Day 1: The Road to Toronto

After having an interesting night trying to save a stray dog, 6:00 am came, and we had a date with the road. We stopped to grab a coffee, visited Michael’s mom, and then we hit the road. 

We planned to stop in Detroit for a lunch break, since that was a good midpoint. Small Batch Brewing was our destination for a pint and some grub. Once done there, we hopped over the water, and boom, we were in Canada.

As we continued through Canada, the car seemed to be getting a bit toasty. It seems our air conditioning is not quite up to par. Let’s just say Michael was not lovin it. Fortunately, we opened our windows, and aired ourselves out. Hopefully this won’t be a problem all trip. But, that’s part of travel, too, right. I think sometimes we get this notion that travel is paradise and everything is going to be perfect. Life is not perfect, and there isn’t an exception for vacation time.
When we arrived to Toronto, traffic flooded the streets we needed to go down. You see, I picked this swanky condo in the hip Queen Street West neighborhood, which is also close to Rogers Centre, the home of the Blue Jays baseball team. Wouldn’t you know it, just as we were arriving a game got out, which means thousands of fans poured into the streets. This held us back a bit, but it all worked out.

At 9pm, we had a reservation to visit a Banksy art exhibit. It was a pop up exhibit in an old warehouse curated by a former friend of Banksy. We grabbed a drink, and then headed in for our timed entrance. The exhibit showcased his work through photographs, screen prints, and even some authentic work on a cut out shutter. 

I’m not sure Banksy would have approved of fans paying to see his art, but I did appreciate seeing a chronological sequence of his work and learning more about the street artist. A quote I really liked from the exhibit was: “The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Fame is a by-product of doing something else. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.”

After walking out into the night, hunger hit us. We made our way to Korean Town to slurp up some ramen. It was soooooo good. I wish we had a ramen place at home. Feeling tired from the meal and day, we came back to the apartment for the night.

Something we’ve been seeing a lot of while driving, are country flags supporting soccer teams in the World Cup. I’m hoping we can pick a team to support, and get into the action at a bar while on the trip. Who should we root for?

Venice by Vaporetto: Rialto East

FormosaEast

Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli-Want to see what Venetian Renaissance looks like?  This marble church is considered a “jewel box.”  Pilgrims flocked to the church after the Virgin Mary performed several miracles.  Glide up the canal and hop off at this recently renovated church.

Santa Maria Formosa-One of my favorite Venice moments took place just outside this church.  It was Palm Sunday and a group of men were playing guitars in the campo.   Formosa means “shapely saint Mary.”  A vision appeared of a seductive Mary near this location.  Was it Mary, or a courtesan?  Nonetheless, a beautiful church stands in the spot of the original.

Ca’ del Sol Mask Shop-Hiding one’s identity is tempting while in Venice.  What happens in Venice stays in Venice?  Even if you aren’t visiting during Carnevale, you can get your fill of mysteriousness at this mask shop.  While I was visiting Venice, I was able to get a behind the scenes glance at how simple paper mache is turned into glamorous masks.  What style would you pick?

 

 

Venice by Vaporetto: Rialto North

Produce-337North

Rialto Bridge-The famous bridge is full of beauty and charm, until all the tourists come toppling in.  I’ve never seen a bridge so full of people.  I would avoid the shopping thrill here because it is filled with touristy shops.  The nearby Ruga can offer some deals, but the best merchants are found in other location.

Come to the bridge in the early morning or late evening.  There will still be people, but not hundreds.  I think some people have a hard time appreciating the beauty of Venice because of the crowds.  Don’t visit when they do and you will find yourself speechless that you are in a city this magnificent.

Rialto Market-If you don’t like the smell of seafood, this market may not be the best for you.  I love markets and I seek them out wherever I travel.  Food reveals a culture, and seafood is the key to unlocking the Venetian way.  If you are staying in an apartment, make sure you do some of your shopping here.  If not, stroll through the fresh produce and catch of the day to see what life is like in this corner of Italy.

Venice Post Office/German Exchange-Maybe you’ve got some postcards to mail, and if not, stroll past the previous trading grounds for German metal makers.  This dates back to the 1500s.  How many sites in the states can say that?

Strada Nuova-This street is big for Venice standards.  There are all kids of opportunities for shopping or eating.  My favorite cicchetti can be found off this major street.  Osteria al Bomba is difficult to find, but worth it in the end.  The alley that lead to the osteria was barely large enough for me and my belly.  Check out my post to learn more about this delicious stop.

Ruga Vecchia San Giovanni-If shopping is in your future, you may want to walk past the shops of the Rialto to the Ruga just past the bridge.  I’m not saying the prices will knock your socks off, but they will be more affordable than tourist city in the Rialto and San Marco.

Venice by Vaporetto: Rialto

Rialto Bridge-045Exploring Venice by vaporetto allows you to take advantage of this easy form of public transportation while seeing the majestic city from the water.  Let’s explore the sights of Rialto.  All places mentioned in this series are within one kilometer of the water bus stop.  Venice is a very walkable city, so there are many sights within reach from each stop.

This time around, I will disperse information across six days:

Monday-Map of Sights

Tuesday-Sights North of Rialto with Explanations

Wednesday-Sights East of Rialto with Explanations

Thursday-Sights South of Rialto with Explanations

Friday-Sights West of Rialto with Explanations

Saturday-Suggested Walk from Rialto

Let’s get started!

North

Rialto Bridge

Rialto Markets

Venice Post Office/German Exchange

Strada Nuova

Ruga Vecchia San Giovanni

East

Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli

Santa Maria Formosa

Ca’ del Sol Mask Shop

South

Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo

Teatro la Fenice

Gondola Parking Lot

Museo Correr

Piazza San Marco

Caffe Florian

Campanile

Museo di Palazzo Ducole

Basilica San Marco

Bridge of Sighs

West

Museo Fortuny

Like the photos you see here?  Check out more in my portfolio.

Venice of the North: Bruges

Brugge3Bruges (Brugge) is a quiet town in Northern Belgium.  It is easily accessed from Brussels, which makes it possible to visit if you are staying in Paris.  Bruges is physically possible in a day trip, but it is well worth an overnight stay or longer.

Getting to Bruges

If you are coming from Paris, you will want to take the Thalys high speed train from Paris Gare du Nord to Brussels Midi, and connect to a train that will take you to Bruges.  You should book your Thalys tickets ahead of time because you can save money.  I booked directly through their website and was able to get a deal for 44 Euros round trip.  You cannot reserve seats on the train from Brussels to Bruges, so it is easiest just to get the tickets at the station.  The journey is just under 2.5 hours and cost me under 75 Euros total.  If I would have gone through Rail Europe, I would have spent over 100 Euros.

*Tip: I received a better deal when I switched the language to Belgium/English.  Be sure to test this out if you are purchasing a ticket.

Sights in Bruges

The town itself is a sight to see.  It offers crow-stepped gables architecture lining the canals.  I highly recommend that you get lost wandering around the town.  You are surrounded by a large canal, so you can’t get too lost as long as you don’t cross over it.  I struggled to ever take a direct route to where I wanted to go, but the quiet backstreets and canals offered a view past the touristy center.  Here were my top five favorite sites:

1. Markt Square-Belfort Tower-City Hall-Although this area is touristy and a bit pricey, it is the main square in Bruges.

2. Burg-This square is the neighbor of the Markt Square.  The variety of architecture provides a unique collage of Renaissance, Baroque, and more.

3. Church of Our LadyThis church holds the only Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime.  The church is undergoing restoration, but your visit will help support their efforts.

4. Begijnhof-Stroll past the peaceful homes and courtyard for nuns and quiet visitors.

5. Canal Cruise-Seeing Bruges from the water is just as important as seeing Venice from the canals.  Float past the major sites as you glide on the water with the swans.

*This short list provides some highlights, but there is much more to see.  For more ideas about sites to visit, check out the Bruges Official Tourism Website.

Eating/Drinking in Bruges

Belgians are known for chocolate, beer, waffles, and fries (along with many other specialties).  Plan on walking around a lot to burn off all these calories.  If you order fries, don’t forget to order it the way they like them: with mayonnaise.

Staying in Bruges

I think my favorite part about Bruges was the bed and breakfast we stayed at.  It was one of the most unique, comforting places I’ve ever been to.  The husband is an architect and the wife is a retired teacher.  Their creative style creates an environment that is welcoming.  If you are looking for an affordable place to stay with lots of charm, stay at B&B Marie Rose Debruyne.  I will share more about my experience with them in a post tomorrow.

*If you like the photos you see here, check out my portfolio.

 

 

 

Transferring a Blog to WordPress.org

Blog Log_edited-3The past couple weeks I have been planning and prepping for the big switch.  For all my travel followers, this information may not be as useful as the content in the future will be.  This post is intended for my blogger friends that are thinking about making the same switch I did.

WordPress.com is a great way to start a blog.  They host it with awesome support.  There is a huge community that exposes you to other bloggers while getting your content in front of the eyes of others.  Unfortunately, there are also limitations.  See this infographic if you want to learn the difference.  I met with an SEO expert last week and he helped me realize that my current host was holding me back.

Switching from WordPress.com to a self-hosted WordPress.org site was not as painful as I imagined, but it was not perfectly smooth.  I ran across issues with figuring out where to download wordpress.org and connect it with my host.  Most of my images did not transfer even though I checked the button to include attachments.  I almost lost it yesterday when I tried to switch my WordPress.com domain to my new site.  But in the end, there will be a lot more potential with what I can do with my new and shiny blog.

If you are considering the switch, I recommend checking out these resources.  They got me through the process along with the help of my SEO expert.  You are always welcome to ask me for help (even though I can’t promise I have all the answers).

Resources

Source 1: Here is some basic, but important information from WordPress.com about switching over.

Source 2: This website shows you how to transfer your blog.  They will also transfer your site for you for free if you select a recommended host.

Source 3: Quick video tutorial that goes through how to export and import.

Source 4: If you’ve registered a domain with WordPress.com you’ll want to transfer it to a new registrar.

Source 5: I use HostGator  for my blog host.  This site helped me figure out how to apply my domain from GoDaddy to HosGator.

Source 6: After your domain has switched over, you’ll want to bring your followers along.

Source 7: There is a chance things won’t go smoothly.  I relied heavily on the forums for support.  They got me through it.

Source 8: Finally, if you are looking for some nice and easy themes, check out Elegant Themes.

Travel Journey of the Week: Cinque Terre

Vernazza is one town out of five in the Cinque Terre, Italy.The switchover to my new blog is taking place.  There is still work to be done, but I’m getting there.  Today I’m dreaming of being in a different place after all the coding and other techie things I had to do.  Let’s take a trip to the Cinque Terre in Italy for a little escape.  Here is how you can contribute:

1. Each Sunday, a place will be set as the theme (it could be a city, landmark, national park, etc.)

2. If you are familiar with the place and would like to contribute, you will write a post and title it Travel Journey of the Week: Cinque Terre.  If you’ve already written a post about the Cinque Terre, feel free to share it in the comments section!

3. Your post can be any medium that works for you; videos, photos, descriptions, itineraries, personal memories, poems, ticket stubs, etc.

4. Finally, be sure to provide a link back here so everyone can connect and share their own take on the place: http://liberatedtraveler.com/travel-journey-week/

Travel Journey of the Week: Cinque Terre

Travel Journey of the Week: Louvre

I am mixing things up this week by providing a museum as our travel journey of the week.  The Louvre is filled with an unimaginable number of masterpieces.  Let’s share what we have discovered in the former palace.  Here is how you can contribute:

1. Each Sunday, a place will be set as the theme (it could be a city, landmark, national park, etc.)

2. If you are familiar with the place and would like to contribute, you will write a post and title it Travel Journey of the Week: Louvre.  If you’ve already written a post about Louvre, feel free to share it in the comments section!

3. Your post can be any medium that works for you; videos, photos, descriptions, itineraries, personal memories, poems, ticket stubs, etc.

4. Finally, be sure to provide a link back here so everyone can connect and share their own take on the place: http://liberatedtraveler.com/2013/09/29/travel-journey-of-the-week–louvre/

Travel Journey of the Week: Louvre

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie

Stump
Tree stumps that extend for miles left from the eruption of Mount St Helens.

The weekly photo challenge is a step outside of my usual style.  Living by myself, I tend to avoid anything that is “eerie.”  In my photos, you will see places I’ve visited that have left me feeling uncomfortable.  The images themselves may not look scary, but the events that took place in them were, or there is an unknown element.  Mouse over the photos to learn more about each location.

What is your perspective?