Imagine reading a great travel article and thinking to yourself, “I wish I could use this article as a guide while I’m traveling…”
If you have access to the internet, you could always bookmark the article and go to the website again. But more often than not, you’d rather not use up data to access the internet. And you might not even have a cell phone plan for the country you are visiting. Besides, just reading through the article again will remind you of the places you wanted to visit — that well-reviewed restaurant or that popular beach — but you’d still have to stop and look up the directions to find it.
There’s a much better way! Use a GPS-guided travel article. This is a travel article that has GPS coordinates embedded in the article and a map of the route the author described in his/her article. Once this app is downloaded to your phone, you will not need any internet to use the article as a guide. It will show you right where you are on the map and guide you to each subsequent location!
I’m pleased to announce that I’ve partnered with GPSmyCity to convert my travel posts into apps. You can download these apps for free, or pay for an upgrade to guide you wherever you are in the world!
What Are GPSMyCity Article Apps?
GPSMyCity produces city walk apps for over 750 cities across the world. The walks may be general (like “San Francisco’s Highlights”), or thematic (such as the “Murray Hill Architecture Walk” in New York). They use GPS tracking on your iPhone to chart your progress around the route and to make sure you don’t get lost. Many of the city apps now have links to articles covering different aspects of the area, including places of interest, restaurants and shops.
Each article is an individual app which you can download for free. This allows you to access the article offline, meaning that you can read it on the airplane, or while following a walk, even if you don’t have internet access. There is also the option to upgrade for a small fee ($1.99). This assists with your travel planning by providing an offline map showing the points of interest. And it links the app to GPS, so that when you are actually in the city you can get a route to the places mentioned in the article.
As a bonus (and to introduce you to how great this concept is), GPSMyCity is offering free upgrades of my most popular travel articles in the GPSmyCity directory for 1 week starting Monday, January 30th until Sunday, February 5th. You can access GPS-guided travel articles two different ways:
- Click on a link below for the article you are interested in (if you haven’t already downloaded the free GPSmyCity app, you will see a prompt to do so). After downloading the app, you will be directed to the article, where you can choose UPGRADE to get the GPS-guided version.
- From the GPSmyCity app, you can browse by city to see which articles are available.
You can download any article for free or upgrade for offline GPS-guided use. Happy travels!
We checked out the Miramar Air Show this weekend…my first one to date! Hosted in San Diego at Miramar, home to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, including MAG-11’s fixed-wing F/A-18 and KC-130 Hercules squadrons and MAG-16’s MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, this year’s air show paid tribute to veterans and their families. We saw F-18s, Blackhawls…even sat in a MIG!
It was amazing to be able to sit in the cockpit of a giant Boeing C-17 and try to imagine transporting tanks and troops in the body of the plane…how do they get these things off the ground?! Did you know the U.S. sent a C-17 to a Chinese Air Show despite concerns inside the Pentagon in 2014? The purpose was to strengthen relations but at costs such as putting technology secrets in jeopardy…including a monetary cost of at least $350,000! Fascinating.
We were able to catch the incredible acrobatics of the Oracle Challenger and Breitling L-39 Jet Team demo. The highlight of the day and show undoubtedly was the majestic performance by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels – jaw dropping and awe inspiring!
What a great day and what great people watching! Thank you to all who serve!
When I was told we were planning a trip out to Coeur d’Alene for Labor Day, I had no idea what a weekend it would be! I had always heard about the beauty of the lake and was excited to experience the magic. Located approximately 30 miles east of Spokane, Coeur d’Alene is named after a tribe of Native Americans who live along the rivers and lakes of the region. There are actually more than 55 lakes in the region, with Lake Coeur d’Alene being the most magnificent!
We flew into Spokane and met our friends Doug and Shadi to make the scenic drive to the lake, stopping at the delicious local Toby’s BBQ stand on the way of course. An easy hour drive later, we were at the beautiful home of the Whites and Matalon at Black Rock. Eager to check out our surroundings, we settled in to our amazing room, complete with deck and Keurig machine then headed down to the lake. I did find it slightly odd that no one else wanted to join…and that we brought one of the $100 bottles of Williams Selyem pinot that we brought the hosts along with us…but was more excited to be heading to the water.
There were all sorts of paddleboards and kayaks down by the water and we decided to take the canoe out for a spin. It was an absolutely beautiful day and the lake was gorgeous and perfectly still for our ride. By then we had discovered that if either of us moved two inches, the canoe would most likely completely capsize. After a few paddles around the lovely lake, I discovered that I could pass my empty wine glass over on an oar and be returned a full glass of pinot with no spillage! I was still reveling in my ingenuity that I hardly noticed a black box being pulled out of the pocket of a Patagonia rain jacket. At this point I think I slightly blacked out a little bit and was presented with the sweetest proposal (and most breathtaking ring) in history. It was so perfect just being in the sun, on the water…and with my fiancé!
As we paddled back towards the dock, we heard cheering and the popping of champagne. Unbeknownst to me, our friends had been watching us from the Black Rock clubhouse. We celebrated with some amazing champagne and of course more Williams Selyem – and a celebratory dip in the freezing cold lake. On our way back to the house to get ready for our special dinner, we even saw a couple of deer only a few feet away from us. They were definitely celebrating with us!
If you ever find yourself in Coeur d’Alene, you must stop and dine at Satay Bistro (ask for Kelleen as your waitress). They have an amazing private wine room to dine in and their homemade bread drizzled in olive oil and garlic is to die for. Their pasta is made completely from scratch and all soups, marinades and sauces are made fresh daily by the culinary team…truly “farm to menu”!
2501 N 4th St
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho 83814
We took a day to head to Schweitzer Mountain and take the chairlift to the top of the mountain to do some hiking! The largest resort in Idaho and Washington with 2,900 acres of amazing terrain in the rugged Selkirk Mountains, Schweitzer overlooks the beautiful Lake Pend Oreille. The hike was a long way down but the views were worth it. We even caught a rainbow! It just so happened to be Fall Fest on the mountain with 60+ microbrews and live music, including a killer all-girl ACDC cover band. If you have the time, stop in the charming and eclectic town of Sandpoint on your way out…a perfect to reward your hiking efforts with a drink + view of the lake!
A beautiful end to an amazing weekend…thank you so much to Jason, Jess, Justin, Sarah, Doug and Shadi and especially Kevin for making it one to remember forever! Over the moon!
This past weekend I got to see one of my all-time favorite artists perform at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista. Dierks Bentley rocked the house with his best show ever (hands down)…and I have seen a lot of shows. I don’t understand how not every person in this world is a country fan. I think it’s because country historically has had a negative honky tonk stigma and people don’t give it a chance. They’re scared they might actually like it…and to their delight they probably will! I’d much rather listen to songs with actual stories, heart and depth instead of incomprehensible lyrics about mischief and b*tches but that’s just me.
The show opened with the classic Dierks Bentley flag, show-stopping pyrotechnics and a strapping Dierks perched on the podium with the beginning tones of “Sideways” playing in the background. Indeed, “worked all week, it’s time to play, gonna get a little bit…sideways” and sideways we were! One of the many highlights was his performance of “I Hold On”, one of my favorite songs about how he holds on to his roots and what all is important in his life: “Baby, looking at you right now, there ain’t never been no doubt, without you I’d be nothing, so if you ever worry about me walking out, let me tell you something. I hold on.” Something people unfortunately no longer do these days! He killed his current single “Say You Do” and brought out his opener Kip Moore for his first encore song “What Was I Thinking”. Classic! Needless to say, he brought down the house with his final hit “Drunk on a Plane”.
We continued basking in the glow of the show with a little dance party fiesta with the bands afterwards. “Hangin’ memories on the high line poles. Free and easy down the road I go!”
In honor of the evolution of the curl afro, here’s a walk down memory lane…starting as early as 2008! Nationwide. Youngins!
I’ve finally recovered from the Fourth of July and therefore by association…my birthday! We packed up the dog and headed up to my old stomping grounds of Hermosa Beach to spend the day with friends, fireworks and fireball!
A few other highlights from the day (besides my paleo caramel apple pecan bars and Rachael’s tequila infused watermelon skewers)…
Oh yeah, what did I do the next day on my actual birthday? Giant turkey leg at the fair, of course! Nom nom nom…
We took a little weekend getaway this weekend to beautiful Sonoma County for some wine tasting and R&R time! With more than 400 wineries, exquisite tasting rooms, jagged Pacific coastline, rushing Russian River and towering redwood forests, Sonoma is truly a wine lover’s dream.
We started our day of wine tasting at Williams Selyem Winery in Healdsburg’s Russian Rivery Valley. Tours and tastings are available to their Allocation List Members and their referred guests and joining a wine tasting here also entitles you to get on their mailing list (which ordinarily there is a waiting list for). The vineyard designates are extraordinary and it’s exciting to see how they vary and evolve from vintage to vintage. We took home a delicious 2013 Vista Verde Vineyard San Benito County Chenin Blanc, 2013 Unoaked Russian River Chardonnay and an amazing 2012 Block 10 Mass Selection Estate Russian River Pinot Noir. Yum!
Our next stop was a beautiful tasting room looking out into the beautiful vineyards of Benovia Winery, a family-owned producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel wines in Santa Rosa off the beaten path. Benovia farms three estate vineyards, including the famous Cohn Vineyard, totaling 71 acres. We loved the pinots here!
After our tasting, we headed downstairs to a beautiful table outside among the grapes as our fearless driver Woodie brought us the most amazing sandwiches from Oliver’s Market in Santa Rosa that we enjoyed with (yet another) glass of fine pinot. I highly recommend the Calistoga Honey sandwich – Columbus maple honey ham with crisp bacon, fresh avocado, aged cheddar and honey mustard aioli toasted on a soft Dutch crunch roll…or create your own delicious monstrosity!
With tummies full, we headed to the Lancaster Estate in Healdsburg. We were taken into the beautiful cooling wine caves for a tour and were set up with an exquisite private tasting in the cave. The wine was delicious (especially the cabs) as was the enchanting atmosphere we tasted in.
Albeit pricey, a Lancaster Estate wine guild membership also includes a 3 night stay at the 6,000 square foot Proprietor’s House on the property that is blessed with captivating views of vineyards and surrounding hillsides that was built by the owner of Lancaster Estate that sleeps 10 people comfortably.
Our last tasting for the day was at Christopher Creek Winery, a small family owned winery located in Healdsburg. To be honest, by this point all the wines we were tasting were starting to all blend together but I sure enjoyed having my wine sitting poolside overlooking their rolling vineyards and creeks!
The final (and by far the most special) part of the day was stopping at Cooper’s Vineyard at J’s Winery to remember J’s beloved late winemaker Paul Cooper!
Woodie got us back to our Russian River cabin safely to finish off the night with some more wine and gourmet pizza. Perfection!
Asians love their ipads and cameras…and they love getting involved! Where was the selfie stick when we needed it??
We got a few cool shots from the day but the one below is still my favorite!
This is still one of my favorite videos to this day. They just can’t get enough and I can watch them on repeat. Wheeee!!!
Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Marble Arch, Big Ben, the iconic red double-decker buses…London has no shortage of tourist attractions and architectural treasures. It also has the best people watching with its 7.5 million residents speaking more than 300 languages between them. Standing on the River Thames, London is truly an international city. The City of London is the main financial district with Canary Wharf and Docklands to the east. London’s vast urban areas consist of Bloomsbury, Mayfair, Wembley and Whitechapel, amongst several other districts and the West End is where you can find most of London’s main entertainment and shopping districts.
Best time to visit…
For decent prices and lighter crowds, visit London in the spring or fall. April and October seem to have the best confluence of mild weather and tolerable crowds. Rates are generally the cheapest during the off season from late October to mid-December and from January to mid-March. Rates generally increase between March and June and hit their peak in the high seasons between late June and September and for the holidays in December.
The fastest link between Heathrow airport and London is the Heathrow Express. Non-stop trains run directly to Paddington every 15 minutes (journey time is 15 minutes). Heathrow Express trains stop at Heathrow Terminals 1, 2 & 3 and Heathrow Terminal 5. Tickets are available online, at the station or on the train. The standard-class single fare is £26.50 on board or £21.50 in advance. Returns are £40 on board or £35 in advance. Once at Paddington station, you can take the London Undergound’s District, Circle, Bakerloo and Hammersmith & City lines. You can find out more about the Heathrow Express by clicking here.
Where to stay…
Citadines Trafalgar Square London is located in the heart of Trafalgar Square and a short walk from the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. The Apart’hotel has 187 air-conditioned apartments with fully-equipped kitchen areas. As you know, London can be insanely expensive so a nice affordable room in a fantastic location like this is quite a gem!
Citadines Trafalgar Square London (Trafalgar Square)
18/21 Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5EA, UK
+44 20 7763 3700
A weekend in…London, England
Your first item of business is to purchase a three day Oyster card from the nearest Tube station. Take the Tube to Tower Bridge and see the Tower of London. The Tower of London is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames and was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, although its primary purpose was to serve as a royal residence. The Tower of London has an enduring reputation as a place of torture and death, popularized by 16th-century religious propagandists and 19th-century writers, and is the source reference for the term “sent to the Tower”!
Stroll along the Thames and up Ludgate Hill to St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of London’s most famous and recognizable sights. St. Paul’s Cathedral’s dome, framed by the spires of Wren’s City churches, has dominated the London skyline for 300 years. Visit the Tate Modern, Britain’s national gallery of international modern art that forms part of the Tate group, or the Millennium Bridge, a modern work of art in its own right.
Take the Tube to the Piccadilly Circus Underground station. Piccadilly Circus, famous for its neon billboard signs that rival Times Square, is central to the main shopping, entertainment and nightlife areas of the city. Piccadilly Circus is surrounded by several major attractions including the Shaftesbury Memorial, Criterion Theatre and the London Pavilion.
Explore the unique boutiques and flagship stores of Soho’s Carnaby Street, one of London’s most popular and distinctive shopping destinations. Newburgh Quarter is located just a step away from Carnaby with additional boutiques, restaurants and iconic brands. More than 50 independent restaurants, cafes, bars and quintessential English pubs are found in the area serving more than 15 different cuisines from around the world. Carnaby is a five-minute walk from Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus Tube station.
Walk to Leicester Square and explore the restaurants, nightclub and theater district. Leicester Square is the center of London’s cinema land and the prime location in London for world leading film premiers. Buy cheap last minute theater tickets at the Official London Half-Price Theatre Ticket Booth and catch a matinee or evening musical! Visit the booth on the south side of Leicester Square (Monday to Saturday 12:00 pm – 6:30 pm, Sunday 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm) for same-day bargains. All the other booths are phony! Grab a quite bite beforehand at my favorite London chain, Wagamama. They serve delicious modern pan-Asian cuisine (noodles, dumplings, rice dishes, etc.) at large shared tables. I can’t leave London without getting the Prawn Chilli Men, stir-friend prawns in a spicy chili men sauce served on top of soba noodles. An amazing explosion of flavors!
Wagamama Leicester Square (Leicester Square)
14 Irving Street, London, WC2H 7AF, UK
+44 20 7839 2323
Take the Tube to Covent Garden Underground Station to check out the pubs at Covent Garden. Forgo the 193 steps to the top by taking the elevator out of the underground. Covent Garden, an affluent area of London, is a maze of narrow streets and arcades filled with shops and street performances. Within its network of entertainment, Covent Garden has 13 theaters and over 60 pubs and bars, with most south of Long Acre around the main shopping area of the old market.
Start your day taking the Tube to the Charing Cross station to explore Trafalgar Square. Trafalgar Square is in the heart of London and one of the city’s most vibrant open spaces. Be sure to visit the National Gallery, a free art museum that has paintings from many famous artists such as Da Vinci and Rembrandt.
Exit Trafalgar Square to the south and walk down Whitehall Street towards Big Ben. Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster. The Palace of Westminster continues to be the seat of Parliament and is one of the most significant monuments of neo-Gothic architecture. You’ll see Westminster Abbey, a church where all the sovereigns since the 11th century have been crowned and where royalty is married and buried (cost of entrance is £15.00) as well as Saint Margaret’s Church, a small medieval church built in perpendicular gothic style that continues to be the parish church of the Palace of Westminster.
Cross over Westminster Bridge and take a ride on the London Eye, the biggest Ferris wheel in Europe, for fantastic views of the city. A ride will cost you £17 but the ride lasts for a full 30 minutes and the views are fantastic. I recommend riding it at night for a clearer view of the beautifully illuminated buildings.
Cross back over the bridge, walk northwest and pass St. James’ Park (the oldest park in London) on your way to Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the British Monarch and is used to receive and entertain guests on state, ceremonial and official occasions for the Royal Family. There is an entry fee and tickets are limited so book ahead if possible. The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace at 11:30 am every day in summer and every other day in winter and lasts for 45 minutes.
Walk west on Constitution Hill until you reach Hyde Park, one of the largest parks in London and one of the Royal Parks of London. Hyde Park is famous for its Speakers’ Corner and is divided in two by the Serpentine and the Long Water. The park is contiguous with Kensington Gardens, together giving an overall area of 625 acres. Kensington Palace, the Italian Gardens, Albert Memorial, Peter Pan Statue and the Serpentine Galleries are all located within Kensington Gardens’ 242 acres.
Make a dinner reservation at The Ledbury, a discreet and welcoming but quietly outstanding restaurant tucked away in a corner of Notting Hill on Ledbury Road. The Australian-born chef-patron, Brett Graham, opened the restaurant in 2005. Since then, the restaurant has earned two Michelin stars and has been featured in S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Try the 6 or 8 course tasting menu for an exquisite dining experience!
The Ledbury (Notting Hill)
127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2AQ, UK
+44 20 7792 9090
Make your way to Camden Market by taking the Tube to the Camden Town Underground station. Camden Market is the largest street market in the U.K., attracting over 100,000 visitors every weekend. You’ll be able to find souvenirs, old music records, jewelry, clothing, trinkets, food and more!
If you have the time, take a day trip to the charming seaside town of Brighton on the south coast of England. Brighton has a 5.4 mile shingle beach with a seafront packed with bars, restaurants, nightclubs, sports facilities and amusement arcades. The most popular area is the central section between the West and Palace Piers. Daily visits here can exceed 150,000 on weekends in high summer. Stroll down to the end of Brighton’s Victorian pier, browse the antique shops and boutiques and visit the Royal Pavilion, the splendid summer house built by George IV when he was Prince Regent.
Trains depart every 15 minutes from either the London Bridge or Victoria station and the journey takes about an hour. Round trip tickets are £25 from Victoria but you can get cheaper advance off peak tickets from London Bridge station. For the best burger of your life, go to Burger Brothers….explosively good burgers at low prices. Try the Benneton Burger with chorizo!
Burger Brothers (Brighton)
97 North Road, Brighton BN1 1YE, England
Panda’s Tips for London:
- Carry both sunglasses and an umbrella…just in case!
- Consider purchasing a London Pass, a sightseeing card that covers over 55 attractions.
- Never take a minicab. Only black cabs have a meter so you know how much you’re paying and they usually know the best routes. The Tube is usually the fastest and cheapest option!
- If you’re staying for an extended amount of time, you’ll want to get a weekly Travelcard (you’ll need a passport photo to get one). It covers the underground, red double-decker buses, and British rail trains. If you plan to explore only central London, buy a Zone One unlimited travel pass for £15.30 ($22.25); other passes cover up to six zones (£35.40/$51.50), but four will get you pretty much anywhere you’d want to go except Heathrow. The cards are available at all train and tube stations and tourist offices. The cards are cheaper after 9 am!
- The only legitimate booth for discount theatre tickets is the London Half-Price Theatre Ticket Booth. Don’t trust the other booths! Visit the booth on the south side of Leicester Square (Monday to Saturday 12:00 pm – 6:30 pm, Sunday 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm).
Hope you all had a fabulous Valentine’s Day! Here’s a glimpse into my wonderful day ♥
The prettiest flowers in all the land…
Homemade V-day dinner with cardiff crack (burgundy tri-tip from Seaside Market in Cardiff…if you haven’t had it, you haven’t lived)! Not pictured, the biggest and tastiest Venezuelan shrimp I’ve ever had.
Beautiful Oceanside sunset on the pier.
Wine and bubble bath, not too bad!