Friday , April 18 2014
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Speaking of Travel

St. Petersburg, an Imperial City

Vickie Kelber  St. Petersburg, designed by Peter the Great to emulate a grand European city, has also been known as Petrograd and Leningrad. In 1991, by a majority vote of 52%, its name was returned to the original St. Petersburg. It served as the capital of Russia from 1713-1728 and 1732-1918. Although Peter studied in Amsterdam and used it as his model in fashioning his city, St. Petersburg’s 68 rivers and canals, 42 islands, and 300 bridges have earned it the nickname, “Venice of the North.” Of great consequence in the city’s history was the siege of Leningrad. During World ... Read More »

SPRINGTIME IN RUSSIA

Vickie Kelber  Although we have traveled semi independently in other areas of Eastern Europe, we had never been to Russia. Perhaps growing up in the days of the Cold War still resonated and influenced our decision to book a tour, albeit one that gave us quite a bit of free time, rather than seeing the country independently. Having now spent a few days in both St. Petersburg and Moscow, there is no question in my mind that we would have felt very comfortable negotiating these cities on our own. English is not readily spoken, but with a few words of ... Read More »

Remembering September 11, 2001

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL by Vickie Kelber  It’s been 10 years since the phrase “9/11” became a significant part of our lexicon. All of us remember where we were on Sept. 11, 2001 and have stories about that day. Our story involves travel………… We were in Portugal on September 11, scheduled to return home early on the 12th. We had spent 2 wonderful weeks in an apartment in the charming UNESCO World Heritage town of Sintra. Due to an early flight on the 12th, we booked a room in Lisbon for the night before. We checked in early as we wanted to spend ... Read More »

Biblio travel

By Vickie Kelber                                                                                                  When my husband and I travel, we enjoy bringing books with us that are set in the locale we are visiting. Often, they are classics that we enjoy re-reading. Twain’s Tramps Abroad and Trevanian’s The Eiger Sanction in Switzerland. Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra in Andalucia. In Italy, ... Read More »

“There’s an App for that”

By Vickie Kelber                                                                                                  “There’s an app for that”.  Chances are that if it is something you want for travel, there IS an app for that. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of apps to assist with all facets of travel. Here are just a few of them based on good user reviews, including ... Read More »

Amelia Island

By Vickie Kelber Amelia Island is diagonally opposite Marco Island, tucked away in the northeast corner of Florida, just below the Georgia border. Although locals consider “season” to be during the summer, it makes a nice spring or fall getaway or pleasant diversion on a leisurely trip north. It is about 20 minutes from Route 95, 30 minutes from the Jacksonville airport and there is a small municipal airport. It offers 13 miles of quartz beach, multiple activities, historical landmarks, and accommodations ranging from Victorian bed and breakfasts to world class resorts. The island is 13 miles long and 2 miles ... Read More »

Bernese Oberland, awesome alternatives!

By Vickie Kelber Although a small country, Switzerland makes up for its size with its diversity. German, French, Italian. Breathtaking mountain vistas, sparkling lakes. Sophisticated cities, enchanting villages. While all areas of Switzerland offer something worthwhile, my favorite is the Bernese Oberland. There are 26 cantons in Switzerland, somewhat equivalent to our states. The Oberland is in central Switzerland, canton Bern. A favorite of tourists, there are alternatives to some of the more heavily visited areas in the Oberland. Interlaken is a prime destination for tourists. Its central location between the lakes of Brienz and Thun and in the shadow ... Read More »

The world at your fingertips

By Vickie Kelber With the internet, the world is literally at your fingertips.  Investigating, booking, and enjoying all aspects of the travel experience from the essential to the esoteric can be accomplished online. Booking sites for flights change rapidly. Individual sites do not necessarily have information about all airlines and with Google’s planned purchase of ITA software, more changes are in the future. No one site offers all flight options.  When booking a flight, I usually go to  a booking comparison site such as http://www.tripadvisor.com/Flights, http://www.kayak.com, http://www.mobissimo.com/search_airfare.php, http://www.farecompare.com, or http://www.fly.com for a general idea of which airline is offering the ... Read More »

Lowcountry flora, fauna, and history

By Vickie Kelber Gardens are popular tourist attractions, with Longwood, Biltmore, New York, Brooklyn, and Atlanta among some of the better known. On Business Route 17 in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, about 2 hours north of Charleston and 20 minutes south of Myrtle Beach, there is a unique garden museum that features indigenous flora, fauna, history, and the largest display of outdoor sculpture by American artists in the world. It has been named a National Historic Landmark and can easily take a full day or more to truly appreciate. A single ticket is good for 7 days. With its many ... Read More »

Odds and Bobs

By Vickie Kelber The title of this column comes from a British ex pat we know who has lived in Venice for 30 years. She visited the city as an 18 year old, fell in love with both the city and a charming Venetian, married and settled in. She uses the expression, “odds and bobs”, which is a British version of “odds and ends” or miscellaneous and today I’ll share assorted travel tips. We all know the drill when it comes to passing through airport security lines…..containers with no more than 3.4 oz. of liquids, and they must be in ... Read More »

Shark Valley by bike

By Vickie Kelber A few months ago I wrote about some of the treasures right in our own backyard and mentioned Shark Valley, the northern part of the Everglades National Park, located on Route 41 east. I’ve visited it at different times of the year; in the fall, after rainy season, you can see and truly appreciate what is meant by “river of grass”. I’ve walked the road at Shark Valley for a mile or so and also taken the tram tour. Recently, a friend and I packed our bikes and plenty of water to embark on the 15 mile bike trip ... Read More »

The Route of the Caliphs

By Vickie Kelber The Route of the Caliphs (rulers) traversing mountainous interior Andalusia, Spain between Granada and Cordoba is dotted with a string of fortified hilltowns that served as the first line of defense during Moorish rule. They are characterized by watchtowers, castles, and glorious vistas. There is a northern and a southern route; part of it passes through Sierras Subbeticas Natural Park, with elevations that range from 1,000 to 5,000 feet. To explore this area, we had a choice of renting a cortijo (farmhouse) in the countryside or an apartment in the cliffside town of Priego de Cordoba; we chose ... Read More »

Seville – the crown jewel of Andalusia

By Vickie Kelber Seville is the quintessential Andalusian city and, for me, the most alluring. Perhaps because of the time of year we were there (read on to find out more), it also was the most formal city I have ever visited in terms of well dressed men and women. The tradition of siesta is honored here; at 2:00 PM everything, including the major department store, closes for two hours. Although Seville is a bustling commercial city, the old town, Centro Historico, is compact and easily explored on foot. Its centerpiece is the truly impressive Gothic cathedral, one of the ... Read More »

Jewels of the Moorish Empire

By Vickie Kelber Andalusia (Andalucía) is an autonomous region in southern Spain. It stretches from the Sierra Morena mountains to the Atlantic Ocean and, separated by the River Guadiana, borders Portugal on the west. Its name comes from the Arabic al-Andalus, the term used by the Moors who arrived there in 711 and their influence is visible throughout the area. Two of the jewels of the Islamic Empire were Granada and Cordoba. Granada is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada; on a clear day you can see nearby snow capped peaks. It was the seat of the Nasrids, ... Read More »

Art Tourism

By Vickie Kelber Kudos to the city of Marco Island’s Arts Advisory Committee for their “Arts Afire”, a showcase of exhibits and performances, March 12-20.  Check out their planned events at http://marcoislandartsafire.com.  Through the years, a number of arts organizations on the island have worked diligently to incorporate art into the cultural life of our residents. A vibrant arts community is important for economic development.  It attracts visitors and homebuyers and is important to the children of a community and our future workforce.  Research has shown that students exposed to the arts perform better academically and improve development of  the ... Read More »

Security Issues

By Vickie Kelber Unfortunately, pickpockets and other petty thieves are a fact of life in many locations worldwide. Barcelona, Rome, and Paris are often cited as the top three European cities for pickpockets. I have spent time in all three of these and found them to be safe as long as some precautions are taken. You should be cautious when traveling, but don’t let fear ruin your trip. Before you leave on your trip, make copies of your passport, insurance cards, and any other important documents such as plane or train tickets. I pack a copy in each of our ... Read More »

The Eternal City

Rome, the Eternal City; it would take an eternity to see all it has to offer. As friends, Liliana and Mike McGuire, who live there part time are fond of saying, Rome is mesmerizing because no matter where you put your foot down, something awe-inspiring stood below that spot a few thousand years ago. Excavations of sites throughout the city are ongoing and new tours frequently become available. Recently, both the underground level and panoramic third tier of the Colosseum were opened to visitors. Never accessible to the public before, the underground level was backstage for the animals and gladiators ... Read More »

Alaska Inland Passages Cruise Excursions

by Vickie Kelber Alaska cruises are very popular and cruise lines continually add to their list of optional excursions in the various ports. The activity level of these side trips varies from sedate lunches, sightseeing, or seeing a show to more adventurous choices. If you do a little research, you can probably find less expensive excursions than those offered by the ship. However, the advantage to booking through your cruise line is that if you are delayed in returning from your outing, the ship will wait for you. If you book on your own and are late, they will probably leave ... Read More »

Worst part of traveling

Packing for a trip gets my vote as the worst part of traveling. We prefer independent travel and “living like a local” which means there are times when we have to handle our own bags. For that reason, we usually limit ourselves to one large suitcase and a smaller carryon size bag and check both at the airport. The smaller one is used for cosmetics and heavier items. On board the plane, we bring only my purse and a backpack for camera and other electronics and valuables, material we might want during the flight, medications, light jacket, and important papers. ... Read More »

IS BIGGER REALLY BETTER?

By Ewout Rijk de Vries My fondest memories of cruising date back to a port-a-day in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea aboard a small ship, the “Cunard Princess.” It was not luxurious, but there was lots of teak wood and shiny polished brass of the old sailing days. Upon arriving for the third time with escorting a group to board the “Cunard Princess” in Athens, the purser greeted us outside the terminal with a “Welcome back, Mr. de Vries” and since most of the crew worked for years on the same ship, it was like returning home. Then there ... Read More »