Wednesday, April 26, 2017

South West Road Trip Stop #1 – Viva Las Vegas!

I was never into gambling, but Las Vegas with its casinos and vibrant nightlife was always on my American West bucket list.

Bellagio Fountains

Booking the Hotel

We decided to visit Vegas during the week when usually is a bit calmer than on the weekend. Bellagio Hotel’s service was excellent, the receptionist offered us a romantic room with the view of the famous fountains.

Breakfast with a Hotel Room View


The Bellagio has a lot of dining options, including one of the best buffets in the city, featuring fresh and delicious king crab legs—well worth a short wait in a line. However, the real culinary feast we had at Lago by Julian Serrano which serves Italian cuisine in a romantic fountains setting.

The Strip’s Neon Glow

Vegas on a Budget 

Being in Vegas is like living in a mall in which everything is provided for you, as long you have money to pay for it. Even though Vegas has it all, most of the things in the Center are overpriced. If you are on a budget, I suggest doing some grocery shopping before arriving at the main strip. We stopped at a major supermarket by the airport and bought a cooler, water, ice, snacks, etc. Las Vegas hot, desert climate is not a joke, and drinks by the pool are not enough to keep you hydrated. Remember to drink enough water. Las Vegas running water is very poor quality, so if you don’t want to pay for overpriced bottled water at the hotel, bring your own water.

Wondering Around Bellagio Hotel 

Things to Do in Vegas

Las Vegas offers may shows, concerts, and outdoor experiences, but the biggest part of the Vegas experience may be wandering around its uniquely designed hotels. A night walk by the Fountains of Bellagio was my favorite part of it all. One of the best source information for things to do in Vegas is the official Las Vegas website.

Hoover Dam

Las Vegas Surrounding Areas

Las Vegas has a lot to offer, but nothing can top the landscape outside of the city. Some of the most photographed sites are located less than an hour away from the Strip, such as the Hoover Dam, standing at more than 725 feet above the Colorado River, Red Rock Canyon, and the Valley of Fire.

Friday, July 29, 2016

What You Need to Know about Niagara Falls

1. Niagara Falls Is the Largest Waterfall by Volume in North America
With 40 million gallons of water per minute gushing over a cliff that’s 180 feet high, Niagara Falls are one of the most stunning waterfalls in the world.

2. Niagara Falls is Actually Three Falls
American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls lies on the American side whereas Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the three, straddles the international border between the Ontario and New York. The Niagara River drains water from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. Niagara Falls name can also refer to the state park or one of the cities, Niagara Falls, NY in the United States or Niagara Falls, Ontario, in Canada. 

3. The Mist that Rises From the Falls Can Be Seen from Miles Away
The mist looks extraordinary, but unfortunately, it will make you wet when you move close to it. The Maid of the Mist (a boat that gets you up close to the waterfalls) and Cave of the Winds (an elevator that takes you behind Bridal Veil Falls) are must-do activities when visiting the falls. You can also consider taking Journey Behind the Falls at the brink of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, in the Table Rock Welcome Centre.That said, you will get wet while doing these activities, even though you will be given a brightly colored poncho for protection from the mist. 

If you don’t have a waterproof camera, don’t worry. You can take stunning family or landscape pictures from the Observation Tower. Admission to the tower is included with a Maid of the Mist ticket.

If you’re planning on visiting many ticketed attractions at Niagara Falls, consider getting a USA Discovery Pass.

For these who have extra dollars to spend, there is a helicopter tour available. It cost over $100 per person and last about 12 minutes, but the views are supposedly stunning.

4. The Falls are Easily Accessible from Both the US and Canadian Sides
The Niagara River marks the border between the United States and Canada. We’ve seen the falls twice, first from the US side and the Canadian side. Both times we had a great experience, but many say that the best view is from the Canadian side. It is possible to visit both sides of the Falls in one day by crossing the Niagara River via one of two bridges (the Rainbow Bridge or the Lewiston—Queenston Bridge), but passports are required.

It’s easy to get to the falls by car, but parking is limited, so be ready to pay the $10-$15/vehicle fee.

5. Every Evening the Falls are Lit in the Colours of the Rainbow
Every evening, at dusk, the falls are lit in the colors of the rainbow. You can check the schedule here: falls illumination. In addition, on the weekend nights during the summer, Niagara Falls puts on a fireworks show. If you plan on staying until late night, bring a sweater—it can get chilly there due to the mist.

6. Niagara Falls Power Plant Can Power about 3.8 Million Homes
The first major hydroelectric power plant in Niagara Falls—also the first in the world—was built in 1895 by George Westinghouse and engineering genius Nikola Tesla. You can learn more about hydroelectric power and the history of the plant by exploring the Niagara Power Project Visitors Center.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Color Trends 2016: Pantone Fashion Color Report

Pantone is a world’s leading authority on color selection in fashion and interior design. 2016 Pantone’s Spring and Fall palettes include many earthy, yet vibrant, colors that remind us of the 70s. With a couple of seasons of strong colors, trends are moving to soft and calming shades.

Factors Influencing Current Color Trends

1. The Pantone Color of the Year is “a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.” This year Pantone chose the blend of Rose Quartz (baby pink) and Serenity (baby blue) as a symbol of gender equality and gender fluidity.

2. One of the factors strongly influencing color trends in 2016 is Cuban transformation. American culture, music, and cuisine have always been influenced by Cuban immigrants and artists, but socio-economic changes that are just starting in Cuba trigger even more interest in this vibrant and colorful country that has been off-limits to Americans for over 50 years. People want to draw as much as possible from the Cuban heritage, rich with contributions from indigenous African, European, and Native American roots before the country becomes westernized. Cuba is full of spicy end exotic tones. Its capital, Havana, is literally abounding in happy and sunny colors. Perhaps the city’s landscape reflects Cuba’s multi-ethnic heritage.

3. Another factor that plays an important role in 2016 color trends is a strong need for peace and the end to ongoing armed conflicts around the world. Therefore, people are gravitating toward colors that elicit a sense of order, peace, and security. This may be why current color trends align closely with palettes of the ’70s when a peace-loving generation awaited the end of war in Vietnam.

4. One more factor that is clearly seen in current color trends is a need to reconnect with nature. We live in an era in which most of us are constantly connected to our phones and computers. People are spending increasing amounts of in front of screens, whether at work, home, or in transit, so what better way to rest our eyes than viewing the green tones of nature?

Pinks & Violets

Pink is not only the most adored color by many little girls, but it’s also a feminine color for confident personalities who are not afraid to add a little sweetness to their image. 

Brides choose not only blush pink centerpieces but some, such as Anne Hathaway, Reese Witherspoon, and Jessica Biel, decided to wear light pink dresses over classic white gowns on their wedding days.

Rose Quartz is a soft pink that in nature can be seen in the pink sky or budding flowers. This subtle Pantone version of pink mixes well with other colors. It goes well with gray shades like Lilac Gray and Sharkskin, and blues like Serenity and Limpet Shell, or navy. The Pantone blend of the year, Rose Quartz and Serenity is easy to wear but may feel overly sweet to some people.

Peach Echo is a muted yet warm and energizing orange. Ia a universal shade of peach that will complement many skin tones. 

Dusty Cedar is an elegant rose pink, that according to Pantone, is “a fall and winter version of the pink we’re used seeing in spring.” Dusty Cedar is easy to wear with rose gold jewelry, which is very trendy right now. 

Bodacious is a purple shade that according to Pantone speaks to gender fluidity. According to Urban Dictionary, the word “bodacious” was popular during the ’80s and early ’90s and is a combination of the words “bold” and “audacious.” As the name suggests, Bodacious is an impressive color for brave fashionistas. It is the most difficult color to work with in the Spring 2016 Pantone Color Report, but if used well, it can be a fashion statement.


Sharkskin, Warm Taupe, and Iced Coffee are neutrals that made into the 2016 Pantone color selection. These neutrals work well as a base for more vibrant colors because they pair well with almost any other shade. Warm Taupe is exactly what the name says, whereas Iced Coffee is a bit richer version of it. Sharkskin is a pristine gray that has a lot of application in interior design. It’s also the most masculine color from the group, so it’s going to be popular in the men’s collections. I like Sharkskin mixed with Dusty Cedar and contrasted with vibrant green and yellow accents. 

Lilac Gray is a more subtle version of Sharkskin. As the name suggests, this extraordinary shade of gray has a lot of lilac tint in it. This color is similar to Rose Quartz because it’s feminine, delicate, and conveys a sense of composure.

Interior design is moving back to its roots, and strong glosses are being replaced by muted earth colors. Grays and blues are replacing browns and beiges. A few years ago, people were buying brown sofas, tables, and vanities. Now it’s all about the gray. When introducing gray into your home decor, it’s important to remember that you need to mix it with some brighter and happier colors to avoid a dull feeling, unless that’s what you are going for. 


Airy Blue is a color I spotted a while ago in collections of top fashion designers such as Elie Saab, Reem Acra, and Zuhair Murad. Even though they have been present in couture fashion shows for a while, it took a long time for retailers to pick up this trend.

Riverside is a cool and calming, whereas Serenity is a subtle, dreamy, magical blue with a purple note sometimes seen in the sky. Maybe that’s why it evokes a sense of weightlessness.

In fashion, I like the juxtaposition of milky blues with rusty reds. Milky blues evoke a sense of space and relaxation, so I see a lot of possible application of them in interior design.

Snorkel Blue comes from the 2016 Spring Report, but I hope this color trend will not disappear after just one season. I would love to see more of this new version of navy in fall and winter collections. This striking color is relaxing and energizing at the same time. Thanks to its undertones, it’s a beautiful color for a monochromatic look. Snorkel Blue is a perfect color for a suit that is sophisticated but stands out.

Limpet Shell is a mint-aqua blue with a lot of green in it. This fresh color is nothing new because it has been present in fashion, wedding decor, and home decor trends for a few years now. Mint livens up gray interiors and our senses, so I hope that this clean color will continue to thrive.


Potter’s Clay is a rusty coppery red that is almost brown, and it’s one of my favorite fashion trends that’s already available in the chain stores. Copper and rust shades look great on people with dark hair and blue eyes. One of the easiest ways to introduce this color trend to your wardrobe is to wear it with a copper eyeshadow. Here is one that I like: Coppering.

Aurora Red falls in the same color category, with a lot of warmth but less orange.

Fiesta is a red with a yellow base. I would wear this high-energy color on my lips.

This year reds seem to be more exotic than the 2015 Pantone Color of the Year Marsala, which seems to be more grounded.

Yellows & Mustards

Buttercup is one of the sunniest and happiest yellows you can imagine. It pairs well with Serenity, as well as with gray and green shades. An easy way to introduce yellow to your home decor is to buy pillows in this lively color.

In summer, I like to wear yellows with a green and citrusy base. I absolutely adore fun, bird prints, however, they are not easy to find in the chain stores. 

Spicy Mustard has been present in the chain stores for a while now, but it’s still quite a new color fashion trend. My first encounter with this zesty color was when, as a teenager, I found a pair of my mom's flare pants from the ’70s. By then the color was outdated and old. Surprisingly, now I have a totally different feeling toward this odd yellow that suddenly appears exotic and spicy. The color that once seemed simply “unclean” now seems to be complex. Spicy Mustard makes me realize how our attitudes toward colors change in a life span and reminds me what an important role colors play in culture, society, gender, art, and literature. 


Green brings positive energy and harmony to our lives,  and it has always been my favorite color. No wonder I fell in love with Lush Meadow, the singular, yet beautiful green in the Fall 2016 Fashion Report. This vibrant green reminds me of a rain forest. However, Rain Forest by Pantone has a bit more blue in it. Lush Meadow can also be described as grassy or leafy. Green fabrics in the chain clothing stores are always in deficitdeficit—notwithstanding army green and olive. Many emerald green gowns made it to the red carpet, but the trend never quite made it to the consumer—at least not in recent years. Green shades bring life to any outfit or space. The good news is that you don’t have to paint your walls green in order to be up to date with trends; just buy a green houseplant and voila—you’ve incorporated green into your home decor.

Green Flash is a bright green that made it into the Spring 2016 Fashion Report. This spring green mixes well with white, gray, silver, and brass. According to Pantone, this color is an answer to designers calling for a touch of nature even in urban environments.


The only color I am missing in the 2016 Pantone Fashion Color Selections is white. Perhaps, because white and black are not trends, but fashion staples. No wardrobe would be complete without a white shirt. White is timeless and never goes out of style. People can get tired of strong colors, but white proved to stand the test of time, both in fashion and interior design.

Most people know their favorite colors and in which colors they look and feel good. New colors bring new energy and elicit feelings we are striving for in a given time. No wonder people change their color preferences as they grow and collect new experiences. However, people should never blindly follow color fashion trends. Colors you surround yourself with should make you feel good. If you are looking for a new jacket and blush pink is in fashion, go ahead and buy it, but only if you feel like you in it. At the same time, if you adore your old dress in a hot pink that is not trendy right now, wear it with pride if you feel good in it. Colors play an important role in our everyday lives, and the colors we pick should help us express how we feel or elicit the desired sensation. Trends come and go as culture and societies change, but only you can decide what tones capture your dreams, feelings, and thoughts.

I connect with most colors from the Pantone Spring and Fall 2016 Reports. Some colors, like green, I loved for years whereas others, like copper or mustard, I started “flirting” with quite recently. I can’t really say how much of my current color preferences have been influenced by marketing campaigns and what retailers actually offer compared to the world around me—travels, art, and culture.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Italian Wines to Try: Guest Post by Valter from Tourist by Chance

Many of you probably know Italian wine because of Chianti or Montepulciano, or even grape varieties like the Sangiovese. Holding the Italian flag high in recent years seems to be Prosecco. However, as I always tell travelers coming to Italy, there is more to this country than Rome, Florence, and Venice, and the same can be said about Italian wines.

I am neither a sommelier nor a wine connoisseur. I am a wine drinker and wine “enjoyer” (yes, I created a new word to explain my level of wine knowledge). This means I have a passion for wine, I know my tastes, I have a short list of favorites and I had put all together in a 10-week wine tasting course. Hence, I know pompous words used by the industry. Wine tasting has often been seen as a hobby for snobs and I can assure you it is not entirely the case, even though you can come across some “funny” people.

In essence, wine tasting heightens your senses, smells, and tastes you never thought you could experience from a grape! It is incredible that you can smell the aroma of peach in a white wine or vanilla in a red one. These aromas are there, and you do not need to be a snob to describe what it is you are tasting or smelling.

So throw away that “Wine for dummies” e-book, and sit down with a bottle of local wine, preferably on a rooftop garden overlooking the gulf of Naples, a B&B in Orvieto at sunset overlooking the green Umbrian countryside, or simply in your lounge room with friends. Do not let the world around you distract your wine tasting experience, be bold and risk a little more.

What is that your palate says to you? How do the aromas smell to you? Not what other people say, but what do YOU feel, taste, and smell? Wine taste is subjective, in my humble opinion, and a pleasure we all should enjoy.

Excuse the ramble on wine but it is a subject I have grown fond of. When Justyna and I decided to collaborate, I wanted to share with you MY favorite wines. I am not going to list the aromas or rules for drinking or what you should expect. This is a list of wines I am suggesting you try, see what you think of them yourself and get back to me! I would love to hear your feedback.

  • San Magno from Corte dei Papi (Cesanese Grape)
  • Ziggurat from Carapace - Tenuta Castelbuono (Sagrantino Grape)
  • Barolo from Pelassa (Nebbiolo Grape)

Cesanese del Piglio

A must-try when you are in Lazio is the Cesanese del Piglio. It’s a locally grown grape variety from the town of Anagni as well as four other surrounding towns in the comune of Frosinone.

My favorite producer in the area is Corte dei Papi. It’s a family owned winery that offers a great selection. Their San Magno is amazing with the local food of the Ciociaria and also the food of Lazio, or you can pair it with various types of cheeses. Their good all around wine is Colle Ticchio and can be enjoyed in winter and summer months.


Another red that I have thoroughly enjoyed is the Sagrantino, found in the Montefalco area of Umbria (one of my favorite regions in Italy). This grape variety has been getting some recognition lately, but the Umbrianites (Umbrians? ...not important) have been enjoying this grape since the 1600s—now that is important!

I went to the awesome Carapace winery of the Lunelli family and enjoyed their amazing collection of reds. This is one of the largest producers of wine in Italy, so it is fairly different than a small family winery like Corte de Papi. Not only is their wine delicious but their winery is incredible, too!


This may be one of the only wine varieties I came across purely by chance. I had been told of the amazing Barolo’s of this world and while I was doing some online wine shopping I came across Pelassa. Reading a bit of their history, I found a family owned winery with a pretty great website—I thought I would check this bottle of wine out.

I lucked out simply by taking a chance and not reading other people’s reviews. The meal I tried it with was a simple yet delicious plate of pappardelle with homemade bolognese sauce. Just perfect.


  • Ribolla Gialla by Forchir 
  • Ribolla Gialla by Attems

You might think, “Wow, creative this Valter, with his two wines of the same grape variety.” I particularly enjoy this white and could not choose between the two wineries.

I cannot take the credit for discovering Ribolla Gialla. This was all my ex-girlfriend who, while out to dinner one night, asked me a simple question, “Have you ever tried Ribolla Gialla before?” I said, “No, I cannot say I have” and ordered the bottle on the menu. I do not double guess such “signs,” especially when it comes to wines.

Since then, I have ventured to other whites, however, this grape variety remains my favorite. Let’s see if 2016 can change my mind on this one!

Both wineries are found in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Both also produce great wines to accompany to seafood pasta dishes through and, yes, I am going to write it, sushi! This is a recommended grape variety for lovers of white wine and seafood.

Psst, Over Here! I must be honest with you, my favorite white is a Sauvignon Blanc from Giesen Wine Estate in New Zealand but shhhhhh… don’t tell my friends.

Prosecco / Spumante (just don’t call it Champagne!):

  • Spumante by Corte dei Papi (Champenoise method) 
  • Carpene Malvolti Prosecco (Charmat method) 

So, I will start by saying that I love to eat with sparkling wine. I definitely do not see it only as an aperitif or just mixed to make your Aperol Spritz! Again, in my very humble opinion, the right spumante and prosecco must be followed by Brut/Extra Brut/Brut Nature: the drier the better.

Serve these wines with a cheese platter, a seafood dinner, a roast dinner, or dessert! In my opinion, there are no boundaries for when and where to use a Spumante or a Prosecco—as long as it is dry.

Key information on sparkling whites:

Spumante - is a simple term to for “sparkling white.”

Prosecco - producers must use 100% Glera grapes to call it Prosecco.

Champenoise method - highest quality production and most manual processes, with the secondary fermentation inside the bottle and —voilà—you get fine, elegant bubbles.

Charmat method - less expensive mass-production method where the second fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank, rather than in a bottle. More important, the wine has coarser bubbles. However, it can still taste great when it’s from a right producer.

In short, these are just my personal suggestions of Italian wines to try. Many can be also found overseas, so you can check them out before coming to Italy.

Discover Italy as a local. You will find a whole new world. Experience the real tastes of “Il Bel Paese.” I am always happy to help with any suggestions. Plenty of information can be found at www.touristbychance.com. Also, follow me on Vivino, my trusty wine app!

If you try any of my favorite wine picks, or you tried some Italian wines that you really enjoyed, comment below. If you liked this post, make sure to share it - Justyna and I will thank you for it!

PS: Wines can be delivered “corked,” so if you are not sure, ask your waiter or sommelier to taste it for you. Do not let one bad bottle ruin a wine for you. Also, remember that a certain winmight not be what you like. Be kind in your reviews, especially for family run wineries (they work really hard and with a lot of passion). Do not let your bad experience put other people off. Also, do not always go by what “the best in the biz” suggest. Like I said above,  tastes are subjective and what I like might be very different to what you like, so keep an open mind!

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Monday, February 8, 2016

My Winter Memories: Winter in Eastern Europe VS. Winter in New York

My First Winter in NY

The day, which I have remembered the most from my first winter in New York City is when I was awakened in the early morning by the sound of my mom bustling in the kitchen. When I saw her by the stove wearing a yellow apron and making crepes, I asked her why she was still home at 7:00 am (her usual bus to work took off at 6:05 am). She replied, “There are no buses or subways running due to the blizzard.” I looked through the window and I saw soft flakes coming down from the sky. All the fire escapes were covered with a fresh layer of white snow. I replied, “It’s not a blizzard, it’s just snowing.”

That day, the MTA system and all schools were closed. It was one of my favorite days in New York. Atypically, my family ate breakfast together that day, drinking hot chocolate and chatting. It was like a holiday, except no one knew it was coming.

Snow stopped falling during the night, and the next morning, social life on the streets of Queens flourished once again. I finally had a chance to meet my neighbors while we were all clearing the snow. I had been living in this place for a few years now, and never before did I have a chance to talk to them, but now we were working together helping each other. Soon, the snow turned to slush. A day after, it melted completely. On the fourth day, life in NYC returned to normal.

Winters I Remember

I grew up in Poland. For those who may wonder, Poland has four seasons: beautiful spring, hot summer, golden autumn, and winter, with the chance of snow from November till March. People never know when the first snow may come and how long it will lie. I remember winters when snowdrifts would build up over the months, and snow stood over from December to early April. Yet, a school was never canceled due to the snow. The only exception was when the class teacher would cancel advisory hour to go sledding on sacks filled with hay. Occasionally, the whole class would go for a sleigh ride that ended with a huge campfire in the woods.

Queens, New York 

As a kid, I loved playing in the snow: I would find the biggest drifts to overcome, or build a snowman and borrow (steal) my dad’s hat to put atop my snowy friend. When driving on a street with high snowdrifts on both sides of the road, I would always imagine that I was driving through a mystical maze to a magical place, a wonderland from a fairytale. 

Winter is a magical time that brings people together. During the holidays people all around the world spend time with family, preparing traditional dishes and watching movies. While all of that is great, there is another way that you can spend quality time with friends and family. The best way to really appreciate a true beauty of winter is to go out and enjoy the snow and the ice.

Ice-Fishing on Tupper Lake

I would never expect myself to enjoy ice-fishing. It was my husband’s idea to pack up and drive five hours upstate New York to spend a weekend in the coldest part of the state. My brother fishes all year long, so he has a New York State fishing license and all of the necessary equipment, including good cold weather gear to stay warm.

Ice-Fishing on Tupper Lake 

Ice-Fishing on Tupper Lake 

Ice-Fishing on Tupper Lake

On the ice, it was so freezing that taking my gloves off was painful. The ice was so thick that making a fire in the middle of a lake wasn’t a problem. Surprisingly, there was something very peaceful about being out on a frozen lake.

Campfire on The Lake 

I am not a fishing pro, and I never really enjoyed fishing in the warmer months, but I loved being out on that cold ice. For me, it wasn’t about catching a fish. It was about the crisp winter air and beautiful, snowy landscape that seemed to clear and calm my mind. These surreal circumstances allowed me to simply be and nothing else seemed to matter.

What to Wear to Stay Warm on Ice

Being on a frozen lake requires an adequate wardrobe. You can buy professional winter gear, but if you are not planning on going on some other major winter trip and you are not a frequent ice-fisher, you can avoid spending this kind of money by simply layering up.

1. First Layer
The first layer should absorb moisture easily so you will stay dry if you sweat at all. Materials like Capilene or polypropylene are often chosen by professionals, due to their ability to wick moisture away. However, speaking from experience, cotton mixed with synthetic does just fine.

2. Second Layer
The next layer should keep you warm. Fleece is an option, but nothing beats wool. If you don’t have a wool sweater in your wardrobe, substitute it with your favorite thick jumper.

3. Final Layer
The final layer should protect you from the cold wind and snow. Down jackets and ski pants are nice because they are warm, light, and usually provide a wind breaking shell on the outside. High-quality fabrics like gore-tex are waterproof but also breathe. Whatever material you choose, make sure you have a hood for extra protection from the wind.

4. Protect Your Head and Face
Thirty percent of body heat is lost through the head, so don’t forget to protect your head and face. Make sure that your hat covers your ears well. Bring a face mask and neck warmer with you, and goggles, if you have them. If you don’t, make sure to layer your scarfs. Wear a smaller, cotton shawl or bandana underneath your jacket, and wrap yourself in a bigger scarf on the outside to protect your face from the wind. Sunglasses will provide eye protection.

5. Gloves
If I were to invest in one professional piece of winter wardrobe it would be gloves. Believe me, on ice you need to protect your hands well. It’s best to wear two pairs of gloves. Thin neoprene fishing glove will not limit your ability to bait the line or remove the catch. Mitten liners will keep your hands from freezing when you are not using your hands. You can find them in most winter sports and gear stores.

6. Boots and Socks
If you plan on staying on the ice for hours you may need to invest in pack boots with special insulation. However, if your attitude toward ice-fishing is more laid-back like mine, your waterproof winter boots should do, as long you wear warm wool socks. My favorite brands of winter shoes are Timberland and Ecco.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”

Winter Fun in the Adirondacks

The Adirondack Region is located in the northern part of New York State and made up of twelve year-round destinations with mountains, valleys, and lakes. I particularly like this part of New York in the winter, since its frosty landscape reminds me of winter in the Northeast part of Poland—the place where I grew up.

Lake Placid is a destination known for high peaks wilderness, Whiteface Mountain, and winter sports—Lake Placid hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980.

Tupper Lake, well-known for its picturesque hiking, pristine lakes, and friendly atmosphere is one of the best regions for the fishermen. If you don’t have fishing experience, I would not recommend ice fishing alone. It’s best to start with someone who has already done it and knows how to identify safe ice conditions. If you don’t know anyone, don’t worry. There are a lot of options in Tupper Lake to have fun on the ice or in the snow such as skiing, cross-country skiing, sledding, hiking, and much more.

Check out Tupper Lake official website for more winter fun inspirations. Bundle up, get outside and try a new way to spend winter weekend getaway.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Rome in 5 Days - Planning Your Time in Rome

Rome is called "The Eternal City" for a reason. Once the center of the Roman Republic, then the Roman Empire, it later became the capital of the Christian world. Today’s Rome, rich in cultural, social, and economic life, remains one of the most popular destinations for tourists from all around the world. There is so much to see and do in Rome, that touring the city may feel overwhelming at times. However, Rome shouldn’t just be about going to museums, but also about walking through small streets and history. Not only the sights are beautiful, but the people are friendly, and the food is delicious. The city of Rome is a wonderful place with magnificent piazzas surrounded by inspiring architecture and art.

Piazza Trinità dei Monti

Day 1: The Most Beautiful Roman Squares

The Spanish Steps
The Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Square) is one of the best-known monuments of the Roman Baroque style. From here, the Spanish Steps descend toward the Piazza Trinità dei Monti and its magnificent church. According to the World Site Guides, the Spanish Steps have a storied history as a gathering place. The site’s beauty has always attracted artists, musicians, poets, and young women hoping to become their muses. This, in turn, drew rich businessmen and travelers who were looking for a wife or a mistress. The Steps remain to attract people from all around the World till today. Once you get here you just have to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere.

Spanish Square

Many people in the area of Spanish Steps attracts beggars.

The Trevi Fountain
The Spanish Steps are located only a short walk away from the beautiful Piazza Navona (one of the main urban spaces in the historic center of the city), featuring the Baroque Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone and three fountains, including the Trevi Fountain. This fountain is the largest in the city and is considered by many to be one of the world’s most beautiful. No wonder it was featured in movies like  La Dolce Vita and many others. Tourists are likely to believe that if they throw a coin into the fountain, they are guaranteed a return to Rome—the coins are collected every night and given to an Italian charity. What many people don’t know is that the Trevi Fountain is one of the oldest water sources in Rome.

Italian Pizza
On our first day in Rome, we had a taste for a true Italian pizza. We found what we wanted at the Berzitello Pizzeria. The restaurant offers many different meals and types of homemade pizza for both lunch and dinner. Be aware that, during the day, some restaurants sell only pizza al taglio—cooked in a regular oven and sold by the slice. This kind of pizza is great for an on-the-go snack, but if you want a real Italian pizza, you may need to wait until 7 p.m. Luckily to us, at the Berzitello Restaurant you can get tasty, crisp pizza from a wood-fired oven all day long!

Day 2: Ancient Rome

The Colosseum
You can expect a long line to enter the Colosseum even with a Roma Pass (admission from 8:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.). If you are visiting during the summer, try to be there as early as possible. There is no shade for those standing in the admissions’ line, so you want to limit wait time to a minimum. While walking through this famous amphitheater, you will be exposed to the sun for much of the time as well—how wonderful its original Roman shades would be! Yes, in ancient times the audience could enjoy shows in the shade of an enormous cloth called the velarium, that had ropes and pulleys which extended or retracted according to the position of the sun.

The Colosseum Arena

The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum—the heart of the ancient city’s public and political life—is situated near the Colosseum. It’s a large area with little shade, so summer months are far too hot to fully appreciate this beautiful place steeped in history.

The Roman Forum

Panoramic views of the Roman Forum

The Piazza Venezia and The Piazza del Campidoglio
If visiting Rome in the summer, I would suggest skipping the walk through the Roman Forum in favor of spending more time at the Piazza del Campidoglio, which offers panoramic views of the Forum. This designed by Michelangelo hilltop square is located atop Capitol Hill and near the Piazza Venezia.

The Piazza Venezia From Far Away (Image source: www.morguefile.com)

Gelateria Brasile
Gelaterie Brasile is located right on the corner of the Piazza Venezia, a place we found entirely by accident. Its homemade gelato was a pleasant, delicious surprise. We didn’t eat at the gelateria’s bar area, walking instead to the nearby Doria Pamphilj Gallery where we sat to enjoy some shade. It was the perfect refreshment after many long hours of sightseeing.

The Pantheon
Situated at the Piazza della Rotonda, the Pantheon is where an eagle seized the dead founder of Rome—Romulus—and took him into the skies to be with the gods. According to romecabs.com, this ancient temple honored pagan gods. Today, this magnificent monument serves as a Christian church and still inspires architects and artists. Due to its beauty, many couples choose the Pantheon for w wedding ceremony. 

An Affordable Restaurant near the Pantheon
Our last stop of the day was at the Cul de Sac authentic Italian Restaurant  which offers pizza, pasta, and meat and cheese platters. The air conditioning did little to cool us down, but the ravioli was delicious, and the location was convenient.

Cul de Sac

Day 3: Vatican City

The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
Nothing ruins a trip more than failing to plan and, as a result, missing a sold-out attraction. Don’t let that happen to you: If visiting the Vatican, book tickets to the Vatican Museums well ahead of time. While it is possible to buy tickets on site, doing so requires waiting in line—in the full sun—for as much as three hours. Instead, skip the queue and buy tickets online through the Official Vatican Museums website (16,00€ + 4,00€ pre-sales fee). The Vatican Museums house some of the world’s most beautiful and culturally significant art, along with unbelievably beautiful Sistine Chapel—featuring Michelangelo’s frescoes—where conclave gathering to elect popes take place.

View from the Vatican Museum Window

Sistine Chapel

A Secret Passage from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica
The main entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is through St. Peter's Square, but there is a secret passage (on the back right site) in the Sistine Chapel through which you can reach St. Peter’s Basilica without standing in line. Technically, this hidden passage is reserved only for licensed tour guides, but we didn’t have any problem using it

The Interior of St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica and the Dome Climb 
Built in the fifteenth century, St. Peter’s Basilica (free to enter) is one of the largest Renaissance-style churches in the world. The basilica contains many tombs and sculptures, including John Paul II tomb and Michelangelo's Pietà, but to me, the most fascinating feature was the giant dome overhead. The entry to the copula costs either 7€ or 5€, depending on whether you choose to avoid 221 steps with a short elevator ride or climb all 551 steps to the top. Whatever you choose, the view is well worth the effort. However, skip this attraction, if you don’t feel well in small spaces—corridor gets very narrow as you reach to the top. 

Panoramic View of Vatican Gardens Seen from the St. Peters Copula

St. Peter's Square

Day 4: Civita Di Bagnoregio

Rome is such a mesmerizing city that you could spend an entire month there and still not see everything—but don’t forget the many spectacular options outside the city. Easily reached by train are Ostia Antica, Assisi, Castel Gandolfo, and Orvieto. We rented a car at Termini Station (Rome’s central train station) and drove two hours to the less well-known Civita di Bagnoregio.


This breathtaking medieval town in central Italy is actually two separate towns. Civita lies on a hill and is accessible only by a long bridge that begins at the end of the road leading from neighboring Bagnoregio. Founded by the Etruscans in the sixth century BC, the town was then an important city connected to a network of trade routes. Civita is now considered a dying town as erosion eats away at its edges. However, the town is not abandoned. Depending on your budget, there are many hotels and restaurants from which to choose.

For more information about how to reach the Civita di Bagnoregio by public transportation, or and where to stay and eat there, please see Civita di Bagnoregio by Tourist by Chance.

In Civita, the population of cats outnumbers humans and have become something of an attraction themselves.

Stray cats, called "Free Cats," are legally protected in Italy.

An Etruscan tomb turned into a chapel in the Medieval period.

Bridge Connecting Civita and di Bagnoregio

Day 5: Rome at Night 

(Image source: www.morguefile.com)

On our last day, we walked from the Piazza Navona to the Ponte Sisto bridge and to Trastevere, a picturesque medieval area located on the West bank of the Tiber River. The central part of Trastevere is the Piazza di Santa Maria. During the day streets of Trastevere may seem depopulated. It’s best to visit here during the evening when the restaurants and bars are open. Summer nights in Rome are warm, so eating outside is a real pleasure.

Gelateria dei Gracchi
Our favorite part of Trastevere was eating delicious, fresh gelato at Gelateria dei Gracchi—the best seasonal gelato flavors I’ve ever tried.

Ponte Sisto Bridge (Image source: www.pexels.com)

The Colosseum after Dark 
Rome’s atmosphere in the moonlight is incredible. Ancient ruins look even more magical and mysterious at night. My favorite part of our evenings in Rome was walking through the Via dei Fori Imperiali Road that connects Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum. Walking in the glow of the Colosseum while listening to live music and watching street artists was a perfect way to end our trip to Rome.

Good to Know...

While there are many places to stay in Rome, it’s almost impossible to find a nice and affordable hotel in the city center. The truth is that most of the old hotels by Termini Station or near the Colosseum are low quality or overpriced. Many tourists do pay exorbitantly to stay in the ancient part of Rome, but our decision to stay elsewhere worked out well. We found a nice, spacious 4-star hotel with excellent air conditioning and friendly staff in a very good price east of the ancient city—about ten minutes by bus from Termini Station. Our room was pleasant and the bed was comfortable. The bathroom was great—and the hairdryer, incidentally, worked well, indeed!

Adjacent to the hotel is a promenade featuring many restaurants. After a long day of sightseeing, it was convenient to simply step outside for a true Italian meal. The area around the hotel may seem sketchy at first, but we felt perfectly safe there. In a way, it felt calming at the end of a day to leave the busy center of Rome with its tourist hordes and return to the quieter Pigneto and its many traditional small restaurants, markets, and shops. Once an industrial area that was home to the working class, in recent years, the neighborhood has become a trendy nightlife destination for locals, by New Yorkers called "the Williamsburg of Rome."

Tourist Pass
The Roma Pass (for 36€) gives you three full days of public transportation along with entrance to two major tourist sites of your choice. You can buy this card at most museums, historical sites, and all Tourist Information Points (TIP) located at most major train stations and tourist sites.

The Roma 48H Ticket (12,50€) is a two-day integrated ticket for public transportation only that is valid for forty-eight hours from its first use.

A great source of tourist information on Rome and Italy
My favorite source of information about Rome is Tourist by Chance. Valter reveals the secrets of Italy that can’t be found in mainstream guidebooks. Be sure to check out his The Eternal City blog post to learn about the many hidden treasures of Rome.

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