Tell Us Your Secrets, Tell Us Your Tips!

Sunset view over Florence

Now that you know where we’re going on the Big Adventure, what should we see and do?

We will be delving into the guidebooks after the first of the year, and of course we’ll visit the famous sights, but what Brett and I are really interested in hearing about are the places, events, experiences, museums, restaurants, etc. that might not make the books but that you all think shouldn’t be missed.

We’ve already started a notebook that we’re filling with ideas as we come across them, but so many of you have visited the places we’re going and have seen and done things that we might enjoy too, so we’re hoping you’ll share some of those with us. We’re interested in things like a great place to catch the sunset, a shop you think sells amazing gelato, an out-of-the way restaurant where you had an incredible meal, or a small but interesting museum you visited, among other experiences. What foods should we not miss? We’re going to take advantage of the free walking tours offered in most cities, but would also love to hear about tours you’ve taken that you found worthwhile, whether that was a back street look at a city or a wine-tasting in France or Italy or a fun cooking class and so forth. About the only thing we’re not interested in is shopping advice, because that’s the one thing we won’t be doing on our journey – we have to watch our weight the whole way.

We’re planning to do a cheese tasting in Paris

We are greatly looking forward to your suggestions, and to hearing what you recommend. As a reminder, here are the places we’ll be visiting:

  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Montevideo, Uruguay
  • France: Paris, Normandy, Bordeaux, Strasbourg
  • Italy: Florence, Cinque Terre, Rome
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Sydney, Australia
  • North Island (Auckland, Rotorua, Napier, Wellington), New Zealand

(I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to figure out what to see and do in Hong Kong and Japan).

Our notebook and pens are ready!

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27 thoughts on “Tell Us Your Secrets, Tell Us Your Tips!

  1. UnwrittenLifeBlog says:

    I absolutely loved New Zealand, and will definitely go back some day. I spent a lovely afternoon in Wellington riding up the cable car: https://www.wellingtoncablecar.co.nz/English/Home.html, and then walking back down the hill through the gardens. I took hundreds of pictures!

    One thing I wanted to do in Napier, but time would not allow, was take a ride on the postal boat. The post office delivers mail by boat to several places in the area, and you can ride along. I think that would be a really cool and fun thing to do – definitely not a typical tour!

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  2. docamocha says:

    Hi Laura,
    A bit off topic but I tried unsuccessfully to include this info on your previous post about how you are paying for your trip. Am trying again, as it might be useful information since you already have T-Mobile.
    In July T-Mobile introduced the T-Mobile One 55+ plan. They don’t advertise it on the main page, so you have to know to look for it under plans offered.
    As long as the primary subscriber is over 55, with auto-pay you can get unlimited service for 2 lines for $60 per month including taxes. If you need 4 lines, you could set up 2 accounts at $60 each, one with Brett as primary and one with you as primary and that way include 2 of the girls. We converted to it from our regular T-Mobile One plan and have found that this plan essentially has the same unlimited coverage as the other T-Mobile One plans (but with a lower price tag!)
    Regarding using T-Mobile for travel, one of the bloggers that I follow posted an extensive analysis on the nuts and bolts of using T-Mobile overseas. Not sure if I can enclose the link on your blog but I would be happy to post, or anyone can find it by looking for The Frequent Miler’s post on October 4th titled: “T-Mobile’s Free Int’l Service Keeps Me Around”.
    Also if you are not aware of it, T-Mobile has freebies for each line every Tuesday, called T-Mobile Tuesdays. One frequent offer is for Dunkin Donuts promo codes, which can be added to a DD Perks account to extend the redemption time frame – very useful for travel at airports. They also offer .$25 per gallon discounts at Shell gas stations fairly often. The only caveat is that you need to act quickly as the offers are strictly short-term.
    One more T-Mobile tidbit- am currently researching their offer of free Netflix with the One Plans. Don’t know enough about it yet to post any details, but definitely worth looking into.
    You may already be using this, but if not, consider using Microsoft Bing for your research. Points are awarded on accumulated searches as opposed to the Swagbucks model of random search awards. You can pick up to 150 points per day for PC searches and 100 points for mobile searches, plus daily quizzes offering 10-50 points for about a minute of your time. Redemptions start at 5250 points. Although the selection of gift cards offered as rewards is not as extensive as Swagbucks, they do offer Amazon and Walmart as practical choices for those expenses that you will have before you travel.
    Hope this info is helpful and can’t wait to follow along your journey!

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    • Laura says:

      Thank you so much for the T-Mobile information. I think we may switch to the One 55+ plan once Meiling graduates and comes off our plan. It sounds like a very good deal, and would save us some over what we’re paying now (although it’s ridiculously low as far as phone plans go for what we get). I think I’ve read the article you mentioned, but will check it out again to make sure. I’ve never redeemed any of the Tuesday gifts though, and doing the Netflix deal would require us to change plans, which we don’t want to do right now. I cannot say enough good things though about T-Mobile. We’ve been with them since they were VoiceStream, and their customer service is superb.

      I may check out Bing. I would love to add to my Amazon stash!

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      • docamocha says:

        T-Mobile Tuesday – Shell fuel discount today 11/7!
        You will need to set up a Fuel Rewards account and add the promo code from T-Mobile today.
        Then you’ll have until 11/10 to redeem for a 25 cent per gallon discount. Good luck!

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      • Laura says:

        This sounds like a good deal, and we have Shell stations all over the island, but their gas is typically about 40-80 cents per gallon more than Costco’s price per gallon. But maybe I’m going to sign up anyway – maybe I can use it on the mainland some day.

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      • docamocha says:

        Good that you have the Costco option!
        T-Mobile Tuesday has lots of other offers, but I mentioned the ones that generally might be useful for travel. It does make sense to sign up and have the option of choosing what to redeem. I check every Tuesday. Sometimes the offers are worth claiming, sometimes not.
        Today’s additional offers included a free bowl at Panda Express, b1g1free cone at Baskin Robbins, $10 to spend at Pier 1, $30 off at Paper Culture and $40% off at Modcloth. Some of those are not useful to me, although I did enjoy an orange chicken bowl with mixed vegetables and ice cream for dessert after we filled up at Shell!

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  3. Barbara Bomberger says:

    Ill add much more later. We found that the side trip from Florence to Pisa was pure kitch and people were tring to sell us things the whole time. But we felt if we didnt go we would regret it so it was a quick half day. There are absolutely no words to describe the Uffizi, it was one of my favorite museum and darn it I have seen a great many museums. Its definitely a walking town with more nooks and crannies than one can visit.

    Normandy depends on your level of commitment to history, as well as what kind of history, lol. Mideval versus World War II versus….other things. We went to EVERY American site, museum and beach, and allowed a full week, but if your time were limited I would say the musts WWII wise are Saint Mare Eglise, Pont du Hoc and a beach or two. Depending on your comfort level there is a VERY small helicopter that goes up and over the ocean so you can see the beaches and the wall from the invaders perspective. Be aware that the American cemetery is closed on Sundays. My son is a WWII fanatic (watched the Longest Day in original black and white when he was six and didn’t even get up to pee-things went from there) and he would say that the Pegasus bridge should be added as well. Since I’m into mideval history I would suggest you have to see Bayeux cathedral and the Norman Tapestries (you know, the story of how William the Conquerer was Edward the Confessor’s chosen heir and all that-all in hand embroidery), and food. Normady style food and Apple wine and apple brandy and and and….

    Strassbourg is one of my favorite cities and there are many easy side trips depending on time I would need some time to talk about it. But again. The food, man. Lisbon is also a favorite city. So beautiful.

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    • Laura says:

      We have no interest in seeing Pisa, although we may have to fly into the airport there depending on what the fares are at the time. We’re interested in visiting Siena, and some of the other hill towns, and doing a couple of wine tastings. And of course the Uffuzi – I can’t wait!!!

      Thanks too for the Normandy recommendations too – ahhh, Calvados!

      We’re looking forward to a month of “restful” travel in Strasbourg. Weconsidered doing our month in Bordeaux, but Strasbourg really called to us. I’m sure we will be posting about the food!

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  4. Natalie says:

    Hi Laura, I wrote a few posts on my visits to Buenos Aires and Lisbon so if you search for “Argentina” or “Lisbon” on my blog, they should all show up. If you plan to stay in Recoleta, it’s a nice, affluent area in Buenos Aires. I’d recommend to visit La Biela, a coffee shop, for a break and people watching. It was not expensive and has indoor as well as outdoor seating under huge, old trees. The cemetery where Evita was buried has lots of stories behind each tomb. The Cultural Centre in Recoleta usually has free art exhibits and since it’s up the hill, it offers a good view of the city. San Telmo Sunday fair is fun and free to browse. You may even be able to see impromptu Tango dancing. I saw a Tango show for CAD$20 including hotel pickup and drop-off and it was worth every penny. Check local papers for special shows and discounts. Lisbon has Castle St George up the hill and you’ll get a good view of the city from there, as well as the unique Dark Room/ Chamber where you can see 360 degree view of the city in real time. Sintra is a beautiful place to visit by train from Lisbon so make time for it if you can. The trams are also an inexpensive way to see the city and rest your tired feet from all the walking that you’ll be doing and should be doing because it’s really the best way to explore these historic places 🙂 I have more to say about the places you plan to visit in France and Italy but I’ll pause here just in case you find what I wrote so far is not what you’re looking for. Plus France and Italy are well visited so other readers will have lots of tips for you.

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    • Laura says:

      I will probably have your Argentina and Lisbon posts memorized before we go!

      We are walking now so we’ll be in good shape when we go. We’re hoping to get ouselves up to 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day if we can. I’m worried about the hills in Lisbon more than anything else.

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    • Laura says:

      Thank you! We will be checking them out. These are just the sort of tours we’re interested in looking into. We’re only going to be in Paris for four days so tours will be our friend!

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  5. nzgrl says:

    Hi Laura, I live in New Zealand so could give you plenty of ideas of things to do here. I am just really curious though as to why you are visting the north island but not the South?

    I will think of lots of places/ things that I like to do in the places you intend to visit here. I also suggest you look at bookabach.co.nz. It is a bit like Air bnb but is older in NZ and I have rented a number of places through this website in the past and had good luck. I’m not sure your budget for each night in NZ either (sorry you may have said) but there is a motel in Rotorua which is pretty reasonably priced and it has kitch facilities in the apartments as well as a swimming pool and private hot spring water hot tubs called Alpin Motel.

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    • Laura says:

      Sticking to the North Island is strictly a matter of time – we need to get up to Japan for some family events. And, we want a reason to have to come back to New Zealand.

      I greatly appreciate the information about bookabach, and the hotel in Rotorua. We’ve checked out some places on Airbnb, but no plans yet so these may work as well or better. I’d love to stay somewhere with private hot spring tubs!

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  6. Susan says:

    I am not “well traveled” so have no suggestions but wanted to say I love your enthusiasm and joy in your life. Looking forward to hearing details of your big adventure.
    Susan

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    • Laura says:

      Thank you so much, Susan – you made my day! My grandmother was a positive person, and taught me to go for the best, but be satisfied with what I have. The best was still to come. Life isn’t perfect or even always happy, but there is always joy to be found, especially in the simple things.

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  7. Snoskred says:

    Where would I even begin with Sydney? I honestly have no idea where to start. There is so, so much to see there. Gelato Messina would be my major must try, I love their gelato.

    Sydney accommodation can be pretty up money even for airBNB. Sometimes Groupon has decent deals and I also would suggest the Wotif website for looking at accommodation, it is probably the more used of the booking sites here in Australia. Having said that, I usually book direct with accommodation now after a couple of not great experiences with third party bookings. The same goes for airlines.

    I will say this, it is a bit of a shame to go all this way and not visit Jervis Bay which is truly one of the most gorgeous places on earth. There, my little plug for my part of the world. I run/walk between Huskisson and Vincentia nearly every day and not one single day has it been anything less than completely gorgeous, even in rain, wind, whatever weather. 😉

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  8. Laura says:

    Our Airbnb lodging in Sydney will most likely be a studio as that’s all we can probably afford there. I will look up Wotif though and see if I can do better.

    Is a trip down to Jervis Bay doable as a day trip from Sydney? We won’t have a car while we’re there, and will be dependent on public transportation. It sounds absolutely lovely though (and we could maybe do a meet-up!).

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  9. M'Shell says:

    I don’t have much to add but wanted to tell you about a podcast which might interest you. It’s called “Lets Not Panic” It’s about a young couple that overlands (aka travels in their car with a roof top tent) from San Francisco to Patagonia and back. They hit a lot of countries in South America. Not sure how much of the info/situations will apply to you since they travel by car but it is a fun travel podcast and you might enjoy it.

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  10. Bob says:

    I have visited the following cities on your itinerary: Rome (2X), Lisbon, Paris (3+), Strasburg.
    My suggestions: Paris if you only have 4 days. Take a “big bus tour” in Paris (there are several routes) it is a great way to see a lot of the city and save your feet. If Rome or Lisbon has a big bus tour I’d take it there as well. Most of my trips have been weekends or business with limited sightseeing. Although we did a week in Rome as our daughter was in schools there in 2002. (she got on the plane to Italy on Sept 18th 2001. We were practically the only passengers in the Austin TX airport that day).
    In Paris go to the d’Orsay Museum vs the Louvre. The Louvre is massive and takes all day (although we “did it” once in 3 hours at a dead run just to say we saw it). The d’Orsay is much smaller but has good art and there may be a good traveling exhibit on the upper floor. Great for lunch as well. If you “must” see the Louvre, I’d get a floor plan ahead of time and plan your visit carefully, so you see the high spots vs the “whole thing”.
    I really enjoyed sitting in the outside cafe (relaxing) on the Champs Elysees (or any busy street) and just watching the people (unless you are there in the winter). Versailles was ok but a day trip – be sure to get tickets BEFORE you queue up to get in. Line is long but moves fairly well.
    Generally speaking in Rome and Paris I would avoid the temptation to walk everywhere (we did this in Rome and I think we wasted too much time) – take a cab or public transportation things are further apart than you think. This is probably true everywhere.
    Rome sort of has 2 main environments (in my opinion) – ancient Rome and Catholic. So the sites seem to break between the ancient stuff and churches and church related stuff. St Peters/Vatican is a must see as is the Forum, Colosseum, etc. St Peters has a dress code as do others as they are working churches and not museums. For the most part Catholic churches in Rome are very plain on the outside but can be much more elaborate in the inside (There are 1400 churches in Rome). As they are working churches they may have services at any time. One time I visited St Peters the Pope was celebrating Mass so we could not get to the rear part of the church.
    Lisbon – only suggestion is to get to SIntra and the old Palace.
    Strasburg was a day trip from Stuttgart and I enjoyed it. Be sure to eat flame’ kuchen (kind of like a French/German pizza) and take the canal boat ride. Be sure to see the Cathedral at night as it is lit up uniquely.
    Sorry I have not eating places to recommend been too long to remember.

    Have a fun trip
    Bob

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  11. Laurel says:

    I’m going to second the Normandy beaches and taking time to wander there. My DH is a WWII fanatic since his dad was in the Air Corps and their plane was shot over the Falaise Gap. We drove out to find it and discovered a wonderful little museum at the top of the hill overlooking the valley, which is now the most bucolic scene you can imagine. Such a contrast from the history. Also seconding the Bayeux Tapestry…really, really cool. That entire region is just wonderful. We also loved Mont St. Michel which we did as a day trip from Bayeux.

    Having just returned from Italy, I have to disagree with not walking. We cabbed a few times (to the Vatican, to the airport, etc.), but we walked 6-9 miles per day and really enjoyed the neighborhoods and seeing the cities we were in plus walking off ALL THE FOOD we were eating. LOL. The food was consistently amazing and not overly heavy. Another thing we loved was Assisi. Just a wonderful little city readily accessible by train. My DH is NOT religious in the slightest, and he is still raving about it. It’s super hilly to walk but very doable given your daily walks getting in shape now. Just so picturesque. We hiked all the way up to The Rocce Maggiore and loved it! I took a ton of pictures of little side streets, beautiful front doors, vast amounts of beautiful planters, etc. Just lovely.

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    • Laura says:

      Thanks for all the tips! I think both of us would enjoy visiting Assisi if we can fit it in. Both Brett and I enjoy walking, so I think we’ll be walking most places. Brett has an uncanny sense of direction so he’s really good at getting us places by foot and then back again. I, on the other hand, have NO sense of direction whatsoever. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have gotten lost.

      I don’t even want to think about the food yet. I can’t wait!!!!

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  12. Janette says:

    I recommend Sant Anna’s in Rome to stay. Simple pension across the street from the Vatican museums (which are fantastic). The ITT office was excellent in Rome- offering discounts on all sorts of things. If you end up in London for a night- you might try the Union Jack Club.
    I know you said you did not need advice for Hong Kong—but :). We lived in Pok Fu Lum for two years. If you haven’t taken the double decker bus from Central to Repulse Bay, you have missed a fantastic ride. I can still smell the spices and see the temples in my mind. I do miss the North market on Kowloon side as well.
    Happy travels!

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