Friday, March 27, 2015

Cool App To Frame Your Instagram Photos

Here today, gone tomorrow. That's what it sometimes feels like after uploading images to Instagram or Facebook. They  don't have any sense of permanence. My Instagram gallery includes many lovely, evocative images from my travels. And I've had people ask me if they could buy them framed to hang on their walls or to give as a gift to someone. There's an app for everything, right? Why not an app for getting your dreamy photos off your iPhone or iPad, have 'em framed to hang on your wall? Instantly Framed to the rescue.

chapel along the Camino de Santiago - credit: Jeanine Barone
This free app allows you to choose the image you want framed and one of several desired sizes (8x8, 6x6, 4x4, 4x6, 6x4) -- it recognizes the image quality, not allowing you to choose one larger than is reasonably possible, pixel-wise. Once you pay the $65, which includes free shipping, expect your beautifully framed -- it's handcrafted, sustainably-farmed walnut -- image in three business days. (The shipping in theh U.S. is free, too, except to Alaska and Hawaii. Your photo will be printed using archival inks on photo luster paper behind glass in a 12" by 12" frame.

The photo you see here now hangs on my wall and everyone who has seen it was impressed with the quality of the framing. It arrived in great condition and speedily. My only problem with the entire process was that that app kept on crashing because I'm on an older iPad. That being said, it was worth it and I would use the app again.

My readers will get $10 off their order by using the discount code: CITRAVELAUTHORITY10. It's valid through April 6. 

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

My Fave National Wildlife Refuges

Not much wildlife made it into "Wild," the Reese Witherspoon movie based on Cheryl Strayed's solo, thousand-some-mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail. That is, unless you count some of the shady people her character meets along the way. In real life, it's the four-legged, winged and finned creatures in our nation's wild places that provide treasured experiences for ourselves and our children -- whether it's prowling for owls, digging for crabs, learning to photograph flocks of cranes, or following the tracks of a bobcat. In America, wildlife links us with our past and provides a gift we can offer future generations. We can thank President Theodor Roosevelt for establishing the first national wildlife refuge -- Florida's Pelican Island -- in 1903. But the idea of protecting America's fish and wildlife, and the plants and waters they depend on dates to the mid-1800s, when reporters and explorers in the West documented how animals were being wiped out. The public came to the realization that America's heritage is intimately tied to its wildlife that require safe and healthy havens to thrive. Every U.S. state plus its territories has at least one refuge, all managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serve. I recently wrote about six stand-out national wildlife refuges for National Geographic Traveler - Intelligent Travel. 

credit: Ward Feurt/USFWS

credit: Colin Hackley

credit: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Anguilla In Pictures

Just 25-minutes from St. Maarten by ferry, Anguilla is blessed with some three dozen white sand beaches. I visited 20 of 'em, beaches for all personalities, whether you want nothing but utter solitude or prefer to wine and dine and socialize. And for all activities, whether you're a thrill seeker who wants to kite surf or you're eco oriented and interested in finding sea turtle nesting sites. With a low-key, intimate vibe; gourmet but unpretentious dining; and a sense of anonymity, if that's what you desire, Anguilla might very well be one of my favorite Caribbean islands. This should YouTube video slide show provides a window into my Anguilla experiences.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Surprise Discoveries in Portugal's Centro Region

Just an hour drive from buzzing Lisbon is a region brimming with hilltop stone villages, long stretches of sandy beaches, vast expanses of pine forests and agricultural fields and plenty of historical features. This is Portugal's Centro region that's home to one of the oldest schools of higher education in the world, the University of Coimbra. (It also may have been the inspiration for Hogworts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books.)

On my recent visit, I explored blooming gardens that are perfect for bird watchers, the ruins of a monastery that flooded for centuries and all the artifacts retrieved from that site and much more. My article for the Huffington Post provides insights on the treasures in this varied region.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

My Favorite Car-Free Islands in Europe

Who doesn't love islands? But I'm quite particular, favoring those that harken to an earlier time, when cars didn't exist as the primary means of transportation. Yes, I search out car-free islands because it's these landscapes where I can feel free to explore in a pollution free environment, without the squealing of brakes or the honking of horns, where I can depend on human-powered locomotion to visit historic sites or just peacefully prowl around coves, hamlets and green spaces. You never know what you'll discover when you're not in a rush.

I recently wrote an article for National Geographic Traveler - Intelligent Traveler  on my favorite car-free islands in Europe.

Comino Island - Photo by Bill Kasman, Flickr

These are some of my finds on my top five:

Buyukada, Turkey Grand villas, some with gingerbread detailing, line the lanes that weave down to the south end of the island, which is largely draped in emerald hues from dense pine forests.
•  Hydra, Greece - A two-hour climb brings hikers to the Monastery of Prophet Elias that hovers above the capital. A much shorter jaunt is the coastal walk to Vlychos Beach, an ideal destination for families.

•  Veliki Brijun, Brijuni National Park, Croatia - Dinosaur footprints, such as the imprint of large carnivores similar to Theropodshave been discovered all over the island.

•  Ile d'aix, France - The northeast portion is especially lovely, blanketed with thick pinewoods and rimmed with two jewels: Baby Beach and Yellow Sands Beach. 

•  Comino Island, Malta - Hiking through the wildflower-speckled landscape, a path courses to an isolated, rubble-ridden area, a perfect setting for the 17th century St. Mary's Tower that withstood sieges far beyond what the archipelago's other towers tolerated.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Curacao in Pictures

The Curacao most people see is the one with glorious sandy beaches. The one I preferred to visit is lush with pockets of forest land and salt pans where flamingos flock, decked out with bold art objects, and dotted with dramatic sea scapes. Plus, you have the charming pastel-hued old quarter of Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My YouTube video slideshow provides a window into my Curacao. 

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Gear Review: Toasty Warm + Stylish Winter Wear

Another day, another snowstorm. That's the way this winter is working out in New York City. When I received the women's Stio Skycrest Pullover to review, I initiallly thought I'd wait until I took my cross-country ski adventure in Maine in a month. Instead,  I've been relying on this warm, ultra thin and soft piece of clothing for the frigid weather in Manhattan. The garment is insulated with a non-bulky synthetic fill, Thermo Ecodown. (Bye, bye layering with bulky sweaters.) And the kangaroo zipped pocket is ideal for stashing valuables. (There are also two side pockets to keep my hands warm.) Plus, when I need to stow it away in my bag, it rolls into a tiny bundle. The garment doesn't skimp on aesthetics either. The fabric itself has a luxurious silk-like feel. The gunmetal color and trim fit  looked casually stylish no matter whether I paired it with a long-sleeve t-shirt plus black leggings, a sweater dress, merino wool skirt, or a pair of slim black pants. With a blizzard expected this week, this pullover will not be far away from me. And, of course, I'll be packing it in my tiny backpack for my lodge-to-lodge ski trip next month. I'm sure it'll perform well on the trail, and then look great when I sit down in the lodge for a warm meal and a glass of wine at night. 

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Europe's Five Best Bicycle Routes

Bicycling, one of my favorite means of traveling, isn't just a mode of transportation. More importantly, it's a way to get in touch with the land and its people. It's the ultimate way to stop and smell the roses, to use a cliche. I recently wrote about five great bicycle routes in Europe for National Geographic Traveler - Intelligent Travel.

These are just a few of my endearing and surprising finds along those routes: 

• In Norway's Lofoten Islands, guests can overnight in the sometimes Spartan rorbuer or fishermans' cottages, and even cast a line through a hole punctured in the floor.

• A shock of pink may sweep across the Sinis Peninsula on Sardinia's West Coast as flocks of flamingos congregate.

• Those who island hop with their bicycle along the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia will find that a large expanse of bucolic Mljet Island is taken up by a national park with a unique feature: a pair of saltwater lakes encircled by pines (a 12th century Benedictine monastery sits on an islet in the larger of the two.)

• When cycling in the northern Peloponnese peninsula in Greece, it's not unusual to zip down steep sections where a symphony of bells herald herds of goats and sheep crossing the road.

• Even novice cyclists can happily ride through the fairy-tale world of Germany's Black Forest because the southern route eliminates the heart-pounding ascents this sylvan landscape -- it includes some Ice Age-remnants and verdant nature reserves --  is noted for.
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Sunday, January 25, 2015

My New Product Line: JCreatures® - T-Shirts With Attitude

Anyone you follows me on Twitter or Instagram knows that my handle is JCreature Travel. But the JCreature is not just part of my social media presence. I'm very excited and happy to have found such as awesome actor,India Choquette for my photo shoot featuring my new product line: JCreatures® - T-Shirts With Attitude. These American Apparel silkscreened shirts are oh-so-soft (100% fine Jersey cotton), featuring different colors on each short-sleeve as well as a different colored pocket. Perfect as a Pajama-Tee or Beach Cover-up for kids or adults who are kids at heart. They are available in two color tones: pastel or vibrant + bold. (Notice that little pink creature? She will be go sale later in the year.)

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