Netherlands/Holland Quick Trip Adventures Guide

The Netherlands and Amsterdam are just as you’ve imagined!

Lush, green fields. Bikes for days. Happy, at-peace vibes.

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Things to do in the Netherlands/Holland near and in Amsterdam

I fell in love with the Netherlands, also known as Holland, where e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. rides bikes e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e! It’s a captivating atmosphere that gives the vibe of a content, friendly, welcoming society.

How to get to Amsterdam

Fly into Amsterdam (Schiphol Airport) or even Frankfurt, Germany. Frankfurt is a 4+ hour drive (or train ride), but if you drive it’s on the Autoban! Beware: do not go as fast as you want after crossing the border into the Netherlands, because you run the chance of getting a huge expensive ticket from some kind of unseen radar detector. This ticket includes a fee that goes to the rental car company, and a bank wiring fee. Don’t ask me how I know. :(. I digress – Brussels is another airport to check out.

Renting a car is a good and economical way (for a group) to get around if you’d like to visit various cities outside Amsterdam. Try Sixt or EuropCar or any other agency with which you’re familiar. You must get the insurance, as most insurance carriers from other countries won’t cover you if there’s an issue. Other transportation options are trains and buses.

Where to stay in Amsterdam

Recommended lodging: VRBO in Kortenhoef and/or central Amsterdam. I prefer the western side of the city; although, the entire city is beautiful and safe.

How to use the trams in Amsterdam

To get around the city there are many trams in the central section. It just takes a credit card loaded to Apple Pay. Tap when you get on the tram and tap when you get off the tram. It’s possible to tap out a couple of minutes before the stop. Press the green button to open the doors. Note that the silver bars do not automatically open but are manual – you just push through them. (As I waited for them to automatically open – I missed getting off at my stop! So don’t be me! 😳) Google Maps, on your phone, will work to figure out which tram to get on and where to get off.

How to Park in Amsterdam

They say a parking spot in Amsterdam lasts 30 seconds, so it might not be worth your time dodging the massive amounts of bikers, pedestrians and trams while trying to find an elusive parking spot. Highly recommend: Parking Center Oosterdok as it is centrally located and you can walk to most of the city’s main sites. It’s easy, simple, cheap-for-any-city. Reserve ahead of time online (any browser except Safari). Otherwise there are 7 park and rides located outside the city with buses back in. Purchase P&R GVB card – can use on bus, train or metro.

Rate per 12 minutes€1.50
Hourly rate€7.50
Maximum daily rate€37.50
Daily rate when booking€ 10 – € 25 per day

Marijuana in Amsterdam

I’ve spoken with some people who have a misconception that Amsterdam is filled with marijuana smoke. Incorrect. Sure, if you’re looking for it then you can easily find a “coffeehouse” to buy marijuana legally in Amsterdam (as well as many other cities in the world). There will be a green and white sticker in the storefront windows. If that is not your thing then don’t go to a “coffeehouse.” But if you are looking for coffee and pastries then find a koffiehuis. Or go to a “cafe” which is a restaurant or bar.

  • Anne Frank Haus. Westermarkt 20, 1016 GV Amsterdam. This is a very popular destination, so purchase tickets well ahead of time, as in months ahead. I have always felt a strong kinship to Anne Frank, as I read her diary initially when I was young and could relate to some of the kid things that she was experiencing. The Anne Frank Haus is a painful but important reminder of a little girl’s and a world’s struggle with evil and how it decimated so many innocent lives. It is both a powerful remembrance and a shameful experience to share in this family’s life in the secret annex for just a moment. 
  • Van Gogh Museum. 1071 DJ Amsterdam, Museumplein 6, Amsterdam. Purchase tickets ahead; you will get a time for entrance. Vincent was very busy in his mere 37 years, and you can see what he was up to right here. He also led quite a fascinating life and was extremely talented. The museum is spacious and well done and definitely worth the trip.
  • Heineken Experience. This tour includes the interesting history of Heineken done in a fun way with lots of interactive activities and 2 beers at the end. It takes about 2.5 hours and is well done and recommended. Made reservations a few days ahead.
  • Canal Cruise Tour. Recommend: Lovers Canal Cruises at Stationsplein 14, 1012 AB Amsterdam and other locations in central Amsterdam. The above location is only a 10 minute walk from Parking Center Oosterdok. 1 hour tour for a quick overview of the city with an interesting history. Buy tickets at location. Some cruises offer hop on/hop off.
  • Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market). Singel 630 to 600, 1017 AZ, Amsterdam. Hours: Monday – Saturday 09:00-17:30; Sunday 11:30-17:30. Flowers, plants, bulbs galore. Of course, tulips in every color. And it’s floating- a sight to see and experience!
  • Vondelpark. Pretty green space in the middle of the city with trees, lakes, paths and restaurants. A nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Free.
  • Brouwerij’t IJ Brewery. There are only 6 windmills in the city of Amsterdam. This one happens to be at a brewery, so you can get double the experience here. Indoor and outdoor seating.

Canal Cruise – DO IT YOURSELF with a pizza drive-thru (boat-thru)!

This is a super fun adventure if you’d like to see all parts of Amsterdam via boat through the maze of Amsterdam canals! It is roughly $100 USD to rent an electric motor boat for 3+ hours with maps of all the canals in central Amsterdam and the outskirts for a total of 6 people.

Electric boat rental – make reservations at Boaty. Boaty will give you a map with suggested routes and cool places of interest, and even bathroom stops, along the way.

I very highly recommend boating thru San Marco pizza! There is a hole in the side of this pizzeria on the canal side. Just hook up, pop out and order. (Bonus: there’s a public bathroom.) The pizza will be delivered to your hooked up boat!

Note that San Marco pizza is close to the dock where you will pick up and drop off the boat, so consider pizza at the beginning or end of your DIY boat tour.

Day Trips Outside Amsterdam:


Things to do in Kortenhoef:

Kortenhoef is a small, sweet town a 30 minute drive outside of Amsterdam. And is it ever the picture of Holland! Locals gracefully navigate the winding and quiet streets on their bicycles, painting a picture of a truly authentic experience. Kortenhoef is also charming storefronts, canals, and lush green fields abound. I stayed here at the most wonderful VRBO guesthouse with sheep in the backyard and canoes for my own use through the labyrinth of picturesque canals. Could not have been more lovely and picturesque.

Hiking in Kortenhoef

There is a lovely 2.5 mile stroll “oppad” through a nature reserve with lush, green pastures (may be slightly wet in summer) with canals and peacefulness. This is an out-and-back trail with a lunch option at the 1/2 way point at Bistro de Garde (address: Zuidereinde 208, 1243 KR ‘s-Graveland, Netherlands). Route is 2.5 miles round trip.

Boating in Kortenhoef

Rent canoes, sloops, motor boats or even electric bicycles to cruise through the maze of canals with Jachthaven Kortenhoef.


How to get from Amsterdam to Edam on bikes

Take a bike trip to Edam for an overnight adventure! Discover an enchanting journey from the vibrant heart of Amsterdam to the picturesque village that owes its fame to its delectable cheese, Edam. Embark on a captivating bike ride, immersing yourself in the breathtaking landscapes that unfold along the route. Note that Edam is pronounced “ee-dam” – I had a hard time with that, and I’m a speech pathologist. 🙂

Bikes are easy and cheap to rent from various locations throughout Amsterdam. I chose MacBike at Centraal Station (14,85 Euros per day, plus deposit). Be sure to get the lock offered as bikes are frequently stolen.

Ask for a map of the bike route to Edam. I also used Google Maps on the bike setting which is super easy to follow. (*Get your cell phone’s international coverage before leaving your home country then cancel it when you get home. Or utilize some carrier’s $10/day international fee.)

After renting a bike, go to the north side of the station and under the tracks following the signs to the free ferry boat “boot” to IJplein. It’s about a 10 minute ferry ride while standing next to your bike. Then begin your journey along bike paths up to the old world gem, Edam. It takes about an hour and 20 minutes at a leisurely pace.

Recommended hotel is the Hotel de Fortuna which is welcoming with a Holland-esque charm about it – built in the 17th century. It is right off a curvy Dutch road with adorable cottages and canals all around. They didn’t have air conditioning in the 17th century, but there are fans now. Breakfast is good and free! Take time to wander the streets and parks and look for cheeeeese (hint: Henri Willig at Spui 71135 BA Edam).

Stay the night and bike back to Amsterdam taking time to check out the little towns on the way. Get back to MacBike before closing time.

My helpful links to book your travel here

Hawaii – Maui

Things to do in Maui for a Quick Trip Adventure

Aloha! Maui is an adventure filled beautiful island with thrilling hikes, kayaking, snorkeling, biking, surfing, the famous Road to Hana and more! Read on to find out how to make your own quick trip adventure.

In Maui you’ll find crystal clear turquoise blue and warm waters with palm trees blowing in the breeze and mountains in the distance. This tropical paradise is an oasis of beauty with a long (and sometimes violent) history of land grabs and rulers. It’s easy to understand why so many would want this piece of wonderland. 

Where to Stay in Maui

We stayed on the northwestern coastal area of Lahaina where there are beautiful high rise condos all along the shoreline with help of VRBO. You can’t go wrong staying anywhere in this area as there are many accommodations as well as options for restaurants and some shopping. The communities have a Lahaina address and include: Kaanapali Golf Estates, Kahana, Kapalua, Montage, Kapalua Bay, Napili, North Kaanapali Beach, Olowalu, Pineapple Hill, and Puunoa.

Accommodations in Maui

I stayed in Kahana (VRBO) which has a beautiful view the distant islands of Lanai and Molokai, snorkeling, and is a good place for both families and couples. It’s also a perfect place to spot humpback whales in the winter months!

There is certainly something nice to be said about waking up to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore while the birds sing their morning songs. So if you find a reasonable deal for a place on the beach (preferably with a little kitchen because of the high prices of food everywhere) then I say – take it! (I stayed in the Valley Isle Resort (through VRBO) in Kahana and recommend it!)

Shopping in Maui

I was expecting Maui to be more built up than it is. That’s not to say that it’s remote – there are areas where the bigger stores are clustered (mostly near the major airport – Kahului Airport) and most of the other areas are condos or homes (in the midwestern and southwestern side of the island).

There are 3 major grocery stores in Lahaina – Safeway, Foodland Farms and Times. Plus there are several speciality and smaller markets. Prepare yourself mentally for the Hawai’ian prices – which means high (of course everything has to be flown or shipped in).

A fun area to eat is at the Kaanapali food trucks called Broke da Mouth.

Upscale Shopping

Whaler’s Village of Kaanapali has lots of shops, restaurants, experiences and even fun events. If you are not within walking distance of this village (or staying in Kaanapali) then it’s $12 to park in the parking garage. The ABC Store here has souvenir/beach/convenience items with lots of things you may have forgotten or need at good-for-Hawai’i prices. I loved the Maui Poke restaurant here with their make-your-own fresh and delightful poke bowls. 

Transportation around Maui

You will certainly need a car to get around anywhere on Maui, because the airport is more in the central portion of the island and many of the accommodations or adventures are on the shorelines.

Beaches in Maui

The water is clear, warm (75-80 degrees Fahrenheit all year long) and turquoise! That means that you can swim, snorkel, kayak, paddle board, sail, surf, etc. in most places right off of the golden sand. Note that in many of the coastal areas there is only a small beachfront or no beach at all.

Surfing in Maui

There are always an abundance of surfers at the beach off of Highway 30 between Lahaina and Maalaea at all the “beach parks” along the way. Bring your surfboard (there were some rental trucks there as well), pull off the road, park in the sand and hang 10. 

Maui has many surfing areas for beginners with many side stipulations about reefs, rocks and riptides, so do your homework on the area before you head out.

Some of the best waves for advanced surfers are: Ho’okipa Beach, Lahaina Reefs, Honolua Bay, and Olowalu Beach.

Of course, we cannot forget the famous Pe’ahi Beach (nicknamed “Jaws Beach,”) on the North Shore. It is strictly for professional surfers only due to its incredibly high (sometimes 70 foot) surf. Note that these waves only occur a few times per year in the winter, and it takes a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get to this location due to a dirt road and a rainy area.

Hiking in Maui

This is how I did these 2 hikes together: Kapalua Coastal Trail, (Burger Shack detour), Dragon’s Teeth Trail.

Park in the same parking lot for both of these hikes.

Driving directions: Take Honoapiilani Highway (Hawaii Route 30) northeast – make a left onto Office Road (Kapalua) and take it to the end (near the Ritz-Carlton). Turn right and the parking lot is right there. My maps navigator had it wrong.

Kapalua Coastal Trail – Hiking in Maui

The Kapalua Coastal Trail is a lovely trail along the ocean with incredible bluffs and turquoise blue waters to fill up your senses. As you hike along the coastline you’ll encounter warm sprays of water billowing up onto the large lava rock formations. This hike is full of lava protrusions from a west Maui volcano that erupted 320,000 years ago! There were a good amount of people on the trail, but it wasn’t unbearably crowded. To get to this trail, I started the trail at the Dragon’s Teeth parking lot and headed south.

The Burger Shack Break Between hikes: Once returning to the parking lot off of Office Road from the Kapalua Coastal Trail then head north on foot. You will basically just be on a sidewalk that leads right to The Burger Shack for a refreshing drink on D.T. Fleming Beach! 

Dragon’s Teeth Trail – Hiking in Maui

Dragon’s Teeth hike (a.k.a., Makaluapuna Point) is a quick 0.5 mile trail out and back right from this parking lot off of Office Road in the Kapalua community. Head straight down to the water for a sweet and quick trail right out to this unique lava formation. The jagged “teeth” are made from the lava from a volcano eruption. When the lava hit the water, the wind and waves blew it back to form these cool black “teeth.” Don’t forget to look over the edge for Hawaiian sea turtles.

Nakalele Blowhole Hike – Hiking in Maui

The Nakalele Blowhole is a beautiful natural spout that’s an amazing sight to see and explore. The blowhole is about 15 miles north of the Lahaina area. The drive to the blowhole passes many stunning overlooks with hairpin turns along the waters edge up in the mountains. There are some options to pull over and enjoy the view on the way.

The spout is actually ocean water shooting through a 3-foot diameter hole in a lava shelf. Anything you read about this place gives many warnings of death around the lava shelf either being sucked into the hole itself or from large, unexpected waves breaking over the lava cliffs (near the blowhole) and pulling people into the rough waters. Just use caution and don’t get too close.

If you are not interested in a short but decent rock scramble down to the blowhole (wear secured sport sandals with backs or hiking shoes as it’s also slippery) then you can also view it from up above. The blowhole is a remarkable sight especially if it’s windy – a spout every 30 seconds-ish! Turns out it’s almost always windy there, but if you check out the tide chart and go when it’s high tide then you’ll get the best show – up to 50 feet of spray.

Haleakalā National Park

There is a national park on the island of Maui and it’s a volcano (in a non-eruptive stage)! Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to hike or bike down this volcano, as it was further away from Lahaina than I’d realized. If you have the time, there is a lot to explore on this volcano!

Note that some of the hiking trails are at the end of the Road to Hana, so plan accordingly, as there is a lot of drive time to get to that location.

The Road to Hana (all day trip) – How to Prepare and Adventure

The Road to Hana is a long road through the rainforest and jungle on the eastern side of Maui. It has over 600 curves and 54 one lane bridges on this windy road. I drove it in a standard sized rental car without any difficulty. Just take your time and follow the rules, and you’ll be in good shape. Note that it does take a long time to do this 34 mile drive (that’s Paia to Hana but you could go further to the Seven Sacred Pools a.k.a. Oheo Pools). There are more than 40 stops along the way and the “stops” are the true reason for this road. The Road to Hana includes waterfalls, beaches, gardens, swimming holes, food stands, caves (“lava tubes”), and a state park.

A few things to do before getting on the Road to Hana:

  • Gas up ahead of time (or in Paia town)
  • Get cash (many road side stops only take cash)
  • Put plastic down or something to cover your car’s floor boards as many of the trails to waterfalls or hikes are muddy in this rainforest
  • Start the tour (in Paia town) at 8am so that you can finish it all before dark
  • Make reservations at the Waiʻānapanapa State Park (black sand beach) weeks ahead of time. I recommend the 12:30-3:00 time frame if you start the Road to Hana at 8:00am. This gives you time to see all the sights ahead of time and have enough time to explore and even swim at this park. *Note that I did NOT receive an email confirmation, so I took a photo of the voucher with the QR code right after I made my reservation and that worked to get into the park. Otherwise, I would not have been able to get in.
  • Download the Shaka Guy app. It’s a tour that follows you on GPS and tells about the highlights.
  • Bring a picnic lunch and/or heavy snacks and drinks
  • Bring a car charger for your cell phone (note that most of this road does not have cell service)
  • If you plan to swim – wear a swim suit under your clothes. Bring a towel, reef safe sunscreen, a change of clothes and a bag to store your wet clothes/swim suit

On the Road to Hana I made the following stops:

  • Ho’okipa Beach Park Lookout – 1st stop
  • Twin Falls (parking $10 – cash or card) – 2 waterfalls – Mike Marker 2
  • Garden Grove Cafe roadside stand – for famous banana bread
  • Waikamoi Ridge Nature Trail – a walk through the rain forest with eucalyptus trees
  • Kaumahina State Wayside Park – views from above and bathroom
  • Ke’anae Peninsula (lava formations on the water, tide pools, breaking waves) – Mike Marker 16.8
  • Secret lava tube (cave) – ~100 yard long cave right off the road – Mile Marker 23
  • Coconut Glen’s (coconut milk ice cream)
  • Waiʻānapanapa State Park (black sand beach) – reservations needed – Mile Marker 32
    • Small lava tube (cave) to the right of (while looking at the water) the black sand beach
  • Food truck in Hana
  • Many quick stops for waterfalls just before the one lane bridges
  • Many stops for scenic overlooks

Kayaking and Snorkeling in Maui

Getting into Hawaii’s beautiful warm waters and spying on gentle marine life is another not-to-missed-adventure in Maui!

I highly recommend Hawaiian Paddle Sports for a truly Hawaiian experience kayaking and snorkeling (with sea turtles!). Our paddle guide, Lowe, was a treasure trove of information on Hawaiian history, culture, geography and geology formations. We also learned all about our sea friends including the turtles and many of the beautiful sea creatures that we would have easily missed right under our floating feet! Definitely a must-do.

I kayaked and snorkeled off the shores of the southwestern region of Maui in the town of Kihei. This led to also exploring that area which is more of a town than a resort area.

You will also see people snorkeling around the resorts in Lahaina. Either bring, rent or look for snorkeling equipment in your condo (this was my good luck). Other known snorkeling spots in Maui.

Maui Sunsets – Need to Know

Maui sunsets are spectacular! We all know the sun sets in the west where most of Maui accommodations are located. Simply walk to the beach or rent a kayak or paddle board to sit in the surf while the sun slowly descends near the mountains of the distant islands. It is a sight to behold!

Sunset Tip: At sunset in Maui, many people blow into a conch shell (“pū”). I first thought it was a tsunami warning (haha!), but soon learned it’s a Hawaiian ritual with a long history. In Hawaiian culture the blowing of the conch shell has a sacred meaning as a journey to eternity or to begin a ceremony as well as previously being used for communication across the waters. In modern times it is used to bid farewell to the day and to say thanks (“mahalo”) for that day.

“A hui hou mālama pono!” (Until we meet again, take care!)

Helpful links to book your travel here

The Hawaiian language has 13 characters and many diacritical markings. While respecting the Hawaiian language, this website has had to omit some of these diacritical markings to improve the online experience. I acknowledge the importance of using these diacritical markings to preserve the language and culture of Hawaii and will respectfully use them in all communications beyond this website. 

Canada – Québec City

Top Things to do in Québec City, Canada

Québec City feels like a mini-Paris/London combo with a very friendly vibe! This romantic city’s charm is enhanced with the poetic sounds of French speakers within this historical walled city. The architecture is delightfully European as Québec City was built in the 1600s with lovely cobblestone streets, a funicular (cable car from the 1800s) linking the lower and upper grounds of the city and the grandiose Fairmont Le Château Frontenac punctuating the landscape.

I found every single person from shopkeepers, hotel clerks, restaurant workers, Uber drivers, etc. to be welcoming and beyond gracious. Once I uttered a “hi” (rather than a “bon jour”) they quickly switched languages to English with a smile and without missing a beat.

Map of Historic District of Québec City

Basics of Québec City

To get your bearings even before you arrive – there are two parts to the city: upper and lower. I didn’t quite understand this until I arrived. It’s super easy to get from one to the other, and the upper and lower are nestled right next to each other. Either take the stairs (“breakneck stairs!!”) which include a few landings if you need to catch your breath. Alternatively, pay the small fee to take the funicular (a small, short cable car) up and down. Easy peasy!

The highlight of the lower portion of the city is the Quartier Petit-Champlain which includes boutique shopping, bistros and art galleries. The other streets in this lower section have even more art galleries (lots!), boutiques, hotels, etc. It’s quiet and safe.

The upper portion of the city includes Dufferin Terrace which is basically a wide boardwalk with views of the St. Lawrence River on one side and the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac on the other. You will be at Dufferin Terrace when you exit the funicular or if you take the stairs or steep road up to the upper city from the lower city.

There is a lot more to this upper city – many lively cobblestone streets with beautiful churches, town squares, all types of restaurants and cafes, boutiques, and very interesting history. All this history and hubbub is in the old town historic portion of the city – you can also exit the walls through the grand gates, from the 1600s, and visit the newer part of the city.

Accommodations in Québec City

As usual, I connected with to find the right type of lodging. Interestingly, as with traveling in Europe, also included apartment accommodations. There are many “Le Lofts” throughout the safe and quaint Québec City, and I stayed at Le Lofts St. Pierre which was in the lower city just a few streets from Rue du Petit-Champlain (Quartier Petit- Champlain is the area around this street) boutique shopping district – walking distance to all the sites and reasonably priced.

Recommended Food in Québec City

Maple pie from the Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens
Maple pie!

We really loved the Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens! We found it absolutely adorable inside and out with fantastic service at a reasonable price and a cozy atmosphere! Plus it included many of Québec City’s local delicacies in perfect portions. Highly recommended. Don’t forget reservations.

True locals have recommended the following restaurants:

Food Tour of Old Québec City

I can’t recommend this Viator food tour enough! It’s doubly beneficial – tasting all the local delicacies, including cuisine that has been served since the 1600s, and gaining an understanding of the fascinating history behind those foods. The fare ranges from soup to baked goods and spirits to wine plus poutine and more! While walking from one destination to another our amusing guide told stories of local figures and interesting architecture that kept all of us either in awe or laughing.

Château Frontenac in Québec City

This fancy Château Frontenac hotel is located right in the upper area, along the river, with much action around it. You can’t miss this grand building sitting up high on the eastern edge of old town. It’s pretty colossal (600+ rooms) and a great place to snap a photo! When you walk through the front doors of this historic (built in 1893) building you are greeted warmly by a friendly hostess (everyone is welcome even if you aren’t staying at the hotel) and guided toward the areas you’d like to visit whether it be the historical side or the three restaurants. Lots of history happened here including the planning of the invasion of Normandy during WWII by Allied leaders Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sir Winston Churchill, and Canada’s Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King.

Dufferin Terrace in Québec City

As stated earlier, the Château Frontenac is bordered on the east by the Dufferin terrace boardwalk which has pretty views of the St. Lawrence River and additional areas of Québec City across the river. In the winter there is a toboggan slide right here! In the summer, go underground and visit an archeological crypt – Forts-et-Châteaux-Saint-Louis – to get a better idea of the history of Québec City.

The Quaint Petit-Champlain Shopping District in Québec City

This area encompasses a handful of streets in the lower portion of Québec City. These inviting narrow, cobblestone streets are pedestrian only with warm strands of lights crisscrossing above quaint boutiques and shops. There are also a few restaurants here as well.

Gates into historic Québec City

Interesting Historic Buildings/Churches in Québec City

So many interesting stories here in this fortified city! Quick history lesson:

  • Québec City was discovered by France in 1535 as “New France”
  • British conquered Québec City in 1759 as “British Canada”
  • Canada was created in 1867 and Québec City became the province’s capital city as it is today

There are many tourist friendly churches and buildings to visit within the old city including: Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral, Morrin Centre, Monastère des Augustines, Îlot des Palais.

For more Québec City history see History of Québec City.

Governor's Promenade

Governors’ Promenade in Québec City

I enjoyed the approximately 3/4 mile walk on the Governor’s Promenade from the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac to the Plains of Abraham along the St. Lawrence River. This walk takes you along the elevated boardwalk called “Governor’s Promenade.” Start at Dufferin Terrace and walk to the south, and you’ll soon find yourself between the stone wall fortification and the St. Lawrence River. Note that there are no signs designating this promenade. This long boardwalk brings you past the east side of the Québec Citadel and then between the citadel and Plains of Abraham and Parc des Champs-de-Batalle – a large green space that hosts local events throughout the year. This boardwalk is one of two options to walk to the Citadel for a tour. The other being the streets through old town.

Québec Citadel

The Québec Citadel is an impressive site along the St. Lawrence River with a storied history of protecting Québec City from foreign invaders (including the 13 colonies!). The citadel offers a guided tour (reservations recommended) of its unique star structure and the museum (Musée Royal 22e Régiment).

Horse and Buggy Ride in Old Québec City

This sweet ride, pulled by a strong and mighty steed, is enchanting and lovely and recommended just after dusk. The driver explained Québec City’s interesting history as we clip-clopped past the buildings and statues that he spoke of. It was very entertaining after a delicious French dinner in the historic district.

Montmorency Falls in April

Montmorency Falls

This impressive waterfall is the tallest waterfall in North America. Note that it’s not that wide – just tall. Sixty thousand gallons of water per second fall from the peak – a continual thunderous crash with large plumes of water in the aftermath. Amazing! The Montmorency Falls are just 20 minutes outside Old Québec City.

Options at the falls:

  • Hiking and birding at certain times of year. Follow All Trails for the 3-mile route.
  • Balance along the suspension bridge
  • Climb the panoramic staircase while being sprayed by the falls (487 steps)
  • Cable car ride
  • Eat at the Montmorency Manor

Albert Gilles Copper Museum in Québec City

The Albert Gilles Copper Museum was a surprisingly super interesting place! Mr. Albert Gilles worked with copper for 60+ years and made many extraordinary and incredibly intricate pieces of art (including pieces for the Pope) as well as the copper doors of the massive Sainte Anne de Beaupré Basilica which is just 10 miles down the road. Albert Gilles’ very talented wife and daughters now run the museum, which includes a large exhibit of paneled copper artwork “Christoroma” portraying the life of Christ in the back portion of the museum. It’s amazing! Plus the museum also has beautiful copper pieces to purchase – jewelry, decorations, etc. Ask around while you are at the museum, and the family will be happy to tell you the history of their extraordinary work.

Sainte Anne de Beaupré Basilica and Shrine

The Sainte Anne de Beaupré Basilica and Shrine is massive and awe inspiring at 328 feet high and 197 feet wide with beautiful stained glass windows adorning the sides of the sanctuary. This basilica was built to honor Sainte Anne who is the patron sainte of Québec. The main doors of the Basilica are absolutely beautiful and hand-made of copper (from the Albert Gilles museum above) and show many scenes of the life of Jesus.

Fun Fact about Canada

Canada no longer uses pennies as of 2012! (But I did find one! 🙂 )

Trip planner for 3 days in Québec City
ladies in window at coffee shop overlooking Notre Dame square in Québec City

Helpful links to book your travel here

Gimmelwald and Mürren, Switzerland

Things to do in Gimmelwald and Mürren, Switzerland

Stunning Gimmelwald and Mürren

Itinerary for a quick trip to Gimmelwald and Mürren, Switzerland:

If you were to close your eyes and picture Switzerland…you’d envision glorious Gimmelwald! The quintessential Switzerland village. I almost don’t want to share its magnificence, because it is pristine as it is – without too many visitors. The only way to get there is via cable car (gondola) or hiking. It is truly one of my top locations on this Earth.

Getting to Gimmelwald:

  • Fly to Zürich Flughafen
  • SBB Train from the Zürich airport to Interlaken Ost (~3 hours). Disembark and find train to Lauterbrunnen.
  • Train to Lauterbrunnen*. *This train has two parts – get on the first 1/2 that goes to Lauterbrunnen. The cars will be marked. (~20 minutes). Disembark the train and cross the tracks, and walk to the right to the bus stop.
  • Bus Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg Schilthornbahn. (~12 minutes). Arrive at the Stechelberg gondola station.
  • Gondola Stechelberg – Schilthornto. Get off at the first stop and behold: Gimmelwald!

There’s only one way around the village of Gimmelwald and that’s with your own feet. You will feel like you’ve just stepped back in time and perhaps inside the movie, “Heidi” as you inhale all the beauty and wonder of the Alps surrounding you. Large open fields of green with cows and cowbells and working farms encircled by a stunning mountain range. It is truly spectacular. Time slows down as you walk to your chosen hotel or hostel accommodation.

Accommodations in Gimmelwald:

I stayed at the charming Swiss chalet, Hotel Pension, (book on: which has a sweet restaurant (indoors and outdoors) and a Biergarten with amazing views right on the edge of the Alps. Note that not all the rooms have a private bathroom, so if this is important to you then read the descriptions carefully. There are a few other options for accommodations in the village, and they are all very similar.

Food in Gimmelwald/Mürren:

Wait until you hear this! You can walk down the paved path and go into a farmer’s residence, open the little refrigerator, take out fresh cheese, fresh milk, yogurt, eggs, sausage and bread and leave your money on the counter. For real! Other options, including hiking up the mountain path to the market in Mürren (a larger but also car-free village) and/or eating at the restaurant at the hotel (Hotel Pension) or in Mürren.

Paragliding in Gimmelwald:

This was an absolutely amazing experience. So calm and peaceful as you glide through the air with your professional pilot and take in the all the beautiful sights from above. (I expected raging winds to be passing by me and to be terrified, but it was quite the opposite. I’d do it again in a second.) I used Airtime Paragliding. They met us locally, explained the procedure, and we just ran a few steps and away we soared through the valley. An unforgettable, beautiful experience and highly recommended.

Hiking Map

Hiking in Gimmelwald:

So many options for hiking through the Alps through fields of wildflowers, little Swiss huts, streams, waterfalls cascading down the mountains and wondrous views. Be prepared with plenty of water, grab a hiking map from your hotel, and off you go! I used the hiking map above from the Mountain Hostel which is right next door.

Hike 9 in Gimmelwald (see map above):

I highly recommend the 10.5 mile loop which is hike 9 (Gimmelwald – Obersteinberg) on the map, as the trek goes through many types of terrain including fields, forests, along the top of the mountain, and along the edge of the mountain with views that literally made me tear up with awe.

You’ll be treated to amazing views of the summits rimming the head of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Also in the middle of the hike is the remote Hotel Obersteinberg which is a lovely place to have a snack or a drink. Do be careful leaving the hotel to get back on the trail as there’s an electric fence, and if your hiking pole should hit it…it might scare the heck out of you. Don’t ask me how I know!

Hike 3 in Gimmelwald:

Other lovely hikes include a 1/2 day hike to a waterfall: hike 3 Gimmelwald – Sprutz – Spielbodenalp – Bryndli. Also the hike down to Stechelberg and back up is another 1/2 day option.

Walk to Mürren:

A nice 40 minute walk up the mountain through the Lauterbrunnen Valley, on a paved path, is the larger, but also car-less village of Mürren perched on the edge of the Alps. You’ll find quaint shops, restaurants, entertainment and more alpine scenery to behold. Mürren has a market for food/lunch to take along on your hikes including prepared foods, cheeses, Alpine meats, and bottles of local wines.

Other options to get to the tops of mountain peaks without hiking include: Jungfraujoch or Schilthorn. There are some opportunities to get to these peaks and hike down as well.

Bern, Switzerland:

On the way back to Zürich, stop in the picturesque city of Bern (where there is a transfer of trains to get back to Zürich). You can lock your luggage up at the train station while you visit the city. The city is quiet and calm and easily explored on foot.

Bern is known as the city of fountains. You can fill your water bottle up with fresh spring water from the fountains all over town, some of which are over 500 years old. In the River Aare you can actually get in and swim or float down the river. Strangely, there is a bear pit located right in the city!

I hope you enjoy your trip to Gimmelwald!

Helpful links to book your travel here

Copper Mountain, Colorado

Things to do at Copper Mountain Village

(winter, spring & fall)

Copper Mountain is the best place to enjoy the Colorado outdoors, in all seasons, in my humble opinion. It’s a quaint ski village located right in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. There are loads of outdoor activities, along with cute shops, outdoor/indoor restaurants that overlook the mountain, and plenty of entertainment – all within walking distance of each other as well as close to many of the accommodations. Not too big and not too small and a down to earth kind of place.

There are 3 villages, all at the base of the slopes/mountain and interconnected with a free, easy shuttle service. The Copper Village is also easily walkable from condos to restaurants, markets and shops! The Copper Mountain Village design is excellent – everything is “right there.” If a get away is in order there is an easy 10 minute shuttle service right to the adorable town of Frisco for more dining/entertainment options.

I also like that Copper is easily accessible – just 1.5 hours to the west of the Denver International Airport (DEN). It’s a straight shot along Interstate 70 which is maintained throughout the year. Other close airports are Eagle County Regional Airport in Vail (<1 hour away) or Colorado Springs (<3 hours away). Alternatively, there is a shuttle service between the Denver Airport or Eagle County Airport and Copper (Epic Mountain Express or Summit Express).

Lodging at Copper Mountain,,, and have reasonably priced rentals (including condos) right in the Copper Villages. Most are ski-in/ski-out or easily walkable to the slopes or mountain. I recommend staying in center village as the shops and restaurants are right there (as well as the American Eagle and American Flyer lifts). East and West Village are also quite nice! Book ahead especially for winter.


Downhill Skiing/Snowboarding:

Copper has with a wide variety of terrain and many options for first timers to seasoned professionals skier/snowboarders. Plus, due to the high altitude, the slopes are skiable for longer than many other resorts – from November to mid-April. The resort is well thought-out and organized, so it’s easy to mix and match green, blue and black runs once getting up a lift or to stay the course. My fave run: Take American Flyer lift then get off to the east and head down to Rendezvous lift. Take the lift up and ski Coppertone all the way to the bottom – it’s just breathtaking! A fun little jaunt at lunchtime is the T-Rex Grill on the west side of the mountain.

Note that Copper has many slopes (140!) for every kind of skier/snowboarder out there and is seldom crowded. Plus there are bowls and parks and pipes and all kinds of challenging areas. If you are into hopping from one resort to another then you can easily get to Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone and Vail – all 25 minutes or less away. But I prefer to stay at Copper – it’s the whole package right there.

Kids and first time skiers/snowboarders:

Another huge benefit to Copper is the option to take kids to the Green Acres area where they can learn to ski with you (family or friend taught) for a mere $20 lift ticket on Pitchfork. If they are young enough then they will think they are getting the whole experience with downhill skiing and a real lift. I did this for years. 🙂

Cross Country/Nordic Skiing Near Copper Mountain (Frisco)

To cross country ski is only a quick 15 minute drive over to the Frisco Nordic Center. The staff could not be more friendly and helpful in getting first timers or seasoned skiers out on their trails. They have cross country skis to rent and snowshoes as well. There are over 17 miles of groomed trails for all levels and a map is provided; although, it’s not easy to get lost. I am a “classic” cross country skier which means I utilize the grooved groomed trails. The other type of technique is skate skiing which is a bit more free style with similar movements to ice skating. Both types of trails are available here.

Snowshoeing and Hiking in the Spring and Fall at Copper Mountain

So many options for snowshoeing/winter hiking near Copper! Depending on the amount of snow – you may need a pair of snowshoes to stay on top of the snow, if it’s deep and sinking into the snow is possible/probable. However, if it hasn’t snowed heavily in a while and more stability is needed while walking on the snow/ice then use Yaktrax . Put the Yaktrax on the bottom of boots for better traction on snow packed trails to prevent slipping. They’re reasonably priced for $25-$30 and are packable. Photos above.

Snowshoe rentals are available at Copper Mountain (in the West Village only – at Copper Sports West)*, Frisco Nordic Center and at Columbine Ski & Sport in Dillon. They are affordable – about $25/day which includes poles.

I absolutely love snowshoeing especially through trails with large, snow-capped trees and being able to traverse over virgin snow in the stillness and quiet of the mountain. It’s so peaceful and calming and free. So, I bought my own snowshoes ($90-150) that came with a backpack and even fits in my checked baggage or can be checked separately, for a flight, in the backpack. Check out Costco’s online prices.

Snowshoeing and Hiking Trails Near Copper Mountain:

Turk’s Trail and B&B Loop

Turk’s Trail is one of my favorite winter hikes of all time. Every new turn was absolutely magnificent and literally breathtaking. The snow on the majestic trees sparkled through the filtered sunlight in this serenely quiet land. There were just the right amount of other hikers for me – maybe 8 cars in the trailhead lot and tons of trails to choose from for a lovely hike.

Note that this winter hike is closer to Breckenridge than Copper but very worth the short drive. It’s recommended to have an AWD vehicle to get to the last 1/2 mile to the trailhead on French Gulch Road. The trailhead is right near the Country Boy Mine. Once on the trail go toward the left. At the major split (there are a few spurs – don’t take them – stay on the main trail) stay to the right onto Turk’s Trail. At 1.5 miles on Turk’s Trail it connects with the B&B trail. Go left here to complete the oval back to the trailhead. Total of 2.9 miles. Map above is from All Trails.

Mayflower Gulch Trail

Mayflower Gulch Trail is a very pretty 3 mile (round-trip) trail up to a destination. (There are lots of people that like to have a reason to hike – I’m not one of them, but if you are then this trail is for you.) The hike leads to very cool abandoned miners’ cabins, a virtual ghost town. Legend has it that there is still a lot of gold to be found in that area.

Powderhound Loop of Colorado Trail

The Powderhound Loop of Colorado Trail is a 2.82 round trip beautiful winter wonderland. Google map it here. It’s a fairly packed down trail, but snowshoes are recommended for going off trail and trekking through the glorious deep snow. The trail heads through a forest of tall pines with the whispering wind as the soundtrack. It was quiet and peaceful and the gradient was easy to hike up and wander. Plus there was not a soul around. Follow the blue diamonds. Highly recommended!

Miner’s Creek Trail

Miner’s Creek Trail to Rainbow Lake Trail and Peaks Trail is a lovely out and back trail that you can make as long or short as you wish. Note that the Miner’s Creek part of this trail is a road with packed snow. Once onto the Rainbow Lake or Peaks Trail – it’s more of a narrow hiker’s trail. It’s fun to traipse through the woods with snowshoes and be one with the deep snow then come back to the groomed trail for a break from time to time. However, if you only have hiking boots and/or Yaktrax then that works too as long as there hasn’t been a lot of snowfall recently. It’s a pretty hike with marked trails.

Frisco Nordic Center for Snowshoeing

Just 15 minutes from Copper Mountain is the Frisco Nordic Center which not only has cross country ski trails but also has separate snowshoe trails. There is a one mile and a three mile option. I did the three mile option with views of the nearby lake and through small to medium height pine trees. There is a trail pass needed and can be paid at the Nordic Center.

Officer’s Gulch Trail

Officer’s Gulch trail at exit 198 off of I-70 is just beautiful in the spring. While it’s just 1 mile around the lake there are offshoots of the trail that are options for longer and more challenging hikes.

Salt Lick Trail

Salt Lick trail in Silverthorne was a spring hike for me (April) so Yaktrax did the trick for most of it. This trail had a lot of open meadows and a small amount of treed trail. The first half of the trail is well-marked but can get confusing after that. Use the AllTrails app as there’s navigational service at this trail.

*Copper Mountain West Village. A note about snowshoeing right in Copper Mountain Village (West). Snowshoe options are quite limited right here. As in there are wide, plowed trails (for tracked cross country skiing and hiking – without the need for snowshoes) that are “recommended” for snowshoeing. Snowshoes aren’t needed here unless it’s after a huge snow dump. Options for going off this plowed trail are very limited as there are very steep inclines along the trail. Also, this option goes under Highway 70 in each direction which is loud and not pretty. Copper Mountain does offer guided snowshoe hikes with wonderful and friendly guides. However, the trek that I just described is where they snowshoe. Again, snowshoes are not needed most times unless a fresh, large snow has just settled in.

Snowshoes are safer and required on trails in most of the winter months, as the snow keeps on falling. Remember that you are in “elevation” as in 9k feet and above, so most activities will require more inhalations/exhalations overall.

Safety note for hiking and snowshoeing

  • Get the AllTrails app (free version) and follow it to make sure you are staying on the trail especially if you’re near a body of water. Some rivers do not freeze in the winter but may be partially covered with snow.
  • Pack more water than you think you’ll need for the hike.
  • Keep your phone warm so the battery doesn’t die. Put the phone in an inside pocket of your coat or in the vicinity of a hand warmer. My phone has died before because it got too cold.
  • Bring a backup phone charger.
  • Wear layers.
  • Bring snacks.
  • Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be finished.

Rocky Mountain Coaster: I can’t tell you how much I loved this thing! It’s like your own private roller coaster/alpine slide with beautiful scenery 360 degrees and one thrill after another! It goes up to 25mph (of course, that’s up to you, because you control it), up and down and around some major bends. Crazy fun!

Iceskating: The ice rink in the middle of Center Village (“West Lake”) is the perfect place to bring friends and family. We borrow the free brooms and play broomball! There are also skates to rent for $10 at City Pop.

Music: In winter, check out Lefty Lucy duo for fun and entertaining music at Jack’s Bar for après ski!

SUMMER ACTIVITIES at Copper Mountain

Hiking Trails mentioned above.

Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding Crisp, clear and flat Lake Dillon works perfectly for a day on the lake surrounded by mountains. It’s a quick 12 minute drive from Copper and there are opportunities, at Frisco Marina, to rent all sorts of water craft.

Biking This can be an easy bike ride or made difficult (if you do the round trip). From Copper’s Center Village take the Ten Mile Canyon Trail (paved path) from Copper to downtown Frisco. It’s a 7-mile downhill scenic bike path. Plenty of opportunity to stop and gawk at the beauty or to climb rocks. You can either bike back up to Copper (it’s all uphill, of course) or hop on a shuttle (bikes are allowed) and zip right back to Copper after having lunch in the charming town of Frisco. Rent bikes from Gravitee Boardshop right in Copper’s Center Village. The “shuttle” is the free Summit Stage Bus.

White Water Rafting Take a wild ride down the rapids on the Arkansas River. I did Brown’s Canyon 1/2 day with Noah’s Ark – the guides were very skilled, and I felt safe the entire time. Lots of thrills and super fun! It’s in Buena Vista – about an hour and 10 minutes away from Copper.

Bumper Boats and Hydrobikes Right at West Lake (in the Center Village).

Banff, Alberta (Canada) in the winter:

Things to do in Banff in winter:

Banff is an adorable ski town. One main road with lodges and restaurants all within walking distance of each other with winter adventures just around the corner. Sweet mom and pop everything stores and restaurants all super well kept with friendly shopkeepers and wait staff. Be prepared to watch and talk a lot of hockey in the winter. When you hear “Are you going to have the game on tonight?” they are talking hockey – not football. 😉 

I flew into Calgary, Alberta and drove 1 1/2 hours west to the beautiful village of Banff. The highway between the 2 areas is mostly flat and very well maintained. While approaching Canmore (the cute town before Banff) the mountains are just stunningly laid out ahead of the highway. Ask for an AWD rental car if you have any reservations about driving in winter. There is also a shuttle service that runs between the two locations. 

Day 1: Lake Louise Hiking and Ice Skating

Lake Louise is an absolute must – a magical experience. I have to admit that until I got to Banff – I thought that Lake Louise was right in town. Actually Lake Louise is about a 45 minute drive from downtown Banff but gorgeous the entire way with tall pine trees layered in snow and snow covered Canadian Rockies (especially Castle Mountain) which are absolutely stunning. This is also a mostly flat and easy drive with cleared roads if it isn’t currently snowing. Lake Louise is one of those turquoise blue lakes, in the warmer season, that you see in all the photos. (Other turquoise blue lakes at Banff National Park: Peyto Lake, Bow Lake, Lake Minnewanka, Moraine Lake)

To get to Lake Louise – navigate to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (a world-famous luxury resort hotel built in 1890) which is the impressive landmark hotel of the area that sits alongside the beautiful, frozen Lake Louise. Parking is free in the winter.


We hiked the flat yet picturesque trail #4 next to the frozen lake which is surrounded by thousands of ginormous snow covered pine trees outlining the lake in splendor. A beautiful and magical sight to behold! Hike out (on trail 4) to the massive frozen waterfall. There was a woman ice climbing her way to the top while we were there. Terrifying even to watch, actually. The trail continues into the forest past that point or turn around and walk back on the frozen lake. 

Ice Skating:

The Fairmont rents good quality ice skates near the lobby of the hotel. The skating is right on Lake Louise in an area that is checked frequently for the integrity of the ice, so I had no reservations about safety. It is probably the most scenic place to ice skate in the world.

There are a few restaurants at the Fairmont and even a very cool outdoor ice bar. Note that the food options are expensive at the Fairmont, but the reviews are that all is delicious and there’s always that fantastic view.

Other options are sleigh rides pulled by horses, cross country skiing on the lake and snowshoeing. All can be purchased at the Fairmont.

Food options in Banff

The restaurants in the town of Banff are located mostly on and around Banff Avenue and Wolf Street. It’s a cozy little area with loads of restaurants and paid parking. Banff seems to have a restaurant for most every type of cuisine. Remember that Banff is a well-laid out ski town. A hotel that’s walkable to this restaurant area is ideal and most of them are close by. I stayed at the Royal Canadian which was a lovely hotel (worth it to get the fireplace in the room) within walking distance to the center of town. The hotel also had a hot tub, steam room and small indoor pool. 

The restaurants that were reasonable (for a remote ski resort) with delicious food and great service were Pacini (Italian food with an all-you-can-eat-bread bar – toast your own bread and choose from a variety of breads and spreads), Bear Street Tavern was a cozy nook with seriously good pizza and sandwiches plus a bar area that was like a sports bar. There are so many restaurants and breakfast cafes in this area that there’s really no need to plan out your destination ahead of time – just take a walk and see what strikes your fancy. Unless it’s the busy season – then make reservations ahead.

Day 2: Cross Country (Nordic) Skiing and Hot Springs 

Cross country ski rental was very reasonable at Snow Tips and included skis, boots and poles plus some advice on locations to ski. We headed to Tunnel Mountain Campground , right outside of downtown Banff, which is great for beginners with mild ascents and descents and gorgeous mountains surrounding the quiet and peaceful area. It had just enough of a slope to be exciting without getting out of control. The campground has about 1 1/2 miles of groomed tracks (albeit it’s back and forth down roads covered in snow, but it’s really a lovely area) for beginners and those who have classic skied a few times.

After working up a sweat an option is to head over to the Banff Upper Hot Springs.* The water is a toasty (ok, super hot) 104 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s like really hot! It’s good on the muscles and relaxing for a bit. However, please do not expect to be outdoors in a secluded, quiet and rock covered little oasis, as I had anticipated. *The Upper Hot Springs are an outdoor chlorinated, crowded pool with lifeguards. Honestly, it wasn’t really for me. 🙁

Northern Lights at Banff

Hopefully you are lucky enough to be in Banff when the Northern Lights appear. They did make an appearance the night before we arrived, so close. Get the app: Aurora (it’s purple) and it will give the probability and location of the Northern Lights near Banff (or anywhere, for that matter).

Banff Winter Itinerary

Helpful links to book your travel here

Christmas Markets near Frankfurt, Germany

Christmas Markets in the Frankfurt Area of Germany

The lovely, small and historic villages of Germany put out the most magical Christmas markets with twinkling lights, mom and pop homemade goods, popular Glühwein (warm, mulled wine in collectible mugs) stands, carousels, nativities all on cobblestone streets surrounded by beautiful cathedrals. What can be more festive than that?

These Christkindl markets are a beautiful way for the senses to soak in all the wonders of Christmas – carols, lights, and the smells of gingerbread and spices. The markets below are in Frankfurt and also just a short train ride away – easy to do it all in 3 days for a quick trip adventure.

Day 1: Arrive at Frankfurt Airport. Transport to your hotel (taxis are waiting outside – make sure they take credit cards and always ask for an estimated fare) or use the train system (get the DB Navigator app which will display times/transfers and payment options). Drop off luggage at your hotel and be on your way to the Christmas markets in Frankfurt!

Christmas Markets in Frankfurt, Germany

Römerberg/Paulplatz Christmas Market

The largest Christmas market in Frankfurt is nicely spread out in the Römerberg/Paulplatz area of the city with architecture remaining from the 15th century and under the Frankfurt Cathedral that can be climbed to the top – 320 steps with nice view of the city. The Christmas market is very well done with many “restaurants” (nothing is really indoor, but some have covered eating areas with heaters), 100s of stalls selling all kinds of homemade goodies including wooden wares, spices, and local delicacies. Also important – nice restrooms. However, this was the busiest Christmas market I visited so, while it held its charm and authenticity, there were quite a lot of people trying to enjoy the same things.

Day 2: Take the train from Frankfurt (~ 1.5 hours) or drive (~30 minutes) to Mainz, Germany

Mainz, Germany Christmas Market

Mainz Christmas Market in Markt is not too large but full of everything you need for a magical market. I found the best part to be the cozy wooden huts with a table inside to enjoy Glühwein and Germany pastries. There are also about 100 stalls with all the wonders of the season. The Markt square is in the shadow of a large 1000+ year old Mainz Cathedral.

Day 3: Take the train from Frankfurt (~2 hours) to Heidelberg, Germany. Hire a taxi (plenty are waiting outside the train station) and head to Marktplatz. From Marktplatz Christmas market it’s an easy 5 minute walk to the next quaint Christmas market at Universitätsplatz.

Heidelberg, Germany Christmas Market

The Heidelberg Christmas markets are located along Heidelberg’s “Hauptstrasse” (Main Street) which is one of Europe’s oldest, and most popular streets to shop. It is a lovely pedestrian-only walkway with restaurants, bars, cafes and shops all along it. The Christmas markets of Marktplatz and Universitätsplatz are located on this main street. It’s just a sweet 5 minute stroll between the two Christmas markets as the castle glows way above this very charming atmosphere.

Itinerary for trip to Frankfurt Area German Christmas markets

For places to stay check out VRBO,,, or

Helpful links to book your travel here

Vancouver, BC Area (Victoria and Whistler)

3-Day Itinerary – Hike, Eat and Absorb the Beauty

How to prep for safe hiking with bears in the Vancouver/Victoria/Whistler area

Check out the Vancouver, BC area for beauty and adventure! There is such diversity in this coastal, seaport area from a lively, cosmopolitan, clean Vancouver that’s super bike and pedestrian friendly to beautiful forests and shimmering seas surrounding the land on Vancouver Island (including Victoria) and Whistler. I found friendly faces in every sector.

Things to do on Vancouver Island and Victoria

How to get to Victoria (on Vancouver Island) from Vancouver

Rent a car at Vancouver airport and drive about 40 minutes to the Tsawwassen terminal to take the “BC Ferry” over to Vancouver Island/Victoria (Swartz Bay). Note that the ferries usually run at the top of the hour. If you happen to arrive an hour early for the ferry (like we did!) then you can eat and shop (from sushi to sweaters) right at the terminal. The ferry is a beautiful 90 minute journey mingling through many small forested islands. There is a nice coffee bar and restaurant on the ferry. Look for Orcas! (I spotted one spouting!)

Interestingly, Highway 17 connects Vancouver to Vancouver Island. The ferry route is “the highway” between Vancouver and Vancouver Island and then Highway 17 continues on!

On Vancouver Island every single thing must be brought by boat or seaplane, so I expected a tiny and quaint area and a small town of Victoria. Nope! Every store, restaurant, supplier, automotive, building, etc. that you could imagine is there. Even Toys R Us and Bed, Bath and Beyond stores in 2022!

We stayed in the adorable James Bay section of Victoria which is a small peninsula on the coastal side of the city of Victoria. Our sweet hotel, James Bay Inn (, is a 100+ year old sweet inn with a lovely pub and restaurant underneath. Plus it’s a nice walk from there to Floyd’s Diner (fantastic and friendly staff) with standard to funky delicious breakfasts. Also walkable to the parliament building (Victoria is the capitol of British Columbia), seaport, shoreline and seaplane port.

So many locals riding bikes and walking their way through this lovely small city. Fisherman’s Wharf is a sweet area with colorful houseboats that are actually shops and restaurants and also residences right on the Victoria harbor.

Hike at Jocelyn Hill

The Highlands area of Vancouver Island is hilly and tree covered with little towns sprinkled in between. The hike for the day was in the Highlands at Jocelyn Hill. A 5.5 mile hike through a gorgeous canopy of trees with views of the Finlayson Arm (the body of water) along the way. 

Bear spray* is a must on this hike as some bears have been spotted here. Use the All Trails app on “navigate” to follow the trail easier as some signs are missing. There is cell service throughout the hike. Hiking poles may be needed for a few all dirt steep downhills.  

*Bear spray cannot be taken on planes as it’s kind of like mace. I purchased mine at Canadian Tire which is a sporting goods store and seems to be everywhere in the Vancouver/Victoria area.

Things to do in Whistler

Driving from Vancouver to Whistler

The 2 hour drive from Vancouver to Whistler is absolutely beautiful on the Sea to Sky Highway. It’s right along peaceful waterways (Howe Sound and Squamish River) for the entire ride – up and down mountains and beautiful cliffs flanked by tall pine trees. I drove it in the fall; although, I imagine it’s quite treacherous when there’s any precipitation on the roads with all the twists and turns; and therefore, snow tires are required from October 1 to March 31. There is also a bus that travels the same route.


Whistler is ginormous – much larger than I realized. There are 2 villages connected by a path and a 10 minute walk (or shuttle). There is an upper village which is kind of small, as far as amenities go, and the Whistler (central) Village, which is huge and has a lot of everything. There’s upscale shopping, souvenir shops, condos, restaurants, pubs, etc. We ate at the delicious Mongolie Grill for a super healthy and delicious dinner!

The juvenile bear who was roaming the village of Whistler at 8pm!

Drinks were on the patio at Gibbons at the foot of the ski slopes where we saw a juvenile black bear saunter by at around 8pm looking for food. Crazy! Waitstaff were banging on tables, chairs and signs trying to get the bear out of there. The bear actually even climbed 1/2 way up the outdoor stairs to a patio restaurant before he changed his mind!

I’d recommend staying in central Whistler Village. It seems that every single accommodation is beautiful and well-kept.