My Blogger Pals Share Their 2016 Travel Secrets

When it’s time for me to research a new destination the first thing I do is contact my blogger pals who live around the world. As a group, these female road warriors have logged tens of thousands of travel miles and have lived as ex-pats in so many different places. That’s why they can easily dispense travel advice from a local woman’s point of view – the kind of advice hard to find in most guidebooks. These women are the perfect example of what the Journeywoman Network is all about. Each one of us has experienced only so much of this great big world. However, put us all together and we become an encyclopedia of women-centred travel knowledge.

To begin this New Year I, once again, reached out to my blogger community and asked each of them to share one of their interesting ‘bits of wisdom.’ This is what came back to me. Enjoy these tips and then click through to each of their websites. I think you will be very pleased with what you find. Safe journeys, everybody!

A floral secret in Seattle, USA

One of the best-kept secrets from tourists in Seattle is Swanson’s Nursery in the north end of town. Wander through the vibrant flowers and foliage, discover new flora species and inhale the lovely floral scents along the way. If you want to meet a friend for breakfast or lunch, tea or a latte (this IS Seattle after all), the Seasons cafe on-site offers a relaxing place for friendly conversations. Go early and find a seat next to one of the koi ponds for an added meditative moment or two. Should you be so inclined, there’s also a small gift shop on site where you just might find a souvenir to bring home from your visit. But wandering through the nursery is free and a welcome urban escape within the city limits.

Nancy Meuller from Website: Wanderboomer.com

Glacier National Park, USA

Have you had your fill of museums, cathedrals and shopping? It’s time for an outdoor adventure in Glacier National Park. Located in northwestern Montana, just over the Canadian border from Alberta, the park offers plenty of fun, even for outdoor wannabes. The Sun Road, which travels from one side of Glacier National Park to the other side, is considered an engineering marvel. It’s also crowded during peak tourism season. So hop on a Red Bus tour and let someone else do the driving while you do the looking. The park’s lodges offer history with a scenic view; but you’ll need to book accommodations as far in advance as possible, preferably a year. For hiking, Many Glacier Hotel is the place to be. And if you’re idea of hiking is a little bit of walking with a lot of looking, a Swiftcurrent Lake boat tour combines the best of both worlds. Or watch wildlife through a telescope on the Many Glacier Hotel back deck. The views don’t end with dinner if you score a table by the window at Ptarmigan Dining Room.

Donna L. Hull from Website: myitchytravelfeet.com

DIY wellness retreat in Mexico

If you need a health boost but don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on a wellness retreat, try Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Located on the coast of Oaxaca, this fishing village turned surfing mecca has a fast-growing wellness community offering economical yoga classes, vegetarian cuisine, an open-air Mexican market and budget accommodation. You can enjoy a restorative yoga class overlooking the Pacific Ocean at One Love Boutique Hostal or take daily Hatha Yoga classes with Sofia Agaton in a breezy palapa. One hour classes are often under 100 MXN pesos per class (around $6 USD) and monthly rates are available. Classes are taught in both Spanish and English so you get the extra bonus of learning a new language while you master your downward dog. Puerto Escondido is a female-friendly destination that welcomes women of all ages.

Michele Peterson from Website: atastefortravel.ca

Two beautiful stops near the U.S. Capital

The Smithsonian Museums that line the National Mall are fantastic, but the crowds can overwhelm. For quieter beauty and contemplation, head toward the US Capitol and two gorgeous stops. First, immerse yourself in nature at the US Botanic Garden. Relax on a bench or stroll the catwalk in The Jungle, inhale the scents in the Orchid Room, and wander through diverse plant habitats. A block away, visit the Library of Congress Jefferson Building, an elaborate Italian Renaissance-style hall decorated to honor learning, literature, knowledge, creativity, and intellectual achievement. From the seventy-five foot vaulted, stained glass ceiling, to the rose compass inlay in the marble floor, you’ll find beautiful and interesting detail. Be sure to walk up the stairs, past the statue of Minerva, for a view of the famous Reading Room.

Julie McCool from Website: FuninFairfaxVA.com

Have lunch in Robion, Provence, France

Let me tell you about lunch at L’Auberge La Table Paysanne in Robion. After visiting one of the many markets located in Provence, such as the ones in Cavaillon or Ménerbes, I highly suggest that you head towards the town of Robion (8 kilometres away) where you will discover a wonderful restaurant called L’Auberge La Table Paysanne. It is a definite “find” frequented by locals and for an 18 € fixed price you will get an apéritif (half dozen bottles beautifully presented in a basket for you to choose from), appetizer, main course, 250ml carafe of wine (red, white, or rosé), dessert, and coffee/tea for lunch. The food and atmosphere are superb. Big windows, farmhouse furniture and antiques decorate the large dining room. It is only open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, so be sure to make a reservation. Address: 936, chemin du Moulin-d’Oise Phone: +33 4 90 76 81 96

Janice Chung from Website: www.francetraveltips.com

Philadelphia beyond the Liberty Bell

Living in Philly, I suggest you visit Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, entrance on South Street between 10th and 11th Streets in Center Cty. You won’t see any flowers, just a labyrinth of tile and glass murals representing the “interesting” mind of muralist Isaiah Zagar. Time your visit for before or after mealtime and walk west for two blocks to a moderately priced Afghan restaurant, the Sansom Street Kebob House for lunch or dinner (13th and South Streets). My favourite there is Qablee Pawlaw. Enjoy! Website: www.sansomkabobhouseonsouth.com

Suzanne Fluhr from Website: boomeresque.com

Balancing your accommodation budget in London, England

When I visit London, I always begin with a splurge and stay in a really special hotel. To stretch my money, I combine that with a frugal stay in a more modest B&B, usually in Bloomsbury. For instance, I once stayed at the elegant 4-star The Montague on the Gardens in Bloomsbury, where I enjoyed a beautifully decorated guest room and a proper afternoon tea in the Lounge. I followed this with a move over to my favourite budget-friendly B&B, the Crescent Hotel, in an 1810 Georgian building and also in Bloomsbury, where the bathroom was in a converted closet and breakfast was in a basement room that managed to be cheery. I loved every minute (well, almost every minute) in each place and returned from my trip with a balanced budget.

Carole Terwilliger Meyers from Website: travelswithcarole.com

Winter in Costa Del Sol, Spain

Winter is a wonderful time to visit Marbella along the Costa del Sol in Spain. There are fewer tourists in this quaint and interesting town situated on the Mediterranean Sea, so it is mainly Spaniards that vacation there in the off-season. Delicious seafood is in abundance at shacks, bars and restaurants along the promenade, and one of our favourite foodie finds was Restaurante La Red Marbella. Here, we not only enjoyed dining on fresh sardines grilled over an outdoor fire pit, but they also make some of the best and most authentic paellas in the area. Plus, when the weather is nice (which it is mainly is even in winter), La Red is the perfect location to sit at a table on the beach for a couple of hours, while watching the waves lapping on the shore. Address: Playa de la Fontanilla – Arco # 6 Website: www.restaurantelaredmarbella.com/

Viv Chapleo & Jill Heeling from Website: wavejourney.com

A truly florentine retreat in Italy

Visiting Florence is wonderful and exciting, and tiring. The business of the ancient streets and piazzas can leave you weary and in need of something to pick you up. Stroll along Via Tornabuoni, past the windows of Dolce & Gabanna, Hermes or Gucci, and look for the beautiful window of Procacci. To call it a delicatessen belies the joys found inside – feast your eyes on Tuscan treats and delicacies that were once enjoyed by Italian royalty. The beautiful displays are filled with products to take home, or you can relax in the wine bar and enjoy a truffle sandwich or two with a glass of prosecco – guaranteed to help revive a weary traveller. Website: www.procacci1885.it/en

Sandy Swanton from Website: globalwanderings.ca

Stay safe while taking cash from an ATM

This is important! When taking monies out of the ATM make sure that there already is an installed video camera directed at the ATM. This security camera keeps recording activity around the ATM and will reduce the scammers from wishing to place a skimming device on that ATM. They will tend to go and find an easier target. Taking these precautions will reduce the chances of your travel currency cards being comprised and safeguarding your hard-earned travel money.

Jane Dempster-Smith from Website: totraveltoo.com

Woman-friendly guide in Jordan

I want to send you my Jordanian tour guide’s details. His name is Ramzi Nawafleh. He is based in Petra (the town is called Wadi Musa), but he works all over the country and takes groups to Amman, Dead Sea, Wadi Rum, the desert forts and the Roman city of Jerash – all fabulous places to visit in Jordan. Here is his contact information. Rams Nawafleh,Tel: + 962 3 215 9888. Fax: + 962 3 215 9800. Mobiles: + 962 79 643 6423/+ 962 77 734 8415. Skype: ramzi.nawafleh. Email: ramzi@jordanalluretours.com Website: www.jordanalluretours.com/cms/

Ilona Biro, Travel Writer

Eat like a local in Amsterdam

To taste traditional Dutch food in a gezellig (cozy) atmosphere, my favourite restaurant in Amsterdam is MOEDER’S (Mother’s in Dutch). Indeed, mothers are everywhere. Photos of patrons’ moms cover every wall, vintage sepia studio shots to casual snaps. Bring one of your own mom and they’ll add it to the wall. Next, notice the mismatched dishware. When Moeder’s opened, first-nighters were asked to bring a dish, glass and cutlery. That delightful mismatched collection is still in use today. The food is pure Dutch, with a creative twist. The traditional Dutch pea soup is my favourite dish, thick with a cut-up sausage, bits of bacon and rich pea flavour. Served with a basket of fresh bread and hummus, it makes a great light meal by itself. If you’re hungrier, choose one of the three-course meals: starter, main dish, dessert. There are three price points and all are good value for what you get. In nice weather, there’s a row of tables outside facing the canal. Lunch is served only on weekends; dinner the rest of the week. Open until midnight. Reservations are suggested, but I’ve always gotten a table without one. Website: www.moeders.com/en/home

Donna Meyer from Website: Nomadwomen.com

A cozy restaurant in Aix-En-Provence, France

We live part-time in Aix en Provence and never tire of its beautiful squares and colourful daily markets. Here are a couple of our favourite spots:
(1) Le Bouddoir – a cozy restaurant on the lovely Place des Tanners (28 Rue des Tanners). Their trio of daily specials, all under 15€, are always delicious.
(2) Place d’Albertas – stepping into this cobbled, fountain-centred square will take you back a few hundred years – impossibly romantic on a moonlit evening!

Anne Woodyard from Website: musicandmarkets.com/blog/

Sydney, Australia’s newest precinct

If you want to see the newest and best part of Sydney, then you have to get yourself down to Barangaroo. This is where it is all happening. There are food trucks, coffee shops to die for and this amazing Turkish restaurant called Anason. Yeh, it is weird to think that the first permanent restaurant is Turkish, but probably not so much when you know that Australia is so multicultural. So this is the place to go on a sunny day in Sydney, as it sits right on the harbour. Sit back, drink a Raki which is what Anason means, and then have a Bosphorus Feast that makes you think you are in Istanbul. After that, if you can, explore this newest precinct and check out The Cutaway. It will blow your mind, as it is the largest underground cultural space in Australia.

Paula Mcinnerney from Website: contentedtraveller.com

Learn regional cooking in Italy

Tourists visiting Italy can take advantage of a unique opportunity to learn regional recipes and cooking techniques and enjoy home-cooked meals in the homes of locals. The Cesarian program has the lofty goal of preserving the traditions of regional Italian cookery while participants learn about the history and culture of Italy.

Available in more than 90 cities throughout the country (including Rome, Florence, Bologna, Venice, Turin, Milan and Naples), the program carefully vets home cooks, linking them with guests seeking an authentic culinary experience. The initiative was founded in 2004 by professor Egeria Di Nallo, a sociologist at the University of Bologna, in collaboration with the Association for the Guardianship and Protection of the Traditional Culinary-Gastronomic Heritage of Italy. The Cesarine website has a calendar of available dates, locations and menus. When we visited, dinner or lunch was about 50 euros per person, including a first, second and dessert course with wine and coffee. Children are welcome. Reservations need to be made in advance.

Irene Levine from Website: MoreTimeToTravel.com

Finding a quiet neighbourhood in Amsterdam

Most tourists only stay within Amsterdam Centre and rarely leave the ring (e.g. the boundary between “Centre” aka close to Centraal Station and Prinsengracht canal [the outermost canal surrounding the Central part of Amsterdam]. For a different side of Amsterdam away from the crowds, you’ll want to walk along the charming shopping street of Haarlemmerdijk, which is full of boutiques and great cafes, into the charming residential neighbourhood of Prinseneiland. Walkthrough the dark tunnel towards the local brown bar (‘T Blaauwhooft) before continuing down Bickersgracht towards to the canal-side children’s petting zoo [donation based]. Keep an eye out for the historic wooden bridges and the former warehouses before having dinner at De Gouden Reale and cruising the canals in your own boat at sunset (Canal Motorboats) 90 euros for 2 hours).

Karen A from Website: wanderlustingk.com

How to see Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia

Use Community Based Tourism (CBT) in Kyrgyzstan to help organize your ground travel. If you’re visiting this amazing country, getting from place to place can be challenging, especially since most people don’t speak English. One way to do it is to hire a private driver who speaks English. Another is to ask CBT to organize things for you, or at least the more complicated parts of your trip. They have yurt camps and homestays and taxis and the prices range from rock bottom to quite high – something for everyone. CBT has an office in most major Kyrgyz towns and you can either get the main office in the capital Bishkek to organize the whole trip for you or ask them to organize the first leg, with the office in the next town taking over and so on. I like using them because all their service providers are local people and most of the money goes directly into the community.

Leyla Giray Alyanak from Website: women-on-the-road.com

Stay safe while taking cash from an ATM

This is important! When taking monies out of the ATM make sure that there already is an installed video camera directed at the ATM. This security camera keeps recording activity around the ATM and will reduce the scammers from wishing to place a skimming device on that ATM. They will tend to go and find an easier target. Taking these precautions will reduce the chances of your travel currency cards being comprised and safeguarding your hard-earned travel money.

Jane Dempster-Smith from Website: totraveltoo.com

Stylish hostel in Rome, Italy

The Beehive Rome is a family-run, stylish ho(s)tel that offers rooms at affordable prices but it’s so much more than just a place to rest your head. In the basement is a lovely lounging area and café where a few times a week they host a vegetarian/vegan dinner made by local chefs and once a month they host a storytelling evening. Stop in, have a bite to eat, meet some great, like-minded people and rest your weary bones in a comfy, quiet room. The Beehive – stylish hostel / budget, boutique hotel in Rome Italy Email: info@the-beehive.com Phone: +39 0644704553

Nat Harris from Website: A Cook Not Mad

Foodie heaven in Cozumel, Mexico

Everyone knows Cozumel, Mexico as a diving destination, but few realize that it has become a foodie destination as well. There are two restaurants, little known to tourists and off the beaten path, where the quality of the food will amaze and delight diners. One is La Cocay on Calle Ocho, three blocks off the Mexican Caribbean in a non-descript area of town. La Cocay could be set down anywhere in the world and be a success. The mixture of the Mediterranean and local seafood is so delicious and artistic locals who enjoy fine dining experiences can be found there on any night of the week.

The other hidden gem is Bucannos at Night on the north side of the island, open only on Friday and Saturday nights. Reservations are always needed. By day Buccanos is a beach club, but on Friday and Saturday nights, it is transformed into a trendy foodie spot where creativity in preparation and presentation is given full rein. The results are surprising and often bold, and I guarantee you will want to dine there again. And again!

Tam Warner Minton from Website: travelswithtam.com/

$US5.00 lunch in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico

I want to tell you about a great restaurant find in San Miguel de Allende. Here it is: We wouldn’t have discovered Sabores de Frieda, Organos 52, in San Miguel de Allende, if we hadn’t seen it out our apartment window. The long narrow restaurant, decorated with papeles picado and photographs of the iconic artist for who it’s named, is worth finding! Chef/owner Nicolás Marcial has come up with a great concept; he offers one menu choice a day. Our main course of chile relleno was preceded by a salad and a fresh fruit drink was included. The price for a great meal? Under $5 USD. And, the food is really quite tasty. See: www.facebook.com/Los-Sabores-De-Frida

Billie Frank from Website: santafetravelers.com

Five Apulio, Italy secrets

(1) If you want a day tour or a wine tour or a driver to show you the sights, get in touch with Giovanni Fasano, at greenitalytours@mail.com or see www.greenitalytours.com. My friend and I joined Giovanni when he already had three people willing to take his wine tour. We visited the town of Gallipoli (wonderful beach, wonderful seafood), and walked about. Later we had a wine tasting in the nearby town of Nardo.

(2) If you’re in the beautiful white city of Ostuni, do stay at Hotel La Terra, the most central, and think about taking a tour of the winding streets in a golf cart. See www.ostuniapecalessino.com

 (3) In Bari, and close to the airport is Annavi B&B run by Vincenzo and Ana, the most hospitable of hosts. Sixty Euros a night for B&B. Vincenzo will meet you at the airport, deliver you to the airport, even give you a day tour to Alberabello or Matera if you get in touch early. 
www.bbannavi.it or bbannavi@gmail.com

(4) In the lovely city of Lecce, there’s a modernistic hotel called Le Befori Charming House. Run by three young men, the rooms are large and the price we paid was 100 Euros a night with the most wonderful croissants for breakfast. Perfect location for nearby tourism information office and access to the old city, and the public gardens. See: www.lebiforelecce.it/en/

 (5) Next door to the above hotel is an ideal place to dine: Il Vico del Gusto. English is no problem for the courteous staff and the menu is varied from all kinds of pasta and all kinds of fresh fish. You can choose your fish from those on ice waiting for you. See: www.ilvicodelgusto.it

Barb Bagnell Writer

Evelyn started Journeywoman in 1994, and unknowingly became the world's first female travel blogger. She inspired a sisterhood of women, a grassroots movement, to inspire women to travel safely and well, and to connect women travellers around the world. She passed away in 2019, but her legacy lives on.

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