Posts Tagged one perfect day

One Perfect Day: The James River Plantations

1 April 2011
The James River Plantations, located in Virginia between Williamsburg and Richmond, date back to 1613 and have witnessed much of America’s history, from the early settlements at nearby Jamestown to key events of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Be prepared to hear intriguing stories, fascinating historical tales, and to be dazzled by the homes’ stunning architectural features and breathtaking natural settings.

Tip: Before you take this memorable journey back in time, pack a few things that will make your day even more enjoyable: a picnic lunch, a blanket, cushions, binoculars, camera, book, and drinking water.

Sherwood Forest

9:00 am — Stop at Sherwood Forest, home of the 10th U.S. President John Tyler (president from 1841-1845). The plantation dates from 1616 and has been in use for almost 400 years. The house is America’s longest frame-house at 300 ft in length. If you have time, take the grounds tour ($10). There’s a little box for you to slip in your money and grab a brochure. The house is open by appointment only and tours cost $35 per person. Grounds are open from 9 am to 5 pm daily.

9:30 am — As you head to the next stop, Berkeley Plantation, take time to read the numerous historical markers lining both sides of Route 5. You can also stop at Evelynton, Westover, and other plantations along the way, though most are open for grounds tours only.

Berkeley Plantation

10:00 am — Stop at Berkeley Plantation, site of the first Thanksgiving and the place where “Taps” was composed. Berkeley Plantation is one of two plantations that cannot be missed (the other is Shirley Plantation). Allow 1- 1 1/2 hour to view the documentary film and to visit the house on a guided tour. Berkeley is open daily Jan to mid-March 10:30 am – 3:30 pm, mid-March to December 9:30 am – 4:30 pm. Admission: $11 adults, $6 children 6-12, $7.50 students 13-16. AAA, Military and Senior discounts available (10%).

12:00 pm — Berkeley is the perfect spot for a picnic lunch. You can either tailgate in the parking lot, take advantage of the picnic tables near the house, or lay a blanket under the willows on the vast lawn and lunch in full view of the majestic James River. 

12:30 pm — Walk the grounds and make your way down to the river, pausing at one of the many benches until fancy moves you on. Sit on a log with your back to the house and your feet in the James River. There is lots to see, including the “Taps” memorial,  the formal gardens, and the air-conditioned gazebo.

2:00 pm — Leave for Shirley Plantation. Note historical markers along the way.

Shirley Plantation

2:15 pm — Arrive at Shirley Plantation and purchase tickets for the next available tour. Walk around the gardens while you wait for the bell to ring, announcing your tour. There’s a lovely covered area to wait outside of the gift shop, or you can sit under the pergola in the flower garden. Allow 45 minutes for the house tour and additional time for visiting the grounds and out buildings. Shirley is open daily from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm. Admission: $11 adults, $10 seniors, $7.50 Youth (6-18), free under 6, AAA and Military discounts available.
4:30 pm — Visit grounds of other plantations in the area, like Piney Grove. Head back towards Williamsburg on Route 5 at a leisurely pace.

5:30 pm — Eat at Charles City Tavern (reservations recommended, especially on weekends). For a review of Charles City Tavern and hours of operation, click here. If you are looking for seafood on the water, consider the Blue Heron; if looking for sandwich-type fare, check out Cul’s Courthouse Grille. None of these options suit your fancy? Keep driving to Williamsburg where there’s plenty of variety. 

Ferry View of the James River

7:00 pm — After dinner, head out again on Route 5 in the direction of Williamsburg. Follow signs for the ferry.  Take the ferry over to Scotland (it’s free) and back again. You can see the replicas of the 3 ships at Jamestown and other beautiful views. There’s not much to see in Scotland except countryside, but it makes for a nice and peaceful drive. 

Those who live in amazing historical places often think to themselves, “Someday I’ll explore this area, but not now: I’m too busy.” And the days turn into years. To anyone contemplating a visit to the James River Plantations, I say go and go now: clear your calendar, get a road map, and make your way down scenic Route 5 and its beautiful plantation homes. You’ll be glad you did.

One Perfect Day in Oxford

5 November 2010

With over 800 years of history, Oxford is a remarkable city that masterfully combines the old and the new, embracing modern advancements while holding on to centuries-old traditions. The University of Oxford, housed within the city, consists of 39 individual colleges with a total of over 20,000 students from around the world.

St. Mary the Virgin

8:00 am  — Start the day with a leisurely croissant and coffee breakfast at one of the local shops. I recommend the Starbucks on Cornmarket St. — not because it’s Starbucks but because the second floor windows allow for some of the best people watching in Oxford.

9:00 am — Climb 127 steps up the tower of St. Mary the Virgin for some commanding panoramas of Oxford’s famed “Dreaming Spires.”

10:00 am — Book an afternoon tour at the Bodleian Library. Browse the free exhibit while in the Bodleian’s courtyard.  

10:30 am — Have a look around the Oxford Information Centre, ask questions, buy souvenirs, and grab some brochures.  

10:45 am — Take a pre-booked University & City Walking Tour led by an experienced Blue Badge Guide.  

Walking Tour

12:00 pm — Explore the sights and smells of the historic Covered Market near the site where goldsmiths, tanners, and mercers would trade in the Middle Ages. Grab lunch at one of the quaint eateries like Brown’s Cafe or Sofi de France.  

2:00 pm — Take a tour of the Bodleian Library, one the oldest libraries in Europe.  

3:00 pm — Time for a photo op! Take advantage of all the beautiful landmarks in the “heart of Oxford” like the Radcliffe Camera, the Bridge of Sighs, and the Sheldonian Theatre.  

3:30 pm — Change your shoes for a “smart casual” look and head over to the Randolph Hotel. Relax in the quintessential British atmosphere of the Drawing Room as you enjoy traditional afternoon tea complete with warm, buttery scones, little cakes and pastries, and specialty tea sandwiches.  

4:45 pm — Cross the street to the oldest public museum in Britain, the Ashmolean Museum. Allow more time or schedule a return trip if you are an avid museum fan.  

6:00 pm — Attend Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral for an unforgettable experience that defies description.  

7:30 pm — Do your research ahead of time and book tickets for one of the many concerts in Oxford’s historic venues such as Holywell Music Room (where Handel performed), Exeter College, New College, or the Sheldonian.  

Aka. The Bird & Baby

10:00 pm — Grab fish & chips at The Eagle & Child where C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and their fellow Inklings would read and discuss their unfinished manuscripts. This is a great place to chat with Oxford locals.  

A Note About Reservations: If you only have one day in Oxford book your reservations for the walking tour and the afternoon tea at the Randolph in advance either by phone or by email. Booking for Bodleian tour must be done in person on the day of the tour.

One Perfect Day in London

20 September 2010

As the cultural, political and business center of the United Kingdom, London is like LA, DC, and NYC all rolled into one. You’ll enjoy discovering this vibrant, multi-faceted city, even if you only have one day.         


Big Ben

Big Ben

8:30 am – Beat the crowds to Parliament Square and snap pictures at leisure of Big Ben – the world’s most famous clock – and the Houses of Parliament.

Tip: Some of London’s biggest attractions like the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace are only open to tourists seasonally. Check before you go to see if you can reserve tickets online. 

9:15 am – Join the “queue” for tickets at Westminster Abbey. 

9:30 am – Walk through Westminster Abbey, the coronation place of royalty and burial place of the famous. Take the 60-minute audio tour included with the entrance fee. You’ll hate to leave after only an hour but will have gotten an excellent overview. 

10:35 am – Walk to St. James’s Park. As you turn right onto Horse Guards St. and walk past the War Rooms & Churchill Museum, glance to the right at No. 10 Downing Street.

10:45am – Grab a coffee and snack “to go” at Inn the Park or one of four refreshment points in St. James’s Park, then head towards Buckingham Palace.  

Changing of the Guard11:15 am – Secure a good viewing point for the Changing of the Guard and shoot pictures of Buckingham Palace as you wait for the ceremony to begin. 

Tip: The Changing of the Guard takes place daily in the summer but alternate days outside of summer. Check online schedule to avoid disappointment. 

11:30 am – Witness the Changing of the Guard, an ageless pageant full of color, sound, and drama. The ceremony lasts about 40 minutes.  

12:10 pm – Walk up the Mall towards Admiralty Arch. Hang a left and you’ll see Nelson’s Column across the way. That’s Trafalgar Square.  

12:20 pm – It’s lunchtime. Fortunately, you’re in Trafalgar Square and choices abound. Look around the square for appealing restaurants or consider eating in the National Gallery itself.

Tip: For additional choices, including fast food and Italian, walk up the road between the National Gallery and St-Martin-in-the-Fields to Leicester Square.   


1:00 pm After lunch, browse the National Gallery with the help of the complimentary Highlights audio tour. Admission is free. 

2:00 pm – Take a left just past the National Gallery. A few steps after the National Portrait Gallery turn into Irving Street and walk through Little Italy to Leicester Square.   

2:05 pm – Wander through Leicester Square where red carpet events and London premieres are held with royalty and movie stars in attendance. Notice the ticket booth on one side of the park: “Tkts” offers half-priced tickets to the evening’s shows on a first-come, first-served basis.  

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's

2:20 pm  – Take a taxi, subway, or walk to St. Paul’s Cathedral. At St. Paul’s be sure to allot enough time to see not only the nave and the Whispering Gallery, but also to climb up the dome for some outstanding views of London. 

Tip: If you’ve invested in the London Pass you can jump the line at St. Paul’s and save time, as the queue seems to get quite long. At £40 for one day, however, the pass may not be worth the money. 

 4:00 pm – Enjoy a leisurely and stylish afternoon tea at the Restaurant in St. Paul’s

5:00 pm – Take a taxi, subway, or walk to the London Eye, near the Houses of Parliament but on the other side of the river. 

5:30 pm – The “flight” on the London Eye takes 30 minutes, but allow an hour to an hour and a half because of wait times. Be prepared for spectacular views of places you’ve seen throughout the day. 

Tip: You can book tickets for the London Eye in advance on their website, even if you don’t know the exact time you’ll arrive. 


7:00 pm Head for Piccadilly Circus and Trocadero, London’s equivalent of New York’s Time Square, for a dizzying taste of the city’s nightlife. Nearby Chinatown offers a multitude of delicious options for a quick pre-theatre dinner. 

7:30 pm – Take in a favorite musical performed on the London stage in the famous West End district. Alternatively, attend an unforgettable performance of a Shakespearian play at the reconstructed Globe Theatre in the Southwark District.   

10:00 pm – Congratulations! You’ve seen the highlights of London! Your feet are killing you, your mind is spinning, but don’t forget to plan another trip to London: there is still much more to see!

For other perfect days, see Paris and Beijing.

One Perfect Day In Beijing

10 September 2010

The “must-sees” in Beijing are spread out over a large area. If time is short, it’s best to limit your excursions to sites in the central part of the city. Here is an itinerary for a non-stop but adventure-filled day:

Gate of Forbidden CityDawn – For early risers: Catch the flag-raising ceremony in Tiananmen Square. (Late risers, don’t despair: there is also a flag-lowering ceremony at sundown.)

8:00 am – Stroll the infamous Tiananmen Square where the controversial events of June 4, 1989 took place.

8:45 am – Visit the Forbidden City and discover its hidden secrets.

12:30 pm – Take a taxi to the north side of Beihai Lake, between Beihai and Qianhai Lakes (Back Lakes region). Stroll around Qianhai Lake and choose an appealing restaurant for lunch. You can even eat on a boat!

2:00 pm – Stroll around Beihai Park and lake, take a boat ride, visit Jade Island and the White Pagoda (highest point in Beijing, great views of Forbidden City on a clear day).

Boats on Beihai Lake

Boats on Beihai Lake

4:30 pm – Take a tour of the city’s hutong by pedicab. Find a pedicab guide outside of Starbucks on the southside of Qianhai Lake and see if you can bargain your way to a reasonable price.

6:30 pm – Take a taxi to Wangfujing Dajie for some famous Beijing Duck at Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant.

9:30 pm – Walk a few steps to the east of Wangfujing Dajie to Donghuamen Night Market to sample some exotic fare and mingle with interesting people. Then return to your hotel for a Pepto Bismal and a well-earned night’s rest.

Want more information on traveling in Beijing? Check out

One Perfect Day in Paris

3 September 2010

Notre Dame, Paris

If you only have one day in Paris, the first thing to do is to plan a return trip! But if a day is all you have, then get up early, grab a croissant from a local boulangerie and head straight for the Eiffel Tower.

8:30 am Arrive early at the Eiffel Tower and beat the crowds.Then take the train or walk to Pont de l’Alma, and cross the bridge to the other side of the Seine River.

Tip: The third floor views from the Eiffel Tower are impressive but, since you have to pay extra, don’t bother if it’s not a clear day. You’ll see just as much or more from the second floor.

 10:30 am – Take a Seine Cruise on a Bateaux-Mouches. These pleasure-boats operate between 10:00 am and 11:00 pm daily and depart every 30 minutes during the summer high season (less frequent departures in winter). The boat ride lasts about 1hr15. After the boat tour, hop on the metro at Alma Marceau and go one stop to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

12:00 pm – Walk down the Champs-Elysées toward the Arch of Triumph and decide on a good place to eat. Take your time (before eating, you might like to go to the top of the Arch – admission is free with the Paris Museum Pass).

2:30 pm – Take the metro or walk to the Palais Royal/Musée du Louvre stop. From the metro, stay underground and enter through the Carrousel du Louvre entrance, which is usually less crowded than other entrances. Visitors who already have tickets can use a special entrance at the Passage Richelieu between rue de Rivoli and the courtyard.

3:30 pm – At the information desk, look for a pamphlet called “Visitors in a Hurry” that highlights the museum’s star exhibits (or check out the Louvre’s website before you go). Allow at least two hours. After your visit, head over by metro to St-Michel and look for any exit that says “Notre-Dame.”

6:00 pm – Walk through Notre-Dame (ask about guided tours in English). Admission is free, but there are often long lines. When you’ve finished your visit, walk through the plaza in front of the cathedral and hang a left over the Petit Pont to the Latin Quarter.

The Latin Quarter is a great place to buy souvenirs. It has lots of selection and competitive pricing.

7:00 pm – Pick a place that looks inviting among the many restaurants in the Latin Quarter. This area is known for its culinary diversity and selection: you’ll find everything from traditional French cuisine to Greek and Arab food. Enjoy a leisurely meal like the French do, and don’t forget to savor your surroundings. From the Latin Quarter, take the metro to Anvers.

9:00 pm – From the Anvers station, follow the signs to the funiculaire de Montmartre. For a small fee or a metro ticket, this cable car takes you to the top of the Butte de Montmartre for extraordinary views of the City of Light. You’ll recognize several places that you visited during the day. From the Butte de Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur, follow signs to the Place du Tertre.

9:45 pm – The Place du Tertre is the artists’ quarter. Browse around for a painting to take home, if it fits into your budget and your suitcase. Take time out for a cup of coffee or an ice cream cone at one of the quaint (and overpriced) cafés around the square. If you weren’t able to buy souvenirs in the Latin Quarter, you may want to do so here in the Place du Tertre before saying au revoir to Paris and calling it a night.