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I’m feeling ROMEsick

Sigh.   It has been far too long since my last visit.

Rome, has a smell, that favourite comforting smell.  For some it is their grandma’s perfume, biscuits baking or fresh rain, but for me it is simply ROME.  As I wander the streets I feel a sense of comfort at being back in a place that makes me feel whole.

Over the past week I have loved being bombarded with photos live from clients in Rome on their travels.  I get a feeling that they too may also come home ROMEsick.  Just to make my symptoms worse, I have attended three product launches in the past week all showing short videos of Rome highlighting the amazing new itineraries available in 2016.  I just want to jump out of  my seat and into the images just like Mary Poppins, and it has sadly left me feeling ROMEsick.  Very ROMEsick.

Why do I love Rome so much, I love watching the daily passeggiata that Italians take in the evenings.  I love heading in a general direction and finding exquisite streets and alleys to wander along, I love the food, I love the gelato, I love listening to Italians speak Italian, I love being in a living museum, I love Roma!

I think it may be time to take my medicine and book a plane ticket for 2016…..  I am so glad there is a cure!

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

St Peters Basilica

St Peters Basilica

Colosseum

Colosseum

The Colosseum

The Colosseum

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Sailing like a Celebrity

Last Australian cruise season I decided it was time to explore Celebrity Solstice.  Flying into Sydney, from my window seat I could see the ship waiting next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge just waiting for me to jump aboard which was a really great feeling.  A short cab ride had me ready to drop my bags and hop aboard.  What I found was a light and airy ship with so many nooks and crannies to explore.  Sailaway was a highlight, I think any city in the world would find it hard to compete with Sydney as a backdrop, especially from my vantage point in the Sky Observation Lounge.  To the port side was the Sydney Harbour Bridge and to the starboard side the Sydney Opera House.  We set sail to the heads on dark watching the lights and harbour of Sydney sparkle.

I always worry about what I will find to entertain myself on board with only sea days, but Celebrity Solstice kept me entertained.  A highlight was the Corningware Hot Glass Show demonstration on the top deck, followed by a relaxing lunch at the Lawn Club enjoying the half acre of grass.  Yes, it is real grass, it just invites you to take your shoes off and sink into it.  The library and iLounge provide a quiet space to brush up on your technology skills or to dive into the pages of a novel you have been waiting to find the time to explore.  Great duty free shopping in the Gallerie was also available with more than the ordinary alcohol and perfumes.  I came home with some great presents and gifts for the year ahead.  The evening shows in the Celebrity Central Entertainment Venue were on par with anything I had seen live in a theatre ashore.  Truly captivating, as were the pre dinner drinks at the Martini Bar, the bartenders certainly know how to entertain.

The highlight was the food.  The buffet located at the Oceanview Cafe and Bar, with fresh made to order pastas and stir fry was a real surprise and became a popular place to grab something to eat during the day and evening too for that matter.   The Grand Epernay Dining room offered a wide range of foods to order set in the most decadent surroundings.  A real highlight was a meal at the Italian specialty restaurant The Tuscan Grille.  I felt like I had been swept back to Italy, and when I couldn’t decide if I would prefer the Creme Brule or Tiramisu for ‘dolce’ they simply brought me both.

Solstice spends the Australian summer visiting destinations across Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacifc and in our winter heads north to waters of Alaska.

Celebrity Solstice Sydney mptpontheroad

I get seasick in the bathtub.  I also get bored….. EASILY.  So I have lived my life until now thinking that cruising was just not something that was for me.

My children had been watching videos of the Disney Cruise Line with its AquaDuck water slides and pleading with me CAN WE DO THIS?  Friends and clients alike tell me how wonderful cruising is and how they incorporate a cruise each year into their annual holiday planner.  I just couldn’t understand.  Really.    However, when planning our latest adventure I decided it was time to dip my toes into cruising, it was important for work I chided myself.  So I picked a 3 Night Bahamian cruise on the Disney Dream because:

  • it fitted around the rest of my plans
  • it was only three nights, surely I could sleep off seasickness for three nights
  • I could be on land everyday which meant something to see and did I mention land.
  • it was Disney and the ship had an AquaDuck meaning Happy Kids

So we made our way to Port Canaveral in Florida to embark on this new adventure.  With the Kennedy Space Centre on the horizon, I too felt as if I was visiting outer space and questioning my sanity.  Our bags were whisked away at the curbside as we left our vehicle and we proceeded into the cruise terminal to check in and await our boarding time.  My nervousness was increasing by the moment, thoughts of WHAT HAVE I DONE rushed through my head as all of a sudden I was being rushed through Mickey’s head onto the gangway to be welcomed aboard as a family by a team of applauding staff members.  The opulence and beauty as we arrived on Deck 3 had my jaw dropping, photos just don’t do it justice, nor can words.

What can be said about getting on board, unpacking and not having to repack until the final day yet still visit a new, exciting destination each day.  What can you say about a neverending supply of mouthwatering food included in the price of your cruise or extraordinary levels of customer service from every member of staff that you encounter.   Don’t forget the sublime entertainment that would cost the same price as the cruise alone on land.   I felt totally spoilt in my comfortable and immaculately kept stateroom and relaxed knowing that my children were enjoying the activities and entertainment in their tween only and teen only lounges.   The activities offered at each port made it difficult to choose what to see and explore to make the most of our time.  Best of all, despite it being a little rough on our first night of sailing I did not even feel queasy and not for one minute was I bored.  In fact, I did not want to disembark and would have been quite ready to go again.

By the second morning on board over one of the best chai lattes I have ever drunk, my darling husband and I were busily planning and plotting cruises into our many planned trips ahead: there is Hawaii, Alaska, back to back cruises in the Mediterranean even a Baltic cruise.  So know like a reformed smoker I can proudly join the cruising is so wonderful, really you haven’t lived until you try it brigade.  If I can enjoy cruising then I truly believe anyone can.

The Atrium Disney Dream Welcome Aboard

On my lounge in the Adults Only Area

On my lounge in the Adults Only Area

The view from my verandah sailing into port

The view from my verandah sailing into port

Docked at Castaway Cay

 

 

Lets Start at the very Beginning

Walt Disney Word is located in Orlando, Florida on 47 square miles of land.  To entertain guests there are four separate theme parks and an additional two water parks.  Lets not forget about the entertainment district, ESPN sports complex and numerous golf and mini golf courses sprinkled throughout.  Don’t even get me started on the resorts on site ranging from value through to deluxe.  Oh, and did I mention the over 100 restaurants available.  I think I need a holiday just thinking about it.

To visit is like visiting a town.  You become isolated in the magic of what Disney does so well.  From a transport network of buses, boats and monorails to get visitors between parks and their resorts to staff trained and empowered to ensure that your visit is magical, the attention to detail here is second to none.  It is why I keep coming back again and again.  It is a place to share with children of all ages and through multi generations of a family.  Having just spent 11 days immersed in the magic, and not even finished this holiday I am already beginning to imagine what my next trip will look like.

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Just Magical

I have a confession to make.  I love Disney holidays.  It is something I cannot quite put my finger on, and when I have been away from a Disney property for a while I sometimes wonder if I am just imagining the feeling that I have whilst on holiday there.

Guess what, I am not imagining…

On arrival in Orlando we were collected by Disneys Magical Express, a free bus service to and from the Walt Disney World Resort for those staying onsite from Orlando Airport.  As we boarded our magical bus to our hotel, the clockwork organisation, that all important attention to detail that I love about Disney was there for all to see.  From our wonderful driver, the clean and airconditioned bus, to the magical welcome video that we watched on board, I just knew  that our stay at Walt Disney World resort would be just magical.Image

I love the excitement of arriving at the airport with a ticket in hand. Today is no different. This time I am heading east, to the East Coat of the US. First a direct flight from Brisbane to LA before a two hour connection to our five hour flight to Orlando.

After a little delay leaving Brisbane we took off just before lunchtime. I immediately start thinking in my destinations time so 10pm Friday it is. After being served lunch I did my very best to catch some sleep which I managed for about five hours. I missed the ice cream being served whilst I napped but I did wake up in time for pizza. A great range of movies kept the children amused. Before we knew it we were watching our second sunrise of the day and eating breakfast on our way into Los Angeles where from the plane window the Hollywood sign greeted us.

On board, the immigration card, one per family, had been completed and we made our way through the Los Angeles arrivals hall. Questions were asked, finger prints of the adults were taken, bags collected and we were on our way to the transfer desk. We dropped our bags for our Virgin America’s flight to Orlando and walked the short distance from Tom Bradley terminal to Terminal 3. After getting boarding passes, going through security again we made it to our gate in time for boarding.

Virgin America were wonderful. New clean planes, friendly staff and spare seats next to us made this flight great. We all slept most of the way after purchasing some Pringles to munch on. We had paid for exit row seats for the grown ups and whilst the leg room was great the seats did not recline. Next time I will use the funds towards a first class seat.

We arrived to afternoon storms in Orlando feeling not too tired and so excited for our East Coast adventure to begin.

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About to Hit the Road Again

It’s the eve before our next adventure. It’s a little hard to believe that this time tomorrow we will be on board our flight to LA somewhere over the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and LA. Our bags are packed, passports and tickets are waiting and the excitement is building. As a travel planner I always have dream itineraries floating around in my head. This trip is one that I have wanted to experience as a family for many years, to take my girls to the big cities of the US, to explore Disney’s largest group of theme parks at Disneyworld, experience the magic of visiting Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando and to sail into the Caribbean to find a picture perfect slice of paradise to call our own. So many adventures, so many discoveries, so many memories to be made. It’s a bittersweet moment the end of the planning and the start of the adventure. I have so enjoyed the planning, finding the special places and experiences that will only make this trip more enjoyable and I will miss this, it is so much of the fun and still I am so excited about the holiday ahead. It will pass in a moment, yet the memories will last a lifetime. Enjoy.

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Villa Borghese (Gardens) in Rome

Whilst I love San Francisco, the city that has really captured by heart is Rome.  No matter how long I spend there, it is just never long enough.   Rome is most often my first point of call on arriving in Europe.  Whilst the saying “All roads lead to Rome” I take the stand that all roads lead from Rome.   It is the perfect place to get reacquainted with Italian life before venturing further afield to explore the hidden treasures of Italy.

On my first afternoon in Rome a Gelato alla stracciatella (Chocolate Chip) from Il Gelato di San Crispino blows away the cobwebs and makes me feel at home.  Nothing beats heading to Villa Borghese and the Pincio Gardens to soak up some sun and stretch the legs.  Whether enjoying a boat ride on the lake, hiring a bike, or lying on the grass with a good book, people watching is a great way to sample the Roman way of life from this central oasis in the heart of Rome. The acres of parklands, bike paths, grassy meadows, fountains, monuments and shady trees are also home to a zoo, puppet theatre and Art Gallery.  I love the Villa Borghese especially on a Sunday afternoon watching local children play soccer, teens hang out with friends and families celebrate birthdays and anniversaries together in this unique green space in the heart of ancient Rome.

As travel weary eyes droop and sleep beckons, I head back to my hotel stopping for pizza at Fior Fiore located at Via delle Croce, 17/18 near the Spanish Steps.  Fior Fiore offer sit down or takeaway dining, and finishing the day with a slice or two of their pizza reminds me that I am back happily in Italy.   Enjoy a drink at the bar whilst waiting for your pizza before letting your head hit the pillow.  Tomorrow, the city awaits…

La Dolce Vita

Toilets on the Road

I was reading the travel pages on line today and this article made me laugh and remember fondly our recent European adventure with children.  In keeping a holiday journal Miss Change Adverse kept a rating scale of toilets by country as we made our way through Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Different cities and modes of transports bathroom facilities were rated on a scale of 1 to 10.

Now airplane toilets do not make the scale, they are to be avoided at all costs due to the very loud flushing sound that they make although they do rate above pit toilets that make a negative scale.  As a female standing to pee is not on her radar.

Rating a 2 are the toilets in Italy where there are no seats, train toilets make a 5 but are much better earlier in the trip.

German toilets rated much higher at an 8 and England made a 9.  The most important question though, was there a 10 recorded on this most important list from our holiday?  Yes, Singapore Airport.  Clean with room to move and beautiful views of the tarmac.  Aargh, what every girl needs.

http://travel.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=1045692

There is no better feeling than pulling out a suitcase and packing your bags to go and explore new places, new cultures and new experiences.  I for one am never happy unless I am planning our next holiday, or a holiday for someone else.  In fact, I think a lot of my fun comes from the planning itself.  The holiday is just a reward for all the hard work.  Now don’t think I have every minute of every day scheduled, no, no, no.  I love to work out each day as I go along but I think the key is to be educated on the possibilities.  My favourite book to read is a travel guide, and the travel section is the first part I pull from a weekend newspaper, I am known to spend hours on end on the web learning more about each corner of the globe.

My Personal Travel Planner on the Road will share with you the cities of Europe and North America and the beautiful countryside in between.  I will share with you the tricks of the trade in visiting Disney parks from Disneyland, Disneyworld to Disneyland Paris.  I will also share tips on travelling as a family and the secrets to making a holiday a success.  I hope you enjoy the road trip with me.