"Tvor's Travels" tvor's Profile
I am unapologetically a tourist. I love to see and do the sights when i travel to a new place. I like bus tours, city tours, walking tours. I like to go up high to get a bird's eye view of a place. If i've visited a place a few times then i will tend to just "be" there, walk, meet up with friends if i can, explore parts of the location that might be off the beaten track but most places i don't know that well yet and there's always a gallery or museum to find somewhere :o)
I got a taste for travel in high school on a trip to France and Italy. I have always been fond of history, especially UK history and always wanted to go there. Many years passed between high school and the day i was finally able to afford to travel again. When that day came, the only logical choice was the U.K. In 1993, I booked a bus tour through Cosmos and have been traveling as much and when i could ever since!
Since that trip, in August 1993, I've returned to the U.K. many times, with another trip always in the planning stage. The main attraction these days are my fiance (who lives in the Manchester area) and lots of friends that live there, people to visit, and lots of things to do and new places to see.
In addition, I've been to Italy, Denmark, France, Ireland, Boston, New York City, and a few places across Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia.
2013 and we had a great visit to New York City in May.
The rest of 2013 didn't turn out quite as we expected so the road trip around Scotland will be postponed. Our next holiday is in April 2014, all things being equal and we are thinking of going back to Paris and doing some day trips to Giverny, Rouen and maybe Bayeux. There may be a night or two in London en route back to Manchester.
Early September is the other vacation period and we haven't decided yet where we're going to go. We're contemplating Iceland but may head into Canada instead, perhaps Ottawa. It's up in the air at this point.
I have a personal web site, This part of it features my travelogues and there's a link on that page for my travel photo albums. VT will be for highlights, favourite memories, "best" photos, and tips.
New York City is up to date
New York is a big, busy city. We visited in May using points for our flights and got a good deal on a Holiday Inn Express near Times Square though I wouldn't recommend their breakfast. We did lots of touristy things including a hop on hop off bus tour and had a trip up the Empire State Building. A harbour cruise and a visit to an aircraft carrier, all three on a beautiful sunny day made our last day in New York memorable. We took in a broadway show and enjoyed a visit to a restaurant where all the staff entertain the customers with songs!
We walked a lot and took a couple of tour busses around. The weather overall could have been better but our first and last days were bright and warm. There's so much more to see there, far more than we could take in over 4 days. I guess we'll have to go back!
I love researching a destination.. the history, the sights, figuring out the things I'll want to see and do. I love different cultures. I love cities and small towns, local shops and restaurants, small unique museums and museums that feature the local history especially. I love art and seeing how the local culture and history is reflected in the art.
I'm lucky because my fiance also loves art and museums so it's not a chore for him to follow me around to these places. He also loves to drive so we can rent a car and take lots of road trips.
When I'm researching a new place to go, I use a variety of sources. I usually buy a guidebook (or two!) with really nice photos and maps. City guides are good and they usually fit in your backpack or handbag or on my iPod. Online, there are many resources including our own VT and a couple of rivals.
I find the official tourist website for the location and have a good look around there. Official tourism sites often have good links for accomodations and they always have maps, too. Sometimes a local travel agent has lots of material. and occasionally I borrow more guide books, travel video and travel writing from the library.
I make lots and lots of lists. Put the "must see" stuff at the top and the rest of the "wish list" after that and don't expect to do and see it all. We don't schedule ourselves too tightly, and always allow for changes of itineraries. Weather, transportation or just spotting an ad for a new attraction might divert us and it is often very well worth the change of plans.
There are so many places I would love to go. Currently most of my travel budget is earmarked to seeing my fiance in the UK and we plan day trips and short trips in the UK as there is always something new to see there. We have also travelled further afield to Continental Europe with plans to continue that as and when. I'd love to see Vienna, Budapest, Prague, any part of Norway and Sweden, maybe Moscow and St. Petersburg, Turkey and Portugal. Further afield, maybe New Zealand, parts of Australia, China, Japan, Singapore, and even an Antarctic cruise. I doubt I'll get to see that but one can dream!
There are more places in Canada that I want to see and revisit as well. I am lucky to live in a wide and diverse country with relatives and friends from coast to coast.
Wish List for repeat visits: Paris, Copenhagen, Florence, Rome, Scotland, Ireland, Vancouver and Vancouver Island, New York City, Boston, and of course London.
Wish List for new destinations: Austria, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, China, Lisbon, Duoro Valley Portugal, Hungary, Czech Republic, Iceland
Canadian destinations: We have lots of friends in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and in the Vancouver area too so it's always nice to try to touch base there when we can.
Some people don't like bus tours but I've taken a few and I quite like them. Sure, they have their drawbacks but they also have the advantage of having someone else do all the arrangements for you. I like getting a bit of an overview to a place with the assistance of an informative guide.
Most large tour companies are reliable and you don't have to pay for optional extras if you don't want to. Take a guide book and do stuff on your own instead of paying for that walking tour or find an interesting cafe or restaurant instead of the high price you pay for the dinner with entertainment. Do it if you want to, they do good shows for the tourists if your budget allows. Some of the optionals I find are worth it and some are not.
Use a company that's going to give you plenty of time on your own. I've had good luck with Globus (Cosmos is their budget section). and Trafalgar is pretty much their equal. Insight is a bit more expensive. The budget tours tend to have your hotel outside of the city center or even outside of a city itself to save a bit of money. Public transport is usually available but it's worth the extra if you can afford it to have the better class tour with central hotels. Drawbacks of tours include not having enough or having too much time in a place.
Lastly, to avoid that 15 countries in 21 days burnout, take shorter tours, take tours that focus on one or two countries, a particular region. 7-10 days is plenty. The longest i've taken was 2 weeks in Italy and i was getting pretty burned out by the end. Shorter week long tours of Ireland and Scotland and of the UK were just about right. I'd do it again if the opportunity and budget allowed.
Tour companies are also experts in doing day tours outside of a city centre or in the general area. These are great if you are in a city and want to get out of the hustle and bustle or want an escorted tour to somewhere special rather than have the hassle of getting there yourself if it's a bit out of the way. The cost usually covers any entrance fees for attractions that you are scheduled to see and they give you enough time to see the main attraction.
Most cities have walking tour companies with expert guides. I highly reccommend these. Pretty much all of the major companies are going to be a good choice. Check their itineraries online and choose one or two tours. They generally last an hour and a half to two hours. Some offer day tours though you will pay a little more for them plus entrance and transportation costs but you have the guide with you all day, too.
And more importantly...
Don't forget to tip the guide and driver!
The word "souvenir" is French for "memory" or "to remember". Everyone has something different in mind as a keepsake to remember a trip. Some people only buy local crafts and art. Some love the kitchy and tatty items. Lots of people keep receipts, postcards, brochures, ticket stubs and event programs. Some people take hundreds of photos and some take none or very few. There are movies and video, books, tapes and dvds, local music.
For me, photos are an important part of my trip. I try not to go overboard because you can make the mistake of spending all your time behind a viewfinder and not really seeing a place. Even in this digital age, i still get prints done of my trips though i try to pick just my favourites. Even then, I can easily have 200 - 300 prints for a trip, even a short one, if it's somewhere new to me with lots to see.
I love to take pictures of architecture, doors, windows, and i like to get up closer and get details. A decoration over a door or sculpture on a high corner will draw my eye. I may take a photo of a fountain or statue and then get a close up detail of it. Walking down a street, the displays in a window or market stall may attract my attention. It all contributes to what i did and saw and brings back the memories, for me. Organizing the photos afterwards is the last part of the trip for me, adding descriptions and little historical details.
Other souvenirs i may pick up are prints, tea towels, ceramic houses/cottages (something that represents a typical building or house from the area), an ornament for the Christmas tree and postcards. Sometimes i will buy clothing, jewellry, socks, and there's always tempting treats like chocolate or a local liqueur.
The ultimate souvenir is the travelogue I keep and then write up, formatting it for my website, adding photos.
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