SeaWorld Orlando’s Newest Attraction Opens

Wednesday June 26, 2013 at 1:01 PM | 14 Comments

Seaworld Antarctica

Disclosure: I was a guest of SeaWorld’s for this event. All opinions are my own.

SeaWorld Orlando has changed quite a bit over the last 10-15 years, adding new shows and thrill rides to their already popular theme park. But last month, SeaWorld Orlando opened their largest attraction expansion to date – Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin.

Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is a new realm, which includes a new quick-service cafe, a large penguin-themed gift shop, an educational wall, a penguin habitat, and a new family-friendly ride. The ride is likely to be one of the most popular spots at SeaWorld Orlando – and it’s perfect for the whole family.

In the ride, families follow the adventures of a baby penguin named Puck as he learns about his new world. It offers both a mild and wild version, although both versions are relatively tame. The ride ends right in the new penguin habitat, where you can watch penguins frolic in an environment that mimics their natural home in Antarctica (SeaWorld employees traveled to Antarctica to ensure the habitat was as real as possible). It’s 32 degrees in the habitat, but the ride queue helps you acclimate to the temperature as you progress through the line. If it’s too cold for you, there’s also a penguin viewing area outside of the habitat.

The new Expedition Cafe offers Italian, American, and Chinese food, and has both outdoor and indoor seating. A highlight is the new Coca-Cola Freestyle machine kiosk, where guests can purchase a “Cup that Cares”, a reusable cup that features a chip at the bottom which calculates the CO2 you save from using it. You’ll also want to check out the penguin-themed gift shop, which offers lots of fun penguin merchandise.

SeaWorld Orlando’s Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is a must-visit for families with penguin-loving kids. You can learn more about SeaWorld Orlando’s Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, on their website.

If you go: Remember that the ride and the habitat are both kept very cold – bring along a sweatshirt if you plan to stay in the habitat for a while.  

This is a guest post by Jodi Grundig of Family Travel Magazine. Photos are courtesy of Jodi Grundig.

BeachCandy Swimsuit Review

Monday June 24, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 1 Comment

BeachCandy Elysia

Beach Candy “Elysia” swimsuit review

Plus size women – we sweat swimsuit season. Our number one priority is to find a swimsuit that fits our plus size figures. Priority number two; locate a swimsuit that fits and is figure flattering to our body shape. With that in mind, I was eager to review BeachCandy bathing suits. Brit B. the Orange County California-based designer of these luxury swimsuits, is confident that her high-end bathing suits cater to all ages and sizes. Some of her swimwear is custom-made with Swarovski Crystal detail, resulting in fashionable and sexy BeachCandy swimsuits.

Figure flattering swimsuits

While there are many BeachCandy swimsuit styles to select from, in sizes ranging from extra small to extra large, I chose the “Elysia” shirred one piece in navy. The swimsuit provided full coverage from the back of the bathing suit to the all important stomach area. I confess that I was self conscious with the low plunging neckline, but after I received compliments from the women in my deep water aerobics class, I felt comfortable with the swimsuit style.

BeachCandy Elysia swimwear

Beach Candy travel swimwear

Crystal Beach Candy

As the name implies, BeachCandy is a clever play on eye candy for men and women. Swimwear designer and owner Brit B. added the option of purchasing Swarovski crystals to each BeachCandy swimsuit. I can’t speak to how the swimsuit holds up to wash and wear with the addition of Swarovski crystals. I can tell you that the suit holds up well to chlorine and salt water conditions, holds its shape, is well made and drys fast. Color options for the “Elysia” shirred one piece swimsuit are black licorice, white chocolate, carmel and navy.  The “Elysia” swimsuit retails for $164. without candy (crystals.)

Custom-made swimwear

Located in Corona del Mar, California, the BeachCandy Swimwear Boutique is the place to find the perfect swimsuit. From bikini tops and bottoms to one piece ready-made swimsuits, there is a swimsuit to fit every body type. For those not living near or traveling to Southern California, BeachCandy swimwear is available online or may be made to order.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow BeachCandy Swimwear on Twitter @BeachCandySwim.

Where to buy

BeachCandy (949) 640-0988

2824 E. Pacific Coast Highway
Corona del Mar, CA 92625

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BeachCandy swimwear review written by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California.  BeachCandy supplied me with this swimsuit for a travel apparel review.

Villa Pedra Natural Houses near Coimbra, Portugal

Friday June 21, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 3 Comments

Villa Pedra Natural House

Villa Pedra Natural Houses review in Central Portugal

While many people are familiar with Lisbon, Portugal, a lot of travelers enjoy venturing off the typical tourist track. If you love to discover new places and enjoy the feeling of staying in a home away from home – I have a special treat waiting for you in central Portugal. Villa Pedra Natural Houses remind me of the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun.” However, this story involves several men visiting and falling in love with Aldeia de Cima- Cotas, Portugal, a small village, formerly abandoned, one and a half hours outside of Lisbon.



Villa Pedra central Portugal

My view of central Portugal from Villa Pedra Natural Houses

Villa Pedra Natural Houses

Situated near Coimbra, Portugal, Villa Pedra Natural Houses are like the phoenix rising from the ashes. In fact, one of the owners, Manuel Casal, shows me some of the ancient coins that they discovered on the slopes of Serra do Sicó, while building their natural houses made of limestone block walls. The last inhabitants lived in the area of Aldeia de Cima over 80 years ago. Now home to nearby marble and granite quarries, this area near Coimbra was the ideal location to build Villa Pedra Natural Houses, a unique lodging concept in central Portugal.

Along with a third partner, owners Manuel Casal and Victor Mineiro, decided to build seven natural houses, with plans for seven additional stone houses. “I was in the tourist business for 10 years,” notes Casal. “I wanted a place where people could stay, but not in a “normal” way. You come here and this is your home. We have kitchen gardens for each house.”


Villa Pedra interior

Farm fresh breakfast at Villa Pedra Natural Houses, Central Portugal

Have it your way at Villa Pedra

With a stocked refrigerator of butter, fresh cheese, local jams, fruit, yogurt and farm-fresh eggs, guests may have breakfast whenever they want in the privacy of their own house. A fresh loaf of bread, baked locally, is delivered in the morning, to your door. A bottle of local wine, along with fresh cheese and bread is waiting in a basket upon arrival to your natural stone house.


Villa Pedra house for couple or family

Each natural stone house, named after a tree, is designed by director Victor Mineiro. All houses welcome families or couples. The owners restore and recycle furniture, acquired from their many travels. Of course, the kitchen and beds are new. With Pirelli beds and 100% Portuguese cotton sheets, it is easy to enjoy a good night’s sleep.


Villa Pedra bedroom

Relax at Villa Pedra Natural Houses, Portugal

Relax at Villa Pedra

With 32 types of orchids on the property and the surrounding area, as well as fruit trees of every kind, guests may enjoy the Villa Pedra grounds or relax at the swimming pool. I will remember my stay at Villa Pedra with a full moon hanging outside my balcony and dinner with my hosts Manuel and Victor.

Our dinner began with chorizo sausage with honey and Porto red wine, followed with creamy vegetable soup, potatoes roasted with fresh herbs, salad from the garden and fish in a cream sauce.


Need to know

Villa Pedra requires a two night minimum stay.  Cost of the stay at Villa Pedra, one house, one couple, with breakfast, 120 euros. Check the website for current pricing.


Insider tip

Villa Pedra will soon be opening a restaurant for guests of the natural houses.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter.

Villa Pedra pool

Villa Pedra Natural Houses pool in Central Portugal

If You Go:

Villa Pedra Natural Houses 351 910 731 194

Rua do Rechio e Seladas

Aldeia de Cima – Cotas

3130 – 092 Soure, Portugal

Article written by and photos courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of VisitCentro, Portugal Tourism and SATA Airlines.

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Things to See and Do in Coimbra, Portugal