Category: Uncategorized

Habitable homes in Biccari, Puglia for $10,000

I’m always half tempted when I see an article about homes in Italy for 1 euro. I look. But they are always wrecked and the idea of managing renovations in a country where I don’t live is not appealing. So when I saw this article on CNN I was about 3/4 tempted. I even talked to my wife, but she shot me down pretty quickly. Buying a house in Italy is still scary. If anyone reading this has done it recently, how did it go?

I’ve been collecting travel stories

I’ve been working since 2018 to bring this blog back to where it used to be. I miss detailing my current and future travels. Even more, I miss making friends – fellow dreamers and travelers around the world.

I’ve got a few stories coming: Traveling for a family medical emergency, road trip car reviews, driving from Atlanta to Boston, flying to Korea, LARPing, and more.

If any old friends see this, what travel stories are you working on?

Travel idea: GenCon – GenConIndy Gaming Convention 2014

Gaming enthusiasts look forward to visiting Indianapolis, Indiana each year for the annual GenConIndy extravaganza, known as “the best four days in gaming.” This is prestigious entertainment at its best, where you can have that rare opportunity to meet and interact with an entire community of gamers, entrepreneurs, retailers, and sponsors who share the same fascination for all types of gaming. You can face real competition in live action role-playing games (LARP) and tournaments, challenge your opponents on board and electronic games, visit exhibits for product demonstrations, and be among the first to hear about the latest innovations in gaming. Above all, it is a place to renew old friendships and make new ones, a place to play your favorite games and learn to play the ones you may not have tried. Previous attendees described GenConIndy as invigorating, intoxicating, surreal, and similar in many ways to a huge amusement park (see GeekDad website).

GenConIndy features an endless variety of hobbies, as well as science fiction, adventure, miniatures, and fantasy games to play, observe, or purchase. Some are familiar favorites and traditional GenCon classics such as True Dungeon and Play by Mob, while others are brand-new releases on display by various gaming promoters and distributors. In addition to the big sci-fi fantasy and art show, workshops, costume contests, anime, celebrity guest appearances, and product demonstrations, there will be numerous new and exciting events, games, and exhibits at the upcoming GenConIndy in 2014. Tables in the open gaming hall, and at some hotels in the housing block, fill up rapidly as gamers gather from early morning until late at night to play old favorites such as Rampage or the newer Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island. Although casino gambling is not allowed, there will probably be a few playing no-stakes poker.

Another attractive feature of GenConIndy is SPA, activities for your spouse who may not be an avid gamer and wants something to do while you are off somewhere checking out the games and exhibits. These include arts and crafts, Irish dancing, self defense, walking tours, etc. GenCon offers fun for children too, with a Family Fun Pavilion in the Exhibit Hall, where they can play games or participate in other activities. Parents who need child care can contact Sitters to the Rescue in the Convention Center for services during the day.
Avg Rates – $12/hour.

It’s definitely not too soon to start planning for the August 14-17, 2014, convention at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. Pre-registration has closed for the most part; however, regular registration can be accomplished online in early 2014, or at the convention center and some hotels. Each individual must purchase a badge for admission to the Exhibit Hall, Art Show, and any other public events. A family of four can buy a Family Fun badge for $30/day, or the Family Fun Package for $40, which includes eight extra tickets to use for special events. Children are free under age eight, but must be accompanied by an adult, registered by name, and wear an identification wristband for security. Online ticket purchases for the non-public events are sent to Will Call kiosks for pickup at the convention. Trade Day is set aside for networking among retailers, distributors, manufacturers, licensing agents, and the press. All potential attendees must meet specific qualifications to register.
(Note: Visit for up-to-date registration hours and locations, events, prices, travel arrangements and assistance, and other information for 2014, usually available in January.)

Each year, GenConIndy offers a block of hotel rooms with reasonable rates for attendees registering online. E-mails are sent to registered attendees with the requisite housing access code to use in making reservations in the housing block. If no rooms are available, however, finding accommodations in Indianapolis should not be difficult since there are a number of downtown hotels near the Convention Center. The Hyatt Regency, Westin, Canterbury, Conrad, and the Marriott are conveniently located and priced from $285-$350. Some offer group package rates and special rates for GenCon attendees ( and geekcityguides are good sources of information).

Gamers can “geek out” with GeekNationTours for an interesting and different way to do the convention. The theme for the tour in 2014 will be Science Fiction, and participants have the opportunity to play the new Stronghold game with the owner and designer of Space Cadets Dice Duel. Take a 2-hour reality trip on the Artemis Spaceship and join the Kentucky Fried Gamers group for refreshments on an evening pub crawl. Evening gatherings are part of the fun where everyone gets a chance to socialize, if they choose, and rehash the day’s activities, as well as do a bit of gaming among themselves. GeekNation can also arrange registration for you via Skype in the spring of 2014 and assist in making travel plans, or advise and coordinate other excursions for you in Indianapolis.
Tour Price: $1,775/dbl, $2,600/single. Includes a fun-filled schedule of activities, four nights’ accommodations at the JW Marriott, airport transfers, GenConIndy badges, Welcome and Farewell Dinners, and other extras.

Gaming is a huge part of culture and a favorite pastime for many of us here in the U.S., just as it is in almost every country in the world. From the initial gathering of war game fans in 1967 at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, attendance at GenConIndy has increased dramatically over the years. More and more people have discovered, visited, and returned to the second-largest (Penny Arcade advertised as first) and most successful consumer games and hobbies convention in North America. Visitors to GenConIndy have brought in more than $47 million to benefit the economy in Indianapolis. Sponsors such as Mayfair Games, Paizo Publishing, and Wizards of the Coast have set world records in gaming developments and attracted more than 2,500 gamers at the convention to their events alone. Whether you decide to go by yourself, with family, or friends, you will find there is something for everyone to enjoy, young and old, in the amazing world of entertainment at GenConIndy 2014.

Sharon L Slayton

Wakaya Island in Fiji to be auctioned with no reserve

A fun article chock full of wishful thinking here about an island for sale. They talk about it as a business opportunity: “Rai Ki Wai can be easily rented as turnkey vacation property through an agreement with the exclusive Wakaya Club & Resort. The resort can provide all the food, housecleaning, and other amenities expected.”

However, you have to wonder how difficult that is and why there aren’t a few developers already working on the deal considering the island itself is not a huge investment, at least not for people who might turn it into some sort of development.

Registration opens soon:

Escape to Rai Ki Wai, or “View over the Sea,” a luxurious sanctuary on the ultra-private island of Wakaya, Fiji. With 23,000 total square feet of living space dotting its 46 acres, this secluded compound includes countless amenities and overlooks the rainforest canopy clear to the turquoise sea.

Travelling and cycling

When travelling there are several mode of transport that we can use when travelling and cycling is one of the most fun way. Cyclotourism is the use of bicycles to go sightseeing as well as exploration and touring. You will find that there are Parks where cycling is offered and visitors can enjoy a close range with wildlife as there are pathways specifically made for cyclists. Like in Europe you will realize that bicycle are freely available in many parts of the continent such as Hoge Veluwe National Park in the Netherlands. Another mode of biking is mountain biking that takes place in some parks that are designed for that purpose on trails and dirt roads.

One of the advantages of using bicycle touring is the fact that its one kind of recreation that can be used by people from all walks of life and at all ages. There are also those type of travelling that involve long distance cycling and are known as randonmee or brevet. Although this is one of the best way for recreation travelling cyclists are advised to take all the necessary safety precautions. If you are cycling in rough terrain you stand a chance of falling and hurting yourself and that is why there are excellent range of cycling helmets. When a cyclist falls he is most likely to have a head injury or even a fat accident and that is why cyclists are advised to be wearing helmets. When choosing a helmet not just any type will work for you no, it has to be fitting, comfortable and a cool lid. Some of the cycling helmets that are highly recommended include Bontrage circuit, Las victory Limited, Giro Savant, Giro Aeon, Las Infinito as well as MET Estro and Mavic plasma SLR. Also ensure that the helmet is light enough for your head and has a soft pad that will suckle in the moisture from your skin and a hard pad that will protect you. Since cycling was introduced it has been used as a mode of transport but later emerged that it can be used as a great way of recreation.
These are just some of the helmets that can be used when travelling by cycling and there are many more others. The other advantage that comes with cycling is the fact that you are able to access narrow terrains and pathways that a vehicle can hardly go through.

Caribbean Getaway – Bocas Town, Isla Colon, Panama travel plan

The year round tropical climate, beaches, rainforests, and diverse ecosystem of the Bocas del Toro islands attract surfers, eco-tourists, and celebrities. Although the islands were not well known when Graham Greene visited in 1980, he soon adapted to the unhurried lifestyle of manana (tomorrow). Today, it is a popular vacation spot where the islands, untouched by hurricanes, offer tourists a wealth of natural beauty. Hundreds of species of birds and wildlife thrive in the jungle and rainforests, as well as a variety of marine life within the splendid coral formations of the sea.

The sun is, for the most part, shinning all day. There are rain showers (fewest in may), but they won’t interfere with the peace and fun you hope to get out of your vacation. I would advise to plan your next trip in May, when the rain showers are less frequent. The Caribbean is truly the best vacation idea whether you are looking for family holidays with your children or a romantic destination for your honeymoon. There will be plenty of activities for everyone: spa, surf, diving, jungle excursion, or simply swim and relax on the white sandy beaches. Our destination is Bocas Town on Isla Colon, the capital and main island in the Bocas del Toro group.

Day One:

Arrive in Bocas Town after a 1-hour flight and check into the small boutique Hotel Bocas del Toro where the rooms feature wood craftsmanship and nautical furnishings, modern amenities, and balcony views. Unpack and refresh with a tropical drink while watching the sunset over the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea. Dinner tonight on the outdoor terrace of the hotel restaurant where regional and local specialties are featured; try the coconut bread, ceviche, and grilled seafood. Friendly service and very reasonable prices. Enjoy a drink and friendly atmosphere of the indoor and open air sports bar before returning to your room.
Rates – From $150-$175/dbl
Restaurant – All day dining, 6:30am-10pm. Prices – $6-$10.
Bar – Open 6:30am to 10pm (coffee in am, snacks, and meals), happy hour 5-7pm. Cocktails – Avg $3.

Day Two:

Wake up to a beautiful day and delicious, local organic coffee, Café Amigable Doa Mechi served in your room. Since everything is within walking distance in this small town, it’s only a short distance to the Red Frog Express water taxi. You’ll arrive at Bastimentos island in about 10 minutes and from here it’s a 15-minute walk to the small partially secluded Red Frog Beach. You’ll see rare sea turtles, monkeys, and red frogs on the way. Plan to spend a few hours snorkeling along the reef, swimming, sunbathing, or just snoozing in a hammock. If you get hungry, the Punta Lava beach bar and grill has sandwiches, snacks, and tropical drinks. For a full meal, it’s a 5-minute walk to KayuKos restaurant featuring a variety of appetizers, salads, and entrees.
Hours – 11am-10pm. Reasonable a la carte prices, or about $6.50 for the daily special.
Red Frog Express – $7 rd trip. Hours: 11am & 1pm.

Return to hotel and relax before going to the Barracuda restaurant on the town’s main street. Enjoy cocktails or beer and Italian cuisine on the terrace with a view of the sea.
Hours: 10am-10pm. Prices: Entrees – $10-$15, Cocktails – $4

Day Three:

Get an early start today with a big breakfast at Lili’s (recommended by Conde Nast) where the extensive menu includes all types of omelets, pancakes, French toast, eggs benedict, and huevos rancheros. Be sure and try Lili’s famous “Killin’ me Man” pepper sauce; buy some to take home.
Hours: 7am-10pm (Closed Sunday). Prices: $6-$10

Let’s go sailing! Join a Bocas tour for all-day island hopping and spinnaker sailing. Snorkeling at Mangrove Reef, Isla San Cristobal, and The Garden at Isla Solarte. Watch the dolphins in Dolphin Bay. Lunch onboard with drinks and music. Hours: 9:30am-4:30pm. Prices: $45/pp, includes lunch, snorkel gear, and fishing poles.

Head back to the hotel after a day of exploring the underwater wonderland of the sea. Reservations made for El Ultimo Refugio, where The Last Refuge sounds cool and inviting. Enjoy a passion fruit margarita or a Dark and Stormy rum cocktail before dinner. The unusual lighting, tropical plants, and local artwork provide a pleasant, intimate atmosphere. The menu, which changes daily, features an assortment of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Hours: Mon-Fri, 6pm-10pm. Closed Sat & Sun. Prices: Avg $20. Live music. (Some artwork is for sale.)

Day Four:

After breakfast at the hotel, you’re looking forward to visiting the cacao plantations and learning how chocolate is made. It’s about a 15-minute boat ride to Almirante on the mainland and another 15 minutes to the Oreba Chocolate tour at Rio Oeste Arriba. Tour guides are native Ngabe farmers who explain how organic cacao is grown, cultivated, and made into chocolate. The tour through the jungle and cacao trees ends with a demonstration on making chocolate by the Ngabe women and a traditional meal. You can contribute to the welfare of the community by purchasing some chocolate products at very reasonable prices.
Tour hours: 9:30am and 1pm. Prices: $25-$37 (2-person minimum)

Back in town, a cold Balboa beer sounds good with lunch at the Buena Vista. Choose from burgers, wraps, and salads or a meal of enchiladas, jambalaya, or steak and lobster.
Hours: 12Noon-9:30pm. Prices: Sandwiches, $6-$8; Meals, $10-$20. Tropical cocktails, $4-$9. Beer, $1.50.

The afternoon might be a good time to do some shopping for local crafts, art, and handiwork at reasonable prices. Visit Bri Bri’s for beautiful, traditional molas, carefully stitched, woven cotton fabrics with colorful, intricate designs that can be made into clothing or wall tapestries. Two well known shops for souvenirs are El Cacique and The Garrimar. You definitely should buy more coffee and chocolate to take home at Pachamama. Vendors in Simon Bolivar Park sell everything from food to arts & crafts.

As evening approaches, there’s a nice breeze on the balcony and a hint of rain in the air. Reservations for dinner tonight at Guari-Guari, highly recommended by other travelers for excellent international cuisine, service, and atmosphere. Located on the edge of town away from the tourist crowd, it’s definitely worth the $1 taxi to get there. With only 6 tables, Guari-Guari is cozy and romantic, a top-rated dining experience.
Hours: Open late (call the day before for reservations). Prices: Avg $25, 6 or 7-course meal.

Day Five:

Back to Lili’s this morning for more delicious food. The vacation is coming to an end, and a trip to the clear, calm waters of Starfish Beach is on the agenda. The local bus to Boca del Drago leaves from the main square, about $5 rd trip. Then it’s a 20-minute walk to the beach, or by boat for $1. Look for bright orange starfish in the sand; rent a kayak, floating lounge chair, or a water bike. Bring your camera and a picnic lunch if you like, or visit the open-air Yasinori restaurant for fresh seafood or Creole dishes. Order patacones, fried green plantains, for a side dish.
Hours: 8am-7pm. Prices: $5-$16.

Have dinner tonight at the popular Nine Degrees restaurant (Bocas Town is 9 degrees from the equator). Fresh produce and seafood are on display in the Tropical Market in front. Choose from the menu of fine cuisine such as lobster chicken crepes, yellow fin tuna tempura, or Caribbean vol au vent of lobster and octopus. With a wonderful view of Bocas Bay, outstanding service, and a wide selection of wine and cocktails, Nine Degrees offers patio dining in a casual atmosphere.
Dinner Hours: 6-10pm. Prices: $25-$35 (incl appetizer, entree, dessert, & beverage).

Day Six: Leaving Bocas del Toro after 5 days of Caribbean island pleasure.

Getting there: Daily flights from Panama City on Air Panama, or Avianca from San Jose, Costa Rica. Prices: From Panama City – $180/rd trip, From Costa Rica – $358

(Note: Travelers should bring plenty of sunscreen, along with sunglasses, a hat, and light clothing.)

Sharon L Slayton

What will Carnival do for their crew members from the Triumph?

As I was reading this article about how bad the passengers had it on the cruise, I kept thinking to myself it had to be much worse for the crew. We get a few lines down a ways in the article:

David Glocker, of Jacksonville, Fla., praised the crew’s efforts to help passengers and recognized the conditions for them were worse than for most passengers because their quarters were on the lowest part of the ship.

“The conditions down there were horrible. They all had to wear masks,” he said. “They worked their butts off trying to get us food.”

I’m sure many will begin debating what Carnival can do make things right. They have offered refunds, another Carnival trip, transportation costs home, and $500 compensation.

But those gestures may not be enough. Less than 24 hours after the boat docked, the first lawsuit was filed against Carnival Corp. by passenger Cassie Terry, who said she feared for her life and worried about falling seriously ill from the raw sewage and spoiled food. Her complaint seeks unspecified damages.

I get that it was bad and as an American, our first insitnct is to sue. And maybe carnival deserves to get sued if they did things wrong or whatever. But I wonder if any crew members want to sue. I wonder what Carnival will do for their crew, the workers who had it much worse than the passengers. They couldn’t sleep on deck, where the smell wasn’t as bad – they were way down there where the smell was probably worst. And they had to work. Who knows how well they ate but if passengers didn’t have much to eat it’s hard to believe the crew had it any better.

And right now, the crew have no work to do – the Triumph is out of action for a while. Will Carnival give them paid vacation so the crew can go home and visit family during the downtime? Maybe pay for their trips home like the passengers get? Maybe a bonus like the 500 bucks the passengers get? Or do the crew get nothing and lose income since they aren’t working at the moment?

What do you think Carnival will do? What do you think they should do?

Safe travels and Happy New Year

I’m at a hotel in Savannah off of 95 for New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow we drive to historic Savannah and after a little sightseeing we continue south to Florida and home. Whether you’re traveling or staying home for New Year, make it a great start to 2013.

Joining a couple of Austrian roadtrippers for a night in Miami

I got a call from an old friend the other day. “The Austrians and I are on our way to Orlando.”

Cool. I had known that there was a possible road trip but now it was official so I invited my friend from New York and his Austrian friends to crash with me. So after 20 hours of driving they arrived at 4:00 am. The Austrians went to bed right away while my friend and I talked for a bit.

The next day, my friend dropped the Austrians off at Universal. We hung out at home until the park closed and then met the Austrians at Universal City Walk – basically a bunch of restaurants and bars outside of Universal Studios. Dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and drinks at Margaritaville had me feeling like a tourist myself.

The next day we made hotel reservations and all drove down to Miami. My wife and the dogs and I took our own car.

Our hotel, the Impala in South Beach, was good. Over the phone we got a price of $153 which was better than we could find online. No pet fee ($50 refundable deposit) and the manager offered to dog sit for us, which was amazing. We didn’t take her up on the offer, but we were impressed all the same. The floor was marble or some sort of nice stone and it was a good looking room.

Leaving the hotel, the Austrians went to the beach while my friend and I took advantage of happy hour. In South Beach, a drink can be 12.50 so it’s a good thing they were buy 1, get 1 free for a couple hours.

We tried to train the dogs to stay alone in the hotel room, but they howled like crazy when we left for even a moment so we had them with us the entire time we were in Miami, including our next stop, a Cuban restaurant. Yuca was recommended by a couple of locals, a bartender and my friend’s friend.

Dinner wasn’t cheap, but we hung around at our outdoor table for a couple of hours so I guess we got our money’s worth. Then we moved on to a bar to chat some more. My friend and the Austrians then went clubbing while I went to the beach to look at the stars and the Miami skyline.

The next day, we had to check out at 11:00 am. We grabbed some breakfast near the beach and my wife sat at the outdoor table with the dogs while I went for a quick swim. After a souvenir shop and some Miami South beach apparel for my wife, we were on our way back to Orlando to pack for our next trip.

It was a fun time. I got to see an old friend and I can count the Austrian road trippers as friends now as well. When I get to Vienna, they’re going to take me swimming in the Danube.

And the next day we left for our road trip – St. George FL, Columbus GA, Atlanta GA (plus Smyrna), Macon GA, and then back to Orlando. More details on that trip next time.

Still making changes, feedback on new look appreciated

So this is a work in progress but as I try to make this site look the way I want it to, I figure I ought to make sure it’s working for as many readers as possible. So, is it easy enough to read? If the font is too small or something distracts you from being able to enjoy the blog, please leave a comment.

Also, I’m not sure where I have all the settings at with the redesign but I believe now (or if not now, then soon) you will be able to register, which should make it easier to leave comments.