15 08, 2017

6 Ways to prevent Loss of Pictures and Crucial Information while Traveling


6 Ways to prevent Loss of Pictures and Crucial Information
while Traveling

    Smart phones have revolutionized every aspect of our daily life and changed the way we travel. Nowadays people have access to boarding passes, train tickets, hotel reservations, etc with a click of a button. In many cases printing your itinerary is no longer necessary. Carrying a camera has become optional, unless getting high definition pictures is the goal.  Altogether smart phones have facilitated traveling, allowing us to have planned  and organized trips and to travel lighter than before. But what happens when the unexpected happens and somehow you loose your phone or can’t use it anymore?  Well, that happened to me during our last trip to Europe!

    We had been in Italy for about five days, had seen and taken pictures of il Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle and the Last Supper in Milan. We were in the quaint Lake Como village of Varenna at the time , which is one of Rick Steves favorite places in the world, and had  witnessed breathtaking landscapes with stunning sunsets. It was only day five of a fourteen day trip and I already could count my pictures in the hundreds. Then, plop! I dropped my iPhone in the toilet and lost everything.

    First I panicked, then I was sad to lose my pictures. But thankfully, I am always prepared to continue my trip in case of a bump in the road like this big one. So I’d like to share some of my tips to keep your pictures safe and travel information easily accessible.

1. Print your attractions, tours and train tickets

    I always print and organize our tickets in a chronological order inside a folder that I will carry in a backpack or carry on for easy access. During the day, I only carry the tickets we are using, leaving the rest in the safe or safely stored at the place we are staying.

    Trust me it is worth it, as having internet access abroad is not a sure thing and picking them up at the venue can be lengthy due to tedious lines. So just save yourself some time and trouble.

2. Create an organized schedule with itineraries, confirmation numbers, addresses, etc.

    Having an organized schedule with all the info you need is super handy. I create a detailed two sided page with information of our activities and transportation with timetables, addresses, phone and confirmation numbers.Then, I print it in different sizes, give one to my husband and put the rest in different places: luggage, carry on and folder with my tickets. This is a very efficient way to keep all of our travel arrangements in one place and within reach. I also take a picture of it and email it to myself in case of an emergency.

3. Save your pictures periodically into the cloud

    This was my biggest mistake, I didn’t save anything into the cloud. So before you leave for your trip, back up your old pictures, make sure you have enough space for new ones and save them periodically, say every few days, into the cloud.

4. Post your favorite pictures on Facebook in a folder than can be only seen by you

    One way to save your favorite pictures is to upload them to Facebook and post them in a way that only you can see them. You can later share them and download them to other devices. This is another way to  back up your pictures.






5. Bring a camera

    I know these days carrying a camera feels pointless. We can take a picture and share it to the world within seconds, but how would you preserve your memories if you can’t use the camera in your phone anymore? Well, you could take a chunk of your travel expending budget and buy a camera wherever you are. However, wouldn’t it be nicer to bring a camera you already know how to use and trust?

    I remember before our trip my husband insisted I should leave my camera at home, but I really enjoy good quality pictures so I brought it anyway. Thanks to that decision I have pictures that I can call mine (from my perspective).

6. Have a meeting point in case of an emergency

    This last one came to my mind at the train station in Milan as I was looking for the bathroom while my husband watched our bags on a different floor (remember I didn’t have a phone). What would happen if there was an emergency? If my husband and I got separated,  where will I find him?

    We both decided than from than point on during our trip we were going to set a meeting point in case of separation. This applies for all kind of emergencies, as cellphones usually don’t work during natural and man made disasters. I would advise you to know where the nearest embassy or consulate is and make that your meeting place.


    Even though I lost my pictures and had no more access to my phone, I rediscovered a couple of amazing things we have forgotten while staring at our phones: socializing and relaxing! I was forced to ask for directions, interact more with people and practice my Italian.  Along the way we also met some wonderful people, some of which we still keep in touch with


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6 Ways to prevent Loss of Pictures and Crucial Information while Traveling 2017-12-13T05:23:35+00:00
8 08, 2017

5 Unique and Tasty dishes to try in Europe


5 Unique and Tasty dishes to try in Europe

     One of my favorite things to do while traveling is trying exotic and unique dishes traditional to the area I am visiting . I love that first encounter with a foreign dish, the unexpected and captivating flavors and those one of a kind culinary experiences that will create a fascinating memory for the rest of my life.

     To share some of my experiences, I ‘ve created a list of 5 unique dishes that mesmerized my palate while traveling in Europe. Even though these dishes are not for the faint of heart, I invited you to give them a try on your next trip and expect the unexpected.

1. Beef Tartare in Paris, France

Beef Tartare at Les Deux Magots in Paris, France

     The first and only time I’ve tried Beef Tartare was in Paris at Les Deux Magots located in the Saint Germain quarter of the 6th arrodissement. Les Deux Magots café is a world famous destination for many tourists due to the fact that it is the place where several well known artists and intellectuals such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Julia Child, among others, used to hangout.

     When I ordered the beef tartar, the waiter very politely reminded me that the dish consisted of raw beef, just in case I didn’t know what I was ordering (I guess this happens often). I know the texture and look of raw meat are not very inviting at first, but once you get over the appearance, I promise you the punch of flavor you will experience is worth a try. I am happy I tried this dish here, not just because it was delicious but also because of the historical significance of the restaurant. If Beef Tartare is ever offered at any reputable restaurant I am visiting, I’ll have it again for sure.

2. Fast Food in Amsterdam, Netherlands

FEBO at the automats in Amsterdam

     While in  Amsterdam we visited one fast food establishment on the Damrak that has been on TV several times called FEBO. This place has a counter that offers hamburgers, fries and drinks, but the main attraction is the food being displayed at the automats. The mechanism is simple, money is inserted in the machine and you get to pick items such as krokets, burguers and all kind of snacks filled with a creamy and cheesy content. The fun part comes when you get to pick a kroket with a mysterious filling, so it is like blind tasting it. I know these snacks are not for all, yet my husband and I came back a couple of times to try different items. At times we were confused with the flavors, but for some strange reason we couldn’t stop eating them.

3. A Bouchon meal in Lyon, France

Bouchon dish at Le Petit Glouton in Lyon, France

     Bouchon are traditional meals specific to Lyon and have been a staple of the Lyonesse cuisine since the 17th century. They are hearty and heavy, made with ingredients that normally get passed by fancy restaurants such as liver hearts, calves feet, ground fish, etc. and meant to be a meal to recover after a long day of work in a factory or out on the fields.

     We had dinner at Le Petit Glouton on Rue Saint Jean. We started with a chicken liver salad, which is a dish I have never seen in any other menu. The dish depicted in the picture above is called Quenelle de Brochet and can be described as a fish mousse cake on a creamy sauce. This meal was rich and full of surprising flavors and textures, it was definitely an experience that will be hard to replicate unless we come back to Lyon.

4. Pickled Herring in Marken, Netherlands

Pickled Herring in Marken, Netherlands

     While visiting Marken in the Netherlands, we came across a food stand by the pier that offered fresh seafood from the area with herring being on display. We had seen Andrew Zimmern on TV trying different versions of herring, and always wondered about the taste so we couldn’t let this opportunity pass without trying it. The fish came with pickles and onions and it tasted so fresh like it had been just pulled out of the ocean. Even though it was salty, it had some sweet notes with the onion and the pickles which added spice and complemented the flavors. It was definitely a great experience for the memory book.

5. Anchovies in Vernazza, Italy

Anchovies at Belforte in Vernazza, Italy

     Anchovies are a local specialty of the Cinque Terre region where expert fishermen still use traditional fishing techniques to catch them. In this region, anchovies are eaten fresh and prepared in many different ways. We had the “Misto di acciughe delle 5 terre” in Vernazza at the Ristorante Belforte, which translates to “mix of anchovies of the Cinque Terre”. They were fresh, salty and sweet with different tones of flavors determined by the variety of spices and techniques used to cook them. They are definitely a treat and a explosion of flavor to your taste buds. If you ever find yourself visiting the Cinque Terre just give this dish a try, you will find it easily on most menus. So if you are looking for a fancy dinner with a great view, Ristorante Belforte is the place to be.


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5 Unique and Tasty dishes to try in Europe 2017-12-13T05:13:12+00:00
23 07, 2017

Da Vinci’s Last Supper, la Vigna di Leonardo and la Casa degli Atellani


Da Vinci’s Last Supper, la Vigna di Leonardo and
la Casa degli Atellani

     I have always been an admirer of all Leonardo Davinci’s creations; so when I knew we were visiting Milan, getting tickets for the Last Supper became one of the priorities of our travel plans.

     The Last Supper mural is located inside the Cenacolo Vinciano museum, which once was the dining hall of the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent, and is adjacent to the Santa Maria delle Grazie church.


     I don’t know if you’ve already attempted to find tickets for the Last Supper but if you had, you know that it is not an easy task. It’s a high demand attraction, thus tickets have to be bought or reserved sometimes more than 3 months in advance depending on the season.

     Even though we weren’t successful in finding tickets through the official site of the Cenacolo Vinciano museum, I would recommend you to start your search here.  You might be in luck and find tickets for about 12 EUROS on your first try, but most likely you will have to search on alternate sites. It is the end of July and there are no available reservations through September.

     Other sites that I would recommend you to check are Viator and Musement. With Viator you can have a guided tour of the Last Supper and the church or the Last Supper and the Sforza Castle for about 53 EUROS. At the time of our travel we weren’t able to find tickets through Viator.

     We were very disappointed at this point, and in a way had started to give up. Then I learned about Musement, and after just a quick look we had an available skip the line guided tour for the day we were in Milan. The only available time was meeting at 7:45am for an 8:15 am tour. Even though it was very early, I would really recommend you to be in the first group entering the museum. It was a pleasant experience with no lines or people around the piazza; the perfect time for beautiful pictures. We got a whole 20 min admiring DaVinci’s Last Supper; the guide told us that as the day progresses, the groups begin to be pushed out very quickly to keep up with schedule. Currently it is allowed to take pictures without a flash.

     After Last Supper we continued with the Da Vinci theme and went to La Casa degli Atellani located just across from the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Within the boundaries of the property, stand a plot of land where once was a vineyard that belong to Leonardo DaVinci; a gift from Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. La Vigna di Leonardo  along with the Santa Marie delle Grazie church and the Last Supper are some of the few standing places from the 15th century; most landmarks were destroyed by the Allies during World War II.

     La Casa degli Atellani belonged to the Atellani family, a loyal supporter of the Sforza. The house is full  frescoes, renaissance motifs and sculptures that will transport you back in time.  Within the beautiful Garden, almost at the end of the property, you can find La Vigna di Leonardo. The price of the audio tour is 10 EUROS at the door and about 12 EUROS from online reservations. Although this is the original plot of land, don’t expect to find vines from Davinci’s time. The plot was excavated no so long ago to extract the DNA from the original vines and vines of the same kind were replanted as an ommage to Leonardo; so they are very young. For Leonardo aficionados like me, it is not about the vineyard, it is about walking on the land that he once owned and cared for.

QUICK TIP: You can now stay in La Casa degli Atenalli via airbnb and La  Vigna di Leonardo website. Even though the rooms have been renovated, the story and magic stay within the walls.


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Da Vinci’s Last Supper, la Vigna di Leonardo and la Casa degli Atellani 2017-12-13T05:30:44+00:00
1 07, 2017

Milan Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and Navigli District


Milan Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and Navigli District

Versión en Español

     We stayed at the B&B Brera Prestige. This is a modern and chic B&B located in the Brera neighborhood within 5 min walking distance from the Castello Sforza and 15 min from the Duomo. It was spacious and very clean, with the host checking daily that we were comfortable and restocking amenities like coffee, wine, water and shampoo among others. When traveling overseas, I spend the first couple of days recovering from the jet lag; I usually wake up very early and then my energy crashes by midday. This time I was awake by 4:30 am, so our plan for the morning was to take it easy and only check the Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.

     Our 15 min walk towards the Duomo began around 9:15 am. Along the way we passed several “Bars” with delicious looking pastries and busy coffee counters. In Italy the establishments/cafeterias that offer coffee drinks, wine & alcohol, pastries, sandwiches and paninies are called  BARS. I love pastries, so we went inside the Bar that had the biggest pastry selection; I got a delicious, warm and just taken out of the oven croissant and my husband got his usual morning beverage when traveling, a double espresso. We stopped one more time at another bar, just before reaching our destination, to grab a couple of sandwiches that caught our attention through the glass window. When exploring a new place, I love that first contact  with the local cuisine; the experience is usually unforgettable  and sets the tone to a great beginning of a new adventure. Fed and happy, we were ready for the Duomo.

     I usually feel more comfortable having tickets in advance, but this time we decided to buy them at the venue. You can buy the tickets online, but you’ll be charged with a delivery cost and a service fee. We arrived at the main entrance at around 10:15 am, it was a Tuesday and the line was almost nonexistent. We were directed by the guards to the ticket office at the entrance of the Duomo Museo ①. Later we learned that there was a second and bigger ticket office on one of the sides of the Duomo Museo ②.

     I recommend you to first check the ticket office at the entrance of the museum ①; the line was shorter and the process was simpler, with 2 guys charging for the tickets. The other ticket office ② seemed too crowded and in a little bit of chaos.  On the positive side, if you are paying with credit card, the ticket office ② has ticket machines where you can make your own transaction.

     The entrance to the Duomo Cathedral which includes a visit to the Duomo Museum costs 3€. Beware that there is a dress code too enter the Cathedral: shoulders have to be covered, and skirts and shorts can’t be too short. Guards at the door will deny you entrance if they feel you are not dressed appropriately. So don’t waste your time and money, if in your day plan it is to visit a church, start by dressing accordingly or bring with you something to cover your shoulders and legs.

QUICK TIP: Since I don’t like sleeves, I always carry a chal or pashmina. It not only covers my shoulders in churches, but at times I use it as protection from the sun. I’ve seen women selling them outside of  some churches in Europe, you can use them also to cover your legs if necessary.

     If your plan is to also visit the Duomo terrace and the archeological site, buy all your tickets as a combo; you will save money. Don’t make the same mistake we made of first buying the Cathedral tickets and then having to jump back in line to buy the terrace tickets. Going up to the terrace by lift costs 13€ and 9€ by foot. For us it was worth to pay extra for the lift, we wanted to save our energy as much as possible.

     After enjoying the Duomo and its piazza for almost 2 hours, we went inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele to do some window shopping; it is located just steps from the piazza del Duomo. The Galleria was named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, and is considered one of the oldest shopping malls in the world. If you are looking to do some luxury shopping, this is the place to be. You can find brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana to mention some. The galleria also counts with restaurants where you can enjoy traditional Italian and local dishes while enjoying a beautiful view.

     At this point,  we were almost out of energy, so we decided to walk back to our B&B and rest. On our way back,  we found a jewel; a juice/smoothie stand on Piazza Carmine where we picked fruits and veggies for a tasty and refreshing beverage. After having the juice, we felt revitalized so we went for a walk to the Castello Sforza which was only 5 min away from our B&B.

     Our evening plan was to visit the Navigli District. Before living California, I printed a map of the Milan Metro System and became familiar with it. The Metro system is very simple; it only counts with 3 lines:  red, yellow and green, costs 1.50 per trip and you can connect within lines with the same ticket. To get to the Navigli district from our area, we took the green metro line at the Lanza stop in the Assago/Abbiategrasso direction and got off at the Porta Genova stop. From there it is only a 5 min walk.

     The Navigli District is a picturesque neighborhood full of bars, restaurants and art galleries bordered by 2 canals: the Milan Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese. The “Navigli”,  that translates to canals, is a visit into Milan past; a glimpse of  a time when there were five interconnected canals that crossed the city. If you are looking  for an activity while visiting this area, consider taking a cruise along Naviglio Grande and/or an evening walking tour with food and wine.

     We tried to stay until sunset, but in Italy during this time of the year  the sun doesn’t set until after 9 pm. We were tired and hungry and preferred to enjoy a meal near our B&B, so we left Navigli area around 7pm. We had dinner at the Taverna del Borgo Antico to end the day.


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Milan Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and Navigli District 2017-12-13T05:40:33+00:00
29 06, 2017

Milan Malpensa aiport to Milano Centrale Station


Milan Malpensa aiport to Milano Centrale Station

     Milan has always intrigued me being that I have an emotional connection with this place. From an early age, I dreamt of visiting this mysterious far away land on the grounds that  it is the place of origin of my dad’s ancestors. Last year, we had planned to flight into Milan and then make our way down to Nice. But after the terrible events in Nice, we changed our itinerary and ended up in Switzerland. This year we decided to give this adventure a new try.

     When heading to Europe we always flight United for the only reason that we have the United Rewards Card. We collect points and expect to have enough at the end of the year so the majority of our flying costs are covered.  So far, we have traveled to Europe three times within three years and only supplemented about $200 dlls per person per trip to buy the tickets or upgrade our seats.

     This year we started our adventure in Milan, so on May 28th we flew from San Francisco International to Milan Malpensa Airport with a connection in Frankfurt, Germany. When my husband and I booked this flight, we were given the option of connecting flights in London or Frankfurt. We chose the Frankfurt option because in our personal experience, when heading into the European Union, navigating the Frankfurt airport is somewhat easier than the London airport.

     Last year in London, after a very long walk to find our connecting gate, we still had to go through immigration and security check. My husband and I always travel with a carry on bag and a backpack each, both of which got thoroughly searched and tested for explosives in London. We were also asked to fit all off our toiletries into a small baggie provided by security.  Even though our liquid containers fitted the required 3 oz size, we were forced to pick and throw away whatever didn’t fit into the baggie. We had flown into Frankfurt twice, and both times our connections have been  less complicated; in Frankfurt we have only gone through immigration and the agents are usually very efficient at expediting the whole process. (While in  Frankfurt, don’t forget to try a delicious pretzel and  a crisp and cold German beer.)


         The Milan Malpensa Airports is located in the comune of Ferno, Italy; about 30 miles from Milan city center. It has 2 terminals and according to Wikipedia, it is the second busiest Italian airports for international travelers, after just the Fiumicino Airport in Rome. It offers four main means of transportation to Milan city center: Taxi, Uber, bus and train. Since the airport is a bit far from town, a taxi ride to the city center costs around 90 €. An Uber ride goes for 130+ € because the only available services from the airport are UberBLACK and UberLUX. The shuttle costs about 10 € and departs every 20-30 min to the Central Station. According to the Malpensa Shuttle website you can take it from terminal 1 at the arrival floor from exit 3 and exit 4, and from Terminal 2 near the parking in front of arrival doors. All the taxi, Uber and shuttle rides take about 50 min to the city center. We decided to take the train Malpensa Express for convenience and cost.

      We arrived on Terminal 1 on May 29th and followed the signs for the train station; to reach the Malpensa Express we had to take the elevator down one floor.   There were multiple ticket machines and a customer representative that assisted us in the purchase of the tickets. The Malpensa Express  ticket costs 13 € and has on 2 routes: Milano Cadorna Station and Milano Centrale Station.

The XP1 Milano Cadorna departs every 30 min and stops at Busto Arsizio, Saronno, Milano Bovisa and Milano Cadorna and takes between 35 – 40 min to reach their destination. The XP2 Milano Centrale departs every hour and stops at Busto Arsizio, Saronno, Milano Bovisa, Milano Porta Garibaldi and Milano Centrale and takes about 50 min to reach the Milano Centrale Station.

We took the XP1 to Milano Cadorna. The train was clean, spacious and comfortable and the ride went smooth. We stayed in the Brera neighborhood at the B&B Brera Prestige, which was only a  10 min walk from the train station. As we passed along the Castello Sforzesco, we got a glimpse of all of the beauty that we were about to experience.


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Milan Malpensa aiport to Milano Centrale Station 2017-12-15T04:08:33+00:00
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