The Cartoons Are Cuter than the Concept

As reported by our friend, Hena Cuevas:

From the WTF Dept: This new travel “service” matches ATTRACTIVE PEOPLE with rich, lonely travelers willing to pay to have the beautiful companions accompany them to see the world, all expenses paid. Make enough of these trips and those frequent flyer miles let you earn trips on your own, sans wealthy, lonely dude. Pimping 2012 style, perhaps?

If our cartoon selves above could travel with the cartoon dudes they show, we’d have ourselves a deal!

Then again, you probably already know we’re partial to cartoons… that’s why we think this airline safety video is the cutest EVAH!

We’re hoping one of the people who posted on Vimeo is right, and it’s part of the advance marketing for a new comedy movie. We’ll see!

Mainz on the Rhine

I was just going through some old photos, and look what I found!  Pics from a trip to a German town called Mainz (pronounced like “mine” with a zzzzz at the end) from 2003!

It’s near Frankfurt, but we never did make it into Frankfurt itself, because there was so much to do in Mainz and along the beautiful Rhine.  Castles and vineyards and tschu-tschu trains! Oh my!

Me and a Castle on the Rhine

Castles in various states of preservation dot the Rhine, but they’re all pretty awesome.

Tschu Tschu

Same sound, different spelling for this “Tschu Tschu”!

Us with Castle and Flowers

This is where the Tschu Tschu went. Up a hill to this lovely place!

Castle Turret

It was July and the weather was lovely!

Gutenberg Museum

As a writer and the daughter of a printer, I have a deep love for Gutenberg…and his cool drinking fountain!

What do you call these cars that hang from cables overhead? I must have known that at the time, so was I thinking about the wine the vineyards would make, or the river Rhine in the distance?

Sydney and Marsupials

These are old photos from a trip to Australia in 2005 that I thought I’d better share now, while I remember where they are!

Aboriginal Art

The Opera House from The Royal Botanical Gardens

A cockatoo!
LOTS of cockatoos!

Antique Scuba Gear! From a shop in The Rocks – Sydney’s Old Town.

I have no idea what animal this is supposed to be, but this puppet (promoting a cell phone company) cracked me up! I feel much the same love as I once did for Saturday Nite Live’s “Toonces the Driving Cat”!

At Harry De Wheels in Woolloomooloo – With everything on them, these famously tasty hot dogs have the most unlikely combo of toppings: mashed peas, chili con carne, grilled garlic, cheese and tabasco sauce!

..

Kookaburra

Petting a Koala

Holding hands with a Kangaroo

Petting Kangaroos

Tasmanian Devil profile

Tasmanian Devil peeping

Hairy-Nosed Wombats – Cute!

Echidna

And finally, perhaps the weirdest of all Oz’s creatures: schoolboys in really silly uniforms!

2 Chicks Trip to Paris Part One

Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France

Arc de Triomphe photo by Lesli Latt

 

I’m not sure how it happened, but it has been almost four months since we went to Paris, and I’m still overwhelmed by the awesomeness of the experience.  I’ve been to Paris a handful of times before, but every time offers a whole host of new things I want to capture—and this translates into A LOT of photos. 

My other challenge has been in choosing how much to share.  I’m the type of person that takes notes along the way because I want to remember and share everything. I want my friend, whose birthday the trip celebrated, to have a detailed record as well.

Cartier on the Champs Elysee, Paris

Lesli in front of Cartier on the Champs Elysee

But I realize that the majority of people who are going to come to the blog don’t need everything, or even want it.  So now I will endeavor to offer you the highlights (which really doesn’t narrow it down much!).

Of the 3 cities we visited – London, Paris and Rome – Paris was my favorite.  It seemed to have the best combination of old world charm and modern comforts.  It is a city that runs smoothly without obliterating or being inconvenienced by its history.  

My goal was to show Lesli as much of Paris as she could see in 3 days, and still have time to sleep.  So we started with a quick walk around our hotel’s neighborhood. We stayed at the Tilsitt Etoile, very close to the Arc de Triomphe and one end of the Champs Elysee.  Then we napped and prepped for our dinner cruise on the Seine.

This served the dual purposes of seeing an overview of the city while getting a taste of the culture through food, drink and music.  This is a must for any short stay in Paris. There are a number of companies that offer cruises with varying levels of comfort.  We chose Bateaux Parisiens , and loved it!

Here’s where it took us :

Bateaux Parisens Seine route map 

Click here for the interactive Cruise Map and it’ll tell you all about each of the places!

2 Chicks on the Seine

 Here we are enjoying the cruise.  The photo of me was taken by the onboard photographer as a souvenir photo. I almost didn’t get it, but Lesli talked me into it.  Thanks, Lesli!

Below are some of the photos we took during the cruise– see if you can match them up with the map.  (See? Interactive and educational, aren’t we?)

Bateaux Parisens photo montage of Seine Sights

And here’s a video to give you a taste of the magic! 

Afterwards, inspired by the sights and sounds, and full of great food and plenty of wine, we hung around to take photos of the Eiffel Tower at night.  Pretty good for our first day in Paris!

PARIS ~ DAY 2

The next day we took a hop-on hop-off bus tour with the goal of hopping off at the Louvre.  The great thing about the bus is that they have running commentary so you know what you’re looking at, and a map to follow along.  Still, I could hardly remember, (and surprisingly, didn’t take notes!) so I did a lot of research when I got home to identify all the buildings I photographed. 

Paris Sights 
 
Please enjoy a little sampling of: The Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, Le Grand Palais, Eglise de la Madeleine, Paris Opera, and The Louvre! 
 
I did further research after looking at our Louvre photos and video.  And I’ll tell ya why: the magic of art is that it evokes memories and emotions, it refers to something else, and that something is different for each person.
 
Just as much of modern art and pop culture refers back to the classics, when one’s first exposure is through pop culture, it works the other way too.  Lesli and I have always enjoyed each other’s pop culture references, but in order to honor the real artists and intent behind the works we captured on film, I did hours of research on the Louvre’s website and elsewhere.  (I also noticed that I’ve photographed many of the same things each time I’ve been to the Louvre.  I’m sure it would make for a great psychoanalytical study, but I’ll save that for another day.)
 
Ultimately, though that’s what travel ought to do – reflect ourselves back to us and then push us beyond what we know to discover more.  And the world is full of so much more!
 
Here are some of the Louvre’s greatest hits, as chosen by we 2 chicks:
Louvre Sights, Paris

Louvre's Greatest Hits

Phedre et Hippolyte by Baron Pierre-Narcisse Guerin

Adoration of the Magi by Bernardino Luini (or our name: Mohawk baby Jesus)
 
Mona Lisa by Da Vinci
 
The Young Martyr by Paul Delaroche
 
The Nativity by Fra Diamante
 
Penitent Saint Jerome in Ecstasy attributed to Luca Signorelli (or our name: Super Jesus flying high)
 
– I went kinda Joss Whedon and thought this guy was holding a little pet demon, but actually, he’s Portrait of a Man with a Statuette by Agnolo Bronzino.
 
Winged Victory of Samothrace (AKA Nike of Samothrace)
 
The Sisters of the Artist by Theodore Chasseriau
 
The rest of the stuff we loved can be seen in our video, below.  Don’t hate us because we’re pretending to be shallow!  And you can search the Louvre online for any I missed.
 
 Then we left the Louvre in time to catch the last visit by the hop-on-hop-off bus. 
Louvre Courtyard from inside the Pyramid

Louvre Courtyard from inside the Pyramid - photo by Malayna

 
 It was bright, so I donned the only sunglasses I had with me – my SPY sunglasses!
 
Atop the Paris Tour Bus

Cool sunglasses, and cooler (spy) sunglasses!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here’s a sampling of some of the photos I took with said spy sunglasses.  See the earpiece? I’m like a secret service agent or something! 
Paris captured by spy sunglasses

Paris captured by spy sunglasses

 
Wait til you see what I got on the following day! 
 
Check back for Paris, Part Deux!

From Cannes Film Fest to Frankfurt part 1

(WoW co-founder Malayna Dawn met this guest blogger when they were both interning at KROQ-FM in Los Angeles!)

By Tracey Adlai

A few years ago I discovered that attending the most prestigious film festival in the world, Festival de Cannes, was free (with accreditation) and ever since, I’ve been on a mission to make the Cote d’Azur my playground for one week every May.

Festival de Cannes - photo by Tracey Adlai

There are several different levels of accreditation, mostly reserved for film professionals, but one is dedicated to granting screening access to everyday film lovers.

To read more about how to apply to attend the Festival de Cannes, check out my article for The Valley Film Festival.

In the past, my travel partners and I were able to find roundtrip air AND comfortably share a standard suite at MMV Cannes-Mandelieu Resort, for 6 nights, for about $1,000 USD each.  No joke.

With the rising cost of airfare, and, well, the rising cost of everything else, I lost my cohorts and didn’t travel abroad in 2010. I vowed then and there to never rely on having a travel partner again.

PLOTTING A SOLO ADVENTURE

Like most people, I have a full-time job, side projects, financial responsibilities, family obligations, etc. and carving out the time and saving the money to travel requires planning and research.

Once I received my Cannes accreditation in February, I started pricing airfare. Even 3+ months out, there was nothing under $1,200 USD.  That wasn’t a bad price. It was an OK price. If money wasn’t tight, and if I didn’t know better deals were to be had, I would’ve have booked it. Instead, I played the variable pricing airline game and waited until I could find a flight, including all taxes and fees, in the $800 USD range. I used Kayak.com to track and compare airfare – it’s one of my favorite travel sites and one I trust because they don’t handle third party bookings.

Fortunately, the cost of staying at MMV Cannes-Mandelieu  hadn’t changed (approx €130/ $190 per night). Sure it was costly for one person, but I justified the expense by being familiar with the surrounding area; I knew where the supermarket, ATM, and best croissants were. Plus, having access to the free shuttle to/from the festival offset potential cab fare. (The hotel is approx 4 miles from the center of the festival.)

After a month of watching airfare go up, I got nervous about the rising cost of my 6 days in paradise. Suddenly I had an “a-ha!” moment – I remembered that I had air miles! Since I was dipping into my reserve, I added a week to my vacation, and decided to make this a true holiday by exploring other parts of Europe.

My original idea was to fly into Paris, spend a few days in the City of Lights, take a train to the South of France, attend the Festival de Cannes, and via another train to Rome, end my trip amongst historical ruins. It was the just the vacation I wanted.

USING AIR MILES

As I waited for the extra week of vacation to be approved, Paris and Rome were no longer available options using air miles. What was left? GenevaZurich, Frankfurt and Venice.

A week into daydreaming about each destination and having my friends on Facebook chime in, I decided to start my adventure in Geneva, Switzerland and end it in Frankfurt, Germany. Air miles were cashed in and about $120 USD in taxes and fees were paid. (Yes, you still need to pay fees and taxes. Fees are tacked on for every leg of the flight and vary by airport and country. If you’re flexible, click around and see which destination has the lowest.)

Geneva - photo by Tracey Adlai

My adventure was scheduled to begin in Geneva on Tuesday, May 10. Because the Festival de Cannes has fixed dates, and I prefer to attend the first week to connect with filmmakers and industry professionals in town for premiers, I knew that I needed to travel south by Friday, May 13, or Saturday, May 14th. Given that I needed to spend 4 to 5 days in Cannes, I was free to explore starting May 18th, as long as I was in Frankfurt on May 24th to return to the U.S.

Now that I knew when and where I was arriving and departing from, it was time to fill in the blanks!

(to be continued in a future WoW post! Stay tuned….)

 

2 Chicks Take a Trip to London

Because Lesli and I flew from two different locations to meet in London, our take on everything was from very different perspectives.  For example, this was her first trip out of the U.S., so she was thrown off by driving on the “wrong” side of the road and by our Heathrow Shuttle driver’s creative weaving through traffic at top speed.  I flew from Colombo, Sri Lanka, where we drive on the same side of the road as they do in England, and far more creatively!  So the poor girl had her every comparison sprinkled with the further comparison of my experience as an American expat.  Ah well, that’s why I am more than just the average tour guide!

Our first order of business, after getting to our lovely hotel, The Hesperia London Victoria, was to find dinner.  The St. George’s Pub at the end of the block was so packed that people were standing outside to enjoy their pints, so we found ourselves something that seemed authentic inside a nearby shopping center.  I had fish and chips, of course.  The next morning’s breakfast was not so authentic…we skipped the £13 English breakfast of eggs, ham and baked beans offered by the hotel for scones and a hot beverage at the nearby, familiar and much beloved Starbucks!  (We don’t have them in Colombo.)  Then onto the hop on-hop off bus, The Original Tour.

Our first stop was the only place I really insisted on seeing – The Sherlock Holmes museum!  I’ve been in a Victorian era state of mind lately (perhaps since moving to Sri Lanka in 2000 actually, where it seems some are keeping the era of British rule alive). 

Loved it! 

At the same stop was Madame Tussaud’s, where I’d never been and had no intention of going. Lesli wanted to compare it to the one in L.A., so we went, and I had A BALL! 

 

LONDON LESSON #1 – Sometimes it’s the stuff you didn’t plan that turns out to be the most fun.

While Lesli stuck with more contemporary stars, I traveled through time, fiction and cultures, cuz that’s what I’m all about.  (I don’t really spend much time in reality….) 

Then it was back on the bus to see the sights of London town. One of Lesli’s priorities for London was to see a palace, so we did Buckingham Palace one day and Kensington Palace the next.  Unfortunately, the tours inside Buckingham didn’t start until later in the summer. Kensington Palace offered tours, but not merely of the palace rooms.  While they are refurbishing it, they’ve created an art installation called The Enchanted Palace that was AMAZING.  It was such a highlight that I’m going to delve into it in a separate post.

After shopping in the Buckingham souvenir shop, we walked back to our hotel near Victoria Station, and happened to notice that the musical Wicked was playing nearby.  Lesli and I saw Wicked together in L.A. … twice… and LOVED it.  I was quite obsessed by it, actually.  But we had tickets for the ballet that night – another of Lesli’s requests for the trip. The Northern Ballet was performing Cleopatra at Sadler’s Wells across town.  My lovely cousin, Nazra, was meeting us at our hotel with a print out of exactly how to take the Tube to the theater, how long it would take, and where to walk from the station.  Once we were all dolled up and ready, Nazra showed us the way.

We found our place on the train and then heard an announcement, but couldn’t understand a word.  People started leaving the train, so we asked someone.  Apparently, the Victoria Line was closed until further notice. Gasp!  Back up from The Underground we rushed, trying desperately to hail a cab (and apparently not very politely—we got told off!) until we realized there was no way we’d make it in time.  That’s when we found ourselves standing in front of the Victoria Apollo Theatre, staring at the sign for Wicked. We took it as a sign from the great and powerful Oz, and in we went. 

Having the soundtrack from the original Broadway cast committed to heart and memory, we were absolutely delighted with the performance. Not just because of the British accents of the characters, either.  The young woman playing Elphaba, who we later learned was Rachel Tucker, held up to Idina Menzel and then added her own magic.  We were so thrilled by the performance!  If you want a taste, check out this clip on YouTube:  http://youtu.be/XQAsv6ZnGFo

Afterward, we lingered, trying to find just the right souvenirs to represent our London Wicked experience. We were there so long that the staff began turning off lights and locking doors.  Oops! They ushered us out, and as we started toward our hotel, we noticed a small crowd gathered. And just as we walked by, out popped the star of the show fromt he stage door, Rachel Tucker!  Lesli told her how impressed we were with her, even compared to the two previous people we’d seen in the role (Lesli knew their names) and then we got her autograph on Lesli’s souvenir poster, and we took a photo with her!  See?

LONDON LESSON #2 – When plans go wrong, sometimes the alternative turns out to be WAY better than the original plan!

The next day, we were off to see Westminster Abbey before meeting Nazra for tea at The Orangery at Kensington Palace.  The weather was great, so we enjoyed the walk from our hotel, then took the Tube– successfully this time—to Kensington Park, where we strolled until we found Nazra.  She joined us on the tour of the palace too, until it was time to part ways. Then to the Tube again to meet my husband’s cousin, Jani, and his lovely wife Angela (and their adorable little Isabel!) to experience Portobello Market. 

Turns out we were too late for the market. So after the obligatory tourist photo, Angela was only too happy to help Lesli cross another thing off her list – Harrod’sI’m glad to have seen it, but honestly found it a bit overwhelming. Lesli, however, had found a palace she could fully appreciate, and thankfully, a willing and able tour guide in Angela. I was quite happy to check out the décor with Jani and Isabel in the stroller. 

Angela knew of a lovely little pub nearby where we could have a dinner of Bangers and Mash and some cider, and then helped us find our way back to our hotel, where we had to pack for an early airport pickup for our flight to Paris!

 

In the next posts about Paris and Rome — be sure to check back discover how we took photos when they weren’t allowed!  Muah ah ah!

Written by Malayna Dawn for the Women on World Excursions blog , which she co-manages with some fabulous, world-traveling, women friends.

Chick Trip Planning 3 – Top 5 London Hotels

It seems like it should be easy to find a hotel I like, which fits my needs and falls into my budget, but I found it to be a challenge…that became a time-consuming obsession!  
 
 http://mappery.com/map-of/London-Underground-Transportation-Map
 

 

 

In London, it almost doesn’t matter if you’re not smack dab in the city center, as long as there’s a tube stop (London Underground – their subway system) nearby. So I checked the ones I liked on a map to make sure I wasn’t booking us too far from easy mobility. And then I checked the reviews at TripAdvisor.com

I looked at about 40 hotels, according to my notes, but I suspect I looked at more and just decided not to keep notes on many more than that.

Starting with Price
The rationale for an inexpensive hotel is that we’d be so busy sightseeing and soaking up the atmosphere, we wouldn’t be spending much time in the room. So I started the search at Hostel World.com, because a well-traveled friend assured me it includes hotels and B&Bs as well as hostels and the reviews are spot-on. It was, indeed, a great resource for affordable hotels. She also suggested EasyHotel.com  –  for just the basics.  Other friends suggested Premiere Inn and Holiday Inn hotels. 

Premiere Inn London Eye

BUT I found I wanted someplace a little bit special. This was going to be my friend’s first trip outside of the U.S. and I wanted her to feel like she was in London.  We’re also the kind of girls who like to nap or perhaps sleep in and get a slow, languid start, so we’d probably spend more time in our hotel than most. 

Sense of Style
Therefore, I did a search for “unique, boutique hotels in London” and found Secret Places.com.  It wasn’t as easy to use as some sites, but had lovely suggestions.  Unfortunately, most of these were either outside of our price range ($200 or under) OR too far away from public transport options. Still, I fell in love with the Lime Tree Hotel and hold out hope that it works out for a future visit. 

Lime Tree Hotel

Once I had fallen in love with a hotel that had a sense of design that felt good, it was impossible to go back. I wanted to be excited about where we stayed.  The Hotel Guru had some nice choices as did Epoque Hotels, but they either didn’t have rooms with 2 beds available (called Twins) for our travel dates, or were too far away from tube stops. If they had, we might be staying at one of these:

Tophams Hotel

 

• The warm and cute Tophams Hotel 

• The lovely New Linden

New Linden

• The very hip Hoxton Hotel which periodically offers a £1 sale.

Finally, it was down to sharing a bed at the clean, modern, Euston Square Hotel or not sharing a bed at the Hesperia London Victoria, which had everything we needed and a great location too.  

Overall, I found that Agoda.com and Expedia had good rates and were easy sites to use in the search, which was at times, completely overwhelming.

So, after much research, here are my top 5 London Hotel recommendations:

1. The Hesperia London Victoria – wins for great price, great amenities and great location.  
2. Tophams Hotel –  Very cute, good price and location.
3. The New Linden – Nice, with good rates and location.
4. The Hoxton – very cool, but a bit far away.
5. Lime Tree Hotel – far away but so lovely!

I’ll report back when I’ve actually been to London and experienced the room for myself!

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