Monday, March 30, 2009

Cheap Ideas for Amsterdam

Sophie and I are in Amsterdam. We are staying at the Aivengo Hostel which has sort of a zen feel about it. The hostel is fairly centrally located and is rather inexpensive.

I booked the hostel through HostelWorld, which is how I usually book hostels. Although, I'm starting to question whether or not that is the cheapest way to book hostel beds. I like that I can book in advance and have the safety of checking other people's feedback on the hostel, before arrival, so I know what to expect. Booking through HostelWorld also allows me the option to leave feedback. If I book directly through the hostel I don't have the option to leave feedback... and there have been a couple times when feedback become very imporant.

I called a day or two before coming to Amsterdam to check on the price. Although we booked about a month in advance we still ended up paying $35 per night per person on the three busy weekend nights. But when I called the rate was only $25 per person per night. I'm very happy to say the owner was willing to give us the lower price - which saved us $60. I'm unhappy to think that I can book a fair price through HostelWorld. The point is, if you book through an online booking agency you'll want to do your homework to ensure you are getting a reasonable rate. We encountered the same problem when we booked at the Pegasus Hostel in Berlin. On the other hand, sometimes you can get a better rate through on-line booking sources.

The Aivengo Hostel has 20 bed dorm rooms. Honestly, if traveling with a teenager (at least a teen like Sophie who loves to meet new people) hosteling is a fantastic way to go. While the teen is still with you, she also has the opportunity and freedom to meet and encounter new people when traveling. It gives both of you a little space while still keeping you together.

The hostel is a drug-free hostel. It offers no kitchen or breakfast option which hasn't been an issue for us. It has a microwave and I make my own coffee in the morning. Gee... force me to save a buck!

This is our second trip to Amsterdam. Two years ago, Sophie and I came after spending time with my sister and cousin in Paris and Edinburgh. We have returned because this is the one place Sophie wanted to come to before leaving Europe and going off to school. We are here for a total of 6-nights. At first I didn't think we'd be able to find things to do for seven days in this town. But now that our trip is nearly finished I've come to see that our trip has been perfectly paced, relaxing and fun. We've gone to the RijksMuseum and have spent many days walking around exploring the lovely streets, canals and architecture that Amsterdam has to offer.

Today, Sophie and I will probably explore the Cannibas Museum and the Van Gogh Museum. During our last visit we visited the RijksMuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and the Torture Museum. We were going to visit the Torture Museum again to get so pictures for the website, but the digital camera's pics have been dark... and the Torture Museum is dark... so, what's the point?

I totally recommend going to the Torture Museum. It's spooky and eery. We went at night which made it even more creepy. Definitely an experience with weird contraptions and devices most of us have never seen or imagined before and will probably never see again.

The RijksMuseum is under major renovation and will be until 2014. Only one wing of the museum is open to the public. This is actually rather cool. What the museum has done is to put all of the most famous pieces together. Therefore, you see everything of the most importance and that is all. Yes, we like to wonder through museums and wish we had time to see it all, but on the other hand, ensuring you see all the important works of art that a museum has to offer is rather convenient.

I have very fond memories of the Van Gogh Museum and look forward to visiting it again. It's a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Also, it is open everyday, except Jan 1, which makes it always something that can work into our plans. More than once, we've wanted to go to the Louvre on a day when it was closed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Addicted to Cruising

Family Trip in BarcelonaAfter taking our Southern Mediterranean Cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Jade I am completely sold on cruising.

Before our cruise we had spent 9 days in Berlin and 2 in Basel, Switzerland. Yet even after our 12-night cruise on NCL I wasn't exhausted at all when I got home.Family Vacation in Switzerland

Definitely do your research before cruising. Go online and see what people are writing in the Cruise Forums. You'll even find Cruise Forums specific to the cruise and cruise line you want to take. This way, you'll know in advance if you should expect lousy food or entertainment. It's better to be prepared than to have bad food sprung on you.

Cruising on Norwegian JadeIn the Cruise Forums we had learned not to expect much from the food on the Norwegian Jade. So, we were quite content with the mediocre food. I wanted good old American food... and apparently I wanted a lot of it. That is pretty much what we got. I found that the chocolate brownie sundae in the Blue Lagoon was the best dessert. While Sophie loved the soft serve with all the toppings. Our favorite resturant was the Grand Pacific. It is the only formal dining room on the ship (freestyle dining). We loved the opportunity to dress up. At home, I'm too busy. On the cruise, I took the time to take the time...
Cruises are cheap and perfect for my thrifty and frugal nature. Actually, I didn't even spend all of
my 'ship money' which we got while making the reservation. I think I had something like $38
wasted. Guess I should have bought those cute reading glasses while I had the opportunity!

I can't wait until my next opportunity to cruise. Now I see what all the
fuss is about!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Working With Adsense

I started my website in October of 2007. It seems like I must be doing something wrong, but I can't figure out what it is. Although I have added content fairly regularly over the duration of the site, my Adsense earnings haven't increased much. I'm concerned that I am somehow violating an Adsense rule. Or, perhaps it is that Google doesn't like that my website is hosted by Yahoo. Is that possible? I have heard that Google's Adsense doesn't want competing ads on the same pages with their ads. I understand that Adsense isn't interested in the competition, but would that also apply to Yahoo in general rather than just Yahoo's ad program?

I am in the process of taking down my Yahoo RSS button in case that is hurting my ranking with Google and my adsense ratings. If anyone has any ideas please let me know.

I am writing through this blog to see if it makes a difference with my Google listings. My other blog goes directly through my website but Google still hasn't picked it up even through I've manually sent it through Google's Search Blog Ping. It's been over a month now, I believe the blog should have been picked up. We'll see how Google's Adsense program feels about this blog Google blog (blogspot is owned by Google) and hopefully I can figure things out and make some positive headway with monetizing.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.