Little Travel Co.

Little Travel Co.

The Little Travel Consultant. Helping You Create Memories. Based in Whitby, Ontario, Canada. The Little Travel Consultant is affiliated with Nexion Canada, ULC 100-235 North Centre Rd, London, On N5X 4E7 HQ Phone 519-660-6966 TICO Reg# 1549342 kate@littletravel.co ~~~ www.littletravel.co

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Path of the Gods, Amalfi Coast #Positano #amalfiCoast

Positano 

I had never heard of The Path of the Gods, or ‘Il Sentiero degli Dei’ which in hindsight is strange as I love to hike.   It turned out to be one of the most spectacular hikes I have even done taking me along the infamous Amalfi Coast, Italy. 

It only takes a few hours to hike from the small hill top village along the coast to Positano, I wish it was longer as I couldn’t get enough of the fabulous views along the coast that it gives.  Ideally, walkers should walk from Agerola to Nocelle, and not vice-versa; the route runs gently downhill from this direction, with magnificent views of the Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri. 
  
I went at the end of October, on a gorgeous sunny day with a perfect temperature.  I don’t think it would have been nearly as enjoyable in the peak of the summer with crowds of  people and the heat of the summer sun beating down on you.  If you are there in the summer, I would definitely start as early as you can.

It must be said that this is more of a hike than a casual stroll along a coastal path.   I would advise hiking shoes/boots as there are some very uneven rocky areas, and large rocks to navigate around.  There is no fence of any sort on the edge so those with vertigo may need to think about that.  One of the group I was with decided not to do it for that reason.   The scenery changes from hills dotted with a few shrubs, heather and rosemary, past towering limestones mountains, colourful wildflowers, abandoned stone houses and through shaded forests. Farmers grow vines on terraces carved into the hillside, still using donkeys for transport along the narrow pathways.

If you are lucky enough to be in this wonderful area, do consider taking this hike. 



Saturday, 10 November 2018

Rome - I'd forgotten how wonderful it is.





Piazza Navona


 

If you find yourself in Rome, try to avoid the major tourist attractions which are packed with people, and instead take a walk through the ancient streets.   It's amazing what treasures you can find along the way. 

I've been fortunate to visit Rome several times, but it's been a while and I had forgotten what an amazing city it is.   People complain that it's dirty and crowded, and maybe it is, but it still has so much charm and beauty, that for me it became irrelevant.  

I did want to see the Trevi Fountain again, so I walked from my hotel near Termini train station in that general direction.    I had all the time in the world, so as I walked and saw something of interest, I followed it making many turns and diversion.    I think this is the best way to discover a city.   There are so many great churches, lovely gardens, quaint restaurants and ancient ruins that you could spend a week just wandering.  

I especially enjoyed the Trastevere area just south of Vatican City.  It's a fun, bohemian area with centuries old buildings, artisan shops and restaurants. At the centre of this area is the Piazza di Santa Maria, with the Basilica dating back in parts to the 3rd century.   In the centre of the Piazza is a wonderful fountain, one of so many in the city where people gather to sit and watch the world go by.    

Another piazza that I really love is Piazza Navona, built on the site of a stadium dating back to the 1st century AD. On my last night there I chose the restaurant in front of the fountain and sat watching the people as I enjoyed a wonderful meal.  Of course, it's going to be a little more expensive to sit in a prime location, but it was so beautiful.  Sometimes when you travel you just have to say what the hell!  It's worth it.  

On the way back, I finally went to the Trevi Fountain hoping that on a rainy October night at 8pm it may be less busy - but it wasn't.  Maybe going at Midnight would be better?

Completely by accident on one of my diversions, I stumbled upon the home of Michelangelo’s statue of Moses housed in the San Pietro in Vincoli church.  What a masterpiece that is definitely going to see. 

The neighbourhood of Monti is another fun place to visit and enjoy the atmosphere, with both bohemian and classical elements, trattorias, win bars and vintage boutiques are hidden in the areas pizzas and streets drawing a mix of expats, students and locals.  

Even if you have a long layover in Rome it's worth going into the city.   I took the train from the airport in 30 minutes, which takes you to the centre of Rome.  

Trevi fountain


Micahelangelo's Moses


Trastevere

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Machu Picchu - The Inca Trail


My first solo trip and adventure was to hike the Inca Trail in Peru.   I had never been anywhere a little different on my own, nor had I hiked anything that involved altitude and the potential for altitude sickness.   So it was definitely an adventure for me, but it opened the door to the world of solo travel and adventure and I haven’t looked back.

Arriving in Lima at night with no domestic flight to Cusco leaving until the morning, I ended up sleeping on the floor of the airport with the other backpackers. There were no seats, or benches anywhere to be found, so there was no option at all.  I could have taken a cab to a hotel, but I had read to many scary things about women in cabs in South America that I decided the floor was a better option.   Quite a start to my adventure!

Landing in Cuzco with an altitude of 3,400 metres (11,200ft), it was higher than I had ever been before and as I waited at the baggage carousel my heart was racing.  I was seriously worried about the altitude and was very happy that I had arrived a week before I was starting the Inca Trail to give me more time to acclimatise.   

As soon as I arrived at the hotel I was given a cup of Coca tea, also called mate de coca, which is an herbal tea (infusion) made using the raw or dried leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America.   Apparently, this was what you had to drink to combat the altitude sickness and over the next few days I found it did help quite a lot.    My room was on the 3rd floor and every time I returned to the hotel I made myself walk up the 3 floors to try and acclimatise, by the 3rd floor I was completely exhausted and trying to catch my breath.   If you’ve never experienced altitude, it’s really quite amazing how it affects you.   It also interrupts your ability to sleep well and I had a few really bad nights of sleep before getting used to it.  

Cusco is a lovely city which I enjoyed exploring, although I was surprised at the size of it and the amount of pollution, staying off the main streets was better.   My favourite area and one I would recommend is San Blas, tucked away to the north of Plaza de Armas.  You can see the architectural influences of the Spanish after the conquest.   It seems like a quieter, more interesting area of the city to wander around.   There is no end of history and Inca sites to visit throughout the city.

The Inca Trail itself was much more than I thought it would be.  Initially I had thought only about the finale, the big arrival through the sun gate to see Machu Picchu below, but the hike turned out to be if not more enjoyable, at least as enjoyable as that magical moment.    Along the way you see many other old Inca buildings and settlements and although the trail is something that many people hike, it was less crowded than I thought it would be.  We didn’t see any other groups until we reached the campsite the night before the Sun Gates.     The number of permits issued is tightly restricted to keep the numbers down so it’s something that you need to book quite a long time in advance to avoid disappointment, although there are other trails that lead to Machu Picchu, just not the ‘Inca Trail’.   Plus, you need to carry your passport with you to get stamped at the check points or they will deny you access.    It was quite hard going, and very slow at times as that was the only speed you were capable of doing with the altitude affecting you.  At night in the tent it got very cold, so definitely make sure you have lots of warm clothes as it was deceivingly hot in the day. 

Walking through the Sun Gate and seeing Machu Picchu sprawling below you is a very special moment.    It was a little disappointing to have to share it with so many clean, sweet smelling tourists who had just got off the train instead of hiking for 4 days and I have to admit I did resent them a little, but it was still wonderful.      We were able to go back in the afternoon to enjoy it after we’d cleaned up and there were far fewer tourist there then, so it was much better.

It really was a wonderful experience and planted the seed for future adventure trips.








Saturday, 22 September 2018

Tahiti... more afordable than you think! #lovetahiti


Moorea

As a Travel Professional I am invited to various supplier and tourist board events throughout the year.    This week I went to a couple, one of which was a presentation by the Tahiti Tourist Board.   These sessions are always very informative, and you learn so much about the destination, accommodation options, how to get there and what you can do once there. 

I think that I thought of Tahiti as just one island, or maybe I hadn’t really given it that much thought as it seemed to be one of those mythical destinations, bringing to mind visions of an idyllic island paradise that only the very fortunate are lucky enough to visit, so it was never really on my ‘bucket list’  

It turns out that Tahiti is more affordable than you think and belongs to a group of islands collectively know as French Polynesia and comprises of 118 islands in total stretching more that 2000 km, divided into 5 groups of islands; The Society, Austral, Marquesas, Tuamotu and Gambier, located in the Pacific ocean, south of the equator and is in the same time zone as Hawaii, about an 8 hour flight from Los Angeles.   These islands receive the same number of visitors in a year that Hawaii receives in a week, so they remain more unspoilt, are very safe and friendly.
 
The most well-known islands are Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora known for their coral fringed lagoons and of course the famous over-the-water bungalows.  The islands feature mountains, waterfalls, rugged backcountry and beautiful unspoilt beaches, both black and white.

The average temperature is 27°C (80°F), summer is from November to April with a warmer, more humid climate and winter is from May through October, when it’s slightly cooler and drier.   

There are many ways to explore the islands on foot, by bike, horse, 4x4’s, or fun activities to enjoy such as go ziplining or paddle boarding.  Go swimming in the pristine waters, marvel at the under water life with amazing snorkeling and scuba opportunities or just lay back and enjoy this beautiful paradise.  

French Polynesia takes advantage of the fantastic year-round weather to grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and spices.   Fish from the lagoon or from the ocean, ranging from perch, mahi mahi and parrot fish eaten raw or sometimes marinated in lime juice and coconut milk.  There are even specialized tours that let you discover the flavors of the islands on picnics organized on beaches.  You can also sample the local foods in restaurants, food trucks and bars.

The most interesting fact about this area is that it’s not as expensive as you would imagine.   7 nights accommodation starts at CDN $2000 per person, (US$1600, 1300), plus the flight to Papeete the capital.    But still, I think this a very affordable alternative to the Caribbean especially for special life events, birthdays, celebrations and anniversaries.  




Bora Bora





Saturday, 15 September 2018

Vienna - The city of Music



Vienna, Austria’s capital, the city of Music, lies in the east of the country on the banks of the Danube River.  It was a lovely surprise as I had no real expectations about the city other than I wanted to see my favourite artists work, Gustav Klimt, so the rest was all a bonus.  

The cities grandeur is the result of the powerful Habsburg monarchy over the course of six centuries.  There is so much to see in this small city full of so much art and culture, from the obvious art galleries, to the Lipizzaner stallion’s performance at the Spanish riding school, to simply sitting sampling the famous Viennese coffee cake in one of cities many opulent coffee shops.   

The cities artistic legacy was shaped by other famous residents including Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud.    There are many museums, art galleries and Palaces and at every turn the streetscape is full of Baroque buildings. 

There are numerous concerts to attend showcasing some of the famous resident’s music to going to Sunday mass and hearing the famous Vienna Boys choir. 

If you take one of the many river cruises that journey along the Danube, make sure that you take some time to research what you want to see in Vienna as it has an overwhelming amount of options.



(18th century palace and gardens)


Gustav Klimt - The Kiss


Saturday, 8 September 2018

A short stay in Berlin

Part of the Wall

I visited Berlin for a few days in July and was lucky to be able to stay with a friend who lives there.  It’s always better to get a tour from someone local.

Berlin, Germany’s capital dates back to the 13th century.  Very few cities have experienced such frequent, radical changes transforming the face of the city.  

Reminders of the turbulent 20th century history are visible at every turn, the difference in architecture from the ornate, untouched by bombs Victorian town houses, sitting next to plain soviet built apartments.  Remains of the Berlin wall, some standing in their original place reminding everyone of what happened here dividing the city from 1961, until the wall came down in 1989.  

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Holocaust Memorial) is a somber reminder, a very moving, emotional acknowledgement of what can happen.    The memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims, a monument dedicated to the memory of 220,000-500,000 murdered in the Nazi genocide, another very moving place to visit. 

Nowadays Berlin seems to embrace everyone and it is a city full of diversity.  Berlins street- art scene has exploded in recent years, transforming grey into colour.   From the wonderful art painted along the Wall, to various other areas of the city, if art is your thing you should take an Alternative tour of Berlin. 


There is a large amount of things to see and do in Berlin, something for everyone, a fascinating city.    


The Memorial to the murdererd Jews 

More of the Wall

Saturday, 1 September 2018

'I run to the hills for the The Sound of Music' - Salzburg, Austria

View from the terrace at lunch

While enjoying the River cruise along the Danube, one of the day excursions offered was a ‘Sound of Music’ inspired visit to Salzburg.    Being a fan of the wonderful movie, I had to visit some of the landmarks. 
  
But Salzburg was much more that just a series of filming locations, it was a wonderful, pretty Austrian town surrounded by amazing countryside. 

Salzburg’s most famous son is Mozart and enjoys being known for his birthplace in 1756 at No. 9 Getreidegasse in the town centre. Today, Mozart’s Birthplace is one of the most visited museums in Austria and is an absolute highlight for fans, he also lends his name to any number of souvenirs from chocolates, ice creams to rubber ducks and you will bump into his likeness at every turn.

Hohensalzburg Fortress is enthroned on the Festungsberg, high above the rooftops of the Baroque historical district.  In the year 1077, archbishop Gebhard had the fortress built and changed the Salzburg skyline forever.  The largest fully preserved castle in Central Europe, this emble mof Salzburg draws millions of tourists every year.   I had lunch at the top over looking the town below and the mountains in the distance.  One of the most beautiful locations I’ve had the pleasure of eating lunch and I savoured every moment. 
 
St. Peter's Monastery & Cemetery & Catacombs just below the fortress are another lovely place to visit.  Since St. Peter’s was founded in the 7th century, the church and abbey have been the spiritual heart of the city of Salzburg.  Aside from its striking architecture and the wonderful feeling of peace and calm, the cemetery and catacombs are also a must-see for fans of “The Sound of Music”.

Also, fans of the The Sound of Music will recogise Residenzplatz square as another highlight: During their carriage ride through the city, Maria and the children sing as they pass the Residenz Fountain.
When I visited Salzburg there was a market that extended about 1 km along the river with a varied assortment of things to buy, from local honey, hand made jewellery and clothes,  to local beers. A lovely way to round off the day. 

I could have definitely spent longer here and would recommend a visit if you are in Austria.