Howdy, You’ve Reached Grandma’s Shoppe

Rainbow over tropical island and white beach at Seychelles

Welcome to Grandma’s Shoppe, a new travel blog sharing experiences from people who have lived. This blog is the brainchild of Sandra Alcock, a 59-year-old-grandma of three from Montecito, California. In between raising a family and carving out a career as a hotel manager in Santa Barbara, Sandra has indulged her passion for travel by visiting some of the most exotic vacation destinations in the world. Here she shares her tips, and those of her friends, on how to make the most out of life through travel.

Five Bizarre Hotels You Should Include in Your Bucket List


Forget about the red carpet or the elaborate lobbies with matching ornaments that make you feel like you’re entering a palace rather than a hotel. Forget the doorman and the bellboy in their pristine suits resembling the Royal Guards in Buckingham. If you really want to make your next holiday trip all the more meaningful, then you really have to book yourself in any of these five bizarre accommodations.

Propeller Island City Lodge 

If you love the idea of getting your brain screwed, then you’d better book a night or two at the Propeller Island City Lodge. It’s like entering Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum of oddities complete with a levitating bed suite, completely mirrored room, a green leather suit, and a suite where you’ll be resting in a coffin, hopefully not for good. And if you really want your mind to be twisted, you’d book yourself at the Propeller’s upside down suite. Furnishings including tables and bed hang from the suite’s ceiling. Don’t worry as you don’t need to strap yourself upside down, too. There’s actually a bed hidden on the floor.

Langholmen Hotel

If you’ve been a good boy all your life and you’ve got this intense desire to feel and act like a badass even for one day in your life, Langholmen Hotel in Stockholm is more than ready to fulfill your wishes. It’s the perfect accommodation for gluttons for punishment as they get a very rare opportunity to feel what it’s like to be a prisoner complete with striped pajamas, prison bunk beds, barred windows, and a ball-and-chain for your spouse or partner-in-crime. There are faux gang riots and jail breaks, too, complete with jail guards who are, uncharacteristically, very friendly and charming. You’d wish real jail guards in real prisons were this charming.

The Dog Bark Park Inn

By Alan Levine from Strawberry, United States (Big BeaglesUploaded by PDTillman) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Dog owners have dilemma. Leave your dog at home, miss them terribly and pay a fortune in dog kennel fees. Or take their pets with them while travelling and have the hassle of finding dog-friendly accommodation. There are many great reasons to take a dog on vacation. Luckily, there are plenty of accommodations which welcome dogs including the The Dog Bark Park Inn in Idaho, USA. This establishment takes the term ‘dog lover’ to extremes. The Dog Bark Park Inn is a located inside a large wooden beagle created by a couple of over-enthusiastic chainsaw artists. It’s tiny, only sleeps four people, but it’s very dog friendly.

Henn-na Hotel

It is inevitable that robots will soon encroach a sector that has been deemed exclusive for human service workers. In Japan, there is now a hotel that is served by robots and humanoids. Porters, receptionists, room service attendants, and even the concierge have been replaced by Artificial Intelligence at the Henn-na Hotel located at the Huis Ten Bosch theme park. They’ve even got a Velociraptor robot making sure you’ve got your booking straight. It’s creepy and so unreal especially when these machines start to talk in both Japanese and English. Good thing human hands are on standby just in case.

Yunak Evleri Hotel

Feeling like a caveman or perhaps wondering what it feels like to live in the Earth’s bosom? While the Yunak Evleri Hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey won’t really give you the chance to live inside the Earth’s core, it does provide you with an experience like no other. A labyrinth of caves in limestone cliffs formed in 5th and 6thcentury BC is now home to 40 deluxe suites complete with stone fireplaces and unconventional doors and windows that have been carved into the face of the limestone.

The experiences you’ll get from these accommodations will surely keep your memory box filled for many centuries.

Really Weird Travel Destinations That Have to be Seen to be Believed


Everyone knows the world can be a crazy place that’s made even weirder by the actions of some people. But did you know there are actually natural wonders that are even weirder and that they are the work of Mother Nature herself? Hang on to your seats as we take you to some of the really weird places in the world that will make you shake your head in disbelief.

Thor’s Well in the US

Don’t expect to see Thor coming out from the Spouting Horn or Heimdall opening the Bifrost every time a massive stream of water is projected skywards from this sink hole. Thor’s Well is nothing more than a sinkhole located in the rocky surfaces washed by the turbulent waters of the Pacific within Oregon’s Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. It may not actually be weird, but the way water is shot straight up with such tremendous force is something that will leave you in incredulity. Even Old Faithful in the Yellowstone would pale in comparison to Thor’s awesome force. Just mind your distance, though, as you don’t want to be swallowed into its depths.

Lake Hillier in Australia

You may already know the Red Sea, but we’ll bet you haven’t heard of the Pink Lake just yet. Located in one of the islands of the Recherche Archipelago in Western Australia, Lake Hillier comes with a mind-boggling deep pink color. Unlike other bodies of water that have very unusual coloring, but only on certain times of the year, this pink body of water retains its rosy appearance all year round. This is due to the presence of a special type of pink bacteria called halobacteria. The lake also contains Dunaliella salina, a type of algae that has remarkable affinity for saltwater.

Chocolate Hills in the Philippines

Bohol island in the Philippines is not only known as the home of one of the world’s smallest primates, the Philippine tarsier, but it is also home to 1,700 perfectly shaped domed hills that take on a very peculiar chocolate brown color in the dry season. Many think that the Chocolate Hills are manmade, but UNESCO says the geologic features are the result of a combination of coral deposit uplift and rainwater erosion. It’s a surreal sight as if you’re looking at the goose bumps of a giant.

Red Beach in China

Occurring only in autumn, the tidal wetlands near Panjin in China can literally turn to crimson red, thanks to the presence of Sueda, a type of seaweed that has a characteristic red color. The beaches serve as important stopover points for migrating birds, providing a rich bounty of seaweed rich in protein that avian species can use for their continued flight. It’s an eerie spectacle especially if you’re more accustomed to a beach that is either sandy white or pebble gray. Indeed it resembles a massive carpet that blankets the shores of Panjin.

Every continent has its own set of really weird geographical features. While they may raise eyebrows, they also make perfect getaways for a memorable holiday.

How Renting a Beachside Hotel Inspires Artists

beach inspires artists

In the movies, it is common to see the artist living on the side of the ocean, trying to use it as inspiration for their works. While it might seem stereotypical, there are actually great reasons why they love staying being close to nature.

Advantages of Renting a Seaside Cottage 

First of all, the beautiful surroundings inspire them to create their own masterpiece. They can immortalize these idyllic spots by putting them on the canvas, as had some famous artists have done so in the past.

Another advantage of drawing inspiration from the sea is the peace and solitude common to these places. When it comes to work, many prefer to do so in a quiet area so they do not experience a lot of people bothering them or staying out of the way.

A third reason is the affordability of many of these sleepy seaside towns. While they might still find beach properties that are a bit pricier than small town ones, in general, artists who may not have a lot of budget can still find a beachfront cottage.

The last reason that drives the artists to these towns is the fact that there are many galleries can be found, so they can easily display their work (especially if they are painters). More popular artists might even attract visitors coming from further away from the town, helping the other artists gain exposure.

Best Artistic Vacation Locations in the USA

In the United States, many artists have moved into or rented cottages that boast of coastal views, choosing one of the following top artist-friendly cities:

  • Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
  • Rockport, Texas
  • Wynwood Arts District, Miami, Florida
  • Monhegan Island, Maine
  • Grand Marais Art Colony, Grand Marais, Minnesota
  • Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada
  • Towles Court, Sarasota, Florida
  • Laguna Beach, California
  • Provincetown, Massachusetts
  • Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Top Seaside Destinations for Artists in the UK

In the United Kingdom, there are hundreds of inspirational locations around the coast including hotspots such as Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Yorkshire and Pembrokeshire, where artists and writers take a break to get the creative juices flowing, such as these:

  • St Ives, Cornwall
  • Brighton, Brighton & Hove
  • Dartmouth, Devon
  • Whitby, Yorkshire
  • Lyme Regis, Dorset

Disadvantages of Renting Beach Property

On the other side of the coin, staying in a beachside cottage is not as easy as staying in a hotel, where they deliver room service and take care of organizing. In fact, many artists are not big fans of cooking and staying in their own serviced cottage during winter is how they prefer to spend the time. This allows you still dedicate your time to your work without having to stop and cook.

A second disadvantage is the possible isolation. Whenever a snowstorm or strong winds come, then these people are stuck indoors and possibly far away from each other. This is very bad for their health and mental well-being, which is why sharing a rental cottage is also a great idea for artists to avoid being alone.

The third disadvantage is the risk of extreme weather. Being by the ocean means strong winds depending on the forecasts and seasons of the island. However, this extreme weather does not usually come so often that it is not impossible to sit on the beach or enjoy some drier, warmer days.

Inspiration and Motivation

Inspiration and motivation are very important for artists to come up with beautiful masterpieces to strike the audience. Artists, both new and advanced, are lucky that they have the option to rent a beachside cottage to do their work. In the end, they can enjoy the beauty of nature and focus on their work at the same time.

Take a Trip to the Most Beautiful Beaches in Europe

algarve beaches travel

Every now and then, we need to reset our mind and body, to take a long vacation away from our desks and just relax and enjoy time with ourselves. Let’s take a trip and experience the breathtaking beaches in Europe.

Why Europe, you ask? There are certainly a lot of good attractions out there in the world, but none can compare to the majestic and relaxing sceneries that the continent has to offer. What better way to clear your mind but with a wide view the waves rippling across the horizon.

Here is a list of the best beaches that you can find in beautiful Europe:


The Algarve has become a popular destination for tourists from all over the globe. It remains serene and rarely has establishments around and it is almost deserted. Cool spots for you to visit are Praia de Albandeira and Sudoeste Alentejano.


Gorgeous sea views and beaches can be found in the country of Italy. We strongly suggest going to more than just one place to make the most of your stay here. Places to visit are Amalfi Coast, Cala Goloritze in Sardinia, Cala Tonnarella in Sicily, Trieste and Venice.


San Sebastian, Formentera and Barcelona are two of the best city beaches in Spain. Here you can enjoy shopping, dining, swimming and partying. If you want to get away from the congested beaches and prefer a place more private and with fewer people, Cala Macarella beach in Menorca is perfect for you. Just a heads-up though – getting there is not easy. You may need to travel far and hike a couple of miles, but all that effort will be totally worth it.


Ireland actually has beaches. It is common knowledge that Ireland has cold weather. But if you are looking for a fantastic sea view, Ireland is also home to the Cliffs of Moher and Galway’s Dolphin Beach houses are top tourist spots, too.


The Bay of Biscay is known as the Hamptons or White Islands of France. Nice is also perfect during the summer, particularly the Blue Beach and Plage Beau Rivage.


The Zlatni Rat in Brac, Split and Dubrovnik are one of the best beaches and sea views in Croatia. They are perfect places for sailing and relaxation. Most of the beaches here are isolated and peaceful.


Bodrum and Istanbul are the best places to visit in Turkey. They are clean and probably some of the most peaceful beaches in the Mediterranean.


The Santorini Caldera has one of the world’s spectacular shorelines. The sunsets are best to view from terraces. It has been described as “majestic” by most. The Navagio beach in Zakynthos, Greece is popular for its limestone cliffs and ancient shipwreck that is buried in its center.

These amazing places in Europe are perfect and you can choose to go to sites that are not as crowded like other destinations out there. Travel and open your mind and soul to the sea.

How to Avoid Being Scammed While Booking Your Holiday Cottage

cottage rental holidays

There is nothing more horrifying than being scammed during your holiday. Most of the time, you would save so much money and vacation days for those precious few days of relaxing by the beach. Unfortunately, many people who are simply trying to save money on their trip end up being victimized. In some cases, those who are booking cottages end up paying exorbitant hidden or additional fees or worse, having paid for a property that does not even exist.

The key is being smart and knowing these important steps when booking your cottage.

1 Use Your Instinct

The easiest way to spot any kind of scam is to follow what your gut tells you. If all other cottages are within a price range and something comes up that seems to be an incredibly good offer, then it is time to think twice. If it seems too good to be true, it is. Do your research, ask for pictures of the cottage, read reviews (to be sure that the place exists), and never ever send any money (like through Western Union). In some cases, the prices are so low because the cottage is in some remote or even shady part of the city or town, so researching the property is very important in weeding out the tourist traps.

2 Book through Reputable Rental Sites

You get a certain amount of safety and legitimacy by booking through a third-party, though it is not always foolproof. There are rental sites that allow cottage owners to advertise their property and let interested customers coordinate with them directly. This is different from having an agent do all the work for the owner. The difference is that with the first option, there is no more middleman, which can lower the cost. In the second option, there are instances where booking fees have to be paid, and they might raise your final expenses significantly.

3 Call the Owner

In most sites, you can find the contact details of the owner before you have to pay. It is a good idea to simply call them and ask for more information on the booking. For example, ask what is included in the price and if there are any additional charges. In some cases, a cleaning fee might be added, or there is a deposit necessary. Ask about the bed linen and towels, just to be sure you will not be sleeping without any sheets. Clarify if there is free parking available, as well as find out what facilities the cottage has or are available in the area. Be polite, and if they are rude or not helpful, you can also decide to go to another cottage.

4 Choose a Safe Method of Payment

Most owners will require a 25% non-refundable deposit once you book, and you would have to pay off the balance at least 4 weeks before the booking. Because the cost of these bookings can be higher compared to hotel rooms, it is important to be safe with your money.

When you pay more than £100 with your credit card, Section 75 protects you in case of a scam. Your credit card should help resolve the issue. If you pay at the site and the site will pay the owner, protection for credit card transactions might be provided, though your credit card might have a chargeback scheme.

If paying by credit card is not possible, do not ever wire money. Instead, deposit the amount into the owner’s account. If the account name and the address are suspicious or are in a different country, then it is very questionable.

Scammers nowadays are very smart and know how to sweet-talk their victims, so make sure that you only part with your hard-earned holiday money on reputable cottage owners by following these simple steps.

Best Places in the World for Street Food

street food market travel

Michelin stars are often the indicator on whether a place serves the best food. However, it should be remembered that the best food venues are those most tried and eaten by the locals and tourists, such as those served in the streets.

Food stalls by the streets are probably the ones which can best introduce you to the local cuisine of a certain place. It is an essential travel experience. Aside from experiencing what it is like to eat along the roads, you will also be given the chance to eat delicacies not usually served in fine dining restaurants. Below is a list of the top 5 places in the world that offer the best of the best street food. Along with the location are the famous dishes in their area served of course in the streets.

Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

Meals in Brazil are undeniably expensive but travelers need not worry about this when they visit the country. There are a lot of food stalls on the streets which can come to the rescue of visitors. Rio de Janeiro’s thoroughfares are the home of much well-known street food. But it is mostly popular for its tapioca crepes, pão de queijo cheese balls, acai smoothies, fried savory pastries and kebabs. These foods along with other dishes featuring seafood are often located on the waterfront as the city is literally surrounded by the sea.

Paris (France)

Paris is popular for being the home of fashion and fine dining. What many people often miss about it, however, is the wide range of street food it has been offering tourists and the locals. The most dominant street food here is, of course, the Parisian crêperie mostly partnered with Nutella. These are simple thinned pancakes served with a filling of the consumer’s choice. It may be filled fruit jams, ice cream, or plain chocolate. Other than the crepe, Paris also has its pastries to brag about. Food trucks are also becoming a thing in this city serving other food like American burgers and various sandwiches.

Tokyo (Japan)

Aside from the famous vending machines, Tokyo is now known for its extensive outdoor eating amenities particularly in the streets. The most common food served here include Okonomiyaki pancakes and bento boxes. Tokyo streets offer anything through vending machines but the best food is served in the Tsukiji market. It is also known as the seafood haven. There you can buy and eat sashimi samples. Not to mention the delicious raw oysters and the yummy, massive nigiri rolls.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong does not only have Disneyland to be proud about. It is also home to the best snake soup and egg tarts. The streets in Hong Kong serve a wide variety of dishes from favorites from the West to the classic Cantonese delicacies. The most visited places here for street food are the Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon City and the Ladies Market on Tung Choi Street.

Ottawa (Canada)

When talking about Canada and food, people always think of Vancouver and Toronto. But what they fail to notice is the rise of Ottawa in the food scene. There are more than 40 food trucks in the area which offer plenty of different food whether locally produced or derivatives from other places. The most popular ones serve the classic churros, frozen yogurt, sausages, hotdogs and much more.

While there is nothing wrong in going after popular fine dining restaurants, it also would not hurt to try out something new. Street foods, which are often disregarded, can sometimes give you a better food experience.

5 Budget-friendly Countries for Backpackers

Backpacker admiring a view

Who says traveling is only for the rich and famous? Backpacking these days has never been easy and exciting with the availability of options wherever in the world you may go. From east to west, Europe to Antartica, there are accommodations, restaurants, and adventures that fit your budget. Visit any of the amazing backpacking destinations this year. Here are the top 5 countries considered backpacker-friendly.


Nepal, the country that houses the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, is definitely a timeless backpacking destination for those who love mountain peaks and treks. If you love camping and believe in the idea of exercising while traveling, then this place is for you. Along the trails, there are available cabins and temples with wallet-friendly accommodations, offering guests with guides to beautiful sights and sumptuous meals.

While in Nepal, don’t miss out the city as there are many historical spots there.  Among them are the Garden of Dreams, Durga Temple, Durbar Square, Boudhanath Stupa, and many other temples. You would be surprised to know that exploring the country’s capital, Kathmandu, only costs you about $2 to $5 a night. The great thing about Nepal is that it borders on India and Tibet. This makes it perfect for backpackers to cross to another scintillating Asian country.


Do you love the Mediterranean atmosphere but can’t afford to travel to Italy or Greece? If so then Albania is your perfect alternative destination. You will enjoy the coastlines, the cool breeze coming from the Adriatic Sea, and of course, the beautiful Mediterranean architectural designs. The houses and castles reflect the rich history of the country, having been influenced by Romans and Turks (Ottoman Empire). The food is incredibly cheap, and so do the hotels. At around $10 to $16, you can now sleep in a comfortable room.


Thailand is known for its beautiful beaches and has been the classic backers’ destination since Day 1. But its neighboring country – the Philippines – is also equally tropical and fun to explore. It is home to the magnificent Puerto Princesa, Palawan, voted as one of the 7 Wonders of the World in 2012. Plus expect some of the best sunsets here. If you love surfing, then you go to Siargao. From north to south, the country boasts of beautiful falls, stately mountains, and crystal-clear waters – all waiting to be explored. For as low as $5 to $10, you can avail of a dormitory type room or no-frills private room for a night. The food also comes cheap, especially when sold at local shops.


Do you want a Spanish environment for your next trip? Visit Peru in South America, bordered by Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil. The place is oozing with historical and archaeological sites that spell adventure for backpackers. The infamous Macchu Pichu and Inca Trail are found in Peru. These ruins still look stunning until today, including the Sacred Valley and Cusco’s Architectural Treasures. Try the hostels in Lima, there are those that offer at $10 a night.


Yes, Europe can be a backpacking destination, too. If you merely want a leisurely walk, sight-seeing baroque architecture, then visit Budapest, Hungary. You name it – Roman, Ottoman, or Renaissance – there are structures that you can feast on. The Fishermen’s Bastion and Castle Hill are among them. So far, Budapest ranks as the cheapest European country by backpackers. You only get to spend as low as $20 a night in a European land. Plus, you can easily travel by train to reach to another country.

There are many other budget-friendly countries that you can visit and explore without compromising the fun and adventure. The top five picks will enable you to fly all the way from Asia to South America to Europe.

The Most Spectacular Sunsets in the World

Sunset world travel

Traveling to different places is such a relaxing, peaceful and exhilarating experience, especially if you are a sunset lover. One of the best things about watching sunsets is that you can be in an island and witness how nature puts a nightly display or be in desert and see the rocks turn to red because of the sunset’s illumination.

There is really something special about it that is life changing. Definitely, you must visit these different places to see the dazzling display of such a rare beauty. Here is the list of the most spectacular sunsets in the world to inspire you for a vacation.

Mindil Beach in Australia

Ever been to Australia? Then don’t miss the chance to visit Mindil Beach. If you are a sunset lover and a foodie like most of the travelers, then you will enjoy this place in Darwin, Australia. Local vendors normally come out by the afternoon as the sunset approaches. Apart from that, sky watchers can also appreciate the smell of barbeque from the nearby stalls. There are also craft stalls with goodies to sell. Aside from that, they have live music and beach lights. What a way to combine all these things setting the mood to make Mindil Beach as one of the well known sunset destinations.

Cairo Sunset in Egypt

Inside the large, old city of Cairo is a spot solely for watching the sun set over this bustling city in Egypt. The view makes you realize as if you traveled back in time to witness a glorious site. Each night, vendors and wait staff set the tables and chairs for the locals and foreigners to enjoy the view. Cairo has wonderful things to offer aside from the spectacular sunset. You can also enjoy a sip of their sweet juices and create a memory as you listen to some Arabic music. One of the amazing things being in the place is that it is as if the people really wait for the sunset and there is this vibrant feel in everyone.

Maldives Sunset

Who wouldn’t want to visit and soak in the transparent waters in Maldives? It is such a dream destination for many people because of its exquisite beauty – white sand, coral reefs, foods, etc. Almost everything is a dream in Maldives especially the sunset. The place is quiet and you even see the whales cruising along the waters, making everything such a heavenly moment. The whole setting of Maldives is really for the golden sunset. It is such an elegant site that will change the way you see the world forever.

Missoula Sunset in Montana

This is one of the finest cities to live in America. It is a diverse city and also popularly known as the big sky country because of the amazing sunset you see in this place. Almost anywhere you look and in any direction, the sunset seems to be in three dimensions, painting the sky with colorful hues. It can inspire your soul as you also breathe the mountain air.

So go ahead and realize that there is really something to look forward to in life with the artistic glory of the most spectacular sunsets in the world.