Monthly Archives: December 2015

Tips For a Great San Francisco Bay Area Vacation

San Francisco and the surrounding metro area, generally referred to as the, SF Bay Area, is one of the largest metro areas in the US and a very popular tourist destination.  Many tourists, however, get there and are overwhelmed with its size, expense and crowded nature and only end up seeing a small portion of the city and surrounding SF Bay Area. They usually miss most of the good stuff!  Here are a few tips and places to visit, both in San Francisco itself and the surrounding area, so that you don’t miss all its great wonders.

  • Rent a car when you get there. It is an extra expense, but it will allow you to go to areas outside of the city, which shouldn’t be missed on your trip.  It will often be more convenient than public transportation, as well.
  • If you stay downtown, near the tourist district, get a car, park in lots that charge by the day or stay at hotels with valet parking or their own lot. Finding a parking space in SF can be maddening. I lived there years ago, when there were 750,000 cars and 500,000 parking spaces. I joked that meant at anyone one time, there are 250,000 people driving around looking for a parking spot that does not exist.
  • Know when to leave the car parked. The Bay area has a train system called the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART,) as well as buses and its famous street cars. If you are headed anywhere in the main tourist district, walking or using public transport is easier than finding a parking spot. Plus, by walking you will get a feel for the real city.
  • Don’t miss Chinatown. This neighborhood is one of the largest Asian neighborhoods in any US city. It is like stepping into another country to visit there. It is full of quaint shops with unique merchandise, friendly people, great restaurants..  Most Americans do not realize that a majority of dishes on their neighborhood Chinese restaurant menu are actually recipes invented in Chinatown in San Francisco.
  • Visit Fisherman’s Wharf.  Yes, it is tourist central, but amongst the tourist trinkets and t-shirts, you will also find unique work from talented artists, great food and some of the best views of the bay.
  • See Golden State Park. It’s not only one of the largest city parks in the US, it also holds a museum and a zoo.
  • Pamper yourself was a spa treatment or a massage. Being such a multicultural and cosmopolitan city, you can find many wonderful kinds of treatments.  It’s a great way to recover from long days of walking up and down the city’s famous hills.
  • Get out of town. Use your rental car to go up and/or down the coast. Not far to the south you will find the highly eclectic, artsy town of Santa Cruz, which is a mecca for artists, hippies, surfers and wealthy “escapees” from the crowded Silicon Valley. Be sure to take a drive through the beautiful University there, which is built amongst a redwood forest. If you go as far as the Monterey Bay, be sure to make the famous “17 Mile Drive” on the peninsula.  All along the way you will see tremendous seascapes and marine mammals such as whales, seals, sea lions and even otters. North of the city you can visit places like the Muir Woods, with its giant redwoods or the nearby Napa Valley, which is world famous for its wineries. If you have several days to stay, the stunning Yosemite National Park is only around 175 miles to the east.
  • Talk to the locals. SF is a very friendly city. Tell them about your interests and most will be quite happy to tell you great places in the area to visit.

Follow these tips and your San Francisco Bay Area trip will be an unforgettable adventure!

Finding Great Food on a Great American Road Trip

With gasoline prices lower than they have been in years, now is the perfect time to load the family up and do a grand road trip.  We, here in America, are fortunate to have such a large country, full of amazing natural wonders, attractions, and great cities. We have nearly every kind of ecosystem found on earth, from high mountains, to deserts, to rainforests to warm sandy beaches. Whether you are the type that likes to head straight to your far away destination, at high speed on freeways, or you want to take back roads and explore along the way, one thing is for sure. You’ve got to eat!

Part of the joyful wanderlust of travelling is seeing and experiencing new things.  When on the road, food should be part of the adventure.  If you are making your food choices based on signs along the freeway about which fast food joints are at the next exit, you are doing yourself and your family a disservice. That’s just plain sad. Finding good food along your route is not as hard as it may seem. Here are a few tips to make meals part of the adventure:

  • Just as you plan your route, plan your food stops. As you travel, make an estimate as to where you will be for each meal, so you can use the internet to look for interesting places to stop for food. Don’t make this plan set in stone though, traffic delays or spontaneous side trips may (and usually will) change your schedule. So if you pick a town to eat in, perhaps pick another one 100 miles down the road in either direction, as an alternative.
  • Ask your social media friends. If you are travelling to some place you have never been, drop a message on your Twitter or Facebook status asking your friends for neat places to eat in a particular town. You may be surprised at the number of enthusiastic reviews you will receive. Just keep the questions to friends only and don’t announce the exact dates you will be away from home.
  • Check the Food Network website, especially the guide from the TV Show, “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” The choices there may not always be the healthiest fare, but the places featured are always amazing and well-loved by the locals. Be sure to double check choices from that site, because the directory is not always up to date and a place may have gone out of business, changed names or moved. You will find some fun options there and may end up with some amusing stories like, “Remember that time I bet you that you couldn’t eat that 5 pound cheeseburger?”
  • One of the best ways to find any kind of food and get great bargains is with the local business pages on Groupon.com.  This new feature of Groupon already has thousands of restaurant listings, searchable by city. For example, if you are travelling through Dallas, TX and want some of that famous Texas BBQ, do a search and you will be presented with lots of great deals at Dallas BBQ restaurants. If you find one that looks appealing, such as Big Al’s Smokehouse BBQ, click the deal link and you will be taken to a whole page dedicated to that restaurant, with deals, information about the restaurant, customer reviews and even driving directions. It is a valuable guide for any traveller.

Wherever your road trip takes you follow these simple tips and the food will be part of the adventure.  Your family will probably never have fond memories of a roadside stop at a burger chain, but they may be talking about the experience at that Texas BBQ joint for years.

Sicily Yacht Charter

Sicily Yacht CharterSicily is the largest Italian Island, divided from the mainland by the Strait of Messina and lapped by the Ionian, the Tyrrhenian and the Mediterranean. One of the pearls of Southern Italy, to discover, know and live through a range of alternative routes that range, depending on the tastes and needs, among nature, history and tradition. And nature seems to have intended this land its greatest wonders: mountains, hills, and above the sea, with its incredible colors, the transparency of the water and the beauty of its depths excels over other seas. In this land, the Mediterranean offers scenery, scents and flavors so unique and intense that just a unspoiled nature can offer. Just think of the islands surrounding Sicily: Aeolian, Egadi, Pelagie, Pantelleria and Ustica so similar to the beauty of their land and so peculiar to nature, tradition, art and history. And do not forget the impressive volcanoes, some of which have never been lost as Etna and Stromboli. An appeal also enriched by precious archaeological evidence that tell the ancient origins of Trinacria (ancient name of Sicily), and the many monuments, testimony of an art that has been able to forge over the centuries. Sicily offers a multitude of places to visit, ranging from nature, history and tradition. Among the peculiarities of this area there are two impressive volcanoes, Stromboli and Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe. Etna is located in eastern Sicily and is one of the milestones to discover this land. Its spectacular eruptions have created, over the centuries, unique panoramas. The islands surrounding Sicily are numerous and fascinating, but a special mention deserve the Aeolian Islands, in 2000 entered the World Heritage List (WHL) as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The archipelago consists of 7 islands – Lipari, Vulcano, Stromboli, Salina, Filicudi, Alicudi and Panarea – and a series of small islands of various sizes.

The history of the Aeolian Islands is indissolubly bound to the Volcanoes, the “artists” who created these beautiful works of nature, where you can dive into the deep blue sea, go hiking in the caves scattered along the coasts, relax in the small beaches lapped by the waters crystal, before turning the local food strictly fish. On the Southeast Coast of Sicily is Syracuse, a UNESCO site since 2005, along with the Necropolis of Pantalica. This ancient Greek colony overlooking a picturesque natural harbor closed to the east of the island of Ortigia, the oldest urban center. Every corner of the city has valuable archaeological evidence to convey the splendor of Ancient Greece. In Syracuse and the Aeolian islands are joined by two UNESCO sites not to be missed: the eight beautiful late-baroque cities of Val di Noto and the Villa Romana del Casale. << If someone were to spend just one day in Sicily and ask: “What should I see?” I would answer without hesitation: “Taormina”. It ‘only a landscape, but a landscape that is all that seems created on earth to seduce the eyes, the mind and the imagination. >> So the famous French writer Guy de Maupassant describes Taormina. Few words that contain the essence of this little jewel midway between Messina and Catania. 

There is no better way to admire all these impressive wonders aboard a boat, enjoying so much beauty, culture and nature. 

Your Sicily Yacht Charter will throw together a remarkable experience, living relaxing moments with your loved ones, swimming in translucent blue sea, diving in archaeological sites, climbing volcanoes, delighting your meals with exquisite foods and wines, cultural discovery and active nightlife.