Experiences and Exploration – What Not to Miss in Barcelona

Bustling and cultural, Barcelona offers terrific art, equally fine food and a fun music scene. As a medieval city, the city also has plenty of history to its name. Then there are the stretches of beautiful warm beaches you can throw into the mix. It all combines for a magical Spanish break. Here are some recommendations for enjoying some fantastic city breaks to Barcelona.

Soaking up the arts

Barcelona’s modern architecture and the buildings of the architect Antoni Gaudí are legendary. His work gives the city its distinctive character. Architectural masterpieces include the Pedrera, the Sagrada Família and Park Güell. Take the chance, too, to stroll around the Gothic Quarter with its cathedral, quaint streets and plazas.


photo source https://www.flickr.com/photos/austinevan/259919266/sizes/o/

Culture vultures (and theatre fans!) shouldn’t miss a trip to Gran Teatre del Liceu. Here we have a theatre as it should be —with gold leaf décor and red plush interiors. Art lovers will delight in exploring the Fundació Joan Miró, which has a huge collection of more than 14,000 pieces of work by Miró himself and by other artists.

Exploring every day culture

Poble Nou is a nice place to shop for authentic hand-crafted Spanish goods, but if food is more your thing you’ll want to visit the Boqueria. This famous market sells amazing fresh fruit, veg and seafood. At the higher end of the scale, foodwise, is a marvelous restaurant called Els 4 Gats, which the artist Pablo Picasso used to frequent. The menu here is delicious but pricey. If you want something more affordable, go to the adjacent café and watch the world go by.

Enjoying the splendid outdoors

Adventurers will love a trek to Montjuïc Mountain, which boasts commanding views of the city. While there, you can visit the Olympic Stadium, Jardi Botànic and see the telecommunications tower by Santiago Calatrava.

If marine life and nautical things interest you, L’Aquarium de Barcelona is a must-see, especially for the kids. Equally fascinating if not always obviously touristy are the royal shipyards at Museu Marítim. With multimedia displays, maps and ships, this is a great way to see how navigation has evolved over the years.

And last but not least, no city break to Barcelona is complete without a beach visit. Barceloneta beach is closest to the city, but families will also enjoy Bogatell beach with outdoor climbing frames for kids. Now that’s a lot to pack in on your visit – best get started on having fun!

Image by austinevan, used under Creative Commons license

Loading Up The KIA Sedona For FUN Adventures #AD

This is a sponsored post by Kia.

I only had three full days of reviewing the Kia Sedona LX and feel like I barely scratched the surface of all the fun that can be had in it. And I have to say we had a lot of fun. We set off taking it slow on Saturday and we went to the kids acting class and then to Starbucks. Then we drove to Griffith Park and I forgot to take pictures. I’m sort of out of habit of reviewing vehicles. 20150524_212414271_iOS


The next day we decided to take more of a road trip so I looked at the map and picked out a beach used the GPS and arrived safely. I picked Point Dume State Beach in Malibu. Wow, Malibu was nothing like I expected you travel through these beautiful mountains and then you suddenly are spit out onto the beach. It was breathtaking. I took away all electronics and made the kids enjoy the beauty with me. We had such a fantastic time we just forgot to bring our swimsuits.


I mean we didn’t forget I just thought it was going to be too cold to get into the water and the kids ended up getting soaking wet. So we stopped at Target got some new clothes and the kids were able to change in the back of the Sedona, one kid in each row. The windows are tented so no one can see in. Then after they were in dry clothes we drove in the opposite direction of the beach and found a Sonic Drive in. Then we stopped at home.



Because we had so much fun at the beach we decided the next day we needed to load up and go to the beach again. 20150525_175154034_iOS

This time we planned it and picked up friends on the way. We had the room so why not. The Kia Sedona seats 8 with adjustable seating in the middle. You can move the seats back and forth and from side to side. (Choice of seating available for up to eight,or available Slide-N-Stow™ second row. (translation: multiple configurations for family trips or trips to the hardware store and plenty of cargo room.) When we arrived at our friends’ place I had to pull off to the side very close to the curb, the car sensed a tree and pulled in the side mirror to keep itself from being damaged. That was really a cool feature. (side note, because of all of the cameras on this vehicle parallel parking is a breeze, even with how large it is….I NEVER thought I would park something this big before). They piled in and added their beach supplies and then off to Target we went to get even more supplies. We couldn’t fill up the trunk not at all. 20150525_202416103_iOS

Again, we arrived at the beach for a day full of fun. And driving home the kids reclined their chairs and put up their feet. Yep they were sitting in the lap of luxury. While we also listened to the Kids station on SiriusXM.


Now for features I haven’t mentioned yet. The front seats and steering wheel were heated, while the seats could also be cooled. I love having a hot back so I always use the heat. I mentioned the rear view mirrors and how easily they adjusted when needed and they were quite easy to adjust for the driver. The Kia Sedona also has next-generation, driver assist technology includes Advanced Smart Cruise Control and Blind-Spot Detection with Lane-Change Assist. (translation: conveniences that help make the driving experience enjoyable and safe.) LOVE THIS FEATURE! I ALWAYS use this feature while driving on the highway. Kia collage

It can detect if the car in front of you is slowing down and will slow you down. And, every time I come close to the lane or try to change lanes without using the signal the car beeps at me to alert me that I’m getting close to the line. The sun roof was a feature the kids loved, oh yeah, there were two sun roofs, how cool is that? And opening the sliding glass doors was easy for the kids and if they left them open I had a button in the front seat that I could use to close them.

kia seat orientations

I’m sure there are plenty of features that we didn’t explore. For example we didn’t use the 3rd-Row Seats offer the versatility of a 50/50 split-fold to accommodate a variety of passenger and cargo combinations. The seats easily disappear into the cargo area when not in use. I wish I had this vehicle for the long drive back to Washington. We would be able to take almost all our stuff home in it. Oh and we never took advantage of how many different kinds of electrical plugs this car had.20150526_042114026_iOS

There was USB/12 Volt, and 110 Volt. It’s the perfect vehicle to take on a road trip.


We Loved This Ride

Visiting Paris – Without Breaking The Bank

This is a partnered guest post.

Learn How to Save Money on a European Vacation

If you are starting to think about leaving for vacation, you need to first decide if you have enough money. If you are working with a tight budget or you simply want to get the most enjoyment out of as little money as possible, you will want to check out the following tips.

Finding Discounts in Paris Hotels

There are a lot of people out there that will tell you that they have never paid full price for a hotel in their entire adult lives. Even if you have always paid full price, there is always a chance to change your habit. The first thing you need to do is to remember that there are a lot of discounts that are offered by hotels, that you might not see advertised.

You need to check with your auto insurance or roadside membership assistance company to see if they know of hotels that give discounts because you go through their company. You can also call the hotel that you are interested in staying with and ask them about such discounts. Some hotels will even give room discounts to veterans, the disabled, the elderly, and for workers of certain companies.

Beeb in Paris - 2004

Bring Your Own Snacks

No, it would not save you money to bring snacks from home onto the plane. What you want to do is to wait until you have checked into your hotel room. You can then check out the local stores and stock up on a lot of food and drinks that you are going to be able to leave in your hotel room. Just remember, most hotel rooms have very small refrigerators. Therefore, you might want to stick with a lot of peanut butter sandwiches, chips, and crackers.

Check Out the Free Venues

Sure, there are going to be plenty of places that you are going to want to spend money at. However, you do not always have to spend a lot of money in order to have a lot of fun. You might want to take a little bit of time while you are at home to research all of the different fun things that tourists can do while they are in Paris, completely free of charge. While researching that, you are likely to run into a lot of ideas for things that you can do for a minimal cost.

Make Use of the Breakfast Bar

Even if your hotel only offers donuts, cold cereal, or fruit in the morning, it is usually a part of the cost of your hotel stay. Therefore, you might want to go ahead and take advantage of it. By eating for free in the mornings, you will have more money for the other meals. You could also try to eat light for lunch, so that you have plenty of room in both your stomach and wallet to enjoy a nice hearty dinner in the restaurant of your choice.

Do make sure that you are continuing to look for more money saving tips until it is time for you to leave for the airport. Also, feel free to ask friends and family for advice on cheaper traveling. You might just find yourself surprised at the wealth of information that your friends and family will have.

You will have had the vacation of a lifetime for a lot less money than you would have normally spent.

This article was contributed by Fiona Moriarty of Hipmunk, a travel website that offers customers a fast and easy way to find the best travel deals.

Holman Ranch: The Perfect Place For a Western Wedding

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Lodging and meals provided for review

Holman Ranch is a vineyard, olive grove, stable, and event venue in Carmel Valley, California. This quiet town is close to Monterey, and about 2 hours south of San Francisco; in addition to housing several wineries, it’s also home to a country store, a couple of art galleries, and an absolutely amazing thrift shop.

I was invited to visit Holman Ranch in mid-March. Nestled in the hills of northern California, the ranch is a perfect place for a secluded, intimate wedding or corporate event, though they can host galas for up to 450 people. They’ve hosted many, many events, and you can rest assured that this isn’t their first rodeo, so to speak: they have a lengthy, vetted list of preferred vendors whom they know act professionally and can deliver whatever you can dream up.

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Holman Ranch, unsurprisingly, sits on former ranch land; it became a vineyard in the 1920s, and the ranching history is apparent in the very Western styling – leather, pictures of cowboys, and rawhide fringe abound. The venue features 10 guestrooms for the bridal party (or people attending the retreats); these feature decorative leather pillows, rocking chairs on the porches (pictured above), and the most beautifully tiled bathrooms you’ve seen in your life.

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The main area for weddings abuts a beautiful vista, and contains a stunning patio, the Great Room, and a small private chapel. All have wood and leather detailing, with many ranching and early California flourishes.

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One of Holman Ranch’s main sidelines is its winery. Their wines – mostly pinot noir and chardonnay – are naturally cooled in their cave, which was dug into the side of a hill, reducing the need to artificially cool or air condition their cave. Conservation is a big theme at Holman Ranch: the wines are all grown organically.

You can include Holman Ranch wines as part of your event, or even make wine tasting a part of the festivities. I know nothing about wine, but I was interested to learn more about the history of the ranch, and wine making in general.

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This being northern California, there is a tranquil Mediterranean climate – the weather is generally clear, and between 60 to 80 degrees. It’s unlikely that your event will be rained out, or be too chilly.

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It really is difficult to overstate the beauty of the venue. As you can see above, there’s a heck of a vista of the hills; at night, the sky is covered with stars, and you feel snugly alone, with only your favorite people for company.

Holman Ranch is a solid, professional venue, dedicated to giving you a sense of seclusion and comfort. As only one event is booked at a time, any event you reserve means that the entire 400 acre property is shut down for you. Sometimes, everyone needs privacy, wines, and starlight, and Holman Ranch provides all three in spades. I highly recommend them.

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Visit Star Wars and see The Death Star at LEGOLAND #StarWars

Since we moved to LA it has been Miles’ dream to go visit LEGOLAND and now that he knows the Death Star is there he wants to go even more. I kept making promises to him that if he did this or did that I would find a way for us to go well I finally found a way. I have partnered with LEGOLAND to share with all of you all about the creation of The Death Star!


The Death Star spans 8-feet wide, 13-feet high and weighs more than 1900 pounds. Featuring a planet-destroying super laser, the massive LEGO model is made out of more than 500,000 LEGO bricks. LEGOLAND helps bring the creativity and imagination of youngsters to life.


Featuring a planet-destroying super laser, the massive LEGO model is made out of more than 500,000 LEGO bricks and includes a display of the famous trench run scene where Luke Skywalker maneuvered his X-wing fighter through the combat zone to destroy the Death Star. Adjacent to the LEGO Death Star, guests are invited to use their imaginations to construct their own LEGO starships at building stations while X-Wings, Tie Fighters and Y-Wings circle overhead. DeathStar_0158

The new LEGO model display is LEGOLAND California Resort’s latest major addition in LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland which opened in 2011 and expanded with the addition of the LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland Gallery in 2012.  The unveiling of the new LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland Death Star Model Display kicked-off the fan favorite, LEGO Star Wars™ Days event.


We hope you will go visit the Death Star soon, we know we will be!

Three of America’s Hidden Gems

America’s Hidden Gems


· Antelope Canyon, Arizona – Located on Navajo land just east of Page, Arizona, Antelope Canyon is a stunning slot canyon with beautiful views at Upper Antelope Canyon, The Crack and Lower Antelope Canyon. Stay at the Days Inn & Suites Lake Powell to enjoy all of Northern Arizona’s beautiful scenery.

· clip_image004Oneonta Gorge, Oregon—The Oneonta Gorge, located in the Columbia River Gorge, has been designated as a botanical area because of the unique vegetation that grows there. Additionally, the gorge has a mystical feel with four major waterfalls in the area. Book a stay at the Days Inn & Suites in Gresham, Oregon to be close to bustling Portland, but also have easy access to the Columbia River and Mt. Hood National Forest.


· Badlands National Park, South Dakota—This national park in South Dakota covers hundreds of thousands of acres of buttes, pinnacles and spires along with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. Stay at the Howard Johnson Rapid City for easy access to Badlands National Park and Black Hills National Forest (Mount Rushmore, anyone?).

7 Tips on a Successful Family Reunion


There are a lot of families who find that they have relativities all over the world these days. Although it is much easier now to keep in touch thanks to the internet this may mean that physically being in the same room as one other may become increasingly rare. That’s why it is important to take the opportunity to plan a family reunion when possible. With flights, rail tickets and time off work this can be expensive. Therefore, it is important to get such an occasion right. Here are a few tips on making your family reunion a success.


Pick the Right Time of Year

This is a lot easier said than done. If you have relatives in places like Australia you will have to think of seasonal differences (will someone want to swap the tropical warmth of Queensland for the January bitterness of Newcastle?). It is tempting to organize such an occasion on a bank holiday such as New Year’s or Easter but you also have to take into account commitments to in-laws and the like.

Plan ahead

Following on from the last point, the only way to ensure that everyone can make it to your planned reunion is to have the event in everyone’s diaries as far in advance as possible. Try planning at least a year in advance so people can consider annual leave from work and plan their finances around the event. A Facebook group will allow you to venture possible dates to people and take it from there.

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This is a very important one. Diplomacy is a key aspect to organizing a family reunion. If there are certain black sheep of the family which you consider will not be conducive to the spirit of the party perhaps you can leave their invitation strategically closer to the date of the event. If they cannot make it, at least you made the gesture.

Book the Appropriate Venue

A party can suffer from being in a room which is too big. Get an idea of the number of people attending before you book a venue. Chances are a house might be a decent venue rather than a function room or pub. Take into account people’s dietary requirements if food is involved and music should be picked with caution.

Take the Opportunity

It is not often all the family will get together in such numbers so take the opportunity to spend some quality time together. If you have time, try and organize a professional photographer such as Venture for a family portrait. It will provide a nice snapshot of a special event and a memento to everyone who attended.


Contingency Ice Breakers

If it is a rather small family gathering with relatives who don’t know each other at all it may be wise to have a back-up plan to break the ice. Board games are always a good tool for this, as are family trees or old photos albums.

Follow up the Event

After spending all this effort organizing such an event, follow it up by regularly keeping in contact with your estranged family members and perhaps plan another event if it was a success.

Hyatt Regency McCormick Place: My Favorite Chicago Hotel

Snowy morning in Chicago

Travel consideration provided.

During last week’s trip to the Chicago Auto Show, I stayed once again at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. This was my second time staying at the hotel and it has quickly become my favorite in Chicago. Here’s 3 reasons why:

  • Convenience: As the name implies, the hotel is connected to McCormick Place, where the Auto Show is held. This means you can walk from your room to the show without once having to step outside or brave the February snow in Chicago – a definite plus!
  • Amenities: Thanks to the Convenience Collection, you can call down for complimentary extras you might need during your stay – from shoe shine rags to nail files. Because I knew that they had both of my favorite brands of deodorant and shaving cream available, I was able to save some space in my suitcase when packing, which is a definite plus since I’m limited with how many liquids I can bring in my carry-on. It’s one of those touches that really means a lot and makes your stay so much easier and pleasant!
  • Friendly: The staff at the hotel are so lovely and helpful. I got to chatting with one of the employees about hair and makeup and waved when I saw her around the hotel, which tells you how nice they all are!

Visit McCormickplace.Hyatt.com and follow them on Twitter @HyattMcCormick!

Exploring Rome with your Kids

    A splendid holiday in Rome is not just ideal for history buffs or adventure seekers. Any family that wants to visit the Eiffel Tower, Florence Cathedral, Colosseum, or the Roman Forum, will surely enjoy in this wonderful country.

    But if you are thinking about going on a trip to Italy with your children, careful planning and a whole lot of patience is needed if you want to further enjoy your trip., The city is quite big, so you need to have a keen eye on each family member. If it is your first time to go here, you need to map out all of the family-friendly hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions before you even land. To learn more about travelling to Rome with your kids, check out this short article below.


1. Pace yourself

    The city is surrounded with numerous monuments, historical sites, ruins, and museums to explore. It is highly recommended that you do not rush your visit and start exploring at your own pace. Start navigating the most accessible tourist attractions around your location. That way, you won’t have to waste your time travelling from one place to another.

2. Squeeze some play time on your schedule

    With so many historical sites to visit, you are probably super excited to explore every last one of them. However, do not forget that you are traveling with your kids. As much as you want them to learn about the rich culture of Rome, the young ones might get tired, bored, and cranky after jumping from one place to the next. Make sure that you take adequate rest every once in a while. In addition, find time to break away from the history lessons and just let them explore the local museums that cater to children. Explora il museo die bambini, for instance, is a museum where kids can learn more about science.

3. Rent some travel gear

    Instead of bringing your baby’s stroller to Rome, it is highly recommended that you just rent one instead. Most online services offer a lot of items ranging from nursery equipment, strollers, cribs, high chairs, travel cots, car seats, toys, and a whole lot more. This method will help you save luggage space, and will make your kids enjoy the trip further.

4. Let the young ones become more involved with the trip

    Before flying to Rome, make sure that you introduce your kids to the city. Together, you can read about the Roman Empire, or watch an online travel documentary about the place. This will help them become more interested about the trip. You can also let him decide which place to go next.

Care to share other useful tips when traveling to Rome with your kids? Share your thoughts below!

Fueling Excitement With Nissan at The Chicago Auto Show! #NissanCAS


Travel consideration provided.

Last week, Nissan kicked off the Chicago Auto Show media preview in style with their welcome reception. We enjoyed yummy appetizers, a beer truck, games, and a chance to be introduced to the GT-R LM Nismo race car:

Nissan GT-R LM Nismo

You might recognize this sweet ride from its recent Super Bowl commercial:

Talk about a cool car!

Beeb with the GT-R LM Nismo

During the media preview, Nissan also unveiled their 370Z NISMO Roadster concept car:

370Z NISMO Roadster Concept + GT-R LM Nismo

Photo courtesy the Chicago Auto Show.

This is an experimental vehicle created to gauge interest in a ultimate factory Z® Roadster. So what do you think? Would you drive this? It looks pretty awesome to me – maybe they can make one in pink! 😉

In addition to checking out these and many more Nissan vehicles, you can also participate in some fun activities at Nissan’s booth during the Chicago Auto Show. When you snap a selfie in a Nissan car at the booth and tag it with #NissanCAS, you can take a turn spinning the prize wheel for a chance to win some fun swag! Also, don’t forget to check out the very important Red Thumb movement while you’re there. So make sure you get down to McCormick Place before Sunday, February 22nd to check it out!