Monday, May 31, 2010

Rai Praveen Mahal, Orchha

Orchha (State: Madhya Pradesh) has an imposing fort, dating back to the 16th century. The Fort Complex contains magnificent palaces of the Bundela kings presenting a matchless spectacle of those times. (Click on the images for bigger picture)

One of such palace is Rai Praveen Mahal. This palace was built in honor of the ‘Nightingale of Orchha’, Rai Praveen. As per the legend when she had been to Emperor Akbar's court, she was lured by him to stay back in his court by denouncing her King of Orchha. But she returned back to Orchha without accepting the Emperor's offer.

Built in 1618 using circa by then Maharaja Indrajit Singh is a three-storeyed palace. The second floor is decorated with the poses and postures of Indian dance. A octagonal shaped lush garden, with shrubs and flowerbeds developed in many artistic shapes, surrounds the palace.

In the landscape beyond the palace various small temples and Betwa river can be seen.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Perky Building - SpainTravel World

travel world
spain travel world

Video Review: Katherine Kwei's Amber Switch

This is one of my favorite video reviews to date:  Katherine Kwei's Amber Switch in black.  This is from her Fall 2010 line.  It's such a clever bag (calfskin with silver hardware)!!  If you're looking for a uber-cool Fall bag, this may be the one for you.

I just had to know more about the bag so I asked Katherine Kwei if she could provide a little background on it.  And wouldn't you know it?  Kathy has a great story behind it:

"We thought of the Amber by accident.  When we received one set of our mock up samples[,] we wanted to change the knot weave so we cut it off the body of the bag.  We realized that the weave was completely intact and not falling apart when detached from the bag.  Since we always back our leathers with another leather, sometime it's tonal but often it's with a metallic, we decided to see if we could make a bag that someone could switch colours around depending on their mood or desire...So the Amber Switch was born -  where someone can change the whole look and feel of the bag with just a quick unzip and zip while you're in a cab from the office to cocktails."

The greatest things always occur by accident, right?

Here's a pix of me using the Amber Switch as a cross-body bag:

I'm not sure why I didn't lengthen the shoulder strap more (there's plenty more to lengthen) since I wouldn't mind having it sit lower, but at least you get a feel for the size of the Amber Switch.  BTW, I'm petite.  It can fit all your personal items easily (in my case, personal junk), but it won't (and shouldn't) double as your gym bag.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Headphones for Small Ears/Head

I've always had problems with finding comfortable headphones.  Earbuds tends to fall out of my ears, clip-ons fall off of my ears and behind-the-necks are too big for my head.  Since I run when I can actually get myself to the gym, ill-fitting headphones are beyond annoying and distracting...I'm constantly trying to re-position them.

I have come to the following conclusion: while my head and ear canals are not particularly small, they are most definitely smaller than those found on your average male.  This is why most headphones are too big - they're designed for the average male.

Don't get the $10 Rocket Fish/JVC headphones (the audio quality is horrible) and don't get the $40+ Sony/Bose headphones (the audio quality is great but they fall apart after daily use).  I stick with headphones in the $20 - $30 range (but don't Skullcandy, you can hear the earbuds moving around in your ear canals).

I don't need perfect audio quality but I don't want to have to turn my iPod up to the max the hear my music with cheap headphones.  And I don't want to feel the heartbreak that comes with a pair of expensive headphones falling apart (trust me, it sucks...I ended up trying to tape back together my $50 Phillips clip-on headphones).

I've tried almost every headphone out there and these two work for me:
  • Sony Sports Street-Style Headphones:  I used to buy them from Best Buy but I haven't been able to find them there, so I just bought a pair online.  These headphones are water resistant, so they work great for your workouts when you....glow (because women don't perspire/sweat, we glow).  Since they're bulky, I only use them when I'm exercising.
  • Sony Earbud EX-Style Headphones:  These earbuds are fantastic for the price!  Make sure you try on all 3 earbud sizes to find the right fit (it makes a huge difference).  These earbuds are my daily headphones...great for commuting, traveling, etc.  The sound quality is good (not great) and they don't take up much room in my purse. 50% Off InvisibleShields on 5/31

If you're anal like I am, then you like to keep your gadgets as pristine as possible.  Which is why I purchased Zagg's InvisibleShield for both my smartphone and iPad.  What is InvisibleShield?  It's that thin crystal clear film that you put on your gadgets to keep them from scratching and nicking.  (Note: Make sure you watch the installation video AND read the installation instructions before you attempt anything!!)

It's not expensive but it's not cheap either, so I recommend purchasing your Zagg products only when they're on sale (or if you have a discount code). won't be having a Memorial Day Weekend Sale, but there will be an actual Memorial Day Sale!  Take 50% off sitewide on 5/31/10 (mon) on  No code is needed but some restrictions will apply.

Travel Photo Challenge

BlogAdda has organized a ‘Travel Photos Contest’. After a long time I am seeing a contest in my area of interest - travel and photography. So I am glad to participate in this, where I have to post 5 of my best travel photographs as I see it.

The above image is of Jaisalmer Golden Fort taken during the Rajasthan tour. Built in 1156 on the Trikura Hill it is one of the oldest forts that has 99 bastions around its circumference and is protected by three walls. Why the fort is called so, is very much evident when Sun rays fall on the fort. I wanted to capture the fort shining like gold in the night when focused by light and went around the fort to get the best possible view. The shot which was taken with film SLR camera without the support of tripod when developed was truly satisfying.

The above image is of Tanjore Brhihadeeshwrar Temple taken during the Tamil Nadu tour. This Big Temple was built during the period 985 -1012 A.D. Because of its unique architectural excellence the UNESCO has declared it a World Heritage Monument. It was a pleasure to capture the gigantic temple and the big Nandi Mantappa in one frame. The size of the people around the temple gives us an idea of how huge the temple really is.

The above image is of Jog Falls taken during the Karnataka tour. The sight of river Sharavathi taking a leap from a height of 900 feet is spectacular. It is the highest waterfall in India. When we had visited the place it was the beginning of the rainy season and on the day it rained heavily with low flying clouds. It was a challenge to capture the beautiful waterfall in image because of low flying clouds blocking the view.

The above image is of Qutub Minar taken during the Delhi tour. Measuring 72.5 meters is the world's tallest brick minaret. Construction of this started in 1193 and the topmost story of the minaret was completed in 1386. It is surrounded by various medieval and ancient structures. People will love to capture this monument in various angles along with other ruins surrounding it. This image is one such attempt.

Finally the above is image of Glass House at Lalbagh Botanical Gardens in Bangalore. This beautiful garden of 40 acres is home for various rare plants. It is regarded as one of the best gardens in Eastern part of the World. The glass house when lighted in the night looks more beautiful than during the day time. The shot which was taken with film SLR camera without the support of tripod when developed was truly satisfying.

India is such a wonderful treasure of architecture, nature, and wildlife it is very difficult to choose only 5 images. Each image have their own story to tell. Truly a Picture is worth a thousand words.

Friday, May 28, 2010 Simply Sexy

It's easy to wear something flashy/sparkly for attention.  It's much harder to walk into a room wearing something non-flashy/sparkly and command attention.  It does help, however, if you're wearing one of these two simply sexy silk dresses:
  • Amanda Uprichard Palm Dress ($182) in fuschia:  This dress is perfect for that sunset rooftop party.  I'm thinking sweet Riesling would go perfect with it!
  • Aaron Ashe Rio Dress ($205) in violet:  You'll probably need to break out your double-sided tape for this very low-cut dress, but it'll be worth it!  His attentions will be completely focused on you all evening long because he'll be wondering:  Why is the dress staying put??  When do I get a sneak peek?  ;)
[Images Courtesy of]

In celebration of Memorial Day, take 25% off either dress (and all other merchandise) at with the code "MD25" (expires 5/31/10).

Martin + Osa: 50% OFF THIS WEEKEND!!

In case you're not following me on twitter (ahem, ahem), is now 50% off through 05/31/10!!!  Yes! Yes! Yes!  I've been patiently waiting for them to go higher than 30% off and that's a huge jump.  Time to stock up before they close for good.  Here's my loot from the 30% off discount: Martin + Osa: 30% Off Closing Sale.  I loved the items so much that I may get the same stuff in different colors (somthing I rarely do).

Calypso: A Comfy Chic Summer Outfit is offering 20% off your entire purchase (excluding sale and home merchandise) to kick-start your summer wardrobe with code "MEMDAY10" (expires 5/31/10).  What would my summer outfit from Calypso be?  It would be this comfy chic outfit from top to bottom: (NOTE: Prices reflect 20% discount.)
  • Small Mod Round Wash Hoops ($52) in gold vermeil from Morra Designs:
  • Circle Necklace ($192) in gold from Ginette NY:
  • Briggi Dress ($156) in asperge from Calypso:
  • Ruvuma Ring ($156) with phrenite stone from Wendy Mink:
  • Raffia Clutch ($76) in white from Hat Attack:
  • Torsade Sandals ($60) in gold from Aspiga:

[Images Courtesy of Calypso]

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bloomingdale's: Take An Addittonal 20% Off Sale Items!!

Bloomie's is having it's Big Brown Bag Sale from 05/27/10 - 05/31/10!  To make the sale even better, take an additional 20% off at with code "BIG20" or use this printable coupon for in-store purchases:  Bloomie's 20% Off Big Brown Bag Sale Items.

I'm liking Bloomie's sale selection of shoes from Dolce Vita, Loeffler Randall, Pour La Victoire and Cynthia Vincent!

Note:  The code/coupon does not work on bags that are on sale through Bloomie's Designer Handbag Sale promotion.  

City Sports: 20% Off A Regular-Priced Item

You can't put it off any need to hit the gym because swimsuit season is here!  To incentivize yourself, pick up a new pair of New Balance running shoes or a new Roxy bikini at City Sports.  Take 20% off a regular-priced item with code "NEXTJUMP20" (expires 05/31/10) on

Download and print this coupon for an in-store City Sports purchase: (expires 05/31/10)
NOTE:  There are a bunch of exclusions...Limit one coupon per customer. Not valid with any other coupon, discount, or promotion. Not valid on sale or clearance items. Not valid on select Nike (including but not limited to Nike Free, Lunar and any launch product), Jordan footwear (including all launch and release product), Babolat, UGG, Patagonia, Garmin, The North Face, Mizuno, Vibram FiveFingers, Under Armour and select ASICS. Coupon must be surrendered at time of purchase. Not valid when purchasing gift cards. Other restrictions may apply.

Loehmann's: 20% Off One Regular Priced Item Coupon

What kinds of promotion is Loehmann's offering for Memorial Day Weekend (05/27/10 - 05/31/10)?  Two 20% off coupons...each is good for one regular priced item.  They're okay discounts but with all other stores going all out this coming weekend, I expected more for Loehmann's.

In any event, if you're headed to Loehmann's this weekend, don't forget to bring them:  Loehmann's 20% Off Coupons.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Orchha Fort Complex

Orchha (State: Madhya Pradesh) has an imposing fort, dating back to the 16th century. The fort complex contains magnificent palaces of the Bundela kings presenting a matchless spectacle of those times. (Click on the images for bigger picture)

The complex has 3 palaces:

Raj Mahal - Bundela kings residential palace. a massive square building of which the exterior is almost absolutely plain.

Jehangir Mahal - a square building, but far more ornate, a singularly beautiful specimen of Hindu domestic architecture.

Rai Praveen Mahal - built in memory of the famous poetess and musician, Rai Parveen, the beautiful courtesan of Raja Indramani.

Pet Peeve: Applying Promotion Code At Checkout

I have a huge pet peeve that's related to promotions codes.  Some e-tailers are guilty of it and some are not.  My pet peeve is that certain e-tail websites force customers to go through the checkout process in order to apply a promotion code.  This has become an issue now that many e-tailers are offering discount codes with the wording "certain designer exclusions" and/or "mystery" discount codes.  Why is this such a PITA?  Let me tell you why...

Whether I ultimately purchase an item because of a promotion code obviously depends upon the designer exclusions and/or the actual discount of my mystery discount code.  Sdding an item to my cart in hopes that the promotion code is applicable is just a crappy way to shop.  But I can confirm the following: I'm MORE likely to add something to my cart if I know that it is included in the promotion code and/or the actual discount amount of the promotion code.  I'm not a fan of being disappointed.  KWIM?

Forcing me to shop and then create an account to get to the checkout page where I can apply the promotion code is annoying/irritating and more importantly, a waste of time because usually, this is what happens:  1) the designer item that I want is excluded from the discount code and 2) my mystery discount code is the lowest possible discount being offered.  It's unfortunate...but a fact of my life.

So let me be clear on this:  Going through the process of shopping and checking out in order to apply a promotion code will NOT make me more likely to purchase the items in my cart...especially if I find out that the designer item is excluded from the discount code and/or the mystery discount code results in the lowest possible discount amount.  It just serves to PMO.  When I am able to apply a promotion code upfront (i.e., pre-checkout), I'm a happier customer.  And a happier customer is a customer who purchases more items.  Hint.  Hint.

Food Therapy: Dinner at Cafe Habana!

This past Sunday, a group of us had an early dinner at Cafe Habana (17 Prince St; at the corner of Elizabeth St).  I've written about their great Cuban Sandwich for lunch (from the takeout counter next door) but this is the first time I've actually had dinner at the restaurant (the wait wasn't too bad).  And...I was not disappointed!  Yes, it was cramped (2 tiny round tables put next to each for a group of five), but it just made things cozy (I think) and the food easy to share (most definitely).

Here's what we ordered and EVERYTHING was delicious:

  • Grilled Corn Mexican Style (Appetizer 1):  The combo of chili powder, lime and cotija cheese on corn is delicious.  If you like butter on your corn, you'll love cotija cheese on it!  It's kinda like butter but creamier and butter-ier (not a word, I know).  And Cafe Habana slathers it on.  I would never use this amount of butter on a corn on the cob, but since it's cheese, it's fine by me!  (It's probably not any healthier but since I'm clueless about the fat/calorie content of cotija cheese, I can pretend its healthier.)
  • Cuban Sandwich (Appetizer 2):  We couldn't go to Cafe Habana and not get a Cuban Sandwich.  However, since we all wanted to try a dinner entree, we opted to share Cuban Sandwich as an appetizer.  It was super yummy, as usual.  The fries were surprisingly good...crispy (inside and out), salty and hot.
  • Roast Pork:  Ahhh...this is THE dish.  Big Buddha and I both ordered it.  I had my eye on something else but Big Buddha was offering only ONE measly taste of the Roast Pork; so I knew it had to be good.  (Sidenote: Yes, we cut deals about sharing our food before we order.  This way we can try more things, unless, like this particular case, someone doesn't want to share.)  Usually, he'll offer at least two bites of his dish.  If I ordered the other dish, he'd be gloating throughout dinner that his Roast Pork was better...and it would have been true.  The Roast Pork is fantastic: flavor, soft and juicy.  More surprisingly, the rice was fantastic as well!  It's perfectly flavored with...garlic/onion/oil/salt?  I'm not sure how they cook the rice but it's one of the best I've tasted.
  • Grilled Steak:  The Grilled Steak was excellent.  And for $12.50, it's a superb deal!!  The next time I have a hankering for steak, I coming back to Cafe Habana.  Plus, I'll take that rice over mashed potatoes any day.  Wait...did I really just write??  Wow.  I adore mashed potatoes...that's how good the rice is at Cafe Habana!
  • Huevos Rancheros A Caballo:  I know you can't see it, but there's a grilled steak underneath the eggs.  The Huevos Rancheros was good but it's more of a brunch dish for me than a dinner dish.
  • Baja Style Fish Tacos:  I don't really eat white fish (an allergy thing) so I didn't try this, but Foodette like it a lot.  If you're a fish taco fan, this may be the dish for you.
  • Maduros:  Ahh...sweet plantains!  No cuban meal is complete without it for me.  I love, Love, LOVE maduros!!  The sweet plantains could have been a bit softer and sweeter but it still did the trick for me.

Yamunotri Yatra 2010

Yamunotri Tour - The Ultimate Path to Salvation - Yamunotri, in the lap of the Tehri Garhwal region in Uttaranchal, is famous as the source of the river Yamuna. The river originates from the Champasar glacier near the Bandar Poonch and Shrikantha peaks. The Yamunotri temple is one of the main attractions here. Yamunotri also has a number of hot water springs and glaciers with medicinal properties.
Yamunotri Tour
The common Hindu belief says that one must thank almighty in its varied fruitful forms and this is the reason even rivers are worshipped in India. It is a sweet gesture through which devotees express their gratitude towards God for availing optimum water. At Yamunotri one of such sacred rivers River Yamuna emerges in the form of a small streamlet.
Yamunotri Tour Packages
Situated at an altitude of about 3293 meters in the Garhwal Himalayas, Yamunotri is the seat of River Goddess Yamuna. Its sanctity has been ever escalating since it was added as one of the holy destinations of Chhota Char Dham pilgrimage. Yamunotri tour is a perfect way to explore the ethereal bliss of Himalayas and to bow the river deity who resides in the sacred shrine of Yamunotri.
Yamunotri Tours
The tour to Yamunotri performed as a part of the pilgrimage is believed to be of the quality of cleansing the soul of all the sins.

The chief highlights of Yamunotri are the temple dedicated to Goddess Yamuna and the holy thermal springs of Janki Chatti. The temple constructed on the orders of Maharaja Pratap Shah is perched on the left bank of river Yamuna.
Char Dham Yatra
Hindus has elevated the river to the stature of divine mother for it has played a significant role in nurturing and developing the surrounding populations.

On your Yamunotri tour packages you will trek up to high altitudes in Himalayas to reach the holy shrine of Goddess Yamuna. Reaching the main temple is a full day's journey starting from the towns of Rishikesh, Haridwar or Dehradun and also involves a 13 kilometres of trek.
Yamunotri Tour
This trek begins at a small town of Hanuman Chatti from where a 6 kilometres of trek amidst lush valleys will take you to Janki Chatti. Keeping in mind the convenience of adult pilgrims and other disabled devotees here the services of horses, palanquin and ponies is also available for the trek.

Yamunotri Tour Packages
Setting on the trek from Hanuman Chatti to Yamunotri you will encounter natural splendour at its best.
This trek is particularly noticed for its breathtaking vistas and cascading waterfall. Two hot springs are situated at Yamunotri offering rejuvenating bath to the tired devotees at Gauri Kund. The pilgrimage is performed in between the months of May to November after Diwali festival during which the temple remains open at a stretch.
Yamunotri Tours
The devout devotees can also choose to live here at the temple at the small ashrams and guest houses for a longer stay at the temple close to divinity.

The entire trek of the Yamunotri tour is very challenging for the elevation is very high and yet the enthusiastic pilgrims manage to scale them with their sheer will and the passion that they have in their heart to see the ultimate abode of their deity.
Char Dham Yatra 2010The sacred Char Dham Yatra is believed to be a very sacred entity which should be performed by all Hindus at least once in a lifetime. The visit to Yamunotri is however, not just known for its religious reasons, but now people also visit the region to explore another façade of divinity dissolved in the tranquility and beauty of Mother Nature. 

Yamunotri Tour Packages

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Italian Oceans and Hilltowns Itinerary, Sept 13-25, 2010

OK, folks, here it is!  The long-awaited itinerary for the September tour!  Deposits to hold your spot are due Tuesday, June 8, 2010, two weeks from today.  The deposit is $500, is nonrefundable and is applied toward the total tour cost, which is 3595 Euro.  At today's incredibly favorable exchange rate, that's less than $4500.  For 11 nights with all these transfers, meals, wine, and added bonuses, this is a great deal!
Day 0 – 1 Monday - Tuesday

Depart Mon Sept 13, 2010. Fly overnight to Europe. Arrive Florence airport on Tues Sept 14. Transfer to our centrally-located Florence accommodation.

By the time we get settled in, it will be late afternoon/early evening. Tour guests can choose to either rest or wander a bit of Oltrarno and maybe head over the Ponte Vecchio to admire all the gold jewelry and medieval storefronts, before heading back to a welcome dinner. Tonight we will enjoy our “sogni d’oro,” (dreams of gold) because we are in Italy!

Day 2 (really our first full day in Italy) – Sept 15 Wednesday

Following breakfast at our hotel, we will head out this morning to enjoy this Renaissance city, strolling along the Via Calzaiuoli (street of cobblers – shoe stores galore!), and further into the city toward the Duomo and the Campanile di Giotto (Giotto’s Bell Tower). Those who dare to climb it with me get treated to a Vin Santo tonight! Free time in the afternoon to wander the street markets, shop for purses, see the replica of Michelangelo’s “David” in the Piazza della Signoria (free and fast!), or maybe explore the Santa Croce area and visit the Leather School. Dinner together tonight to talk about how thrilled we are to be in Florence!
Day 3 – Sept 16 Thursday

Following breakfast we will transfer today by train to Lucca (greater Lucca area pop. 86,000; pop. within medieval walls 8,000), and test our wits in a cab from the Lucca train station to our centrally-located B&B. It’s a quick stroll to the unique, tree-topped Torre Guinigi, which we can climb for a view over the red tiled rooftops of this walled city. Then we head to the Piazza Anfiteatro for some sightseeing and shopping. Free time in the afternoon for you to stroll atop the famed medieval walls of this proud Etruscan city and have some personal time before joining together for dinner at a wonderful Lucchese restaurant. Dinner together tonight to celebrate being in this lovely town!

Day 4 – Sept 17 -Friday

Following breakfast, we will board the train and take a day-long excursion to the Cinque Terre, a string of 5 isolated, rugged villages clinging to the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. We will search together for the best pesto, the most flavorful wine, lemon-flavored honey, local olive oil, and locally-made handicrafts in this UNESCO Natural World Heritage Park. This is a day to admire the colorful architecture, breathe deeply of the sea air, and get some exercise as we climb and descend the often-steep and always-quaint village streets. Enjoy a little wine education courtesy of your Tour Leader during dinner together before we return to our peaceful retreat in Lucca.

Day 5 – Sept 18 – Sat - Free Morning

This morning is yours to do as you please – catch up on your sleep, write some postcards, check out the local markets, do some shopping, or maybe rent a bicycle and ride on the medieval walls that encircle the town. Take some time today and just experience what it feels like to be in Italy – stop by a little bar and order yourself a caffe’ or a glass of wine. Try to order in Italian. People watch. Listen to the language. Watch Italian women walk together arm-in-arm. Just be… in Italy. Then meet your Tour Organizer at 12:30 for an excursion into the Lucchese hills for a lovely Tuscan lunch in a farmhouse and then a visit to an olive oil maker.  We will taste the locally-produced olive oil as well as some local wines before returning to Lucca about 5:30.  Tomorrow we leave Tuscany and head to Umbria! Dinner on your own tonight (your Tour Leader can make recommendations or you can find your own spot!).

Day 6 – Sept 19 - Sunday

Following breakfast, we will head to Orvieto in Umbria. Along the way our driver will drop us in “San Gimignano delle belle Torri” (San Gimignano of the beautiful towers, pop. 7100), one of the best-preserved hill towns in all of Tuscany. In fact, San Gimignano has been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site and still has 14 towers remaining from the 11th-13th centuries. We will wander the hilly streets and explore the Piazza Duomo and the Piazza della Cisterna (an ancient cistern has been in operation for over 1000 years in this piazza). Before taking off for Orvieto, Umbria, you may wish to visit the famous gelateria and perhaps try the Crema di Santa Fina (orange cream gelato flavored with vanilla bean pods), or the famous Sorbetto alla Vernaccia, another specialty flavor found only here. You may want to pick up a bottle of local Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a white wine made in this region since the Renaissance. We will then drive to Orvieto (pop. 21,000), check into our lovely centrally-located hotel, and call it a day – a great day! Settle into our Orvieto hotel and enjoy dinner at your Tour Leader’s favorite pizzeria.

Day 7 – Sept 20 Mon

Following breakfast at our hotel, we will admire the glorious façade of the Duomo before getting our admission tickets to the Orvieto sights. Enjoy the Orvieto underground with a local guide and then rejoin your Tour Leader for an escorted walk through town to the Etruscan necropolis, an ancient burial ground at the base of the tufa bluff on which this city rests. The afternoon is yours to explore a bit on your own, do some shopping (great leather masks here!) or take a short bus ride (included) to Il Pozzo di San Patrizio (St. Patrick’s Well), a mere 248 steps down a spiral staircase at the edge of town. Of course, what you descend, you must then ascend! It’s fun, really! Dinner together tonight for traditional Umbrian fare.

Day 8 – Sept 21 Tues

After breakfast at our Orvieto hotel, we will depart by private driver to transfer to Sorrento (population 16,000), the gateway to the Amalfi coast.  We will stop along the way for snacks and drinks, as this is a longer transfer (4 to 5 hrs).  Sorrento is a beautiful seaside resort town about 35 miles south of Naples, overlooking the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. We will spend 3 glorious nights in Sorrento, so unpack your bags and relax! Upon our arrival, we will check into our magnificent accommodation and then explore a bit of Sorrento together. Free time before dinner together tonight to try some specialities of the Campania region.

Day 9 – Sept 22 Wed Free Day

Today is yours to do as you please. You may wish to do nothing but sleep and walk on the beach, or shop for handmade sandals and limoncello. Or you might like to book an excursion to Pompeii. Enjoy being in this Mediterranean paradise! Lunch and dinner on your own.

Day 10 – Sept 23 Thurs

Breakfast at our accommodation or at a local cafe'.  Then we head off together by hydrofoil to explore the famous town of Positano (population 4,000), where we can disembark for some shopping and exploring along the Spiaggia Grande (large beach). Positano was the colorful hillside town full of narrow, twisty streets featured in “Under the Tuscan Sun,” when Diane Lane put on her white dress and drove to the coast in search of her Italian lover. We aren’t making a movie, but we’ll feel like we’re living a dream! After a day of exploring, we return to Sorrento to attend our cooking class!  We will be making pizza as well as a traditional Italian entree' and dessert.  We will cook and laugh and eat on the terrace by the pool!  Then it's back to our accommodation to pack our bags for our last adventure.

Day 11 – Friday Sept 24

Check out of our Sorrento accommodation and transfer to Rome.  Check into our accommodation, and prepare to carry all our luggage up numerous flights of stairs, as if there weren’t enough stairs on the Amalfi coast! We are in the heart of Rome – a perfect spot for shopping, eating, and feeling what the Eternal City is all about. Enjoy a brief walking tour of this part of Rome with an excellent local guide. We will toss our coins into the Trevi Fountain to ensure our return trip to Italy! Then we will enjoy our farewell dinner together in the vicinity of our hotel and reminisce about all we have seen, learned, and felt. We will try to cram everything we’ve bought into our luggage, and try to get some sleep tonight. Your Tour Leader knows just the place to buy quality, durable luggage if you do find yourself needing another bag for the trip home! Buona notte. (Extra nights in Rome can be arranged.)

Day 12 – Sat Sept 25

Check out by 7:30 am, private transfer to Fiumicino airport . Arrivederci, and Thank you for traveling with us! ‘Til next time... Sandal Up!! has a great selection of sandals on sale.  I found four fantastic gladiator sandals that I would wear all summer long.  They look like they would get more comfy with maybe I can replace my [fugly-ish] Birks with one of them?
  • Turn Me Loose Studded Suede Sandals ($171.50) from Joie in elephant:
  • Neve Zip Front Sandals with Studs ($113.40) from Dolce Vita in black:
  • Dalena Zipper Flat Sandals ($203) from Pour La Victoire in black:
  • Effie Huarache Flat Sandals ($96.60) from Dolce Vita in silver:  (Dolce Vita is just rocking it with the sandals this spring/summer!)
[Images Courtesy of]

September 2010 Tour Itinerary Announced! Sept 13 - 25, 2010

Come spend an amazing 11 nights with La Contadina in Italy this September.  Special tour pricing is available with savings of over 15% because we have decided to stay at some B&Bs and to utilize the Italian train system for some transfers.  These changes will keep costs lower so we can stay in Italy LONGER!  The usual La Contadina price for an 11-night itinerary is 4300 Euro, but we are able to offer this September tour package for an unbeatable 3595 Euro a savings of over 700 Euros (over $880).  At today's super favorable exchange rate, that comes to less than $4500.  When you consider what is included (below), this is an extremely good price!

What's included: 2 nights in Florence, 3 nights in Lucca (Tuscany), day excursion to the Cinque Terre, 2 nights in Orvieto (Umbria) with a stop-over in San Gimignano, 3 glorious nights in Sorrento on the Amalfi coast, a day tour of the Amalfi coast, and 1 night in Rome.  Single supplements and extra nights can be arranged at additional cost.  Also included:  all breakfasts, and 3 lunches and 9 dinners (including wine with dinner), 1 cooking class, 1 olive oil & wine tasting, services of bilingual tour leader, all transfers to/from airport and between lodgings.  Tour begins in Florence and ends in Rome.  Tour price does not include airfare, personal shopping expenses, and other things not listed in "included" above.

Channel Islands: Daylong sailings on tall ship added to summer lineup

If you’ve ever wanted to sail on a tall ship or learn how to crew on one, a double-masted schooner called the Bill of Rights will begin daylong sailings this summer to view sea lion and seal rookeries as well as the rocky beauty of Southern California’s Anacapa Island.

Island Packers, which operates service to Channel Islands National Park, will offer six-hour rides aboard the 137-foot vessel June 12, July 17, Aug. 21 and Sept. 11. On this route, the tall ship will head out from Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard to Anacapa, where passengers are likely to see pods of dolphins along the way, plus seals and sea lions with their pups on the island. The tall ship won’t land on the island, but it will sail past the spectacular Arch Rock on Anacapa’s eastern end and then to the back of the island before returning to the harbor.

Tickets cost $65 for adults and $55 for children 12 and younger; not recommended for children under age 7. Guests must bring their own food and beverages for the day. Trips will depart from Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard at 10 a.m. and return at 4 p.m.

Island Packers also offers three-hour coastal sailings aboard the Bill of Rights during the day and at sunset, including one on the Fourth of July to see fireworks over the harbor.

Contact: Island Packers, (805) 642-1393
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Monday, May 24, 2010

San Vicente de la Barquera - Un lugar con mucha historia

Cantabria - España

Este municipio encantador está muy ligado al mar, como lo demuestran sus costumbres, tradiciones y fiestas populares.

Su extraordinario valor paisajístico y ecológico pertenece en un 80% al Parque Natural de Oyambre, siendo un lugar protegido por la comunidad autónoma de Cantabria. Además de su destacado patrimonio monumental, de gran importancia histórica.

En San Vicente de la Barquera existen evidencias de poblamiento humano desde la Prehistoria, en la Edad de Bronce. Uno de los vestigios de aquella época es el yacimiento megalítico de El Barcenal.

Los cántabros orgenomescos habitaron en San Vicente de la Barquera, identificado con el Portus Vereasueca de los romanos.

El territorio fue repoblado por Alfonso I en la Alta Edad Media a finales del siglo VIII. Se construyó el castillo y la villa fue creciendo alrededor de él.

Pero es a partir de 1210, cuando Alfonso VIII les otorga fuero, el periodo de auge económico de San Vicente. Se fomentó el comercio marítimo y los derechos de pesca.

Las primeras normas de la cofradía de marineros data de 1330.

A mediados del siglo XV entró en decadencia como consecuencia de la peste y una serie de incendios.

Formó parte del Corregimiento de las Cuatro Villas de la Costa de la Mar y capital de la hermandad de las Cuatro Villas de la Mar y participó en las Juntas de Puente San Miguel, interviniendo en la formación de las Ordenanzas de la provincia de Cantabria en 1779.

En 1822 se constituyó como ayuntamiento constitucional. Formó parte del partido judicial de Comillas y a partir de 1835 tuvo partido judicial propio, aunque no abarcaba la zona de Liébana, algo que sí que ocurre en la actualidad.

San Vicente de la Barquera es una de las villas marineras más populares del Cantábrico y aúna todos los valores y atractivos de la España Verde.

El Parque Natural de Oyambre, espacio protegido desde 1988, es uno de los principales atractivos de este municipio costero, donde hay acantilados, playas (como la de Oyambre o Merón), rías (La Rabia y San Vicente de la Barquera), marismas y pequeños bosques caducifolios mixtos. Las marismas y rías tienen una gran riqueza ornitológica.

San Vicente de la Barquera tiene dos ríos, Escudo y Gardarilla.

El río Escudo nace en la sierra del Escudo de Cabuérniga. Atraviesa Valdáliga y entra en San Vicente de la Barquera formando la marisma de Rubín.

El río Gandarilla nace al sur del municipio y forma la marisma de Pompo.

Los dos ríos se unen creando la ría de San Vicente, situandose la capital municipal entre ambas rías.

Las playas de San Vicente de la Barquera son encantadoras, como la pequeña cala de la Fuente, junto a Santillán o las playas tan frecuentadas en verano: La Maza y El Tostadero.

Después está la playa de Merón, que cuenta con más de tres kilómetros y está dividida en: El Puntal, El Rosal, Merón, Bederna y Peñas Negras.

También está la playa de Oyambre.

Su gastronomía es reconocida.

El municipio tiene cinco bienes declarados de interés cultural desde: Iglesia de Santa María de los Ángeles (1931), Castillo del Rey (1985), Convento de San Luis (1992), Puebla Vieja (Conjunto histórico-1992) y Ruta Lebaniega (2007).

Iglesia de Santa María de los Ángeles, ejemplo de arquitectura gótica de Cantábria y bien de interés cultural desde 1931. Construida entre los siglos XIII y XVI sobre otra iglesia anterior. El exterior de la Iglesia tiene una gran torre fuerte, así como dos puertas románicas y en el interior tres altas bóvedas ojivales, con un retablo mayor barroco, capillas, altares y suelo de madera de roble que acoge enterramientos de la época. El sepulcro del Inquisidor Antonio del Corro es una de las piezas más importantes, considerada una de las más bellas esculturas funerarias de España.

Castillo de San Vicente de la Barquera o Castillo del Rey, BIC desde 1985. Es una antigua fortaleza que era defendida por el recinto amurallado y el puerto. Aunque su origen es remoto, la construcción se hizo a partir de 1.210, cuando Alfonso VIII condedió el fuero a la villa de San Vicente de la Barquera. Este castillo ha sufrido varias reformas a lo largo de la historia. Existe una exposición permanente sobre la historia y naturaleza del municipio, así como exposiciones temporales de gran interés artístico. Se puede visitar.

Forma parte de la Ruta Lebaniega, que enlaza el Camino de Santiago de la costa con el Camino Frandés, declarada BIC en febrero de 2007.

Santuario de la Barquera - Capilla de la Virgen de la Barquera. Fue construido en la Edad media y es una de las primeras referencias escritas conservadas del siglo XV. Según una leyenda, la Virgen de la Barquera, venerada en el interior de la capilla, llegó a este lugar en un lejano "martes de Pascua florido", a bordo de una embarcación pequeña, sin tripulación, ni remeros, ni velas, la cual durante siglos hizo el milagro de señalar la dirección del viento futuro a los marineros. La popular fiesta de La Folia se hace en recuerdo de estos sucesos, es un santuario de gran tradición.

Palacio del Corro. Es un palacio renacentista del siglo XVÏ, fue mandado construir por el Inquisidor Antonio del Corro para acoger a los enfermos mas pobres de la villa. En su fachada se pueden ver los escudos blasonados relacionados con el fundador. En la actualidad acoge la sede del Ayuntamiento de San Vicente de la Barquera.

Puente de la Maza. Es una obra muy importante de la ingeniería medieval que comenzó a construirse en piedra por el siglo XV sobre otro anterior que era de madera. En su época, llegó a tener 32 arcos y fue considerado como uno de los puentes más grandes del reino.

El Hospital de la Concepción. Fue un importante punto del Camino de Santiago en la ruta costera, contaba con numerosos hospitales y albergues para los peregrinos. Este hospital fue construido en los siglos XIV-XVI. Aquí encontraron refugio y asistencia los caminantes que utilizaban la ruta primitiva de la costa en busca del sepulcro de Santiago, los cuales en el camino hacia occidente atravesaban la muralla por la Puerta del Peregrino.

La Torre de Preboste. Es un robusto torreón que flanquea y defiende la Puerta de la Barrera o de Santander. En la Edad Media, según la tradición, fue sede del preboste, oficial real para la recaudación de impuestos. Después fue Cárcel Pública de la villa.

Convento de San Luís. Es un monasterio construido en el siglo XV bajo el patronato de la casa de Guevara y la advocación de San Luis. Se conservan parte de los muros, ábsides, bóvedas y los arcos góticos rodeados de una cuidada y espléndida vegetación. Regido por frailes franciscanos, algunos de sus árboles singulares le dan un encanto muy particular. Carlos I se hospedó en 1517, cuando llegó a España para ser coronado rey. Bien de Interés Cultural desde 1992.

Los restos de la muralla y las puertas. Esta antigua villa medieval contaba con un completo recinto fortificado, que lo constituían el castillo y la muralla que rodeaba a la vieja ciudadela alta. Actualmente se conserva la mayor parte del lienzo norte y parte del sur, con las puertas de Asturias o el Peregrino y la de La Barrera, también la Puerta del Mar, que ha sido reconstruida recientemente.

El Lazareto de Abaño. La Casa de la Orden de Lacerados Malatos de San Lázaro de Abaño. La fundación tuvo lugar en 1232, sobre un establecimiento religioso anterior, recibiendo una importante donación en tierras y bienes de todos los concejos costeros de Asturias de Santillana, sobre la base de una donación del templo, casas y tierras cedidas por Pedro Juanes doña Yllana. De este momento datan las primeras Ordenanzas. En 1358 se amplían las Ordenanzas de la Orden de Lacerados Malatos de San Lázaro con la adición de seis nuevos capítulos y, en 1400, el Arcipreste de Aguilar –en calidad de Visitador Apostólico del Obispo de Burgos- impuso unas nuevas y extensas Ordenanzas, compuestas por 23 capítulos que se mantuvieron en vigor hasta la disolución de la Orden en el s. XIX.

En la segunda mitad del siglo XVIII la fundación presentaba importantes evidencias de su cadencia, ya que alojaba como máximo a una o dos beatas laceradas, adviertiéndose con claridad la mengua de las rentas de los bienes inmuebles (fincas), propiedad de Lazareto, a pesar de su relativa cuantía. En los inicios de los siglos XIX (1828) se produjo la disolución de la Orden y a mediados de esa centuria el Ayuntamiento de San Vicente de la Barquera, propietario de las fincas y edificios tras la disolución de la Orden, procedió a su venta en 1845 para destinar los recursos obtenidos a la construcción de la primera Escuela de Instrucción Pública que funcionó en el municipio.

Su anteúltimo destino, el anterior al actual estado de abandono y ruina, fue el de fábrica artesanal de quesos. En el templo se celebró culto durante la Guerra Civil 1936-1939 y durante los primeros años cuarenta, tras el incendio de la capilla de Aabaño, aunque su final como Lazareto se produjo, como se ha dicho, a finales del siglo XIX. Los tres muros del ábside presentan evidencias de pintura. En su estado actual los plementos de la cubierta y los muros parecen haber estado revestidos de una capa de encalado que cubría toda la superficie. El muro Norte alberga la representación más interesante, que corresponde a dos barcos. Su apariencia actual presenta los cascos de dos navíos superpuestos verticalmente, uno encima de otro y claramente diferenciados desde la perspectiva de su ejecución técnica. Sus dimensiones respectivas son: 2,30 m. De proa a popa para el barco de mayores dimensiones y 1,25 m. En el casco del que tiene unas medidas menores (Láms. XV, 1-2 y XVI, 2).»

Descripción contenida en la Resolución de 1 de diciembre de 2003, por la que se incluye en el Inventario General del Patrimonio Cultural de Cantabria, como Bien Inventariado, el Lazareto de Abaño, Ayuntamiento de San Vicente de la Barquera.