Travel to Live Blog

Stories of our adventures and updates about the site.

Brittany Getaway: Eight Sights and Cities

With the summer fast approaching, I can’t help but remember my trip to Brittany. My then girlfriend (now wife!) and I were looking for somewhere to go in France and after many recommendations, we decided on our Brittany Getaway! We rented a car in Nantes and stayed in three different Airbnbs around Brittany, each with a different feel and unique surroundings.

Carnac

Our first choice was Vannes but we ended up in Carnac. It’s less well-known but we loved it. There’s an old centre with a great weekly market, as well as a second centre, based around the beach.

Brittany Getaway: Carnac's Market

Our haul from the market – delicious!

If you’re looking for a nice French town with a beach but not ten million tourists overrunning the town, I can really recommend going to Carnac. Our Airbnb host told us it’s where French people go on vacation. Even the beach bar we went to had good food. The only downside is that the water wasn’t particularly warm, even in August. If it’s a hot day, it’s not a big deal but don’t expect to lounge around in the ocean. You’ll need to keep moving to stay warm.

Brittany Getaway: Carnac's Beach

Great for lying in the sun but the water’s a little cool!

Carnac is also famous for its standing stones, from the Neolithic era. They were put there by pre-Celtic people but the exact reason is unknown. Some say they are the remains of a Roman army, turned to stone by the Pope! The stones go on and on and are actually the largest collection of such stones in the world! So you’ve got great food, great culture, great history; Carnac has it all.

Carnac's standing stones

They go on and on and on…

Vannes

Vannes was one of the most beautiful cities we encountered during our Brittany getaway. The historic centre is surrounded by old city walls, with medieval era gates and beautiful churches within. It makes a great day trip or base of operations. Like Carnac, it wasn’t overrun by tourists, so we could take our time to take in the city.

Brittany Getaway: Vannes makes a wonderful day trip

A great old city to walk around and enjoy.

Huelgoat

Our second Airbnb was located on a farm somewhere near Huelgoat. Unbeknownst to us, Huelgoat is actually situated within an ancient and legendary Breton forest. Although there is tourist traffic, it’s quite quiet there in general, probably since it’s so far from the coast. If you’re cutting across Brittany, it’s worth a stop for a break from civilization.

Brittany Getaway: Huelgoat

This beautiful man-made lake was created to support the local silver mines.

Île de Batz and Roscoff

When I heard “no cars allowed”, I was sold. This small island is best enjoyed by foot or bicycle, which you can rent upon arriving on the island. You can easily spend the whole day exploring, if you’re going by foot. We decided to do a little Geocaching during our island adventure but you’ll also find cafes to relax in and a look-out tower to get your bearings. If you want a break from the mechanical world, hop on a boat to Île de Batz!

Iles de Batz (Pixabay)

Thanks to MrsBrown and Pixabay for the photo!

Of course, to get there, you’re going to need to take the ferry from Roscoff. We had a bit of a time finding parking, so you might want to look into that before making your trip. There are a lot of great places to eat in Roscoff, so don’t worry about finding somewhere to eat on Île de Batz. Because the ferry links Roscoff, Ireland, and the UK, it might be a good launchpad for your Breton journey.

Quimper

Quimper is another classic Breton town we’d heard about and wanted to check out. It’s known for its crêpes, beautiful architecture, and old Gothic cathedral. We were only a little disappointed that some parts of the city were overwhelmed with tourists. Well, we were two of them, so how can you complain?

Add Quimper to your list of stops in Brittany, if you like great food and culture!

Blé Noir is a delicacy in Brittany

In France, I love to sample the food even more than the sights!

Saint Malo

I had wanted to see Saint Malo for a while and I’m glad I finally got the chance. The historic old port town is completely surrounded by walls and sits on the English Channel. It’s a tourist hotspot, so be prepared for parking difficulties and be choosy about where you eat. Most places in France have exceptional food but anything near the front gate of Saint Malo is probably to be avoided.

Sadly for us, we arrived during pouring rain and intense wind. It was a challenge to stay dry. On the plus side, the waves crashing against the walls made the city feel a whole lot more epic and exciting. We didn’t have the chance to enjoy the city at a leisurely pace but it did allow us to take our time enjoying some Breton cuisine from the confines of a small and delicious restaurant.

My recommendation would be to make a day trip here and stay somewhere in the surrounding area, where it’s cheaper and nicer. Saint Malo is on many people’s must-see list for good reason, so add it to yours!

Saint Malo (Pixabay)

Thanks to tevennec-digital and Pixabay for this photo!

Mont Saint-Michel

It’s hard to really describe how wondrous Mont Saint-Michel is but your opinion of it may well be decided by when you visit. I’ve been twice and I can tell you that it was a world of difference. When I went in October, the crowds were not so huge and I was able to really explore and enjoy this hundreds of years old abbey, one of France’s most recognizable attractions. On the other hand, when we went in August, it was so overrun by tourists that you couldn’t even move through the streets at times.

Although the abbey offers some amazing views, my favourite experience was setting out behind Mont Saint-Michel, during low tide. Just be careful and check the schedules; tides are no joke and you could easily drown if you are not prepared!

Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel at low tide

There’s a lot of interesting history to the Mont and it’s not actually part of Brittany, being located just over the Norman border. Still, any trip to Brittany should be cause for serious consideration to visit this UNESCO World Heritage site.

Insider tip: There will be many restaurants immediately outside Mont Saint-Michel but you’re better off to drive to the nearby Avranches, where you’ll find a real French town with good food!

Dinner in Avranches Dessert in Avranches

Nantes

Historically and culturally, Nantes is part of Brittany but, today, it is part of the neighbouring department. There’s a lot to see in Nantes, with its expansive city centre and old churches.

Ducal Castle of Nantes

The Duke lived there!

You can easily spend a day in Nantes, wandering the streets and taking in the city. Don’t forget to check out the ducal castle and beautiful Gothic cathedral. It’s France’s 6th largest city and well worth a look. We flew in and out of the Nantes airport but we’re glad we took the time to explore.

Brittany Getaway: Taking a break in Nantes

We took a break here, since the flight was in a few hours.

Plan your Brittany Getaway

I hope you enjoyed reading about my Brittany trip. I can’t wait to go back to Brittany, so let me know your favourite spots in the comments below. If you’ve got any questions about planning your own getaway, I’ll try my best to answer them!

And if you’re traveling in a group, don’t forget to read my Six Tips to Travel With Friends!

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Progressive Web App Checklist

We’re constantly working to improve Travel to Live and following Google’s Progressive Web App Checklist is a pretty good way to do that. But when I wanted to transfer this list into our project management tool (we use Taiga), I had to do some annoying copying and pasting. Below you’ll find the list, in an easily copy-able form, as of February 9th, 2017. For reference, here is the full list.

  • Site is served over HTTPS
  • Pages are responsive on tablets & mobile devices
  • The start URL (at least) loads while offline
  • Metadata provided for Add to Home screen
  • First load fast even on 3G
  • Site works cross-browser
  • Page transitions don’t feel like they block on the network
  • Each page has a URL
  • Site’s content is indexed by Google
  • Schema.org metadata is provided where appropriate
  • Social metadata is provided where appropriate
  • Canonical URLs are provided when necessary
  • Pages use the History API
  • Content doesn’t jump as the page loads
  • Pressing back from a detail page retains scroll position on the previous list page
  • When tapped, inputs aren’t obscured by the on screen keyboard
  • Content is easily sharable from standalone or full screen mode
  • Site is responsive across phone, tablet and desktop screen sizes
  • Any app install prompts are not used excessively
  • The Add to Home Screen prompt is intercepted
  • First load very fast even on 3G
  • Site uses cache-first networking
  • Site appropriately informs the user when they’re offline
  • Provide context to the user about how notifications will be used
  • UI encouraging users to turn on Push Notifications must not be overly aggressive.
  • Site dims the screen when permission request is showing
  • Push notifications must be timely, precise and relevant
  • Provides controls to enable and disable notifications
  • User is logged in across devices via Credential Management API
  • User can pay easily via native UI from Payment Request API.

This is only a summary of Google’s checklist, which you’re going to need to understand what anything on this list means. Read it and then come back and copy/paste this list, so you can actually use it as a “Progressive Web App Checklist“. 🙂 And don’t forget to check out Lighthouse to automatically test for many of the items on this list!

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Six Tips to Travel With Friends

We love to travel with friends as much as we can but you start to see the same problems come up again and again. Travel shouldn’t be a reason to fight with your best buddies. Follow these tips to make sure you don’t spoil your trip with avoidable mistakes!

6. You travel with friends, not your phone

Travel with friends, not phones!

Don’t spend all your time on the phone. When you’re sitting for a drink, talk with your fellow travelers. Fill in you other friends when you get back home!

Before smartphones became a thing, there was that guy who had to check in with his girlfriend (or mom) by phone constantly. Sorry guys, I can’t go out tonight. I need to call my girlfriend. Now with modern technology, everybody can be that guy all the time. It’s not cool to be texting your friends back home while your friends in Paris are trying to enjoy a coffee together. Get out there and enjoy the day to its fullest. Your friends, family, and significant others will be waiting for you when you get home.

5. Figure out where to eat before you get hangry

Travel with friends can make you hangry

You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.

When you get hungry enough, the group will stop being a group of friends and start to resemble a tribe of prehistoric humans. No one will be willing to accommodate the other and tempers will run hot. When you reach this point, it’s too late. There’s no good advice to escape this situation! That’s why you’ve got to avoid it. Think ahead a little about where you’d like to eat or pack a snack in your bag if you know you’re the type to get angry when you get hungry. If you’re not that guy, you might consider taking charge of the food hunt before the hunters turn on you!

4. Be flexible for things that don’t matter

Beach yoga is a fun activity when you travel with friends

Flexibility is important for the body but also for friendship!

It’s easy to get caught up wanting to that thing you really want to do. Be flexible and do things you don’t really care one way or the other about. Agree quickly to win the appreciation of your friends, so that when it comes time to do the thing you really want to do, your friends feel you’re due and don’t question it. If you went to Rome to see the Colosseum, maybe it’s not so important which restaurant you have dinner at. The Colosseum might seem an obvious choice but it costs money to get in – some friends might not care enough to go! If you supported their ideas, they’re more likely to support yours.

3. Get on the same page

Make sure you are on the same page when you travel with friends

Talk with your friends about what they like to do.

Sometimes people have totally different styles of travel. My sister likes to drive from attraction to attraction, always following the guidebook. I prefer to randomly explore the city on foot. Both are valid ways to travel but it’s important to know what types of things your travel buddies have in mind. Travel to Live is a good tool for this because it lets everybody give their suggestions; the group just swipes left or swipes right to discover the things everybody wants to do.

2. You can go your own way

You can go your own way when you travel with friends.

There is no one right way.

It took us a lot of trips together to discover the golden rule of group travel: you don’t need to do everything together. We always thought consensus was important, so we tried to find whatever worked for everybody. The problem is, you end up having a trip that looks a little like a political election. You choose the least bad option. Why choose the least bad thing when you can split into two groups and each do the best thing?

It works in any size of group, whether you’re 2 or 10. And it covers so many of the other problems. Can’t agree on food? Eat at different places this evening. Don’t want to go out to the club? Let your friends dance without you while you check out that museum. We seem to think splitting up means failure or that it shows we aren’t good friends but, believe me, you’ll all be happier in the end – and you’ll have interesting stories to tell each other before getting some sleep. When needed, spending time apart will bring you closer together.

1. Don’t make one friend do everything

Travel with friends means planning with friends

Just because your friend plans everything doesn’t mean he LIKES to plan everything!

I’ve recommended that you be flexible and willing to split up rather than fall apart but sometimes a little planning goes a long way in avoiding that scenario. If you travel with friends but don’t feel like there’s much to do in the planning department, it’s probably because you’re not the planner! Look, I get it, planning can be boring. For people who like to go with the flow, it can seem totally unnecessary. But you should at least be on the same page. Try Travel to Live to plan your trip: it’s as easy as swiping left or right to figure out what you want to do. You can suggest your own ideas very easily, which helps break up the work. It’s the least you can do to help that friend who makes your trips possible!

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Traveling With Friends Should Be as Easy as Swiping

We’ve been traveling a lot around the world and one issue comes up again and again: getting your friends on the same page is tough! We’ve created Google Docs, email chains, Whatsapp groups – you name it. This stuff is all so complicated but we believe that traveling with friends should be as easy as swiping.

A Familiar Situation

Traveling with friends is hard on whatsapp

Coordinating with a Whatsapp group can leave some feeling overwhelmed

Imagine you’re struck by that burning desire to travel. You need to go to Japan. But traveling with friends isn’t so simple sometimes. You start up a Whatsapp group. Let’s go to Japan!! Everybody’s in. So you start to tell all your ideas, typing and typing, as fast as they come out. But then… silence. What? But everyone wanted to go.

Fast forward a few weeks. You’re ready to book. Again, you take to Whatsapp and tell everyone you’ve found a great deal and you need their urgent approval. Again, nothing. You don’t get it. Don’t they want to go to Japan? They all thought it was a cool idea when you announced it.

Planners and Joiners

The problem is that there are planners and there are joiners. Planners are like you, very invested into making sure the trip happens. They do all the research and write down all the ideas. Joiners love to travel but they don’t like to plan. They like to give some ideas and they want to be consulted but they mostly just want to show up.

The thing is, when you’re traveling with friends, planners and joiners need each other! The trick is not overwhelming the joiners. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a better way?

There is a better way

We’ve been working on a way to balance these two groups.

Swipe right to travel with friends

Swipe right to agree. Swipe left to say no.

We have a simple itinerary for planners to add their input, which are sent to joiners in easy to digest stacks. Simply swipe right for the travel ideas you are interested in. We’ve tried it and it works great. We’re all walking around with our mobiles these days, so even if you’re busy at work, you can take 3 seconds to swipe a few travel plans. This gives the planners quick feedback, while allowing joiners to have a say.

Traveling with friends doesn’t have to be hard. If you want to make it easy, create your trip now on Travel to Live.

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April Update: TTL comes to Android and much more!

We’ve been working hard on the April Update and are excited to tell you what’s changed with the site. Thanks to the folks at Betabound, we got a lot of good feedback and testing in the last 2 weeks. We actually released a small patch last week, too. Below are some of the major things we’ve changed.

  • login now persists, so no more logging in every time you visit the site!!
  • email (Account Kit) login fixes
  • you can now get your current location on the map
  • info window now shows how far away things are from you!
  • we added an FAQ – let us know via email if something is missing
  • Google POIs are now clickable, which makes it easier to add things to your trip
  • new users now receive a welcome mail!
  • no more trips taking place in the year 1969 (sorry, time travellers)
  • now you can add your travel blog even if you don’t use WordPress
  • all kinds of smaller bug fixes

But that’s not all. We’ve also launched an Android app in the Google Play store!

New in April Update: TTL for Android

Go ahead and try it out. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on social media. Now that this patch is out of the way, we’re going to concentrate on some big features. Stay tuned and keep travelling!

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ITB Berlin 2017 Report: Our Experiences

We’re back in the office after ITB Berlin 2017. This was our first time to the show and we expected something bigger than Travel Technology Europe but it was even bigger than expected. But was it better? We’re not sure.

ITB Berlin 2017: The good

A big show means a large variety of talks and topics. At TTE, the talks were obviously focused on technology, which was right up our alley. ITB had a lot of things that simply didn’t apply to us but more than enough interesting ones to fill up the schedule. Because the show was bigger, we also had better opportunities to meet with people in the industry and trade ideas. The ITB Networking tool made it easy to look up other show-goers and contact them about working together. We especially enjoyed meeting with what3words‘s Richard Lewis – great guy, awesome product! Check it out.

For a travel startup, you should really make your way to ITB Berlin, if you can. It’s a great place to connect with people in the industry and learn more in general about the market. In the worst case, it’s just another excuse to travel and see an amazing city. We loved our trip to Berlin and are looking forward to our next opportunity to visit Germany’s capital.

  • Large variety of topics
  • Great networking tool
  • Many different people and companies to connect with
  • Awesome city

The bad

Big shows can have big problems. Everybody knows the Germans are stereotypically a very organized and efficient people but what you may not know is that they will often tell you that Berlin is a unique and different place in Germany. I’m not sure if that’s the reason but the organization at ITB Berlin 2017 left us wanting.

Confusing signs and strangely ordered halls left you scrambling to find the right talk. Talks were back-to-back, so it was sometimes impossible to get there on time, if two interesting talks were in two different places. They were also a little too short, usually being only half an hour long. This led to some talks feeling rushed or too summarized. Finally, the app had a lot of information but just couldn’t deliver it with a good interface; it was the source of many headaches last week.

Now while Berlin (and Germany in general) has some great food, don’t expect anything but your usual convention fare. Only decent food at a high price was available at ITB Berlin 2017! We fled each day to the safety of nearby restaurants, where we gorged ourselves on German and international cuisines, including Syrian, Vietnamese, and Japanese food.

  • Organization was in need of improvement
  • Talks too short, with too little (no) time between them
  • Hungry convention goers need better food options!
  • Convention centre is not very central

Berlin

Berlin itself is a really great city. We didn’t get a lot of time to look around but we did have some time to eat. Like any major city, you’ll find a large variety of cuisines, pretty much anything to satisfy your desires. The best thing is that prices are very reasonable, unlike in some other major capitals, like London or Paris.

Königsberger Klopse, a specialty of my grandfather’s homeland

Top: liver and mashed potatoes.
Bottom: Maultaschen with fried onions and salad.

Japanese food at House of Small Wonder in Berlin

We didn’t just eat. On the final day, we celebrated our travel conference victory with a visit to Berlin’s victory column.

Berlin Victory Column

The weather wasn’t great on most days but this was actually one of the sunnier days. The photo was sadly taken during a cloudy moment!

Travel to Live visits Berlin: Brandenburg Gate

The infamous Brandenburg Gate. See if you can spot the mysterious Québec flag in this photo! Our French Canadian friends have got some prime real estate there in Berlin.

Although Berlin is a large city, it doesn’t feel like London, Paris, Rome, or any other major, overcrowded capital. They say Berlin was created out of many smaller cities and maybe that’s why it feels a bit stretched out. We liked it and could imagine living here. A lot of people must agree because Berlin’s population is exploding.

ITB Berlin 2017 was a success story for us

All in all, we really enjoyed taking the trip to Berlin and seeing the show. Most of the problems are problems of many big gatherings of people, so we can’t complain too hard. If you were at the show and didn’t get the chance to meet with us, send me an email and get in touch. Feel free to ask any questions down below!

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what3words support added in latest update!

Maybe you’ve noticed the site has been running a little smoother in the last couple days. Our latest patch brings a bunch of bug and performance fixes to Travel to Live. We’ve also added what3words integration!

what3words breaks up the world into 3m x 3m squares

what3words is a global addressing system, which has assigned 3m x 3m squares to the whole world. Each of these unique squares has 3 words assigned to them, giving a unique set of words for any place on the planet. We thought this was cool, especially in countries where addresses are confusing or absent (ever try to find your way around Tokyo?), so we hooked up the API to our site.

what3words is now available for every map point in Travel to Live

Every point on the map has a what3words address now on the info page, so when you’re on your trip, you’ll also know a unique and easy-to-remember identifier for every place you plan to visit. We’ll be at hood.curtail.stunts next week for ITB Berlin, where we also hope to attend an interesting talk by what3words. Find out more about what they’re up to on their website.

Are you already using what3words? Do you think you’ll give it a try now? What other services would you like to see connected to our site? Let us know what you think in the comments below. In case you missed it, don’t forget to checked out our featured blogger, Globetrotter Post!

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Featured Blogger: Globetrotter Post

We’re starting a new feature here at Travel to Live, where we highlight bloggers from the community. Travel to Live can help you promote your blog by adding it to your user profile. Don’t forget that bloggers can also add a trip widget to their travel blog. Today, we’d like to give a shout out to Globetrotter Post, an early adopter of our new promotion feature. By filling out their user profile, Globetrotter Post and other bloggers can gain exposure via our site, as well as plan and share their own trips.

We selected Globetrotter Post because we think they’ve got an interesting blog. Whether you’re looking for the best beaches of 2017, ideas about sustainable tourism startups or information about exercise while traveling, Globetrotter Post has you covered for all the latest interesting travel news. Their blog is also frequently updated and interesting. Have you ever had a trip where it seemed everything just went wrong? Read How I kept my cool when everything went wrong while travelling.

We’re always on the hunt for interesting travel bloggers to feature. The best way to get noticed is to sign up and start promoting your blog now. While you’re there, why not create a trip and start planning your next adventure! Or you can even recreate your old trips, add them to your blog, or share them on social media. Tag us @traveltoliv or with #traveltolive or #ttl and we’ll be happy to retweet.

Thanks to Globetrotter Post for being our first featured blogger. We look forward to many more!

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Changemaker In Your Community by Actuality Media

We were recently contacted by Actuality Media with an interesting opportunity for student travellers to win a study abroad experience. They’re hosting a documentary competition, called Changemaker In Your Community.

Journalism, film & media students globally are invited to produce a 3-5 minute short film on a local changemaker making a sustainable impact on chronic social or environmental problems. The winning filmmaker receives 100% scholarship (worth up to US$3,350!) valid for a 2017 Actuality Media Documentary Outreach in Peru, Nepal, Nicaragua or Morocco to study the art and practice of filmmaking while telling stories about solutions that improve our world.

Sounds like a pretty cool opportunity for students and aspiring travel bloggers. If you’re interested, read more about the competition on their website. See if you’re eligible by checking the terms and conditions. Final submissions will be accepted no later than March 15th, so get to work! Good luck!

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Travel Technology Europe 2017 Report

If you’ve been following us on Twitter, you’ll know we were at Travel Technology Europe in London last week! It was a great opportunity to see the latest trends in travel and travel technology. Of course, we also got a chance to field test the site, using it as a real traveller would.

Our trip wasn’t the most complex, as you can see. It was almost a surgical strike: fly into one side of London, sweep through TTE, eat some chips, and fly out of Heathrow. But we learned a lot at the show about the state of the industry and what is of interest to companies in the future. AI and VR were major topics, of course. These technologies have the potential to change our lives and travel is no exception. Many companies are looking at how exactly they can take advantage of these technologies to get ahead of the curve and meet the difficult expectations of travellers.

The continuing rise of mobile is another big and ongoing topic. Though the statistics seem to differ by source, around 1/3 of bookings are done on our phones. It makes sense: who among us can stand one minute without their phone? Phones are probably the greatest travel innovation since the airplane. Being able to have a map and translator in the palm of your hand is invaluable. Now with Travel to Live, you can have your travel plans too! It really puts the pressure on to launch our mobile version. Stay tuned.

Personalization was also a central topic at TTE. Especially in the age of the millennial, travel companies are trying to figure out how to serve us exactly what we want, when we want it. We think this is a major strength of Travel to Live, because our site exists specifically to allow travellers to dream, create, plan, share, collaborate, and remember. In the future, we’ll be adding features that help you find all kinds of trip ideas you might be interested in, created by travellers just like you.

Not all work at Travel Technology Europe

But although our schedule was packed with talks and meetings, we managed to fit in some time for fun and food, even though there was a tube strike on the first day!

A person covered in flowers makes their appearance at Travel Technology Europe

It’s not all business at TTE but we have no idea what was going on here.

Breakfast in London

No day in London can begin without a proper breakfast… sorry, no beans or tomatoes for me!

Sadly, it was only two days of travel before we had to get back to the office and back to work. Thankfully, it was only a hop across the channel to get back to Germany! We’re looking forward to our next trip, when Travel to Live hits Berlin for ITB Berlin! If you’ll be attending and want to meet up, let us know in the comments, check out my ITB Networking profile, or shoot me a mail!

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