Category Archive: RT

Getaway to Nara, Japan

Nara, located in the Kansai region of Japan, was formerly known as Heijo and in 710 was established as Japan’s first permanent capital. The capital was moved in 784, in large part due to the growing power and ambition of the many Buddhist monasteries located there. The historical treasures of the area remain, however, including some of the oldest and largest temples in Japan. Like most other cities in Japan, there is folklore around the name of Nara. A variety of theories exist, but the most widely accepted one says that the name came from words and phrases that meant “flat land” or “gentle slope” which described the area’s topography. Today Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture and is an active center of both government and commerce. Like Awaji, It makes an easy getaway destination from Kyoto and […]

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100 Free (and Almost Free) Things to Do in Washington, DC

With all the attention on Washington D.C. during the presidential election cycle, it’s easy to think that the city is all about bickering between the various branches of government. In one of the United States’ most visited cities, there are plenty of attractions and things to do that are budget friendly – free or almost free – whether you politically lean left of right. This list should provide you enough ideas no matter what time of year you’re visiting. If you’re looking for something family friendly: Marvel at the National Zoo’s conservation efforts firsthand along the Asia Trail. Pay a visit to giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, as well as their offspring, Bao Bao and Bei Bei (the youngest cub). Be sure to take a peek at their tiny neighbors, the red pandas, too. Stare up at the […]

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UNESCO Site: Visiting Malbork Castle, Poland

A visit to Malbork Castle Museum will feature both the historical and artistic aspects. There are also some archaeological activities and research, always looking for ways to add depth to the layers of history of the Teutonic Order and the Castle. The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, usually referred to as the Teutonic Order, is a Catholic religious order dating back to the 12th century. Although it was originally founded as a German military brotherhood, it’s purpose has changed over the years and since 1929 it has been strictly a religious order, although it harkens back to those early years with the conference of honorary knighthoods. Today the Catholic branch of the Order has about 1,000 members, and while originally no women were permitted, members today include a couple hundred nuns. The Castle of the […]

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15 Ways to Experience the Real Hawaii

Hawaii. Our 50th state is comprised of 137 islands, although only six of them are typically vacation destinations. We tend to think of Hawaii as a fly-and-flop destination, we fly in, flop on the beach or by the pool, and spent our days relaxing in the sun, often with a drink in hand. After going there a number of times, you may want to venture off the beach and out of the bar. When it’s time for that, my recommendation is to take time to learn more about the story of Hawaii, the stories and histories of multiple cultures over hundreds of years. From the indigenous Hawaiian culture, which was the first to mālama ka ‘āina (“care for the land), to the Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Filipino, Okinawan and Puerto Rican citizens who began arriving in the mid-19th century to work on […]

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Getaway to Universal Studios Hollywood

Heading to Universal Studios Hollywood during summer vacation was a frightening idea. The crowds, the lines, the mass of humanity crowded together pushing and shoving! But summer was the only time I could schedule a getaway to celebrate the 13th birthday for a family member. I set out to find a way to make it work both for the new teenager and for me. Here’s what I did as well as tips and recommendations for your own trip. Note:  This article was written in collaboration with Expedia.com who asked me to share my personal getaway guide to Universal Studios.  Choosing Your Dates Summer is vacation time, so there are a lot more people at Universal, and my top recommendation for timing is to go off-season, during the week while kids are in school, and to avoid weekends and holiday seasons. That […]

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Talking About Viking Homeland Cruise on Amateur Traveler.

It’s only been a couple of weeks since we’ve returned from my 15-day, 8 country, Viking Homelands cruise on the Viking Sea. This is one of the top highlights of my year of travel (if not the very top).  and it was my pleasure to talk about the ship, the itinerary, and why I’m impressed with the cruise product delivered by Viking (both River and Ocean cruising). In this episode of the Amateur Traveler, Chris Christensen (blogger, podcaster, friend) and I talk about the ship, the itinerary, and why we’re impressed with the cruise product delivered by Viking (both River and Ocean cruising). You might also be interested in my review of the Viking Sea. Press the green arrow below to listen to the episode.   Amateur Traveler Episode 525 – Baltic Cruise with Viking Ocean    

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Weekend Getaway: Gig Harbor, Washington

The Pacific Northwest town of Gig Harbor, Washington, is located across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from Tacoma and is about a 45-minute drive from Sea-Tac Airport. The town has taken its rich history of commercial fishing and boat building and turned its downtown area into a historic waterfront community that attracts visitors with its galleries, parks, public and private docks and marinas, shopping, and dining. It is also one of the many small towns that promote itself as the gateway to Olympic Peninsula. It’s easy to think of Gig Harbor as a summer destination, and it is a great one, but don’t overlook the value that can be found in the shoulder or offseason. Fall is a beautiful time in the area, sunny and crisp days, but the rainy season means fewer people and lower prices. Things to Do Enjoy a […]

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Life Onboard the Viking Sea

The Viking Sea set sail from Stockholm on a 15 day Viking Homelands itinerary, visiting eight countries:  Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Poland, Germany, Denmark, and Norway. Since I was already in Sweden, and the itinerary included mainly places that I had never been, it was easy to get excited about the trip. “What will 15 days at sea be like?” friends wanted to know. “Won’t you get bored when you’re not in port? What will you do?” The Viking Sea is one of Viking Cruises newest ships in its ocean cruising division. The ship is big enough – 930 passengers with a crew of 550 – to travel the waters where river ships cannot go without sacrificing the service standards that loyal Viking cruisers expect. That loyalty is a good place to start when talking about shipboard life. Although I’m […]

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Getaway to Awaji Island

Whether Japan’s Kansai region is your primary destination, or an add-on while visiting the rest of the country, planning for a getaway to Awaji Island rates high on my recommendation list. Folklore says that Awaji Island is the birthplace of Japan, created when the gods Izanagi and Izanami mixed up the sea with a spear. When they lifted the spear, a small drop of brine fell off the blade, hardening on top of the waves. That hardened drop became Awaji Island. Things to Do Take a boat trip through the Naruta Whirlpools – The Inland Seto Sea meets the Kii Channel  in the Naruta Straits, creating dramatic whirlpools the likes of which are seen in only a couple of other places in the world (Sicily and Vancouver, British Columbia). The whirlpools can reach a diameter of 65 feet. You can […]

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Hotel Review: Motif Seattle

Motif Seattle Address:  1415 Fifth Avenue, Seattle, Washington Value Luxury Rating:   (out of 3 hearts) Features:  Motif Seattle is located on Seattle’s Fifth Avenue, between Pike and Union Streets, and has themed the hotel around locally-inspired fashion in its 319 guestrooms. Rooms offer views of downtown Seattle, Elliott Bay, and the Olympic Mountain range. and include alarm clocks with iPod docking stations, Keurig coffe and tea maker, refrigerator, wifi, work space with lots of plug ins, pillow top beds, and robes. Bathrooms feature Essential Elements products. Motif Seattle is a pret friendly hotel, and four-legged guests receive special amenities:  plush dog bed, food and water bowls, complimentary welcome snacks, and for owners, a copy of CityDog magazine. The pet fee is a bargain priced one-time $20. Parking at the hotel is $32 plus tax, with in and out privileges. A Tesla & […]

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