Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Travel Web Sites: Which are Best?

It probably is a matter of opinion. Each of us has our own travel personality and you can bet there is a web site out there to match our personality. I enjoy reading The Frugal Traveler series in the New York Times. Here's a good, quick, link-filled blog post with all kinds of travel websites to try on for size.

Have a safe & happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hungry (not Hungary)

What kind of traveler am I? The kind who selects destinations based on whether great food choices are available. There, I admit it. I'm sitting in my office looking through the brochure for our college's May 2010 tour of Spain and all I can think of is sangria, Serrano ham (and I'm a vegetarian), fresh fish, olives, and other delicious goodies.

Well, if you travel to France or Italy, surely, you're going to check out the food, aren't you? So, I don't think I'm so terrible, sitting here wondering what kind of food will be available in Spain.

If you've traveled to Spain and want to share a "food memory, I hope you will.
Here's the Spain tour brochure

Friday, October 9, 2009

Broadway in April 2010

Parkland College is sponsoring a wonderful long weekend in New York City, April 1-4, 2010. You'll see 2 great Broadway shows ("Billy Elliot" is one of them; a drama, too). Stay at Millennium Broadway Hotel (walking distance to theatres, sights, great restaurants, etc.)

Fly from Chicago O'Hare to New York City. Price is exceptional value. See details here.

10 Great Places to race for a cancer cure

From USA Today: Races sponsored by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure have helped the organization raise more than $1.3 billion to find a cure for breast cancer. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and several US cities are sponsoring "Race for the Cure."

For the complete article, go here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Do you crave Sydney?

When I graduated college, I moved to Australia to teach English (my students wondered if I spoke English, since I sounded so funny to them with my Midwestern twang). Anyway, for a twenty-something like me who had never been away from home, living in Australia was, to put it mildly, an adventure. I lived in Geelong, which is about 40 miles west of Melbourne, right on the coast (again, an adventure for a landlocked Midwesterner). One of the many wonderful aspects about living in Australia and being a teacher there was that it seemed we were always on holiday. Two weeks here, a month there, a long weekend to explore Tasmania or a summer to drive across the Nullabor plain from Melbourne to Perth, all the while listening to cricket matches on the car radio.

Which is a needlessly roundabout way of getting to this new article from the Wall Street Journal about some travel opportunities coming up in October to visit Sydney, Australia. Just knowing that there are roundtrip tickets from Los Angeles to Sydney, starting at $799 is making me crave a Foster's (and it's only 10:15 a.m. as I write this to you).

You will never regret a visit to "the lucky country."

For more information, visit

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Travel Detective

Have you heard of Peter Greenberg? He's known as The Travel Detective and has a radio show, books, and is Travel Editor for CBS News. I heard him interviewed on a local talk show and I was impressed by his no-nonsense style and his interesting tips about avoiding travel scams and ways to save money when you travel.

You can check him out here:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Award-winning Travel Blog

No, not this one. I'm talking about Intelligent Travel Blog from National Geographic. NGEO is a classy enterprise anyway (best photos, superb writing) and this blog is another delight.

Give it a look when you have a minute.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Been There

Found another good website, this one is at the Guardian newspaper online (United Kingdom).
Although you need to take other people's opinions (including mine!) with a grain of salt, it's fun and informative to read other travelers' recommendations and experiences.

Hope this encourages you to post your own recommendations. Happy travels.

Here's the Guardian link:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The world's 5 most over-rated tourist sites

The Times of London today has an interesting article from a just-published book, The Road Less-Travelled (with a Forward written by Bill Bryson, it just might be worth reading).

Here's the link to the Times article:

Monday, August 31, 2009

Use "Best of" to enjoy new places

You've seen them, perhaps in your local newspaper or alternative weeklies: The "Best of YOUR TOWN HERE" lists. You can look them up online before you travel to a city and find out what the locals consider the "best" restaurants and every other category the editor can dream up. For starters, go to Budget Travel online. Here's the link:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Meet the Espeseths

One of the perks of travel is meeting some terrific and interesting people. I first met Bob & Mary Ann Espeseth on a Parkland-sponsored tour to London, England in 2002. I was a novice traveler and the Espeseths were "seasoned." One of the many things I've come to admire about Bob & Mary Ann is their joy for life. A favorite memory is when our tour group saw "Mamma Mia" on stage in London. At the end of the show, the audience is encouraged to sing-a-long with the cast to those catchy ABBA songs. I reluctantly get up on my feet and go along with the crowd. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Bob Espeseth standing tall (very tall) and clapping along with the music with that twinkle in his eye. Fun. Unforgettable.

I asked Bob & Mary Ann to share some of their memories of their extensive travel experiences. Here's what they had to say:

1. What got you interested in travel?
Bob was on a destroyer in the Navy and visited 23 foreign countries while on active duty. As a family, we did a lot of camping throughout the U.S. visiting all 50 states. Our foreign travel came later.

2. What are your earliest memories of traveling? Did you travel as a child with your family?
Mary Ann's family did considerable travel before & after World War II in the U.S. & Canada. Bob's family did not have a car, but did a lot of hitchhiking to various places.

3. Do you like to read about travel? Who are your favorite travel writers? Travel magazines?
We don't subscribe to travel magazines. Yes, we do enjoy novels that take place in different countries & locales. We enjoy Rick Steves' tv programs and books.

4. Why do you travel?
We enjoy traveling to other countries to see the scenery, meet new people, and to appreciate different cultures.

5. When you travel internationally, how do you handle language differences?
We rely on the in-country guide and try to pick up a few phrases to get by. We don't take language courses or try to become fluent in any language.

6. What kind of packer are you? Do you have your own system for what to take?
We are light packers taking few shoes and coordinate outfits with interchangeable clothes. We often do laundry by hand. The secret is "take half the clothes you think you need and take twice as much money, and you'll have a good time!"

7. Tell me about food when you travel. Are you a foodie, that is, do you enjoy trying new cuisines?
Yes, we both enjoy trying new foods as a part of experiencing the various cultures. We don't visit McDonald's overseas! Mary Ann particularly likes Italian gelato!!

8. Tell me about a favorite food experience while traveling.
One memorable dining experience was in a little Italian village near Siena where we had beef florentine that was outstanding. Two hours of dining enjoyment. On a trip to Jordan recently, the group was divided up and we prepared our dinner, except for the main entrees.

9. What place have you visited that you would go back to in a flash?
Scandinavia, particularly Norway, but there are a lot of other places that were so enjoyable.

10. Any travel disappointments? A place you thought you'd enjoy but didn't live up to your expectations?
The only travel disappointment we encountered was a lousy tour leader in Spain. The country was wonderful and the local guides were fine, but the primary tour leader was a real dud.

11. What can you not live without when you travel?
Each other. We enjoy traveling together.

12. Where to next?
We are going on an Elderhostel in late Sept. to the southern Appalachians, "The Great Smoky Mountain Railway: An Appalachian Adventure."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Travel tips to nth degree

Whether or not you're a fan of Rick Steves' travel guides, radio show, et al., go give his website a look. I found it to be chock-full of useful travel information. I especially like the section on Plan Your Trip because he has so many categories to check out, from packing light to communicating in foreign countries, to saving money on food, to finding the best walking shoes. Visit:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Martha Bowser-Kiener Interview

Martha Bowser-Kiener is Professor of French and Humanities at Parkland College, Champaign, Illinois. She also is traveler extraordinaire, having led numerous Study Abroad trips and either led or co-led Parkland Tours to England, Italy, Spain, Scotland, and many more fascinating places.

We asked her about her lifelong interest in travel and she graciously provided these juicy responses:

1. What got you interested in travel?

I was fortunate to start foreign language study in primary school. I’ll credit this early exposure to “Monsieur Zeff!” I was just fascinated by the fact that there are people in the world who live, eat, act, speak, look, etc. different(ly) than me.

2. What are your earliest memories of traveling? Did you travel as a child with your family?

Oh, yeah…the typical family vacation scene with 4 siblings in the back of the family station wagon prepared me well for today’s air travel in economy class (sardine can seating, soggy sandwiches…).

3. Do you like to read about travel? Who are your favorite travel writers? Travel magazines?

I love books by Alain de Bouton, Paul Theroux, and Robert Hennenga. They all deal with travel—as opposed to tourism. An important distinction.

4. Why do you travel?

There’s a certain amount of escapism involved; but I love adventure, meeting new people, having new cultural experiences--and the inevitable uncertainty of travel. I like feeling temporarily out of my element.

5. When you travel internationally, how do you handle language differences?

I have a gift for languages, which basically means I jump in there and communicate with people—on whatever level I can muster.

6. What kind of packer are you? Do you have your own “system” for what to take?

Haha! I’ve gotten such a reputation for being the “Travel Light” queen, I have a hard time living up to it sometimes!

7. Tell me about food when you travel. Are you a “foodie,” that is, do you enjoy trying new cuisines?

I am absolutely a foodie—and I have a cast iron stomach, so I’ll try most anything. Example: I once ate not one but THREE giant sea slugs at a dinner in Beijing.

8. Tell me about a favorite food experience while traveling.

(Well, that eliminates the sea slug story…) On my first long-term stay abroad (16 years old in Sweden), EVERYTHING seemed new, different, and delicious: Swedish meatballs, yoghurt on cereal, hard “tack,” huge bowls of iced prawns, rhubarb everything…

9. What place have you visited that you would go back to in a flash?

Probably easier to list ones I would prefer NOT return to; but I’d go back to Morocco and/or Turkey this afternoon, if I could!

10. Any travel disappointments? A place you thought you’d enjoy but didn’t live up to your expectations?

Not really. I’ve found value in every place I’ve been. I try to keep my expectations limited: I expect to have a good time and I always do.

11. What can you not live without when you travel?

The three things I double-check for when I’m leaving my driveway for a trip: (e-) ticket, passport and some form of money. I figure anything else can be purchased once I get there!

12. Where to next?

Turkey this afternoon?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Broadway Weekend

OK, here's the deal: What two plays currently on Broadway would you "kill" to see? Let me know. Why? Because Parkland is planning a Whirlwind Broadway Weekend in early April 2010. We'll see 2 plays (and have lots of other fun things to see/do/eat/drink). Musical? Drama? Comedy? So much on Broadway to choose from.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Spain in May

Just found out that we'll be sponsoring a tour to Spain in late May 2010. Probably 10 days, including Madrid & Andalusia. Getting details (cost, mainly). Oh, and the tour is being led by one of the community's favorites, Martha Bowser-Kiener, who is a World-Class Traveler!

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


If you love to travel, glad to meet you. I work at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois. Through the college, I've enjoyed some amazing travel that I'd like to share with you. Even better, Parkland has some wonderful travel opportunities coming up soon (a Broadway weekend; Spain in 2010, just to give you a "teaser.").

I'd always loved the idea of travel. It sounds so romantic and adventurous, sipping wine in Tuscany, or dining at a charming little bistro in Paris. But, let's face it: you've got to spend some $$, you've got to schedule the time, and you've got to make all the arrangements, like passports, flights, hotels. The idea of travel was much easier for me.

A few years ago, I decided to take the plunge and go on a tour sponsored by Parkland College. The tour was to London, probably my number 1 choice to visit (give me a break; I was an English major in college). Long story short: Loved the entire experience. The price was affordable and absolutely all the little details (that I hate) were taken care of (itinerary, reservations, hotels, flights, transportation in London, transportation to and from airports).

In future posts, I'll ask some fellow travelers to share their favorite moments and places. We'll add some photos. And, we'd love to hear from you. Till then .... all the best.