Sunday, July 29, 2007

Playing it smart at Hearst Castle

The two turrets will really take your breath away!!
I took this photo during Tour #2 in March 2007.

Hearst Castle is a must see destination when traveling up Highway 1 to San Francisco. Here are some top tips to get the most out of William Randolph Hearst's grand estate:

1. Arrive early to order your tickets and expect to wait. The attendant will provide you with a time to meet at the bus gate and instruct you where to go. You may purchase your tickets online, but I have found plenty of things to do while I wait.

2. Listen up for the loud speaker if you do not want to wait till your ticketed time. They are always looking for volunteers to jump in on an earlier tours. I actually heard the loud speaker the strongest in the ladies restroom.

3. There are four tours: The grand tour, the upper floors tour, a tour exploring the outer houses and the gardens tour. There is also an evening tour. If you will only be there once in your life, consider not taking the grand tour even though the web site recommends it. While the grand tour is a wonderful introduction, the other tours are smaller groups and you still learn just as much. When I took the grand tour, we had close to 50 people in our group. Tour 2 which visited the upper floors, Mr. Hearst's personal quarters and the kitchen only had 10-15 in the group. This allowed us more personal time with the tour guide. Keep in mind that all tours cover the highlight of Hearst castle: the pools.

4. Wear Sunscreen.

5. Go see the complimentary movie that explains how Hearst got his vision for the estate.

6. If you are waiting for a tour or you still have energy for additional sights, stop by the Elephant Seal viewing area 4 miles north of the Castle on Hwy 1 or swing by Cambria for an ice cream, glass of wine, espresso or tea. I will cover the elephant seals and Cambria in a separate article.

7. If you are coming from the south on hwy 1 to the castle, keep in eye out for the roaming Zebras. The Zebras roam the Hearst land and they particularly love to graze near the highway. However, if you see them and not know about them, you will not believe your eyes. I have been blessed with seeing them once. Unfortunately, I saw them before I was aware they existed. I rubbed my eyes and said nahhhh.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Eurail: Best Yet FAQ

I love the unique tips that real life travelers offer, but it is hard to find some serious travelers who take advantage of the Eurail Pass.

My friends at BootsnAll made my day with this incredible FAQ.

I have a hunch I am boring the world with my obsession of European rail.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Catalina - no boundaries on a Kayak

My biggest pet peeve with tours and adventures are with boundaries. My sister and I always dreamed of going on a trail ride and actually steering the horse instead of the traditional butt to head caravan up a mountain.

For my husband's birthday, I took him to Catalina and found an excellent deal on a kayak adventure without any boundaries. No cones, no guides, no buoys, and no ropes.

The nice folks at Descasno Beach Ocean Sports have a fantastic "Not So Early Bird" Special for $64*. They offer a double kayak, two shorty wetsuits, snorkel gear for two including mask, snorkel and fins. They also throw in a dry bag to store your stuff and a small cooler to pack your lunch in. We had four full hours to kayak where we wanted. We paddled several miles along the coast north of Avila. We landed on a few secluded rocky beaches, had a picnic and splashed around in the water. A dolphin swam between us and a few sailboats and a seal surfaced 10 yards from us to voice his displeasure.

There was no supervision, no guide telling me to paddle a certain way and no one telling where I had to paddle to.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

*Price quoted July 2007.

Eurail - Reservations

Eureka! Eureka!

I found more information on understanding what trains and countries require reservations. Thank you BootsnAll for the link.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Vent: Eurail

My biggest gripe on trip planning is trying to understand the rail systems. I have read quite a bit about supplemental costs for certain trains, sleepers and seat reservations. Where is a site that will tell me what trains cost more and how much I should expect to pay?

For planning, I have found a nice rail timetable guide. Unfortunately, I need to know which city I want to start from and which city I want to end up.

To assist me with this dilemma, I have found a neat interactive rail map for each country that gives me hints of quicker routes and where the special trains go. The map is for Spain, but you can navigate to other countries quite easily.

I am predicting that understanding the rail system will be of assistance to many readers. As I understand more, I will forward you the details. When my trip finally occurs, I look forward to sharing my real life experiences.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Allow me to Introduce Myself

My name is Mauri. I am planning a vacation.