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Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington D.C.’s soft side

January 1st, 2010

Welcome to 2010! How do you say that? Twenty-ten? I feel like I’m playing blackjack somewhere. Hit me!

My New Year resolution, besides to travel more, was to celebrate the little moments in my life. So far the words “Happy New Year” have been used 108 times in my vicinity this year, that’s a lot of little moments.

When I think of the New Year I think of winter; then I think of spring, because I really don’t like the cold. As Vermont leaves are to autumn, cherry blossoms are to spring. Where better to enjoy those thousands of precious little moments than the National Cherry Blossom festival in Washington, DC.

Before Japan gave us Nintendo and Playstation, they gave us 3,000 cherry trees to line the Tidal Basin area near the Jefferson Memorial. The 1912 gift honored the friendship between the United States and Japan and celebrated the continued close relationship between our two cultures.

Every year dozens of cultural events are organized by Washington D.C. civic groups around the time the trees are known to bloom. In 2010 they’re predicting that to be March 27th – April 11th. Right now there are amazing 4 and 5 star hotels just minutes away from the mall area for as low as $127 a night on Last Minute Travel. Book now and spend the money you save on celebrating the little moments in your life.

Photo credits:

JFrost Travel ,

GeoBeats.com

October 3rd, 2008

geobeats.com

GeoBeats.com is a great website for getting a sneak peak of travel destinations. You can search the website by Destination and by Topic which is pretty convienent. It’s also really good for the traveler who wants to know what are good activities to do in a particular destination. The videos are professional and give a good preview of each location. Some of the videos even have tips about the public transportation, restaurants and local etique. They even have videos that will teach you local phrases that can come in very handy.

Erica Fischer Travel, Travel Guide, Website Review ,

Hotel Elan in Dallas Texas Rooftop Swimming Pool

October 3rd, 2008

I have seen some cool and unique hotel pools, but the Rooftop Swimming Pool at the Hotel Elan in Dallas Texas is so cool that I thought it needed to be shared.

Swimming Pool at the Hotel Elan in Dallas Texas

Erica Fischer Hotels, Travel

Travel + Leisure British Airways Cartoon

September 26th, 2008

I just got the October 2008 issue of Travel + Leisure and wanted to share a funny cartoon from a British Airways advertisement.

Travel Leisure British Airways Cartoon

“Ma’am, you’re going to have to check that.”

Erica Fischer Travel

Travel Website Review: GoPlanit.com

September 19th, 2008

GoPlanit

GoPlanit.com is a travel social network that assists you in planning your next trip. Your itinerary is completely personalized by taking into consideration important factors such as your preferences, budget, locations, hours of operation and friend’s recommendations to create the ultimate trip catered specifically to you. The recommendation engine suggests the most popular and highest rated items.

The extent of planning your trip can be simple or advanced (you choose this option in the beginning). The main difference between the two is that the Simple mode allows you to plan by day and the Advanced Mode allows you to plan by the hour. In the planning phase you choose the date and then you choose from several options to add activities, dining, lodging, your flight or you can add in your own custom item. Each activity, dining and lodging option has ratings for each choice that is presented to you to choose from which is pretty cool and useful. The flight feature allows you to enter your flight information which needs to be chosen by other means.

Once you are finished planning your trip you can export your itinerary into iCal/Outlook, a public URL or load into your Google Calendar.

Erica Fischer Hotels, Travel, Website Review ,

“Exotic” Travel in Helsinki

September 12th, 2008

If you are a savvy traveler and you know that there is more to Europe than London, Paris and Rome why not including one of the more exotic European capitals in your next trip in Europe? Helsinki – the capital of Finland - will definitely have a top ranking on this list.

There is a lot to explore although the city is only a fraction of the size of Paris or Berlin. Luckily most of Helsinki’s people speak English very well otherwise you would have problems. Unlike a trip to France or Germany you will not be able to pick up a few catchy phrases from a guide book during your flight time. Street names and words with seven “i”s will make you look into your guidebook or on the map the same number of times before you memorize the words. This makes a taxi ride as exotic as in Japan so you better point on the map or on the street name in a book. Otherwise it may happen you land in a totally different neighbourhood. Speaking of taxis: the basic starting fare when you board a taxi at Helsinki’s Vantaa airport is EUR 6.80 (and you are not gone any mile for this)…

The number of typical sightseeing targets (think: mum is standing with hanging arms in front of Eiffel Tower) in Helsinki is not high. That does not mean you cannot spend 4 or 5 days for a visit. It’s more about the full picture of Helsinki and Finland: what are the people like, what are their habits, what is the fashion, what are they interested in, where do they go for their weekend, what is the food like…

Hotel Kämp

Hotel Kamp

So while you visit you may include classic spots like the Senate Square with its neo-classical Cathedral; Esplanade Park with elegant shops and the posh Hotel Kämp; the “Rock” church with modern architecture, quarried out of the natural bedrock with excellent acoustics for concerts; the orthodox church with its golden cupolas showing the Russian impact of former times.

Helsinki

During a summer trip you can enjoy long days and a 20 minute ferry ride to Suomenlinna, an island with a maritime fortress and beautiful views of other sides of the city at the sea.

Suomenlinna

If you travel in winter time you should not miss a visit to your hotel’s sauna (you do not need to stay in a spa hotel to have that) or much better: to Yrjönkatu, an amazingly restored swimming hall from the 1920s.

A cheap and fun way to see different neighbourhoods is to jump on a tram. One of the most interesting neighbourhoods you will see then is the Design District with many shops, galleries, design hotel Klaus K and the Design Forum Finland showing most of the country’s big names in design and art. You will find all the classic top-class brands and trend-setting young designers for objects and furniture.

Klaus K

But one of my favourite things to do in Helsinki is: checking out restaurants ! I do not speak of traditional so-called-typical Finnish food like elk. Not that it’s bad but admit it: it is rather to show off next time when your friends compare what exotic meat everybody ate on his trips than to enjoy a fantastic dinner. There has been a development in Helsinki’s restaurant scene that brings very creative chefs from all around the world into this city’s kitchens. The food is very fresh and of high quality, the meals are creative and restaurants offer various atmospheres. Try “Sasso”, a Tuscan restaurant with fantastic food and an exceptional wine list. The service is outstanding and you can dare to ask for details of a wine and you will get the full story including who created the label on the bottle. Similar situation at “Fishmarket” , situated below “Sasso” in the same building and has the same owner but different approach and style. Despite its location in a cellar it is very bright and crisp in style. The fish is a well. Both restaurants can be found at the end of Esplanade street towards the port.

Another favourite is “Mecca”, a cool lounge/club goes restaurant goes club. The atmosphere is as you would expect it from a stylish club. Regular guests match this style – without the attitude you know from New York or Paris.

Mecca

Mecca

For another Mediterranean top restaurant I recommend “La Cucina”

La Cocina

with Catalonian and Basque cuisine. Located at the Palace Hotel’s second floor directly at the port. The restaurant welcomes guests with dark black and red design, stylish, modern but cozy. They offer pintxos (tapas) and main dishes of great variety and combinations. Fantastic dark blood coloured red match perfectly. I had my best deserts at this restaurant (chocolate varieties with sea salt) and would not fly Helsinki if I knew this restaurant was closed during that time (almost…).

La Cucina

I did not expect the great food and sophisticated interest for architecture and design before I came to Helsinki for the first time. Be surprised if you are going.

carsteng Destinations, Travel, Travel Guide ,

Photosynth by Microsoft Labs

September 10th, 2008

photosynth

Photosynth allows travelers to share their photos in a way we have never seen before. This innovative photo sharing solution takes images and transforms them into a cinematic quality, 3D tour of the location. Getting started using this service is fairly simple and they even offer a downloadable video that will walk you through how to take overlapping photos, how to load your images and how to create a synth.

photosynth screen shot

Currently they have quite a few travel destinations that synths have already been created for. To view them all you need to do is download the free Photosynth program to view and create synths. Feel free to post any synths you create below.

Erica Fischer Travel, Website Review

Travel Website Review: Travelistic.com

September 5th, 2008

Travelistic.com is a free video website for travelers. With currently over 6,000 videos uploaded to date, Travelistic lets users explore destinations, review restaurants, tours and much more via video clips. Each video page allows users to vote and leave their comments. Here are a few videos that got my thumbs up vote:

Leave your comments of your thoughts on this website.

Erica Fischer Travel, Website Review , ,

New Orleans Mardi Gras

September 3rd, 2008

New Orleans Mardi Gras

Also know as the “carnival” of the northern hemisphere, New Orleans Mardi Gras is one of the largest free events of the year. What can you expect to find at this event? Food, parades with creative floats and about 700,000 people in the streets of the French Quarter wearing colorful beads, costumes and having a really good time :-)
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your Mardi Gras experience:

  • Dress comfortably
  • Make sure to pack toilet paper to use in the port-a-potties
  • LMT Clock Events, Travel

    Travel Website Review: Rtravel.com

    September 2nd, 2008

    RTravel.com is a travel social network that allows users to share travel videos and travel photos. Currently the website is running a contest with a $300 prize for the best travel photo album and a $300 prize for the best travel video upload. Here are some features that I found to be pretty useful:

    • You can see how many videos users have uploaded for each destination.
    • To keep up with the newest photos and videos the website’s navigation offers you the option to view Features, Most Viewed, Top Ranked and New Uploads.
    • The videos page there are channels that provides effortless browsing.
    • Users can take videos of hotels for other users to view and even rate the hotels.

    Overall this social network is very organized, provides easy navigation and offers some cool features.

    Erica Fischer Travel, Website Review