I was lucky enough to be walking through Westminster during dusk, and grabbed this shot of the Houses of Parliament. The iconic shot is from the other side across the river, but try to look at famous places from a different angle - you can be surprised!
Westminster Abbey, London
The site of SO MUCH history. A must, must, must visit for English history fans. Again, it can be quite crowded, so either take a guided tour or visit late afternoon before evensong. (Note that attending a service is free, but you won't really get to linger and visit everything after the service.)
A typical scene for this bustling city (but the vertical version is better!). It is easy enough to recreate this shot, just head to the far corner of Parliament's square opposite the Abbey and you'll find some phone booths. It is almost always crowded though, so forget a people-free photo!
I just love the old-world feel to the Grand Palace in the main square of Brussels. Skip the over-hyped Mannequin Pis sculputure, and instead find a great Belgian beer nearby!
One of the many window displays of the fabulous Belgian Waffles throughout Brussels. With fruit, chocolate, or jam - they're always a super tasty treat. Neuhaus chocolates are also sinful, but then again, most Belgian chocolates are!
Berlin is one of the coolest cities in Europe, and always combines the old & new in an intriguing way. It is a bit bigger than most cities, so having a good guide is helpful to get you orientated. This is a memorial - a ruined church from WWII - smack dab in the middle of a fun, bustling street (Kurfuerstendamm - full of shops, restaurants, and hotels).
The Hofburg Palace is just one of the spectacular examples of imperial architecture in this gorgeous city. If you're a history buff, don't miss the tour of the palace. If you aren't, there are coffee shops all over the place to entertain you!
Prague, Czech Republic
Now this is a statue that dominates a main square. Love this city! From the Jewish cemetery, to the Charles Bridge, it is full of old-world charm. Skip the crowds at the astronomical clock (unless you love clocks!) for some amazing art at the Mucha Museum, just a few blocks from the old town square.
The Hungarian parliament building displays the elegance present all over this very cool Eastern European capital. The views from Gellert Hill are great, but don't skip exploring Heroes' Square in City Park, or a wander through the lovely Margaret Island.
Hong Kong Skyline
The night cruise on the Victoria Harbor is a spectacle of lights, and the best way to see the Hong Kong Skyline in all its glory. The light show at 8pm is a little hokey, but still fun.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Sunrise over Angkor Wat is an unbelievable, spiritual, and majestic experience. Get there early, bring a flashlight of some sort, and head to the left to find this pond. Settle in to wait for the sun to get over the towers. OR, let the crowds do that while you run around the nearly-empty temple as the sky lightens up, then make your way back out while the crowds work their way in.
Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam
Thanks to my in-depth guidebook, I happened upon a local favorite spot for pho, the traditional Vietnamese beef-noodle soup. SO yummy, but pretty intimidating, as I was the only western person in the place! Dare yourself to eat in a local place - the food is almost always better.
The grounds and buildings of the Royal Palace are a sparkling, sumptuous, amazing site. Bangkok is large, busy, and hot. This complex is about as peaceful as you'll find, unless you're cruising down the river. The intricacy of Thai art is also, in my opinion, fascinating!
Diving in Thailand
I got to dive with a professional photographer on one of my first dives in the Phi Phi nature reserve in the Adaman Sea. If you don't have your certification, nor the time to get certified, dive shops often offer "discovery dives" which will give you the experience, without the multiple days of classes.
Reef Shark, Adaman Sea, Thailand
On my second ever open water dive, my instructor and I found this sleepy shark - luckily while diving with a professional photographer. Don't be afraid of trying something new while travelling- you never know what you'll encounter!
You just never know what you'll see when wandering through a Thai marketplace. It is a fascinating mix of rice, spices, fruits, veggies, and even some grasshoppers being fried in a giant wok. These are fish wrapped in banana leaves in Chiang Mai. I didn't try them, but lucked into a cool photo!
That's me on a gorgeous hand-made wooden chair in one of the few traditional Hutong houses that still exist in Beijing (at least prior to the Olympics - this is an older shot). The smog may be quite intense in this massive, crowded city, but wandering through the Forbidden Palace really is special.
A former pharoah of Egypt all lit up during an evening tour of the Luxor temple. I visited prior to all the political turmoil that's been going on lately, and I really, really hope things calm down enough for tourism to get going again. The treasures you can see on-site, night and day, are truly unreal. Until then, there are always artifacts on display in museums around the world, especially the British Museum in London and the Egyptian Museum in Berlin.
I still can't believe I was able to get this photo - with no people! Visiting the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids was unforgettable, but also extremely crowded, claustrophobic even. Again, I hope the political situation resolves itself to allow for crowds to grace this amazing place again.
Hatshepsut Temple, Egypt
This was taken impulsively by a fellow traveler while I was running around gleefully exploring this amazing temple to an incredible female pharaoh. It may be my favorite photo of me ever! This is one of the benefits to taking a group tour - you meet some great people!
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Now THIS is a wonder of the world that absolutely stands up to the hype. I visited at dawn and really didn't want to leave. Magical! Fatehpur Sikri, another UNESCO heritage site located just south of Agra, is well worth the visit as well, so don't just do a day trip from Delhi!
Milford Sound, New Zealand
This is one of my favorite shots from one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. I highly recommend taking an overnight cruise, if possible, because you get time to truly explore the coastline.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Everywhere in NZ is beautiful, but Queenstown is particularly picturesque. I actually think I was on the little luge track in the foreground when this was taken. There is so much to see and do in this adventure capital that you really need at least three nights to do it justice. It's not all about the bungee!
12 Apostles, Victoria, Australia
Taken during my heli-tour over this incredibly beautiful stretch of coastline outside of Melbourne. Some of the best money spent ever! Honestly though, the entire Great Ocean Road is a fabulous trip, whether you choose to see it from the air or not. Keep your eyes peeled for both wild kangaroos AND koalas - I saw both that day!
Another spectacular afternoon was spent sunning in the Botanical gardens with this view. Sydney is full of great walks - like this one from the Opera House over to Woolloomooloo Bay, or also the one from Bondi Beach along to Coogee Beach.
Sydney Opera House
I don't know how many photos I took of this iconic building, but I FINALLY got one I loved. It's great how accessible it is from land, but also great how easy it is to see it from the water. Even the simple cross-town ferries go right by it, but from a sail boat it becomes really special.
Sydney, Opera House, Australia
It really is cool to see this in person, and again the best way is from a boat in the harbor - luckily, they seriously ALL go right by it.
Yes - I got to actually hold a cute little koala. Her name was Matilda, and it was at a small wildlife refuge on Magnetic Island, on the Queensland coast. SO soft and fluffy! If you really want to hold one, rather than take a photo next to one, do your research. It is not all that common, as they are pretty particular little creatures.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Let's not forget that North America has it's own fair share of beauties. I really loved exploring Old San Juan! The colonial architecture and food were both fantastic, but for good beaches you need to head out of town a bit.
Napa Valley, California
Right in my backyard is one of the most gorgeous spots in the world. Napa and Sonoma valleys both boast truly lovely scenery along with the top-quality wines. Sonoma is a bit less manicured, a bit less corporate, with usually smaller wineries (and therefore lower tasting fees!). True spectacular luxury lives in Napa however, with Michelin starred restaurants and 5-star boutique inns to go with the excellent wines.
17-Mile Drive, California
Another great day-trip from San Francisco is the Monterey & Carmel area. From the world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium to the world-class golf of Pebble Beach, this area of the coast is not only gorgeous but full of great things to do. This the the famous "Lone Cyprus" which is a highlight of the 17-Mile drive along the Monterey peninsula.
Española Island, Galapagos, Ecuador
The Galapagos may not always be the most beautiful islands, but they are surely some of the most fascinating places on this planet. The animal encounters here are maybe second only to those on safari in Africa, but the science of evolution that you can see basically everywhere is just unreal. Plus you can get so close to the animals here that you don't need some crazy zoom lens for great photos! (The two Blue-footed Boobies here are in the midst of a mating dance!)
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
This magical island really lives up to the hype, with picture-perfect views and romantic overwater bungalows - but it's all about the water here. Snorkeling with sharks in that crystal clear blue water is one of the coolest things I have ever been fortunate enough to experience.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Exploring the sun-drenched Dalmatian coast makes Croatia worth visiting, but don't forget to head inland just a bit to see one of the most spectacular natural settings on the planet. Situated halfway between Zagreb and the coast, it's easy enough to fit into most itineraries!
Ah, Venice - the romantic gondolas! The maze of canals! The opulent splendor of St. Marks! The crowds... aye-yi-yi. The best way to avoid the masses is to head to the square at sunset and arrange for an after-hours visit to the cathedral - only sometimes included in premium tours of Italy.
Valensole Plateau, France
Nothing screams "Provence" like sweeping fields of lavender! In the summer, there are lots of places to see them dotted around the Luberon, but the drama of the Valensole Plateau, a bit more to the east, is ridiculous. It makes a perfect stop for those driving between Provence and the Riviera.
Notre Dame, Paris, France
This cathedral really is the "grande dame" of all gothic cathedrals. Not the biggest or oldest, but one of the most beautiful for sure! Before you go in to drool over the Rose Window and general splendor, head around the corner on the left to go up to the tower. You'll get amazing views from Quasimodo's steps, but be sure to go in the morning as the lines can get long!
This is taken from one of my favorite spots smack dab in the middle of the city. The walk from the Place de la Concorde to Trocadero skips the crowds on the Champs Elysees, and provides better views of the Eiffel Tower! Save the cruise on the Seine for the evening to see the lights.
Museums, Paris, France
Taken on a blissful afternoon relaxing in the Tuileries, looking at two of the best museums on the planet. (The Louvre, and the Musee D'Orsay in the background.) Picnicking in one of Paris's many parks with a baguette, some brie, and a bottle of wine is one of the best ways to spend time on a sunny day.
This is one of the local specialties of Lyon: a quenelle. I still can't describe it, but it was fantastic. Eating in Lyon really is a spectacular experience; you could spend your whole visit just going from café to bistro to restaurant.