Archive | October, 2017
October 25, 2017

Orland, Florida – as much fun as you can handle.

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brandon-mowinkel-199350 (1) Epcot Center, Walt Disney World

Orlando, Florida is one of the fun capitals of the world where we can all have a guilt-free “second childhood” for a few days. Home to the iconic Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando with their own theme parks and water parks, there is also the unique and amazing Discovery Cove, as well as gorgeous beaches like Cocoa Beach and New Smyrna Beach about an hour’s drive east of the city. And because Florida is a narrow state you only have to drive 2 hours west to visit the equally lovely Clearwater Beach on the Gulf of Mexico, passing the city of Tampa on the way.

If you are interested in space exploration the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is also only an hour’s drive directly east of Orlando on the Atlantic Coast. It has interactive displays, movies and exhibits on the complete history of space flight, bus tours of historic and current launch sites, and you get up close and personal to the actual space shuttle Atlantis.

If you’re a petrol head you might like to take a day trip to Daytona International Speedway, famous for the Nascar Daytona 500 race which will be held in 2018 on February 18th. Of course there are lots of other race meets throughout the year so check out the schedule. You can now explore the new Motorsports Hall of Fame of America when you visit the Speedway. It showcases all forms of motorsports and has an exception array of cars, motorcycles, drag cars, land speed record holders and powerboats. There is also the bonus of the fabulous Daytona Beach only 15 mins drive from the speedway. So you see it is clear that you really can’t go wrong with all the action-packed family Florida holidays available to choose from.

Most of the theme and water parks in Orlando are owned and managed by three of the majors players in the entertainment business: Disney, Universal and Sea World. Many people choose to stay onsite at either Walt Disney World Resort or Universal Orlando Resort, but it is not mandatory to do so. For example there are accommodation options to suit all at Lake Buena Vista , which is near entrance to Disney World. Hotels on International Drive are close to Sea World, Universal Orlando Resort and Universal’s brand new water park Volcano Bay, for those without a car. An advantage of staying within the Universal Resort complex is that you are allowed early admission into a theme park of your choosing, 1 hour before “outsiders”. Walt Disney World has a similar arrangement so check it out online.

If you are a fan of wildlife and like the idea of a relaxed waterpark where you can swim in close but safe proximity to dolphins, sting rays and tiger sharks, then Discovery Cove is the place for you and me alike. Entry is all-inclusive too so food, beverages, lockers, towels, use of snorkels and wetsuits, sunscreen and most things you’ll need are free once you’ve paid the price of admission. If you are visiting Miami during your Florida holiday you could take the family to the awesome Miami Zoo. It’s the only zoo in a tropical setting in North America and gets great reviews. For an even more intimate experience take a tour of the Zoological Wildlife Foundation in Miami. It places a big emphasis on educating the public about rare and endangered animal species and visits are by appointment only so you need to book ahead and can do so online.

The best time of the year to holiday in Florida is during the dry season of November through April, when it is consistently sunny and warm, but without the excessive humidity, heat and frequent rainfall of the wet season (May-October). Visiting during the “dry” months will also ensure you avoid the Hurricane season.

Image by Brandon Mowinkel via Unsplash

October 10, 2017

Milan, Italy – Style and so much more!

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Milan is the capital of the Lombardy Province in northern Italy and the second most populous city in the country after Rome, with nearly 3.3 million people. Calling Milan a well rounded city is a bit of an understatement as it’s a leading world city in industry, finance and commerce, education and the arts, healthcare and research. Most people know of Milan as the “Fashion Capital of the World”, but it is also the “Design Capital of the World” too. In this post I will feature some of the many highlights of Milan. When visiting this iconic city of fashion and elegance you might like to consider getting the mood by riding in style from Malpensa Airport into the city.

Milan Cathedral
Duomo di Milano is the largest church in Italy and the 3rd largest in the entire world. This grand cathedral was built over a period of 400 years and wasn’t completed until 1805. Not surprisingly, it’s design has a mixture of styles reflecting preeminent fashions of the changing times and it certainly has had it’s detractors and admirers over the last few centuries. It is the number one tourist attraction in the city and one of the really cool things about it is that, for a fee, you can go up on it’s roof and see the myriad of elaborate spires up close.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
This is “mall shopping” on a style level I’ve never seen before. The galleria is an amazing 19th century structure, comprising of 2 four storey bisecting arcades in the shape of a Latin cross. The space between the arcades is covered by an arched roof of glass and cast iron and where they bisect, there is a magnificent octagonal glass dome that is 154 feet high. It is the oldest shopping mall in the world and the arcade connects the Piazza del Duomo (the square in front of Milan Cathedral) and the Piazza della Scala ( the square in front of La Scala Opera House). The entrance from Piazza del Duomo is framed by a magnificent triumphal archway. The galleria has all the big name fashion shops but I’d go there just to see the architecture alone.

La Scala
If you are opera buffs like my parents you’ll know that La Scala is one of the top opera companies in the world, so be sure to check out the season program and book online in advance for the popular operas.

Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
This monastery is very unimposing on the outside and completely belies the splendor within. The rooms within are decorated with amazing frescos, some of which are over 400 years old and still in amazing condition.

Il Cenacolo
The monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie houses Il Cenacolo, the famous Last Supper painting by Leonardo de Vinci which dates back to 1495. Because of the way it was initially painted, the condition of this fresco began deteriorating soon after it was completed. Due to this decay and despite, and in some cases because of, numerous attempts at restoration (the last in 1999) very little of the original painting remains. In spite of this the painting is a big drawcard and due to it’s popularity you need to book online a few months in advance. It is also recommended to do a tour so you can learn more about the story behind the painting and appreciate it more.

Attractions near Milan

Milan is only 1 hour by train or a 2-2.5 hour drive to another great northern city Turin. Genoa on the north-west coast takes about 1.5-2 hours by train and 2-2.5 hours by car. Because of it’s proximity to the coast many tourists choose to visit La Spezia and cliff-edge villages that create the picturesque Cinque Terre.

Despite North Italy being the most industrialized region of Italy it also famous for the natural beauty of it’s many lakes. The most well known ones are Lakes Maggiore, Como and Garda which lie at the foot of the Alps and/or Dolomites and are lined by gorgeous villages with a lot of character. It takes less than 2 hours to drive from Milan to any of them. Lake Lugano is another of the larger lakes – it is partially in Italy with the rest of it lying over the Swiss border. It’s hard to imagine any lake more beautiful than Maggiore or Como, but some of northern Italy’s smaller lakes are arguably even more pretty e.g Lago Iseo and Lago d’Orta so be sure to visit more than the big four.

Image by Jess Wood under Creative Commons license.


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