Travel to Live Blog

Stories of our adventures and updates about the site.

Month: May 2017

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!

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!

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!

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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