All posts by Laura the Explora

Love to travel, always longing to experience new places.

Motivational Travel Thoughts

dsc02310In this episode, we answer some of the emails we receive. As we claim to learn a lot about ourselves in the opening and closing of each of our podcasts, many of our listeners want to know what we learn from our travels. We share a little of ourselves and the things we learn, like listening to others, accepting others beliefs and not trying to make others believe the same as we believe. We also share a story of how we learn gratefulness. So join us and share your own thoughts with us!


Please remember to join our site. It’s a great help to our mission.dsc02158

Madrid: What area should we stay? Listener Question and Answer

"Live Statue" in Sol
“Live Statue” in Sol

 A couple from California is visiting Madrid in June, to explore the city, see museums, eat good food, and relax.

Q: We’re thinking of renting an apartment for a week in Madrid.  We have seen some units that we like around the Prado, and others around the Puerta del Sol. We like walking to restaurants and enjoying the city ambiance, but also appreciate a bit of quiet now and then.  Any recommendations are appreciated?

A:   Out of the 2 areas you mentioned, choose the Prado area for a more quiet apartment along with easy proximity to the museums, Retiro Park, restaurants, and shops. The area surrounding Puerta del Sol is a bustling, busy area; however there are plenty of side streets that are very quiet at night.  We like staying in the Sol area because it is right in the heart of it all.  All streets radiate from Puerta del Sol like the spokes of a bicycle.  It is an easy walk in one direction to Plaza Mayor, Mercado San Miguel, the Palace, Opera House, and the El Rastro area with the Sunday Market.

In the opposite direction you can walk to the Prado and museum campus along with Retiro Park.

In another direction you find Gran Via and many other shopping streets.

In a forth direction from Sol, you quickly find an endless supply of great Tapas places and restaurants.

Located one block off  Puerta del Sol is the huge department store and grocery, El Cortes Inglese, which makes it very convenient for picking up any items you may need, such as water and snacks, food and any household goods for living in Madrid.

We also enjoy being able to drop into our hotel or apartment throughout the day for a quick rest, and staying in the center of it all provides that with ease. There are so many great neighborhoods in Madrid to explore and stay in, each with it’s own personality.

Enjoy the planning and fall in love with Madrid, as we have! Please contact  us for any other information you may require.


Podcast: Klagenfurt, Austria: Travel Tips, A Chicken Breast, and Body Painting


Join us in Klagenfurt, Austria at the World Body Painting Festival. In addition, Laura provides a travel tip you’ve probably not heard, ever.  We offer tidbits of information on this great area of Austria and a swim in Europe’s largest and warmest Alpine Lake. Fun, laughter, and a new view of body painting’s professionalism are on this version of Stories Faces Places.

paint1   paint2

Chicago on a Budget; A Question and Answer

We receive a lot of questions about different places we go. We are always happy to help with any question that we can answer from our own experiences.  You may find our answers interestingly different, as nothing can take the place of experience. An overnight stay is not considered an experience as we define the word. We believe that time spent in any area is more than a one night stand to truly experience the area.

We will try addressing as many questions as our calendar permits. We are thinking of adding a new page or category  called questions and answers. It becomes a time management issue that we must resolve, but that’s our problem. You want answers and we do want to help.  Note, sometimes  we answer a question through our podcasts or twitter, @sfpworld.  Our  answer  based solely upon our own experiences, no bs. We even try direct e-mail answers too.  It is our intention to help based on what we have experienced and not on what others say or other websites. We want success on your holiday or vacation.

Feel free to contact us in any way possible, here at our contact us page or through twitter @sfpworld, Instagram at storiesfacesplaces, or our Facebook page.  We will be available for you as calendars permit.  In return, we ask you for your patience in receiving a response, and for your support for our podcasts and social media.  We seek reviews. Let us know what we can do to make it better for you and what subjects you would like us to gear our podcasts. We will in turn do our best for you. For now hang around and explore.


Given that, we recently received this question from our e-mail. Jack wished to remain anonymous and we respect that.

Q:  How do we, my wife and I do Chicago on a tight Budget?   We want to stay in a nice hotel downtown, but we don’t need fancy restaurants, fast food is what we will mostly be eating.  We would also like to visit some of the trendy neighborhoods, which ones?

A:  The hotel cost will be the largest part of your budget, given that the fancy restaurants are out of the question.  In your search for a hotel, you’ll be happy to know that Chicago sets itself up very well for putting in a “bid” price with sites such as Priceline, from which we receive no compensation.

A former Chicago resident, I often return many times a year, each requiring a hotel stay.  I prefer a top rated (4 star) hotel in the areas of the Magnificent Mile-River North or Millennium Park-Loop. Using the same system I have mentioned here, I often find one for around $100 per night.  As a back up, I sometimes  make a reservation at a hotel that has a free cancellation policy. Then I roll the dice on a bidding site. If I get a four star for a great price reduction, I then cancel  the back up.

Specifically and about a week before the trip I start placing bids for less than half the average price.   I make sure to specify only the previous mentioned areas and a four star or above. I find this strategy is one of the best ways to manage your overall costs.

As a note, these are the primo areas in Chicago and offer a walkable visit. In addition, the buses and “L” trains are easy to navigate and cost-effective.  Make sure to look for the free trolley that will take you to Navy Pier.

You mentioned fast food. I took that as typical Chicago “street food”.  Well,  there is no better city for inexpensive “street fare”.  Chicago’s great pizza, hot dogs,  and Italian beef sandwiches all make my mouth water just writing these words.  In addition, the many little local places, smattered throughout the city offer wonderful ethnic foods for very reasonable prices.  This is the Chicago I know, recommend, and should never be missed on any trip to the Windy City.

For some neighborhood experiences, make sure you take the blue line “L” train to Wicker Park/Buck Town, getting off at the Damen stop.  A walk around North Avenue and Milwaukee offers up great inexpensive food and unique shops.  To further your fun,  take the red line “L” train to Lincoln Park, get off at Fullerton, walk east toward the lake and walk Lincoln Ave. or Clark St. for shopping and restaurants.  Other stops on the red line will bring you to Lakeview or Boystown at Belmont or Addison. There you will find more unique neighborhood experiences with locally owned shops and restaurants.  These are just a couple of suggestions, as Chicago has many more wonderful neighborhoods with personalities all their own.  Wander and discover your own Chicago experiences!

Podcast: Ljubljana, Slovenia: Diversity, Great People, and How We Ate Raw Horse

Join us  as we answer the question, Did the waitress say, “horse”?   Yes she did; and we ate it. But with this disclaimer, “Andrew Zimmerman, it did not make us”.  We visit a Castle in which the king was de-throned by a cannonball while answering the call of nature. We experience medieval castle torture. We visit the wonderful natural countryside of Slovenia, and have fun at a food fest. Those stories and a few others are on this episode of Stories Faces Places.

Eat like a local.
Good Eats
Hiking in a gorge and ending at a waterfall.
Hiking in a gorge and ending at a waterfall.








The below is a link to an article from an earlier blog post on Ljubljana

Predjama Castle
Predjama Castle

Ljubljana, Slovenia: Dragons, Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece


How to Protect Yourself from Pickpockets, Scammers, and Scoundrals

Al's contribution to gluttony
A Contribution to Gluttony

Brussels, Belgium, Brussels, Belgium, yes, I repeated myself. I’m thinking. Brussels, Belgium is the capital of Europe and the setting for many spy films.  Well, on second thought, maybe not. I can’t think of one spy thriller actually filmed here.  But hey, the spy thing works well as an opening for this podcast.

Once upon a time, another great opening, what started out as an innocent evening of a contribution to gluttony, turned into a spy thriller, not really. It was more like that seventies cop show quote,  Book’m Dano.   So we dubbed it the day Laura became the self-appointed Chief Pickpocket Inspector of the Sûreté de l’État.  Yes, we joined the ranks of Barney Fife and Inspector Clouseau. Excuse me, Chief Inspector Clouseau.

Once you get past Al’s wish to simply make it through the evening alive, you may glean some insights about preventing future pickpockets,  scammers, or scoundrels from making a catastrophe out of your next holiday.  That story, and a few other scams we’ve encountered are on this episode of Stories Faces Places.