Santa Barbara must be one of the most beautiful cities in the United States.  We love the Spanish revival architecture, beaches lined with palm trees, amazing cuisine, and of course the laid-back California vibe.  We lived in Santa Barbara in the 1990s and we still have family there, so we get to return regularly.  It’s always exciting to visit and so very hard to leave. We spent a week there this winter, which is out of the peak tourist season in summer, but the weather was very moderate.  There were no crowds and getting into restaurants was easy. We stayed at The Fess Parker: A Doubletree by Hilton Resort, which is a wonderful family (and pet) friendly hotel.  Located across the street from the beach and within walking distance from the pier, it’s in a perfect spot.  The resort has some great restaurants and relaxing pools! ” order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″]  Running through the middle of Santa…Continue Reading
Imagine a tiny island surrounded by warm, crystal clear blue water, where no cars travel.  The island of Comino is only 3.5 square km (1.4 sq mi) and has only 5 full-time residents.  The Island has a long history: inhabited by farmers during Roman times, it was turned into a prison for errant Knights in the 16th century.  Now, it’s a popular destination for snorkelers and divers.  There is only one resort on the island, but water taxis depart hourly from the Mainland of Malta and the Island of Gozo. We decided to spend our last day in Malta on Comino Island.  The owner of our villa told us that an area of the Island called the Blue Lagoon was a great spot for swimming, so we grabbed a water taxi and set off. The boys were excited to have the boat to ourselves and the driver added to the excitement by driving really fast and…Continue Reading
One of our favorite places in the world is Malta and we discovered it by accident.  We were in Austria in October, and it was freezing!  Our plan had been to go to Italy but all the flights were expensive and the train ride was really long.  To top it off, I was on the 10th day of a horrible cold that would not go away.  Rich was searching every flight he could to find 5 affordable tickets from Salzburg to Rome. He came across a really cheap flight to Rome through Malta.  We didn’t know anything about Malta but it was cheaper to fly to Malta, stay a a few days and then fly onto Rome, than to buy a one way ticket from Salzburg to Rome.  So we thought, why not?  It ended up being a great decision and we fell so in love with Malta that we ended up staying 3 weeks. Azure…Continue Reading
Most families think of Orlando when planning a family vacation to Florida.  But they are missing out on a real gem, only 90 minutes up the Atlantic coast in America’s oldest city: St. Augustine.  It was founded in 1565 by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, a Spanish conquistador, and owned in turn by the Spanish, the British, the Spanish again, and finally the United States in 1819.  The city boasts Spanish colonial architecture, historic sites, a hopping art and nightlife scene and gorgeous beaches. We love St. Augustine and had the pleasure of living in the area for a few months.  It’s an amazing city for families. Here is a sample of the fabulous things to see, eat and do when visiting. Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine Established in 1565 and later re-built in the 18th century, the Cathedral Basilica is the oldest church in Florida.  The architecture is beautiful and it’s worth a…Continue Reading
After visiting with Jen’s parents in Cayucos, it was time for our annual family trip with Rich’s family.  This year the choice was the stunning Catalina Island, a jewel of an island only 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles.  Catalina is one of the eight Channel Islands, and the only inhabited one, known for its “Old California” vibe and well-maintained Art Deco architecture.  The island became popular in the 1920s as a playground for Hollywood, and the Wrigley family famously built mansions and the “Casino”. Getting There Unless you have a private plane or boat, the best way to get there is by taking The Catalina Express, which runs from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point to the port of Avalon.  The boats are comfortable with air conditioning, bathrooms, and a snack bar.  The ride can be choppy so be ready if you are prone to motion sickness.  We have found that sitting outside…Continue Reading
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Jacques Cousteau “Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.” Unknown Author “The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach.” Henry Beston “The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.” Robert Wyland “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” John F. Kennedy “Visual surprise is natural in the Caribbean; it comes with the landscape, and faced with its beauty, the sigh of History dissolves. ” Derek Walcott “One’s destination is never a place, but…Continue Reading
After returning from Costa Rica we decided to spend some time in California visiting our family.  Our first stop was Cayucos for a little time with Grandma.  Cayucos is an adorable beach town on the central coast of California.  It’s a wonderful place for families, with beautiful beaches and a relaxed California vibe. We started the day off with an early lunch at Duckie’s Chowder House.  Duckie’s is a small casual restaurant by the Cayucos pier, serving up yummy chowder, fish and chips, fish tacos, bowls and burgers.  They have a to-go window, so you can grab lunch to eat on the beach.  We chose to sit down in the restaurant and enjoy a long lunch and a beer. The food was great!  We loved the clam chowder and the garlic fries. After lunch, the kids ran to a playground on the sand at Cayucos State Beach.  The beach is beautiful and it’s a great place to relax…Continue Reading
[Note: This is an unsolicited review and we did not receive payment, free food or accommodations from Dreams.] Our boys have stayed in a lot of hotels, but their favorite is Dreams Puerto Aventuras Resort.  We spent a fantastic week there that left our boys dying to return.   The resort sits on a beautiful stretch of coast between Playa del Carmen and Tulum.  The sand is white and the water is warm and clear.   This was our first all-inclusive hotel experience and we really enjoyed it. Included in the price: Limitless à-la-carte dining, including 24 hour room service All drinks, including alcoholic beverages Mini bar in room Many activities at the pool and beach, including snorkeling, kayaking, sailing and introductory scuba-diving lessons in the pool Shows and parties Kids club Kids activities, including climbing wall, water trampoline, and mini golf Wi-fi all over the resort The hotel is really…Continue Reading
We have discovered the exclusive world of the private French beach, and we will never be the same again.  Comfy lounge chairs and umbrellas, white sparkling sand, blue Mediterranean water and a smooth French waiter who follows every sentence with “it’s no bother.” Tall cold drinks decorated with fruit, plates of cheese, tuna tartare, salad niçoise, and some warm baguettes all served in wicker baskets.  Gentle lapping waves with yachts bigger than my house in the background. Ah, heaven! Here are a few of the family-friendly beaches on the Côte d’Azur: Cannes Cannes has one of the most famous (and expensive) beaches, but it lives up to the hype for beauty.  You have to park in a city parking lot a few blocks off the beach and then walk to the water and choose which restaurant/beach you want.  If you eat at a restaurant, you get to use their beach for the day. Vegaluna This private beach is centrally…Continue Reading
Uber Paris
The trip to Nice was easy but finding our villa was the challenge.  We landed in Nice at 9 pm and began our long journey to our villa.  The first challenge was to pick up the rental car.  Not an easy task in Nice.  First you have to find the rental car agencies.  Rich can read French but the signs were less than helpful.  The information desk was empty, not an airport employee in site.  We finally figured out that we need to change terminals, which is done via bus.  So we waited for an eternity and boarded our bus.  Next stop: Terminal One, but no rental cars.  After a few minutes, Rich was able to find a sign leading us on a path through two parking garages, over a bridge, down a dark path to the car rental building.  We grabbed our car, remembered how to drive on the…Continue Reading