Category: Travel plans

5 Day Travel Plan for Virginia featuring American historical sites

If you are planning a 5 day visit to Virginia soon, you should know that the truth is you would be very hard pressed to see absolutely everything in less than a week’s time. Virginia is an incredibly diverse state with a deep and rich history, and there are just way too many iconic landmarks and points of interest to cover them all in only 5 days. However, if you’re really pressed for time, it is possible to visit only the very best and top attractions. Read on to find out what they are.

Day 1: Colonial Williamsburg

This is arguably the most popular tourist destination in Virginia. Every year, this living history museum and historic district attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors who want to learn more about the history of America and how the United States came to be. Colonial Williamsburg in itself has plenty of sighs to fascinate you, and you should allot an entire day to exploring the place, but if you really want to take the experience to another level, book a Williamsburg Ghost Tour.

These guided walking tours take place in the evenings, and you will be led by a licensed and knowledgeable tour guide who will take you through the historic streets and buildings of Colonial Williamsburg, while telling you all about its strange and mysterious past. This includes stories about reported hauntings, sightings and paranormal activity that will make your hair stand on end. This is definitely one of the best ghost tours in VA.

Day 2: Jamestown and Yorktown

Jamestown was the very first permanent English settlement in the Americas, and was established in May, 1607. Like Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement is also a living history, and features a Powhatan Indian Village, a recreation of James Fort, and replicas of the three ships that brought the colonists from England to America. Right next door to Jamestown is Yorktown, which together with Jamestown and Williamsburg form the Historic Triangle—three important colonial-era settlements.

Day 3: Richmond

It will take you an entire day to visit all the historic landmarks in Richmond, the capital of Virginia and home to the University of Virginia. Notable places to visit are the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Virginia Historical Society, and the Richmond National Battlefield Park.

Day 4: Charlottesville

In the morning, be sure to drop by the magnificent 5,000 acre house and plantation Monticello before the large crowds come in. This is home of Thomas Jefferson, American statesman and one of the Founding Fathers and first Presidents of the United States. Spend the rest of the day touring the sprawling University of Virginia campus and checking out the shopping and dining options in downtown Charlottesville.

Day 5: Shenandoah National Park

Finally, drive up to Shenandoah National Park, which features over 200,000 acres of forest, wetlands, waterfalls and valleys. Here you can do a number of outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, camping and fishing, or simply watch for animals, which abound throughout the park. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the elusive American black bear.

Once again, this is only a guide to the absolute best and most popular attractions in Virginia. If you have more time, consider spending an entire week or even two to thoroughly explore the region—you won’t regret it.

5 Day Travel Plan to NYC

New York is an enormous city, so rich and diverse that it may seem daunting at first to try and see it all in only 5 days. Well, you should know right off the bat that it wouldn’t be possible to see absolutely everything in less than a week, but you most definitely can enjoy a memorable and exciting trip with this 5-day guide. It’s recommended that you plan your trip out by area to maximize your time and avoid getting overwhelmed.

Day 1: Brush Up On Your History

Greenwich Village is one of New York City’s most historic neighborhoods, and is known for its artsy, bohemian vibe. Walk down Greenwich Avenue and West 4th Avenue to check out many different, interesting stores and cafes. You can easily spend an entire afternoon checking out the boutiques, the farmer’s market at Union Square, or some of NYC’s best independent bookstores in this area.

At night, be sure to book at tour with You absolutely cannot miss this thrilling, one of a kind walking tour that highlights a side of New York City that not many are familiar with.

Starting at 8pm at the Washington Square Park Arch, a knowledgeable and engaging guide will lead you through the historic streets and buildings of Greenwich Village.

Expect to hear all about New York’s strange and tragic past, as well as reports of hauntings and paranormal activity. These New York City haunted tours are definitely an experience you will never forget.

Day 2: As New York As You Can Get

Head downtown to the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, where you can enjoy an amazing view if you take the scenic route along the East River. Upon exiting the bridge, you can check out the waterfront at Brooklyn Bridge Park, or take a stroll around Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo. The former features gorgeous brownstones homes, while the latter is known for its old warehouses, art galleries and street art.

For dinner, nothing screams New York more than an authentic slice of piping hot pizza. Highly celebrated Grimaldi’s is definitely a must-try; just prepare yourself for a bit of a wait to get in, but trust that it will be worth it!

Day 3: Tourist Favorites

If this is your first time in New York, you wouldn’t want to miss some of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. Spend the morning at Central Park, where the list of things to do is almost endless. Whether you’d rather go rowing, ice skating, or simply relax outdoors, you can surely find an activity that appeals to you. There are several landmarks you really should make time to see, including the Mall, Bethesda Fountain, and Sheep Meadow. Save yourself time and money by bringing a packed lunch—a picnic in the park will complete your experience, anyway.

In the afternoon, pay a visit to the renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art. This museum is so massive that you won’t be able to fully appreciate it in just a few hours, so it might be a good idea to just choose a couple of sections that interest you most and browse through those. If you prefer modern art, you can check out the Guggenheim Museum nearby.

In the evening, make your way to Midtown to marvel at the blinding lights and frenzied activity at Times Square. Afterwards, you can catch a show on Broadway, or have a nice dinner in the Upper West Side.

Day 4: All About Architecture

NYC is home to some of the most beautiful structures and buildings anywhere in the world. On your fourth day in the city, stop by Grand Central Terminal where you can take in the magnificent soaring ceilings and have some fun with the famed “whispering gallery.” Afterwards, head to the New York Public Library, where you will pass three prominent landmarks: the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and the Flatiron Building.

Later on, it’s time for some shopping! You can spend hours along elegant (and expensive!) Fifth Avenue, or shop till you drop at the giant Macy’s in Herald Square.

Day 5: A Visit To Lady Liberty

On your last day in the city, make your way all the way downtown to hop on a ferry to Ellis Island, where you can see the world-famous Statue of Liberty. It would be wise to book this trip in advance, and if you want to thoroughly enjoy both sights, be prepared to spend half the day there. Otherwise, if you’re pressed for time, simply ride the ferry to Staten Island and back, then return to Manhattan to visit the World Trade Center and pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial.

For your last night in the city, consider splurging a bit and dining at one of the fancy restaurants in Tribeca.

Some final advice for your trip—a visit to New York can be quite expensive. If money is no object, you can stay in Midtown or the Village, which would make sightseeing more convenient. For more budget friendly options, book accommodations in Astoria, Long Island, or Williamsburg. You can also adjust this suggested itinerary and switch the days around to better suit the location of where you’re staying.

5 day travel plan to Lapland

Lapland is the northernmost part of Finland. A stretch of land bordering Sweden, Norway, Russia and the Baltic Sea, Lapland is known for its breathtaking wilderness, amazing ski resorts and fascinating natural phenomena ranging from Northern Lights to the unbelievably long, 24-hour summer daylight. The region’s capital, Rovaniemi, is the best place to start your exploration of the area. Here’s a 5 day travel plan to help you get to know Lapland and make the most from every single day you spend among its stunning natural setting.

Day 1

Santa Claus and Rovaniemi

There’s nothing more satisfying to do on your very first day in Rovaniemi than visiting its most famous resident – Santa Claus. It’s enough to travel a bit and crossing the Arctic Circle you’ll arrive at the Santa Claus Village – as you can imagine it’s a real delight for children. Visitors can send postcards from Santa’s main post office or dabble in some leisurely shopping at the many souvenir stores that offer a handful of beautiful handcrafted goods.

Devote your afternoon to exploring the city of Rovaniemi. Walk around to get a feel of this place and make sure to visit to the Arktikum museum. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the Arctic – the history of its exploration, stories about Lapland and the current state of its natural environment.

Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi on a cloudy day in January 2015. Christmas tree decorated with flags of the countries.

Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi on a cloudy day in January 2015. Christmas tree decorated with flags of the countries.

Day 2

The Sami Reindeer Farm

Eat a hearty breakfast and you can begin your day with a real adventure – a guided snowmobile trip to a reindeer farm! There are many providers in Rovaniemi, so ask around and join a tour that looks best to you – usually one snowmobile is shared by 2 people who can take turns driving it. Getting to the reindeer farm is always lots of fun!

The reindeer farm is where you can learn about the Sami culture and its tradition of reindeer herding. Visitors can take a ride in a reindeer sleigh or participate in the special Lappish ceremony of crossing the Arctic Circle. Take part in this event and you’ll have an amazing story to tell back home.

Day 3

Ranua Wildlife Park

One good day trip idea is a visit to Ranua Wildlife Park. This is the most northerly zoo in the world, offering its visitors opportunities for observing arctic animals throughout the year. This park was created to provide as authentic natural environment as possible. It’s open year-round and great to visit practically any time of the year as each season brings new dimensions to the natural landscape.

You’ll find here almost 50 wild animal species such as lemmings, polar bears, brown bears, raccoon dogs, mink, Arctic Foxes and many more. If you love being outdoors, you simply must visit Ranua Wildlife Park.

Arctic Fox

Day 4


In the middle of the Bothnian Arc, you’ll find an area called Kemi which is famous for its SnowCastle that features a SnowRestaurant, SnowChapel and Children’s Land. It’s one of the most exciting attractions in Lapland, so make sure to visit this snowy paradise.

If you’re staying at the hotel near to SnowCastle, make sure to protect your private data while surfing the web within open wifi networks.

But that’s not everything Kemi offers. You can also participate in snowmobile tours or even husky safaris! You might be able to spot Northern Lights as well. There’s plenty of choice here, so make sure to plan your visit to Kemi really well.

Day 5

Moving around Lapland

Now that you’re in the area, you should head over to the Ajos Harbour for a cruise on the Icebreaker Sampo ship. It’s not one of these long and boring cruises – in fact, you’ll have quite a lively program to enjoy. Participants can learn about the ship’s history, visit the control room and the impressive engine room, and see a fascinating presentation about ice-breaking techniques.

Have lunch in the ship’s cozy restaurant, and then jump into the water. We’re not kidding! The arctic swim is a great experience, and you’ll be given a special survival suit will keep you warm and afloat. Needless to say, it’s a life-saver as you dip into the 0-degree waters of the Baltic Sea! At the end of the tour you’ll receive an “ice-breaking diploma” from the crew.

Lapland is a remote region which definitely has a lot to offer. If you decide to make it into your next holiday destination, you’re simply bound to bring back home some great memories and a fair share of unique experiences that will make up for some amazing travel stories.


Will Norquay is a passionate traveler and blogger at HomeAway, who often goes for the less famous destinations, hoping to discover their magic and beauty. When he isn’t traveling, Will might usually be found trying to learn new useful skills or just reading.

5 day Seattle travel plan

Surrounded by water and evergreen forests, with snow-topped mountains in the background, the Emerald City may not be as visited as some destinations on the West Coast, but if you want a balance between city and scenery, buzzing and relaxed, Seattle is a great place to start. The birthplace of Starbucks, you can expect great coffee on every corner, delicious fresh seafood, a lively music scene and laid back kayaking or hiking to get away from it all.

Day 1: Awarded the best walking and cycling city in the United States by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC), Seattle is a great city to go out and explore on foot. Start at Pike Place Market, one of Seattle’s most iconic sites. If you go early, you’ll avoid the crowds and marvel as the many flower sellers and fishmongers set up their stalls.

Try the Athenian Inn or popular Lowell’s to get a tasty breakfast before you continue to explore, and then head down First Avenue towards Pioneer Square to take in Seattle’s famous historic architecture, awesome shops and a ton of high quality Native Indian art galleries. Check out Uwajimaya, 600 Fifth Ave. S., Seattle’s premier supermarket for a taste of Asian fusion.

Day 2: If all that walking’s given you sore feet, then be sure to slip a pair of insoles into your walking shoes and get ready to explore Seattle’s skyline. Prepare to be blown away as you’re whisked up 520 feet to the observation deck of the famous Space Needle. Take your time on top of the world and maybe even dine in SkyCity’s luxurious restaurant.

Make sure to check out the top rated Chihuly Garden and Glass, created by Northwest artist, Dale Chihuly to complete your mindblowing day. Depending on the time of year and the schedule, check out a Seattle Seahawks game if they’re playing at home in the evening.

Day 3: Now that you’ve had a pretty good feel for the city, it’s time to check out Mt. Rainier, often referred to as Washington’s crown jewel. This still active volcano is teeming with wildlife, waterfalls, glaciers and forests, and is truly an unforgettable experience, as you can spot wild deer, bear and even elks.

Great hiking abounds around Mt. Rainer and you can start with a short trail loop, like the Nisqually Vista Trail. Be sure to pack extra rain gear, as this city is famous for its constant drizzle, and if you need to get more insoles for your hardworking feet, try out the Pedag brand for ultimate comfort. If you’ve got any energy left, check out one of Seattle’s world famous live music venues, such as Café Racer, or Columbia City Theater.

Day 4: If you’re a fan of kayaking, then the San Juan Islands offer a beautiful backdrop to spend a day spotting for orcas and enjoying the Puget Sound’s breathtaking scenery. If you prefer to explore the islands on foot, or maybe even spend a night there, check out the times of the Washington State Ferries and leave the city far behind as you enjoy the best that nature has to offer.

Day 5: The chances are that on your last day, you’ll be feeling more like doing some quieter activities than more hiking or exercising, so take in the famous Museum of Flight, 9404 E. Marginal Way S. Even if you’re not interested in flying, this fascinating six-story-tall gallery is sure to capture your attention. If you’re not a museum person, you could take a taxi or drive to Columbia City, a quirky, historical neighborhood, off the tourist trail. Grab a beer, get a coffee and just enjoy a chilled afternoon of relaxing and tasting delicious foods.

Seattle has something for everybody, from nature lovers to historians and art, culture, music and seafood fans. Five days in the Pacific Northwest will leave you with a taste for more.

5 day San Francisco travel plan including Alcatraz, Napa, and Redwoods

While the Golden Gate city of San Francisco is large and bustling, you can still get the full San Francisco experience in just 5 days if you manage your time well. Check out this suggested five-day itinerary that will have you experiencing the whole city from Alcatraz to Redwoods, and the surrounding Napa area before you depart.

Day 1: Upon arrival, the first thing to do is go out and explore, like any tourist. Take a bus tour and get a flash view of the city. The best place to start off is Union Square, as most of the bus tours start and end here. Head out to visit some of the more historic places, like the Alcatraz prison, made famous by blockbuster action film, The Rock. It’s recommendable to book your Alcatraz tour at least three days in advance, as they sell out quite quickly. Spend the rest of your day walking up and down the steep streets, or catch one of San Fran’s famous trams. Sample the local cuisine. With around 4,500 restaurants across the city, you’re sure to have a memorable culinary experience here.

Day 2: On your second day, take a trip to the Redwood National Park. Redwoods is an amazing place to experience the huge majestic trees that form this magnificent forest, and its stunning scenery will leave you breathless. The cycling trails in Redwood are unrivaled and there’s something for every level of cyclist here. If you like riding fixies and want an easy, fairly flat trail, try the Gold Bluffs Beach Coastal Trail. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, take a mountain bike and tackle the Little Bald Hills trail.

Day 3: Check out the Golden Gate Bridge – Rent a car, take a tour, walk, or if your legs will still allow, you can bike across this famous landmark that is an engineering work of art. You can even take a helicopter tour and enjoy the amazing view from the skies. Make sure you check out the weather forecast first for visibility, as San Francisco is a famously foggy city.

Day 4: Bike through Napa Valley – Made famous by its delicious wine and pleasant countryside, California’s Napa Valley makes an excellent place to bike around and you can find bikes for sale or rent throughout the city and surrounding area. The Napa Valley also has an array of top-rated restaurants, more than 500 wineries, and tons of great local Napa cycling routes that you can explore. Yountville, located in the heart of Napa’s agricultural reserve, is an ideal place to start your Napa Valley bike ride.

Day 5: Hit up Chinatown – Complete your tour of this West Coast city with a taste of the East. With San Francisco hosting the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, this is a definite must-do. With an endless array of cheap souvenirs and street food to sample, there’s also a fortune cookie factory, located on the corner of Washington Street and Ross that you can visit to try out the delicious treats famous for their wise sayings and premonitions.

San Francisco has something for everybody, from nature lovers to historians and art and food fans. Five days in this wonderful part of everybody’s favorite state are sure to be the most memorable of your life.

Author: Michael Peggs is the founder of digital marketing agency Marccx Media, where they specialize in SEO and Content Marketing. Before Marcxx, Peggs worked at Google in business development, forming digital media and advertising partnerships. He is also a blogger and podcaster, hosting the iTunes Top 10 New & Noteworthy podcast You University – The Personal Branding Podcast.

5 day Las Vegas travel plan

Las Vegas is an ever-changing fantasy world of bright lights, fabulous hotels, glittering casinos, exciting shows, and breathtaking attractions. Vegas is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S., ranking alongside Disneyland and Disney World. Over 40 million people come to Vegas each year to experience the nightlife and non-stop, live entertainment, as well as to visit Las Vegas attractions and day trip tours. There’s a definite appeal to seeing the Grand Canyon, a casino, and a live show all in one day.

Day 1 – Arrive at McCarran Airport and take the shuttle ($7 p/p) to the Mirage Hotel located in the center of the Strip. Our accommodations are quite nice, with up-to-date amenities and modern decor. After unpacking, we have lunch downstairs at the Paradise Cafe where we enjoy the weather at poolside. Reasonable prices and good menu variety.
Mirage Room Rates – $100 & up. Packages and promotions available.

This afternoon we are looking forward to a deluxe helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon, one of the most amazing natural wonders in the world. We have an incredible panoramic view of Hoover Dam, extinct volcanoes, and Lake Mead, as the helicopter gradually descends to the Canyon floor. We are now in the land of the Native American Hualapai where we have time to explore and take spectacular photos of our surroundings. We enjoy a complimentary picnic lunch & champagne before leaving the Canyon floor and returning to the hotel.
Tour (3-4 hours): Adult – £246, Child – £235. Round trip transportation/transfers from hotel included.

Back in our room, it’s time to relax before dinner tonight at Sushiloca restaurant, about 30 minutes from the Mirage. Pleasant atmosphere with authentic Japanese cuisine featuring sushi, sashami, and a wide assortment of specialty rolls. Friendly service and excellent chefs.
Hours: 11am-2am. Prices: $11-$30

Day 2 – Early morning breakfast at Cravings buffet in the hotel. Breakfast hours – 7am-11am. Price: $16 p/p. Off to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the thrill of a Richard Petty Driving Experience. We’re not quite daring enough to drive it alone, so we decide on a less-challenging 8-lap Rookie Tour. Rookie Tour – 9am or 1pm. Open – Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat, & Sun. Price – £317. A stop at the Race Shop and Gift Store and round trip transportation to hotel included.

It’s time for lunch and a visit to the Forum Shops, a famous Vegas attraction across the street from the Mirage. The Trevi restaurant in the Forum features a menu of traditional and gourmet Italian from pizza and pasta to Bruschetta and Carpaccio.
Prices: $20-$35. Hours: Mon-Thurs,& Sun, 11am-11pm. Fri & Sat, 11am-12am.

We stroll through the 3-story Forum of Roman statues, fountains, and swanky shops such as Gucci, Tiffany, and Vuitton, as well as many others catering to the budget-minded shopper. Cobblestone streets, reminiscent of Paris and Rome, and ornate spiral staircases leading to the painted ceiling of a Mediterranean sky add to the splendid decor of the Forum.

Shopping bags packed away, we join the fun of happy hour downstairs and a casual dinner at Stack. Appetizers and popular American cuisine, steak and seafood.
Cocktails, beer, & wine: $4. Avg Dinner Price: $50. Hours: Sun, Tues-Thurs, 5pm-10pm. Mon, Fri, Sat, 5pm-11pm.

Day 3 – We begin our day with a full breakfast at the Paradise before seeing more Vegas’ attractions. First on the agenda is a short walk south on Las Vegas Blvd to the LINQ hotel, which houses a fabulous auto collection of over 250 classic, muscle, and historically famous cars. Some of these are worth over $100 million, and all are actually for sale. Whether you’re a collector of antique cars, just like cars, or have only a casual interest, here is “history on wheels,” the largest classic car showroom in the world. We spend several hours here before lunch. Open daily, 10am-6pm. Cost – Adults, $11.95, Seniors & Children, 6-12, $8.

The Yardhouse restaurant nearby is a good place for a light lunch with beer or ale, about $15. Open daily, 11am-after midnight. Lunch 11-5pm.

Next stop, a visit to the world-renowned Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian; located in 14 cities worldwide, this is a must-see attraction while in Vegas. We take pictures beside our favorite celebrities (over 100 lifelike figures), watch the 4D Marvel Super Heroes movie, and spend most of the afternoon exploring the Museum.
Admission: Adults, $29.95, Children 4-12, $19.95. Hours: Open daily year, Sun-Thurs, 10am-9pm, Fri & Sat, 10am-10pm.

We dress for dinner tonight and taxi to the Top of the World restaurant in the Stratosphere hotel tower. The wine and 3-course meal of lobster & prawns, small filet, and dessert are superb. The Top of the World is a unique experience in fine dining, with an extensive menu of gourmet contemporary and international specialties and amazing selection of wines. Enjoy great views of the city 840 feet below as the restaurant slowly revolves 360 degrees. Hours: 11am-11pm. Prices: $50 & up. Special 4-course tasting menu, $90.

Day 4 – Starbucks opens early, so we go downstairs for espresso and pastry before joining the 90-minute cruise on Lake Mead. This is a delightful cruise on a paddle-wheel boat past Boulder Island to Hoover Dam. We have two hours to explore this man-made wonder of engineering, visit the museum, and Observation Deck. A bonus stop at Ethel M’s Chocolate factory and Botanical Gardens on the way back to the hotel. Light lunch onboard and round trip transportation to hotel included. Lv at 8:30am, 45 minute ride to Lake Mead, entire excursion about 7 1/2 hours. Price: £64 p/p.

We relax before going to Treasure Island for dinner at the Kahunaville restaurant and the spectacular 90-minute performance of Mystere Cirque du Soleil.
Hours: 7pm & 9:30pm. Price: $79 p/p.

Day 5 – We get an early start with a full breakfast downstairs at the Carnegie Deli, open 24 hours. Avg prices: $15-$20. There’s still plenty of time to watch the dolphins play and explore the world of lions and tigers at Seigfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, a popular attraction at the Mirage. Carnegie Deli, open 24 hrs, $15-$20. Seigfried & Roy’s, 11am-5pm, Adults – $19.95, Children 4-12 – $14.95. Before returning to our room, we decide to check out the casino; who knows, we might get lucky!

We dine tonight in the warm, romantic ambiance of Tuscany decor and soft, classical music at Portofino in the Mirage. After dinner, wetake a short flight over the sparkling lights of Las Vegas at night. A glass of champagne and a ride in a deluxe helicopter are a perfect way to end the evening. Individual headsets & complimentary round-trip limousine service included.
Hours: 12-15 minute narrated flights from 6-9pm, Winter, 6-10pm, Summer. Price: From £57 + $5 fuel charge p/p.

Las Vegas is an adventure, a fun-filled, memorable experience for anyone, whether you come just once or return again. Although the energy, glamour, and glitz of Vegas remain the same, chances are you’ll discover something new and different each time you visit this exciting city.

Sharon L Slayton

Travel plan for Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire

Over 40 square miles between the Wye and Severn River valleys lies the “Forest of Dean” in Gloucestershire, England. The vast woodlands were favorite hunting grounds for wild boar and bear in medieval times and the days of the Tudors. Inevitably, hunting for food and sport in the forest became less important with the industrialization of iron and coal mining. Loosely formed settlements of small cottages grew up around the forest, as Freeminers and their families gathered in community support and involvement. In time, however, modern technology arrived and the scenic beauty of the “Forest of Dean” and the surrounding area soon became a source of pleasure as a popular tourist destination. Visitors can find English country cottage vacation accommodation and enjoy their holiday in this peaceful spot.

Day One – We arrive around noon at our accommodations, Holt Farm Stable, on the borders of Herefordshire and Monmouthshire. The stone stable turned cottage is on an organic farm and has great views. After unpacking and settling in, we decide to go into the village to look around and buy some Gloucester “old spot” bacon, smoked Severn salmon, and other items at the Farmers Market. It’s time now to enjoy the experience of “having tea” in the afternoon at the highly recommended Aunt Martha’s Victorian Tea Room. This is a lovely place with beautiful gardens and an elegant atmosphere enhanced by candles and oil-lit lamps. The menu includes a variety of tea sandwiches, scones, preserves, and cakes. Before leaving, we stop at the shop for a large basket of treats to take with us.

Hours: 12Noon-4pm. Price for 2 – $30. Reservations advisable.

After a delightful tea, we take a short 20-minute drive to Newent and visit the International Centre for Birds of Prey; many of these can be seen living within the forest. We find an incredible conservatory of over 250 birds of prey including eagles, owls, hawks, and falcons. The Centre also has a small shop and cafe. A camera is a must; you’ll capture some amazing shots.

Hours: 10:30am-5:30pm, 1 Feb-30 Nov. Prices: Adult – $17, Ages 4-15 – $11, Senior – $15.

Day Two – We awake to the early morning sounds of the forest and begin our day with a short drive to see the Severn Bore. You may prefer cycling or even walking if you’re feeling especially energetic. Considered the 3rd highest tidal range in the world, the waves average 9′, but have been as high as 49′; it’s a surfing paradise. After a few hours here, we’re off to catch the Dean Forest Railway at Lydney. The train travels 4 1/2 hours through the woods, stopping at 5 stations along the way, which gives passengers time to get off and explore some of the area. We skipped lunch, so we splurge on seats and a 4-course meal in the royal dining car. Price: $120 for 2. Back to the cottage to rest after a fun-filled day.

Day Three – There are plenty of goodies in Martha’s gift basket for a quick breakfast before an early start to Clearwell Caves. It’s about 6 miles to Coleford and another mile and a half to the visitor center at the caves. The nine caverns of Clearwell form a fascinating museum of mining and geological displays and demonstrations owned and maintained by former miners Ray & Jonathan Wright. Famous people have visited and filmmakers have used the caves in movies such as Narnia, Dr Who, and Merlin. We watch the resident blacksmith, Claire Robertson, at work and visit the gift shop to see her finished items, minerals, and other souvenirs, After a light lunch in the cafe, we walk over to the pond by an old mine shaft before leaving. Special events throughout the year. Free parking.

Hours: 10am-5pm. Back at the cottage for supper, relaxing in the tranquillity of the forest evening.

Day Four – It’s a nice day for a brisk walk or a short drive to the 11th century Chepstow Castle high on the cliff above the merging of the Wye and Severn rivers. The well-preserved stone castle has undergone extensive renovations through the centuries, but the oldest wood castle doors in Europe and other original items still remain on exhibition.ours: Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm. Sun,11am-4pm. Closed 24, 25, 26 Dec & 1 Jan.

Admission: Adults – $5, Seniors – $3.75. Free admission to museum at the car park.

After spending several hours exploring the castle, we drive about 8 miles to the Woodlands Tavern in the village of Llanvair Discoed for a late lunch. Excellent food, specialty coffees, and a variety of ales.

Hours: Tues-Sat, 12Noon-2pm, Sun, 12Noon-4pm.

Prices: $21.00, 3-courses

Day Five – We begin our morning with a 90-minute walk on the discovery trail through town past the historical landmarks of Cinderford. The rest of the day is spent browsing the small shops, chatting with the townspeople, and having lunch at a local pub before returning to our cottage to pack before leaving tomorrow.

Through the years, the “Forest of Dean” has received public acclaim and recognition in books, TV, music, sports, and movies. It is certainly one of the loveliest areas to visit in the UK less than 3 hours from London, a beautiful drive through the countryside past quaint towns and villages on the way to Gloucester. There are various types of accommodations including self-catering cottages, bed & breakfast inns, old farmhouses, and some hotels. Why not plan a holiday to the “Forest of Dean” amid the beauty of nature and the old-world charm of village life.

Sharon L Slayton

Orlando travel plan – Universal instead of Disney?

Why Universal instead of Disney?

Universal is geared towards older kids. So if you took the kids to Disney a few years ago, and they think they are all grown up (like if they would rather get their picture taken with Spider Man than with Mickey Mouse), you should consider Universal. If you have little kids, there are a lot of rides at Universal that will be a bit much for a 7 or 8 year old (some 3-D rides are pretty intense). Some rides have height restrictions that younger kids are unlikely to meet. Speaking of rides, don’t miss Spiderman at Islands of Adventure, or Back to the Future in the other park. Terminator is also very cool… You might want to check out their website for some guidance on the suitability of rides but Islands of Adventure seems to have more of the rides that younger kids can enjoy.

Also, Universal is not as expensive as Disney and most people who have visited both tell me Universal is the better value. You can often find specials on tickets for Universal Studios in Orlando – if you compare prices, the Universal deals are just more compelling than the Disney ticket deals.

How many parks? How fast?

Can you see both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks in one day? If your little one is too small for the big rides, you can definitely do both parks in a day. The express pass that lets you pay a little extra to skip the general line is very good for saving time but if they run your card through their scanner, you can only go on the ride once. Having said that it’s possible to see both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in a day, why rush? You’ll end up needing a vacation to recover from your vacation.

Travel itinerary

Day 1

Universal Studios is up first. This park is mostly for the older kids. Start with Transformers. Then in order I suggest: Revenge of the Mummy, Men In Black Alien Attack, The Simpsons Ride, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. This can take all day without a Universal Express Pass.

Hopefully, you took my advice and got the pass so that you can see a show or two later in the day. The Universal Horror Make-up Show is cool. So is the mid-afternoon Superstar Character Parade. In the evening, Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular is worth seeing.

Dinner is at Universal City Walk. You have several choices. I chose the Hard Rock Cafe when I was there because the food is good and the rock star items on the walls are always fun.

Day 2

Islands of Adventure today. Those with older kids head left. toward central lagoon. Start with Spider-Man, then move on to Hulk (this can be an intense ride – it is not for everyone). Next up are two water rides- Dudley Do-Right and then Popeye. They will soak you.

Families with younger kids head right instead of left. Find Seuss Landing to enjoy the Dr. Seuss-inspired attractions there – Go for a ride on the High In The Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride then visit One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and The Cat in the Hat rides.

People of most ages should enjoy some Harry Potter action. The Hogwarts walk-through involves the Gryffindor common room and other memorable places. The very sweet non-alcoholic butterbeer is sort of a must-try even though most people don’t seem to crave butterbeer when they get back home.

Dinner is at Manny’s Steak House. Excellent steak, reasonable prices. The portions are huge so don’t order too much unless you want leftovers for breakfast the next day. I hope you have a fridge. The atmosphere is pretty neat with American signs and memorabilia on the walls. If you’re saving room for desert, save a lot of room.

Day 3 – Celebration Golf

You need a break from the kids although I can’t tell you what to do with them. Celebration is a Disney related community of homes with a stunning 18-hole golf course and fantastic clubhouse with a nice pool and other amenities. The course is great and tourists love seeing alligators lounging near the water traps.

You can eat at Celebration but I never found anything exciting there. The one place (not in Celebration but not too far) I always saw tourists having a great time is Joe’s Crab Shack. It is incredibly noisy but the crab pots are yummy and it is definitely an experience.

Day 4 – Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center may be a little over an hour away depending on where you’re staying. Space buffs will love the large NASA assembly building. Visiting Kennedy really gives you an idea of scale – space ships, buildings, transporters, etc. are all big. The history of the place is inspiring and they even have a few rides. It’s no Universal, but Kennedy is very cool. You learn something, appreciate the magnitude of effort required to leave the earth, and get to brag to your friends that you did something cultured. You’re better than other tourists.

Day 5 – Discovery Cove

I hope you know how to swim so you can fully enjoy one of the highlights or your Orlando holiday. Discovery Cove is pricey but in this case, you get what you pay for. Meet dolphins (and swim with one), float down a tropical river, see otters and sharks, snorkel in a coral reef with lots of different fish and manta rays. This is an experience you will remember.

Travel Plan around San Antonio – Texas Hill Country in the Fall

Thousands of travelers visit San Antonio each year to see the Riverwalk, shop at major department stores and fascinating boutiques, attend sports events, fiestas, and theater performances, as well as indulge in a variety of international cuisine at some of the best restaurants in the U.S. Others want to get away from the city and the crowds of tourists to explore the vibrant colors of autumn in the Texas Hill Country. Lost Maples State Park is a popular choice, especially in October and November, for residents who welcome the end of another hot summer and a change of season, and for the many visitors who want to spend a few days in one of the loveliest areas in the state. Nature enthusiasts travel from across the U.S. to view the spectacular red, orange, and gold of the foliage in Lost Maples, the only place in the southern states where these rare bigtooth maple trees can be found.

Day One – We leave San Antonio Friday morning and take TX-16 west to Bandera and Medina, then RR 337 to Vanderpool on one of the many scenic drives through the Texas Hill Country. The air is definitely cooler as we follow the winding road through the rugged terrain marked by steep canyons and limestone cliffs and reach the higher altitude of over 2,100′. We can visit some of the other small towns in the scenic loop from Vanderpool, which is located about 5 miles from the entrance to Lost Maples. Be sure and get a map of the towns and farm roads in the surrounding area. We made reservations in advance at The Lodges located between Vanderpool and Leakey in an area called the “Swiss Alps of Texas.” Our fully equipped cottage is quite nice with a kitchenette, fireplace, central a/h, and our own private balcony. After settling in, we return to town to buy a few necessities we’ll need during our stay at Lost Maples.

There’s time this afternoon to visit The Lone Star Motorcycle Museum, which houses an interesting collection of vintage motorcycles from 1910 to the present. Hours: Fri, Sat, & Sun – 10am-5pm. Entrance fee: Adults, $6.00, Children under 15, Free. The Ace Café in the museum is a good place for a light lunch before heading back to The Lodges. Relax outdoors in the quiet of early evening and savor the aroma of mesquite from the outdoor grill while the sun sets over the Sabinal River and the Texas Hill Country.
The Lodges: Linens & outdoor BBQ grill provided. TV, but no reception, so bring your own DVD or VCR player.
Rates: $145/night, $175/night for the smaller, more intimate accommodations for couples in Solomon’s Den, ideal for honeymoons or anniversaries.

Day Two – We awake to the sounds of nature and the early morning calls of the birds, have breakfast, and we’re off to spend the day exploring the park. It might be a good idea to pack a picnic lunch and plenty of water to take along. There is a lot to see and do in the 2,000+ acres of Lost Maples Park from more than 11 miles of hiking trails and bird watching to picnicking by the lakes or beside the river. Bring your camera for some great shots of your surroundings, the amazing views, the rock formations, and the variety of plants, birds, and wildlife in the park. It’s cool, comfortable weather for hiking in the park on the well-marked trails; some are steeper than others. The East Trail is much more challenging, going up and down, but you’ll have some great views of autumn colors on the canyon walls above Monkey Rock. The Maple Trail is shorter and easier to hike with good views of the trees, lakes, and hills.

We spend most of the day in the park, so we’re ready to “kick back,” as we say in Texas and head back to our cottage before going out for a leisurely dinner in a nearby town. It’s about 15 miles from Lost Maples on Hwy 187 to Utopia, which inspired the movie “Seven Days in May” with Robert Duvall. From here it’s another 2½ miles to the Laurel Café. This delightful restaurant surrounded by oak trees and herb and vegetable gardens has a definite European appeal. The ambiance of candlelight and flowers enhances the superb gourmet cuisine featuring fresh ingredients prepared by renowned French chef Laurel Waters.
Open only on Saturdays. Prices: $39/five courses include everything but the wine, since this is a “dry” district. We bring our own. Reservations: 830-966-5444

Day Three – This morning we stop for delicious, inexpensive breakfast tacos at the Lost Maples Café on our way to another Texas historic landmark, Enchanted Rock State Park, located about two hours from Vanderpool. According to the legend of the Tonkawa Indians, mysterious sounds and lights are said to come from the Enchanted Rock. This huge dome of pink granite rises over 400′ above ground, a marvel in itself and the second largest batholith of this type in the U.S. Vegetation and weather pits of endangered plants and pools of fairy shrimp cover small areas of the surface of the rock. If you’re into rock climbing, you’ll need to check at the park headquarters for climbing guides. Hours: 8:30am-4:30pm. Entrance Fee – Adults, $7, Children under 12, Free.

We’ve spent most of the morning taking pictures, hiking on and around the Rock, and have worked up an appetite for brunch or lunch, depending on the time. The town of Tarpley is in the general area, and we stop at Mac and Ernie’s restaurant, which has been featured on the Travel Channel and in Southern Living magazine.. Excellent food and downhome atmosphere. Hours: Fri & Sat, 11am-9pm. Sun-11am-2pm. Reasonable prices. It’s a short drive back to Vanderpool and the Lodges where we’ll unwind and enjoy the evening.

Day Four – Today, we’ll go back on TX -16 and drive about 30 miles to Bandera, known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” for a step back in time reminiscent of the Old West. From old hitching posts downtown, trail rides, and rodeos to dude ranches and lively country music, this picturesque small town is a favorite of visitors and locals alike. There’s a lot of history in Bandera from the days of the Apache and Comanche Indians and Conquistadors, along with an interesting mix of Mexican, Polish, and Western cultures. A walk through town is the best way to check out some of the Texas landmarks from the late 1800’s including the old jail, general store, St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, and the Silver Dollar “honkytonk,” in business since 1901. Country western music is a big part of Texas and Bandera’s Cabaret dance hall has featured many famous country western stars such as Jim Reeves, Bob Wills, and Willie Nelson.

Have lunch at Busbee’s for some of the best BBQ in Texas. Hours: Wed-Mon, 10:30-8pm. Closed Tues. After lunch, spend a few hours browzing the shops and boutiques for Western wear, antiques, gifts, and Southwestern items and souvenirs.

After a busy, fun day in Bandera, we are looking forward to a quiet evening at the cottage with a cold beer and the BBQ we brought back for supper.

Day Five – We are eager to spend a few more hours in the park before loading up the car and returning to San Antonio. After lunch at the Lost Maples Café, we head back on a different route, FM187 north from Lost Maples to Texas 39 east to Kerrville and I-10. We have had an amazing road trip, bringing back the memorabilia and beautiful photos of the Texas hill country we’ll share with those at home.

Entrance Fee, Lost Maples State Park:: Adults – $6, Children under 12 – Free. Visitor Center.

Sharon L Slayton

5 day Seychelles travel plan

Seychelles boasts many beautiful islands, 16 with accommodation. Planes and ferries get you around reliably but I vote for ferries whenever possible. Seychelles islands luxury holidays has good information on weather, accommodations, cruises around the islands (some are uninhabited!), and more.

Days 1 & 2: Mahe

On day 1, you hit one of the best beaches in the world. Anse Intendance may feel like a lost world with jungle, boulders, and a beautiful white sand beach. On your way in, look for the rum shack near the entrance from the parking lot. You can have your Rum cocktails in the shade or in the sun. On weekends they may have BBQ burgers. There are waves and strong currents from June to September, but usually calmer spots where you can play in the surf. After September the water calms down quite a bit.

On day 2 we start with a hike. Climb Morne Blanc (30-60 minutes depending on your pace). The hike is not too strenuous but there are a few places where you could step into a little crevice so do be careful. The path is easy to follow, and at the top is a wooden platform with awesome views of southwestern Mahe
Since the hike won’t take all day, we visit another amazing beach later in the day. To get to Petite Anse, on west coast of Mahe, you need to head to the Four Seasons Resort. You have to show identification on the way into the Four Seasons, but Petite Anse is a public beach. It’s a 15 minute walk to the beach, but you can ask hotel employees for a lift in one of their club cars. Don’t wait for them to offer, but they are friendly when you ask. While at the beach, you’ll be near a restaurant and bar. The water is usually calm and clear.

Days 3 & 4: Praslin

Seychelles’ second largest island features Vallée de Mai, once thought to be the original site of the Garden of Eden. The forest features huge ancient palm trees including the Coco-de-Mer palm (famous for fruit shaped like a female pelvis) and the Seychelles Black Parrot, a very rare and beautiful bird.

You’ll want a full day at Anse Lazio. Get there early to find a nice spot on the white sand. You can climb over some of the granite rocks to look for smaller sections of beach. The swimming is usually good (waves sometimes get big but even then you are usually fine if you stay close to shore) and there is excellent snorkeling. Between walking, swimming, and snorkeling you might think one day is not enough.

Day 5: Grand Soeur

If you like to haggle, this is where you have a chance to shine. At La Passe Jetty you will find some agencies offering a Grand Soeur day tour with with snorkeling at nearby islands Coco and Felicite. Prices range from 75-100 euro per person depending on season, party size, and how well you haggle. Strong currents May through October do make swimming difficult.

If you’re a diver, you will probably need more time – lots of great diving to be done around Seychelles’ islands and the industry is safe and well-established here with several excellent operators.

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