What You Find on the Hills Around the World #FriFotos

This week’s FriFotos theme is “Hills”.  Of course, the first thing that came to mind was the song “The hills are alive with the Sound of Music…” (yes, showing my age).  While I’ve done the Sound of Music tour when I visited Salzburg, it was before the digital camera (again showing my age) and have only film prints.  So in lieu of those famous hills, here are a few hills (what I might think are mountains, but hey, I’m not a local) around the world and what you will find on and in them.

Easter Island – Rano Raraku (the Quarry)

The Quarry is a highlight on any visit to Easter Island as it is littered with Moai up here, over there and down below.  Of interest in the historic photos is that archeologists did excavate a Moai and it has a massive bottom to it – then then covered it back up so that you will see the famous heads you do now.  The old time photos were so enlightening and provided even more mystery to how the inhabitants were able to carve the massive Moai and move them around the island.

Easter Island Moai Rano Raraku the Quarry

The hills at Rano Raraku are filled with the famous Easter Island heads – their bodies buried beneath

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Categories: Botswana, Cape Town, Dublin, Easter Island, FriFotos on Twitter, New Zealand, Photography | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Interviews and The Contest (Win a Nordstrom Giftcard or My Favorite Cookies)

Self Promotion – I suck at it!  While I’ve been blogging for more than a year now, I haven’t quite gotten used to saying “hey, look over here, I’m a traveler with stories to tell and photos to share”.  I’m more comfortable in the background soaking up information than standing in the spotlight but this blogging thing continues to change who I think I am and what I can do.  First off, it takes a small village (or at least it feels that way) to promote a blog when you work full time as I do.  I’ve been fortunate that tomorrow is the third interview I’ve done in the past month to introduce myself, PhilaTravelGirl, and my blog, Flying By The Seat of My Points, to others.

PhilaTravelGirl Santorini

Cruise stop – Santorini

Thank you to those who have given me the opportunity:

Darius of Million Mile Secrets for including me in the Interview series

Charles of McCool’s Travel for my 5 Minutes here

 Johnny Jet for my Travel Style interview

So if you are a new reader , welcome!  I’m a Philly Girl who loves to travel and having worked in Corporate Travel and Finance for over twenty years, I have a deep knowledge of the business travel industry as well as the leisure market that is a bit different and leads to my unique perspective. Travel to Disney, London, Paris, Safari, Australia, cruises, spas, etc.?  I’ve been the go to travel person for friends, colleagues and people I’ve met along the way for years so why not share that with others?  So miles & points gets me to a destination, then I get to explore the art, the food, the culture and everything else that opens my eyes to the world. How cool is that?

Street Art Melbourne

Tagging the walls of Melbourne with street art

My Top 5 Posts

My top posts are a mix of points, art, photography and fun.

My Travel Savings Strategy: Simple, Silly and Smart

Aer Lingus Review: Boston to Dublin Business Class using 50k Avios

Paris: More than Graffiti, the Street Art Walking Tour

Flying From Philly: The British Airways Lounge at PHL, a boutique space

6  Photo Tips for the Art of Nature (NatGeo Seminar)

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Categories: Contest, My Favorites | Tags: | 34 Comments

Addicted to Nordstrom – The Shoe Shopping Points & Miles Double Dip

Triple Points starts today.  If you understand what this means then odds are you are a bit addicted to Nordstrom like me. I’ve lost thousands of miles & points over the years because I’ve needed to feed my shoe addiction in person (they have shoes for my big size 11 feet).  If I only had the patience to order online and wait for the UPS guy to appear at my door but I rarely do.  It might have something to do with the fact that the chocolate chip cookie at the cafe is so good (satisfying two addictions at once).  Or that my shoe salesman is a top producer earning a free trip each year based on sales (Thankfully, I am not his top customer as designer $600 shoes are not my thing).  Or it might be that shoes tend to fit more often than clothes (which drive me crazy).  Or maybe just the fact that I like to leave the store with a present for myself.  Either way, I should be earning miles with my Nordstrom purchases and so should you.

Keukenhof Clogs Outdoor Art

Keukenhof garden art – clogs in Amsterdam – too big for my feet and won’t fit in the suitcase

“You can earn miles and points on everyday spend” is something I read/hear everyday but how can you do it right to maximize points and miles?  I like to keep things simple with four questions (you should easily know the answers, otherwise I’d suggest doing a financial review of your budget and expenses but beware it is an eye opener!)

  1. What do I buy each year? (break into categories)
  2. How much do I spend a year on those items?
  3. Where is the best return for my purchases?
  4. What airline do I fly most or need points with?

So let’s start with one category – Shoes, Probably too much, Nordstrom, USAirways.  This is my example, do a test run for your own answers.

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Categories: Loyalty Points, Musings, My Favorites | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Sunday at the NatGeo Photography Seminar on Light and Color

I always knew my new camera was smarter than me, today at the National Geographic (NatGeo) Traveler Photography Seminar on Light and Color, I learned why.  Today’s session was held in Philadelphia and was complimentary as the previous seminar I attended on The Art of Nature was mired with technical difficulties.  NatGeo Photography received many complaints (not from me – I enjoyed the last seminar) so they sent attendees an apology, a photography book and the next session free.  Their response was beyond generous and I was thrilled to go back to learn more about travel photography. With a new eye, I’m more critical of what I thought was good could have been better in all of the photos below.

Atmospheres Hotel Paris

A bit of quiet before our adventures in Paris at Atmospheres Hotel

So back to my camera, I never understood why on a bright, sunny day, the flash would pop up.  Why did the scene need a flash?  Well, today, in the four hour lecture I learned why and will just let my camera do it’s thing next time and see what happens.  Thankfully, cameras don’t have the GPS voice otherwise it would be snarky (just like my car) when I think I know better.

The Louvre light and dark

The Louvre outside corridor in light and dark

The session today had examples of people and portraits, something I shy away from as I’m not comfortable capturing people quite yet.  So while I understood the concepts being shown, I would have liked to see a few nature examples for it to really click in my head.  One of the first takeaways is to pay attention to the problems and decide how you will eliminate it or keep it in.


For the past two years I’ve had my fancy camera, I’ve been playing with light with good and bad results.  I’m finding that I enjoy the shadows created in the light.  I’m cupping my hand over the viewfinder to block the sunlight and then also crawling on the ground for angles and perspectives that use the light differently (my niece pretended not to know me in Paris when I did this).  This was all before attending the light seminar today.  For a few of the light topics, I felt good about myself, my knowledge and my technique and then I quickly felt like an imbecile recognizing that I’ve become lazy with some features of the camera. I learned black and white with darkroom eons ago and had more decisions to make when composing and shooting film due to the limited number of pictures.  With digital, I haven’t jumped all in – I don’t edit my photos, I play with manual here and there but it has become so much more work after the fact, that I’ve let it go, accepting my photos as they are – rationalizing that I saw it this way so no touch ups required.  Is it better to show what I saw?  or to make it how I wish it was?  Tough questions.

Magic Water Circuit Park Lima

One of my favorite memories of the park – colors, action and shadows

Louvre statue in shadow

Love the statue, love the shadow puppet too

I did smile when she said things get interesting in the rain and in the snow so go outside and see what you find while everyone else is inside.  See how the light changes the shot, how the reflections bounce and play with technique to find the shot your want.  I had many opportunities in Sydney to play in the rain after my few hours chasing the sun.

Sydney Opera House

Each visit, I’m still amazed by the Opera House – it is iconic Sydney know around the world

Sydney Opera House in clouds and rain

Sydney Opera House in clouds and rain


Color can be powerful, passionate and provide personality.  Simple color choices can convey so much and yet we often pass by the opportunity to use color differently in photos especially when affected by changes in light.  For the color part of the session, the vibrant colors of festivals, celebrations and tradition were shown. Examples included group photos (the baseline) and then subsequent photos picking at different parts to illustrate the number of ways to get the right balance of light and color.  A key is knowing the color wheel better with contrasting and complementary colors to help see the photo differently as you compose and frame the shot.

Colorful garden flowers

Layers of colors in the garden add to the photo rather than isolate complementary colors pink/red

Colorful garden of glass at Chihuly

Colorful garden of glass at Chihuly in Seattle

We were also reminded of the absent of color, via black and white as well as infrared.  I wasn’t familiar with infrared photography but was intrigued by the application and will look further into this (I will need to learn photo editing software with this though).


The last topic was the one that had no relevance to me as my camera has a pop up flash, which I rarely use.  Much time was spent on flash and all the accessories that can be used as a secondary source of light.  This was very technical with priority, exposure compensation, zoom and sync.  All concepts I understand but no longer need to worry about with my current camera.  Use of gels and filters were mentioned as well with examples.

Ageing whisky at Jameson

Vivid example of the ageing process at Jameson – let the backlighting work it’s colorful magic


I continue to be impressed by the 1/2 day (4 hour) NatGeo Photography seminars for travelers. I still have so much to learn and see.   The photos shown were pretty amazing – some I liked, others I would have deleted if that was my capture (this is why I’m not the professional), so it’s nice to see that there is value in what I deem unworthy – I need to see better.  A shout out was given to the IPhone and two apps – Hipstamatic and Camera Bag, both of which I’m going to look at later tonight to see how I can enhance my Iphone photo skills.  The seminar generally costs about $110 which I feel is a great value (you can save a few dollars if you find a B&H code online).


Categories: Activities/Experiences, Photography | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Seattle Day Tour: Wine, Waterfalls and Chocolate

With family in Seattle, I’m running out of new things to do and see on my own when I visit (or at least I think I am).  After the Portland visit, I returned to Seattle this year for a quick two day visit to catch up with friends and family.  The only problem was that said friends and family had work and other commitments so I needed to keep myself busy for one full day until everyone could meet for dinner.  What to do?  After the past six weeks of travel, I should have just slept all day in my cookie cutter beige Sheraton room but where’s the fun in that?  I decided to try my luck with concierge roulette where I ask the concierge for his/her best option for a place and without much research and just go with it.  I don’t do this much (I have control issues) but for my Seattle day tour, that’s how I ended up on the Winery & Waterfall Tour with Customized Tours.

Chateau Ste Michelle red wine

Happiness in a bottle of red at Chateau Ste Michelle

At first, the concierge gave me the line I hear all the time “they don’t book singles, they have a minimum of two” but then called me later in the day to say that others had booked so I could join the tour.  So my six hours would be spent at two wineries, lunch,  Snoqualmie Falls and a stop for chocolate- not a bad way to spend the day especially if you are in Seattle pre/post cruise. The cost was $89 and did not include lunch or wine tasting fees.

The guide picked me up at the hotel and I had to laugh when I met the others as they were practically neighbors as they live in Wilmington, DE and a Philadelphia suburb -one lady was a high school alum (albeit twenty years before me).  So my tour day started off on a good note with Philly folks who had just completed their Alaskan cruise.  On this unusually hot, humid, July day, we had clear skies and a wonderful view of Mt. Rainier as we drove over the floating bridges on the way to the wineries.  Due to a concert at the winery that day, we had to make the wine tastings our first stop rather than the last stop but I’m a champion of alcohol after breakfast (see my Jameson Whisky Experience).

Mt. Rainier view from Seattle

Mt. Rainier view from the floating bridge

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Categories: Activities/Experiences, Seattle, Wine | Tags: , | Leave a comment