Travelling to Agra, India:

Travelling to Agra

Travelling to Agra

Travelling to Agra

Travelling to Agra:

We opted for a taxi ride from Delhi to Agra, with the main intention of visiting the Taj Mahal. The taxi ride was approximately 3 hours. This was a pre-booked excursion through a reputable company.

Fast facts about Agra:                                                                                                                                    The city is situated on the banks of the Yamuna river.Previous emperors ruled from Agra included; Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Luxurious forts, palaces and mausoleums were all created in this city. The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort have been declared World Heritage Sites by Unesco.

 

 

 

 

Inspirational: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Stunning… Opulent… Holy. The 3 words I would use that perfectly describe the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Somehow this unbelievable Muslim mosque was built in a mere 11 years. It contains the largest hand sewn Persian carpet in the world, weighing 45 tons, and up until recently also boasted the largest chandelier in the world. We’ve been here before but would highly recommend the tour as there is so much to know. The 5 most interesting points to me: 1) prayers are 5 times a day, the first is before sunrise at 4:35 am; 2) prayer is made along the raised lines in the carpet, standing shoulder to shoulder and toe to toe to symbolize brotherhood, unity and also to keep evil from getting past; 3) there are 100 names, qualities or attributes of Allah and 99 of these are featured on a wall called the Qibla wall in traditional Kufi calligraphy. Only 99 are known to man … the 100th will be discovered upon meeting him face to face after death; 4) 2.5% minimum of earnings are expected to be given charitably … to a brother, or cousin in debt or even a neighbour and 5) prayers are made while facing Mecca, the holy land. Very interesting to learn how beloved Sheikh Zayed ruled, as he provided free education and healthcare among other benefits to his fellow Arabs, as he embodied the Muslim belief that every person is equal. This mostly marble, Mother of Pearl and 24 karat gold structure boasts 82 domes and 1,000 pillars that are intricately inlaid with floral designed mosaics of agate, jasper and amethyst. As I walked barefoot on the cool marble hand-laid floors, a breeze rustled through the traditional Abaya robe I wore, and the beautifully nostalgic reciting of the Holy Koran flowed. Omar was our friendly, informative guide who spoke softly of the history of the majestic mosque itself and of the religion and daily observances of Muslims. Plan to spend a couple of hours here as the tour lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and the photo opportunities are plentiful. There are many places to sit and soak in its beauty. Visit my travel blog.

Greece

An amazing view of the Acropolis from the ruins of the Temple of Zeus
Mythological & Majestic 
 
 We arrived in the evening after a ride in a taxi from a lovely young man who gave us a lot of local history on the way from the airport (contrary to comments we had seen, we were not overcharged for the taxi from the airport as it is a set fee) & yet were met at the door by our wonderful host Yiannis who took our suitcases, checked us in & gladly gave us an idea of places to eat etc. We went to our room which was just as pretty as on the website only to hear a little tap at the door.. it was Yiannis with a bottle of chilled champagne! Did we feel like royalty! Enjoyed that and the fact that we had a bar fridge plus another small fridge to keep some champagne for in the morning with orange juice!
  Had a very comfortable, restful sleep & then were surprised again by the breakfast spread! My Lord there was the freshest fruit, the best breads, any kind of cold cereal, two fresh squeezed juices(I saw the juicer; it was FRESH!) and they would bring you a fresh cappuccino or whatever you wished… fresh cooked bacon, eggs… Greek Yogourt, fresh honey… so good!
   We were given excellent suggestions of where to go and set up on a tour one day to see Sounion with a very good tour group. A decent sized, brand new luxury bus; very comfortable and worth the trip. The weather wasn’t great but the guide was lovely and there was a place to have tea or something to nibble, plus a nice gift shop. The photo ops were stupendous!
 Back to Ava… we cannot tell you how thrilled we were to see that in reality you can nearly step out the front door and TOUCH Hadrian’s Arch at the Temple of Zeus and also the Acropolis! It is that close! That’s value to be among all those restaurants, all that shopping, all the history and again; right outside the hotel… Crazy! You need to stay here and you need to stay for a week just to relax and enjoy it. Lovely… clean; the housekeeping was immaculate. The suite is so perfect. Nice TV, lots of clothing storage, good reading lamps, a nice table & chairs to eat or write in journals at, plus a writing desk; gorgeous bathroom with a beautiful painted ceiling… we just loved it and three nights wasn’t long enough…
 Thank you, Yiannis & also the girls (Andrea was one) who were lovely hosts/hostesses.. always smiling & couldn’t do enough for you. We have stayed in hotels in Paris, London, Vegas, Mexico, Vancouver & Whistler to name a few and this was the best rest, food & service we ever had all in one stay. Thank you, Ava!
The Return Ticket gives the AVA Hotel, Athens Greece: four tickets out of five
 
 
 

The Return Ticket gives Athens, Greece: four tickets out of five

The “I Amsterdam” city card

iAmsterdamCard

The “I Amsterdam” Pass

  When travelling in Amsterdam, before you even leave the airport, stop in at the Visitor Information office and buy the “I Amsterdam” city card. There are different packages depending on how long you are visiting with lots of tips and savings.

  The line ups at most attractions are very long but you are able to be fast tracked and go into a completely separate line if you have the pass. There is free public transportation as long as you swipe your pass upon entering and leaving the transit bus. We rode the bus from the airport right near to our hotel for free. 

  We received a free canal boat tour with the pass, there are many discounts on food and other things, and we did get to tour the unbelievable Van Gogh Museum for free as well. There was an extremely long wait outside of the museum but when they saw we had the city card, we walked right in!  

The Return Ticket gives the “I Amsterdam” Pass: four tickets out of five.

My Perspective on Travel

The scribblings of this travelling housewife & her amazing, oh-so-adventurous husband… you’ll find tips & suggestions of destinations to visit, what to do (or skip!) when you get there, places to eat (or avoid!) & even a few simplifying-your-trip ideas.


I’ve travelled to over 9 countries & 3 of the 7 continents so far… Let’s see — Bangkok to Bath — Athens to Amsterdam to name a few… and I don’t plan on slowing down any time soon! 

And I have over 37,564 readers on tripadvisor! 

If you have any suggestions, comments, or if you’d like to tell me how a post helped you – please don’t hesitate to drop me a line at: myreturnticket@hotmail.com or read my contributions on tripadvisor.ca/members/ChrisFranklin

North American Adventures

Paris & Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas, Nevada

 

The pool at the Palazzo Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada




The Return Ticket gives Las Vegas, Nevada: four tickets out of five






Jersey Boys

  This is the story of how a group of blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks became one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all time, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide. 

  The theatre itself was very nice and our seats were fourth row! The music and generally the whole production of this show were A-1! I loved it, the entire audience was singing and dancing and I’d see it again in a heartbeat! Buy the CD on your way out in the gift store! 

The Return Ticket gives the Jersey Boys: five tickets out of five

Grand Canyon Tours
 
  The plane was so small, tight and hot but the pilot was very friendly and we had a good flight. The history recording that plays as you fly along is incredibly interesting and it is very easy to see how amazing the Canyon really is.  Unreal to see the demarcation from the years of weathering in the canyon creating the different coloured layers There are also excellent views of the Hoover Dam that piqued our interest, so much so that on our next trip to Vegas, we went on the tour of the dam.
 Amazing to think that there was nothing but desert and people managed on the most part to survive and make a life there… As for the flight, I wouldn’t do it again  but it is a must see once, for certain.
The Return Ticket gives Grand Canyon Tours: three tickets out of five.  
 
 
Nine Fine Irishmen Pub
 
  Located  in the New York New York Casino in Las Vegas, this is a standing date between my husband and I each time we visit. We’ve had such good food here(everything is a la carte, just so you know) and the bands that play are a blast! The whole bar sings & gets up to dance!
The Return Ticket gives Nine Fine Irishmen: four tickets out of five
 

 

The Beach at Mandalay Bay Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

 

My amazing husband & travel companion, Andrew (&me!) atop the Eiffel Tower, Las Vegas, Nevada

 

Gordon Ramsay’s newest restaurant in Las Vegas, called “steak”… have to try this place next trip

 

one view of the Harley Davidson Cafe, Las Vegas, Nevada

 

Close up of the massive Harley motorcycle crashing through the Harley Davidson Cafe, Las Vegas, Nevada

 

The roller coaster at the New York New York Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

 

The Brooklyn Bridge at the New York New York Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

 

The whole picture of the New York New York Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

 

One of the pools at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

 

THE hotel, part of the Mandalay Bay Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada

 

The Gondola at the Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

 

The view from the Eiffel Tower tour #1, Las Vegas, Nevada

 

The view from the Eiffel Tower tour #2, Las Vegas, Nevada

Through My Lens

We were surprised in our room at the AVA hotel, Athens, Greece with this bottle of bubbly!  The service & welcome was unbelievable!
The Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece… a must visit; the recovered treasures are amazing.
Our room at the AVA Hotel in Athens, Greece. Spotless, modern, and welcoming.
The Harbour in a quaint village called St. Mawes in Cornwall, England
Waterways Houseboats on the Shuswap, B.C., Canada
My amazing travel companion, my husband Andrew, and I at the Acropolis overlooking Athens, Greece

In Greece, there were many a store just like this one with quality purses, shoes, art pieces – you name it!

Thailand

Thailand

The view from our room at the Chatrium Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand
(the famous Chao Phraya River)

 

A temple in Bangkok

 

Famous dance of the warrior monkeys in Bangkok, Thailand

 

The Big Buddha – Phuket, Thailand(a very hot & bright day!)

Chatrium Hotel Riverside – Bangkok, Thailand

  This was a lovely stay for sure, our view of the famous Chao Phraya River was spectacular. This hotel was immaculate, quiet and the service was outstanding. When we arrived it was like we were royalty, they whisked away our luggage and a lovely gentleman named Chatchawan took us on a tour of the hotel. 

  We were shown the amazing office space where we could use top of the line computers and the internet for free, enjoy cocktails and canapes each evening and then our spacious room. He was very helpful and full of suggestions for us. Breakfast was included and the buffet was unreal.. anything you could want for breakfast or you could order a la carte.  There is patio dining if you wish.

  There’s a free small ferry that would take you down the river and back to sightsee. Unfortunately we did not get to take advantage of the beautiful pool, as we were with a Rotary Convention so had not a minute of free time, but it did look lovely. 

  The hotel room was spacious with plenty of space for clothing to be stored, a proper iron and ironing board; the washroom was large and well appointed; room service was quick and delicious. I would highly recommend a stay here and do hope to go back one day. 

  Another note: the Chatrium will help you to book a reputable dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya River as we did and the temples etc were a lit up beautifully. They serve a buffet dinner, ours was excellent, and there is entertainment. Well worth it, especially as we had taken video and to know you’ve been on this famous working waterway is priceless.

The Return Ticket gives the Chatrium Hotel Riverside, Bangkok: five tickets out of five.

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha(Wat Phra Kaeo)
 
  This is Thailand’s most valued temple and it’s located inside the grounds of the Grand Palace. This is where the magnificent Emerald Buddha is found that dates back to the 14th century.
  It was incredibly hot, so be sure to take plenty of water and have a hat if not an umbrella to shade yourself. I would also suggest taking an extra memory card because you will take so many pictures! You cannot take pictures of the actual Emerald Buddha(cameras are not allowed) but you may of everything else, including the Palace, the guards, the surrounding temples, etc.
  The history is amazing – you should go with a guide; we did and he explained so much more than we could have learned on our own. His name was Tao and he worked for Tourism Thailand.
  Please remember to dress appropriately(no shorts or skirts where ankles can be seen, and no uncovered shoulders) or you will absolutely NOT be allowed to enter.
  The Return Ticket gives the Wat Phra Kaeo: five tickets out of five 
 
Chao Phraya River
 
  This scenic river that flows through the heart of Bangkok, has convenient boat transportation and sightseeing cruises since many of the major city attractions are easiest to get to this way rather than by travelling the crazy busy streets.
  We went on a dinner cruise and it was beautiful. I would suggest asking your concierge at your hotel for the name of a reputable company. Be sure to take a video camera, it’s quite dark for regular photographs and you will want something captured of your evening. The palaces and temples are completely lit up at night and are amazing.
  There are free shuttle services daily from the hotels on cute little ferries that stay cool with a breeze as you go. The Chao Phraya is still a working waterway and you can see many types of barges carrying good to and fro.
The Return Ticket gives the Chao Phraya River: four tickets of out five
Siam Naramit
 
  Siam Naramit is located in the centre of Bangkok. It is a state of the art theatre that is open every day and presents one of the world’s largest stage productions. There are three restaurants and an authentic traditional Thai village where visitors can stroll through and get a taste of Thai life from years ago. The village was amazing, primitive, but unbelievable.
  This show was fantastic! I won’t go into detail as it would give away the stunning details and you must see it yourself to believe it! You are able to take photographs outside of the theatre and in the village but you must check your camera in the coat check pre-show. It’s possible to buy a CD of the show afterwards.
The Return Ticket gives Siam Naramit: five tickets out of five
 
Pacific Club Resort, Karon, Phuket
 
  I cannot say enough about this resort! The staff are unbelievable to start with… we arrived straight from the airport & while checking in, we were brought fresh squeezed juice. It was so refreshing because it was so hot compared to what we are used to. Gay, at the front reception was absolutely lovely & couldn’t have been more helpful. She recommended trips/tours for us & gave suggestions of what we could do while there.
  The restaurant has an excellent breakfast buffet, we also ate dinner there on two occasions and it was delicious as well. Room service was excellent. You can rent mopeds right at the hotel which was a great idea because the resort is on a fairly steep hill. The herbal sauna was lovely, along with the cooling jacuzzi outside of it. The rooftop pool was absolutely amazing, you could see for miles(including the Big Buddha!), and there were many areas to sunbathe, sit and eat or read under an umbrella.
  The rooms themselves were excellent with large comfortable beds, lots of extra towels, a fridge for extra water, and a little balcony with a drying rack and table and chairs to sit at. There was plenty of clothes storage, if you’re staying for any length of time.
  The resort is not far from the beautiful beach where the water is unreal and the waves are fun to play in! Take a moped, backpack, water and explore the little markets that are everywhere. We grabbed some drinks and snacks to have in our room as well for when we didn’t feel like a meal. The resort is immaculate and the staff in the dining room are very efficient; we really liked a gentleman named Ead.
  A little tip: we were on the fourth floor as quite a few tripadvisor reviews suggested it and it was perfect!
The Return Ticket gives the Pacific Club Resort, Karon, Phuket: four tickets out of five
  The Mantra Day Spa 
 
  The Mantra Day Spa is the Pacific Club Resort’s own spa. Lili was my masseuse and she was unreal. I have never had such a thorough massage(the cellulite one), green tea wrap, or pedicure. The prices were that, you can have nearly every service there is and still find it incredibly reasonable! My husband had a neck and scalp massage and also enjoyed it.
  Be prepared when you have the full body massage that you will have a very intense massage in every muscle but it is so so worth the little bit of discomfort here and there. Lili herself must have been exhausted after because she gave it her all!
The Return Ticket gives the Mantra Day Spa: four tickets out of five
 

Victoria, British Columbia

 
On a whale watching trip in Victoria, British Columbia; cold but a blast!




The Amethyst Inn

We booked in at the last minute and managed to get the last room available… the Windsor Room(funnily enough, my husband had asked me to marry him at the real Windsor Castle in England, so..!) This inn was absolutely gleaming; immaculate from top to bottom. The wooden staircases were freshly oiled, the carpets were spotless, the furniture and mantelpieces were shining and the gorgeous stained glass windows sparkled in the light.
We arrived in the early evening and were greeted at the door of this historic home; we were invited to have a cup of tea, cookies or a glass of sherry but as we were tired, we went straight to our room. There were books to borrow, chocolates to share, a television, a giant soaker tub and everything was just so, so clean! The only negative was that as this was a period home, there is no air conditioning and it was quite a warm evening. They do provide a fan and ceiling fan but they are quite loud so it made it hard to sleep.
The inn is beautifully located and the history behind it all is quite interesting as well; a newspaper baron and his wife built this home and raised their family here for many years(wait, one more coincidence – my husband and I are both in the newspaper industry as well!). There is a coded security gate at the entrance so we felt quite secure in a place we did not know well.
Breakfast was in a gorgeous dining room, where we were served on proper china plates with actual teacups.. such a nice treat. Our waiter was so nice and had impeccable manners. We were never without coffee or tea and had the most delicious fresh baked croissants I’ve ever eaten(and I’ve been to France!). We also had fresh fruit and half of a fresh bagel with whipped cream cheese and salmon on top.. lovely!
We were sorry we had to leave right away and couldn’t explore more of the inn. I would love to return in the winter to experience the beautiful antique fireplaces with a roaring fire…
The Return Ticket gives the Amethyst Inn, Victoria, BC: four tickets out of five
 

NOT Good: Our experience on Virgin Airlines

NOT Good:

Our experience on Virgin Airlines


We were so excited to try out Virgin Airlines from Vancouver to England as it is such a long trip, and as per the commercials, Richard Branson himself speaks to the luxury of his airline. However, our first experience of Virgin was less than impressive. The rows were so close together we could barely squeeze into our seats. Neither my husband or myself are large people, so can’t imagine what a taller or broader traveller would experience. 

I wanted to read my tablet yet there was no space between myself and the seat ahead of me; THEN the gentleman traveller in front let his seat back. . . I was literally staring at the back of his head directly in front of my face until our first meal arrived. Our seats would not recline at all (keeping in mind this is an 8.5 hour flight) and try as we might to stretch or cross our legs, there was no way to do that. We were seated in the centre section and as we looked at the seats across the aisle from us (window seats) we realized the rows were further apart than ours… 

The staff was kind and we did receive a traveller kit with mini toothbrush, toothpaste and a sleep mask. But it certainly did not make up for our discomfort. 

Chances are that we would NOT choose to fly Virgin again.

The Return Ticket gives Virgin Airlines: One ticket out of five