The Wild Ponies of Assateague Island

Ponies on the beachThere’s a centuries old proverb “If wishes were horses than dreamers would ride,” yet when it comes to the wild ponies of Assateague Island, “If dreamers made wishes than horses would hide” might be a better turn for catching the elusive animals.  On a recent girls’ getaway to Ocean City, Maryland and nearby Chincoteague, Virginia we went in search of the island’s ponies aboard the Assateague Explorer sunset cruise (7512 East Side Rd., Chincoteague, VA).  With romantic visions of great photo ops stirring in our soul, we set sail with Captain Mark, who loves his ponies but does not guarantee a command performance for the wild creatures.  How could he?

Assateague ExplorerLegend has it that the ponies settled on the island some 400 years ago after their Spanish ship went down off the coast.  Is it true?  Who knows.  Like most myths and folklore, they are but a romantic notion.

In reality, this channel between Assateague and Chincoteague Islands is a magical place and while seeing the horses would’ve been nice, it was just as peaceful to glide through the bay as the sun set a magical glow over the area for a perfect weekend getaway.

Magical Assateague IslandEach year the ponies take a swim across the water to Chincoteague, where they’re auctioned off for charity and to benefit the local fire department.  It thins the wild herd and helps a good cause.  It happens this year on July 30th.

TOURIST TIP:  Even if you don’t see the ponies, the cruise is a lovely boat ride in a magical bay.  And do stop for lunch or dinner at Etta’s Channel Side Restaurant (7452 East Side Rd., Chincoteague, VA), just to the right of the dock.  If the ponies were but a dream for me during this weekend getaway, Etta’s Maryland Crab Bisque is a memory to last a lifetime.  The absolute best I ever had!

This post is part of the #SundayTraveler series

Posted in Girlfriend Getaways, Maryland, Off the Beaten Path, Solo Travel for Women Blog, Travel Blog, United States, Virginia, Wanderlust Women, Weekend Getaways | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

City Guide to Paris

If you are romanticized by the City of Lights, our City Guide to Paris offers up the highlights of what to see and do and where to stay in the capital of France. It’s just a taste of all this European city has to offer, whether you’re flying solo or grabbing a romantic weekend escape to ooh la la!

Paris City GuideTop Attractions:

Paris Sacre Coeur1.  Sacré Couer -Take the Metro to the Maison Rouge stop and start the day at the basilica on top of Montmartre, the highest point in Paris. Sacre Couer.  It  offers amazing panoramic views of the City of Lights.  Grab a Nutella crepe for breakfast and explore this wonderful hillside before jumping back on the Metro.

2.  Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees -  Take the Metro to Charles De Gaulle Etoile and stroll the fashionable shopping promenade.  You can avoid climbing to the top of the Arc since you’ve already had a great city view from Sacré Couer.  Instead, stroll the Champs Elysees and then head over to the Jardin des Champs Elysees and the Place de la Concorde, where they hung Marie Antoinette.  Mon dieu!

Paris The Louvre3.  The Louvre is a pleasant walk off the Champs Elysees, due east.  Pop into one of the world’s most famous museums and grab a peak at the Mona Lisa or Venus di Milo. (Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month & Bastille Day, July 14th).

Restaurants: Time travel back to the era of film noir and grab a bite at Au Pere Tranquille (16 Rue Pierre Lescot, a block off Saint Denis).  The locals never dine before 8pm; so, if you want to beat the crowd and feel better in an empty restaurant, then dine early.  They’ll know you’re a tourist but you won’t fight a crowd.

Hotels in Paris: Picking the best hotels in a city with the Georges Cinq (31 Av. George V, 8th Arr.) is an insurmountable task.  There are too many wonderful hotels and bed and breakfasts to narrow the field.  For an offbeat holiday, move right in and rent an apartment to taste the local life.

Metalheads should head over to The Black Dog (26 Rue de Lombards) where they still have black lights for neon markings on the wall and 2 varieties of Absinthe, if you dare.

Transportation: The easiest way to get around is the Metro.  The Metro lines are color-coded and at the entrance to each track you will see a list of stops it serves in that direction.  Carry a bunch of euro coins to use the automatic card-dispensing machines and grab a multi-day pass for all zones.  The card machines do speak English but won’t accept American debit/credit cards so be prepared with local currency.

Safety: Midnight seems to be the witching hour, although a single woman should generally feel safe walking the streets of Paris.  But don’t stray too far from Strasbourg on either side of St. Denis after midnight.

Crack The Da Vinci Code - Free Entry To Louvre

This post is part of the #SundayTraveler series

Posted in City Guides, Europe, Flying Solo, France, Romantic Escapes | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

The Bourbon Tunnels of Underground Naples

Step a meter in any direction and you can literally enter another world, another time, another experience to savor in Italy. It’s the off-the-beaten-path adventures like The Bourbon Tunnels (Vico del Grottone, no. 4, near Piazza del Plebiscito) which make exploring centuries old cities like Naples exciting. The Tunnels, which have served as a royal escape route and a military hospital over the past 160 years, are now open by reservation to adventure seekers, like my new fictional protagonist in the first of the Mickey Malone Mysteries, “Shrouded in Pompei.”

Check out this excerpt:

“Pick your poison. Simple walking tour? Zip lining across ancient aqueducts? Or sailing under the city?”  Mickey suggested to her friend.

“Are you serious? You’ve been hanging around heat-seeking Marines too much this week.” Lyn was hesitant but still in the game, warning her friend that she was not up to the rigors of boot camp at Parris Island.

Italy, Naples: Tunnel Borbonico, down under the surfaceTheir infectious laughter echoed off the cavernous stone walls of the Bourbon Tunnels as they hopped aboard a raft like Tom Sawyer and Lyn nearly slipped again into the muck. The tunnels were dark and dank. They could feel the damp in their bones and taste the mildew in the air. The light from their torches and a few precariously mounted ceiling bulbs highlighted the sheen on the walls where water still trickled in and bats hovered in the black nooks overhead.

“If one of them ruins my great hair day, there will be hell to pay,” said Lyn, shrinking back from the eyes peering through the dark cavern overhead.

Tunnel Borbonico Rafting“Ewww, whose idea was this anyway?” Mickey now questioning her suggestion but happy for the offbeat diversion. She was away from the murder and politics which chased her like a fog across the ocean. Sailing across old sludge in the netherworld placed her out of the reach of most. There were no bars on her cell phone this far underground. Neither the sunlight nor the world above could penetrate. She relished the Italian way of honoring Sunday as a day of leisure and meant to make the most of it, stepping off the beaten path.

This was the mystery of Naples, the city of contrasts, where the nefarious and bright had commingled above and below ground for centuries. Here, dust-covered cars and motorini remain parked where they had been since World War II. Folding beds pushed into corners along with handwritten notes from the ghosts of the city’s war-torn past, the secrets tucked away for decades. It was a subterranean treasure trove and a day well-spent exploring Naples’ funky underbelly.

You can find out more about the Mickey Malone Mysteries by clicking here.

Tourist Note: If you’re looking to fly by the seat of your pants or row your way past decades of history and dusty relics, you can visit the Bourbon Tunnels weekends during the summer and Sundays during the off-season. Book ahead because it does get busy.

This post is part of the #SundayTraveler series

Posted in Europe, Italy, Italy travel Concierge, Off the Beaten Path | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments