Tag Archives: vacation

Italy: San Felice Circeo and Monte Circeo

90 kilometers south from Rome you find Sabaudia, a perfect little town to visit in the summer. Next to the town you can enjoy the sandy beaches, which strech for many kilometers.

Sabaudia ranta

Right next to Sabaudia there is the small town of San Felice Circeo with its over 400 meters high Monte Circeo. I can recommend to drive up to the mountain and walk around the top enjoying the scenery to north and south.

ps. to enlarge the photos, click on them 😉

Sabaudia beach from the mountain

view towards south from mount circeo

After walking and taking some amazing photos, it was fabulous to enjoy the nice beach of Sabaudia and the fresh water of the Mediterranean.

Swimming in the Med

Fly to Rome, rent a car and drive to Sabaudia and San Felice Circeo. There are some great summer houses to rent. You can of course also choose a hotel of your choice. There are some great once south of San Felice Circeo.

 

 

 

Italy: Venice and the Dolomites

I spent one month in Italy with my aunt and her husband 1986. They lived in Milano, which is a spectacular and trendy city.

J in Milano

We visited Venice on our way to Finland. It was July and it was hot.

ps. to enlarge the photos, click on them 🙂

JH Venezia 1987

Our day in Venice was full of walking around and enjoying the many fantastic sites, historic bridges and exotic canals – something you do not find anywhere else in the world.

Venice_1

Venice is a city in northeastern Italy sited on a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. The town is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks.

Venice_5

The city in its entirety is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Venice_3

Did you know that Venice has played an important role in the history of symphonic and operatic music, and it is the birthplace of Antonio Vivaldi.

Ponte di Rialto is one of the most famous bridges in Venice.

Venice_Ponte di Rialto

We did not spend the night in Venice. If I could stay the night, I would choose for example Boutique Hotel Venice Liassidi Palace.

Venice_Boutique Hotel Venice Liassidi Palace

Many famous people visit Venice each year. In 2013 the Hollywood stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney were photographed on the first day of the Venice Film Festival 2013.

Venice_Bullock and Clooney visiting

I recommend to take a tour along the canals. It is a great way to view the city.

Venice_6

Venice_7

Venice_8

Then, of course, you must do some shopping, sit in cafeterias and watch people. The Italian way.

venice_shopping

There were so many awesome streets and alleys, prepare to walk for many hours. There are so many neat shops, cathedrals, restaurants…

venice_shopping_2

My aunt, her husband and I had to be at the Dolomites the next day. So instead of checking in at a hotel we drove north.

The Dolomites were declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.

Driving through the Dolomites

The site of the Dolomites comprises a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps, numbering 18 peaks which rise to above 3,000 metres and cover 141,903 ha. It features some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere, with vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys.

Driving through the Dolomites_2

My aunt’s husband is a photographer. He got some amazing pictures of the Dolomites and the surroundings. A nice gasthaus offered the visitors some fabulous views of the mountains.

Driving through the Dolomites_GasthausI can warmly recommend both Venice and the area around the Dolomites. Go and see them both!

 

 

Italy: Trevignano Romano and Bracciano

A HOUSE BY THE LAKE

A few years ago we thought about renting a house in Cyprus. Or in Malta. But the flight choices from Helsinki were not the best possible. No direct flights to Malta anymore.  Cyprus had some interesting houses for rent, but at the end we could not find one within our budget, and fulfilling our wish list. So we turned to fabulous Italy – again. Great choice!

This time we chose to visit an area north of Rome, as we had so far visited areas south of Rome.

Italy is full of great people, the language is beautiful and interesting to learn, the food and wine culture is fabulous and the scenery is awesome, wherever you go.

As earlier, we found it hard to find a house with air conditioning. The summers in Italy are hot. I was about to give up, trying to find a nice house 1 hour north from Rome, with AC. Then I got a reply to one of my queries. A man in Trevignano Romano said his family has a vacation house for rent. The owner promised that the house reflected our wish list.  He promised there is ACin the house.

So we made a deal. We chose a house by a lake, instead of the Mediterranean sea, as always before. And what a view we had from the house down to lake Bracciano.

ps. to enlarge the photos, click on them 🙂

view from the T R house

While you wait to travel, read travel blogs and books of the country and the area, which you will visit. Check out the web pages of the city you will stay in. Then you know in advance of events during your vacation, find tips on great restaurants and museums, etc.

Trevignano_view from the house 2


TREVIGNANO ROMANO

This was the second time we chose a house, by chance,  in a city where the Italian themselves like to stay during the weekend and the holidays. 3500 – 5000 people live in Trevignano Romano.  It depends on who you ask. Many come there just for the weekend. Those who live there, work in Rome or are working from home.

The beautiful Trevignano Romano is situated by Lago di Bracciano, lake Bracciano, less than 50 kilometers north from Rome.

The highway A12 takes you from the international Fiumicino airport to Cerveteri, where you turn inland. From Cerveteri it took maybe 15 minutes to Bracciano, a small town by the lake Bracciano.

Cerveteri Bracciano map


BRACCIANO

The old town of Bracciano is small but very beautiful. On Piazza Mazzini you find the old castle Castello Orsini-Odescalchi.

bracciano castle wedding

You can rent the castle nowadays. One couple who did this was Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, when they were looking for a fabulous place for their wedding.

Tom and Katie wedding

From Bracciano we moved on along the SP4a towards Trevignano Romano. On both sides of the road a thick green forest surrounded the road. Every now and then we saw a glimpse of the lake. We also saw some amazing houses right by the lake. I wonder how much they cost. Our vacation house was close to the lake, but not 10 meters from it, like these houses.

T R beach houses

In ten minutes we arrived in Trevignano Romano. I must say I have seldom seen anything so beautiful.

Trevignano Romano

In the middle of the main street we turned left. The street got smaller and smaller. It was fascinating to see such old roads, with houses so close you could almost touch them through the car window.

Trevignano town 1

Putting on the first gear our small Alfa Romeo made it to the top of the hill. The view from Monticello hill was unbelievable and breathtaking.

T R view from the house to the lake

view of the b lake

Even though we check and recheck certain things, Italians tend to surprise us every now and then.

The very polite house owner showed us around the house and the garden. Everything looked great and perfect.

Trev house_JH outside

The house was bigger than we thought and needed, but it is hard to find small houses.

The garden was huge and had trees, bushes and plants everywhere.

T R house backyard flowers

The swimming pool was located a the south corner of the garden. It was a great spot. On your east side you have the amazing Parco Naturale Regionale di Bracciano and on your south side you can see all the way to Rome on a sunny day. The house had a small terrace and a bigger one. The view from the bigger terrace was just beautiful.

T R view from the upper terrace

When we asked about the AC,  the owner looked a bit sly. When I reminded him of the importance of AC to us, he started to talk about global warming etc. He also said it would not be too hot, so we would not need AC. We said we do need it. The temperature was already surprisingly high, around 34° C. Early June this is hot, even in Italy.

Finally the owner said there was an AC in the house. But, it was in the dining room. It had not been used for years. He said he would go and get the remote control and check if the AC works. When he came back and turned on the AC, a terrible noise filled the house.

As our Italian house renter did not know what to do, and as my husband is quite smart with technical apparel, my husband said he can have a look. And smart as he is, he repaired the AC with the things available. The AC started working, without smoke and noise,  but at the lowest level. We were surprised that the owner had not checked and fixed the AC, as it is mentioned in the ad and as we had especially asked for it. We also had to pay extra for the AC.

It got so hot the next week that the house owner drove north with his family as it was too hot for them in Trevignano! And still he said no AC is needed in the house … This was hilarious. 😉

But the house was nice, the garden was huge, we had a swimming pool (2 meters from the natural park) and the location was fabulous. So we had a terrific 2 weeks in Trevignano Romano.

pool next to the natural park in T R

Egypt: Hurghada

Our first visit to Egypt took us to Hurghada. A few friends had recommended the area. We wanted warm weather, sunshine and a hotel close to the Red Sea.  In January it can be 25°C. During our stay the temperature did not get quite this high, but we enjoyed warm weather during the day. During the night it was about 12°C.

Egyptikartta

The vacation was great and the week was sunny.

Hurghada_Blue Lagoon beach

 

THE HOTEL

The Shedwan Garden Hotel has 4 stars.

Shedwan Garden Hotel Hurghada

Our first room situated outside the main building in a quickly built additional wing. The front door and the balcony door had a gap of a few inches between the floor and the door. The wind was strong, outside and also inside. The furniture was cheap and old. We decided to change rooms.

JH ekassa huoneessa_Hurghada

Personal discussions with the personnel worked well.  We got a room in the main building. We had to give up the wish of a balcony and partial sea view, but instead we got a real room, with great furniture, space and no wind inside 🙂

Ile uudessa kylpparissa

Johanna uudessa huoneessa

 

There were lots of cats around this hotel. I heard it is common in Hurghada. Hurghada_slight cat problem

The garden of the hotel was very nice. The personnel took good care of it. You could stroll through it during the evening and on your way to the beach.

Hurghada JH in the hotel back yard

THE BEACH

The beach of the hotel was OK. We had yet not found the amazing world of snorkelling and photographing underwater,  so the beach fulfilled our needs – we got to swim in the Red Sea.

Hurghada_Blue Lagoon beach

Hurghada_IH swimming in the lagoon_luxury boats in the background

There were no coral reefs close to the beach, but you could take a boat and travel to coral reefs and go scuba diving.

Hurghada seen from the beach

We saw some pedal boats and decided to try one. It was actually quite fun and sporty to pump the pedals in the high waves.

Hurghada beach_lets rent a paddle boat

Here are some great shots of the Blue Lagoon and Hurghada, seen from the sea.

Polkuveneellä laguunin ympäri

Hurghada_seen from the sea 2
It was nice to swim in the Blue Lagoon. The temperature was not too hot, but during the day it got warm and the water felt great on the hot skin.

JH tried the cold water

I recommend to travel to Egypt and to enjoy the country’s many beautiful places, beaches and its many attractions.

Egyptin pyramidit

 

Waiting to fly to Jordan

Where is Jordan?

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is in The Middle East, on the East Bank of the Jordan River. Jordan borders Saudi Arabia to the south and east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and Israel to the west.

Map of Jordan and the surrounding countries
Where is Aqaba and Tala Bay?

Aqaba is situated in the southern  part of Jordan and is the largest city on the Gulf of Aqaba. It is Jordan’s only coastal city. Tala Bay is a holiday resort 15 minutes south of Aqaba and very close to the border of Saudi Arabia.

Why Jordan?

We have travelled during the summer in countries around the Mediterranean Sea for more than 10 years. During winter time it is a bit cold in Europe, so we decided 5 years ago to visit Africa. We thought Egypt could be something interesting, mysterious and fun.

Egypti kamelimies
We love the sun, warm days on the beach, diving into the sea and photographing fish and corals. It is also wonderful to experience new cultures and countries, meet local people.

Exif_JPEG_422
We have visited Egypt 5 times. We are in love with the Red Sea.

fish in the red sea
In September 2013 the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland recommended to not travel to Egypt due to the unstable situation in the country. As a result of this all Finnish travel agencies cancelled all reservations to Egypt until April 2014.

We searched the web for other countries (to which Finnish travel agencies offer flight + hotel packages) around the Red Sea, which we hoped to visit again. We found Jordan and Israel. They both have some coral beaches on the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea.

We compared Israels’ Eilat with Jordan’s Aqaba. Aqaba sounded more exciting and mysterious. Then we found Tala Bay, a sunny vacation resort 15 minutes south from Aqaba. No noise of a hectic town or traffic, great hotels, long beaches and promise of corals and exciting fish … that is all we needed to make our choice. Apollomatkat is the only one in Finland offering vacation packages to Tala Bay (and Jordan for that matter). If you want to go to Eilat you can choose between Aurinkomatkat and Apollomatkat. Both fly with Finnair.

Tala Bay venesatama kuva
The temperature in November in the southern part of Jordan was said to be quite warm. Forecasts promised 23-30° C during the day and 19° C or less in the night. This sounded very good.

Apollomatkat, which we had never before used, handled everything very well from the beginning. The website works well, the customer service is friendly and helpful and the list of hotels in Aqaba was surprisingly long. In Tala Bay you can choose between 3 nice hotels.

We chose Radisson Blu Tala Bay, as the pictures of it on the website of Apollomatkat were great, we were promised corals and fish very close to the beach, the hotel had a private beach and the website of the hotel gave a great overall feeling of the resort.

Radisson Blu Tala Bay web site Radisson at Tala Bay Jordania_6Radisson room pic
The hotel gave us great service already before our trip. We have a wish list regarding the room and the car service. I contacted the hotel, as Apollomatkat, just like all other travel agencies in Finland, cannot confirm if you get a balcony or terrace, if you are on low floor or high floor etc. We got all our wishes fulfilled with the kind help of the executive assistant manager at the hotel. To offer this kind of service is definitely a competitive advantage.

It takes 5 hours to fly from Helsinki to Aqaba. Most tourist take the travel agency’s bus. But as it usually takes a long time to wait for all people to come to the bus, and the bus drives to many hotels before ours, we started to use the hotels’ car service a couple of years ago. One more reason was a sad experience with Finnmatkat (which otherwise works quite well). The bus did not pick us up from our hotel in Egypt some years ago. (The guide did not answer her phones and no one knew what was going on. The hotel finally drove us to the airport. When checking up on this matter, we were told “the phone lines do not always work in Egypt, the bus was late and the guide forgot to inform the hotel and the customers about this.”)

Most hotels offer car service. It is smooth and fast. It does not cost more (or much more) than the bus service.

This was an introduction to my future stories about Jordan. I will write about Tala Bay, the history of Jordan, the corals and the fish in the Red Sea as well as a review of Radisson Blu Tala Bay Resort.

Our passion since a few years back is to photograph in the Red Sea. I have hundreds of pictures from the land, the air and the sea. I’ll share the best with you.

Radisson Tala Bay Red Sea Diving picture_2 Ma`a as-salāma!