New Orleans During Mardi Gras

There is so much to do in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, well basically anytime, but it is always more fun to go to New Orleans during Mardi Gras.  So read on to find out my Mardi Gras bucketlist, beyond the obvious activities during Mardi Gras (such as the parade or drinking).

(Courtesy of Travel Channel)

  • Watch the Mardi Gras parade from a balcony.
  • Go to a crawfish boil in someone's backyard.  It is so different than eating in a restaurant.  Locals use a Crawfish app to find the best prices.
  • Take a ride on the streetcar.  The streetcar is a beautiful, yet historic, means of transportation.
  • Go on foodie road trips.  Middendorf's fried catfish, Tan Dinh Vietnamese food, Mosca's Italian dishes, Drago in Metairie for their charbroiled oysters, and a Cajun country truck stop for boudin and cracklins...these are just some of the places to go on your foodie trip.
  • Catch the Soul Rebels on a Tuesday night.  Make sure to stay for entire set.
  • Eat the city's staples...these include Creole and Cajun cuisine, oysters at Casamento's, muffuletta from Central Grocery, Po-Boys from R & O, fried chicken at Willie Mae's, panéed rabbit from Brigtsen's, and BBQ shrimp from Pascal's Manale.
  • Make sure you get in line early to get lunch at Galatoire's on a Friday afternoon.  
  • See a live tradition jazz performance, hopefully at Preservation Hall.
  • Listen to local legends, like Irma Thomas, sing.
  • Visit Pat O'Brien's dueling piano bar.
  • Get a sno-ball, with condensed cream, from Hansen's.
  • Listen to the church choir at St. Louis Cathedral.
  • Do the tourist-y things.  Eat beignet at Cafe du Monde, ride the carousel in City Park, watch the street dancers in Jackson Square, take a horse and buggy tour, and try on carnival masks at souvenir shops.
  • Visit one of the historic cemeteries, such as St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
  • Get a coveted ticket to the secretive MOMs ball.  Make sure your costume is up to par so you don't get turned away.

If you can't go during Mardi Gras, see if you can line up your visit with any of the events below.

  • Attend the entirety of Jazz Fest.  This is quite the accomplishment that many don't get around to.  Make sure to at least one item from every food vendor at Jazz Fest.
  • Enjoy Bayou Boogaloo from a canoe on Bayou St. John...just don't rock the boat.
  • Watch the St. Patrick's Day parade from a balcony.
  • Watch the World Oyster Eating Championship.

Christmas in Finland

While definitely cold, Finland is a great place to visit from mid December to mid January.  Besides the chance to see the Northern Lights, there are several other neat things to do to enjoy the winter season.  Read on to find out what some of those activities are.

(Courtesy of Magnetic North Travel)

In December, head up to Rovaniemi in Lapland to see Santa and the reindeer in Santa Claus Village.  This is also the home to the Santa Claus Post Office.  500,000 letters are delivered here year round from all around the world; and Santa answers them.  From there head to Helsinki to celebrate Christmas in style with a lot of holiday spirit.  The lights, the shops, and the decorations are amazing!

In January, there are other activities to be done.  You can sail on an ice breaker boat, swim in the sea while wearing a full dry survival suit, and go snowshoeing.  In Helsinki you can go ice fishing, kick sledding, and ice skating; meanwhile in Lapland you can go husky dog sledding, ice fishing, skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling.

There are several accommodation options when staying in Finland.  There are conventional hotels, ice hotels that utilize glass, and igloos.  (But prepare for it to be cool inside igloos as they are kept a little below freezing so that the igloos won't melt.)

As you can see there is so much fun to be had in Finland during wintertime.  Just make sure to pack appropriately with thermal socks, mittens, hats, ski boots, goggles, ski suits, and body warmers.  Winter attire is sold there but it is often better to buy clothing before heading over.

Let me know if you go to Finland and do any of these activities.

Marianne

Charming Savannah, Georgia

Are you looking for the quintessentially southern city.  Then travel to Savannah.  The city is charming in a very unique way.  Besides being very pedestrian friendly, it is tamer than Charleston.

(Courtesy of Vogue)

  1. Visit Forsyth Park.  This park is 30 acres and has a picture worthy fountain, the most photographed spot in Savannah.
  2. Use Old Savannah Trolley Tours for a hop-on/hop-off experience.  There are 15 different stops and trolleys circulate approximately every 15 minutes.
  3. Admire the architecture of the Owens-Thomas House.
  4. Visit the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.  The stained glass windows in the cathedral are amazing to behold.
  5. Sit on the bench by the Historic Savannah Theatre, in much the same way Tom Hanks did when he played Forrest Gump.
  6. Visit Wormsloe Historic Site.  Wormsloe Historic Site is the location that personifies Savannah.  Mossy trees line the street that lead up to the ruins of the Wormsloe colonial estate.
  7. Head to the Savannah Waterfront.  Walk the cobblestone streets and see all the building that were abandoned until the 1960's due to the yellow-fever epidemic.
  8. Enjoy a nice Southern meal at the Wilkes House.  Make sure you take cash, as they don't accept credit/debit cards.
  9. Visit Old Fort Jackson Historic Site and take in the history while you listen to the cannons go off.
  10. Visit Fort Pulaski National Monument.  This was the first Confederate masonry fort to fall during the Civil War.
  11. If you are traveling with a Girl Scout, then make sure to stop by the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low.  The home is now a museum.
  12. Visit the Mercer-Williams House.
  13. Visit the Andrew Low House and admire the architecture.
  14. Get some ice cream at Leopold's.  The ice cream shop hasn't changed since it opened in 1919.  There is always a line but the ice cream recipes, that have been handed down through the generations, are so delicious.
  15. Enjoy a meal at the Olde Pink House Restaurant.  The 18th century architecture will stun you while you eat.
  16. Visit the graves of some of the first colonists in Colonial Park Cemetery.
  17. Take in some history at Fort McAllister State Park.  The fort finally fell under General Sherman.

Let me know your favorite spot if you visit Savannah.

Top Ten Things to do in Belgium

Belgium is home to medieval cities, cathedrals, palaces, abbeys, forests, and many historical sites.  Brugge and Ghent have been preserved over the centuries, and are beautiful to visit.  Brussels and Antwerp have a more modern feel.  Brussels has art deco architecture and grand squares to enjoy, while Antwerp has stores that appeal to luxury shoppers.

I have compiled a list of the top ten things to do while in Belgium.

(Courtesy of Shutterstock)

  1. Royal Palace of Brussels is the official palace of the king and the queen, although they live in the Royal Palace of Laeken just outside of Brussels.  The palace is along Paleizenplein, and close by Brussels Park.  Items belonging to Napoleon, King Louis Phillipe, Leopold I, and Leopold II are in the Royal Palace.  During the summer the palace opens to visitors, who are allowed to view select rooms.
  2. Grand Place is a city square in central Brussels.  It is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and many historical events have happened here.
  3. Atomium is an iconic structure and a symbol of Brussels.
  4. Gravensteen is an amazing castle in Ghent.  You won't want to miss seeing this.
  5. Groeningemuseum is a museum in Bruges.  It is located on the site of the medieval Eekhout Abbey.  This museum includes Renaissance, Baroque, as well as modern masterpieces.
  6. Basilica of the Holy Blood is a Roman Catholic basilica located in Bruges.  It was built in the 12th century and is amazing to behold.
  7. Museum Mayer van den Bergh is located in Antwerp.  It features the collection of the late art collector Fritz Mayer van den Bergh.  The museum includes Renaissance and Gothic pieces from Belgium and the Netherlands.  Artists showcased here include Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Master Heinrich of Constanch, and Pieter Huys.
  8. Museum aan de Stroom is the largest museum in Antwerp.  It is on the banks of the Scheldt River and features postmodern art deco architecture.
  9. Pairi Daiza is a zoo and botanical garden in Brugelette.  It has some unique exhibits.  Algoa Bay has seals and penguins; and La Terre du Froid has reindeer, raccoons, and a train museum.  Pandas on loan from China can also be seen here.  A steam train takes patrons around the zoo and provides wonderful views of the exhibits and the zoo's large lakes.
  10. Zeebrugge is a village on the Belgian coast.  It is along the North Sea.  This seaside village has quaint cafes and beautiful beaches.

Fall Foliage in Vermont

Vermont is a foliage mecca.  Yellow, orange, red, and a whole host of other colors provide beautiful vistas all over the state from the middle of September to the middle of October--with upstate peaking earlier.  So where should you go to see amazing foliage views?  Read on to see.

Brattleboro

Wantastiquet Mountain Trail is amazing to walk and see vibrant colors.

Grafton

Not only can you see the leaves change colors here, you can wander around amidst historical building.  You can also tap some syrup at Plummer's Sugar House.

Jeffersonville

ArborTrek Canopy Adventures offer zip-lining through the leaves and admire foliage from a new perspective.  If you are scared of heights, you can see the leaves from on the water with Vermont Canoe and Kayak.  This area also offers pretty drives.

(Courtesy of Pleasant Valley Group Realtors)

Montgomery

Montgomery is home to seven covered bridges, more than any other place in Vermont.  This is a great area to enjoy the leaves on a bike ride.  Or if you want a way to see them that is less physically rigorous, enjoy Jay Peak Resort's aerial tram.

Montpelier

Enjoy walking around this smaller town and seeing the colorful leaves.

Stowe

Wander the streets and mountain paths to see the fall foliage in all its glory.  And Stowe has other attractions to enjoy as well.  Make sure you stop by the Ben & Jerry's factory for ice cream; and stay in The Trapp Family Lodge while brushing up on your Sound of Music history.

Windsor

The "Birthplace of Vermont" offers Harpoon Brewery to enjoy after driving around to see the leaves changing.  Also head over the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge to New Hampshire to see the home of August Saint-Gaudens, the creator of the Lincoln sculpture in the Lincoln Memorial.

Vergennes

View the leaves on the shores of Lake Champlain or at Shelburne Orchards (where you can also enjoy fresh apples).  I recommend staying in Basin Harbor Club's cottages.

Woodstock

Taftsville Covered Bridge is a great place to see vibrant leaves.  There are also easy paths, that cut through meadows or let travelers walk along carriage roads, as well as more rigorous paths along the Appalachian Trail.  There are several B&B's here; and don't forget to visit Billings Farm and Museum for their ice cream.

Mad River Valley

Explore the leaves on slopes while wandering Vermont's Long Trail, which runs along peaks.  Sugarbush Soaring offers gliders to enjoy views of the foliage from the air.  West Hill House B&B is a charming place to stay.

Manchester

The leaves can be seen by biking, hiking, and riding trails that go through the woods of the nearby Green Mountains.  Don't miss touring Hildene Estate, built by Robert Todd Lincoln.

Middlebury

Enjoy the view of the leaves while staying at the B&B: Inn on the Green.  Here you can overlook Middlebury's green.

It is best to book far in advance where this is Vermont's busiest season...with the amazing views of the fall foliage it is easy to see why!

Let me know if you travel to any of these locations.

Marianne

My Favorite Things to do in Disney World

I am back again and talking about the happiest and most magical place on Earth...Disney World!

(Courtesy of Disney)

There are so many fun things to do in Disney World but today I am popping in to talk about my 10 favorite things to do when there.

  1. See the Indiana Jones show.  I love to watch this show when I go.
  2. Watch the fireworks at night.  This may come as a surprise with all there is to do there but for someone whose birthday is on the 4th of July, well I love to watch fireworks.  (At Christmastime it is fun to see the fireworks with lit up trees in the foreground.)
  3. Go watch the Lion King show.  The dancers, and the performance in general, are amazing.
  4. Go on Everest Ride.  It is quite the roller coaster but I love this ride.
  5. Eat my way through Epcot.  All the countries and all the good food...enough said!
  6. After a near food coma, I love to go on Soarin'.  The ride is so relaxing and calm after eating so much.  And it smells so good with the ocean smells and smell of orange trees.
  7. Go on classic rides like Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.  These rides have been around for a long time and take most people back to past times.
  8. Especially if it is summertime and hot out, I love to go on Splash Mountain.  It is a great way to cool down.
  9. Watch It Is Tough To Be A Bug.  The putrid smell of the spray, the water spray, and the illusion of things crawling at your feet is so fun.
  10. Last, but certainly not least, visit characters such as Goofy, and definitely Mickey.  It wouldn't be a trip to Disney World without visiting Mickey!

I recommend getting a tour guide to be able to skip to the front of even Fast Pass lines.

My French Bucket List

There is so much to do and see in France; it is no wonder that people flock there year round.  So what should you do and see when traveling to France?  Read on to find out what makes it on to my bucket list, by location.

Paris is of course a must see.  There is so much to do and see in Paris.

  • Top of the list is, of course, to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  The lines are long but well worth it for this iconic experience.  Afterward, enjoy a picnic under the Eiffel Tower.  Or head to the Eiffel Tower to enjoy the sunrise.

(Courtesy of Untapped Cities)

  • View Paris from the Notre Dame.  The towers of Notre Dame are a great way to see Paris.  And of course seeing the gargoyles here are amazing.  Lines are also long for this tourist spot, but well worth it.
  • Take a stroll through Jardin des Tuileries.
  • Eat macarons at Ladurée.
  • Go up to the top of Sacre Coeur.
  • Stroll around Luxembourg Gardens.
  • Enjoy a Seine River Cruise.
  • Head to Berthillon to enjoy an ice cream and enjoy the view of Notre Dame Cathedral.
  • If visiting during the winter, go ice skating at the iconic Hotel de Ville.
  • Go up to rooftop bar of Le Perchoir to enjoy the views.
  • Make your way to the Louvre, and don't forget to see the Mona Lisa while there.
  • Enjoy an opera or ballet performance at Palais Garnier.
  • Go to Saint-Chapelle, and don't forget to look up.
  • Take your time shopping at Galeries Lafayette.  This is even more impressive at Christmas.
  • Climb up the stairs at the Arc de Triomphe.  This is one of the best views in Paris.
  • Tour the catacombs and see a different side of Paris.
  • Purchase a crepe from a street vendor, and make sure to get nutella with it.
  • Make your way to Carette in Le Marais and enjoy their breakfast; reportedly one of the best breakfasts in Paris.
  • Browse Shakespeare Company Bookshop and don't forget to purchase a book.
  • Tour the Picasso Museum.
  • Enjoy a jazz concert.
  • Eat at Au Paradis Du Gourmand and enjoy a baguette.  Reportedly they have the best baguettes.
  • Head to Angelina and enjoy their famous, decadent hot chocolate.
  • Ride a scooter around Paris' streets and ride a bike along Seine.
  • Make your way to Sébastian Gaudard and buy some of their caramels.
  • Purchase eclairs from l'eclair de genie.
  • Watch people at Cafe de Flore.
  • Go to Chez Janou and enjoy a nice French meal.
  • Head over to Jacques Benin and purchase a box of chocolates to take home as a souvenir.
  • Stroll through Les Passages Couverts.  The scene looks like something out of a postcard.
  • Watch people at Les Deux Magots; and at Canal St. Martin.
  • Enjoy croissants at breakfast.
  • See a Monet painting.
  • Visit the Orangerie.
  • Make your way to Place Vendôme--designer boutiques and luxury hotels in a quaint square.
  • Stroll around Île de la cité and buy some flowers.
  • Visit Centre Pompidou and see the largest collection of modern art in Paris; and enjoy the view from the terrace on the roof.
  • See the Concierge, where Marie Antoinette was held prisoner during the French Revolution.
  • Enjoy shopping at Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville.
  • Visit Maison Victor Hugo and ponder on the famous author, who wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables.
  • Visit Place des Vosges.
  • Have an espresso at a café.
  • Visit Palais Royal.
  • Visit Paris Pantheon, the resting place of Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie.
  • See St Sulpice.
  • Make your way to Musée D'Orsay.
  • Head to Trocadéro and watch the sunrise.
  • Visit Les Invalides.
  • Walk around Cemetery Pere Lachaise, final resting place of the tragically star-crossed lovers Heloise and Abelard--among others.
  • Enjoy Bastille on a Friday night.
  • Walk Rue Cremieux, reportedly the prettiest street in Paris.
  • Visit Cemetery du Montparnasse.
  • Go up Tour Montparnasse, whose height is only surpassed by the Eiffel Tower.  Watch the sunset over the city here, and the city light up at dark.
  • Visit Palais de Tokyo.
  • Stroll around the quaint Montmartre and walk the steps.
  • See the iconic Moulin Rouge, if only to say you've been there.
  • Visit Château de Chantilly, which now houses Musée Condé; this used to be the home of French princes.
  • Take half a day to visit Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen--the biggest flea market in the world.
  • Take a day to make a trip to Versailles Palace.
  • Spend a day to go to Fontainebleau.
  • Head out to Château de Vincennes.

If you're looking to avoid Paris and enjoy quieter regions there are several other places to visit.

  • Explore the Bordeaux region.  Besides touring wineries and partaking in wine tastings, Bordeaux boasts a buzzing food scene, the Miroir d'Eau, and impressive architecture.  
  • The Alabaster Coast is also a wonderful region to explore with limestone cliffs and clear green-blue waters.  
  • The medieval city of Rouen, the current capital of Normandy, is an interesting place to visit; situated along Seine, you can stroll Old Market Square, or go to the nearby Church of St. Joan of Arc and admire the stained glass windows.
  • Don't miss heading to Saint-Émilion.  This region also has a neat church, that was carved out of a single piece of rock; as well as dreamy medieval views and amazingly tasty food.
  • Lyon is a wonderful region to travel to.  When here decadent foods are abundant and meals here will be an elegant treat for your taste buds.  Make sure to stroll Parc de la Tete d'Or after enjoying a fine meal.
  • Alsace is an amazing area to explore and see the French & German fusion that occurs in their cuisine.  This picturesque region also boasts amazing wines.  If you're short on time in this region, make sure to stop by Colmar and Strasbourg.   

(Courtesy of Wine Mag)

  • Avignon is a neat historical region.  In the 14th Century, this is where popes at that time called home.  Visitors can tour Palais des Papes to see where in Avignon popes resided.  Avignon also has charming boutiques, picturesque streets, the ruins of Avignon Bridge, and the views at Jardin des Doms.
  • The Camargue is known for its white horses, pink flamingos, and Saintes Marie de la Mer if wildlife isn't your cup of tea.
  • The Loire Valley is well known for its magnificent castles, decadent food, and the Loire River.
  • Corsica may seem like only a history buff's dream, being the birthplace of Napoleon...but it boasts beautiful, pristine beaches and clear blue waters.  Don't miss exploring Corsica.

(Courtesy of Vogue)

  • Provence...there is nothing more to say beyond dreamy buildings among lavender fields.
  • Mont Saint Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage site and well-known for its views.  This island in Normandy even has a medieval monastery.
  • The French Riviera is a dreamy area, seeing as how this is where France meets Italy.  The coastline touts luxurious resorts to stay in, so as to enjoy the 300 days of sunshine per year.  Nice is a well-known town to visit, but there are several other smaller towns to the east that are just as picturesque.  Other common places to explore in this region are Fécamp, Étretat, and Dieppe.

Leave me a comment and let me know if you visit any of these locations, or if you have visited any of these--what you thought of them.

Marianne

My Italian Bucket List

My "Bucket List" of things to do in Italy!

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  • Throw a coin in Trevi Fountain for luck/wish to return.
  • Visit Vatican City -- There is so much to do in Vatican City.  The Pope offers a blessing one day a week, St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and museums are some of the offerings available at Vatican City.
  • Tour the Colosseum -- There are tours that explain all about the bloody history of the Colosseum.
  • Walk around Campo de Fiori -- Campo de Fiori has an amazing farmer's market.  The food and flowers are a sight to behold.
  • Head to the Spanish Steps.
  • Watch people in Piazza Navona.
  • See the Cinque Terre -- Cinque Terre is composed of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.  They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Cinque Terre is connected by trains and boats, and inaccessible by car.
  • Take a Gondola ride in Venice -- Snuggle up with your significant other and enjoy a romantic evening ride to see Venice all lit up.
  • Visit St. Mark's and watch people in the square.
  • Head to the Bridge of Sighs -- Rialto Bridge is a popular tourist spot.
  • Take a day trip to Murano/Burano -- Murano is known for its glass; and Burano is known for its lace.
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  • Drive along the Tuscan countryside to view the wildflowers, including poppies.
  • Visit the David -- The David is a marble masterpiece created by Michelangelo.
  • Tour Uffizi -- Uffizi holds priceless collections from the Italian Renaissance.
  • Take a walk to Ponte Vecchio.
  • Get a picture in Pisa and enjoy the sights -- The Tower was spared from a WWII artillery strike because a US sergeant was impressed by the beauty.  There is also a cathedral by the Tower.
  • Visit vineyards in the Tuscan region.
  • Walk around San Gimignano -- San Gimignano is known for its Medieval towers.
Dark and Moody Italy Travel-15.jpg
  • Visit Civita di Bagnoregio -- Erosion has altered this town over the centuries; and Civita di Bagnoregio owes the unchanged nature of the town to its isolation.  The population surges to 100 during the summer, from around 10 during winter time.
  • Take in the views from Mole Antonelliana (in Turin).
  • Enjoy Lake Como -- The Huffington Post has called it the most beautiful lake in the world.
  • Visit the Duomo (in Milan).
  • View, or ski, the Italian Alps.
  • Head to Juliet's house in Verona.
  • Take in the landscape in Umbria.
  • Walk around Positano -- Positano is a beautiful area on the Amalfi Coast, and is close to many beaches on the Amalfi Coast.
  • Visit Mount Etna in Sicily -- Sicily also has several beaches, popular Palermo, and Valley of the Temples.
  • Head to see Pompeii ruins -- Pompeii was covered in ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Eat pizza in Naples.
  • Enjoy some gelato.

Hope you enjoy Italy,
Marianne