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

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

March 1, 2017

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

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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.


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


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.

Blog, Travel

It’s Not all Sunsets and Beaches: My Travel Fails

February 6, 2017

It's Not all Sunsets and Beaches: My Travel Fails“It’s not all sunsets and beaches!” I say this a lot even if my Instagram may seem that way! Lots happen when I or when you travel that we don’t share with friends or even family. While bloggers may be more guilty of this than others, I am sure we all don’t tell people when things go wrong on our travels. I am here to share with you my travel fails!

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Losing my credit card in Rome

Outside of moving to Qatar, only my second international trip was to Rome. I had decided to spend my 2013 Christmas in Rome instead of returning home. To save on costs, I decided to rent an Airbnb and cook for myself. The first day I was there, I went to the grocery store since I knew they would be closed for the holidays soon. I used my credit card to pay. I felt rushed at the checkout and put my credit card in my wallet, but not in its slot. The next day, Christmas Eve, I discovered it was missing when I went to pay for something.

It's Not all Sunsets and Beaches: My Travel Fails

I decided not to freak out immediately. It was Christmas Eve and the grocery store was closed and was hoping it was still there. There were no strange charges on the card. However, I didn’t know that Italians celebrate a holiday the day after Christmas as well, so I had to wait till December 27th to find out the card was not at the store. A nice Roman woman helped me translate that I had lost the card, though. Apparently, someone found it on the street and threw it in the trash because there were never any unauthorized charges!


My inability to get my name correct on visas plagues me to my current trip to Sri Lanka! The first time this happened, I was applying for a visa to Turkey. The first time, I got my place of birth wrong. I said Texas, but my passport said the USA.  The next time I applied, I forgot my middle name. I had to purchase the Turkey visa three times before I got it right!

It's Not all Sunsets and Beaches: My Travel Fails

Apparently, I remembered all this when applying for my India visa, which was good because the form is like ten pages long! Sri Lanka continues with the visa fails as I forgot my middle name again! Fortunately, after panicking for about 24 hours, they emailed me back and said it was not an issue as long as the passport number and birth date were correct. Hopefully, this will be the last time I make this mistake.

Lost SD card/phone

Somewhere in Turkey is my SD card of all my pictures of Rome on it! Somehow, the SD card fell out of my camera case in Istanbul. I was disappointed but was glad I had downloaded them already.

I also managed to leave my phone in a restaurant bathroom in Istanbul, but my faith in humanity continues as the cleaning man left it at the hotel front desk!

Realizing how bad my early photos are while writing this blog post! And my willingness to share them with you.

It's Not all Sunsets and Beaches: My Travel Fails


I am prone to getting sick, although it has gotten better in recent years. Sometimes this getting sick rears its ugly head while traveling. The time that sticks out to me the most is when I had food poisoning in Jordan. I actually had been battling it before I left for the trip. It was bad, but I thought I had it beat. And I did until the night before I was supposed to fly out. I woke up in the night, and it didn’t go away. I spent that night in the bathroom and got on the plane with a ginger ale in my hand praying it would hold off till I got back to Qatar. This bug lasted months and would come and go. It had returned the day before I was supposed to fly back to Qatar from visiting family at Christmas!

It's Not all Sunsets and Beaches: My Travel Fails

Another flight back to Qatar from home and I had an asthma attack. I learned how prepared airlines are to treat medical emergencies and how grateful I was to the doctor on that flight that sat with me for a long time to make sure I would be okay.

Land sickness is a thing too! I learned that while I don’t get seasick, my inner ear doesn’t like getting back on land after a week on a sailboat. I felt so bad a week into my Greek sailing trip; The captain took me to the local clinic on Ios. The doctor declared me dehydrated and ordered rest and lots of water. It continued for the two days I was on Santorini.

This post was written in response to the Travel Linkup hosted by Polly, Emma, Angie and Eppie. Head over to their blogs to see their travel outtakes!


Travel Contrasts: City vs. Country

August 6, 2015

CityvsCountryRaised in the suburbs of Dallas and then moving to New York City and living there for seven years, I was very convinced that I was a city girl through and through. Then after I moved to Qatar and I started to travel more. I began to notice that I didn’t like my city visits as much and was very much enjoying the visits to the country on my trips. Last April I visited New York City for a conference, and I was overwhelmed by how noisy it seemed. I met a friend there, who is also an expat in a small place, agreed that it was very loud. Of course, there are things I don’t like about visiting the country too. These only really became apparent to me as I started to travel, and some became apparent when I visit the U.S. Here are some of the things I have noticed while traveling in the city and the country.

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As I mentioned earlier, cities are loud. Cities have lots of people and traffic. Cars honk and people talk loudly on their cell phones. I almost couldn’t handle being outside in New York City the last time I visited. I wanted to be in my hotel room if I wasn’t at the conference. The country is quiet. No worrying about being woken up by a cop car screaming past your window at 2 AM. People don’t walk around on their cell phones either having loud conversations. There is certainly no traffic.

Cities are crowded. Every large city I have visited over the last two years was full of people, which is to be expected. I am just not used to it. I now know, I don’t like being pushed or jostled. I guess when I lived in New York, I didn’t notice or didn’t care. I can’t remember. The country is spacious and has ample space for everyone. I was never jostled in the countryside of Italy.

Cities have public transportation. I love public transportation! It is usually the fastest and most efficient way to travel in the city. It can also be the most affordable option. The country might have a train, but there is no subway usually. On my last trip to Italy, I rented a car. It was fun, and it gave me freedom, but it was expensive when factoring in tolls and the cost of fuel.

Cities have ample options for things to do and see. I don’t even think I saw all the things New York City has to offer even after living there for seven years! You will almost never be bored by visiting a city. In the country, you may have limited options, but it also leaves ample time to relax. You can catch up reading or your favorite hobby.

The country is nature. There is nature everywhere you look. You never run out of things to look at in nature, and it is constantly changing. The city has some nature, but you will have to seek it out, and it may be manicured nature and not wild.

I could probably name several more contrasts between the city and the country, but I would like to hear what you think. Which do you prefer, the city or the country and why? I am beginning to think I am a country girl or at least a small town girl.