Friday, October 29, 2010

Photo of the Week - Chicago Hot Dog

While in Chicago recently on a conference, I took and extra day to tour the city. A fellow conference attendee and I decided to go on a segway tour (as you probably know Warren and I are fans of the segway!). Part way through the tour we got to have a break and try a Chicago hot dog.

I didn't know that there was such a thing but hey...when in Chicago try their hot dogs! The stand we went to was down near the John G. Shedd Aquarium. I was told that the only way to have a hot dog is "Chicago Style":  Beef Hot dog topped with mustard, onion, relish, tomato, hot pepper, celery salt and a pickle. Kethcup was only on request and expect to get kidded about it.

Unfortunately I don't like most of the toppings so I opted for just mustard (I didn't dare ask for Ketchup!) Cath, my segway buddy) went for the whole thing:

She enjoyed it! So hey, you never know!

If you are going to Chicago check out the Chicago CityPass for a great price on passes into the citys biggest attractions.

What is the coolest "local specialty" that you have ever tried while on vacation? We would love to hear in the comments below:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Photo of the Week - Chinese Garden in Darling Harbour, Sydney Australia

We were amazed at the beauty of the Chinese Garden in Darling Harbor, Sydney Australia. While touring around on a hop on hop off bus in Sydney, the tour guide (a recording) said that the next stop includes Darling Harbour and the Chinese Gardens. Warren piped up and said he wanted to check them out. We are so glad we did!

The Chinese Gardens were created by the Chinese community in Sydney to celebrate Australia's 1988 Bicententary. We had a lot of fun in the gardens. Not only did we enjoy the incredible foliage, they also had a place where we could rent Emperor and princess costumes to take photos in all around the gardens. We had so much fun with this!
Check out our pages on Australia for planning your Australia Vacation.

Find and book Sydney tours and activities on Book ahead to save time and money!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Thinking of Christmas in Rome?
Here are the Top Ten Things to do in Rome at Christmas

Just before Christmas we spent a day in Rome while on a cruise. It rained the whole day but the city was busy with people Christmas shopping and enjoying the holidays. We really enjoyed it! We picked up a couple of Christmas tree ornaments that we look forward to displaying this year.

A friend of mine, Cath Andrews, just recently posted this article on things to do in Rome at Christmas time. She writes a great website about Italian Culture,

Our awesome lunch in the Piazza Navona at Christmas
Here is her article,

Christmas in Rome
If you're spending Christmas in Rome for the first time and wondering about things to do, here's our top ten activities which combine the magic of Rome with real Christmas traditions in Italy.

  1. Top priority - Christmas in Rome just wouldn't be complete without the amazing experience of the Christmas market in the Piazza Navona. There are stalls selling all shapes and sizes of 'presepi' - the nativity figures you'll see everywhere in Italy at Christmas, stalls selling Christmas ornaments, models of the Italian 'befana'' who brings the children's gifts on January 6th, stalls selling nothing to do with Christmas at all, and some old-fashioned 'knock the cans off the shelf' type stalls. Not to mention a carousel, street performers and balloon sellers. Wonderful!

    (Where: Piazza Navona, from 6 December until 6 January each year).

  2. Admire the beautiful - and huge - Christmas trees tastefully decorated which are at all the main sites. Against the beautiful blue of a Roman sky in December they are majestic and in the dark of the evening sky they're magical.

    (Various places - the best are St Peter's Square, the Colosseum and the Piazza Venezia).

  3. Watch 'presepi' being built: nativity scenes are one of the major Christmas traditions in Italy, but Rome's are works of art and aren't finished before Christmas week. However, if you have to leave the city before that, one of the most interesting activities in Rome is to watch the huge nativity scene inside St Peter's basilica being built. The outside nativity, which is the biggest in Rome, is screened off until it's completed. It's wonderful to watch the craftsmen at work building not just a stable scene but a complete village.

    (Where: St Peter's Basilica).

  4. See finished presepi: the life-sized nativity scenes in every church and in key public places in Rome are a key part of Christmas traditions in Italy. Don't be surprised not to see the baby in the manger - he's always placed there at midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

    (Where: St Peter's Square, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, and any church).

  5. Talking of which, midnight mass at any Italian church is worth attending but in St Peter's Basilica is a particularly special event as it's celebrated by the Pope. Inside the Basilica it's strictly tickets only, but there are big screens on St Peter's Square where thousands of people gather.

    (Where: St Peter's Square, from 11p.m., Christmas Eve each year).

  6. See the presepi exhibition: this houses nativity scenes from all over the world as well as from the different regions of Italy. It's interesting to see how different cultures make the figures in their own image - and interesting to see the materials used which include pasta and rice as well as the more usual plaster and wood.

    (Where: Sala del Bramante, Piazza del Popolo, from early December to 6 January each year. Admission charge - EUR5.50 in 2009 - 2010).

  7. Escape turkey - eat Italian! Turkey is not part of Christmas traditions in Italy. Family meals on Christmas Eve are always fish-based and on Christmas Day will be lots of different types of meat - lamb, chicken, beef - but no turkey!
  8. Pope's blessing: the Pope gives his traditional blessing from the balcony overlooking St Peter's Square at mid-day. It's one of the highlights of Christmas in Rome and televised all over the world.

    (Where: St Peter's Square, mid-day, Christmas Day).

  9. Wander round the city: you'll find shops and most bars and restaurants are closed on Christmas Day, but you can still find lots of things to do in Rome. It's a wonderful time to wander round the city in peace and see some of the usually crowded sites with very few people to bother you.

    (Where: try the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, St Peter's Basilica, and walk off all that food in the beautiful Borghese Park).

  10. And finally, when Christmas in Rome is all over, hang around till New Year's Eve and spend it in the Piazza del Popolo. It's the place to be to celebrate New Year in Rome, the equivalent of London's Trafalgar Square, or Times Square in New York. There's plenty of singing, dancing and fireworks at midnight.

    (Where: Piazza del Popolo, New Year's Eve from any time after dark!).
Cath Andrews lives in Italy, was married in Rome and visits the city regularly. A dedicated Italophile, she is currently writing a website about Italian culture. For more detailed information about Italy in general and Christmas in Rome in particular, have a look at Cath's website at:
Article Source:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Photo of the Week - Monte Carlo Harbor

Nothing says opulence like Monte Carlo, Monaco, especially it's Harbor. The yachts are absolutely incredibel and defines wealth.

On our trip to Nice, France, we splurged and took a helicopter to Monte Carlo for the evening. (It wasn't much more than a taxi really). This was  a view of the harbor and a few of the yachts. These yachts make the speed boats behind them look tiny.

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Photo of the Week - The Plaza in Central Park

This week's photo is of the Plaza hotel peaking through the trees in Central Park. New York City is an amazing city. We love to go for the weekend, both as a couple and with Montana. Montana absolutely loves New York for the excitement and shopping of it all.

Warren and I have a soft spot for New York City as our very first trip away together over 13 years ago was to Manhattan. We stayed at the Plaza solely due to the movie Home Alone 2 (if you can remember that one!). We have done that a lot in our travels. We choose a hotel or destination because of a movie we liked. Hey inspiration can come from anywhere!

Through a series of mess ups (on the hotels part) we were upgraded to the actual "Home Alone Suite" It was HUGE and overlooked 5th Avenue. It was a perfect first trip away together.

Since then, the Plaza was bought, renovated and reopened in 2008. The Plaza now offers 282 hotel rooms and 152 private condo hotel units. It is operated by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.

One day we would like to stay in the Plaza again, but with the prices around $1000 a night, we will have to find a more "value for our money" type of rate.

The World Famous Plaza peaking Through the Trees in Central Park
 Have you stayed in the Plaza in New York City? Comment below on your experience

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor about the Plaza

Friday, October 1, 2010

Photo of the Week - The Macau Tower, Macau

On a tour of Macau we were taken to the Macau Tower. We didn't have any desire to go there before, but were happy we did. The tower gives you a lovely view of Macau, and China. There were many activities available including bungy jumping and the Sky Walk (where you walk around the outside of the tower).

It is worth the visit if you are visiting Macau.

Macau Tower peaking through the Trees
But I do have to say, Toronto's CN Tower is still taller! (yes we are from Toronto, Canada)

For more information on Macau, try the Lonely Planet Guide for Hong Kong and Macau.