A Virtual Vacation: How to see the sights even while social distancing

KAREN THORNTON
Lake Lifestyles
St. Peter's Square in Vatican City is one of the largest and most beautiful squares in the world.


You all know traveling is my husband’s and my passion. We barely return from one trip and are planning the next adventure. The thought is, do it while we can. Well this year has thrown a little kink in the planning. 
When we travel we usually build up excitement from the research and planning. We always try to add a short stop on the way to our destination to extend the trip. It truly is the enjoyment of where can we go? 
With the hospitality industry struggling right now and some travel restrictions in place, you may be wondering how you are going to salvage your summer vacation. Luckily, there are many options online. Just about any place you want to go can be pulled up right on your screen. If you are wanting to see more or are planning an actual visit once attractions open back up, you can always request a brochure or more information be sent to you. 
The Corona Virus has limited travel for many of us, and some people are leery of traveling at all. This makes it a good time to take a look at a virtual vacation. Join me as we explore our options. 
 
Get ready.
No passport, no flight arrangements, no suitcase needed … just a little cheese and wine. There is no admission and you can stay in your PJ’s. You don’t even have to maintain social distancing. Decide how long you want to be gone — 20 minutes or all day. 

Develop a plan.
Since we are just planning from our living room, we don’t have to think about cost. Pick a destination or two. Are you interested in history? What about taking a cooking class or want to attend an event? Pinterest (isn’t just for crafts) they have amazing travel tips. People sharing pictures of where to go and how to get there. Once your list is made, you will be ready to check out travel blogs and websites. 

Let’s plan a trip.
If you don’t have a clue about where to go, ask your friends where they have been and if they would recommend a great destination. You might also ask where they have been and would never go again. 
Make a list of where you have always wanted to go. I remember watching the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” and immediately put it on my list of places to visit. Seeing the pyramids in Egypt, Buckingham Palace in London, the Lourve in Paris, the Vatican — all vacations of a lifetime. You can dream big and see all the sights you may not be able to see up close and personal. 

See the sights.
Rome is beautiful anytime of the year. Since we don’t have to wait in any long lines and struggle with the crowds, let’s go to the Vatican. 
In 2019 we toured Rome for three amazing weeks. The Vatican was a must see. As I looked up to see the beautiful ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, it was very difficult to do with the crowd of tourists. On a virtual tour, the camera goes right up to the ceiling. It is an appreciation of art you may never thought you would see. The tour guide will lead you out to the Vatican Gardens and the Necropolis. At the end you might want to take the train (virtual of course) to the Potifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo. This is an amazing journey in time and history. If you were to visit in person a ticket just for the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel are approximately $34. But for you, it’s free.
We love London. It’s an easy stop over if you are flying to another international location. You can take a city walking tour (virtual) which is a lot of fun. See the architecture of the buildings and homes. You’ll spot a double decker red bus frequently driving down the street. It is so real, you hear the noises of the city walkers and view nature as though you were right there. Do you want to see a little of the night life? There’s a virtual tour off that. London is known for Big Ben, the Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, even the London Eye. You can see them all right from your easy chair. 
Our hotel on one of our stays was right next to the London Eye. It was beautiful. My goal on that particular visit was pictures of Big Ben from any vantage point I could get. When you visit London there are admission fees and long lines to the most toured sights — but not online!
You don’t make a visit to London without a visit to Harrods’ seven floors and over 300 specialty departments. They have a tea room. Having “afternoon tea” is a must and so much fun. Gentlemen, it’s the ambience not the amount of food.
My husband and I visited Egypt in 2018. It was one of those areas on our bucket list. Prior, our study was on the Exodus and learning about the Biblical significance of the land. We registered with a large group which eventually became just the two of us. Folks have an unnecessary fear of traveling abroad and just back out. We were very excited to know it was just us. We had the most amazing time with what we felt like personal care and service. 

You can also have an amazing time with just you or the two of you. Of course, the pyramids are key, but Egypt never shuts down. They have non-stop night life. It’s cheap, making shopping so much fun. As always, pack less, so you can bring back more. 

If you can’t visit in person, be sure and take the virtual tour down the Nile River in a Felucca (sail boat). The Cairo Museum is a must. There is an entire floor of artifacts covered in gold including the tomb of Tutankhamun. You can take a virtual tour of the tombs and of the museum, and you don’t have to leave your sofa.
 
Drink and dine.
Are you a foodie who likes to travel? Cooking classes are held around the world, but for now you are going to have to stay in the kitchen. If you have a favorite celebrity chef, check out their virtual cooking shows. 

Food Network offers Live and On-Demand cooking classes. The classes are less than a $1 a week. Lots of fun with the chef cutting and preparing right alongside of you. Invite your friends to join you and then you can have your own discussion about how your recipe turned out. You will need to preview the show and gather your wine or your ingredients.

Did you know there is even virtual wine tasting? Bring Napa Valley to your living room. You don’t have to worry about driving home. Learn the tips from a winemaker or sommelier. They will guide you through which wines to buy. You can be alone, with your partner or join a group and taste together. 

What to see

• The Louvre in Paris displays the Mona Lisa. Washington, D.C. is a mecca when it comes to museums. Take a tour of the city or any of the well-known historical attractions. 

• Buckingham Palace in London, England. Visit the Queen’s residence.  

• Heard about the Vienna boys choir? Listen to them sing. Their virtual tour of singing through Vienna is awesome. 

• How many of you watched the Downton Abby series? They offer a virtual tour of the Abby, not to be missed.

• Tour the grand staircase and many other exhibits on board the Titanic during a virtual tour of the Titanic Museum in Branson, Mo. and Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

• Tour the Statue of Liberty in New York City. 

• The Metropolitan Opera has a different nightly encore presentation from the company’s Live in HD series available for free.