St. John USVI Vacation Guide

When you think of the Caribbean, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), with the tagline “America’s Paradise,” might not typically come to mind. If you’re searching for the ultimate beach vacation, look no further. In 2017, the three islands are celebrating  the 100th anniversary of Transfer Day with a USVI Centennial Commemoration promotion of $300 in spending credits to be used on specific activities and restaurants. St. John is the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands and two-thirds of the island is covered by Virgin Islands National Park, which was the main reason we wanted to visit. It’s one of the lesser known national parks that was on the list for a while. Find out where’s the best snorkeling, hiking, dining and sleeping on the island in our St. John USVI vacation guide.

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Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.

Five More Wineries to Visit in North Georgia

When we first started A Friend Afar, “research” took us on day trips from Atlanta to North Georgia to go vineyard hopping and share with you in this post. We’ve since returned to the North Georgia mountains again and again to discover new places to taste wine. It’s the perfect way to spend a Saturday with the girls, a date, a family outing, and celebrate special occasions. Actually, any reason will do! Here are five more of our favorite North Georgia wineries to visit from Atlanta!

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Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.

5 Ideas for Layover City Day Trips

The next time you’re booking a flight for vacation or business, consider scheduling a longer layover so you have time to explore a new or old favorite city on a day trip. Layover day trips can be an easy, inexpensive way to break up a long flight, see a friend living there, or discover a place you’ve always wanted to visit. The perfect day trip itinerary in our opinion? Walking, visiting one or two touristic sites, trying some good food, and doing a little shopping. Here are 5 ideas for common layover city day trips!

Tokyo

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If you have at least a five-hour layover, consider leaving the Tokyo Narita International Airport and taking a quick day trip to darling Narita. It’s only 10-15 minutes away by train and boasts a pedestrian-only shopping street, Narita-san Omotesando, great restaurants, and the sprawling Narita-san Shinsho-ji Temple complex to explore. Narita is a charming little taste of Japanese culture. If you happen to land in the morning, the airport offers a free tour guide program if you want to be shown around. Have more time on your Tokyo layover? We also love Sensō-ji temple in Asakusa and going to a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

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Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.

A Uniquely Irish Experience- Visiting a Sheep Dog Farm

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience in Ireland, consider visiting a sheep dog farm for a sheep-herding demonstration. Our visit to  the sheep dog farm Joyce Country Sheepdogs was our last stop before heading back to Dublin to fly out the next morning and turned out to be one of our favorite activities of the trip. It’s located in the lovely Connemara region of the country not too far from Galway City. The setting itself was in a dreamy, serene and beautiful location.

Visiting an Irish Sheep Dog Farm - www.AFriendAfar.com - #connemara #sheepdogfarm #countygalway

 

The demonstration was a fascinating way to learn more about the  border collies, sheep and the handler. Joyce Country Sheepdogs is only open seasonally from March until the end of September so take this into consideration while planning. It’s open every day except Sunday and demonstrations take place at 11 am, 1 pm and 3:30 pm. The cost was only €10 for adults, €5, for kids from 5-12, and free for kids under 5.

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Plus there are puppy snuggles to be had depending on what time of the year it is!

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We researched another option near the Ring of Kerry in case you’re headed to that part of Ireland rather than County Galway. Check out Rick Steves recommended Kissane Sheep Farm!

Visiting an Irish Sheep Dog Farm - www.AFriendAfar.com - #connemara #sheepdogfarm #countygalway

We’re always on the lookout for off the beaten path experiences while traveling. Do you have any to share for Ireland? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.

How to Spend a Weekend in Dublin

Earlier this month we had the opportunity to explore a new city abroad together! We hadn’t done this since becoming best friends while studying abroad in Southeast Asia a decade ago so it was such a treat. It was perfect to have three days in Dublin  to explore the charming Irish capital. Here’s how we spent our weekend in Dublin– with a primer on what to see, do, eat and drink, of course!

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What to See and Do

A hop on, hop off bus tour is a great way to orient yourself to the city, get a handy overview, and get around easily. We also love walking in new cities and find it’s a great way to soak in the vibe of a place. Here a few recommendations of what to see and do in Dublin based on your interests!

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HIstory: The Book of Kells and Long Hall at Trinity College are absolutely stunning to visit. Do book your tickets ahead of time for timed entry so you don’t have to wait in line. The Old Library holds over 200,000 books and has that amazing scent of old books that we just love.

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Kilmainham Gaol is one of  Europe’s largest unoccupied prisons. While somber to visit, it has a fascinating history and helps in understanding the 1916 Easter Rising and the Irish struggle for independence.

Art and Culture: Chester Beatty Library has a gorgeous collection of rare manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and decorative arts. Definitely our kind of place! Plus it’s free to visit. As a bonus, the lovely Dublin Castle is nearby with beautiful grounds to walk around.

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Alcohol: Guinness Storehouse is one of the most famous sights in Dublin and is a fun, informative experience. Plus you get to pour own pint if you want and experience 360 view of the city! Other places to go include the Irish Whiskey Museum, Teeling Distilery, Jameson Distillery (note it’s closed until March 2017 for renovations), and be on the lookout for the new Alltech distillery housed in an old Gothic, Anglican church coming soon in the Liberties.

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Churches: St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland and a beauty. We went for evensong on a Sunday afternoon which was a memorable experience. Christ’s Church is also close by and quite pretty.

Where to Eat

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Our favorite places for breakfast were Queen of Tarts and The Little Kitchen. They were both absolutely delicious (and adorable)!

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For lunch or dinner, try the Boxty House for traditional Irish boxty, Peruke and Periwig for fantastic cocktails and burgers (lunch only), Chapter One for a gourmet dinner and certain pubs are also an option for food while others only serve drinks.

Where to Drink

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Of course going to pubs in Dublin is an experience in and of itself. There’s only so much you can eat and drink in a weekend after all.

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Do you have any other restaurants, pubs or sights that you enjoyed in Dublin? We always love hearing from you in the comments below!

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Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.

5 Lesser Known National Parks to Visit for the 100th Anniversary

Happy birthday, National Parks! The US National Park Service (NPS) is celebrating its centennial today! To celebrate along with them, we’ve been working on a whole series on our National Parks. We started with the Top Ten National Parks to visit based on number of visitors, and now we’re pleased to share our favorite of the lesser known National Parks. We hope this inspires you to get outdoors and plan a trip to see a new park!

5 Lesser Known National Parks- www.afriendafar.com #nationalparks #us

 

 

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Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.

Top 10 National Parks to Visit for the 100th Anniversary

This year the National Park Service (NPS) is celebrating its centennial! On August 25, 2016 the NPS turns 100. To celebrate we’re doing a national park post series and starting with the top ten national parks to visit based on number of visitors. Stephanie’s on a quest to go to all the national parks and has been to eight of the ones on this list. Enjoy these ideas of which top 10 national parks to visit for the 100th anniversary!

Top 10 National Parks to Visit- www.afriendafar.com #nationalparks #nps #centennial

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Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.

The Sound of Music Bicycle Tour in Salzburg

The Sound of Music is one of my all-time top movies and my favorite musicals. So when my sister, a fellow fan, told me she had a conference for work in Germany in July I asked if she’d considering adding on vacation days and do a Sound of Music tour of Salzburg with me. And I am so glad we did because Salzburg is easily my new favorite smaller city I’ve visited in Europe. Plus we had way too much fun recreating scenes from the movie around Salzburg on our Sound of Music Bicycle Tour!

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While there are big bus, mini bus and self-guided tour options for the Sound of Music, we opted to choose  Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour after reading wonderful reviews online. The three and a half hour tour starts and ends at Schloss Mirabell . I highly recommend the tour for several reasons  It’s easier to find the stops following a guide than on your own (though not impossible) It’s fun to hear stories and facts about the filming and stops. I loved the photo guide attached to the bicycle that showed what each location was used for in the film….and these are a few of my favorite stops from our Sound of Music bicycle tour!

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Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour

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One of the most iconic filming sites from the movie is the square Residenzplatz and the Residenzbrunnen where Maria sings “I Have Confidence” and splashes in the horse fountain.

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St. Peter’s Cemetery provided the inspiration for the abbey’s cemetery in the movie but most of that scene was actually filmed on a set in Hollywood.

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Nonnberg Abbey, where Maria was actually a nun in real life, was used in the movie to film for the exterior of the abbey. The abbey itself is beautiful and the views of Salzburg on the way up hill is stunning!

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After the stop at the abbey, we coasted downhill away from the city and into the outskirts where our fantastic guide Elise played songs from Sound of Musical for us! It was pretty magical to ride through Salzburg while listening to soundtrack. And as much as we wanted to sing a long, we were booking it on the bikes at this point so mostly hummed and sang along on the inside!

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Our first stop was Schloss Leopoldskron, which was the filming location for the exterior of the Von Trapp family home. The terraces from the movie are only accessible to guests of the now boutique hotel but this epic view is pretty spectacular to see!

 

The next stop is the “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” and “Something Good.” Our guide took a few group shots of us throughout the tour which were posted on their Facebook page and this one was one of the best. Wheeee!

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We actually did this stop independently the next day since we didn’t stop on the tour but rode on by to get back to our starting point! It’s the Mozart Bridge that Maria and the children cross on their big day out!

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The tour ends back at Mirabell where you’ll make a final stop at the famous Do Re Mi steps Maria and the children sing on with the beautiful gardens and fortress in the background.

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The tours happen rain or shine so do bring a rain jacket! Show Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour love on Instagram and Twitter and book with them if you find yourself in Salzburg in season!

[This is not a sponsored post. We had such a fun time on our Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour we wanted to share it for our readers who are planning a trip to Austria from April to October!]

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Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.

Ten Tips for Vancouver and an Alaskan Cruise

Our friend Alli, who most recently wrote about her Midwest adventure for us, and her husband are on a quest to see and experience all 50 states! He’s now been to all 50 (!) and she has one more to go, Alli’s also previously shared her incredibly helpful 8 family travel tips with us. They both had some flexibility in their schedules and so decided to book an Alaskan cruise in May. They strategically picked a cruise leaving from Vancouver because it is where one of Alli’s best friends lives. So she packed up her toddler son and left a few days before her husband did to visit her friend and husband. Thus began an epic adventure! Check out Alli’s ten tips for Vancouver and an Alaskan cruise

Vancouver

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We loved every moment in this beautiful city. Here are a few memories that truly stand out.
1) Traveling with a toddler, I try to not burden my friends with the early morning noise that a toddler brings so we found a fantastic Airbnb.  It had stunning views, a great location, fireplace, reasonably priced and very kind host.
2) We loved walking around Granville Island; it’s a delightful area. From the food selection, coffee, little shops, farmer’s market, the kids area, the entertainment, we loved all of it.
3) My friend Erin is attending Regent University apart of the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus. The views were breathtaking. It is such a beautiful campus!
4) The line out the door was quickly explained with one bite out of my sandwich from Meat and Bread. It was a packed place with rules to keep the flow of the line but the food was excellent and they really tried to accommodate my stroller and toddler.
5) When the buses are out of service they say sorry, very Canadian.

Alaskan Cruise

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1) Splurge for a balcony! We made the decision to take the trip last minute and so we were able to get a decent price for a mini-suite. Having coffee in my pajamas with the Alaskan or Canadian mountainous shoreline to wake up my sleepy eyes was one of the best things I will ever experience! We saw glaciers, whales, bald eagles, and sea otters all from the comfort of our own room.
2) Whale watching was my favorite outing. My face hurt from smiling. It was so exciting when you first see the spray from the blowhole announcing its presence to the partial arch above the water. My son Jack would giggle when he spotted a whale.
3) The Alaskan Railroad train in Skagway was recommended and I am glad we heeded the advice. The scenery was majestic and this was a great activity. Because we had a stroller, we were placed in the handicapped car and we had the whole car to ourselves.
4) Go to the Twisted Fish Company in Juneau, AK! I do not remember what I ate but what I drank would make it worthwhile to take trip again just for that. My favorite drink is an old fashioned with Rye Whiskey. They serve what they call  a “Red Eye” Old Fashioned. It is made with Rye Whiskey, Cold Brew Coffee Syrup, vanilla, coffee, and toasted Pecan Bitters. This may have been the best drink I have ever had!
5) Bring stomach ailment supplies! Of course report anything serious to the medical staff but traveling usually messes up most people’s systems and it is so expensive to get the usual remedies. We did see the medical team as we all got sick but it would have saved some money to have some of the basic supplies.  I will say it was not ideal to get sick on a trip but laying on the bed looking out of our balcony window as we passed snow peaked mountains,  I did think to myself “this is not so the worse experience.”
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Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.

Marrakech Retreats – Our Favorite Spots

The Medina of Marrakech – a chaotic maze of ancient architectural treasures, delicious food and drink, and exciting shopping. It’s an opportunity to dive right into Moroccan culture. It’s also pretty hot during the mid-day sun and in the winding souks. These are our favorite Marrakech retreats for when you need a rest. Drop in for a few hours of pampering or just a chance to refresh while enjoying the views.

La Sultana Hotel - Marrakech Retreats - www.AFriendAfar.com

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Meagan grew up in the North Georgia Mountains and spent her first trip abroad in Italy. She’s been traveling all over the world ever since, learning Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. She travels for the food, the culture, and the history.