I started writing my travel blog just over 5 years ago. I've worked very hard over the years to improve not only the content of the blog, but also my writing and photographic skills. I don't pretend to blog for a living (I have a regular 9-5 office job high up in a Chicago skyscraper), but I do enjoy writing about my sporadic travels. Today all my hard work was recognized by another fellow travel blogger when Marian Krueger (@travelshopgirl) with her wonderful TravelShopGirl blog which I have read for some time, nominated me for the The Sisterhood of the World Blogging Award. WOW! I'm floating on cloud nine right now! Snoopy dance!


What is The Sisterhood of the World Blogging Award you ask. To me, it's a kind of pay-it-forward, meet-and-greet your fellow bloggers. Word-of-mouth through social media is a great way to network your blog, and this award allows me (and other nominees) to pay-it-forward by recognizing other female bloggers who have worked hard to cultivate their website. 

However, you can't just rest on your laurels. There are five rules associated with accepting the award:

1. Mention the blogger who nominated you (thanks, Marian)
2. Answer the 10 questions she has posed
3. Make up 10 new questions
4. Nominate 7 fellow bloggers (I went overboard)
5. Put the Sisterhood Award logo on your blog

I will try to answer Marian's questions as best I can:

1. What makes you get up every day and want to have a blog? As I mentioned before, I don't blog for a living; I get up every morning at 5:00 a.m. and commute into the big city to regular 9-5 job. I originally started my blog after I successfully planned three trips to Europe with my sister (hence my moniker). I wanted to give travel advice and travel tips to the places I visited. I am also an avid photographer and art aficionado, so I began incorporating more and more photos of my travels and art museum visits into the blog. Simply put, it allows me to enjoy my three favorites things: travel. art. photography.

2. If you weren't blogging, would you still write? Honestly, no. I'm not a writer by profession.

3. At what point while doing your blog did you realize that blogging was something more than writing for yourself? I'm not sure I've reached that point. Of course, I hope many others are reading my blog, and I promote it through my Twitter, Facebook and Google+ pages. However, I don't have a job or household income that allows me to travel as much as I would like, so the blog makes me to feel like I'm still on that cruise ship even though I've been home for weeks.

4. If you couldn't write about travel, what would your new blog be about? Art. I actually have an art blog called Tutti i Capolavori. Please check it out.

5. What is your all-time favorite destination? This is a hard one, but it's probably Bruges for several reasons: 1) the chocolate; 2) the Flemish architecture; 3) the narrow alleyways to explore; 4) the picturesque canals; 5) the gorgeous churches; 6) the beer; 7) the lace.

Madame Dumon in her famous chocolate shop. 

How can you not love the quaintness of Flemish architecture?

How fun is it to explore the narrow alleyways in Bruges?

The picturesque canals.

Several churches with resplendent stained glass like Sint-Jakobkerk.

Zot beer is a delicious beer even for a non-beer drinker like myself.

Belgian lace is a must-buy travel memento.

6. Do you have a favorite dining experience from your travels? Eating a plate of spaghetti in the Piazza della Rotunda incredulous that I was eating in front of the Pantheon.


7. Best cup of coffee you ever had was where? I don't drink coffee. 

8. Where are you off to next and why? In early December we will cruise on Jewel of the Seas. Two reasons: 1) The itinerary includes Aruba, and we have wanted to return there for several years; and 2) I've reached a point in my life where more travel is necessary. This cruise was a good bargain.

The Jewel of the Seas docked in Barbados along with our ship.


9. What one item is a must have in your travel bag? Simple: my Nikon D90 camera. 

10. Do you have any special tips or tricks on social media that you'd like to share? I'm new to using Twitter and Instagram so I'm just learning myself. I'm very appreciative to any likes, follows, comments or retweets, so I started thanking everyone. I love Twitter because you really have to think to fit what you want to say in just 140 characters, so I think Twitter has improved my writing skills. Instagram has improved my photographic composition and ideas. Looking at others' social media sites for inspiration, but be yourself. Be different...on purpose.

Here are my questions:
1)   Favorite U.S. city to visit.
2)   Favorite non U.S city to visit.
3)   Favorite city for food.
4)   Favorite food.
5)   Favorite tourist attraction.
6)   Favorite travel moment.
7)   Where have you met the friendliest people?
8)   Do you like to cruise?
9)   Ever traveled somewhere and been disappointed?
10) What is the most important thing you have learned through your travels?

My nominees: So many good bloggers out there!
Melissa   @girltripping 
Jenny     @traveling_chic
Leyla      @womenontheroad
Julia       @FallingOffBikes
Meredith @kaffeekuchenco  
Margie    @margiemiklas 
Nikki       @travelin_ginger 
Victoria   @LaDolceVita4Me
Steph      @bigwsmallp
Silvia       @heartmybackpack
Susan      @TuscanyVillages 

All of these women have worked very hard to establish themselves with their excellent writing and photographic skills and have many, many followers to show for it. I hope to emulate all of them with my hard work on my blog and social media sites. I'm honored to nominate all of them for this award. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other blogs (on a myriad of subjects) that are award-worthy. I hope my nominees will pay-it-forward.

Thank you for visiting,

 A Great Europe Trip Planner 

All photos were taken by me. Unauthorized use is prohibited.



    There is something exciting about seeing a real Dutch windmill for the first time. When I visited Amsterdam a few years ago, I was thrilled to see them dotted along the countryside during train excursions to Delft, the Mauritshuis and the Kröller-Müller Museum. At the Keukenhof Gardens there is a windmill that visitors can actually go inside. Walking up a flight of stairs visitors can see how the giant blades rotate. The photo below shows that windmill along with some of the beautiful trees that were in bloom during my visit.

    If you are interested in purchasing variations of this print, please visit my Travels in Watercolor blog by clicking here.

    Thank you for visiting,

    A Great Europe Trip Planner 

    Photo taken by me during my visit to the Keukenhof Gardens in May, 2010.
    Waterlogue image created by me.
    Unauthorized use is prohibited.



    Although model train-geek husband discovered the can't-get-enough-of Model Railroad Garden (which is pretty cool!), my main goal for our recent visit to the Chicago Botanic Gardens was to delight in the summer flowers in bloom and take some close-up photos. I'm an avid photographer and flowers are some of my favorites subjects. I was not disappointed:

    Devotion Blue Throatwort

    Purple Coneflower
    Flamethrower Dahlia

    Prairie Sun Black-eyed Susan

    Freckle Face Blackberry Lily



    Mystic Haze Dahlia

    The Chicago Botanic Gardens are FREE to enter.
    Visitors must pay to park, but military veterans enter FREE.
    Many visitors bicycle to the gardens.
    Learn more about the beautiful gardens here.

    Thank you for visiting,

     A Great Europe Trip Planner 

    All photos were taken by me during my visits to the Chicago Botanic Gardens in August, 2015.
    Unauthorized use is prohibited.



    We recently visited the Chicago Botanic Gardens. It was my birthday, but my husband got the gift because we discovered one of the 37 speciality gardens is the Model Railroad Garden. Being the train fanatic he was like a kid in a candy store.

    Set up over a 7,500 square foot area, the Model Railroad Garden showcases 18 different-sized model trains, ranging from toy-size to sophisticated G-scale (garden-scale) model trains. The trains run on 17 different railroad tracks (totally over 1,600 feet of track), over bridges and through tunnels. The train tracks are grouped in several different settings titled Landmarks of America, complete with replicas of dozens of famous buildings or landmarks. Miniature trees, shrubs and people, all intricately made from natural materials, add to the composition and sound effects to complete storybook-like settings.

    The famous curves of Lombard Street (complete with a car driving down the hill), a miniature cable car and the iconic San Francisco houses showcase the Santa Fe train speeding by.

    Pikes Place Market is Seattle's original farmers market established in 1907. In the photo below miniature town citizens watch as the Santa Fe passes by the market stores. Despite its name, the Santa Fe railway never actually made it to Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

    The SS Natchez, the New Orleans paddle wheeler with its pine cone paddle wheel, floats on the Mississippi River as the Amtrak train flies by.

    Three houses depict the French Quarter in New Orleans as the Amtrak and Rock Island trains speed behind them. The Rock Island train line was important because it initially connected Chicago with the Mississippi River.
    An impressive Baltimore and Ohio train travels in front of the White House where Marine One is stationed. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was one of the most important railroads in the history of the mid-Atlantic region rivaling the Pennsylvania Railroad.

    A replica Lincoln Memorial has both the Baltimore and Ohio and Chicago and Northwestern trains rumbling by it. At its height, the Chicago and Northwestern railroad operated over 12,000 miles of track in seven states.

    George Washington's home of Mount Vernon shows the Baltimore and Ohio train passing behind it.
    Independence Hall has a miniature Liberty Bell in front of it with the Illinois Gulf Central train in the background. The Illinois Gulf Central train was called the Main Line of Mid-America with its primary route connecting Chicago to New Orleans.

    The Statue of Liberty has the same Illinois Gulf Central train in the background.

    Mesa Verde National Park complete with the Sun Temple shows a Pennsylvania Railroad freight train steaming by. The Pennsylvania Railroad was the largest railroad by traffic and revenue in the U.S. for the first half of the 20th century, acquiring over 800 other rail lines and companies.

    Napa Valley has the  Napa Valley Wine Train traveling past the miniature vineyards. If you plan to visit the Napa Valley area soon, think about booking a multi-course lunch and train ride through the wine country on the vintage-restored Napa Valley Wine Train.

    The famous Hollywood sign sits behind the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed, Mayan-revival-architecture Charles Ennis house as the Illinois Gulf Central train speeds by. 

    There are several other Frank Lloyd Wright-designed replica houses in the garden such as...

    Taliesan West in Scottsdale, Arizona
    Fallingwater in Bear Run, Pennsylvania
    And his home and studio located in nearby Oak Park, Illinois.

    Also in the Hollywood theme is Graumann's Chinese Theatre with the same Illinois Gulf Central train.
    With Mount Rushmore in the background, the Pennsylvania Railroad freight train steams by the Mitchell Corn Palace.

    A working Cape Cod lighthouse has a miniature iconic VW bus sitting in front of it with the Rock Island train about to cross over another twig bridge.

    The Baltimore and Ohio train speeds past Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home in Springfield, Illinois. This photo shows some of the meticulous planning that it took to put this garden together with the railroad tracks crossing each other and two other "twig" bridges.

    Another of the "twig" bridges...

    U.S. Cellular baseball field...(husband's team)
    And of course, the north side baseball team's park complete with the famous rooftop apartment buildings (Go Cubbies!).

    The Chicago Botanic Gardens are FREE to enter.
    Visitors must pay to park, but military veterans enter FREE.
    Many visitors bicycle to the gardens.
    Learn more about the beautiful gardens here.

    Thank you for visiting,

     A Great Europe Trip Planner 

    All photos were taken by me during my visits to the Chicago Botanic Gardens in August, 2015.
    Unauthorized use is prohibited.



    I can't believe it's been nearly 10 years since I visited Paris. But I do remember one of my favorite neighborhoods of Paris we visited was Montmartre. I bought my favorite purse there, and we ate lunch at the most charming Parisian café on Place du Tertre.

    Located on charming Place Emile Goudeau, the Bateau Lavoir was made up of small painting studios occupied in the very beginning of the 20th century by some of the most famous French painters such as Juan Gris, Amadeo Modigliani, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, André Derain, Maurice Utrillo and of course, Pablo Picasso. It is in the building that Picasso painted one of his most famous paintings, Les Demoiseles d'Avignon, considered by art historians as the beginning of his Cubist period.

    If you are interested in purchasing variations of this print, please visit my Travels in Watercolor blog by clicking here.

    Thank you for visiting,

    A Great Europe Trip Planner 

    Photo taken by me during my visit to Paris in May, 2006.
    Waterlogue image created by me.
    Unauthorized use is prohibited.



    I've written about the five islands we visited on our recent southern Caribbean cruise on Carnival Liberty, but I haven't yet written about the ship itself.

    We sailed on Carnival Liberty for three reasons: First, it sailed out of San Juan. I really wanted to revisit San Juan because I fell in love with the city on our previous cruise (see that blog post here). Second reason was it was a ship we had never sailed on before, and third, it sailed the particular itinerary we wanted, specifically to the islands of Barbados and St. Lucia which we had never visited and had always wanted to.

    Compared to the last two ships we sailed on, Carnival Liberty is a smaller ship, though at 952 feet in length and 2,974 passengers, it is no dinghy. It is one of Carnival's Conquest-class ships, and in 2011, the ship went through a major refurbishment as part of Carnival's $500 million Fun Ship 2.0 initiative. 

    Before I continue with this post, let me reiterate that we loved our time on Carnival Liberty. However, if this ship was refurbished just 4 years ago, it has gone through a lot of wear and tear since, and Carnival has neglected to maintain a few of the refurbished spaces (pools needing paint, light bulbs needing replacement). That being said, 95% of the ship is beautiful, and we enjoyed the majority of our cruise. Therefore, I'm going to give you a tour of the ship by sharing some of my favorite photos.

    Our cabin: We had a standard balcony cabin on Deck 6. We are simple travelers; we don't need a suite. However, I must have a balcony...no compromising there. One of the best features of the room was the mattress. The exclusive "Carnival Comfort Bed" was one of the best mattresses I've slept on: firm without being hard and great cushy pillows.


    The food: Many other Carnival cruise passengers will agree that a Guy's Burger and fries is one of the best food experiences on a Carnival ship. We agree! 

    As far as rating the food and the dining overall on this ship, our eating experiences ranged from pretty good to awful. Most of the food was delicious, and the dining room service got better as the week progressed (the first night's service was simple terrible which left us wondering how it would be the remainder of the cruise). The main issue was temperature of the food. Lukewarm really isn't a good thing, but after so many complaints to our waiter, it got to the point where we just dealt with it. I believe one factor was not enough waitstaff per table.

    The decor: Here is where I will give a thumbs up. I really liked the way the ship was decorated.
    The wrought-iron chandeliers in the public areas had multi-colored lights which changed color constantly. The different colors showed reflections in the floor.  

    The staircase railings were also wrought-iron scroll work. Decorative scroll work was on the tiles lining the atrium walls and the walls of the elevators.
    Czar's Palace Casino: A major highlight of our cruise was winning $175 on the slot machines in a period of less than 10 minutes. Needless to say, we left right after that.

    The interior bars and lounges:

    Casino Bar: I love those multi-colored lighted chandeliers!

    Hot and Cool Nightclub:

    The Stage Lounge:

    The Alchemy Bar:

    Piano Man Bar:

    Victoria Aft Lounge:

    This is where we saw two really good comedy acts. I really loved the chairs they had in this lounge.

    Venetian Palace Main Show Lounge: 

    with the Venetian carnival masks decorating the tables...

    We saw musical song and dance shows here including a darling Towel Animal Theatre, a puppet show featuring talking and singing towel animals. It might have been targeted to children, but this big kid loved it. I still something sing in my head: Towels Just Wanna Have Fun, a parody to Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

    On the Pool Deck:

    Blue Iguana Tequila Bar
    Pools, whirlpools and waterslide:

    Below also shows the Red Frog Rum Bar from where I got all those delicious strawberry daiquiris!

    Lit up at night:

    These photos show you that Carnival Liberty really is a beautifully decorated ship, and we had a wonderful time aboard. The few issues experienced with dining room service and food temperature did nothing to deter us from having a wonderful time on our cruise. We can't wait for our next cruise!

    Thank you for visiting,

    A Great Europe Trip Planner 

    All photos were taken by my husband and me during our Carnival cruise in April, 2015.
    Unauthorized use is prohibited.