Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Surfs Up Dude And Dudettes

Yesterday afternoon it started to sleet and it kept on sleeting until late into the evening. The sleet then mixed with snow and eventually turned completely to snow. You could actually hear the sleet hitting our bathroom windows.
We woke up this morning to a winter wonderland. This is the most snow we have received since moving to the Outer Banks. We don't see this that often. The most that we had seen in snow before this was maybe 2-3 inches at the most. There is probably 5-6 inches out there and it is still coming down just a little bit.

Below are some photos of what greeted us this morning along with a video. 







video
  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Slight Change Of Plans

Originally Veronica and I were planning on staying in Paris for a few days in October of this year. We were then going to board a train and go to Bruges in Belgium. After spending a few days in Bruges, we were going to once again board a train and return to Paris where we would finish our 2 week vacation.
Due to the cost of riding the rails,we decided to not travel to Bruges, but instead spend our entire 2 week vacation in Paris. Instead of paying for a hotel...they are rather pricey in Paris, we decided to try something different. We are now planning on renting a studio,  a regular apartment or a house in Paris. We have heard quite a bit about renting places all over the world as a money saving option compared to getting a hotel. We have checked out several recommended rental agencies so to speak. We will most likely be using airbnb. This is the basics of how airbnb works. First you join and the go through an ID Verification type of procedure:
  • Guests and hosts verify their IDs by connecting to their social networks and scanning their official ID or confirming personal details
  • When you book reservations on Airbnb, you can earn reviews that appear on your Airbnb profile. Reviews are written by real Airbnb users who have booked reservations on the site and want to let the community know of their experiences. If you don't have any reservations planned yet but want to allow friends to vouch for you, check out references.
  • The envelope icon found at the top of any Airbnb webpage will take you to your inbox. Click on a message to be shown your complete message thread with a particular host or guest. All message threads have a status.
    When sending a message to a host for the first time, guests use the Contact Me button on a listing's page. Asking questions is a great way for both hosts and guests to build a rapport and set expectations.
    Before booking -- confirm details on specific amenities, who (if anyone) will be sharing the space, and what rules might be in place at the listing. Please make sure to keep your communication on Airbnb.
    After booking -- be sure to plan check-in details. Continue messaging on Airbnb to keep all your details in one place for easy reference.
    The user flagging feature found in every message thread allows you to notify us if you feel uncomfortable or there is an attempt to book off-site. Here's what a flag looks like:
    flag example
  • How to Travel

    1. Step 2

      Contact

      Message hosts by clicking the blue 'Contact Me' button below their profile photo. Ask any questions you might have, and confirm availability. We recommend messaging multiple hosts, and we make it easy to reuse the same message. Your personal contact info is kept private until after your reservation has been made to protect your privacy and keep you safe.
      Learn More
      • Profiles

        It's a good idea to fill out your profile before you start contacting hosts as many hosts prefer to learn about potential guests. The fastest way to fill out your profile is to connect your Facebook account. You can also edit your profile by clicking the down arrow next to your name all the way at the top of the screen, selecting Profile, and clicking on Edit Profile. Some hosts require complete profiles, so if you haven't done so already you might get asked to upload a photo, add a description, or more when you try to message them.
      • Communicating

        Airbnb keeps direct contact information private until after a reservation is accepted to protect everyone's security and privacy. But we make it easy for hosts and guests to contact each other with built in messaging and Voice Connect. Voice Connect allows hosts and guests to talk on the phone in a private call through the Airbnb system. Click the blue 'Contact Me' button below the host profile photo to send a message. There you can choose to allow the host to call you between 9am and 9pm in your time zone using Voice Connect. If you'd like to talk on the phone just ask if the host can call you in a message.
      • Preapprovals & Special Offers

        If you've been messaging a host, they can pre-approve your stay and even make you a special offer. If a you receive one of these offers in a message, clicking 'Book It' will take you straight to the payment form and confirm your reservation right away - no waiting necessary.
    2. Step 3

      Book

      Click the green 'Book It' button on a listing to send the host a formal reservation request. The host will then have 24 hours to respond. (If the host does not respond in that time, the booking expires.) If you see a listing labeled 'Instant Book,' that means there is no messaging or approval needed. In this case, clicking 'Book It' will confirm your reservation immediately.
      Learn More
      When a host accepts your reservation request, you will be notified by email and provided with a receipt, an itinerary and the direct contact details of your host including the exact address of the listing.
      After your host accepts your reservation, you'll be charged for the stay. However, Airbnb will hold on to your money until 24 hours after your check in date, giving you an opportunity to see your accommodations and make sure they're up to scratch.
      • Reservation Requests

        It's a good idea to fill out your profile before you start contacting hosts as many hosts prefer to learn about potential guests. The fastest way to fill out your profile is to connect your Facebook account. You can also edit your profile by clicking the down arrow next to your name all the way at the top of the screen, selecting Profile, and clicking on Edit Profile. Some hosts require complete profiles, so if you haven't done so already you might get asked to upload a photo, add a description, or more when you try to message them.
      • Payments

        After you click 'Book It,' you'll be asked for your payment information. After filling out your payment details a reservation request will be sent to your host, who then has 24 hours to accept your reservation. Once a host accepts your reservation you will be charged for the reservation, including any fees. However, Airbnb will hold on to your money until 24 hours after you check in, so you have a chance to make sure the accommodations are up to scratch.
      • Confirmation

        Your reservation is not final until your host accepts your reservation. Hosts have 24 hours to accept a reservation request or it will expire. After your host accepts your request you will receive a confirmation email, a receipt, an itinerary, and the direct contact information of your host, including the exact address of the listing. You can always access all of this information by going to 'My Trips' within your dashboard.
      • Security Deposits

        Hosts have the option to add a security deposit to their listings to cover things like wine stains and broken dishes. If your reservation includes a security deposit, we will pre-authorize your payment method for the amount of the deposit 24 hours before your arrival date. Hosts have 48 hours after you leave to file a security deposit claim with Airbnb. We will mediate claims if necessary, or release the funds authorization if we don't hear from the hosts.
    3. Step 4

      Travel

      Your vacation is so close you can almost taste it! But well before you hit the ground, contact your host to confirm arrival times and key exchanges. You can always find all the details of your stay, including host contact information, under 'My Trips'. 
So basically we pick a location or several neighborhoods and the amount we are willing to pay for a night, week or whatever span of time you want to rent in Paris and refine abnb's search engine for the type of apartment, what is included in the rent for the apartment along with several other factors. You will then be shown whatever apartments, studios or houses that fit your criteria. Interior and exterior photos are shown on most of the listings along with just about anything else you would want to know about the place. Even all of the financial and legal particulars are shown. You can also see a photo of the owner along with reviews and feedback from previous renters. 
Veronica and I have just started our search on airbnb. When we really start getting serious about putting in a request for a specific accomodation, we will actually join airbnb..which is actually free.
Whatever fees airbnb has on the rental property, it is already built in to the totals that are shown for the duration of your stay in the property. 
It is really kind of a cool way to see a destination and live somewhat as the locals do. We look forward to whittling down our choices and finally contacting the owner to see if they agree to rent the property to us. For us the approximately monetary savings of going through airbnb compared to the cost of a hotel in Paris is around 50%. Of course this all depends on how much you are willing to spend for the rental property...nightly...weekly or for whatever time you want to be in the rental property. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Adventures Are Being Put Together

It is hard to believe that January is almost half way gone. This time of year always seems to speed by for me.
With the start of a new year, there is the start of new travel adventure planning for us.
I have just started to put together a few upcoming travel adventures.
Last year I promised Veronica that I would take her to Paris. We were originally thinking about going back to Edinburgh, Scotland. There was so much that we did not get to see when we were there on an NCL cruise back in 2012. We were started doing some research on a trip that would let us visit those 3 locations thinking about going to Edinburgh and then taking the Chunnel into London and from there onto Paris. While doing some research I stumbled onto a interesting cruise that NCL has. It is a 12 days British Isles cruise out of Copenhagen and disembarking at Dover, England. Below is the itinerary for this cruise:
DayPortArriveDepart
Thu Copenhagen, Denmark (EMBARK) --- 5:00 pm
Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen, Denmark
The capital of Denmark, Copenhagen, is filled with canals, cobbled squares and copper spires. But don't let the historic appearance fool you. This is also Scandanavia's most cosmopolitan city. Certainly you can relive medieval times in The Latin Quarter, but you can also enjoy some of Europe's finest shopping, museums, cafes and nightlife prior to your cruise around the Baltics.
More Details
Close
Fri At Sea --- ---
Sat Rotterdam, Netherlands 8:00 am 5:00 pm
Rotterdam, Netherlands
Rotterdam, Netherlands
Admire the bold modern architecture intermixed with classic 18th and 19th century buildings. Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands and it was completely rebuilt after WWII. As the largest port in the world, this city will draw you in with inspiring sights.
More Details
Close
Sun Portland, England 10:00 am 6:00 pm
Portland, England
Portland, England
Located along the English Channel, Portland is divided into two areas: north and south. The south end is where extensive stone quarries lie, a resource important to the region. Unique to the city is the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, which hosts world sailing championships.
More Details
Close
Mon Falmouth, England 8:00 am 5:00 pm
Falmouth, England
Falmouth, England
Situated on the southwestern coast of Cornwall, this quaint town is most famous for its harbor. In fact, Falmouth possesses the third deepest harbor in the world, and the deepest in all of Europe. The film and television industry have filmed various projects in Falmouth. And the Glendurgan Garden entices visitors with exotic foliage year round.
More Details
Close
Tue Cork, Ireland 8:00 am 7:00 pm
Cork, Ireland
Cork, Ireland
Ireland's third largest city is a wonderful walking city built on the River Lee. Visit St. Finn Barre's Cathedral, a wonderful, triple-spired example of French-gothic architecture, and spend some time in The Old Gaol, where original 19th century cells tell some fascinating tales.
More Details
Close
Wed Dublin, Ireland 11:00 am 10:00 pm
Dublin, Ireland
Dublin, Ireland
Explore the Dubliana exhibit to see Dublin life from 1170 to 1540. Ireland's thriving yet elegant capital sits at the mouth of the River Liffey. Visit a castle. Take a walking tour. Shop O'Connell Street. Have a pint at the Guinness Brewery.
More Details
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Thu Belfast, Northern Ireland 8:00 am 5:00 pm
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Exploring Belfast is a treat for urban fans. The city is rife with trendy caf├ęs, restaurants, and nightlife yet it also boasts a lovely historical district. While the city is packed with things to do, rural landscapes are within a short reach.
More Details
Close
Fri At Sea --- ---
Sat Inverness (Invergordon), Scotland 7:00 am 5:00 pm
Inverness (Invergordon), Scotland
Inverness (Invergordon), Scotland
Inverness is a city in the glorious Scottish Highlands . Teeming with bagpipe players and enthusiasts thanks to the city's annual Northern Meeting in September, Inverness also boasts a diverse music scene. Gaelic was the native language until the turn of the 19th century.
More Details
Close
Sun Edinburgh (South Queensferry), Scotland 8:00 am 6:00 pm
Edinburgh (South Queensferry), Scotland
Edinburgh (South Queensferry), Scotland
Golfers will love a scenic drive to St. Andrews, birthplace of the challenging sport. This capital city has thousands of years of history, incredible views, and the world's largest art festival. Tour Craigmillar, Dalhousie and Edinburgh Castles or see the Royal Yacht Britannia.
More Details
Close
Mon At Sea --- ---
Tue London (Dover), England (DISEMBARK) 8:00 am --- 
Below is a map of where we go on this cruise:

12-Day British Isles from Copenhagen


We ended up booking a balcony cabin on the 10th deck. We will be on the NCL Star for this cruise...a ship we have not been on before. This cruise isn't until next September...2015.

For this years adventures I am working on 2 things. First will be a fishing trip to a lodge in Canada that we have never been to. 
Clarks Northern Lights Resort  is on Cedar Lake. We have fished on Cedar Lake previously and have enjoyed the fishing there.
Last year I promised Veronica that I would take her to Paris this year. I did some research on various web sites and settled on going through European Destinations in order to put together or at least assit in putting together a Paris centered trip.
We decided to not only do Paris but we will also be including Brusells, Belgium and Bruges, Netherlands in with the Paris adventure. 
Originally the package was as follows:
  • Hotel for 3 nights in Brussels
  • IC(InterCity)Train Brussels - Bruge
  • Hotel for 2 nights in Bruges
  • Thalys Train Bruges - Paris
  • Hotel for 3 nights in Paris
  • Daily breakfast (if stated in hotel info)
We would have flown into Brussels and then out of Paris at the end of our trip. Because this itinerary would have included "open jaw" airline tickets and knowing that those tickets are usually more expensive that flying in and out of the same city, we decided to make a few changes to their package.
We decided to fly in and out of Paris. 
We would fly into Paris and spend 3 nights there...then take a train (which Veronica has never been on) and travel to Bruges...spend 3 nights there and then take another train on to Brussels. We would spend 3 nights in Brussels and then take a train directly back to Paris. Once we returned to Paris, we will spend another 3 or 4 nights there before heading home. We will upgrade the train tickets to 1st class.
We could have got our airline ticket through the travel company for approximately $1,000.00 a piece for round trip tickets. We decided to check out the flights and prices that Delta Airlines have. 
We decided that since we each have accrued many Delta Skymiles, that we would use the Skymiles towards out flight ticket costs. You would not believe how much money we saved. We got both of our tickets...round trip from Norfolk, Virginia along with upgrades from Economy to Economy Comfort for approximately $246.00. This really was amazing since the flights are going for approximately $1,200.00 per person.
So far besides getting a great deal on our airline tickets, we booked the last 4 Paris nights at the Hotel La Perle ,  which is on the left bank. This hotel is in a great location...in the heart of the St. Germain de Pris area of Paris and is located near many of the major Paris sites and also fairly close to the Seine River...for those evening Paris lights river cruises.
There is a lot more planning and arranging for this trip and it will be fun and exciting as it all comes together.

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