Here I go!

I've been told many times over the years that I should write travel guide books, but this is as close as I plan to come to that!

Since getting my first passport at age 43, I have gotten to go places in this world that I never dreamed of seeing, and I'm an inveterate note taker. My travels since 1986 have been as a professional travel agent...which only increased that note taking. I hope to share some of the things I've found interesting for one reason or another -- maybe for cultural or historic reasons, maybe just beautiful, maybe ultra good, maybe just hilarious. And sometimes just because I liked it, related to travel or not.

My speciality in the travel business is Italy, though I handle travel pretty much worldwide..and if I don't keep up with a particular area, one of the great agents in my office does. See for more about the professional side of my life.

Your comments and shared tips are very welcome! I truly believe "we get by with a little help from our friends."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Useful travel finance website for foreign travel

From Twitter today I learned of a very useful website about travel finances when abroad, credit card fees and more.. The 'credit card foreign transactions fee comparison" chart is especially a winner. I have a personal writeup that I provide my clients about use of ATM's and credit cards abroad, whether to exchange Euros in advance, etc., and this link will be a great addition.

There are also helpful links of all sorts on the site.

The general website is and the chart mentioned is at

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vermont for the Leaves

My Texan son and his Yankee Bride were married in Connecticut on October 14, 1995...perfect for 'the leaves.' And I was lucky the week after to spend time at my co-in-laws ski house in Vermont. I fell in love with Vermont then, and have managed to go back twice. My most recent trip was October 3-9, 2009, and the 'color' timing was perfect. We spent three days in the Ludlow area, then headed way north to Montgomery, which is only 10 miles from the Canadian border. Driving Hazen's Notch Road/VT 58 was a special treat in a series of joyfully beautiful days. I also don't think it's possible to get a bad meal in Vermont, anywhere!

I'm sharing photos of some of the scenery with you. You do NOT have to sign in to view them. Simply click on "view photos," then on "play slideshow.' Enjoy the splendor!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Very cool map for New England Fall Foliage!

My son found this map online and sent it to me, since I'm 'going to see the leaves' in Vermont soon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Top 10 World Cities for Pickpockets

This helpful reminder list comes from, an industry publication that I read regularly.

European cities run off with majority of top 10 and Spain snags two spots
TripAdvisor points out top 10 places worldwide to beware pickpockets
Monday, September 14, 2009

TripAdvisor, the world's most popular and largest travel community, announced ten cities to beware pickpockets, according to TripAdvisor travelers and editors, and five tips to avoid getting pickpocketed. Visitors would do well to watch their bags particularly in major European cities, where many popular outdoor attractions are tourist havens – and prime targets for purse-snatchers.

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Ramblas: Barcelona, Spain
One reviewer actually compares Barcelona pickpocketing to a generally practiced and accepted sport, like soccer. For those who'd rather stay off the field, take caution: Las Ramblas, the famous wide, pedestrian walkway full of life, music, and people at all hours of the day and night, is the perfect place to get your purse poached.

2. Rome Rascals: Rome, Italy
With its ancient buildings and astounding historical and cultural attractions, Rome is full of both tourists and incredible things to sightsee. With thousands of people admiring the Trevi Fountain or the Pantheon, it's easy for a pickpocket to lift a camera or purse with a quick snip of scissors or some clever handiwork with a zipper. Travelers beware: 5 of Rome's top 10 most popular attractions according to TripAdvisor's Popularity Index are busy, outdoor attractions.

3. Cash or Czech: Prague, Czech Republic
The famously beautiful Charles Bridge is lined with 30 baroque-style statues, as well as thousands of tourists who crowd its ancient stones each year, making a perfect recipe for pickpocketing. Before taking in the view of the Vltava River and the Prague Castle beyond, be sure valuables are strapped down. Travelers beware: 6 of Prague's top 10 most popular attractions according to TripAdvisor's Popularity Index are busy, outdoor attractions.

4. Madrid Mischief: Madrid, Spain
El Rastro fleamarket and the crowded metro are often cited as spots where unfriendly pickpocket schemes can put a damper on a visit to this beautiful city. However, travelers should also beware that in museums (Madrid has many) pickpockets can be crafty as well, preying on distracted tourists.

5. Poaching in Paris: Paris, France
The City of Light draws enormous crowds from the base of the Eiffel Tower to the steps of Sacre-Coeur and everywhere in between. But enormous crowds can also be found below ground, in the city's metro system, where travelers should be especially cautious.

6. Italian Job: Florence, Italy
It is certainly easy to see why tourists would be distracted by the majestic beauty of Michelangelo's David and the other incredible and awe-inspiring works of art and pieces of history all around Florence. When admiring Michelangelo's creation, or at its replica in busy Piazza della Signoria, be alert that others may have their attention on your wallet.

7. Don't Cry for Me: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is a vibrant and culturally rich city with much to offer, from the famed Teatro Colon to the city's many distinct neighborhoods. However, if while sightseeing you find you are suddenly covered in "bird droppings" (likely mustard) and a "friendly" local (likely a thief) happens to be standing by with napkins to help you clean up, beware. Travelers beware: 5 of Buenos Aires's top 10 most popular attractions according to TripAdvisor's Popularity Index are busy, outdoor attractions.

8. No Dutch Treat: Amsterdam, Netherlands
It's easy to get carried away in Amsterdam with so many fun things to see and do, but don't be too taken in by the canals and the friendly, laid-back atmosphere – pickpocketers have been known to take advantage of countless tourists in this enchanting city.

9. Greek Tragedy: Athens, Greece
This legendary city features countless ancient monuments, many of which are outdoors. Whether visiting the Parthenon on the Acropolis, or anything else in this magnificent historic city, keep the bags close to the vest while your eyes admire the rest. Travelers beware: 5 of Athens's top 10 most popular attractions according to TripAdvisor's Popularity Index are busy, outdoor attractions.

10. Hands On in Hanoi: Hanoi, Vietnam
The capital of Vietnam has its charming Old Quarter, littered with monuments and colonial architecture, and the city also features 600 temples and pagodas, making it a beautiful and unique place to visit, but also a place to stay alert for mischief. Travelers beware: 5 of Hanoi's top 10 most popular attractions according to TripAdvisor's Popularity Index are busy, outdoor attractions.

TripAdvisor's Top 5 tips to avoid being pickpocketed
1. Never keep your wallet or valuables in your rear pocket, even if it buttons – it's by far the easiest target.
2. Beware of the distraction tactic. Dropping something near you, squirting something on you, or simply jostling you. Be on guard when in crowds, and secure your belongings.
3. Pickpockets often work in pairs or groups and it's not just the usual suspects. Be cautious with any strangers—sometimes people who don't look like they'd be a threat, such as children or the elderly, can be part of larger operations.
4. Stay alert in confined spaces and near passageways. Try to avoid standing near the doorways of trains as groups of pickpockets can rush at you when the doors open.
5. Before you set off on a trip, pare down the contents of your purse or wallet as the smaller the bulge, the less likely pickpockets are to covet it.

"Not always a basic 'lift-and-run' operation, expert pickpocketing can sometimes involve more complicated scams," said Christine Petersen, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. "Travelers need to be aware of all kinds of tricks meant to distract them from their belongings while enjoying popular world attractions."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Very Typical Venetian Drink: The Spritz

I'm borrowing today from, one of my favorite websites. Learn about one of the most Venetian of to pronounce it, how to order it, what's in it, and a good place to get it!

Where To Drink Jaunted's Favorite Spritz Cocktail In Venice
Where: San Polo 2807, Campiello San Tomà , Venice, Italy
by JetSetCD on July 17, 2009 at 3:29 PM

While the summer is at its peak and you're no doubt tired of chugging bottled water under the sun at tourist sites, we're going to hit some of the world's best watering holes and down their famous summer cocktails. Bottoms up!

As dusk hits the lagoon of La Serenissima, tourists retire to their hotels for naps or plain cooling down from hot days under the Adriatic sun, spent museum-hopping and souvenir shopping. This is the cocktail hour in Venice, when it feels as though the locals emerge after lying in wait for the tourists to tire. To celebrate the beginning of another evening of socializing and good food, the cocktail hour usually focuses around Venice's signature local drink: the Spritz.

Based on either Campari or Aperol—with Campari the typically male version and Aperol (order "Spritz al Aperol") for women—a Spritz is a happy little red-ochre potion which can be found year-round in Venetian bars. Nonetheless, summer turns us away from our usual Prosecco and towards the fresher comforts of a Spritz at the Ciak 1 bar in the San Polo district.

Ciak 1, left out of most guidebooks and online bar listings, is a spot we've discovered after much Venice trial-and-error in terms of finding a great atmosphere, great drinks, and a place which also sells the Frittelle specialities of the February Carnevale. Nestled in the Campiello San Tomà, a small square which seems to magically appear when you're on the verge of becoming very frustrated with attempting to navigate Venice, Ciak 1 is our highest recommendation for sitting with a friend and savoring a simple Spritz.

Here's how to mix your own at home:

· Dump some ice into a lowball glass
· Pour 2oz of Prosecco from Treviso (ok, or any sparkling white wine)
· Add a touch of sparkling water
· Finish with 1.5oz of either Campari or Aperol
· Garnish with an orange peel and serve

Or, go truly summer cocktail with a little alternative we've come up with ourselves, even though we won't pretend to be the first the mix the ingredients. It's a result of much time spent in hot Italian weather. Enjoy it the Jaunted way:

· Dump a fistful of ice into a highball glass or larger
· Pour in the contents of one of those cute Campari Soda bottles
· Empty a can of Lemon Soda in there as well
· Mix and serve; it's like a fizzy grapefruit-ish cocktail!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

World's Most Scenic Train Rides

The American Society of Travel Writers has come out with a fine list of what it considers the World's Top 10 Train Rides. See

And another good list from The Travel Editor,

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

World's Most Spectacular Wine Tasting Rooms

Thanks to Travel + Leisure for this lovely look at some of the world's most spectacular sites for wine tasting!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tipping Advice from Fodor's

The only thing I would add to this good advice is to check first to see if a tip is already included in your restaurant bill. 15% is included in Italy, for example...but it's considered good manners to still leave several Euros more to 'round up.'

When Kids Fly Solo

My grandsons, ages 6 and 9, will be flying from Austin to BWI on their own in a few weeks, so I took special notice of this Dallas News article with good tips. Thought I'd share.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Small restaurant in Paris

I have had this place in my Paris Notes for Clients since 2003, and was delighted to see that it is where the Obamas ate in June 2009 – someone advised them well!

La Fontaine de Mars, 129 rue St-Dominique, 7th, metro: Ecole-Militaire. Always reliable, old fashioned bistro, chic clientele. Good traditional cooking, friendly welcome, good value; terrace seating in summer. See

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dial 112 in 27 European countries in emergency

The system isn't perfect yet, but this is useful travel information: for what you would call 911 for in the USA, you can dial 112 in any of 27 European countries for help. Only 19 ountries can answer in English so far, but that is improving. For more information, see

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Venice Organ Concerts for Lent

Thanks to my friend Nan McEloy in Venice for alerting us to a wonderful series of Lenten organ concerts in Venice. How I wish I could be there for a few!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

From Budget Travel: "Paris: Eating Haute for Not A Lot"

L'Atelier and La Table de Joël Robuchon One of the country's most famous chefs came out of retirement a few years ago to open the left-bank L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (5 rue de Montalembert, 7th arrondissement, 011-33/8-26-10-12-19) and the right-bank La Table de Joël Robuchon (16 avenue Bugeaud, 16th arrondissement, 011-33/1-56-28-16-16). Neither is strictly haute, but both are undoubtedly hot. L'Atelier draws most of the attention, thanks to edgy design and open kitchen theatrics. La Table, however, boasts one of the best deals in town. You'll find many of the same dishes as at l'Atelier but for half the price at lunch. The €55 ($70) menu includes a glass of wine, hors d'œuvres and a main dish, plus cheese, dessert, coffee, and mignardises. As an added (and rare) bonus, both places are open every day of the year.(Budget Travel Online)

La Table carries two Michelin stars. 16, av. Bugeaud, Paris, 75116
01 56 28 16 16. See also

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Divina Cucina

My friend Judy Witts Francini, aka "Diva," is going to be doing cooking class on the West Coast of the US soon. How I wish my schedule allowed me to be present for at least one!

Diva is a treat: an American who moved to Florence in 1984, fell in love with Italy and an Italian, ran a cooking school in Florence for many years. She now offers Market Tours at the wonderful Florence market -- doing that with her is such fun, as all the vendors know her and she can tell you what booth has a third-generation butcher, what booth sells her special blend of herbs, etc. Judy also does three-day or week-long cooking classes in the Chianti area, and there's truly no telling what she will come up with next!

Diva's website has wonderful tips for restaurants and shops in Florence and the Chianti area, a "Strada del Vino" route with suggestions for each town...see . And of course, a fun blog at

And oh yes, that US West Coast Cooking Class Schedule:

Feb 12,13 and 14th- Ramekins Cooking School- Sonoma

Feb 15 and 16th -Arroyo Vista Inn B&B and cooking school-Pasadena A B&B with its own wine cellar!

Feb 19- guest chef Angeli Cafe in LA ? to be confirmed still

Feb 21- Cavallo Point Cooking School- Sausalito

Feb 22 - Slow Food Dinner in Marin ( members only)

Feb 25 - Cooks, Pots and Tabletops Cooking school- Eugene, Oregon

Feb 27 and 28- Diane's Market Kitchen- Seattle

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bernard and Trust and Me

First work day of this new year, three potential new clients contacted me about my services. I was struck that some of the things they asked me were different from past first inquiries. This time the questions were less about how I worked and what it would cost, and more about whether they could trust me to be real and solid. Questions about how often I travel to Europe (generally twice a year), when was the last time I was in Italy (three weeks in Fall 2008). In fact, one caller got right down to it and said, "I just needed to find out if you are real." Another via email asked various questions and then wrote, "You do sound like you know what you're doing."

My oh my, what the latter half of 2008 has done to us all, with Bernard Madoff being the icing on that cake. I've had people tell me that they felt they could trust me because of the picture of me with my grandchildren on my website. But I'm sure Bernard could have offered that, too. I've made a point of putting 'testimonials' from past clients on my website. But I'm sure Bernard could have offered that, too. So how do those of us who are indeed 'real' and 'solid' make clients comfortable with us in this 'new normal?' Carrying hard-earned credentials isn't enough, and grandchildren photos and client testimonials may not be, either.

In the mid-80's I worked with someone who has gone on to become an instantly recognizeable, nationally known figure in the political arena; if I gave the name, some of you would crack up and some would pass out, so I won't. But he once said a very insightful thing to me: "Sally, you trust people until they give you a reason not to. Most folks don't trust someone until they give them a reason to." Then he had a question: "Don't you get hurt a lot?"

My answer was that no, I didn't get hurt a lot, though some had been doozies. But that pretty much I had found that we get back what we give in this world, and that self-fulfilling prophecies indeed exist. So, I planned to go on trusting people until they give me a reason not to, much preferring that approach to the opposite.

I'm still doing that, and hope that even in the jaded state that hangs over all of us as we emerge from 2008, I can continue. But I'm pondering how I can most easily help potential new clients become comfortable that I am real and genuine and won't let them down.