Asia, Europe, France, Italy, Sri Lanka, Travel

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

March 1, 2017

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

Every once and while when I travel I run across the unexpected and the surprising. Many times these are hidden gems. They could be lesser known destinations, an unexpected hotel or a travel experience. Many times they may only be a hidden gem to you and not necessarily to others.

Places

Slovenia – Slovenia is a hidden gem to most people even those who know of the famous Lake Bled and its church. What struck me the most was the beauty of Slovenia. It hits you right as you walk out of the doors of the airport where snowy peaks greet you with green pastures below.

Dropped into a Fairytale in Slovenia

Driving from Ljubliana to Radenci, the green pastures and mountains continued, but I also saw lots of fields filled with yellow flowers. Cows grazed at angles on the sides of hills. Church steeples shot up from the valley floors and called to your with their bells to come see their beauty.

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

Florence – Florence – is definitely a hidden gem to me. It took me three trips to Italy to finally go there. This was only after my Mom spent hours extolling the greatness that is Florence. Don’t ask me why I didn’t want to go. I was more into Rome and Venice, and now Florence is my heart in Italy. So much so I went three times last year! I think it is the fact that the city is a museum and there are over 70 museums to visit. I have only seen about nine of these even though I have been there three times. Guess I will have to go back!

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

Giverny – Many people know Giverny because Claude Monet painted many of his paintings there. What some people don’t realize is that he painted his famous Water Lilies pieces based off a pond on his property there. You can visit both his house and his gardens. As a Monet fan, I had to do this when I went to Paris. Most travel sites talk about to go from Paris to Giverny as a day trip. However, there is more to Giverny than Monet.

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

Monet must have inspired gardens in Giverny.  The whole town is one long garden. Many people that live here have gardens in their front yard that line the main street, and they are lovely. There is a small area where shops and restaurants can be found. I had this “salad” there that was one of the best things I have ever eaten. Salad is in quotes because while there were vegetables, there was no lettuce of any kind.

Hidden Travel Gems Found While Traveling

While I can’t be sure, as it is the only small French town I have been to, it was the classic French country village. I walked from one end to the other several times and rarely saw another person until I reached Monet’s house. It has the added benefit of Monet’s house and the Giverny Museum of Impressionism.

Hidden Travel Gems Found While Traveling

Hotels

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum – Booking a hotel hours before staying there is not usually my style, but I would happily do it again if it led to hotels like this. Not having tons of time to research the hotel, I didn’t realize it used to be a monastery that was built in 1275! There are only 18 rooms in this hidden gem. Each one is unique.

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

That isn’t all! The ancient Roman baths are below and have been transformed into a spa. I had one of the best massages of my life in this spa. The space is gorgeous, and you can relax the underground pool.

Heritance Kandalama – Hidden in the jungle is a hotel that is probably the longest hotel in the world. The hotel was built by famous Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa. The hotel was built into nature with open air hallways so that rain and animals could move around and under the hotel unobstructed. There was a warning on the balcony door to keep it closed, so monkeys won’t come inside!

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

Never in my life have I wanted to stay a hotel one more day so I could take pictures of it. It sits on a reservoir that imitates a lake. Birds, monkeys, elephants and giant squirrels can be seen on the property. The views over the reservoir are also stunning. There will be a full review of the hotel coming soon, but this is a sneak preview!

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

Want to share your hidden travel gems? See how below.

Greece, Packing, Travel

What to Pack for a Greek Island Sailing Trip

February 27, 2017

What to Pack for a Greek Island Sailing Trip

Packing for a sailing trip around the Greek Islands seems like it should be easy, you just through a swimsuit, short and sunscreen and go right?! Well, that might be fine on a cruise, but reading the list provided by the sailing company I was unsure how to pack and what to pack it in.

Surprisingly I only found a few blog posts regarding packing for a sailing or boat trip. One was The Blonde Abroad’s post on packing for yacht week. The other was Her Packing List. Both are great lists but were not for a two-week trip, and only one was for a trip to Greece. My trip was for two weeks and included nights out for dinner almost every night.

I recommend only bringing cotton and linen items as you will feel much more comfortable in those fabrics, and they dry quickly. You may be able to get laundry done on one of the islands.

This post contains affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you but helps me maintain the blog.

Clothing

 

4-5 pairs of shorts – I only brought three and kicked myself for taking the 4th pair out at the last minute. Yes, I did laundry, but even linen takes time to dry in the humid air.

5-6 t-shirts and tank tops – I brought this many because I tend to spill on myself!

7-8 pairs of underwear- You can bring more or less depending on how much hand washing you want to do

3-4 bras – You will probably be in your swimsuit every day during the day

1 pair of pants – The nights can get chilly, and I was happy to have them

3-4 dresses – We went out to dinner every night, but one and I only brought 3 and wished I had one more for variety

Windbreaker – Preferably one that is waterproof. It rained one day and one rough sea day and mine kept me warm.

3-4 swimsuits – I brought too many! Probably isn’t a thing, but I wore my two bikinis the most.

1-2 coverups or sarongs – I wore my cover up when walking to beaches from the boat. You could also wear your shorts, but then they might be wet. I made sure mine were long enough to be comfortable to wear inside a shop or restaurant I might want to pop into along the way.

Hat – Make sure it has a strap to keep it on in the wind or attach it to your clothes with a clip.

Shoes

1 pair of flip flops – Essential for the beach.

1-2 pairs of sandals – Good for going out. Don’t bring heels. We walked far one some nights for dinner, and the streets are not even. If you must be high, bring wedges. The link I have included here are my favorite sandals from Aerosoles. They are comfortable and stylish. (I think I am on my third pair!)

1 pair of deck shoes with light colored soles – These are especially important if you plan on helping with the sailing of the boat. They will protect your toes from getting broken! These Nike ones had breathable mesh, and I loved them.

Toiletries

Sunscreen – Bring as much as you think you will need. You can buy it in Greece, but it will be very expensive. Don’t bring spray sunscreen as it can make everything slippery

Deodorant – It is hot!

Make-up – Most days I only applied this at night for dinner. For day, I either wore nothing or cc cream with sunscreen

Shampoo/Conditioner – For two weeks, I brought full sized bottles because I have long hair. You may be able to get away with less. The sea and the wind do take a toll on your hair, so conditioner is a must.

Hair texturizer – You will not be able to blow dry your hair on the boat, so bring something to style your hair (if you want). The link it so my favorite sea salt spray.

Bar of soap – I found this much easier and one less liquid to bring on onboard.

Lotion – The sea and the sun will dry your skin out. Bring something that doubles as after-sun (something with aloe vera).

Bug wipes – There are mosquitos in Greece. I prefer bug wipes as again, one less liquid and it doesn’t spray everywhere. Get the unscented ones!

Bags

Rolling duffle bag – There is nowhere to store a traditional rolling suitcase. You need a bag that can be squished flat for storage. The one I chose had a small hard bottom, which offered some protection for fragile things and liquids.

Day bag – You will want something to carry while sightseeing.

Beach bag – I didn’t bring one but was given a tote on arrival in Athens, and I was so glad as I brought it to the beach.

Evening bag – You may want something to carry to dinner instead of your day bag.

Dry bags – If you bring a camera or any other electronics, you should bring at least one dry bag. This will keep it protected if you have to take the dingy to shore.

Technology

Camera – This goes without saying, but you will want your camera.

E-reader  – If you are a big reader like me, then bringing several books was easier with an e-reader.

Other

Beach towel – The company I went with did not provide beach towels, so I brought a Turkish towel for the beach. They are thinner than a regular towel, are super absorbent and can act as a sarong in a pinch.

Clothes pins – You will want to hang your clothes to dry, and the boat may have some pins, but if everyone hangs up at the same time, the pins go quickly.

Earplugs  – Some harbors are loud at night, and wearing earplugs helped me to get to sleep and stay asleep.

Have you been sailing? What do you recommend to pack?

Asia, Sri Lanka, Travel

Negombo, Sri Lanka: Photo Essay

February 20, 2017

Negombo, Sri LankaFor most people, Negombo is a place to sleep on their way in or out of Sri Lanka. However, there are things to explore in the town and beyond. Here is a little photo essay to inspire you to do more than sleep in Negombo!

Negombo, Sri Lanka

Negombo, Sri Lanka

Negombo, Sri Lanka

Negombo, Sri Lanka

Negombo, Sri Lanka

Negombo, Sri Lanka

Negombo, Sri Lanka

Places shown: Maya Oya River, Negombo Fish Market, Remains of Dutch Fort (now the entrance to the prison), Negombo lagoon, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and Angurukaramulla Temple

Where to stay: Waterland

Asia, Hotel/Accommodation, Sri Lanka, Travel

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

February 13, 2017

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

Eco-friendly and luxury are not usually two words that I use together to describe anything let alone a hotel, but this is Waterland. Nestled between the Maha Oya River and the Negombo Dutch Canal sits Waterland. Recently, I was a guest of Waterland; however, all opinions are my own.

Waterland is a four villa hotel located about 40 minutes from the Colombo Airport. However, Waterland is much more than a place to stay on the way to and from the airport. It is a destination. 

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

Birds and Plunge Pools

Another two words not often associated with each other. However, you will find both at Waterland. Due to its location on the river, birds of all kinds flock to the river to fish and eat the mosquitos. While I was there, I saw a Kingfisher, White Herons, a Purple Heron and at least one Brahminy Kite. Waterland had provided a picture guide to the local wildlife, which helped me identify what I was seeing.

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

All this was spotted from my villa pool deck! Each villa has its own private plunge pool. The Deluxe Villa has a larger pool and is more like a small plunge pool! There are lounge chairs as well. This way you can sit in the pool and watch the birds. The first night I sat there for an hour watching the sunset and the birds.

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

Villas

There is one Deluxe Villa, which offers two bedrooms and three Studio Villas, which is one room. The Deluxe Villa is great for two couples or a family with older children. There are two bedrooms of equal size over two floors. The downstairs contains a living are with television, one bedroom and bath plus the pantry. The upstairs has a large deck with the bedroom off of that. The bathroom is huge; there is just no other way to describe it!

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

The Studio Villa is not small by any means, and if you are lucky enough to get Villa #3, then you have the best view of the river. The bathroom is smaller, but by no means small. All the bathrooms are open plan and feature rainfall showers. There is not a bathtub, so you will have to do your relaxing in the pool. The bathrooms are well equipped with hairdryers, lotion, soaps and hair care products. What I really like is they were all in dispensers and not in small travel containers. The staff refills them as needed, which reduces waste. 

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

The villas themselves are decorated in a modern fashion with slate floors and concrete walls in the bathrooms. The beds are set on a concrete platform. There are two international plugs next to the bed! Usually on of my chief complaints is a lack of plugs, but not at Waterland. Due to the floor to ceiling windows, there is plenty of light during the day. The lights at night are a bit harsh, though, and the only soft lighting is the reading lamps by the bed. Since I am not a morning person, I could have done with more shades to draw to block out the morning light. Bring some earplugs if you want to sleep late as the local rooster is up very early! 

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

All the villas are equipped with solar panels and energy-saving features, such as power is only on when you key is inserted in the slot. Outside the lights are controlled by motion sensors. 

Food

Breakfast was included during my stay and you are offered fruit, curd, juice, coffee or tea, a choice of eggs and toast. I opted to have Sri Lankan scrambled eggs most of the mornings. The eggs were great and had the added spice of curry leaves. One morning I was brought a more tradition Sri Lankan breakfast of coconut noodles, curry, and a coconut mixture. It was quite good, but not a breakfast for me. Lunch is light fare, and I indulged with vegetable spring rolls two days in a row! The dinner selection is not large, but the food was excellent. All meals were served outside. There is an indoor area in case of rain. 

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

Overall, I would highly recommend Waterland on a visit to Sri Lanka. It is a great place to unwind and enjoy nature. All this within a short drive to Negombo if you want to see more or visit the beach. 

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