One of the biggest things to look forward to the most when traveling to Italy is easily the food and drinks! But, there are a number of rules to keep in mind when dining and drinking in Italy. Chris Atwood with See Italy has come up with "11 Rules For Eating In Italy", but our agents have thrown in an extra couple rules ourselves 😉 *Look for See Italy’s original article that is linked at the bottom of this post*
#1. Pasta portions are individual sized.
Here in the United States, we have Americanized Italian plates to a crazy amount. Most Italian restaurants that we know, offer enormous portion sizes of their pastas that are easily big enough to share. This is NOT the case in Italy. The pasta in Italy, considered there as “Primo” is individually sized and this is not because the cook is being stingy. Italians like to stagger their meals. They eat their appetizers first, then their pasta and THEN their main entrée. By keeping their pasta dish to a smaller size, Italians hold on to their appetites long enough to full enjoy all courses without feeling too stuffed. Leaving room for plenty Tiramisu for dessert!
#2. The pizza toppings are totally different in Italy.
When ordering a Pepperoni Pizza in Italy, you will get a pizza pie covered in peppers. Why? Because pepperoni in Italy means ‘bell peppers’. Pizza originated in Italy, but again, we have Americanized the Italian Pizza to a crazy amount. For example, BBQ chicken pizza, Hawaiian pizza & yes, even the pepperoni pizza originated here in the United States. NOT Italy. The traditional pizzas found in Italy will be the Margherita (mozzarella, tomato & basil), the Marinara (which is just crust & tomato sauce), the Quattro Formaggi (white pizza with four types of cheese), and the Capricciosa (artichokes, ham, mushrooms, and black olives). So keep this in mind when going to order your favorite pizza pie in Italy!
#3. You do not need to order the whole menu.
As noted above, Italians stagger the way they eat. Enjoying the antipasta before moving on to first course (pasta/risotto/soup). The second course is either a meat or fish dish. This is why you will NEVER see a meat or fish entrée served on the same plate as your pasta. Italians consider these as two separate dishes that should be enjoyed separately, with the pasta being served before the main dish. Insider tip: Split your antipasta and then order either a pasta or an entrée. If you are STILL hungry, you can always go back for more 😉
#4. ONLY drink wine or water at a restaurant.
We come from a land with AT LEAST five drinks choices being offered on almost any menu here in the States. At many sit-down restaurants, Italians will only sip on two drinks; wine and water. The wine in Italy will be served in chilled glass bottles and will usually cost about 2 euros per bottle. The waiter will usually ask you if you want “acqua naturale” which is flat mineral water or “acqua frizzante” which is fizzy mineral water also known as sparkling water. Do not ask for tap water, most restaurants will refuse to serve that to you. House wines can be ordered by the liter and are usually the same price as the water! Most will offer wine by the bottle also.
#5. Oil & vinegar are the only salad dressings offered.
“Italian dressing” in Italy does not exist. That salad dressing was (yes, you guessed it) Americanized as well! When ordering a salad in Italy, the waiter will bring extra virgin olive oil and vinegar to the table or “olio e aceto”. This is the only way Italians eat insalata. Another fun fact! Italians will absolutely not dip their bread into olive oil and balsamic.
#6. No bread before pasta!
With foods like pizza, pasta and focaccia most think that Italians eat nothing BUT carbs. This is actually not the case. When ordering pasta, Italians would never consider eating their bread before their bucatini. The bread that is served at restaurants is used to scoop up the leftover pasta sauce onto your plate and ONLY when you are finished consuming the pasta.
#7. There are no such things as “doggy bags” to bring leftovers with you.
Italians love fresh, homemade meals. They do not appreciate leftovers the way we do here in the states. You must be careful not to over order while dining in Italy. The pasta that is left on your plate will be taken away and not returned back to you. So, enjoy the food that is in front of you while you can but do not expect to take it home with you.
#8. Some dishes will not exist in all of Italy.
Rome is world famous for Carbonara. Florence is known for its Fagioli and Venetians go crazy for their risotto. Wherever you travel in Italy, each region will provide you their own flavors. So the food you enjoy in Rome will not necessarily resemble what you enjoy in Sorrento. Insider tip: before heading to Italy, do some research as to the local specialties in each of the places that you will be staying.
#9. Cheese does not always go on your dish.
It is not customary to ask for grated cheese on top of your dish. Sprinkling grated cheese on pasta dishes and Italian entrees is yet again a very American thing to do. Unless your waiter offers you a spoonful of grated cheese, do not ask for it. It is not meant to be on that dish or it will be offered after it is served.
#10. Enjoy a caffe or digestive after dinner.
Only foreigners will order a cappuccino with or after dinner in Italy. Italians would much rather order a caffe or macchiato after savoring a full, slow meal. Cappuccino’s are filled with milk and cream and is considered much too heavy after consuming a bunch of carbs. It is also very common to order a caffe corretto after dining, which is a shot of espresso spiked with liqueur. Insider tip: NEVER pass up on dessert while in Italy.
#11. Ask for your bill, when YOU want it.
Here in the States, we are so accustomed to the waiter bringing us our check when we are finished dining. This is not the case in Italy. The waiters in Italy want you to sit and enjoy your meal and do not want to hurry you out the door. Instead, they will wait for you to ask for the bill (which you can simply do so by flagging them down and requesting the “il conto” when you are ready to pay because they do not want to rush you out the door.
#12. Peel your fruits and vegetables.
Italians do not consume fruits and vegetables with the skin on them. They will always peel the skin off first. Many think that this is because Italians think the pesticides are unhealthy but most will say that this is because of tradition. If you start to bite into a fruit that still has the skin on it, you will most likely have the fruit ripped from your hand and the skin cut off for you by a local. Don’t get embarrassed this way 😉
#13. Arrive late to any dinner party or dining event.
It is considered rude in Italy to arrive early or on time to a dinner event. Italians will always try and arrive just a tad after the planned time as to not rush the host or chef.
Below you can find pictures shared by Travel Consultant Julie Skrainka, who travelled to Sorrento back in May. She & her husband, Alan spent an evening at their Agriturismo making pizzas with their host Natalia, her mother-in-law and her husband Luigi. Once Julie & her husband were finished creating their pizza masterpieces, Luigi then baked them in their own beautiful wood-fired oven.
Read more of See Italy’s article, written by Chris Atwood here
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This summer I went on a 4 night Jamaica getaway to Secrets Wild Orchid with my friend Libby.
Secrets Wild Orchid shares their property with Secrets St. James. Each resort has their own set of rooms and their own main pool areas but they share the restaurants and the entertainment. You have access to both properties!
There is also a Preferred Club room section at each resort which offers an additional exclusive pool area and some extra amenities. With Preferred Club room status you also have access to the Breathless resort nearby.
I really enjoyed the nightly entertainment at Secrets and the fun activities at the pool. There was always something going on for us to take part in, especially in the evenings. We met a great group of people who we quickly became friends with!! Couldn't complain about the delicious drinks either!
Contact Stacey at (314) 439-5700 Ext. 128 or send her an email to
begin planning an amazing Jamaican vacation with Secrets!
This trip of a lifetime began when my aunt and uncle came to me for help planning their cruise to Alaska. As we got further into the planning process, my cousin and I decided to book our own room and tag along!
We started our trip by flying into Vancouver two days before our cruise was scheduled to depart. We stayed at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel which was in a great location for exploring the city. To see some of the beautiful scenery in the surrounding area, we booked a small group tour with a local guide. He took us North to Squamish, where we were able to see Shannon Falls, the Sea to Sky Gondola, and the famous suspension bridges.
Our first full day on the ship was a day at sea. We decided to hangout on the top deck and enjoy the sunny weather while keeping an eye out for whales and dolphins. That evening we cruised through the inside passage, and the crew opened up the bow of the ship so we could all get a great view as we sailed forward! We then went to dinner in the main dining room and got a table next to a window to continue enjoying the passing scenery.
The first port we visited was Ketchikan, where we booked an excursion to go sea kayaking. Ketchikan is known for being the rainiest city in Alaska, and even though there was a light rain falling when we started our tour, the guides were prepared with rain gear that kept us completely dry as we paddled through the peaceful coves! After our kayaking adventure, we walked through the famous Creek Street. The sun came out and we had perfect weather as we did some shopping and sampled local beers. We then returned to the ship and spotted lots of eagles as we sailed on to our next port!
Our next stop was Juneau, Alaska’s capitol city. We started or day by visiting the famous Mendenhall Glacier. We took a leisurely hike down to the lake for a closer view of the glacier and Nugget Falls.
Our next adventure in Juneau was an excursion that I had been looking forward to for months. We had decided to splurge and book a helicopter tour to a dogsled camp on top of a glacier, and it was definitely worth it! The helicopter ride took about 15 minutes each way, and the views from the sky were stunning. When we landed at the dogsled camp, the workers there gave us an insight to their way of life and let us meet some of their sled dogs. (As an animal lover, I was in heaven!) They hooked up a sled and we took off on a ride around the snow-covered glacier. I was happy to see how much the dogs loved running through the snow, and we could see that they were well taken care of by their handlers. This tour was very well done and was a highlight of the trip!
Our next port was Skagway, which is known for the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. We had planned to take the famous train excursion, but there was a landslide the night before and the railroad was closed for repairs. Instead, we took a bus tour up the Klondike Highway (which runs parallel to the train route) and had a great time! Our local driver made multiple stops for us to get out and take pictures of the beautiful scenery, and we spotted a family of bears hanging out right next to the highway.
We spent the rest of the day hiking a local trail, sampling the local breweries, and walking around the historic town before heading back to the ship.
When we arrived in Seward, we were sad to leave the ship, but excited to head up to Denali! We boarded a motor coach and began the drive North. We were able to stop at Potter Marsh for some free time and wildlife watching, and then we continued our drive. As we approached the park, our driver stopped at a scenic viewing point and we got our first look at the massive Denali Mountain! We then arrived at the impressive McKinley Chalet, which would be our home for the next 3 nights.
Because we booked a Triple Denali tour, we had another day in the park to do whatever we wanted! We decided to go whitewater rafting, and even though the water was freezing, our wetsuits kept us warm and dry. Our experienced guide told us fun stories about his life in Alaska and kept us safe as we paddled through the rapids. After our exciting rafting tour, we took a relaxing hike that followed a river and led us to a scenic mountainside with a whole family of caribou.
After our adventure in Denali, we boarded the McKinley Explorer for our scenic train ride back to Anchorage. The dome windows gave us great visibility as we traveled through the mountains. There were lots of food and drink options available onboard and we had a guide that gave us information about the areas we were passing through. This was a fun and comfortable way to make the 8-hour journey!
We had one night in Anchorage, and then our flight home was late the next day. We had lots of fun walking around town, shopping, and trying out more local breweries! I was glad that we had free time to explore this unique town before heading back to reality.
Overall, this was an amazing vacation! Holland America did a fantastic job of helping us experience Alaska by land and sea. The transition from the ship to Denali was seamless and very well organized. Each employee we met was so kind and helpful, and I would highly recommend Holland America for anyone who wants to visit Alaska. Many people consider this a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but we enjoyed it so much that I know I’ll be back again someday!
Contact Maggie at 314-439-5700 ext. 120 or send her an email to begin planning your Alaska adventure.
Just because you're pregnant this doesn't mean you have to sit at home for the next 9 months waiting for your child to be born. Now is a great time for you to get out there and travel because once that baby comes, traveling will be put on hold for a while (still trying to figure out how I'm going to cope with this reality!). With that being said, there are some challenges and joys while traveling that I experienced first-hand and here are some tips that I put together to help you as you make your travel arrangements.
#1 - Get Maternity Leggings ASAP
Whether you choose to fly, drive, walk, run, or lay down you will want to be comfortable at all times, or as much as your growing baby will allow you. The best possible thing to wear is maternity leggings, and I bought about five pairs from Motherhood Maternity before starting my travels. Depending on the color and design they cost anywhere from $15 - $20 a piece (gotta love the cost of maternity clothes!). They have definitely been a lifesaver and I take them everywhere!
#2 - Combat Swollen Feet
If your feet don't swell while you travel then consider yourself VERY lucky. This is probably the most difficult thing I've had to deal with while traveling. If you're in a car or plane for long hours without moving those little piggies just get bigger and bigger and it can become extremely uncomfortable. Try elevating your feet as much as possible and be sure to get a pair of compression socks (aka the most attractive things you will ever wear). I purchased mine at Walgreens for about $7. If your spouse or a very considerate friend is traveling with you and they are willing to rub your feet, definitely take advantage of that as well!
#3 - Ask for Non-Alcoholic Equivalent Drinks
One of my favorite things about traveling is tasting that area's local craft beers and cocktails. In the pregnancy world, you're often left to try that region's finest Coca-Cola or aqua products instead. However, any time I found myself at a brewery or restaurant I always asked if they had any NA (non-alchoholic) beers/root beers or if they could make a virgin Piña Coloda or Strawberry Daiquiri. Just because you're pregnant that doesn't mean you can't still have something similar to the alcohol you're used to drinking. It also helps to make you not feel so left out when you're with a group of people who get to enjoy the real thing.
#4 - Take Your Maternity Pillow
First off, if you don't have a maternity pillow go out and get one now! Unfortunately they are not cheap though, I got mine for $100 at Destination Maternity but it was $100 well spent. Sleep is so important during pregnancy so why sacrifice your quality of sleep while traveling just because it's a bulky item? Obviously if you're flying this probably isn't the most user-friendly carry-on item, but on a road trip, cram that sucker in the trunk and get a good night's sleep when you check in to your hotel. You, and your growing belly, will thank you for it.
#5 - Go on a Babymoon
Babymoon? What's that? Essentially it's your last vacation before the baby is born. This is your time to be with your spouse or partner while traveling before you have to lug around Pack n Play's, strollers and diaper bags. Take the time to reflect on this exciting time in your life as a couple and enjoy the wonders of traveling before you have a new travel partner with you. My husband and I went to Gulf Shores to relax on the beach for a few days and I would highly recommend it. Pregnancy is exhausting at all hours of the day, so getting to just sit on the beach and float in the water to relieve belly weight and back pain was the perfect thing.
#6 - Talk With Your Doctor
One final piece of advice, always talk with your doctor before making your travel arrangements. Depending on how your pregnancy has been going, they may give you a cut off at how many weeks you're allowed to travel, how far you can travel, or they may give you specific restrictions. For example, my doctor has advised me not to swim at Lake of the Ozarks. Although I've swam in this lake my entire life, it is filled with bacteria that can be dangerous to the baby, so until I give birth I just have to hang out on the dock and stare at the water. I have been told other lakes, pools and the ocean are safe to swim in, however had I not said anything to my doctor I never would've realized I could've put my baby at risk.
Your consultant at Brentwood Travel will be up to date on all of the latest regulations and amenities the airlines, tour operators, hotels and cruise lines may have for pregnant women, plus the areas that could be infected with Zika. No need to go in on your own without being fully informed!
To book your Babymoon, contact the Brentwood Travel team today at
314-439-5700 or send us an email!
This past July, my family and I traveled to one of my favorite places…Negril, Jamaica! This is the 3rd visit for me (check out my review of Couples Swept Away) and the 15th time for my boyfriend Scott. The biggest change for this trip was that we brought our three kiddos along for an adventure to this magical island. During these seven days, our blended family had a chance to come together to form stronger bonds and create amazing memories.
When beginning to plan, we really wanted to find a resort that would cater to a wide range of ages and interests between the five of us. My 7-year old daughter Grace lives to swim. Scott’s 16-year son Simon was interested in doing some water sports. Scott’s other son Oliver was going to celebrate turning 10 and wanted a unique experience to mark the occasion. And Scott and I wanted a place where we could have some time together but knew that the kiddos would be safe. Luckily we had stayed at the all-inclusive Hotel Riu Palace Tropical Bay in the past and it was the perfect choice for our diverse needs.
We booked our trip through Apple Vacations which included a charter flight from St. Louis to Montego Bay. Early on Saturday, July 7th we boarded our plan for a direct flight and landed around 12:30pm. We also made the very smart choice of selecting Club Mobay. This is a fast track service and is something we highly recommend whether traveling with your family or just as a couple. We were greeted by a representative with a warm smile and began out next steps through immigration and customs. At one point a very important customs form was torn and luckily for us, our representative caught it in advance. She completed a new one for us before we even got in line. If not for her, our form would not have been accepted and it could have caused a great delay.
Our next step was to board a bus and begin our journey to Negril which is located about 1.5 hours away from the airport. Along the way, I enjoyed watching Grace get her first taste of the scenery as it passed by our window. I could tell each time she saw the beautiful blue Caribbean Sea, her eyes would light up. She was ready to experience all that Jamaica had to offer!
At our resort, we were upgraded to a Junior Suite Oceanfront Connection room. This gave us the option of two rooms that shared a hall way which was a perfect option for us. It gave Scott and I a place to ourselves while our kiddos had their own room with a seperate bathroom (a MUST for a beach vacation). Once we unpacked and got settled in, the ocean was calling our name for an evening of playing in the waves.
The next few days we were able to check off a lot of To Do items from our list. For Grace, that included getting her daily fruit punch from the swim up bar which made her feel very VIP! She also enjoyed all the extra attention she received from the staff, especially an afternoon of making beaded bracelets under the shade of a palm tree.
Simon enjoyed a morning of snorkling along the reef. This optional excursion included a ride on a beautiful catamaran and the opporutnity of diving in two different areas. One spot even had a anchor and cannon from a pirate ship to explore! And for more adventure on the water Scott, Simon, and Grace took out kayaks which were complimentary at the resort for some sightseeing along the bay.
Oliver got his wish of something truly unique with a glass bottom boat ride. We were instructed in advance to bring along bread and bananas to feed the fish which quickly became a food frenzy! He also enjoyed living the life with loungers located directly in the pool. These were the perfect spot to watch the daily pool activities which included everything from games, to dance competitions, and even an amazing synchronize swimming performance!
For Scott and I, it was all about being with the kiddos and having time to relax and really enjoy the moments. Food options were plentiful and easy with the buffets that were available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. After the kiddos had a full meal and safely in their room, Scott and I took time to enjoy the specialty restaurants located at the resort. The Italian themed restaurant was cute and served delicious lasagna while the Steak House had a beautiful view and my filet was cooked perfectly! After dinner, we would usually find ourselves in the martini bar to try some new cocktails or take in one of the evening shows such as the beach party complete with fire dancers.
The Hotel Riu Palace Tropical Bay is truly a beautiful property. The decor is bright and colorful and I love the view out the open air lobby straight towards the ocean. Beach access is easy and we always found plenty of lounge chairs and tables for our gear. The resort is centrally located along Bloody Bay (named after a particularly fierce pirate battle) and offers amazing vantage points to soak in the views, especially the picturesque sunsets!
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One of the biggest destination's on my grandmother's bucket list has always been to see Mount Rushmore in person, so this year we decided to let her check this off her list (and mine!) and finally make a trip up to South Dakota. I also wanted to see this destination however I was not prepared for how gorgeous the surrounding area would be. I expected it to be similar to the Midwest - flat farmlands with just one random mountain for the monument. As we started the 14-hour drive my perception quickly changed because it was absolutely breathtaking! On our itinerary we visited Badlands National Park, Devils Tower in Wyoming, Spearfish Canyon, Black Hills National Forest and Mount Rushmore.
Once we finished our drive through the National Park we headed up to Wyoming to see the first ever National monument Devils Tower (as seen in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"). It was such a unique thing to see in person. The surrounding landscapes were large rolling hills with a few small mountains and then all of a sudden there's this tall figure! We took the drive up to the top and then walked around the base of the Tower. Experienced rock climbers are able to climb up to the top but that was a hard pass for me!
On our second day we drove through several areas before making our way to Mount Rushmore. We took the scenic route to Keystone (where Mount Rushmore is located) and we started north and made our way south thru Spearfish Canyon and Black Hills National Forest. Even though it adds about an hour and a half on to your commute it's absolutely worth it! While driving through this area I felt like I was in Colorado with the winding roads, tall pine trees and rapid rivers off to the side of the road. One of the most breathtaking parts was seeing Bridal Veil Falls just right off the side of the road. We pulled over for a quick photo op and to take in its beauty.
When we finally reached the small tourist town of Keystone we decided to go for a unique lunch opportunity instead of just dining in a regular restaurant. Instead we went to Rushmore Tramway Adventures and took a chairlift to Mountaintop Grill for a scenic view of Mount Rushmore! I was terrified to be on the chairlift on the way up and down, but it was totally worth it to have a view of Mount Rushmore for a simple lunch of burgers, fries and sodas.
With a full belly and being very thankful to be on flat land we finally made our way to our final destination - Mount Rushmore! It seemed so surreal to stand at the base and look up and this incredible piece of artwork. I couldn't help but just stare at it and think "wow!". It also was a great feeling to know my grandmother was finally able to check this off her list and to share the moment with my family.
My husband Alan and I are fortunate to have been to Italy a couple of times and I could go back over and over again. We had seen Rome, Florence, Venice, Pisa, Lake Como, Milan, Siena and San Gimignano. I asked Stephanie Turner, President of Brentwood Travel, if she could go back to Italy and had to pick one town to stay in for a week, where would she choose to go? Without missing a beat, she replied “Sorrento”! Little did I know that within the next couple of days I would be booking our trip to this dazzling place.
Sunday, May 13, 2018
We arrived in Naples, Italy around noon after layovers in Minneapolis and Paris. Our luggage arrived with us which always makes me happy. I arranged to have a driver waiting in the arrivals hall. To me there are few things more stressful than showing up in a foreign country after a long overnight journey and not knowing which taxi to trust. He called the hotel to let them know we were on our way and after a fairly short ride we arrived at Hotel Correra 241.
The hotel is located is in the heart of the city so it doesn’t take us long to find a big city square, a couple of churches, and an outdoor café where we sit to enjoy our lunch. We spent a couple of hours wandering around the National Archeological Museum. The main focus here is some of the best pieces from the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The two cities were buried in ash or debris when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. Many of the pieces here were discovered when Pompeii was excavated in the late 1700’s.
We met up with our tour guide, Elisa, and the rest of the group for a meeting on the hotel patio. We took a short walk around the city, past the Archaeological Museum, before stopping at a nice little place for dinner.
Monday, May 14
Today we headed for Pompeii. After a quick lunch we met up with our official guide for Pompeii. Lino. He is very knowledgeable and told some great stories that helped bring the city to life for us. Pompeii is located about 6 km from Mt Vesuvius. They said that the wind carried ash to Pompeii for days. Not everyone escaped. They estimate the population at the time to have been 6,000-20,000 people. About 2,000 people died. When they were excavating, they discovered food still on tables left behind as people tried to run.
We then made our way to Sorrento which is only about one hour away. We arrived at the Agriturismo di Vigliano – our home for the next 5 days. We were met by the son of our host family, Luigi and his sister Valentina. This place is beautiful! Lemon trees in every direction. The original house was built in the 16th century and has been passed down from generation to generation and remains within the family. All of the rooms are different. There are a few little cottages (Alan and I stayed in one of them) and there are rooms in the house. We took a few minutes to get settled and then met in the dining room for dinner. The family will make our breakfasts and dinners each day.
Our tour guide, Elisa is great. She has meals with us, has fun stories to tell about the places we are seeing, and keeps us organized. She brought a deck of cards with questions for everyone to answer to get everyone talking after dinner (If you could be a Disney character, which one would you be? If you could only choose one, health or love, which one would you choose?) Of course the night isn’t over until we have one last glass of wine and a limoncello (made by the family).
Tuesday, May 15
After breakfast, we were taken on a tour of the farm. They have one cow (which Luigi milks twice each day), 3 pigs, chickens (for the eggs), rabbits, several cats and a dog named Lucky. Valentina showed us how to make cheese from the cow’s milk (of course she makes it look so easy). Luigi showed us how to make limoncello. They made a “light” lunch consisting of homemade cheeses, salami, pasta with light tomato sauce. Valentina serenaded us on the violin while we ate. Perfecto!
The group went into Sorrento for a tour of the town. It has been raining off and on so we grabbed our umbrellas. Elisa took us to David’s Gelateria for a gelato making class. He makes all kinds of crazy flavors (chefs from local restaurants will ask him to make flavors like truffle or salmon or basil to go along with a dish they are serving). I had the ricotta and it was amazing! Again, we were told we can make this at home but somehow I don’t think it will taste the same. We stopped at one of Elisa’s favorite food shops for a little lesson on balsamic vinegar and I bought a bottle of an amazing 12 year old balsamic vinegar…let the shopping begin :)
Back at the farm, Luigi fired up the outdoor pizza oven and they tried to teach us how to work the dough and we made our own pizzas for dinner. Natasha (Luigi’s wife) and Ida (his mom) helped us put them together, Luigi did the cooking. Delish!
Wednesday, May 16
Sunny today. Feels warmer already. Taking a boat ride to Amalfi then visiting Positano. Thankfully the rain has stopped. Luigi and his mom drove us to the marina in Massa Lubrense where we found our boat and captains for the day. Liberto is our driver and Giovanni seems to be the first mate. It was a little chilly and the water was a little choppy but it was still a beautiful ride. They stopped along the way to show us different caves and grottos on the islands and along the coast. The Mediterranean Sea is the most beautiful shade of blue you can imagine.
Our first stop was Amalfi. I have heard many people tell me how beautiful it is and the view is breathtaking! Our second stop was Positano. The climb is steep but was a fun stroll. There are several restaurants along the sea where you can relax with a drink or a bite to eat.
The best part of the day was being on the boat. On the ride back, Giovanni served us some bruschetta and a bread (more like a quiche) that had ham and cheese both he made himself along with some Prosecco and limoncello. He was a lot of fun!
Another wonderful dinner by the family and wine and limoncello and more questions made for a fun evening :)
Thursday, May 17
Today was a free day. Elisa helped everyone come up with a plan and sent us on our way. Alan and I took the bus into Sorrento (thank you to the nice people at the bus stop for telling us we were on the wrong side of the street to catch the bus to Sorrento!). Then we bought tickets for the train to Erculano which was about an hour by train. We were happy to find a private tour guide, Francesca, inside Erculano. She spent about an hour and fifteen minutes walking us around and describing the families who lived here and the homes that have been uncovered. Erculano was a resort town for the wealthy, buried under 16 meters of pyroclastic rock from the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD. Only about 1/5 of the town has been excavated so far.
Friday, May 18
The weather has been perfect so we spent today out on Giovanni’s boat again. On our way to Capri we stopped at several grottos for a close up view. He prepared a picnic lunch of Caprese Sandwiches for everyone. We passed through Lovers Arch and he played Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and made all of the married couples kiss as we rode through. We were all cracking up. A little awkward for the singles in the group…LOL.
Elisa arranged for a van to take all of us up to Anacapri. We walked around for about an hour. A few brave souls in the group took the chair lift to the very top just as a cloud moved in. It was not like the chair lifts we have in the U.S. We decided to keep our feet on the ground.
Afterwards we drove down about halfway and stopped in the town of Capri. This was a lot of fun. Lots of high end shopping and beautiful people watching. The Rolex Cup sailing competition is in town and the sailboats are beautiful!
After a full day, Giovanni (and Elisa) drove us back to Massa Lubrense at a nice slow pace. The water was calm and beautiful. We didn’t’ want it to end so I asked if he would take us on down to Sorrento so we could see it from the water. He was happy to oblige and I’m so glad I asked…it was gorgeous! We ended the afternoon with some more of his homemade appetizers and limoncello. Our last dinner at the farm was lovely. The group really enjoyed one another and I think there were a few tears shed at the thought of saying goodbye
Contact Julie at 314-580-4554 or send her an email to begin planning an immersive travel experience.
Then check out Julie's blog for her best tips on keeping a travel journal for your next adventure!
Hawaii has been at the top of my bucket list for years! When I decided to make this trip happen in 2018 I invited a few friends along and made it the ultimate girls trip; Jenn, Rachel, and Abby joined me on this adventure. Hawaii had everything we wanted in a vacation- perfect weather, beaches, hiking, water activities, and city life. The choice of which two islands to visit was a hard one, but for this trip we landed on Oahu and Kauai.
Oahu was the perfect start to our vacation! Our first few nights were along the famous Waikiki Beach. Here we were able to walk all around our hotel to restaurants, shops, and different sections of the beach. We really enjoyed the beach and the hustle of the Waikiki strip.
Oahu has so much more to offer than just Waikiki. It’s a must to get out of that area whether you rent a car or take a guided tour of the island. Some of our highlights from around the island are below.
Any visit to Oahu isn’t complete without a stop here. It was a very humbling experience to learn about the attacks in such detail and see how much it affected the people of Hawaii personally.
We love to hike, so a trip up Diamond Head was an easy choice for an activity. Even if you are a light to moderate hiker this trip is worth it for the view. The path is paved, but it is mostly uphill so be sure to take your time and bring water.
This private nature reserve is home to the filming location of many favorite movies and TV shows. I enjoyed fangirling over the sites from “Jurassic Park” and “Lost”. Here you can zipline, take ATV tours, horseback rides, or a film bus tour. We decided to go for the 2-hour ATV tour and I’m so glad that we chose that. It was a highlight for our time on Oahu.
These botanical gardens blew away our expectations! The variety of flowers and historical sites leading up to the waterfall was so impressive. Rachel majored in Conservation Biology, so this stop was especially exciting for her.
Polynesian Culture Center
We decided to stay two nights on the North Shore so that we could really enjoy the quieter pace of Oahu and enjoy a full day experience at the Polynesian Culture Center. Our tickets were for the Ambassador Luau Package, which included visiting the villages from noon to 6pm, a dinner buffet show, and the “Ha: Breath of Life” performance. Each village had exhibits on their island and gave special little shows throughout the day. Have the guide was so beneficial because she was able to take us on the best route to maximize our time. My favorite was the Samoa act! I truly recommend spending the full day here from noon until the “Breath of Life” performance!
Kauai was our second island choice because of the amount of natural beauty on the garden island! About 80% of Kauai can’t been seen by car. It can only be accessed by water, air, or hiking—so we decided to do all three!
We really chose to live it up in Kauai and stay at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. This hotel was gorgeous! Having Club access, we also enjoyed the spa access and use of the club lounge for breakfast.
Na Pali Coast Catamaran Cruise
I love to be out on the water, so the catamaran cruise was the activity I was most excited about and it did not disappoint! We woke up bright and early and made it to the ship in time to sail away just after sunrise. Breakfast was served as we enjoyed the salt water breeze! We had an amazing sighting of dolphins swimming and even a whale tale! First, we stopped in a cove to snorkel. We had a blast seeing the variety of fish and a sea turtle swimming. After snorkeling we set out to get our first glimpse of the Na Pali Coast. I can’t even put into words how stunning the landscape is in person. Captain Jeff and his crew shared stories and facts about Kauai along the way. Our deli lunch and beverages really hit the spot for our scenic ride back to Port Allen.
Since so much of Kauai can only been seen from above we decided to spring for a helicopter tour. We saw some amazing waterfalls and the Na Pali Coast again! Our pilot gave some great commentary and played some touring music. If there is any place to take a helicopter tour, Kauai must be at the top of the list.
Another item at the top of our list was hiking. We decided to visit the lookouts of Waimea Canyon and choose a trail there. We ended up on the Canyon Rim trail. This gave us some fantastic, unspoiled views and a few bonus waterfalls. The trails are not very well marked so be sure to read the signs on how long the hike is and bring plenty of water.
This was such a truly spectacular trip and I was so lucky to share it with three friends. Hawaii is perfect for friends, romance, and family! It’s all about the islands and places you choose. I’m happy to share more details about my accommodation, activities, or trip planning!
Start planning your next trip by giving Stacey
a call at 314-439-5700 ext. 128 or send her an email.
Most of the time when people mention they're traveling to Iowa people question "why?". No, it's not the most popular state, but hidden in each state of our county is a gem and Iowa's is the small Dutch town of Pella.
Pella is located right outside of Des Moines, IA that Hollanders claimed as their new home in 1847. They named it Pella, otherwise meaning "city of refuge". This Dutch community has grown since it was first founded and it still holds on to its founding roots of traditions, food, customs and more. One of the most popular traditions that they celebrate like their European ancestors is the famed Tulip Time Festival. When I heard about the Festival (and it only being 4 hours away from St. Louis) I knew I had to go and I'm so glad I did!
As we walked around this city we couldn't believe how much it actually felt like we could be in Europe. All of the buildings in the city had similar architecture to that of the Netherlands with bricks, towers, colorful shutters and of course, windmills! Pella actually has an authentic windmill that was built in Hoogmade, the Netherlands, and was de-assembled and then re-assembled in Pella in 2002. Visitors are able to take a tour and go up the windmill however we were unable to during our visit (we'll save it for next time!).
The streets were alive with dancing in wooden shoes, Dutch food trucks, beautiful Dutch clothing, presentations and parades. I honestly didn't anticipate for there to be as many people at this small festival, but it turns out Pella usually has around 150,000 visitors for the Tulip Time Festival each year. It made it fun and exciting to be around so many people who were interested in learning about and celebrating a different culture.
Pella is a destination I fully plan to visit again with my family. It offers something fun and unique to a large audience and it's great for a quick weekend getaway. This town also has local wineries and a lake for even more activities outside of the Festival. If you're interested in visiting the next Tulip Time Festival in Pella then mark your calendar for the first weekend of May in 2019 - we'll see you there!
To book your Tulip Time Festival vacation contact the staff at Brentwood Travel today! Call us at 314-439-5700!
Even if you are not a writer, keeping a travel journal is a great way to bring insight and understanding of the world as you journey through it. During any trip, you have so many incredible experiences that they may blur together. By keeping a journal, it will be much easier to recall all those unique individual memories later. Travel Consultants Julie Skrainka and Carrie Fry frequently keep travel journals and we asked them for their best tips.
When and why did you start keeping a journal?
Julie: I started writing in a travel journal on my first international trip in 1990. My husband, Alan, and I went to Ireland (with a group) and England (on our own) for almost two weeks and I knew I would never be able to remember everything we did and all of the fun people we traveled with without writing it down!
Carrie: I started doing journals after my first ‘real’ international trip. My previous domestic travels and a Caribbean cruise were more like, “yeah, vacation!” but my first international trip was to Ireland and Rome. That’s when I had my the world is huge, and complicated, and fantastic moment. And I purchased a blank journal at Dublin’s airport before my flight home.
What are the benefits of keeping a travel journal?
Julie: Writing everything down helps me reflect on the amazing experiences we have had. Each day that we are on a trip usually goes by so fast that stopping every other day or so to write in my journal helps me remember the adventures much more clearly. Now, having nearly 30 years of journals to look back on is invaluable to me!
Carrie: One reason I really like keeping a journal is for the little moments that happen on a trip that seem to get overshadowed by the trip itself. In Kyoto, we were walking past a group of school kids (maybe 8-10 years old), and they were staring at us. My husband was completely oblivious, but I made eye-contact with one of the kids and she got a huge smile on her face and said “hello”, I smiled back, waived, and told her “hi”. Then the group of kids covered their mouths, giggled, and ran away. I’d like to think these kids probably wanted to practice their English and it was a cute fleeting instant where I felt like I got to connect a little with the locals.
Do you write during your trip or afterwards? Do you keep notes in a book, computer, or an app?
Julie: 99% of the time, I write during our trip. For some of the shorter, 3 or 4 day trips, I will sometimes wait until the flight home to “catch up”. Every time I see a pretty journal, I start writing in it. Then I would pick grab an old journal for the next trip and write in there.
Carrie: I really try to write something any time I get home from a trip. I do really think it’s important, because even after my husband read what I wrote about Japan, he told me that he had already forgot about some of the trip-and we’re not that old to have our memories slip like that.
Do you use any techniques to organize your notes ?
Julie: My journals are far from organized! I am trying to make time to transfer all of my journals to the computer to make something sensible out of them. For the last couple of trips, I have actually been writing on my iPad.
Carrie: Typically, I just get on the computer and do it when I get home, but hand writing notes along the way helps a lot. Before I start, I will also compile both the pictures from each of our phones and get the itinerary out. That way I know where we were at and when and have the pictures handy to jog my memory.
What is your best tip for keep a travel journal?
Julie: For shorter, weekend trips, I have stopped keeping track of those. But for longer, more adventurous trips, I always write about those. Hopefully, my future grandchildren will enjoy hearing about all of the amazing places we have been! You now have me thinking…we just spent a fun two weeks in California seeing our kids, visiting extended family, playing a little golf, doing a little sightseeing that I didn’t even think to write about. I think I’ll get out that journal now!
Carrie: My best tip is to write during the trip. This doesn’t mean sitting down at your hotel with your laptop. The best way I journal is to buy a postcard or two before dinner, and as your having your aperitif, jot down your thoughts on that day. Postcards are super easy to find and really inexpensive. At the end of your trip, you now have a easily packable stack of postcards that you can use to compose your journal, or just keep it as is. Personally, these postcards aren’t so much about what you saw, but how it made you feel.
Do you have a travel journal from a recent trip that you took through Brentwood Travel? We want to hear from you! We love to share the insights, stories, and images of our travelers and will add this to our Blog page. It's a great way to inspire others to get out and write about their adventures. Contact Allison or Missi from our Marketing Team to learn more!
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In the 60 years since Brentwood Travel was founded in 1957, we've grown into the largest, full-service travel agency in the Greater St. Louis area. No matter what your travel needs may be, our consultants will be able to assist you.