Destinations
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Visiting Italy can be compared to stepping into your favorite gelato shop — everything looks so good and it can be hard to make a decision. There are so many choices, all so different, and yet all so delicious. There is something in the Gelateria, or the country of Italy, that appeals to everyone. And just like a good gelateria, Italy invites you back time and time again to try a new flavor.

For the first timer a visit to the “Big 3” is essential: Rome, Florence, and Venice. But realize that because they are the Big 3, there’s a good chance that everyone else had the same great idea. For this reason, by getting off the beaten path, even within these famous cities, you can find some hidden gems of Italy. I’ll share my thoughts on some of these hidden gems of Rome, Florence, and Venice and save the other tastes of Italy for another time.

A first timer’s visit to Rome will likely see the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica as well as the sights of Imperial Rome, but let me offer a suggestion for my favorite museum in Rome, the Museo Borghese. Nestled in the middle of the Villa Borghese, a large and beautiful city park sits the Museum Borghese, a 17th century Villa converted to a museum. The museum houses several famous and spectacular Bernini sculptures as well as an impressive collection of art including pieces by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Reubens. While the Museo Borghese is popular, the crowds are well managed with a required reservation and timed entry for all visitors. The museum is a comfortable size and the entire collection can be easily enjoyed in under two hours. It’s a pleasant break from the city and the crowds. Afterward you can reward yourself with a nice stroll or bike ride through the massive park and finish off the afternoon at the far end of the park in the Terrazza del Pincio. This Terrazza commands an impressive view of the city of Rome and the Piazza del Popolo below.

I recently had an opportunity to visit France. France has something for everyone from history, art, architecture, food, wine, chocolate, beaches and even Disneyland! The United States and France have been friends and allies for hundreds of year which is evident in the memorials and monuments that dot both countries such as our Statue of Liberty to the monuments, cemeteries and memorials in Normandy.

My recent visit to France took me from Paris to Normandy and then to the south of France. My purpose for the first week was history, art and architecture. My purpose for the second week was a Uniworld Cruise on the Rhone and Saone Rivers.

Time is too short for the many museums and monuments of the city. Prioritize and go early. I chose quality time in specific locations over trying to see everything. I did spend time at Notre Dame including hiking to the top, which commands an amazing view of Paris and listening to the bells. I spent a full day at the Louvre. In one day you cannot even walk through the entire museum,. One evening I took a tour of the Eiffel Tour and went to the summit. My guide pointed out the Paris view and 1,000 years of history as your eye travels from Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Arch de Triumph to the modern city of La Defense. I also visited The Medieval Museum to view beautiful tapestries, and St Chappelle to appreciate the stained glass windows.

It is often said that you can’t fully understand Italy until you’ve been to Sicily because it, the Mediterranean’s largest island, is a microcosm of the varying cultures that have created the Italy we know today. So to complete my knowledge of Italy, I decided to go to Sicily.

I traveled in late September and found out it is a very good time. The weather was very pleasant and the crowds minimal. I rented a car and spent 9 days traveling around the island especially looking for archaeological sites. Sicily has experienced the influences of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Spanish, German, French and Papal conquest, leaving a rich cultural pastiche. And in this pastiche is included the influence of the Arabs. A fabulous gift in my opinion.

I started my journey in Catania where I just spent one night. I did not have time to Summit Europe's highest active volcano, Mount Etna! Good reason to go back to Sicily.

I recently returned from an amazing educational experience to Tahiti. We started our journey in LA taking Air Tahiti Nui. I was not a fan of this airline. The aircraft were old, the flight attendants and staff indifferent and there was very little choice of entertainment on the 10 hour flight. They are getting new aircraft in November. We arrived late at night in Papeete and were transported to the Intercontinental. It was a beautiful property with very nice gardens, pools and beach. The food was good and they had wonderful entertainment our last night.

The next morning we departed by ferry to Moorea. The ride was about 2 hours long with beautiful views of islands and the turquoise ocean. We arrived and were transported to the Intercontinental Moorea which was around 1 hour from the pier. The Intercontinental Moorea was very nice, however I was not as impressed with the over the water bungalows since they seemed really close together and were over a lagoon. We had the beach bungalows which I enjoyed much more. We had the great opportunity of doing a dolphin experience. We swam in deep and shallow water with them and learned about the species from the marine expert. That was one of the highlights of the trip. I would definitely recommend it. They have many guests from other hotels come to do this experience. We ate at the hotel restaurant that evening and had an incredible meal.

We started our journey to the highlands of Scotland in Edinburgh and after a few stops we finally made it to Inverness one of the best spots to explore the highlands. I highly recommend eating at the Snow Goose in Inverness it is charming, Scottish, and has amazing food.

We hired a Scottish private guide who took us to see many things and told us stories of Scotland.