Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

Naturally, after studying this and Art throughout the ages Rome was a destination that I just had to visit. Popular for its ties to the Roman Empire and most of the tourist traps being centered around that century, there are some very unique places and experiences I would suggest doing or seeing. This will give you a glimpse into the alternate history, the religious confusion of the time, the darker underbelly of Rome and possibly a new site to visit.

Here are my Top Ten Unique Places in Rome :

1. Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

This is by far my favorite site to visit whenever I am in Rome. It is not very well known, so you aren’t inundated by tourists and get to descend through history…..literally.
It is a 9-minute walk from the Colosseo east on Via Nicola Salvi, you turn right on Piazza di S. Clemente and it will be on your right-hand side. The exterior is very unassuming, it appears as any other dilapidated building would in the shadow of the ever famous Coliseum. Once you enter, a symbol of new life greets you in the Byzantine mosaic of the tree of life with the twelve doves symbolizing the apostles of Jesus Christ.

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

Exploring this church is like eating an artichoke, you have to pull each later back to get to the very heart of the best part. Make your way to the side door where you will descend into the fairly new discoveries below the surface of this church.

The first level you will find a FOURTH CENTURY Basilica, only discovered in the 18th century after it had been covered for the last 1,100 years with gravel!

Wait! Keep going down the stairs! In the bottom level, you will find the heart of the Lanterno, an ancient Roman house from the FIRST CENTURY! If this isn’t enough to tickle your historical fantasies, then visit the tomb of St Clement, the fourth Pope in world history after St Peter, st Linus and St. Anacletus, and the tomb of St Cyril the founder of the Slavonic literature.

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

Address: Via Labicana, 95
Hours: Mon-Sat 9am-12:30pm/3pm-6pm; Sunday from 12pm-6pm
Fees: 10 Euros

2. Galleria Borghese

Between 1576 and 1633 the nephew of Pope Paul V, Cardinal Scipione Borghese began collecting some of the most stunning art pieces in his mansion. This collection included works by Tiziano, Raphael, Caravaggio, Rubens and Botticelli.

As you walk through the doors you feel as if you truly are walking into a Grand mansion, not a museum. As you ascend, the decorations on the walls become more lavish and then you turn a corner into a room and are hit with the vision of a statue of Bernini. I have always been a fan of art, and especially of the master sculptor’s of old, but nothing prepared me for the exquisite pieces in front of me.

You don’t just go to see a Bernini Statue, you have to go an EXPERIENCE a Bernini statue. The twisting, turning, facial expressions, attention to intricate details, angles and the way the statues are lit makes me to seem to come alive. I would suggest walking around each sculpture and truly soak in the master’s work.

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

Cardinal Borghese was attempting to re-inspire the people to recreate a new Golden Age of Art Appreciation. With his Uncle favoring him in the classical Papal Nepotism, Cardinal Borghese nearly tripled his wealth from 1609 to 1612 his wealth increased from 90,000 Scudi to 140,000 Scudi. This allowed him to continue his patronage for Caravaggio and Bernini.
Address: Piazzale del Museo Borghese, 5
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 8:30am7:30pm, Monday: closed
From July 6th to October 06th every Friday and Saturday evening opening (entry at 7 pm exit at 22)
Fees & Tickets: Pre-paid scheduled admissions for Borghese Gallery Museum only!
Adults: 11 euros, EU citizen (18-25) 6.50 Euros, Youth (<18) or Seniors (>65) is 2 Euros
I would highly suggest that you book your tickets in advance (right about the same time you book your flight). The museum is wildly popular and they do not allow more than a certain number of visitors in at a time. There are no walk-in’s, only reservations.

3. Underground Colosseum Tour

This is one of the MUST DO highlights for your trip if you want to see the Colosseum, but see it from a unique perspective. If you schedule online ahead of time, you can take an exclusive Underground Colosseum Tour.

During this tour, you will descend into the Gladiator pits, see the mechanisms that made the Gladiator Games work. While underground you see how the Colosseum was once filled with water and where the water was sourced. The backstage pully systems, the areas where the animals were kept and just how magnificent this architectural wonder of the world truly is. Seeing the Colosseum from the outside or from the tourist platforms is one thing, but seeing how it worked gives it a whole new appreciation.

If the Underground Tour is not enough, then you are also taken up an elevator to the top of the Colosseum where you are able to have a guided tour through the museum, as well as a fantastic birds-eye view of the interior or the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

Opening Hours: By appointment only
Tickets: Book your Underground Colosseum Tickets ahead of time online
Address: Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma RM, Italy
How to get there: All roads lead to Rome, so if you are in Rome and can’t find this place….you are likely in the wrong country. If you are coming from a nearby city, use to find the best route into the city.

4. San Pietro in Vincoli

Also known as Saint Peter in Chains was built to house the chains of Saint Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. The Empress Eudoxia gave Pope Leo I the chains as a present, after which the church was commissioned.

There is more to this church than the chains that held Saint Peter if you visit be sure to look at the Tomb of Pope Julius the II. In the center of this tomb is Michelangelo’s Moses statue.

According to legend, the chains of Saint Peter arrived to the Pope in 2 pieces, and miraculously joined together to form one piece. The chains are stored underneath the altar in a glass box. On either side of Michelangelo is statues of Leah and Rachel (likely completed by his students). The tomb itself was never finished for Pope Julius II, who ended up being buried in St Peter’s Basilica. Michelangelo had planned on 40 different statues for the tomb but was so focused on the Sistine Chapel that the tomb was never completed.

The church itself is very unique compared to other churches in Rome. There are not as many ornate decorations, skeletons are also seen on adjacent tombs both of which are highly unusual in Catholic churches.
The church itself is very dimly lit so it is difficult to get a decent photo. If you make a donation to the mausoleum then it will light up. I did not know that this is something that is very common with most of the churches in Rome.

Opening Hours: Every day: 8 am – 12:30 (midday) and 3:30 pm – 6 pm
Price: No Fee for Entrance
Address: San Pietro in Vincoli, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
How to get there: Buses 75 or 84 will take you near the Basilica. You can also go along Via Cavour, you will see a steep set of steps on Via San Francesco di Paola and the Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli.

5. Catacombs

These underground secret passageways were used by the Jewish, Pagan and early Christian Roman citizens to hide and as a place of burial from the 2nd-5th centuries. The burial grounds were discovered after investigative excavations were taking place next to a quarry. The word Catacomb means ‘next to a quarry’.

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

The Catacombs can be several miles long, each niche being hand dug for the particular burials. The deceased was then wrapped in a cloth, placed in the niche and either clay/marble or some other sustainable material was placed in front of the niche with the deceased name and religious symbol on it (usually Christian)

During Roman times, and especially the gladiator games, Christians were persecuted and tortured for their beliefs. The catacombs provided a place outside the city walls that allowed them to bury their dead and freely use and perform Christian rights, rituals and symbols when burying their loved ones. It wasn’t until the 3rd century that the persecutions stopped and they were allowed to worship freely.

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

Barbarian invasions of the 8th century resulted in many lootings of these catacombs, and so the Pope ordered all relics be moved to nearby churches.
You can now visit the burial grounds today with more than 60 catacombs now being discovered here, you can visit several of them that have been safely and properly excavated. The best catacomb to visit is the Catacombs of San Sebastiano (circa 136 AD), so named for the martyred soldier who converted to Christianity.

Other Catacombs include Catacombs of San Callisto, Catacombs of Priscilla, Catacombs of Domitilla, Catacombs of Sant’Agnese, Catacombs of San Valentino, and the Catacombs of St Callixtus.
Address: Via Appia Antica, 136, 00179 Roma RM, Italy (for Saint Sebastian Catacombs) – Other Catacombs will be within a few miles of this one with separate entrances. There are some on the South East of Rome as well as Valentino and Priscilla’s Catacombs located in the Northwest Outskirts of Rome.

Italyxp.comOpening times: Each Catacomb has its own opening times but most are open from 10am

Opening times: Each Catacomb has its own opening times but most are open from 10am-12pm and 2pm to 5pm with Agnese being open in the afternoons only between 4pm-6pm.
Fees: Adults: 8 Euros, Children <15 is 5 Euros (guides in English, Spanish, and Italian)

6. The Twin Churches of Rome:

Santa Maria dei Miracoli 1681, and the Montesanto built in 1679 grace the Piazza del Popolo facing the Northern gate of the Aurelian Walls.
Santa Maria dei Miracoli was started in 1675 by Girolamo Theodore. A bell tower and circular pattern were adopted in the design of the building. The lovely decorations inside are done by none other than Bernini’s pupil, Antonio Raggi. The altar of the Virgin Mary is what gave this church its name.

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

It is believed that the paint used to craft the image of the Virgin came from a miracle of when a woman prayed to an image of the Virgin Mary on the walls to save her drowning son in the Tiber. Her child was saved and the chapel was built in her honor.
Santa Maria in Montesanto was built in 1662 and completed in 1675. Carmelite monks occupied a church that was previously built on this site. and thus the church was named Montesanto or ‘Holy Mountain’ because of the ties to ‘Mt Carmel’. Although the buildings are very similar and a perfect place for a photo, they are also very different.

Address: Via del Corso, 528
Fees: No fee for entrance
How to get there: Enter Moovit and find your route now
Opening times: Monday to Sunday 7.00 am 12.30 pm / 4.00 pm – 7.30pm

7. Scala Sancta

These stairs are ones that lead to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on which Christ stepped on his way to trial during the passion. Reportedly the stairs were brought to Rome by St Helena in the 4th century.
There is a prayer that people must pray on each step leading up to the Praetorium, or you can climb the steps to the top on either side of the sacred stairs. At the bottom of the staircase is the statue of Christ with hands outstretched and Judas betraying him by kissing him on the Cheek. You will also find a statue of Christ in Chains, helping to set the mood for the journey of prayer up to the Scala Sancta.

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

Prayer for each of the 28 steps
(Note: A Hail Mary and an invocation to your Patron Saint may be added to each step.)
1 st Step.
O My Jesus! By the anguish of heart Thou didst experience, on separating from Thy most holy mother, to go to Thy death, have mercy on me!
2 nd Step.
O My Jesus! By the confusion Thou didst feel and that caused Thee to sweat blood in the Garden of Olives, have mercy on me!
3 rd Step.
O My Jesus! By the intense grief that filled Thy heart on seeing Thyself betrayed by the perfidious Judas, have mercy on me!
4 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the confusion Thou didst feel, when led as a malefactor through the streets of Jerusalem, have mercy on me!
5 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the sweetness Thou didst show, when brought before the tribunal and struck in the face, have mercy on me!
6 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the patience Thou didst exhibit amid the outrages and mockeries, of which Thou wert the object throughout the night preceding Thy death, have mercy on me!

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

7 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the cruel insult Thou didst endure, when dragged many times on the Sacred Stairs, have mercy on me!
8 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the silence Thou didst observe in the presence of those who bore false witness against Thee, and of the iniquitous Pilate who unjustly condemned Thee, have mercy on me!
9 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the humiliation to which Thou didst subject Thyself amidst the derision of Herod and his court, have mercy on me!
10 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the shame Thou didst feel on being stripped of Thy garments and tied to the pillar to be scourged, have mercy on me!
11 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the pain Thou didst suffer on being scourged, when Thy body was all covered with wounds and bruises, have mercy on me!
12 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the torture of the sharp thorns, wherewith Thy adorable head was pierced, have mercy on me!
13 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the patience Thou didst exhibit when clothed with purple rags and with a reed in Thy hand, Thou wert derided and treated as a mocking, have mercy on me!
14 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the affliction, Thou didst feel when Thou didst hear the people cry out against Thee, and clamor for Thy death, have mercy on me!
15 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the humiliation to which Thou wert subject, on being compared with Barabbas, and on seeing that criminal preferred to Thine adorable person, have mercy on me!
16 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the resignation, wherewith Thou didst embrace the Cross, and proceed with it upon the road to Calvary, have mercy on me!
17 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the sorrow Thou didst feel on meeting Thy most holy Mother, and on witnessing the anguish of her heart, have mercy on me!
18 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the excessive weariness that overcame Thee, while bearing the burden of the cross on Thy shoulders, have mercy on me!
19 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the bitterness Thou didst experience, when the gall and vinegar touched Thy lips, have mercy on me!

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

20 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the agony, Thou didst endure, when Thy garments were roughly torn from Thee, have mercy on me!
21 st Step.
O My Jesus! By the pain, Thou didst suffer, when fastened with great nails to the cross of Calvary, have mercy on me!
22 nd Step.
O My Jesus! By the infinite charity that moved Thee to forgive Thine executioners and pray to Thy heavenly Father for them, have mercy on me!
23 rd Step.
O My Jesus! By the goodness with which Thou didst give paradise to the penitent thief, and Mary unto John, as his Mother, have mercy on me!
24 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the burning thirst with which Thou wast tortured on the gibbet of the Cross, have mercy on me!
25 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the torment, Thou didst suffer, on seeing Thyself abandoned by all, have mercy on me!
26 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the great love for me with which Thy Divine Heart was inflamed, on breathing forth Thy last sigh, have mercy on me!
27 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the boundless kindness Thou didst manifest, in permitting Thy side to be opened with a spear, have mercy on me!
28 th Step.
O My Jesus! By the tender condescension with which Thou didst permit Thy most sacred body to be placed in the arms of Thy mother, and afterward in the sepulcher, have mercy on me!
Address: Piazza di Spagna, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Fees: No fees
How to get there: From the Metro Linea A (red line) take the exit at Spagna. Rome bus tours are too big to navigate the narrow streets. Catch a bus that heads to the Barberini, Piazza del Popolo / Flamino (about a 10-minute walk).
Opening times: open 24 hours

8. The Spanish Steps

These steps were built in 1725 to help link the church Trinita dei Monit with the Spanish square down below it. Why are the steps so famous then? The Unique design, flowers adorning the steps and the Romantic setting near the Spanish square has inspired artists and musicians for generations. The artists would attract the beautiful women to the stairs to pose as models, then the wealthy and elite would come to ‘browse’. Thus was born the meeting place for Roman society, the Spanish Stairs.

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

As you ascend the 135 stairs, look up to your right and you will see an apartment where the poet John Keats lived and died. Be sure to take a peek inside the church once you reach the top.

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

Although some tourists complain that ‘it’s just a bunch of stupid steps’, this staircase is both unique and pivotal to the Roman history. If you want to take the steps in, in all its beauty, be sure to visit in the early AM when there will be limited tourists.

Address: Piazza di Spagna, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Hours: Always open
Traveler Tip: Don’t expect to stop for a picnic, eating on the steps after the restoration is forbidden. Although there is a McDonald’s conveniently placed at the bottom of the staircase in the Spanish Square, seems counterintuitive with the rule, but I’m not in charge….soooo….there is that.

9. Piazza Navona

This is truly an artist’s Paradise, Piazza Navona in Rome! To get here you must wander through the streets, rounding several corners before it opens up into a grand courtyard flanked by fountains and churches. It was golden hour when we arrived and the sun was peaking through the alleyways, popping out to highlight the many perfectly picturesque balconies surrounding the courtyard.

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

This plaza has been the focal point for the being the city’s main market since the 15th century. Another reason I fell in love with this plaza is that there is a Bernini fountain specifically designed for this square, Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. Here you will witness both visual movement and water flowing over muscular personifications of the different major rivers of the world. Stroll around the fountain and try to guess which one represents the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio de la Plata. This is why the fountain is now called the Fountain of the Four Rivers.

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

Behind the Fountain, you will see a beautiful Baroque style building, Sant’Agnese in Agone. This is thought to be named after St Agnes around 300AD who was martyred here. This church was impressive and worth a quick look, but I personally couldn’t wait to wander through the impromptu artistic market that was quickly developing as night settled in on Piazza Navona.

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

If you are a little too frazzled or dazed from hours of exploring, then stop by one of the surrounding cafes with outdoor seating and be serenaded by the artisans in the Piazza while eating your pasta 😉

Address: Piazza Navona, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
How to get there: There are no metro’s nearby, but if you take a bus (typically 40 or 60) there will be a stop near Piazza Navona towards the Termini station.

10. Torre Argentina (The Cat Sanctuary)

Although I am not a fan of Cats in my home, it is hard to deny these animals are an integral part of the Italian Culture. In Rome, these cats take refuge at the base of statues, bask in the sunlight on top of Roman columns and walk the parapets of the Colosseum.

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

There is a place that the city has classified officially as a Cat Sanctuary, the Torre Argentina. Here you will find over 150 feral friends sheltered. Volunteers come in and spay or neuter the cats to help control population size, as well as vaccinate the cats.  There is a cat shop nearby, donations are accepted and you are even allowed to adopt a cat if you so desire.
The area was being excavated in 1927 when the ancient ruins of the four Republican-era pagan temples dating from 44BC. There is an annual re-enactment of the murder of Caesar on the Ides of March to honor his death.

Address: Entrance is at Largo di Torre Argentina – at the corner of Via Florida & Via di Torre Argentina
Fees: Donation based
Opening times: Open daily from noon to 6pm

Top Ten Unique Places in Rome

With Rome being the pivotal place where all wander lusting travelers tend to visit, it may be worthwhile to seek out a few of the off the beaten path sites. You are sure to run into a local or two, experience ‘newer’ historical sites dating back to the 4th century.

Maybe you could even end up adopting a new furry friend and one of the most unique souvenirs, a Roman Kitty Cat. Whatever you decide to do in Rome, it is a place that has and will continue to inspire the artistic side within us all; thrill us with the idea of Roman times and educate us on the variety of historical facts it contains.
Have you ever been to Rome? What was your favorite place to visit?
Is there something or some destination near Rome you would suggest visiting that is off the beaten path?

As Always….Happy Travels, Happy Tales, see you on the Flip Side.

Where to Stay in Rome

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What Does Responsible Tourism Mean?

What Does Responsible Tourism Mean?

This post may contain affiliate links, for more information read our full disclosure The travel industry is throwing around this term: Responsible Tourism or Sustainable Tourism. So what does Responsible Tourism mean? Each year we travel, consume, photograph and share on our social media channels, exposing friends and family to expand their knowledge of the cultures of the world.

The world gets a little bit smaller, those in different countries can see your social media posts on Instagram and Facebook and may compare it to your lives. Animal rights, environmental responsibilities are becoming more and more talked about….especially the use of plastic. Stop and question what you think you know about plastic vs paper bags, look at the whole environmental impact. Look at how the production and use of plastic impacts and effects low-income households, did you know there is an actual place called ‘Cancer Alley’? In our ever-increasing virtual connection, what can we do as travel addicted wander lusting Instagram posting fiends to be more responsible when we travel? First things first….to understand what it is.

What does Eco-tourism mean

Responsible Tourism is a multifaceted approach, which includes:

  1. Minimizing negative social, economic and environmental impacts while traveling
  2. Generating greater economic benefits for local people and enhancing the well-being of host communities
  3. Improving working conditions and access to the worldwide industry
  4. Involving local people in decisions, markets, and trade that affect their life and chances at life.
  5. Making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, embracing the diversity.
  6. Providing more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.
  7. Provides access for physically challenged people
  8. Is being culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
What does Eco-tourism mean

There are many different ways that this can be addressed and focused on. The Culture Trekking Community is one that focuses on numbers one, five, six and eight. Creating a community where ideas, religions, cultural idiosyncrasies are both shared, respected and embraced. As the Community grows I want to improve awareness on environmental impacts as well as fight the uphill battle of having more meaningful human connections. Today I will focus on the latter.

Where the idea started for my own Responsible Tourism:

The video was quite graphic when I saw this 2 years ago, but it really impacted me in so many different ways. The moral of the story is… don’t know what you don’t know until you educate yourself on how small choices like using single-use straws can impact the environment. I now carry a reusable metal straw in my purse at all times. This video is where responsible tourism started for me….watching this turtle in so much pain made me feel like I needed to do more for the environment.

It isn’t just the plastic straws, it is garbage that is left strewn about in all the different places that I visit. I remember walking behind someone in Yellowstone National park…..they dropped a wrapper on the ground (a large one). I was so frustrated by this because they had a bag they could have easily slipped that wrapper into. I picked it up and gave it back to the tourist, who naturally acted like they dropped it by accident (even though I watched them look around before dropping it). It is not that hard to slip those wrappers into a pocket, a bag, in your shoe….anything but on the ground. Taking a few more steps to ensure your rubbish gets into the proper receptacle is not as hard as you think… Nike says ‘JUST DO IT’!

Another video that truly impacted me was one man in India, who returned to his home to find the beach he loved filled with garbage. He knew he had to do something so he started knocking on doors and aims to be that change he wishes to see in the world. Take a look at the video & then I want to think about how much of a difference we could make if each of us committed to picking up 3 pieces of trash wherever we travel to. What about taking an extra garbage bag on a local hike in your hometown? We could all use a few more squats in our day, right?

Why am I showing you all these videos? A picture is worth a thousand words (or so they say), but I feel that videos are the way to make an impact that can create change. What is better than a video? Visiting a place like the Washed Ashore Gallery in Bandon Oregon (several displays are located throughout the United States, see the Washed Ashore Exhibit Locations for more information) can both teach our generation and the generations below us how to protect our earth and save our oceans.

Traveling can be an exotic thing full to the brim with activities that will make your friends envy your life & maybe even despise you a little. The more I travel the more I realize that I want to make a difference in the world, no matter how small it is. Ecotourism and Volunteering for cleanups and service can help connect our communities, open minds and hearts, and help start the change we wish to see in the world.

Supporting Companies with good causes:

What does Eco-tourism mean

Save the Baby Turtles!

A Blogger friend of mine in Fort Lauderdale Florida was able to participate in the nighttime protection of hatching baby turtles. These baby turtles get confused by the city lights and instead of going into the ocean (following the moon), they follow the city lights. This leads them to be run over or crushed by bikes, cars or fall into holes they cannot get out of. What these volunteers do is once the baby turtles hit their 10-foot periphery line, they gather them up in a bucket and take all the confused little fellas to the ocean where they set them free. They also move beach chairs and sandcastles to allow for the mothers to come to the beach easier and lay their eggs. Check out her post on Saving Baby Sea Turtles and how you can help or participate!  

Soul Flower Clothing Company

As soon as I found this clothing company, I know I had found my tribe. Just look at their tagline:

Soul Flower is a natural clothing brand for kind souls and free spirits. Mindfully made with natural fibers and heartfelt art, we design our threads with kind vibes from start to finish. We seek inspiration in the simplicity of everyday life – in nature and in music, in free-spirited adventures and in like-minded souls. We create clothing in a way that supports our planet, spreads a positive message, and most importantly — helps you express yourself.”

what does responsible tourism mean

Beyond the message of Freakos‘. When looking into building your eco-friendly and ethical wardrobe, look no further.
The inks they use have a low impact on the environment with citrus solvents being utilized. They reuse paper boxes and packing materials to ‘keep the story going’. All cotton that is used in their clothing is organic cotton, recycled fibers or hemp. Not only do they focus on the clothing, but they also decreased the catalog printing and now use recycled paper with soy-based inks. They are also green office certified (aka: energy wise usage of products and environmentally savvy).

Why is this important? Small companies like this are able to be more environmentally friendly and I support those who make an effort to do so whole-heartedly! I feel privileged to be able to collaborate with this company as I love their manifesto, Soul Flower’s practices, and policies and their clothing is SO COMFORTABLE!

What does responsible tourism mean?

To all my big headed ladies out there (I’m talking literal, not egotistical) – this is the place you should get your headbands! Every time I wear these headbands I feel a little better about myself, I read the inspirational message printed on it and cannot help but feel inspired to finish out the day with a bang! Plus, let’s be honest, sometimes a girl just needs a headband to decrease the stress of doin’ da hur….ya feel me? To get your headband:

What is responsible tourism

The other items I have personally tried and fallen in love with so far are the yoga pants and shirts. If I’m being honest, I wear the pants EVERYWHERE! Not just because the pants are comfortable, but because they have the most adorable prints on them that inspire me to continue to be Eco-friendly in my day to day life & inspire me to live a simpler life to help have less of an impact on the environment.
I wore the shirt for two days in a row people! I know that’s gross but it has been so hot over here, and it is so light, airy and cute with the little leaves on it… I couldn’t resist

Personal Note: It is sooooo hard to find cute and comfortable clothing as a curvy woman — so to find a company that caters to my desire to be eco-friendly and embraces those of all shapes and sizes really just gives me warm fuzzies and I want to shout out from the rooftops how much I appreciate and love them for this.

You don’t just have to participate in environmentally friendly activities at destinations you visit. You can start being environmentally friendly to companies just like Soul Flower. Check out Soul Flower Summer Specials today!

Other Ways to be a Responsible Tourist:

Be Respectful of Religions and Cultures:

Look at local customs and rules when entering churches across the world. Do not make derogatory jokes or compare those within the country to something you deem as ‘more sensible’ or ‘better practices’. Do not impose your beliefs on those within the country unless prompted to. Respect the cultural idiosyncrasies of what is considered ‘normal’ for that country.

What is responsible tourism

The bottom line is, just because something, someone, or a country as a whole does something different than what you know to be normal — doesn’t mean that it is wrong. There are some exceptions where it endangers basic human rights, practices, or harms/mutilates any animal or human being (obviously). Even if you do see something wrong, intervening as a tourist could land you in jail – be careful, be cautious and if you have a concern about the country/destination use a guide that you can ask questions about what is appropriate or if you can do something/intervene without landing yourself in jail.

Be Respectful of Shop Owners Overseas:

Do not take photos of products, items, or anything in different countries that could affect their livelihood. Do not get offended if they ask you not to take photos, there is a reason! Unnamed countries citizens will visit these economically struggling countries and take photos of their products and produce them at a fraction of the cost, but they are not authentic products.

What is responsible tourism

Moroccans, for example, rely on their skill and artistry of furniture, clothing, architecture, woodworking to profit from their craft and provide for their families. How many times have you visited a country and thought, ‘Oh I can get that back in my own country, I don’t need to buy it here’. This is why it is so important….so many countries rely on tourism and the money it brings in to put food on the table. So please….before you take a photo in a store, ASK the owner if it is ok.

Be Aware and Educate Yourself on Regional Issues:

What is responsible tourism

Human trafficking, terrorism, and so many more unsavory things happen in this world. I have too much of a tender heart to focus in on the negative all the time, so rarely listen to the news – but I do search for those individuals who have the capacity to handle situations such as this. I support them, I share their stories and donate when I’m able to.

It is important to be sensitive to cultural and religious practices (as part of Responsible Tourism) that help to positively define a culture, but that never means we should tolerate those who continually violate the basic human rights of food, safety, and shelter.

With having experienced Rape and sexual assault myself, the topic of sex trafficking is a very passionate topic for me. Operation Underground Railroad is a team of individuals of highly specialized individuals who have years of experience in special forces, law enforcement working proactively since 2013 with local governments that I wholeheartedly support. This is a video that had me in tears for how grateful I was to the men & women who do this. Please support them in whatever way that you can….
If you would like to Donate to O.U.R. please feel free to do so, if you are unable to donate, then try and Volunteer for O.U.R. to help aid in their efforts.

Small changes can make a big difference:

Wear environmentally friendly products:

  • Keep any soap while camping at any location away from runoff areas (at least 100 feet).
  • Bury or pack out your human waste. Look at the requirements for each camping spot you visit for their rules and regulations.
  • Wear environmentally and Ocean friendly sunscreen as this often washes off the ocean, causing damage to coral and marine life.
What is responsible tourism

Biodegradable products:

  • Bringing your own straws, skip the straw at Starbucks. If this doesn’t make sense, please keep watching the video of the Turtle above until it does.
  • Get a recycling bin or start a recycling group in your neighborhood. (More information below on recycling that could be available in your country).
  • Make a list of low-cost companies that produce Biodegradable Products and keep a list. Hand the list out to anyone who uses straws, show they alternatives. Don’t force it down their throat — educate with KINDNESS! Honey works better than vinegar when trying to entice people to change their daily habits or companies to change the status quo.
What is responsible tourism

Utilize the Reusable Grocery Bags:

  • This is such a simple change that we can all do (especially those of us in the States). In most other countries they are charging for the plastic bags, yet when we implement it here to try and help support the environment….everyone loses their minds! They tried to do this when I lived in Texas and I would stand there and see with my own eyes, these grocery baggers get verbally assaulted for doing their job and charging for the plastic bags. Come on people… better than that……do better than that…….realize that this isn’t just about YOU and YOUR needs, but for the betterment of humanity and animals. If you still aren’t convinced that plastic bags are a big deal, watch this video of the whale found dead with hundreds of pounds of plastic bags in its stomach. If that doesn’t convince you, well…..I don’t know how to help you become a better human being.
  • I need some advice myself on this one….grrrhhh….. I have all the reusable bags I can handle. I start daydreaming on the way to the grocery store, then out of habit, forget to take the reusable grocery bags I brought off the garage wall where I put them so I wouldn’t forget them. If you have some advice on how to remember these things…..let a girl know in the comments below.

A Call to Action for Responsible Tourism:


  • Here is a great resource if you would like to participate in Ecotourism on your next trip:

Volunteering through worldwide programs/cleanups

Companies that Participate in Eco-friendly Product Production:

Clothing: Patagonia, Thought Clothing, Encircled Clothing

How to encourage clothing companies to not use plastic hangers

Straws: The Last Plastic Straw is a great website for a list of all the different types of straws, where to get them and how they are better than the plastic straws. There is also a site completely dedicated to Living a life without plastic, this is where I get my reusable metal straws (bamboo and glass is also available).

Home, Pets, Cleaning supplies and more: Life Without Plastic gives you so many bamboo or steel options that can replace many of the household items that have or contain plastic. Gift certificates, gift registry, and points program are also available on this site to help you invite friends to the #noplastic movement.

Trash Bags: Biodegradable Trash Bags, Green Legacy Tall Kitchen Trash Bags

Grocery Bags: Reusable Grocery Bags

Sandwich Bags: Eco-Friendly Reusable Sandwich Bags

Recycling throughout the world: Recycling in the States (contact your city councils to arrange this), Recycling in Australia, Recycling in Canada, Curbside Recycling available in New Zealand please check your local city councils, Recycling is also available in the United Kingdom for each household (mandatory supply of bins from government), Spain also has recycling available in some areas, and the Netherlands actually pays you to bring in your recyclable materials (typically at grocery stores).


A Must Read Plastic Free Blogger: If you are like me and feel a little overwhelmed by how many things in your home contain plastic, visit Beth Terry: My Plastic Free Life Blogger. She will teach you, take you step by step through the process and show you how to live a plastic-free life.

Worldwide Plastic Pollution Coalition – Now NO ONE has an excuse to not participate in reducing their plastic use. This is a global alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution.

what does responsible tourism mean

How To Tour Responsibly:

We have such a duty to protect creatures who outlived the dinosaurs, are essential to our planet’s ecosystem – the Sea Turtles. We don’t have to start being Eco-friendly or participate in Responsible Tourism practices only when we are traveling. Get involved in the activities now, one goal or plastic straw at a time.

Be respectful of religions, people, cultures, and races as long as they do not infringe on basic human rights to live life peacefully, safely without fear of bodily harm and can provide for basic human needs of shelter, food, and water.

Get involved in volunteer programs locally where you can help end human trafficking, gang violence, opioid epidemics, and so much more. There seems to be an Instagram hashtag or Facebook group for everything these days. If you have any suggestions for local groups you are passionate about, please let it in the comments below with a link to their site.
Teach those around you, share the information on your social media platforms….it just takes one rock in a pond to start a ripple that turns into a wave. Be that change you wish to see in the world.

How do you like to contribute to Responsible Tourism?

What is the most important thing to you regarding Responsible Tourism?

Who are the Berber People?

Who are the Berber People?

The History of the Berber People The Berbers have been in North Africa since at least 3000 BC according to scholars. Morocco is made up with the majority of Berbers, 10.4 million (40%) of the population. These can be divided into three main groups with different dilects: the Riffians, the Chleuh and Central Moroccan Amazigh; 2/3 of the Berber people actually live in rural and mountainous areas, most being farmers. Traditionally, Berbers raise sheep, cattle and goats; some work in flourmills, do woodcarving, quarry millstones, and make pottery or jewelry. Women generally do the cooking and caring for the home and children, weaving, and pottery. Today many Berber people work in Spain or France as migrant workers and send money home to their families.

Who are the Berber People

Family and Culture of the Berber People

A traditional word used in the Berber language is ‘Fard’, a word which literally means “The individual is nothing without the tribe”. The immediate family comes first and they are the most important thing to these wonderful people. Most of the time family members live together and most stay close to home, women children and extended family actually end up working together closely in their own homes.

Who Are the Berber People

If you ever visit one of these families, be prepared to eat more food than you will ever want to eat your life (ie/bring a walker because your belly will be so full it will become difficult to walk afterward). The Moroccan culture, and especially the Berber people hold their guests in very high esteem, hospitality here is taken VERY seriously.

If you look into some of the religious beliefs of the Berber people, interestingly they actually believe in a spiritual dimension, or ‘Baraka’ or the positive power of the saints. It is a major source of what has inspired most artisans in Morocco and often is what helps to create the traditional designs of the Berber people.

Baraka can infuse itself into all things, at different levels, such as jewelry, talismans, ceramics, textiles; it can also be in artistic vocabulary (like song & dance), suffuse itself in plants like henna and oleander, sandalwood, saffron, and myrrh. So what is Baraka exactly and why is it so prominent in this culture? Baraka traditionally thought and used to deal with the darker forces of life, curing illnesses and protecting oneself against the evil jnoun (spirits) and the evil eye.

For example, I say an adorable little boy on the street in Marrakech, and told the mother ‘oh he is sooooo cute’ and smiled and motioned that I wanted to pinch his cheeks. The guide I was with told me to say Baraka, which would deter the evil eye, because it is very common for mothers to be superstitious that you will jinx their children by doing this — so saying this word can avoid the curse of the evil eye. Another example is of a Berber woman dancing in Jamma el-fna with a certain colored scarve over her head to get rid of a certain demon or bad spirit that could be plaguing her life. (See video above)

Symbols of the Berber People

The Berber people commonly wear different symbols and say different words to help protect them from the evil eye. Berber women commonly would wear tattoos, jewelry and henna with different patterns to help protect themselves; now with many converted to Islam where tattoos are forbidden, they weave the symbols into the textiles, jewelry and henna even to this day. So if you see the designs of henna drawn on the hands and the feet of a bride, this is something that is both protecting and nurturing for the marriage that has been used and evolved throughout the centuries of use.

Who are the Berber People

If you see photos of the Amazigh women/Berber women, you may find some with the tattoos I previously mentioned. These tattoos were traditionally placed by the family on the face as a sort of rite of passage (usually around the time of her menstrual cycle) signifying her transition into womanhood.

This would typically happen in groups, with several girls being tattooed at once, making it a very social activity. Now that Islam is so prominent, you typically do not see tattoos on the faces of any Berber woman under the age of 30.

There is actually a museum in Marrakech called, ‘The Tiskiwin Museum’ – where you can see some of the preserved arts of the Saharan people, and Berber people of Morocco. There is also a book to help you see what the different designs of the Berber people actually mean by -Cynthia Becker Phd called ‘Amazigh Arts in Morocco + Women Shaping the Berber Identity’, such as circular motifs in pink and red, colors categorized as light, resembling the sunlight, are embroidered over other motifs. They hover like the sun above the other designs, creating a composition that resembles the natural world and its plentifulness, connecting women to fertility.

Berber Art

Who are the Berber People

Traditional Berber carpets contain distinctive patterns and colors and are woven from sheep wool or camel hair.

The materials are hand washed and naturally dyed from saffron yellow to wild mint green and from pomegranate and henna. These carpets are known for their strong geometric designs, and have been dated as far back as the Marinid era (Berber dynasty). Carpets in the middle Atlas generally have a traditional diamond grid. Even the wool itself is thought to have a protective power.

Berber weaving is highly dependent on the female culture, and is passed down traditionally within the home. The young learn from the old, and are expected to learn all the different ways to weave & loop, and the different patterns, color ranges, and symbols. Historically women wove carpets for their families, and the men traditionally produced carpets that were more specialized as professional master weavers. Each tribe has a signature pattern and commonly tells a story, revealing acts of ceremony, or designs that related to fertility and protection.

Who are the Berber People
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

The Music of the Berber People

You may hear Chaabi Music while you are in Morocco, and this is actually a common folk or ‘pop’ music that is very common at celebrations and markets. Typically an instrument known as a gimbri (sinter or hajhuj) a guitar with three strings and 4 chords typically played. The gimbri has a low bas like tone, and was borrowed from the popular Gnawa traditional music that is typically known as mystical and used in healing rituals commonly.

Who are the Berber People
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

Gnawa music was brought up from Sub-Sahara African areas and is common in Morocco amongst the Berber people, especially in Southern Morocco. Other instruments used are the Lira (a flute made of bamboo),

a Bendir (a drum played with the fingers) which has a snare stretched across the back that produces a buzzing sound when played,

a Darbouka (single head drum held under one arm),

and the Qraqeb (or karkabas)– this is a set of Metallic castanets or a type of symbol, originating from when the slaves would clang their chains together to make music & now has been adopted into traditional Gnawa music.

Who are the Berber People
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

In Summary:

Overall I find the Berber people to be kind, intelligent, family oriented, hospitable, positive, vibrant people full of life that I think most of the Western World has forgotten how to live. So if you have the privilege to meet someone who is Berber, ask them of their heritage and be sure to visit them on a Friday when the family gets together for some Couscous 😉

As Always….Happy Travels, Happy Tales and See you on the Flip Side.

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Mount Whitney Hike in Winter

Mount Whitney Hike in Winter

The Night I Thought Would Be My Last My first backpacking trip was an exciting prospect, but little did I know what a disaster it would turn out to be. It was November, and I was turning 30 years old & I had decided I was going to do something unique for my birthday. My roommate, Lo, a camping/100K/rugby superstar invited me to not only backpack but snow-shoe in winter up the mountaineering route on the second highest peak in the United States……Mount Whitney.

For the record, I have never been backpacking prior to this, I have never been snow-shoeing, I have never carried so much weight for so long on my back in my life. I had just received 2 steroid injections in my feet for Plantar Fasciitis. I was afraid of not being invited again, so I said, “OH! Really!?! That would be so fun!”

As the trip got closer I became anxious about what exactly I was to pack. I knew Lo would know what to pack, but I was embarrassed to ask for details — so I did what I do best…. ignored my problems and made it up as I went. I did a little research online and became even more terrified as the information I found warned me of people having to be flown off the mountain for medical emergencies.  Great……I was likely going to die on my birthday.

The day of the trip came, I didn’t weigh my pack, didn’t check to make sure the batteries were in the navigation device….but I set out on the trip anyway. We drove to California where we stayed with Lo’s family, picked up her cousin (a military man). Then we headed on over to Lone Pine where Mt Whitney awaited us, a 14,505-foot peak, with an elevation gain of 6,500 feet over 11 miles on the Mountaineers’ route.

Mount Whitney Hike in Winter

I was tasked with carrying the climbing rope, and we had to park quite a ways down the road and hike in because of rock slides and snow. The road was still fairly steep and by the time we got to the trailhead, we were all sweating to the point you could see the salt in our sweat. I had brought some music with me but was told that it was a cardinal rule when hiking with them that you should not listen to music. At this point is when I realized I may not have the mental nerves of steel to do this without music. Not wanting to appear like a pansy princess I continued to trudge forward.

At the trailhead, we put our snow-shoes and I felt the real challenge start. I was hot, heavy, red as a beet from sweating with huge metal/plastic things on my feet that I didn’t even know if they would work or how to hold my poles. I said a little prayer that I wouldn’t look stupid and started down the trail after Lo and her Cousin. The snow was powdery and soft & three feet deep (at least). I was just so glad there weren’t many people on the trail because there would be fewer people to make a fool of myself in front of.

It started to get hard for me about 20 minutes past the trailhead and I was sure to bring Cliff bars and had the water in my pack to slurp on. I was still dripping sweat and my hands were really cold. All I could think of while I was walking was, ‘I’m not even to the hard part yet and I already want to turn around, come on Janiel you are stronger than this. You need to get a good song in your head and just keep singing’. The only song that really worked was a rap song, ‘one step, come on two step come on. I hate rap but somehow it kept me going up all those switchbacks. 

Lo and her Cousin were blazing the trail & would switch off with creating steps up and down the snowbanks. They were always ahead of me or waiting for me & think I said sorry about 7,000 times. I knew if I didn’t pace myself that there was no way I was going to make it up the mountain and more importantly back down it. I would be too afraid of getting lost if I turned around at this point, because like a greenie knucklehead I forgot batteries for the GPS. I had no choice but to keep going & fought through the mental blocks.

I could tell they were thinking something every time I would catch up to them — but maybe it was my own anxiety and insecurities telling me that. The sun started to set and all the moisture from sweating and falling into the snow had seeped into my clothes started to make me quite cold. My water was frozen so I couldn’t drink any more water, I turned to eating the snow to at least get some moisture in my mouth. The further up we went the dizzier I became. I knew this symptom was a touch of altitude sickness combined with my asthma, but I refused to be any more of a weak link than I already felt like I was.

Mount Whitney Hike in Winter
Stages of Hypothermia

At one point I caught up with them, and Lo’s cousin took one look at me and said, ‘come here a second’.  I crossed the stream we were at and he pulled off my glove and panic set in a little bit when I realized the tips of my fingers were turning blue down to the first knuckle. I am a Physician Assistant and knew subconsciously what it was. I wasn’t thinking so clearly and all I could say in the panic was, ‘Why are my fingers turning blue?!?’ He immediately took both of my gloves off, shoved them in his pockets, took his warm gloves and put them on my hands. I think that is the point I started to develop a bit of a crush on this man. (I love a good Mountain Man, military trained tough nugget.)

We ate a little bit, refilled my water with non-frozen water and then kept walking and they stayed close to me after that, putting me in the middle of them. I knew I was slow, and could tell they were frustrated…..but what could I do? I knew I was trying as hard as I could, but this was my first trip doing any of this! Lo stayed quite and her cousin just told us stories and kept us laughing at least. We came to a really tough spot where we had to really try and get over this ‘hump’ in the snow — we all got over it and her cousin went ahead of me.

As soon as I got up he started talking and walking again, became a little off balance and stepped to the side & all I saw was his hiking poles going overhead and heard a large ‘THUNK’ sound. He had fallen into a hole where he was stepping on his snowshoes, had to take his pack off & was literally over his head in a snow bank. Lo and I were laughing so hard we couldn’t even help him out of the snow pit he had fallen into, which brought on more frustration from him. He was a great sport the whole time. I was glad he was there to offset my mood of feeling pitifully slow and weak.

Mount Whitney Hike in Winter

We came to an area they thought would be good to put the tent down. I had never been snow camping and felt so out of sorts in what I was supposed to do to help. I admit that I stood there, soaking it all in and trying to put as much as I could in my memory for if I ever did this again. In doing that I feel like I looked bad, as in lazy…. they asked if I wanted to help get the tent set up and I came out of my mental processing phase and said ‘oh yeah, sure! Sorry about that – what can I do?’. We got the tent set up and then hurriedly got into the tent and made some dinner that we all shared like we were starving animals….it was our Thanksgiving dinner of freeze-dried spaghetti and meatballs, mixed with the water we boiled & a pumpkin pie Cliff bar.

We all changed out of our wet, sweaty clothing and snuggled into our sleeping bags. I didn’t realize that I had inadvertently grabbed the 15-degree sleeping bag instead of the negative 15-degree sleeping bag. Once I laid down, I started to shiver hoping that I would get warm from the shivering. The ground was cold, there was condensation from our breath in the tent, the warmth of making dinner in the tent started to dissipate…..and that’s when I really started to shiver.

I’m not talking about the kind of shivering you get when you go sledding at night. I’m talking about the kind of shivering that makes you wonder if you are actually shivering, or if you are having seizures. I couldn’t stop, my adrenalin & panic kicked in – I was afraid to go asleep. I think Lo became a little worried and asked if I wanted to use her emergency blanket, I really appreciated the gesture and took her up on the offer. It wasn’t enough though, my body just couldn’t recover from being so cold.

Mount Whitney Hike in Winter

I pulled out the coat I had been wearing, put every piece of clothing I had on, opened up a pair of hand warmers I luckily brought and put them on my feet, my femoral arteries and my armpits- then squished into my sleeping bag like I was slipping into a condom & began to pray for forgiveness for all my sins. I told God that if he let me live through this night that I would be better and do better. I think at one point I cried a little when the convulsions finally started to slow down a little and I could feel my chest start to become a little warmer. Over the next 2 hours, it spread to my shoulders and hips. I don’t think I ever truly became ‘warm’, as long as my core body was warm – I felt like I wasn’t going to die from Hypothermia.

I think I was able to sleep around 3-4 hours that night (if I’m being generous). We awoke early the next day and started to pack up camp again. I felt like the Tin man from Wizard of Oz that hadn’t been oiled in 500 years but refused to complain. After breakfast they had me use my ice ax for the first time. I snowshoed up the hill above us a little bit and trialed that out & ended up burying the tent with snow….just bloody perfect. Let’s just put my rookie mountaineering mistakes on my ‘idiot’ tab for this trip (insert frustrated groan). I seriously considered calling myself the Bridget Jones of Yosemite. We unburied the tent and headed up the hill again, it was so steep we ended up having to do about 20 switchbacks just to get up this one hill.

We made it to a juncture that required her cousin to blaze the trail on the edge of an icy cliff…ON HIS KNEES. I’m not kidding people, he was crawling on his knees with his ice ax. There was a sheer drop off into the huge pine trees and jagged ice below.

My heart just started racing even writing this…. I was the next one to go along this real-life video game from Hell. I tried to swallow my emotions down, but it came bubbling out as I turned around to Lo and said, ‘Lo……I’M SCARED!’ she looked at me dead on and said, ‘Well, GO!’ I remember thinking, ‘God, please don’t let me die! After making it through last night I feel like this should not be the way I should die’.

I fought the shifting snow with my snow-shoes and got onto my knees trying to figure out how to hold my ice-ax properly without stabbing myself in the heart should I fall. About 15 feet along this ridge, I hear her cousin say something loudly. I stopped and looked ahead and couldn’t see much, but heard him yell, ‘Hey Lo, I don’t think we can go this way’. You could feel the disappointment behind me when she said, ‘Really?’. He responded emphatically, ‘Yeah, this is making me nervous & it gets really shifty up here’. I found out later that he had to use his ice ax so that he wouldn’t go sliding down the sheer drop off and it scared him a little to have us get in the same situation. I poker-faced my relief at having to turn back and not use this terrifying path.

We headed back to our last fork in the planned route and after Lo and her cousin talked they realized that there was just no way up the mountain at this point in the year. They tried to go another route and her cousin just ended up getting stuck in the brush and she had to help him out of it.
The decision was then made to head back down the mountain as it had defeated us with the icy conditions and depth of the snow. I could see the disappointment in both of their faces, and truly felt bad because I felt like I had ruined their dream of mountaineering Mt Whitney in the Wintertime.

Mount Whitney Hike in Winter

Heading back into town and had some good laughs along the way when Lo tried to ski down on her butt and her snowshoes ended up catching an edge, the momentum lifted her up whitewashing her face first in the snow. The weight of the backpack was so heavy it was pinning her down, which I didn’t realize, and she came up gasping.
Besides the negative self-talk that plagued me on this particular adventure. I have to say this was BY FAR, the most adventurous birthday I have ever had. I especially loved the surprise blueberry pie protein bar Lo had brought for me for my Birthday. I honestly think God saved me on this trip.

In the end, I still felt like I was the weak link on this Mount Whitney hike and was determined to prove myself again. It took a whole year to be invited somewhere again, but I still feel like I’m one tough broad and did a dang good job of persevering despite the complexity & difficulty of this particular venture.

Mount Whitney Hike in Winter

So what is my message to all those out there that it is your first time backpacking? BE KIND TO YOURSELF! If it is hard, keep going, but know your limitations, ask questions, communicate and make sure you choose people to go with who are patient, kind and good-humored should you fail.

Make your first time backpacking an easy summer, spring, or fall so you can get used to the weight of your pack & train your leg muscles to work that hard (especially your calves). Remember to have fun, and take your time when backpacking – it doesn’t matter how quickly you go, or how fast you make it to the top. You are in nature, to enjoy nature and the peace that comes from being away from the rat race of life.

As Always…Happy Travels, Happy Tales and See You on the Flip Side.

Where To Stay

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Explore Prague’s Cathedrals

Explore Prague’s Cathedrals

Religion has always been tied to Europe’s past and cultural foundation, especially in Prague. Known for its Baroque architecture, it is now called Europe’s Hollywood. The best examples of both culture and beautiful architecture lies in the heart of its Cathedrals. So come explore Prague’s Cathedrals and see just how much these buildings influenced their culture even to this day.

St George’s Basilica

Address: 119 08 Prague 1, Czechia

This is the city’s second oldest church, built around 920AD. If you look closely at the exterior, the two white towers behind the pink façade looming over its visitors are not quite equal in width. This was done on purpose as a point of symbolism. The wider steeple on the Southside is called Adam, the narrower North tower is called Eve and is built at a slight tilt towards Adam.

The Basilica had to be rebuilt in 1142 after a massive fire and was later rebuilt. The Baroque style façade was added later in 1671.

Its ceiling is designed from a deep dark wood when you look up at the ceiling it seems miles away. This is due to the narrowness of the building making it appear as if the heavens themselves are lifting the ceiling right off.

There are often classical concerts in the evenings that you can attend. Going to one of these concerts is quite romantic.

Concerts: Check out Prague Concerts for more information

Ticket Prices: Look on the Prague Castle Website for more information on current tours available.

St Vitus Cathedral

Address: Prague Castle, Prague 119 01, Czech Republic

This Prague Cathedral took over 600 years to build and was pivotal in the religious wars that happened in Prague. It houses some of the most important historical artifacts to Prague history including 14th century mosaic of the Last Judgment, tombs of St Wenceslas and Charles IV, a baroque silver tomb of St John Nepomuk, and the lavishly designed Chapel of St Wenceslas.

Cathedrals in Prague

I found out later that the doors are from 1953, and then the first layers of the church foundation were placed in 1344 (during the time of Emperor Charles IV).

Without taking up too much space this building encompasses several different styles over several centuries. The foundation is a Romanesque rotunda, then a French Gothic style was adopted, after which followed the late-Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque details, and finally, the Cathedral was consecrated in 1929 with a 20th-century modern stained glass window you are able to view as you enter.

Despite not being officially consecrated until 1929 several coronations of Czech Kings and Queens took place here. The naming of the Cathedral was after the Patron Saint of the Czech Republic, Saint Wenceslaus.

Wenceslaus was the son of a Duke and a Mother who was previously a daughter of a Pagan Tribal chief & forced to convert to Christianity. When he was 13 his father died and his Grandmother became reagent, his mother was so angry about this she plotted and killed his Grandmother. Immediately after her death, Wenceslaus’s mother began taking terrible actions against Christians in the area. For 5 years Christians were targeted until Wenceslas was 18 he assumed leadership of the government. His mother was exiled for her crimes against Christians & for the murder of his Grandmother. His brother Boleslav plotted with 3 other nobles to take power and killed Wenceslas after stabbing and lancing him to death at a feast for the Saints of Cosmas and Damian. Immediately after his death, Wenceslaus was considered a martyr and a saint. Different stories and biographies were written and circulated about his life, and thus still remains a legend with many tales being sung and told of his life and legend throughout Prague.

St Nicholas Church

Address: Parizska Street, Old Town Square Prague

This is the most famous Baroque church in Prague. This charming chapel is located in Lesser town. A former Gothic chapel once stood here and was built over, this chapel was consecrated in 1283. St Nicholas Church was built over this and is considered the most valuable Baroque buildings North of the Alps. It took nearly 100 years to complete its construction. The 259 foot (79 meters) dome makes this the tallest interior in Prague. The Jesuit Chapel was completed in 1710 after a generous donation of a prominent Czech citizen donating his entire estate worth 178,500 gold for the construction.

Prague's Cathedrals

The Jesuit order was abolished by Pope Clement XIV in 1751, and St Nicholas became the main parish of the lesser town. During the communist era, the church tower was used as an observation deck for State Security. From the tower, the State Police could spy on the American and Yugoslav embassies as well as the access route to the West German embassy.

After the war St Nicholas Church was handed over to the Hussite movement, which utilizes the beautiful building for both its services as well as classical concerts.

Hours: Only open for Mass or concerts, see the Mass Schedule

Church of our Lady before Tyn

Address: Old Town Square, Old Town, Prague 1, Czech Republic

When first seeing the imposing towers, I thought surely Maleficent would poke her head out of one of the upper windows and a crow would caw and circle overhead. Maybe the Witch from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and her monkeys would take flight saying ‘I’ll get you my pretties’. Needless to say despite being a cathedral, the towers look very Gothic and a bit on the spooky side, not the spiritual side.

You will likely use this church as a focal point for your walk around Prague. That was always the idea, wasn’t it? To have a church be higher than all of the surrounding buildings to draw people to the center of town and to God.

Church of Our Lady Before Tyn

The Church of Our Lady before Tyn was founded in 1385. In the 15th century, the Hussites came in and took control of the church.

Hussite Definition: a member or follower of the religious movement begun by John Huss. After Huss’s execution, the Hussites took up arms against the Holy Roman Empire and demanded a set of reforms that anticipated the Reformation. Most of the demands were granted in 1436, and a church was established that remained independent of the Roman Catholic Church until 1620.

The two dominating towers are 262 feet high (80meters). One tower, Adam, is larger than the other, Eve, a classic Gothic architecture play on feminine and masculine parts of life. As you walk inside, notice the Organ, it dates from 1673 and is the oldest in Prague.

You can still attend Roman Catholic Mass today, as well as classical concerts.

St Salvator Church

Address: St. Salvator Church in the Old Town Salvátorská 1, Old Town, Prague 1, Czech Republic

This Church marks the entrance into Old Town of Prague. Built between 1578-1601, built on the foundation of the former Dominican gothic church of Saint Clement. It was later sold to the Order of the Jesuits in 1863, who remain the caretakers and owners to this day.

 The exterior is decorated by the statues made by Jan Jiri Bendl. They represent the Saviour Christ flanked by the four evangelists. Inside, the altarpiece was painted by Jiří Hering in 1632 after “Transfiguration of Christ” by Raffael. The ceiling fresco symbolizes the four continents known at the time.

If you head down to the crypts, you will find an unlikely paradox of patrons buried there. In St Salvator Crypts lies Father Koniáš, the “destroyer of Czech books”, but also Bohuslav Balbín, the “defender of the Czech language”.

Concerts: There is a wide variety of Concerts available in St Salvator Church

Why Visiting Cathedrals in Prague is Important

Visiting Prague is like going straight to the heart of Hollywood for Europe. My favorite Church was likely the Church of Our Lady before Tyn and the unique pink façade of St George’s Basilica. Although I realize many people do not hold the same beliefs, or even believe in God – if you love history or the human struggle then visiting these churches is a must.

The collection of Cathedrals in Prague as a whole will give you a better idea of how much religion has been fought about and over in this region. It may not have been as brutal in Prague as it was in other parts of Europe, but as an American, the struggle of Protestant vs Christians throughout European history is shocking and astonishing. If nothing else, the tour of these Cathedrals will highlight specifically what Prague is known for…..the melding and molding of architectural styles to create true masterpieces.

Where to Stay in Prague
Things to do in Crescent City California

Things to do in Crescent City California

Not many people know where Crescent City is, likely because of the nearby Redwood Forest that frequently overshadows this quaint town. Yet for those who don’t want to spend the entire time in the Redwood forest, here are a few tips on what to do in Crescent City California. I have also included the best Redwood Groves, and tips for visiting.

Things to do in Crescent City California

Battery Point Lighthouse:

Built in 1856 with 22 inch thick slabs of granite, this lighthouse is only accessible at low tide. The beach near this area is quite small but full of agates that locals come to regularly collect and make into jewelry. If you look to the right, there is a house nearby that has a comical yard piece that made me laugh til I cried…..the one and only, Harry the Henderson.

Things to do in Crescent City California

Beaches near Crescent City:

South Beach is the first beach you will come to when heading North up through California. This is a very popular beach in winter and summer. Here you will find some of the best tide pools near Crescent City, and if you are lucky you may see the annual Noll Longboard Classic Surf Contest.

Things to do in Crescent City California

Endert’s Beach

Endert’s Beach is my favorite Beach near Crescent city. This place is a hidden gem right off of the 101 hwy, with sand dollars, sand crabs at low tide and fishing for red-tailed surf perch at high tide. There are plenty of agates, shells, and other fun gems on this beach as well. This beach is perfect for that holiday BBQ as they have picnic tables and BBQ stands every 500 feet or so. There is hardly anyone on this beach & the perfectly untouched sand stretches on for miles. We let our dogs off the leashes and let them run for miles and miles.

Redwood Forest

Things to do in Crescent City California

Simpson Reed Grove 

This Redwood Grove is great for families and those with children. The path is easy and full of the gentle giant Redwood Trees that have created a natural playground. Climb over the enormous trees, hide in the center of the fallen giants, wiggle across branches that have created natural bridges.

Stout Grove

Things to do in Crescent City California

This is the grove that is a favorite among locals due to it being right by the shoreline of a river. Here you see these massive trees and then a beautiful river running right next to it. The best time to visit is in the summer around 3-5pm during the golden sunlit hour. Be sure to bring loads of mosquito repellent as they are quite bad in the summertime.

Smith River:

Things to do in Crescent City California

If you are not much of an Adrenalin junkie, then you may prefer to Kayak or Tube the River by the Redwood Groves lining the shores. Take a dip in the Smith River at South Fork where the water is crystal clear and will give you a refreshing jolt to those on a road trip.
Try your luck at fishing, the Smith River is the best place for salmon, trout and steelhead fishing in the whole State of California.
There is also class IV-Class V white-water-rafting, snorkeling with the salmon and trout, and taking a helicopter to the only open water lighthouse open to the public….St. George Reef Lighthouse.

Trees of Mystery:

Things to do in Crescent City California

This is the slightly more commercialized area of the Redwood forest, with statues of lumberjacks and a chair lift that takes you soaring above the skyline of the forest below. This is the ideal place to go if your party or family is feeling a little run down as it has a museum, a forest café, and six different trails that everyone can enjoy.

Ocean World:

Things to do in Crescent City California

Takes about 2 hours, has a little show with sea lions, kids get to touch the fish. The aquarium has a guided tour of the sea life touch pool, aquarium & sea lion/seal show.

Why Visit Crescent City California

Things to do in Crescent City California

When you first drive into Crescent City California, you will think you are driving into a bit of a ghost town. This is likely because most of those who do live there are out exploring the surrounding areas themselves. With so many wonderful outdoor adventures from whitewater rafting, the Redwood Groves, the Smith River, and the plentiful tide pools and ocean activities… it is hardly a ghost town. Crescent City is a town teeming with adventure waiting to be had.

As Always Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See You on the Flip Side.

Where to Stay in Crescent City California

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