Monday, May 22, 2017

Planning a trip to Germany

Germany is a fascinating country with an amazing variety of things to see and do. The first order of business when considering a visit to Germany is deciding where you want to go. Are you looking to visit the Black Forest, Berlin or Bavaria? It would be impossible to see everything of interest in one trip so you either need to be satisfied with seeing a lot of areas briefly or concentrating on one or two areas. Once you have narrowed down the area you want to visit, it is time to head to the Internet.

A good first stop would be The Official Tourism site for Germany. It's a great place to begin to find out what there is to see in each of the places you have decided to visit. It even has a list of all the Christmas markets by geographic area. There is a lot of practical up to date information on this site as well.

Bookmark each of the sites you use so that you can go back and check on them. Another very informative site is Come to Germany. One of the blocks on the front page is Specials. It includes Spiritual travel, Abbeys Churches, cathedrals and minsters Traditions and customs, Family attractions, Theme parks, Worlds of discovery, Zoos & wildlife parks, Indoor & interactive, Luther Contemporaries Places associated with Luther Biography Contemporary history Luther Routes.

You may want to visit Everything about Germany which includes travel tips, everything you need to know about Oktoberfest and dangers and cautions. Not as all inclusive a site as the first two but it does have some information worth looking at and is written by a former American soldier who was stationed in Germany.

When it comes time to start picking your accommodations, be sure to check out Trip Advisor and Rough Guides. These sites offer suggestions for where to stay, reviews and things you need to know before you book. You can't trust websites that are owned by accommodations to give you truthful reviews, look for other review sites.

If you are looking for bed and breakfast accommodations in Germany this is a good website. It has a map of Germany and you click on the area where you plan to stay and it gives you a list of the available bed and breakfasts. By clicking on the name of the B&B you can get detailed information about the hosts and the accommodations.
If you prefer to rent an apartment or a self-catering house, try this site.

To find a hotel you can use any of the large search engines such as Booking.com or Hotels.com to do your search. Book directly with the hotel if at all possible. To find out some of smaller more out of the way hotels just Google hotels in the city of your choice. One chain that is particularly nice are the Romantik Hotels. They have 106 member hotels in Germany.


With these sites you should have all the tools you need to plan and book a wonderful German vacation. When you get to each city be sure to visit the local tourist board and pick up all the free information that they are sure to have.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Marriott Hotel Springfield, Mass.

The Marriott Hotel in Springfield is located in the downtown area. It is within two blocks of the Mass Mutual Center where our NERGC Convention was held. It has its own parking level in a parking garage but it is not near the entrance to the hotel but rather on Bridge Street which is on the opposite site of the building.

Once you have parked, take your ticket with you to the desk and they will add the $17 a day charge to your room. An entrance on C level of the hotel takes you right in and out to the garage. A ramp makes it easy to get your luggage into the hotel.

The lobby is attractive with lots of marble and check-in was a breeze. Three elevators meant that we never had to wait long to get to our room on the 12th floor.

We had a standard two double bedded room and it was small but well equipped. The bathroom was positively tiny. It was one of the smallest bathrooms I have ever seen. 

Pros:

Comfortable beds with lots of pillows. 

Enough plugs to keep our devices charged. 

A small refridgerator to keep our drinks cold. 

The room was very clean. 

Good selections of TV stations.

Cons:

While the internet was strong it was difficult to log on and we ha to keep logging on every day. 

The coffee pots is located inside the cabinet in the room which is very incoveneient. 

Very small bathroom. 

Small TV. 

Overall, we enjoyed our stay here. The staff is very friendly and helpful and housekeeping, which we didn't allow into the room, kept us suppied with extra coffee and plenty of toiletries. 





Monday, May 8, 2017

Country Inn and Suites Hagerstown, Md

Country Inn and Suites in Hagerstown, Maryland has a great location. It is just a mile from I-81 and there are restaurants and Valley Mall all located within walking distance. I chose it for this great location.

The lobby is very welcoming with the great stairway that you can take to the second floor. It makes it look more like a mansion than a hotel. There is of course, an elevator so you don’t need to use the stairs but when you come down to breakfast it is the shortest route.

Speaking of the breakfast room, it is spacious and bright and with the good weather, it spills over into an exterior area.

The pool and spa is under construction at the moment so we were not able to use it but it is a large area and I look forward to using it the next time we stay in the area.

We had a king room which is quite spacious and has lots of amenities including a mini-fridge, microwave, coffee maker and that is just in the room. The closet has a safe and ironing board and iron.

The HD TV offers a good selection of channels. Unfortunately, when we were here, none of the local channels were coming in which was very disappointing but not the norm. The desk staff was absolutely no help when I called them.

The desk is a good size and has a very comfortable chair. The room has an additional chair if you like sitting to watch TV.

The bathroom is typical, granite countertop, tub, and shower combo but this one is a nice deep tub that really did invite taking a bath. The towels are plush and there were three large ones.

The bed was very comfortable but I have to admit I am not an admirer of what I call shiny bedspreads and this one fell into that category. Plenty of pillows were provided and the sheets were crisp and white.

A business center with a computer and printer are just off the lobby and coffee and hot water is available 24/7 along with apples and cookies.

Breakfast is included and is a generous spread. Whether you want a hot breakfast of scrambled eggs, potatoes, and sausage or make your own waffles or a continental, there will be plenty of choices. Four kinds of juice, cold cereal, yogurt and plenty of carb choices, lemon and poppy seed muffins, English muffins, Danish, two kinds of bagels, three types of toast. A fruit salad and then fresh whole fruit was also available and of course coffee.


I am getting to be quite a fan of the Country Inns and Suites.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Cruise ports: Royal Naval Dockyard Bermuda

If you are taking a cruise to Bermuda, chances are you will be docked at the Royal Naval Dockyard unless you are on a smaller ship. We have been docked at the Royal Naval Dockyard twice and in Hamilton twice. Two wharfs hold cruise ships, King's Wharf and Heritage Wharf. Even if you are docking in St. George or Hamilton, the Royal Naval Dockyard is just a short ferry ride away. Why do you want to visit  Here are a few reasons. 


Shopping


Most people come to Naval Dockyard for shopping. Bermuda is known for its rum cake, wonderful jelly, local crafts, fashion and delicious smelling perfumes. Jewelry is also a popular item to shop for here. You will find lots of unique items to bring home as well as lots of gourmet food items. 


National Museum of Bermuda

Located in former military buildings and the Commissioner's House you will learn about the 500-year history of the island of Bermuda. You can also visit Dolphin Quest which is part of the museum and here you can enjoy interacting with dolphins up close and personal. 


Dockyard Glassworks Hot Glass Studio and Gallery


If you have ever wanted to see glass blown, this will be your chance. You can also buy some of their beautiful creations. 


Dining

Dining is a popular pastime at Royal Naval Dockyard. You will be able to dine on local favorites as well as international cuisine. 

A free shuttle train travels around the dockyard and you can get on and off as often as you like. 

If you are visiting Bermuda, chances are you will want to spend at least a few hours enjoying all that the Royal Naval Dockyard has to offer. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Carpenter Street Inn Springfield, Ill

The exterior of the Carpenter Street Hotel in no way prepares you for what you will find inside. The exterior is quite plain and reminiscent of several chain hotels. The lobby is quite small and has an adjacent breakfast room and the elevator is also small. Since the hotel is only three stories, this is not an issue. When you open the door to your room, you are in for a wonderful surprise. It is very boutique like with a pretty patterned neutral carpet and soothing taupe walls.

We had a standard king room, and the bed was done with crisp white bedding and plenty of pillows and one burgundy pillow for a pop of color. Although it was understood that this was a limited service hotel, from what was seen, there are plenty of services.

For one thing, the hotel has a van that will shuttle guests to downtown locations. How convenient is that? Not that the hotel is far from anything, it is only a few blocks from the Old State Capital and the Lincoln Herndon Law Office as well as several area hospitals and plenty of dining. You can certainly walk from here to just about anywhere you want to go.

In addition to the bed, the room had a chair and ottoman, a work desk and ergonomic chair, a microwave, mini-fridge, coffeemaker and a 32-inch flat panel TV. 

The lights on the wall in back of the nightstands include electric plugs, which is very convenient for keeping all the electronics charged. A large padded bench and a full-length mirror are also included. The closet is open and a dresser sits under the TV. Plenty of lights in the room, including one on the desk and a floor lamp next to the chair and ottoman, keep things as bright as you prefer.

The bathroom looks brand new and had a one-piece shower and tub and of course a sink, large mirror and all the things you expect from your bathroom. The water pressure is strong and provided a great shower.

A new gym has been recently added. The entire hotel is smoke-free, Internet access is free and strong, and there is no charge for parking at the hotel. The staff is exceptional friendly and wake-up calls or extra towels are available if needed. This makes you feel very welcome.

Breakfast, which is complimentary, is served from 5:00 a.m. to 9 a.m. It is the basic free buffet that most hotels offer: pastries, juice, yogurt, bagels, boiled eggs, two hot dishes (scrambled eggs with cheese and potatoes when this writer visited) and make-your-own waffles. The breakfast room is pleasant and there are enough tables to accommodate guests.


The hotel originally opened in 1997 to meet the demands of family and patients at the local healthcare facilities. With its new updates and renovations, it has expanded its customer base to include tourists and business people as well. The prices are good, the location is great and the rooms are upscale enough to satisfy everyone. I would not hesitate to recommend The Carpenter Street Hotel to anyone visiting the area and would certainly stay here again myself.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A winter visit to Versailles

We were visiting Paris in January. We have visited Versailles before but let’s face it, there is no such thing as too much of a good thing. We love all the opulence and being able to walk where the oh so rich and famous have walked. While I am generally quite unimpressed with this, some of my companions like it quite well.


We decided we were going to take the train to Versailles. We got a great deal; we paid 13.60 Euros for our train ticket and entrance to the State Apartments and the two Trianons at Versailles. This made the 39 cents we had to pay to use the inferior bathrooms (sandpaper toilet paper and no toilet seats) at Versailles easier to take.

The Grand Trianon has been the home to many illustrious people. First Louis XIV who used it for short summer visits, then Queen Maria Leszczinska and later Napoleon I and his second wife Empress Marie Louise. Even Louis Philippe made visits here, but it was President De Gaulle who saved the Grand Trianon by having it restored as a meeting place for the President of the Republic and other heads of state on official visits. The original furnishings were taken during the Revolution and now most of the furniture is First Empire. After the soft femininity of the Petit Trianon, it appears heavy and in some cases downright garish.

Your tour through on your own. Staff members are located in every room but they appeared uninterested in adding anything to our visit. I must say, that after almost 3 weeks the only rude people we encountered were at Versailles. I suppose you get tired of dealing with crowds of people every day but there is really no excuse for the attitude of a few of the staff.

The bedroom of Louis XIV was very impressive. The room was crimson, white and gold with a canopy over the bed and a balustrade separating the sleeping area from the rest of the room. The bed was originally in the Tuilleries Palace and was used by Napoleon. Pretty ironic that it ended up in the Louis XIV bedroom.

Connecting the two wings that you get to visit there is the Peristyle, an open porch with a roof supported by columns. You get a wonderful view of the gardens from here and you can imagine sitting out here in the summer enjoying the breeze.

You will visit some really horrible rooms in the second half. The colors are so loud and the furniture so ugly it almost hurts to look at them. A little shabby chic would go a long way here. The last two rooms, however, are quite lovely. You can imagine the ladies in lovely gowns promenading in the Cotelle Gallery.

Versailles was designed to impress and it certainly is big, gaudy and something that you will want to see at least once if you are going to be in Paris. 



Monday, April 24, 2017

Planning your vacation to Austria

Austria is the home of the Alps, Viennese coffee and pastries, Mozart, The Sound of Music and Sissy. Planning a vacation to Austria is the dream of a lifetime and these websites can help you make that dream come true.

The Austrian National Travel Office has designed their website for travel professionals to help promote Austria to their clients. This can be everything from planning a corporate gathering to becoming an Austrian expert as a travel agent. Just because this is a site for professionals don’t assume it won’t be useful for the average traveler, there is still plenty of good information. One area for sure is the list of tour operators which if you need help with your planning is useful to help you choose an approved tour operator. This is where travel writers can find story ideas and make connections for possible travel assistance with a trip to Austria.

Got to Be Austria is the Austrian National Travel's official Site for travelers. The site is divided into four basic sections Discover, Plan, Search and Book and Basic Facts. You don’t have to click on any of these right away, the homepage is jam packed with articles and also activities that you may want to check out first or you can wait until a little later in the planning process.

You may want to start by signing up for the newsletter and downloading or requesting brochures, both of these can be done on the homepage as well as linking to the Facebook account. One nice thing about this website is the face that you can choose the size of the print right on the top of the header on the main page.

Clicking on discover will bring up another option, there are red slider between nature and culture, tradition and innovation. By moving the slider, different screens Slight moves of the slide move you to new pages which frankly is quite annoying, too much work and procession needed for a travel website, easier is always better. Skip this and go right on to planning and get the more typical options for searching. You will get the choice of culture and arts, nature and adventure, food and wine, people and traditions and rejuvenation. This is a very inclusive website with lots of information that will help you to make the best choices for your Austrian vacation.

If Vienna is the destination for your Austrian vacation, Welcome to Vienna will help you to get there, find your way around, book a wonderful accommodation, eat the delights that Vienna has to offer and enjoy all the entertainment that only the Viennese can provide. Whether it is music or shopping, history or pastry, you will find it in Vienna.

Salzburg is a World Heritage site and if Mozart and the Sound of Music appeal to you, this is the perfect city to provide you with a fantastic vacation. This website, will provide all the info you need to find out exactly what will make your Salzburg experience perfect.

The home page offers tabs on arts and culture, sights, accommodations, gastronomy, shopping, arrival and traffic and service. There is also a place to click for the Salzburg Card which will offer you lots of bang for your buck.

In southern Austria is the state of Carinthia and if you are considering making this your destination in Austria or even if you just want to find out if it appeals to you, this website is the perfect way to look at some of the small towns and activities has to offer. It is an area with over 200 lakes and ski slopes aplenty. Beyond just Carinthia, if you click around this site you can check on all the Austrian States and find out where to visit and what to do.

Innsbruck is the capital of the Alps and one of the most popular places to visit in Austria. 

This website has a lot of information to help with your planning. Tabs for sightseeing, events and festivals, dining and shopping, hotel rooms, winter sports, summer sports and getting there give you additional information. You will find enough information to keep you occupied for quite some time.


If Austria is your destination of choice for vacation, all of these websites can be of assistance in both choosing what you want to do and actually booking your room.