Saturday, June 25, 2016

Solo Travel News - June 25, 2016

With so many solo travellers looking for affordable ways to travel, without the dreaded single supplement, I am always watching for specials. Periodically, when I have time, I summarize a few into an email to send to those who may be interested. Here is a sample:

One of amusing cruise ship related BrExit memes
Image by "Brighty", found on Bruce on Politics
Welcome to summer!

This continues to be a GREAT time to travel as a solo.

Thinking of Europe? With this yesterday's news of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, we can expect prices to drop on hotels in London, as well as throughout continental Europe. Combined with the already soft cruise market in Europe, the time to travel to Europe is now!! Fabulous deals abound. Contact me if you want me to take a look for anything.

2016 CRUISES

For those of you looking for a bargain, here are a few cruise deals that I see right now (CAD)... [read the rest on my cruisetravelbug blog].

Saturday, June 4, 2016

San Miguel de Allende


Inspired by the charm in a book I am reading - On Mexican Time, by Tony Cohan - I am learning about San Miguel de Allende, a small village in Mexico.

San Miguel de Allende is in central Mexico (no seaside here), in the far eastern part of Guanajuato state. They call the macroregion Bajío. Due to its remote location, San Miguel de Allende is difficult to get to, but its remoteness is part of its charm.

The well-preserved historic town centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is filled with buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. The nearby Sanctuary of Atotonilco is also a World Heritage Site.

Founded by Franciscan Monk Fray Juan de San Miguel Miguel, the town was baptized as San Miguel el Grande. In 1826, during the Mexican War of Independence, the town was the first declared independent of Spanish rule, and was renamed to honour native son Ignacio Allende y Unzaga, the first Mexican soldier and a national hero. At the beginning of the 20th century, though, the town was on the verge of becoming a ghost town.

That is, until its Baroque/Neoclassical colonial structures were "discovered" by foreign artists.

The public laundry (lavaderos publicos)
The creation of the Instituto Allende and the Escuela de Bellas Artes, among others, attracted artists such as David Alfaro Siqueiros (who taught painting), writers and a large number of American WWII vets (aided by the G.I. Bill).

Ultimately, the expat-friendly town has attracted a foreign retirees, more artist types, and tourists. When combined with the wealthy Mexicans who have rediscovered San Miguel as a Malibu-like retreat from Mexico City, San Miguel today has an eclectic mix of Old World Mexican charm, American hospitality, and a relaxed party atmosphere.

Just watch your step, bring comfortable shoes, and expect a bit of workout. San Miguel was built into the side of a mountain, so it can be difficult to traverse (some inclines are 15 or 20 degrees). Many of the narrow, cobbled streets have fallen into disrepair, and curbs are often a high step away from the road.

I am intrigued by...
Another Face of Mexico Mask Museum - a private collection of 500+ Mexican ceremonial masks (by appointment only)
Public Library (Biblioteca Pública) - features 30,000 titles in English, a small gift shop, a café and free wifi (temporary memberships available)
El Charco del Ingenio Jardín Botánico (Jardín Botánico) - a unique park above the town with an enormous collection of cacti (apparently one should use beer to coax a local to use their key to let you in the back gate)
Thermal pools - just outside of town, for an afternoon of relaxation (pre-arrange return transportation or know when the last bus arrives)

Suggested resources
10 Reasons Why People Fall in Love With San Miguel de Allende - Huffington Post
San Miguel de Allende Today - Travel+Leisure
San Miguel de Allende tourist information - Visit Mexico
Country Mouse - blog post about Tony Cohan, author of On Mexican Time - David Lida
Getting there: see San Miguel de Allende on Wiki Voyage for options.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Pietrasanta, the city of sculpture


Today I learned about the Italian town of Pietrasanta, and thought I would share what I learned.

I first heard of Pietrasanta when I was reading about tours to Carrara, where there are marble quarries. I never really thought about visiting a quarry before, but when I think of all the amazing marble sculptures and architecture in Italy, I became intrigued. More about that later, but when I stumbled across references to Pietrasanta as "the city of sculpture" I was hooked. I wanted to learn more.

Pietrasanta is in the Versilia area, on the coast of northern Tuscany in Italy, in the province of Lucca, about 32 kilometres (20 miles) north of Pisa. The town is situated 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) inland from the coast (where the frazione of Marina di Pietrasanta is located).

With Roman origins (part of the old Roman wall still exists), the medieval town was founded in 1255. Like most of Tuscany in general, the area has long enjoyed the patronage of artists.

The aspects of the town's history that are most compelling to me relate to the marble and the sculptors who worked here. Pietrasanta grew to importance during the 15th century, mainly due to its connection with marble. In fact, Michelangelo was the first sculptor to recognize the beauty of the local stone.

Things that interest me about Pietrasanta:

  • Both Michelangelo and Henry Moore lived and worked here 
  • It is referred to as "the city of sculpture" and I want to see why 
  • There are 8 bronze foundries 
  • There are "dozens" of marble laboratories here 
  • It is near the Carrara marble quarries, which also intrigue me 
  • It is small and off-the-beaten-tourism-track 
  • Bozzetti Sculpture Museum (with sketches and models of sculptures by 100's of artists) 
  • Bruno Antonuci Archaeology Museum (with prehistoric, Etruscan, medieval and Renaissance objects) 
  • Art galleries feature some big names, such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude 
  • It has a beach * 
  • It's near Livorno, a popular cruise port of call

* The Pietrasanta Marina, with golden sand and luxurious equipment, is considered one of the best beaches of Italy.

It was because of its proximity to Livorno that Pietrasanta came to my attention, as it is mentioned as a stop on a few cruise shore excursions. It was on one of those day-long tours that include Florence, Pisa, Lucca and half of Italy (it seems), so it's not likely that I'd visit that way.... but perhaps I could visit on a self-directed excursion, or an independent visit.

I'm now curious to learn about others experiences visiting the town, and Pietrasanta's hotels (not many), sights, festivals and so on. Have you been? Please share!

Good resources
Discovering Pietrasanta - Travel + Leisure
Pietrasanta and Versilia Events Guide - local Versilia guide
Pietrasanta Travel Guide - Virtual Tourist
Pietrasanta Travel Guide - About.com
How to Tour the Marble Quarries of Carrara - About.com
Going to the beach in Italy - About.com

Monday, April 25, 2016

Travelling to write: 5 writing retreats

In mulling about for ideas to kickstart my creativity, I've started thinking about going on a writing retreat. I know these exist, but don't know much more, so I set out to research where one might travel to participate in a writing retreat. As its an interest of many, I thought I'd share my discoveries.

Here are 5 writing retreats that made me want to pack my bags:

You can write sitting where Hemmingway did at Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center Writers' Retreats, which are held in Hemmingway's Barn Studio in Piggott, Arkansas, USA. I liked how budget-friendly this one was, and how they change their coaches with each session.
 
IMGP0068
The Tuscany Writing Retreat is held in
Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy
creative commons image bramhall/Flickr
The Tuscany Writing Retreat, with Cary Tennis, is situated in the medieval hill town of Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy and is timed to coincide with two local festivals. Oh, still my beating heart...
 
The Greece Writer's Retreat, with Julie Maloney on the Greek island of Alonnisos, spoke to my longing to return to Greece.

At the Skyros Writing Lab, on the Greek island of Skyros (where Achilles hung out), there area  variety of writing retreat options. Could it be any more idyllic?

Writing Retreats with Creative Revolution Retreats are held at different destinations. The next one is in Nicaragua, and it sounds like a pretty nice setting.

It would be hard to pick just one!
 
In doing my research, I really liked this piece, 25 Incredible Writing Retreats to Attend in 2016, as it contains a range of possibilities from around the globe, from expensive to not-so-expensive. I found some of the above from this piece, and the reader's comments.

There are retreats everywhere, from Iceland and Denmark to Mexico and Scotland, so if you yearn to transplant yourself to a new setting to immerse yourself on writing, there is a world of possibilities out there.

If you've travelled to attend a writing retreat, I'd love to hear your experiences.

If you're inclined to travel to a participate in a writing retreat - or just to a quiet place to write - I'd be happy to help you with your travel arrangements. Please feel free to contact me.

Related links
Choosing a Writing Retreat? Watch Out for These 6 Red Flags
How to Choose a Writing Residency or Retreat
26 Amazing Writing Residencies You Should Apply for This Year
Etruscan Italy - a self-guided tour

Monday, April 18, 2016

Etruscan Italy - a self-guided tour

Part of the Etruscan temple reconstruction
on the grounds at Villa Guilia in Rome 
Discovered an interesting 7-10 day "Tour of Etruscan Italy" in the new DK EyeWitness Guide Italy (2016, page 17). Enjoyed reading it, following the itinerary.

Beginning in Rome, sites include treasures in the Etruscan Museum of the Vatican and Museo Nazionale Etrusco in the Villa Giulia.

Towns with Etruscan ruins and/or artifacts included the self-directed tour are, in sequence, are CerveteriSutriTarquiniaViterboOrvietoTodiChiusiGubbioVolterra and San Gimignano.

The tour finishes in Florence at the National Archaeological Museum.
Extent of Etruscan civilization and
the twelve Etruscan League cities.
Other stuff
Etruscan Civilization
Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia - UNESCO World Heritage Site
Etruscan museums in Italy

I look forward to visiting some of these sites in my future travels.

Welcome to Travels with Roberta

I have had, and still do have, several different blogs, all with elements of travel. I have a lot of interests, and have also tended to combine my personal travels with what I have discovered about destinations, so the result is a bit of a hodge podge of this and that. Messy, and not as useful as a reference for others as I might have hoped.

So, I am consolidating. I will still maintin my personal blog (Roberta's Blog), but will slowly edit and move my travel-related content from all my blogs here, to my new Travels with Roberta Blog.

I appreciate your patience as I do so, and welcome your feedback.

PS. Funny thing: I just set up this blog, for now, with the Blogger template that appealed most to me (there are about 40-50 to choose from), and I picked EXACTLY the same template as my personal blog. It must speak to me! Will eventually differentiate, but amusing nonetheless.