Barnaby Evans on the three rivers in downtown Providence, creating a line of bonfires on the water.
Waterfire
Over the years, the installation has been expanded to 100 braziers, and there are multiple lighting events throughout the summer, taking place at sunset (mainly on the weekends).
Waterfire
Most of the lighting activities take place in the basin at Waterplace Park, surrounded by the Providence Place mall and the visitor center. During the lighting, boats with firewood receives fire from a mime, and the braziers are lit one by one as fire acrobats perform on the boats and music is piped all long the river.
Waterfire

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bites Around Ireland: Researching My Trip through TV Shows

What do you do when you're researching an upcoming destination that you're not familiar with? For me, I definitely turn to the Instagram pages of my friends and other travelers, and then I watch TV. Yep, TV.

For my recent trip to Ireland, I looked up the episodes from Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern, etc on Ireland. Thankfully, this "research" was painless and buffering-free thanks to the fast Verizon FiOs internet that has now landed in Dorchester.

I had to see what else I should be eating and drinking other than a ton of Guinness!
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Unfortunately I couldn't go try all the places Bourdain went to - you can only do so much in 4 days!
The place I did try was Leo Burdock, which is Dublin's oldest "chipper" - what they call a traditional, take-away fish and chips place.
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Friday, April 21, 2017

Travel Tips: Apps to Kill Time on a Long-Haul Flight

Wow AirLong-haul flights are when I catch up on my movies, TV, and books. Good airlines now have a nice entertainment options, but sometimes you might get stuck with a budget airline that doesn't have any entertainment system or onboard wifi. If you have one of those flights coming up, there's no need to fret, as there are so many apps nowadays that you can use to keep you entertained.


1. FiOs Mobile App
This app is perhaps not one that might come to mind with other options like Netflix or Hulu, but did you know that the FiOs app lets you watch live TV from up to 140 channels, and also stream TV shows and movies on demand? If you are a FiOs subscriber, this is certainly a handy app to get before your flight! They even have offline viewing options for some content, so you can download some shows before you go off the grid aboard the flight.
Plus, if you're both a FiOs TV and Verizon Wireless customer, you can stream shows from the FiOs app data-free. Makes your live streaming those sports games or TV shows more guilt-free, right?

2. Netflix
The day Netflix introduced downloads and offline streaming was the day Netflix became a great app to have for traveling! Not all TV shows or movies can be downloaded at the moment, but there enough options and they make it easy to browse the ones that are. On your app menu, there is an "Available for Download" category with popular shows like Breaking Bad, Stranger Things, and more.
You can also use Netflix while you're in another country, although they have different content. I was able to catch up on Orphan Black when I was in the UK because they had newer seasons available there.

3. Amazon Prime Video and Audible
Amazon has really upped their prime membership perks with the addition of Audible Channels. I am putting these two together because they both come with Prime membership, although they are separate apps. Amazon Prime Video app has allowed downloads and offline viewing way before Netflix did, and their exclusive content also include some binge-worthy shows. Now the membership also includes access to Audible Channels and Prime Exclusive Audiobooks.

4. Podcasts
Technically not an app, but I love listening to podcasts and audiobooks while traveling. You get to rest your eyes while still being engaged by the story. Plus, some podcasts are so addictive that they're better to listen to in one sitting (like Serial and S-Town!), so they're perfect for a long-haul flight.
Got any podcast that you love? Let me know, I'd love to get ideas for my next flight!

5. Games
The key, of course, is to download games that can be played offline. Some offline games that can be addictive are Two Dots and 1010. Some games can still be played offline with limited features, like SimCity BuildIt.


Do you have any other apps you use while traveling long distance? If you do, please share below!


This post was created in partnership with Verizon FiOs, which is now rolling out in Boston, starting from Dorchester, Roxbury, and Roslindale.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Street Art and Brews in Miami's Wynwood Art District

Just a few years ago, Miami's Wynwood was a warehouse district that no one ventures out to. Now, it is one of the hottest destinations in Miami filled with street art and some of the city's best breweries and restaurants.
Wynwood
Conceived by community revitalizer, the late Tony Goldman, in 2009, the idea is to bring great street art onto the walls of Wynwood's windowless warehouse buildings, and then develop the surrounding area. Today, Wynwood Walls is a colorful place that pedestrians, both locals and tourists, all enjoy.
Wynwood
I heard about Wynwood from the bartender at The Abbey (the only brewpub in Miami Beach), who told me Wynwood has a good concentration of Miami's craft breweries. If you are a beer lover, skip the beach and head to Wynwood.
I hopped on an Uber there, but stopping off first to get a different kind of brew at Panther Coffee, one of the best-known coffee shops in the city (and probably the best, as well).
Wynwood
Panther roasts their own coffee on site in small batches. Panther has two blends for the espresso, East Coast and West Coast espresso. I opted for the East Coast espresso since the tasting notes were "very creamy, round chocolate .. notes of sweet black cherry". Those all sounded good to me and resulted in a delicious cappuccino.
Wynwood
From there, I walked to J. Wakefield Brewing. I fell in love with it as soon as I got to the parking lot. Darth Vader wall!
Wynwood

Monday, November 7, 2016

Chilling at Quebec's Ice Hotel, Hotel de Glace

When Sweden's Icehotel opened in 1990, I dreamed of going there. While I haven't had the chance to go to Sweden at all, luckily I can experience an ice hotel in Canada! Hotel de Glace is open every winter in Quebec, giving vacationers the chance to tour, sleep in, drink in, or even get married in this wintry surroundings.
Hotel de Glace
I decided not to stay at Hotel de Glace, but instead to take a tour of the hotel. In the afternoon, all the rooms of the hotel are open for public tours. In the evening, the hotel is closed to the public and overnight guests can sleep in private.
Hotel de Glace
For the day tour-goers, especially families with children, there's an ice slide they can go on (hey, adults are welcome, too).
Hotel de Glace
Each room has a different theme and decor (think ice sculptures) and the price is different as well. This was one of the most expensive suites (which comes with a private hot tub and bathroom)
Hotel de Glace

Friday, November 4, 2016

Being a Tourist in Boston with Go City Card: From Duck Tours to Museums

Traveling can get expensive, that's a fact. Never mind the flight and the hotels, once you get to your destination, it can cost a lot of money to visit the all the attractions you want to see. Thankfully, you can save money with multi-attraction packages like Go City Card from Smart Destinations.

They recently gave A Traveling Life5 Things to Eat, and me a 3-attraction Explorer Pass to try out. It was our chance to do all the touristy Boston stuff that we haven't done!
Our first attraction was the Boston Duck Tour. We got on the tour at the Science Museum.
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The bus goes to Boston Common area and continues on to Back Bay to Copley Square.
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It then heads back to Cambridge and near the Science Museum and enters the Charles River from there. The best part is getting in the water!
DSC07960

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Thanksgiving and America's Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown in Virginia

I didn't grow up in America, so I only learned about American history after coming to the country in high school, but last Thanksgiving I visited the Greater Williamsburg and the Historic Triangle in Virginia, which consisted of three towns: Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. Jamestown is the first permanent English settlement in America, so it has quite a significant place in history.

When we arrived, we went to visit the Jamestown Settlement. The Jamestown Settlement is a "living history museum" located near but not on the site of the real settlement. Walking through, you start out  at the earliest point of history: with the exhibit on the Powhatan Indians.
Jamestown
You can walk through the houses (the longhouses), and staff members were there preparing traditional foods.
Williamsburg

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Best Tiramisu in Venice, Italy: I Tre Mercanti

I love tiramisu. I've loved tiramisu ever since I can remember having eaten tiramisu. Tiramisu is supposedly invented in 1969 in Treviso, near Venice, so I figured being in Venice got me close enough to hunt for a great one. An online search turned up I Tre Mercanti as a potential contender.

i Tre Mercanti

This cute little shop sells tiramisu, macarons, wines, olive oils and other sundries.
i Tre Mercanti

But of course, I'm here for the tiramisu. Multiple tiramisus, in fact. I Tre Mercanti has many flavors of tiramisu, from the classic (coffee), mango, amaretto, pistachio. They claim that they make them fresh every hour, and when they do you can actually see the action through the window.
i Tre Mercanti


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Inn At Richmond and Equestrian Center: A Place of Celebration

I've visited The Berkshires in the fall, but I finally made my first foray out here in the winter time. The Berkshires is quiet in the winter, but that also makes for a relazing, tranquil getaway. I love this winter sunset view.

Inn at Richmond
This time, I stayed at Inn at Richmond, set in a colonial style home dating back to the 18th century. This inn is close to Hancock Shaker Village and the Bousquet Ski Area.
Inn At Richmond
My room was a charming suite in the main building. The second room has a pull-out sofa bed.
Inn at Richmond
The inn has multiple rooms and suites, and even private cottages complete with a kitchen that are perfect for families.
Inn at Richmond

Monday, December 28, 2015

Top 10 Stops on The Road to Hana (Maui, Hawaii)

The Road to Hana, as everyone knows, is the number one thing to do on the island of Maui. The drive is one of the most beautiful drives you'll ever do with plenty of great sights to stop at along the way. You can't make all the stops possible on the Road to Hana in one day, so you need to prioritize! Everyone has their own lists and favorites, but there are my top ten stops on The Road to Hana:

1. Twin Falls (mile marker 2)
When the water flow is too high, the upper part of the falls and trail may be closed, so be warned. Otherwise, a short and easy hike will lead you to a waterfall - the first among many on this road. There are also Porta Potties to the left of the hiking trail, and a fruit stand is ready to sell you juices and freshly cut pineapples near the entrance.

2. Huelo Lookout (between mile marker 4 and 5)
There's a nice ocean view from this lookout, but mainly because you can sit and enjoy the view while you're having your breakfast. There's another stand here serving acai bowls, smoothies, and sugar cane juice.
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3. Rainbow Eucalyptus Grove (near mile marker 7)
To call it a "grove" is an overstatement, since the grove only has a few trees, but these rainbow eucalyptus trees are worth seeing (and snapping photos of!)
Rainbow Eucalyptus

4. Keanae Peninsula (mile 16.8)
To get to the Keanae peninsula, you have to turn onto the Keanae Peninsula Road around mile 16.8 - you wont' see if from the Hana Highway itself. I almost missed it but I backtracked to find the banana bread shop and so glad I did!

We even caught a beautiful rainbow from the peninsula.
Maui

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