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See the other enticing 260 offered by TopVillas in France
Luxury and Comfort. Those 2 words can be very important to people looking for a top-notch vacation. Especially if travelling with family or in a larger group.
It’s not always easy to find a hotel that will accommodate several people in a group say of 6-12+ people who want to be near each other, such as adjoining rooms or the same floor or the same area of a hotel.
That’s where booking a house or villa would be a much better match. A luxury villa would not only give a group all the room they need, but also the comfort and guaranteed satisfaction from a reputable company.
One such company, TopVillas has over 4,000 luxury Villas in 18 locations around the world. They have over 263 properties in France alone.
For an exceptional example, view this property in Aiguebelle, near St. Tropez in the South of France.
Nestled on a hillside, It has 4 bedrooms, 3 baths and sleeps 8. It has a gorgeous infinity pool that overlooks the Mediterranean Ocean. An adjoining patio makes it an excellent choice to entertain while having a pool party perhaps.
When you look at the weekly cost of $5264-$8316, depending on season, it comes out to about $752-1188 per night for 8 people. A luxury hotel could set you back more than that especially since you can’t find many luxury hotels that overlook the Mediterranean, have a full kitchen where you can cook a feast for guests & family (or hire a chef) and relax by your own private pool gazing up at the stars and out over the ocean.
That $752 divided by 8 equals a mere $94 per person per night! What a fantastic deal! For such luxury and comfort!
All in the chic South of France in your own private enclave of a luxury villa.
Glamorous 2 bedroom modern charmer in St. Tropez on the French Riviera
How about a unique getaway to the South of France with your significant other to have a wonderful, serene time in St. Tropez?
TopVillas has this charming 2 bedroom available at $381 per night
Walk to the town of St. Tropez 10 minutes away. Sightsee, shop, dine, people-watch, whatever suits your fancy as your base “home” away from home could be this special place for up to 6 people.
You will enjoy staying in the town of Mougins, France
Another elegant, modern villa in the Cote d’Azur is the La Pagode which resides in the lush green hillside town of Mougins. I spent some time in Mougins in 2008 and was utterly charmed by the entire area which is why I picked this property for your viewing pleasure. Would this work for you?
It has 6 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and sleeps up to 12. It also has a unique exotic garden and heated infinity pool. This property is in close proximity to Cannes. Perhaps you could book it for a special family vacation to coincide with the Cannes Film Festival next May 2019. And if not this one, there are plenty more to choose from.
Do yourself a favor. Take the time to carefully scroll through all the lovely photos of all the properties in all the areas of France. Maybe there is one that speaks to you more than the three I’ve posted here.
Think of the exceptional joy you can have at one of these properties. And create a lasting memorable experience to be enjoyed by all. You can be sure you’ll be well taken care of by TopVillas.
One of the best ways to learn a new language is to go on a travel adventure to the country of the language you want to learn. The reason is because you will be integrating your newly learned language by practicing it with the locals. This is called immersion and is one of the best ways to learn a language.
However, if you are limited on time to visit a country, you can always learn online. Pimsleur languages has been around for several decades and has many languages to choose from that you can easily learn online in 30 days.
In my case I wanted to learn French. I had only taken 2 years of German in High School. And that didn’t necessarily make me fluent in German even when I visited Austria or Germany. But as an adult I wanted to take up French because I have traveled to France so many times and still found it hard to speak French.
So in 2010 I decided to enroll my family in a French language school in Perpignan, France. Perpignan is in the south of France, in the Catalonia region near the border of Spain. My daughter was 16 at the time and had already been taking French at her school back home. My husband and I never took any French language courses other than a Pimsleur CD audio course I purchased to listen to while we drove around town.
We went to the ALFMED school for 2 weeks. Our teacher, Natalie, was wonderful and quite experienced in teaching French. She gave us daily 1-hour lessons to learn. Our lessons were supplemented with city excursions to local historical sites. We made friends with a lot of our classmates, some we are still friends with to this day. It was an enriching experience and totally worth the cost!
But I still couldn’t speak French as I had no one back home to practice speaking it with in their native tongue. I then took 2 semesters of an online French language course at my local community college. The accompanying book with its CD was helpful at least for the first semester of learning the basics like the alphabet. By the second semester my mind was a bit boggled with learning how the French speak their numbering system. For example you learn that the 70’s require you to think to say how they think they speak it. (Boggled yet?) 70 is 60 + 10. 70 is pronounced soixante-dix (60+10). 80 is pronounced quatre-vingts or 4 x 20. 90 is pronounced quatre-vingt-dix or 4 x 20 +10. The next time I went to France I still couldn’t count my change or pay the bill but I knew I had to do something.
I looked into Alliance Francaise next. There was a local branch in my hometown of Dallas. But that got me to consider looking into Alliance Francaise in Paris since I was making so many yearly trips to Paris. In November 2014 I enrolled for 6 private one-on-one lessons at AF Paris. Admittedly I was a bit intimidated to join a full class at first. My teacher said I had a basic understanding of French and my accent was good. She encouraged me to join an A1 level (not complete beginner) course in progress. There were 10 students in class ranging from age 16 to 75. From Colombia, Spain, Iraq, Russia, USA, Brazil, Iran. It was quite diverse which I think made it so interesting. Yet we were all helping each other as we stumbled upon words and phrases. AF teachers only speak in French. You have to start learning right away. It is language learning through immersion – not only in class – but as soon as you walk out on the street and go to catch the bus or grab a bite to eat you start practicing your basic French right away.
There are a lot of different French language learning schools in France. Ideally you look for ones that are FLE certified. The Sorbonne University offers a French language course with French civilization culture history. This course is highly popular amongst young people however I talked to a few who took the course and said there were a few older people (like their parents age) in the classes.
Keep in mind that if you are a U.S. citizen you can only be in France (or other European countries) for up to 90 days without a visa. If you plan on staying longer you have to apply for a visa. But to enroll in a French language course for several months or up to a year requires you first go to campusfrance.usa and apply. Once you are approved your next step is to apply for the visa at your nearest consulate. You cannot apply for the visa more than 3 months out and you can’t apply until you have enrolled and paid for the course at a school in France. And your school course must be full-time from 20-25 hours per week for more than 3 months.
Once you have the student visa and you travel to France you have to register your visa at an OFII office in France within a week of your arrival. This makes everything official and it also allows you to work up to 20 hours a week should you desire to do so. But you will be so busy with a full-time 20-25 hours a week school schedule you won’t have much time for anything else save for socializing.
Even if you take a language course in school, it still comes in handy to keep refreshing your memory with an online app – one that you can use across all kinds of devices from your Mac to your iPad to your iPhone. Or your Android phone. You can also buy the CD set in case you find that more convenient. Check out what Pimsleur language courses offer. Right now you can save 25% by clicking on this link below;
In a previous post I mentioned that blogging isn’t easy.
Oh sure, anyone can create a website and start writing words on it. How easy is that?
But the real test is in how well you write, how well you get your message across to your readers.
And that is where branding comes in. Branding is the overall theme to the content you put out there.
You want to stay on message every time you write. At least that is what I’ve learned from everything I’ve read so far. (I’m always reading so maybe there is something that is contrary to that concept and I haven’t come across it yet)
You have to know who your audience is to get that message to the right people. Because if the wrong people are coming to your website, they’ll leave as fast as they arrived. They leave because for some reason your content got put in front of them and maybe they clicked to read something and decided it wasn’t what they were looking for or they simply had no interest in the content.
Who is your audience anyway?
I’ve been asking myself this question and reading all kinds of information to start figuring that out.
In my case my readers are interested in travel. That’s a broad reach and can span to literally millions of people around the world. That’s not good enough however, to rank in the search engines. Why? Because there are already millions of travel blogs out there all with their own message trying to reach their specific audience. It’s a competitive world. You have to know where the edges are to fit your narrative.
So how do you differentiate between your content and the millions of others out there? --Without having to stand on your head and post silly videos of you standing on your head.
I’m not really interested in gimmicky things to post just to draw attention. It works for many people but it’s not my thing.
I’m interested more in the integrity of my content, so my message can be heard by the right kind of people who resonate with the things I say. I want real connections with real people looking for ideas to help them with their own travel adventures. I want somebody to say to me, “you know, I was thinking of going to Taiwan and started reading up on it. I came across your website and read your article on Taiwan. In your post you said “Kaohsiung has bad air quality, well, I didn’t know that. I just assumed the air was good there. I didn’t know a lot of people wear air filtering masks as they walk around in Kaohsiung.” The take-away from this reader was that they learned something new. Something that was helpful to them. It may be miniscule and seem inconsequential to other readers, but the point is that if even one person is helped with a bit of information it makes the difference to that person. So now when that person travels to Kaohsiung they’ll be on the lookout for the bad air quality. Maybe they won’t find much of it, maybe they’ll have to buy a cheap air mask like I did. In any case, some relevant information was passed on to the reader.
And that is my goal in sharing my travel journeys. I wanted to first document my travels with the photos I took all for my own personal posterity. The second thing is to share it with people, after all, there is no point in just keeping it to yourself.
So what started out as something “simple” ahem, writing a travel blog, has become something even more in terms of branding what you write about (content) to fit yourself authentically.
Travalerie was the name I picked for my company brand because it was a clever combination of the word “travel” and my name of Valerie. No one else was using it so I trademarked it for 10 years. I set up my business LLC (Limited Liability Company) around it legally. I did this to protect my own interests. In other words, this is my corner of the world and don’t infringe on it please.
Then on to the business of branding that company trademarked name through what I write about and what I advertise. All of it must somehow relate to the business of travel information. In time as I progress with my blog I will probably narrow down my niche to something more defined. I have so many ideas on what that can be – you will just have to stay tuned to my website by signing up for updates to see how Travalerie evolves the brand.
The answer is YES! You CAN Live (and Invest) Overseas
For the past several years I have been researching options for retirement which included living overseas.
In 2013 I was 52 years old and finishing two degrees. I had picked up where I left off years earlier when I never could complete my University schooling due to job and family commitments.
But the opportunity came again, and I snatched it up with full zeal and drive to succeed. I finished an Associates Degree in less than 1 year and went on to a University and was able to complete my Bachelor’s degree in 1 year. Whew! In 2 years I obtained 2 degrees at age 53! I was proud of myself. I felt really good about completing this chapter of my life.
So what does this have to do with living overseas and retirement?
Well, in having to write many papers throughout my University schooling I picked topics that I felt were relevant to my life at the time. Middle-aged and knowing that retirement was a good 10 years away, I wanted to put a plan into action.
I started researching everything I could on this topic. That’s when I came across a website called Live and Invest Overseas and sent off for a free report on France. I was thrilled to have found such a treasure trove of information that pertained to my goals!
Prior to that I had my secret doubts about being able to move overseas, let alone live comfortably. There were too many variables that I didn’t know how to plan. I didn’t know if this was a “pie-in-the-sky” dream or could it be a liveable, reachable goal?
Pie-in-the-Sky or For Real?
I ordered the book on retiring to France.
I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I learned so much that I was eager to share what I learned so I wrote a paper on it for one of my English classes.
My Professor called me in one day for a meeting to discuss my project. (She wasn’t wanting to discuss things via email or even phone, she wanted to meet this middle-aged woman who had “interesting topic” ideas for a thesis paper)
When she met me, she realized I was serious about my topic. Yet, she was skeptical on the reality of someone my age actually picking up and leaving America to retire in a foreign land. Her doubts were obvious.
So I told her about Live and Invest Overseas and all the research I had been doing on my paper topic. The more I went on with my facts, the more confident I was about choosing my topic because just saying this all out loud to someone (besides my family) seemed to make it more real.
The Best is Offered
I ended up bringing out the best in myself and in the process my Professor sat back and nodded with interest with what I was saying. She even laughed and said she would consider it herself if it wasn’t for her work. I reminded her positively “you never know!” Sometimes things that seem out of reach are possible and very attainable.
She ended up giving me an A on my writing assignment. Thanks to the France Resource Kit
You too, can figure out if living overseas is a good match for yourself and/or your family. There are many countries to choose from.
Check out the Passport to Freedom that focuses on how you can even obtain a second passport to living overseas! Bonne Chance!
Click here to learn more--->Live and Invest Overseas
Delight Your Senses and Feel the Russian Culture
Who does not love the Nutcracker Ballet?
This Russian Ballet masterpiece with famous melodic classical music by Tchaikovsky has always been a favorite of mine.
You would have to be a cold, heartless robot to not enjoy the beauty, the scenery, the costumery, the graceful, elegant but strong ballet choreography of this production.
Seriously, when in Russia, one must attend such a colorful, historic attraction to feel the Russian culture.
I was so happy to be able to see it live in person at the esteemed Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. In the summertime even! I didn’t have to wait until Christmastime back home in the states.
I don’t even know how we lucked out and were able to get tickets last-minute to this production as they only perform at this theatre a dozen times in a year.
The Mariinsky Theatre was built around 1783 but the first Nutcracker Ballet didn’t appear until more than a hundred years later in 1892. The history is long and rich of all the esteemed ballet dancers who have graced this stage.
Photo-taking was not allowed and there were stern looking marms at each door keeping an eye on the crowd. Every time I whipped out my iPhone they stared like a hawk at me. I only managed to take some selfies of my daughter and her classmate sitting in front of us. And goofed around taking some selfies of me and my husband. I did snap a few of the audience and the chandeliers hanging overhead but they came out too dark.
We sat in a 4-seat box section. It felt old, and wooden and smelled of perfume from another era. Great setting to transport one’s imagination into the whole performance. At the end, the audience clapped, then clapped louder, and shouted encore! And the troupe came out again for another bow. The shouts of Bravo! were deafening and it was a dramatic experience to behold.
I should add as an afterthought, that we did enjoy a great dinner before we went to the theatre. It was at the Sadko Restaurant right across the street. We had a traditional shashlik (Russian meat on skewers) that was delicious!
The second tallest building in St. Petersburg
I discovered there is more than one church in St. Petersburg named Peter & Paul. The first one I visited is the Peter & Paul Cathedral next to the Peterhof Palace about an hour drive outside of the city limits of St. Petersburg. Although beautiful, it is more reminiscent of a country church than a grand cathedral. The second one I visited is the Peter & Paul Fortress, a multiple building complex, which contains the oldest church in St. Petersburg titled the Cathedral of the Saints Peter and Paul. This is where all the Russian Rulers are buried, including the Romanov family.
That is Some Serious Russian History!
In 2015, I visited this fortress while on a 3-week trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. As with most, if not all the cathedrals and castles and palaces I visited, I came away impressed. This time not so much with shiny gold spires but because of the reverence of the place.
Many people were lining up to enter the Grand Ducal Mausoleum to view all the tombs of Russian Royalty buried here. Peter the Great was buried here in 1715. His family members are also buried here. In 1998 the entire Romanov family remains were brought together to be entombed from the various places they had been buried before. There is also much to read along the hallway walls of each member of the Romanov family. Everything you see speaks of heavy history, of torment and tears, and sacred honor, so deep is the Russian history in this place.
Internment and Imprisonment; A Captive Russian History to See
There is a jail on the grounds. It is called the Trubetskoy Bastion Prison.
"I didn’t take photos because it was so dark and depressing"
Many notable Russian dissidents were confined here such as Maxim Gorky and Leon Trotsky. I just wanted to get through the tour and move on to somewhere outside since it was a sunny summer day. To think many of the prison cells had no windows, no natural light coming through. It’s a wonder how these prisoners survived through sheer will power alone. They weren’t treated very well but at least this history is preserved and available for public viewing.
Escape to Fresh Air Beach
Upon walking outside, I wanted to move away and find somewhere with a natural feel to it, so I spied the Neva River and walked towards it. I came upon a small strip of a rocky, sandy beach that I had to hop down to get closer. Once on this “beach” and looking back to the high walls surrounding the fortress made them seem even higher and secluded. But the sun was shining, and I found a few people who were enjoying it. People come here year-round I found out, even in winter with heavy snow on the beach, because that’s what Russians do. It’s a little stretch of privacy right up against the very close and heavily flowing Neva river with the backdrop of the fortress.
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Available on This Tour
Upon leaving the fortress, I happily discovered The Hop-On Hop-Off bus pick up station was just across the street from the entrance. This is another good reason why purchasing the Petersburg Card was handy. You can change your independent touring plans as you see fit. Luckily the wait for the next bus wasn’t long so we sat down at a snack bar and waited. I saw many more people enjoying the summer sun on the lawn that surrounds the front and sides of the fortress. There is a little river that runs around the fortress, perhaps it was used as a moat, but it didn’t seem deep. I saw fathers and their sons playing with motorized toy boats on it. There were some larger people-size boats too. I imagine in Winter it freezes over. But this was summer, and it was time to soak up some light in a dark history filled in the Peter and Paul Fortress.
Visit an Imperial Estate for Russian Royalty
At first glance upon arrival, you see the typical onion dome spires that traditionally adorn Russian churches. These were gold and shiny giving you a taste of what is to come. As you start the walk into the grounds of the majestic Peterhof Palace in Petrodverts, you can see the grandeur of how Peter the Great wanted to live in the 17th century. His dream was to recreate a Versailles Palace in his homeland. It was given the name Peterhof which in German means Peter’s Court. Even after Peter the Great died, his Palace was inhabited by other Royals, most notably the Romanov Family.
Most Majestic Sprawling Park Grounds Leave You Saying WOW!
The grandest part of this complex is its grounds covering hundreds of acres and are a sight to behold. I was there on a warm, blue sky, summer day in July 2015. I was captivated by the shiny golden statues and fountains, known as the Cascade, where people line up just to take photos beside these objets d’art. Naked gilded males, 10-feet tall or so, with nothing to cover their privates. No blushing allowed. There are even costumed characters that you can take a photo with for a nominal fee. They won’t let you take photos of them however and are quick to turn around if they spy you starting to photograph them. Nevertheless, I took these awkward photos of some of the 17th century costumed characters.
Take a look at this gallery to see these many statues and fountains:
View where the Russian Royal Children were Baptized
The Palace itself was closed on the day I was there but we did manage to go inside the Imperial Chapel where the royal children were baptized. This chapel is gilded in gold but still had a quaint, country feel to it mostly due to its petite size. It’s not exactly a big church but more like a small place of worship for a large royal family which is what it was intended for. You must put on paper shoe covers to keep the floor as clean as possible.
Stroll Along the Beautiful Tree-Lined Walk to the Sea
There is a long, but very worthwhile, walk down through the lower gardens to the edges of the complex which lead to the Gulf of Finland. A nice, cool blowing breeze kept the temperature just right even though it was a beautiful, bright warm day in summer. Hundreds of different types of trees and plants fill this area, neatly taken care of, where you can wander lost in your own thoughts admiring what it must’ve been like when the Royals lived here. Serene and peaceful is the feeling I got.
See the Sights, Eat Some Food, Go Back on a Hydrofoil
Once you reach the water’s edge you can see people standing on the rocks fishing for sturgeon. I didn’t know it was sturgeon until I saw the sign. Later when we ate dinner at the relaxing Restaurant Shtandart, I saw a couple order a very large platter of a whole sturgeon fish. They devoured it together and left only the fish head carcass. I elected to have lamb stew and we also shared communal plates of salad. We ate outside on the terrace and enjoyed the lovely ambiance amidst all the greenery and sea breeze.
Methods of Transportation to and from Peterhof
In another article I wrote about getting around the city of SPB by bus, walking, or Uber/Taxi. When in Peterhof you have the option to return to St. Petersburg by bus or hydrofoil. You can purchase a St. Petersburg Card to save money and use it for most public transportation including the hydrofoil boat. Since I arrived to Peterhof by bus which took a little over an hour, I decided to try the hydrofoil boat across the Gulf of Finland to get back to St. Petersburg. It was quite choppy but fun and only took 20 minutes.
Add this day trip to your agenda the next time you are in St. Petersburg, Russia. You won’t be disappointed. Do allow the whole day, instead of a half, so you can go at your own pace. And if after touring the grounds of the Peterhof Palace you still have some time and energy, take a walk across the street to see the Peter and Paul Cathedral. (Not to be confused with the Peter and Paul Fortress where the Romanov Family is interred.) I didn't get a chance to go inside this church but did snap a quick photo of it as its colors are in earth tones and contrasted sharply against the shiny gilded Peterhof Palace.
Russia: St. Petersburg
This was an incredible experience! Forget all the worries about Russia not being friendly to Americans! I had the pleasure of meeting a variety of friendly people many who spoke English. From Uber drivers, to my AirBnB host, to the Professors at EUSP, to just everyday people at restaurants, shops, and museums – all were polite. This made for a warm feeling on this memorable trip.
Polkovo Airport, SPB
The only negative I can mildly complain about is upon arrival at the Polkovo airport in St. Petersburg
Our luggage didn’t make it with us. we had to stand in line at a desk with heavily made-up young women who never smiled. We were required to fill out paper forms in quadruplicate! If one little mistake was found, you had to redo the whole piece of paper again. That happened twice. Another example was that no blue ink pens were accepted, just black. You had to completely itemize, from memory no less, the contents of your suitcase and attach a value to each item. After about 1 ½ hours of going through this tedious bureaucratic process we were allowed to leave the customs area. We were given a print out with vague instructions to call a number in the lost luggage department. I was so exhausted and exasperated at the same time I got the giggles. I’m sure they thought “What a crazy American!” as they threw me the side-eye from time to time.
Getting Around by Taxi & Uber
Our taxi driver was waiting for us the whole time outside customs as I was able to text our AirBnB host what was going on. (Our AirBnB host had arranged the taxi transfer) We met up with our taxi driver Sergei next to the Starbucks in the Polkovo airport. He spoke very little English but when he smiled his gold teeth showed he was eager to help us out. Sergei’s driving was a bit like Mr. Toad’s wild ride at Disneyland. I don’t know if that’s because he had to wait so long for us to leave customs and he had another job to go to, or this was just how driving is in St. Petersburg. It took me the 2 weeks to realize the latter.
Later, on other occasions to get around the city, our Uber drivers took risks I wouldn’t, but then, I had to consider the layout of the city being from the 17th century. It was never designed to hold millions of vehicles, just horse carriages. Thus, the modern-day result was that Russian drivers became very savvy about congested one-way streets and speed was essential to navigate. In other words, buckle up and hold on!
Nevsky Prospekt=Main Street
We made it to our apartment on Nevsky Prospekt. I rented it through AirBnB and found it accommodated our basic needs very nicely. The location was fantastic on the Nevsky Prospekt, which is the main boulevard through the city of St. Petersburg, Russia. Many tourist places, such as museums, shops, cafes, restaurants, etc. are within an easy walking distance. The bus is also available, but I found they run a bit slow and are very crowded. It never took more than 20 minutes to get around town and see the sights. Even McDonalds was located around the corner and at 1130pm at night was open, busy, and between my very basic Russian and the cashier’s limited English, I managed to order the equivalent of 3 Big Mac meals for the equivalent of a few dollars. Gotta love that exchange rate between Rubles and Dollars!
We came here independently, without the services of a tour operator or travel agent and managed to do so many things on our own. We even got our tourist visas independently. See my article here on that topic: How To Get A Russian Tourist Visa
More on this trip to St. Petersburg will be broken down into separate articles by places visited; Summer Garden, Hermitage Museum, Palace Square, Peter & Paul Fortress, Marble Palace, Mikhailovsky Castle, Starbucks, Peterhof, Mariinsky Theatre, Dostoevsky Museum, Pushkin, Catherine Palace, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and Faberge Museum. Stay tuned…
A must-see, not-to-be-missed adventure in New Zealand is HOBBITON
This is the movie set in New Zealand where The Hobbit trilogy and the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed. It’s located in the small town of Matamata and is about a 3-hour drive from Auckland.
I rented a car and drove to Matamata but you can take a bus out of Auckland as well.
The ride southward to Matamata is gorgeous as you pass through the countryside of green rolling hills, at highway speeds.
Once in the small town of Matamata you have to follow the signs directly to the parking lot. It’s another 16 miles to that entrance point.
Hobbiton was found in 1998 by Director Sir Peter Jackson when scouting for locations to shoot his Hobbit movie. The Alexander Farm was found and at an expansive 500-acres gave plenty of green area to work with including the many sheep and other wildlife that roam the hills.
After parking the car, we set out to have lunch in the Green Dragon Inn. Lunch was good with sandwiches and coffee. With blue skies overhead and fluffy white clouds puffing by occasionally, our tour got underway in a bus that held about 60? People.
Winding down around the narrow road we could see where we were headed to the little round Hobbit houses. It already felt like we were on a movie set even though still on the bus.
Disembarking at the actual movie set we took a 30-minute? Walking tour with a guide to explain and answer questions. It was picture-perfect weather with so many settings for photos you just had to keep taking as many as you could.
For more information on bus tours to Hobbiton click the GreatSights banner below
Blogging is not easy.
Even though you can find millions of titles on the web along the lines of "How to Blog" ad infinitum.
There is no magic formula.â
âBut there is ONE THING that needs to be addressed. And that is perseverance.
Originally, I started my travel blog in 2015. I was sitting in my daughter's apartment in Paris. I had time on my hands as she already had a busy schedule with her class schedule and school activities.
I, on the other hand, could easily explore Paris on my own.
Sometimes I did.
âBut when I was alone in the apartment I did what I like to do best. Get out my laptop and start reading. Start engaging with people on social media. Look through my photos on my iPhone and transfer them to my laptop.
BUY A DOMAIN
Thus began the thought, "well, I might as well be writing about my adventures in full blogging form" So I started researching how to buy a domain name. And I did at HostGator because they had the best deal hassle-free for me. Et Voila, Travalerie.com was born!
From there I researched which platform to use. It seemed WordPress was all the rage in the blog world.
âI found an easy travel theme to start with, though it was a bit outdated, I liked the format and the stock travel photos that came with it.
I had to write an "About Me" page. Where to begin? More importantly, in my case, how to condense?
I had already accumulated 8 years of actual work in the Travel Industry. But that was 4 decades ago!
I've done a lot since then in terms of job and career and education, but I never stopped travelling.
Which brings me to my point about perseverance. Here it is 3 years later, in 2018, and I redesigned my website changing platforms along the way to Weebly.
I changed my website not only because I wanted to keep up with travel blogging, but because I also signed up as an independent travel agency through a hosted national travel agency. What better way to get my career re-started than back in the travel industry.
LIFE IS A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION
Some would call it a mid-life career change. I just call it reinventing myself.
âI'm always open to personal growth.
As for you dear reader, I wish you success in all that you do!
Quebec? In a weekend? Isn’t that all the way up in Canada? As in some remote region far-away. Doesn’t it take just a week-end to get there? <wink>
These are questions you might be asking if you’ve never been to Quebec City and maybe only vaguely heard about it like I did until I signed up for the Women in Travel Summit (#WITS18) and found out there is a lot more to discover about Quebec City.
Women Travelers, Bloggers and Writers United in One Magical Place
The WITS18 conference was held at the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada on May 4-6, 2018. It was open to all travel bloggers, 80% who are women. It was a first-time event for me and I was eager to go and get in the know. Looking at the flight routing from Dallas to Quebec didn’t seem too difficult although my choices ended up being limited, because I fly stand-by due to my airline connection.
At first it seemed like I would be going on Air Canada changing planes in Montreal. But those flights filled up and I was left scrambling last minute (such is the life of a non-rev) So I re-booked and took the chance to get into Newark airport. There are several flights on United Express, Air Canada and others who fly into Montreal or Quebec City directly. I thought it would be easy. But once I got to Newark the United Express flight was literally cancelled last-minute due to FAA air traffic concerns. I had to hustle my next flight on Air Canada to Montreal. (Note: Montreal is also in the #QuebecRegion not to be confused with Quebec City) I made it even though visibility was less than 1 mile and we made zig-zags and circles for an extra 20 minutes en route due to the weather and air traffic congestion. (Looking at the squiggles we made on mobile flight radar was like looking at a 3-year-old’s Etch-A-Sketch drawing) Instead of taking a propeller jet on the last stretch to Quebec City, we booked a bus as it was only 3 hours away to get there. (My companion was suffering with ear problems due to pressurization) It’s important to know that Quebec City Airport is not a huge international airport, thus, the airline carriers into it are regional and usually involve prop-jets. There is also train service between Montreal and Quebec City on Canada’s VIARAIL. More about that later.
20 hours later I was finally entering Quebec City at midnight via Taxi. The night sky was clear and bright. The winding hilly road up to the Chateau made it feel like we were going somewhere special. Voila! We reached the top, not just of the entrance to the Chateau but to the WITS summit as well. We were here at last. From the moment the taxi stopped, and the darkly bearded young Canadian fellow greeted me in a lovely French way, I knew I was going to enjoy this adventure. My French speaking is limited but fortunately Canadians are bilingual French/English. No worries about communicating with the locals and much less difficult than speaking to a Parisian for the first time.
Comfort, Grace and Style
I got a room with a view, literally, of the magnificent St. Lawrence River. I can only imagine what the view must be like in Winter with everything snow-covered. I suppose I will have to go back in January to find out when the Carnaval de Quebec takes place.
Chateau Frontenac is a luxury hotel, so the comfort level is superb, beds so soft and warm. There was plenty of room to stretch out, 2 velvet chairs in front of 2 windows to gaze out upon the outside scenery, chest of drawers, bedside table with safe, writing table with chair, 2 closets, bathroom with a large, long glass shelf over the sink which gives you all the room to spread your stuff (like makeup) on and still have room to share with another person. There was a tall shower-head I might add in case you are over 6-feet tall. Oh, and lots of electrical outlets to plug-in and charge all your devices. That’s a plus. (Note: no need to bring a voltage converter or adaptor plugs as it’s the same in North America.)
The next morning, I missed the hotel breakfast, so I sauntered out to find a place the concierge recommended which was the L’Omelette restaurant (which for some reason, in my tired head, sounded like LUMLETS) but instead came upon a lovely little café called the Petite Chateau. It was literally right next to the Frontenac Chateau and we got a satisfying, hearty breakfast for a reasonable price.
Back at the hotel, the lobby was bustling with dozens of people, most I assumed, were here for the WITS conference. I spied the sign for my History & Heritage tour and introduced myself to the guide, Michel. Only a few women were present for this tour (out of 16 signed up) so we ended up with about 7. Michel took us outside to the starting point across the street and in the nearby park square. Thus, began our originally scheduled 2.5-hour tour that delved into almost 4 hours with every minute worth it! This was not our guide’s full-time job however he was quite knowledgeable and brought along a self-made binder complete with photos, charts, graphs, and tons of information.
We learned first about who the statue was outside of the Chateau, perched high above overlooking the river. This was the founder, Samuel de Champlain, of what was originally called the “New France”. Our guide said that the Canadians jokingly refer to him as their “Uncle Sam” just as Americans have a reference to an Uncle Sam too.
We learned of all the military history in the area because Quebec City’s location sits right at the narrowest part of the St. Lawrence River. The river extends 800 miles north to the Atlantic Ocean and 1,000 miles south to Duluth, Minnesota. After the French first arrived, they learned from the native Iroquois Indians that Quebec means “narrow mouth of river” (I’m loosely paraphrasing what we were told) The British however wanted to conquer the French and subsequently the 7-year-war of 1759 ensued with the British General Wolfe winning, and the French General Montcalm, losing Quebec City. There are signs of British invasion such as the plaque for the Duke of Kent who was the Father of Queen Victoria I.
I asked Michel “where were the women?” during all these years of warring over this land stronghold and he launched into the history of how Louis XIV (the Grandfather to the notable beheaded Louis) sent the “Fille de Roi” or daughters of the King, about 800 of them, some were orphans, mostly young women who would marry these soldiers and start families thereby growing the French population in Quebec City. Michel even showed us his family tree and proudly exclaimed he was related to an original Fille de Roi about 10 generations back.
Our group also learned about the importance of 2 types of Catholic Nuns who also first settled in the area; the Ursulines and the Augustines. The Ursulines were the educators and the Augustinians were known as the “wellness and health” nuns. In the Ursuline Chapel lies the Marie de L’Incarnation who was the first French Catholic Nun to help spread Catholicism in New France in the early 1600’s.
As we continued to explore Old Quebec, we sauntered into the Place-Royale area and gazed upon a fantastic beautiful mural, maybe 5 stories high as the building its on, that showcases Quebec’s history. It’s a must see with a tour guide to instantly learn who the key players are in the New France (aka Quebec) history.
Lastly, we stopped to admire the bust of Louis XIV in the Place-Royale. Near his statue is the exact spot of the oldest stones of the region right in front of the Notre Dame church. So much history to soak in just this one area of Quebec City, in both the Upper and Lower parts of the city. Yet, there was still much we hadn’t seen and would require taking a different tour. My suggestion would be to check out the tour offerings on TripAdvisor to view what is available in Quebec City.
Quebec City Old Armoury a.k.a. Manege Militaire Voltiguers de Quebec
On Friday night the WITS Women piled into the shuttle bus to take us to the opening party being held at the Armoury. Apparently, our group was there only one week after renovation due to a fire. There were no signs of fire damage. It is a huge brick building the size of a large warehouse (well, it was an armory) so it was large enough to hold 500 women attendees, a stage for the rock bands and singers and emcees and hosts, etc. As well as plenty of room for the Carnaval de Quebec characters, including Bonhomme. (He walked around and took selfies with the ladies)
In every corner were buffet tables filled with delightful treats and bites of wonderful goodness (not always sure what I was eating but it tasted great!) The Canadian Wine and specialty cocktails flowed from the bar. People were friendly, chatty, and it was great to be there with so many like-minded women entrepreneurs! Our Canadian Hosts were gracious and accommodating at arranging all that they did for us! Merci Beaucoup!