Cinque Terre

As the winter rolls around, more individuals are reaching out to plan trips to one of my favorite places, I T A L Y.

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Cinque Terre, which means 5 lands, is made up of 5 colorful towns, right on the Italian Riviera. It is built right into the cliffs edge. The Five towns being:

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  1. Riomaggiore: The Oldest town and the most untouched
  2. Manarola: Small, quaint and my personal favorite
  3. Corniglia: Tiny town in the cliffs and not accessible to the ocean
  4. Vernazza: The most popular town with lots to do
  5. Monterosso: The flattest town, with large beaches and more luxurious/commercialized hotels.

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Where to stay

We stayed in Manarola, at a gorgeous B&B, La Torretta, which was hard to find. Luxurious hotels are hard to come by here since its such an old area. However, I can not recommend this beautiful B&B enough. It is definitely small, but has beautiful rooms, views and has great attention to detail. The services is incredible along with their fabulous breakfast.

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Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 8.22.17 PM.pngWhen I first arrived in Cinque Terre, it was August so it was HOT. Most of Cinque Terre is only accessible by walking  and most of this is walking up steep hills, so you can imagine how hot it was.

To be honest, I didn’t love it at first, probably because I was hot and grumpy, and we were coming from the beautiful lake como.

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Once I jumped into the beautiful blue water, I fell in love. Swimming here is unbelievable, the water is very buoyant making it easy to float around for quite some time! The Italians were all on vacation, people were laughing, swimming, eating, drinking and enjoying themselves.  The swimming holes and architecture were both beautiful, you really can’t help yourself as you just stand in awe.

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Hiking Trails

Cinque Terre is strung together by amazing hiking paths through beautiful vineyards. You are very high up, on a steep hill, (warning if you are afraid of heights) with incredible views of the ocean and towns.

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The distance between each town can be pretty far so if you plan on going from one town to another definitely bring your hiking clothes. I also highly recommend getting a bottle of wine and going up into the vineyards to take in a sunset while overlooking the vineyards and beautiful towns below. This is where the famous photos are taken, of the colorful towns lit up by the sun.

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Eat:

Eat everywhere. You really can’t go wrong here. My favorite place was Billy’s in Manarola. You can sit outside high on the cliffs overlooking the beautiful sunset, stars or if you are lucky, like we were- fireworks.

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Getting here:

To get here, you can drive, but  train is by far the best. Most cars/taxis will drop you off at the first town, Monterosso, and then you have to take the train to the other towns anyway.

Need help planning your perfect trip to Cinque Terre?  Let us help you.

XO,

PS

London and The Cotswolds

London

London during the  holidays is a magical place, more festive than any city I have ever seen, and I was excited to have the opportunity to spend a couple of nights there last week.

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I stayed at the fabulous Four Seasons London Park Lane. The holiday decor was stunning and included beautiful gold-painted trees. The rooms were modern & chic, the service impeccable and the spa just lovely. The spa has a women and mens side with a wet and hot sauna as well as a warm whirl pool for relaxing – the perfect thing to do after a chilly day of exploring.

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High Tea

High Tea is at the top of my list of recommendations, I know its touristy but it’s magical. There are so many options and it really depends on the vibe and atmosphere you’re looking for. I tried to get into the Ritz, the number one place to go for High Tea because it focuses on tradition and elegance. Unfortunately they were booked since MAY.

SKETCH

Next on my list was SKETCH. A totally different vibe from the Ritz but somewhere I really wanted to check out. I was blown away. Sketch was super retro, I felt like I was on the set of Austin Powers. The lobby is a winter wonderland, and then you go inside to a different world. Everything was pink, with weird art work all over the walls, a beautiful floor, christmas choir, egg pods as restrooms, unbelievable service, great tea and awesome food. Definitely worth a visit.

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I felt like I was on the set of the Austin Powers movie.

Looking for a good place to eat and drink like a local? Check these out:

Lunch/Dinner 

  • Chiltern Firhouse
  • Churchill Arms
  • City Social
  • Casa Cruz
  • Frenchie

Drinks:

  • Social Eating House- The Blind Pig (Get here before 11:30PM)
  • Sketch
  • The LAB Soho
  • El Camion
  • Opium

The Cotswolds 

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I hired a driver to take me to the Cotswolds, you can drive here or take the train, however I wanted to jump around to different towns and didn’t feel comfortable driving on the other side of the road. It is about a 2 hour drive from London to the Cotswolds.

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I left my heart in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is made up of many small towns in the countryside.  I only had a day here so I was not able to see everything but did visit the charming towns of Bibery, Lower Slaughter, Stow-on-the-Wold and Chipping Camden. 

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Each town was magical and had a storybook feel. I loved them all, but my favorite was Lower Slaughter. It was the smallest one and had a quaint downtown with a store that sold clothing. There is an adorable man in the store who sings along to songs and tells you all about the magic of the Cotswolds are. Out back is a patio overlooking water where you can sit, watch the swans, and take it all in.

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XO,

PS

I Am Officially a Travel Agent- On the side.

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I have been a bit MIA lately, My apologies.  I have been so busy lately, and all for good reasons, which I can’t wait to share with you all!  No, no, no, I still sell software! I just plan trips at night.

I have always known I needed to join a travel company when it came to travel planning. Mainly because of existing relationships they have, perks, tools and over all benefits for not only myself, but YOU as a client.  I was recently cut out of planning a trip for someone because I just couldn’t make it work on my own.

 There is only so much you can do on your own.

I started reaching out to different individuals, hotels and vendors to hear about their experiences with certain travel companies.  I began to narrow it down to a few places I should speak to and where to align myself. I learned the hard way on which path I should take, but hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

I am so excited to announce I am officially on board with In The Know Experiences.

I met an excellent company called, In The Know Experiences (ITKE) based out of NYC. They are a small boutique type of place focusing on luxury travel and lifestyle experiences. I immediately knew I had found a home for myself after meeting the founders Lia Batkin and Seth Kaplan who are wonderful people, with excellent expertise and are certainly, “In The Know”.

Check out the website ITKE I can’t wait to show clients all the perks, benefits and great information we can provide.

XO,

PS

Seychelles

There is an archipelago of 115 islands off the coast of East Africa called, Seychelles. The islands have giant granite boulders surrounding the lush, mountainous land and beaches. It gives it a cartoon like feeling, almost like the Flintstones.

You can go and experience all of the islands and what they have to offer, most of the islands are quite small and some have hotels, one hotel or no hotels.

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There are three islands which most visit and have more than one hotel located on them.

  • Mahe: The largest island and where the international airport is located
  • Praslin: The next largest island, very mountainous and stunning.
  • La Digue: The third largest, much more flat than the other islands and home to the the famous and out of this world beach, Anse Source d’Argent.  screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-11-11-26-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-01-at-11-08-04-pm

La Digue has the “The most Beautiful beach in the world” so many people want to visit it. It really only has one somewhat luxury hotel, Le Domaine de L’Orangeraie, which has a Swiss Family Robinson feel. This rustic hotel, has rooms that are spread out and look like little tree houses. The bathrooms are outside, with rocks as the floor and a thatched roof above, and to the side is a beautiful out door shower.

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Getting around 

The island really has one form of transportation, bicycles .What’s better than riding a beach cruiser all day to beaches that make you feel like you are on another planet? Nothing.

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Praslin

The hotel to stay at is Raffles Praslin. A stunning hotel that has taken the granite theme of the island throughout the hotel. With an open air lobby as an entrance you know the rest of the hotel will impress.

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The hotel rooms: You walk into your room and you enter your outside oasis which has an outdoor living area, lounge area and private plunge pool over looking the beautiful vegetation. Inside the room is stunning linens, decor, a beautiful bathroom with a bathtub overlooking the view and last but not least the amazing outdoor shower.

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screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-6-11-26-pmThe hotel is very quite, relaxed and ensures to take the best care of their guests. They have yoga classes, with a yoga studio that you have to see to believe. The instructor is the nicest man, who sat with me for 30 min after class talking about life and how to smile more. Thank you.

Taking a helicopter to some of the islands is the easiest and fastest way to get around. If you have been keeping up with the blog, you know I am impatient. 

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-6-10-56-pmCurieuse Island: Where the giant tortoises roam freely!  It is quite an experience and one that you can’t beat. There are other places to see the tortoises however they are in captivity, which I hate. If you are an animal lover, like me, this is fabulous.

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-11-40-51-pmAnse Lazio unbelievable beach with an amazing beach bar called, Honesty. Where you walk in and the owner isn’t even there to help you. He simply leaves a list of how much a beer costs and you leave how much it is. The views are amazing.

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Hike and explore Vallee de Mai. An amazing nature reserve of beautiful palm trees and the famous coco de mer (the largest coconuts) they are about 200 dollars to buy and you need a certificate to have one.

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Mahe

There are some great resorts on Mahe, Four Seasons is definitely one of them. Sitting on the most pristine beach on the island.  People has always told me, “Save the FS for last, it’s the cherry on top.” And they were right!  The hotel amenities, food and services are unparalleled.

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The spa has a view that beats the whole resort. And a lounge area that is an architects dream.

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Our large villa was an outdoor oasis. When first entering to the left  was a secluded day bed to lounge and watch the sunset. To the right was the large villa with a massive outdoor plunge pool which wrapped around the bathroom. The views of the sunsets were perfect and even better when enjoying the outdoor shower.

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There is nothing like the sunset to me, and this one from our room was on point.

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More exiting news and blogs coming your way.

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XO,

PS

Dubai

If you are flying Emirates Airlines internationally, odds are you have a layover in Dubai. If you do, I highly suggest taking a few days here. In fact, Emirates Airlines encourages it by allowing you to take a layover at no additional cost.

I am a carry on type of girl. Mainly, because my clothes are the size of doll clothes and I can pack three times as much clothing as the average person. But also, I am extremely impatient and getting in and out of the airport as quickly as possible is very important to me.  Emirates Airlines had another thing coming for me, they only allow a 17KG (37 lbs)  carry on, so I was forced to check. I was initially anxious/annoyed about this. Would they lose my bag? How long would this take? etc. However, I have to be honest with you, it was heaven not having a bag! And it was also heaven knowing that people weren’t lugging their “carry ons” (aka over sized bags) on the plane and taking forever to sit down. Can you tell I am impatient?

Emirates Airline is wonderful, their staff and service is amazing and the food is so much better than other airlines. They have a great movie selection to keep you busy and entertained.   Although coach on Emirates is extremely comfortable, the real treat are for those who book first class. You even have the option to get your own room with a shower if you can spring for it.

Speaking of first class, one trick I’ve used over the years is waiting to book my first class right at the counter before boarding. The seats aren’t going to all be taken and most airlines are usually willing to cut a deal with the wasted inventory,  but with Emirates unreal first class, they block this tactic. I’m 4’11” and spending $3,000 for extra leg room is hard to justify.screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-9-59-28-pm

Now on to Dubai.

Dubai is an amazing city and exceeded every expectation I had. It is over the top and they treat their guests as if they are sultans of their own respective universe.There are a lot of things to check out, The Burj Khalifa, the Gold Souk, indoor skiing, giant aquariums, safari, sky diving, boating and so much more. The architecture is amazing, hotels stunning, wonderful food and people welcoming. Even the Uber’s are great, which brings me to my next point, travel.

Get Around:

Uber’s are the easiest and also happen to be government controlled and subsidized. Dubai being Dubai, they give their driver’s beautiful new Lexus’. Taking Uber’s everywhere is highly recommended.  It really added to the comfortability of traveling to the different area’s by  feeling safe, not worrying about directions, or being overcharged.

Dubai Train: Absolutely beautiful train and train stations. Inexpensive and an easy way to get to the following spots.

What area to stay in?

  1. Downtown: Very cool area, right next to the Burj khalifa (the tallest building in the world at 828 meters Almost 1000 feet taller than the freedom tower in NYC) Here you can watch the awesome fountain show! Sounds silly, right? It’s not, the fountains will shoot up, what seems as tall as the buildings, in tune with blaring music from Michael Jackson, Enrique Englasias, and others.  Strangely, this is incredible.
  2. The Palm: This is the man made island that is shaped like a palm tree.  It is very cool with ultra lux hotels like the One&Only and Atlantis.  Very relaxing and laid back
  3. The Marina: This is a great place to walk around the board walk, check out the mega yachts and take in the amazing architecture.

We stayed at the luxurious, Palace Downtown, and loved it here. It was a central area with beautiful rooms, service, food and pool. It was a great place to have a home base while checking out this amazing city for two nights. This hotel has some great restaurants and some where you can watch the fountains how. To get to the Marina and the palm was an easy 15 min uber ride.

What to wear? 

This is my personal advice, as is this whole blog, but cover up, it is respectful. You will definitely see a lot of people not covered up but the majority of people are dressed more conservatively. Don’t be THAT person.

Burj khalifa is a must, it is the tallest building in the world, of course you have to go! I do have to say its a rip off in terms of how expensive it is. It’s about a $100 per person to go to floor 124 and then $130 per person to go to floor 148. 148th floor is worth the extra cash, its a nicer lounge with much less people in it with stunning views.

We took the time to check out the 7 start hotel, that’s right 7 stars!!! The Burj Al Arab! It was AMAZING. If you are not staying at the luxurious hotel, you will need to make a reservation for tea, drinks or dinner beforehand to be allowed on the property. Most of the seatings require a minimum, which is usually around $200.

 

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Excursion of  choice

Desert: My last piece of advice in Dubai is to do this. There are some awesome safari’s which include camel trekking, dune buggies, dinner, sand boarding, land rover cruising, or for the fancy, cruising in Ranger Rover’s and having five course meals served to you. If you haven’t been engulfed by a desert before, it is absolutely beautiful. You are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a world of gently rolling sand dunes. Almost all of the tours have dinner included. It’s cultiural and you will be under the most starlit sky you have ever seen. We saw belly dancing, ate traditional foods, got a henna tattoo star gazed, and smoked hookah all while meeting interesting people.

If you have the opportunity, go. 

 

XO

PS

Hello, Blog World

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Hello All!

To be honest, I have been dreading starting a blog. Mainly, because I am not a very good writer, so please, go easy on me! I am a newly married lady, taking on the surname, Szemplinski (pronounced Shim-PLIN-Ski). I live a great life, and besides not looking forward to writing, spelling, or explaining how to pronounce my new last name, I really have nothing to complain about.  I  have a great husband, I love my friends and family, live in a cozy little apartment in the West Village of  New York City and  do  sales for a great  software company. But let’s be honest, as much as I love selling software, it’s hard to be passionate about software and enterprise applications. Life is too short not to do what you love, and for me, there is nothing in life that I am better or more passionate about than travel planning.

Why not make a business of it? There are so many places, modes of transportation, rainy reasons, hotels,  restaurants, activities, and flights to choose from!! Life is also too short to go on a mediocre vacation, or to make sacrifices on components of your trip that are really important to you. That’s where my new company, PassPortStampss, comes in.

(Please note that the two S’s are not a typo, or a clever double entendre that only I know about, someone else actually owns the other domain, so here I am.)

What better way to do this than starting an Instragram business. I put a lot of thought into what I would call my business and then went full ahead. I changed my personal account to  PassportStampss in April, and since then, I have steadily built up followers while getting the word out on my new endeavor. This has been a wonderful way to  advertise, educate, and ultimately, generate interest from people to reach out to you and engage you to sign up for  your services.

The world of Instagram is truly amazing place; full of amazing photos, information, and my favorite, endless holes of awesomeness to keep you sane on a Sunday night, or with the man in my life , staying sane ALL DAY Sunday as he watches 12 hours straight of football.

One thing I wanted to get across to people is that besides the leisurely an entertaining side of Instagram,   it is truly an unbelievable breeding  ground for business opportunity and entrepreneurship.  Creating a business through Instagram is an amazing opportunity granted to us by  this generation, but as I have learned, comes with many many challenges. The follow and then unfollow game to gain follwers, the futile exercise in creativity that is finding beautiful photos of my travels to post on a daily basis, and then there is the whole generating revenue streams part of it.   There are ups and downs with it all.

What I am really hoping to do is  bring  education to others on this blog so you can travel better than you ever imagined. And by reading this blog, also begin to understand the way  I go about planning and either take my advice and run with it, or hopefully, understand how much thought and work I put into making these trips perfect…and hire me for my services.

I love to travel, and I love to travel well.  I think I can speak for everyone and say that most people do, right?  I am not a backpacker type traveler and I think that’s OK. I’ve been fortunate to travel to many places and countries, and even more fortunate that I am in a place in life, where I can now plan multiple trips per year for myself. I usually start planning my next trip on the way home from my current trip. I can’t help it. I love the beauty of the world and I want to see as much of it as I possibly  can – To  be a  traveler not a tourist.

I have planned many trips for family and friends and to be honest, at this point if they don’t ask for my advice, I am usually offended. I love putting together a perfect trip for someone and ensuring they are staying in the best location and accommodations for their budget.

I am not sure where this blog is going to go, or consist of, but that’s OK right? (nervous laugh) But I am very excited to start sharing my positive and negative experiences with everyone and taking you through a bloggers journey as well as actual ones!

XO,

PS