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An Irish Spring

Taking a chance with Great Value Vacations

semi-overcast 18 °C
View Southern Ireland, April 2019 on darrenesl's travel map.

Alaska was an incredible albeit cold summer vacation for 2018, so when it came time for 2019 trip planning, warmth was on the docket. Shorts, warmth and sun were in the plans until an advertisement for Ireland caught our attention. $699 for 8 days with lodging, airfare and a rental car. Really?

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The reviews for Great Value Vacations(GVV) who offers this special on Groupon appeared to be good. Not great, but a majority of people only leave negative reviews. Some of the issues were long wait times to get in contact with GVV and their call center. Other complaints included vouchers arriving just before people left for their trip. None of the reviews included people with flight, place-to-stay, or rental car issues that kept the traveler from making their destination. After more careful review and due diligence, we pulled the trigger and bought the Groupon.

Once you purchase the Groupon, the process is simple to book your trip. First off, select the dates you want, next go to the Great Value Vacations website and redeem your voucher. You will see your air tickets, rental car voucher and more. Two tips to make travel a little more convenient include upgrading your seat selection to a preferred location. This was a slight up-charge on Air France, however Terri and I will get our preferred seat for the lengthy portions of the flight. One other upgrade was choosing a rental car with an automatic transmission. Neither of us are wanting to drive a manual on the opposite side as we are accustomed to.

So far all has gone well with the initial process. Let's hope the rest goes as smoothly.

Posted by darrenesl 14:39 Archived in USA Tagged cities paris coast amsterdam city ireland dublin holiday fun air klm airlines fare darrenesl air_france 2019 Comments (0)

The most beautiful city in the United States

Many cities will claim the title, but only one can be truly named the most beautiful city in the U.S.

What is the most beautiful city in the United States? Some would argue New York City, while others would choose Miami, and some perhaps will argue that Denver, Colorado takes the prize. However in all my travels throughout the 50 states, one city certainly claims the title for me. San Francisco, the “City by the bay,” has it all. Stunning water views, iconic towering landmarks, hills, a great Warf, and the list can go on and on.

Coming across the Oakland Bay Bridge at night is enough to excite even a librarian. The lights may be bright on Broadway; however San Francisco has its own Broadway. Murals adorning the buildings of the Height Ashbury district tell the stories of those looking for free love and an escape form the issues facing modern America in the 1960’s. A prison on a rock is filled with history and legend. The painted ladies that overlook a park with children playing are the houses that American film and television have made famous worldwide. And who can ignore the curves of Lombard Street, where flowers adorn the median and tourists flock to capture the curviest street in the United States.

All of these and more led us to choose this location to visit on our next edition of wanderlust. We’ve decided to road trip it from San Diego on up the coast and enjoy some of the great items our home state has to offer.

Starting in San Diego we will head up to Camarillo, spending the night there to get the journey going. From there, we can choose to head up to the hills of Ojai, or to the beaches of Ventura and Santa Barbara. Having lived in Oxnard, the area does have some hidden gems including the Channel Islands and fresh farm stands that provide fresh goods along Pleasant Valley Road.

After a day there, we will end up in Solvang. Spending a whole day and two nights there should provide enough time to fill up on food and Danish fun. A trip to Hearst Castle San Simeon is a must on the itinerary and has been included. Designed by architect Julia Morgan between 1919 and 1947 for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who died in 1951, the castle is now maintained by the California State Parks commission and provides insight into the man and his life.

Leaving San Simeon, we will be traveling up CA-1 along the coast and ending the day in Santa Cruz. Staying on the boardwalk that inspired scenes from the movie, “The Lost Boys,” this stop provides a good break before heading into the bustling city of San Francisco.

After that we will have 5 days in San Francisco, with one day in the Napa Valley where I spent my college years. Based out of the Union Square district of San Francisco, we will be walking and taking public transportation to get the most out of this unique city.

We’ll be sharing photos and the story of our trip here. Several great restaurants and activities have been lined-up, but we also have plenty of time to just get lost in the City. If you have any special spots that you think we should include on the itinerary, let us know in the comments. Share your experiences from the City or any of the places listed on the itinerary with us in the comments below as well.

Posted by darrenesl 15:36 Archived in USA Tagged bridges buildings cities coast shopping city san francisco fun santa castle cruz central solvang hearst darrenesl tljohnson tlwforgiven darren_johnson terri_johnson 2015 ca-1 Comments (0)

Ready for Krakow

Bathroom sharing for the masses

sunny 25 °C
View Eastern Europe on darrenesl's travel map.

We rose early this morning, which is easy to do as the sun sets at about 9:30 p.m. and rises at 4:00 a.m. It was a brisk morning and we were excited to get our day going. We had a beautiful walk through the park as we headed to the metro. Our choice of Caribee luggage was a wise choice as there are many steps to climb coming and going to the many trains, subways, trams, and busses. The ability to carry this luggage as a backpack, or roll along on the ground is very helpful. With our early start, we missed the morning's heavy commuter crowds hitting the metro at about 7:00 a.m., just before the big rush.

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Once on our 8:00 a.m. train to head to Krakow, we began our media updates which had a few glitches, providing us with our first issue on the trip. When transfering our photos from our camera to tablet, the tablet said damaged memory card, but it had no problems in the camera, the next thing we knew, our pictures on the camera were all erased. Oh ....(insert your favorite expletive here)! It is a blessing that we will visit Warsaw one more time and have the chance to relive some of our memories.

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Our train-ride was filled with hillsides of lush greens sprinkled with various trees and wildflowers ~ a perfect morning commute and great way to see some of the countryside while catching-up on our writing.

Once we arrived in Krakow we found our way to the Atlantis Hostel, our home base until Thursday night. Here we have our four person shared room. That's right, we will be having two people we don't know sharing a room with us. We checked in and discovered our room would be on the 3rd floor here, 4th floor for those in the US., as the numbering starts with one being the first level up. We also discovered our co-ed bathrooms with two toilets and two showeras side-by-side, just a little odd.

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Anyway, we are off to see the Market Square and will share more later.

Posted by darrenesl 21:14 Archived in Poland Tagged travel train square atlantis fun hostel krakow marketplace pierogis Comments (0)

3 Days and Counting

Time is near, how's that packing list coming?

sunny 23 °C
View Eastern Europe on darrenesl's travel map.

Suddenly we look up and the calendar says its the middle of June. Oh my, where has time gone? As we finish the preparations for our European journey, it is time to make the final reservations on airbnb, check all of our needs, and start pulling the traveling pack together.

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Yes, we have the hybrid Caribee Skymaster 70. The exact pack, filled with 30+ lbs., that we have been walking about two miles a day with to prepare for the upcoming adventure. As we talked about before, the pack offers the best of both worlds with a combination backpack and rolling bag. Sure, we most likely will not be having to carry it on our back for 2 miles, but taking a line from the Boy Scouts, we are going to "be prepared."

Along with the whole travel planning that has been going on since last year, plans for some special happenings on this trip have been in the works as well. Celebrating ten years of marriage, Terri and I have a couples massage booked in the Hungarian baths, a dinner on-top of the tower in Vienna, and a night on a private boat in Croatia. Part of the fun of this adventure has been finding some things to do that would not be on our regular list of activities here at home.

We also have several cathedrals on the list. For anyone going to Europe and wanting to let the imagination soar ahead of time, I highly recommend reading Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett.
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The book shares some of the design elements used to build these magnificent structures, with a thrilling storyline that will capture the mind of the reader.
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Many more thrilling items fill our agenda, as well as plenty of time to explore areas and get to know the locals as well. How's that packing coming you ask? Well the bags are full and we are under our 44lbs. limit. Have we forgot anything, hopefully not, thanks to the travellerspoint.com packing list. Yes, it is extensive, but it is good.

We have been months in the planning stages and now the trip is upon us, we look forward to sharing our journey with you over the next couple of weeks. Keep watching here for our story and pictures and we will try to update it regularly. Please leave us your feedback and comments, we want to hear from you!

Signing off until we hop on board that plane,

~Terri and Darren

Posted by darrenesl 18:47 Archived in USA Tagged boats budapest prague vienna eastern austria warsaw poland fun air hungary croatia europe czech travels split republic krakow airlines darrenesl Comments (0)

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