DayTripQuip™ – Beautiful And Historic Siena From Florence By Train Or Bus



Piazza del Campo

DayTripQuip™: Take the train (Regionale: 1 hour 28 minutes – €8.80/person each way) from Santa Maria Novella Station to Siena. Trains leave throughout the day from S.M. Novella at 10 minutes after the hour. Another option is the bus (Corse Rapido: 1 hour 15 minutes – bus station is just south of the train station – bus schedules below – €7.60/person each way) which is a little faster than the train, cheaper, and leaves you closer to the center of Siena. The Siena train station is a little over a mile and a 25 minute walk to the historical center of Siena where you will want to go. The Siena bus station is very close to the center (centro storico) and its fabulous piazza, ancient churches, beautiful cathedral, and historic buildings. Siena has restaurants, cafes, bars, and shopping galore if you would like a break from the frenzy of Florence for a few hours.

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 Bus Schedule


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Title: DayTripQuip™ – Beautiful And Historic Siena From Florence By Train Or Bus


Key Words: Siena, day, trip, quip, DayTripQuip, train, piazza, Piazza del Campo, campo, duomo, cathedral, fresco, church, antique, antiques, travel, value, Firenze, Florence, bus, schedule, SITA
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DayTripQuip™: Ancient Arezzo … An Antique Aficionado’s Allure


DayTripQuip™: Take the train (Regionale Veloce: 1 hour 10 minutes – €8.10/person each way) from Santa Maria Novella Station in Florence. The train station is in the center of Arezzo and just three blocks from the historical center (centro storico), a Roman amphitheater, ancient churches with famous frescoes, a beautiful cathedral containing the mummy of a pope, and a fabulous piazza. Restaurants, antique stores, and shops abound, providing a quaint respite from the crowds of Florence for a few hours at least.
Piazza Grande

Roman Amphitheater

Chiesa San Francesco

Chiesa San Domenico 
Duomo San Donato

Pope Gregory X

Fresco of Maria Maddalena – Piero della Francesca
Piazza Grande – Benigni’s “La Vita e Bella” Was Filmed Here

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Title: DayTripQuip™: Ancient Arezzo … An Antique Aficionado’s Allure


Key Words: Arezzo, day, trip, quip, DayTripQuip, train, Benigni, La Vita e Bella, vita, bella, film, movie, duomo, cathedral, fresco, church, antique, antiques, travel, value, 

See What 250 KPH On Italy’s High-Speed Train From Naples to Florence Looks Like!


Italo, Italy’s private, high-speed train … this is what 250 kliks (150 MPH) between Rome and Florence looks like …


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Title: See What 250 KPH On Italy’s High-Speed Train From Naples to Florence Looks Like!

Key Words: Italy’s, Italy, High-Speed, Train, Naples, Florence, Firenze, Napoli, Italo, kliks, MPH, kilometers, high, speed, trains, rail, station, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

Clean, Safe, Fair Priced and Unlike Anthony Bourdain … Some Reservations


Hotel Heritage Home
1603/4 Main Bazar, Pahar Ganj
Near RK Ashram Metro Station
New Delhi 110055, India 
Phone: +91-987-352-9223

Prices: $$$$$

New Delhi (Paharganj), India: I found Hotel Heritage Home on TripAdvisor and made my reservation on Booking.com after reading numerous good reviews. The hotel is just a few blocks from the Ramakrishna Ashram Marg Metro station (opposite end from the train station) on Main Bazaar and just around the corner from Café Festa. It was easy to spot because of the good signage in front. It has a clean, open, rustic feel with a long entry through automatic glass doors, a small reception along with a travel office, an elevator and a rooftop restaurant. The area around the station is seedy to say the least, but vibrant, energetic, and colorful although filthy as is the case around much of Delhi.

Arriving at 1:30 AM after a 30-hour journey, I decided to defer to the hotel to pick me up at the airport. My driver spoke little English, but was right where I was told he would be with my name on a sign. The drive took about 25 minutes with little traffic due to the early hour. The trip was quoted at 900 Rupees ($14.65), not unfair by American standards but 500 Rupees more than the “standard” (400 Rupee – $6.50) fare from the airport to Delhi. In fact, when I inquired about my return trip to the airport, I was quoted 400 Rupees, so maybe there was a “late arrival surcharge”, an not totally unreasonable assumption.

I booked a “standard” room (1200 Rupees/night – $19.50), but found out the next say I was upgraded to a “deluxe” (normally 1800 Rupees – $29.25). The room was basic with marble floors, a large king bed, flat screen TV and cable, a small wardrobe, mini-sofa and table, and a bathroom that also serves as a shower due to the lack of a curtain or door. The room was fortunately in the back away from the street with no windows, which is not a bad thing considering I am sensitive to light and noise when I sleep and Main Bazaar is extremely loud due to the crowds below and the incessant honking of horns that Delhi drivers seem to thrive on.

The hotel’s travel office is convenient and helpful, but based on the prices I was quoted you may be better off booking your (train/bus/hotel/sightseeing) reservations online or directly with the provider as travel agents (and most other businesses) in this area are notorious for overcharging tourists. I will defer my opinion until I can compare quoted charges with online/counter prices through the respective purveyors.

Their rooftop restaurant is “relatively” quiet and inviting with plants, three parakeet cages, and local furnishings with several tables sitting below their own canopy for shade from the warm Delhi sun. The waiters speak barely passable English, but are attentive, efficient, and friendly. The menu has few beverage options, including bottled water, coffees (30-35 rupees – 55 – 60 cents), teas, shakes and other local drinks as well as vegetarian breakfasts, appetizers, pastas, sandwiches, and several options from India. There is no Diet Coke or other low calorie soft drinks and the coffee adequate, seemingly instant and likely Nescafe. The offerings are cheap by American standards, but not great. In two visits, I tried the egg and potato breakfast (80 Rupees – $1.30), accompanied by two pieces of toast (butter and jam), and a coffee with milk (35 rupees). It was adequate, but an excellent value. For dinner I went with the butter chicken (170 rupees – $2.75 – normally, one of my favorites) and an order of garlic cheese naan (60 Rupees – $1.00). The butter chicken came in a tomato-based sauce that tasted like sweet spaghetti sauce, not the creamy, savory variety I have come to love in restaurants in the U.S. and England, and the naan was slathered in butter/oil, a bit too much for my taste.

My biggest disappointments were the unexplained airport surcharge mentioned earlier, the horrible and nearly non-existent internet, and the phantom (500 Rupee) SIM card charge for my iPhone. The internet seemed to work OK upon my arrival and I was fortunately able to Skype with my wife and let he know I was alive, but it was “down” the next two days (the manager said it was their service provider’s fault) and accessible the next two, but so slow that my browsers gave up trying to load. Google also locked me out of all my email accounts because they thought someone was trying to hack me from India, but I could not access my ten accounts to resolve the issue due to lack of internet. What fun! When I told the manager that I wanted to get a local SIM card for my phone, he gallantly offered to have a colleague help me out. I was quoted 500 Rupees ($8.15 for a SIM card) and 495 Rupees for 2GB of 3G data. The data is an excellent value compared to American standards, but when I went to the Vodaphone store in Connaught Palace the next day because I could only get 1G data service throughout Delhi, I was told that “SIM cards are free, you should not have been charged for one”. Oh well, live and learn!

There are much cheaper (and more expensive) options available in Delhi, but if you are looking for a reasonably priced hotel, centrally located near the Metro in an area not abundant with clean, modern facilities, then Hotel Heritage Home is a good option, but be careful about add-on services as they are likely highly inflated.

CombatCritic Gives Hotel Heritage Home 6 Bombs Out of 10 



… Would Have Been 8 If Not For the Airport Surcharge, Internet Fiasco, and Extraneous SIM Card Charge .. MORE BOMBS ARE BETTER!

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Title: Clean, Safe, Fair Priced and Unlike Anthony Bourdain … Some Reservations

Key Words: Hotel Heritage Home. hotel, heritage, home, New Delhi, new, Delhi, metro, train, Main Bazaar, main, bazaar, budget, travel, value, TravelValue, CombatCritic, TripAdvisor, trip, advisor

DayTripQuip™: New Delhi to Agra … The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort


Taj Mahal and Agra Fort Day Trip

If you want to see the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, make a day trip out of it rather than staying overnight in Agra. Agra has few redeeming qualities other than these two extremely impressive landmarks in my opinion and spending even one night should be avoided. Let’s face it … Agra is a pit!


There are bus tours available or you can take a train from the main New Delhi station if on a budget, but I would not recommend the train unless you have confirmed reservations both coming and going. If planning a visit to Varanasi by bus, car, or train, another option is to visit Agra on the way as it lies between New Delhi and India’s holiest city. However, by the time you pay for two or more bus tour tickets, you could hire a private cab to take you to Agra, leaving New Delhi at 9AM, visiting both Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal, stopping for lunch and some shopping, and returning to New Delhi by 9PM.

Agra Fort Exterior

My wife and I hired a taxi for the day at our hotel near the New Delhi train station, charging us 7,500 rupees ($120.00) for the itinerary described earlier. We left around 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning, a good day to go to as traffic is quite a bit lighter in New Delhi on a Sunday morning. It took us about two-and-a-half hours to get to Agra Fort, including a pit stop, traveling on the toll road, which costs a little more than the toll-free route, but shaved an additional two hours off the journey … each way!


A foggy morning, we decided to visit Agra Fort first to let the clouds burn off a bit before we headed over to the nearby Taj Mahal. We picked up our “complimentary tour guide” who briefed us on safety/security details upon arrival where “hawkers” and “pickpockets” reportedly would be waiting for us when we exited the taxi. The hawkers were no worse than any other tourist attraction in India and pickpockets are not a problem as long as you use a little common sense and pay attention to your surroundings.

Agra Fort is beautiful, impressive, and crowded. Entry was 350 rupees ($5.70 each) and we spent about an hour walking through the grounds, snapping photos, and learning about its history from our guide. We may have very well missed something as we found out later that our guide was cutting corners and not totally truthful in order to move us along so we had time to go shopping at a marble factory he was “touting” (“receiving kickback from”, a common practice among taxi drivers and tour guides throughout India and elsewhere).


The Taj Mahal is open every day except Friday from sunrise to sunset, not “6am to 7pm” as advertised by About Travel’s “India Travel Expert” in her Taj Mahal Travel Guide: What to Know Before You Go. There are three gates, but we entered through the East Gate (described as the “VIP gate” by our guide), paying 750 rupees ($12.15) each for entry, jumping on a tram for the short ride to the entrance. The lines were short both to buy tickets and enter the grounds, so this may very well be the best available option.


Once inside, there is a large courtyard to traverse before entering through the “Royal Gate”, an ornate red sandstone arch where the enormous Taj Mahal looms in the background as you enter. Having seen countless photos and heard numerous stories about the Taj Mahal for many years, I was very interested in visiting, but until I actually saw it in person, I had no idea how impressive it actually is.


The long, narrow reflecting pond is cut in half by a raised terrace where “Princess Diana’s Bench” or “Lady Di’s Chair” is located, the location of a famous photo taken of the princess during a visit to the Taj Mahal in 1992. We were told, as were many other tourists apparently, that the bench closest to the “Royal Gate” (on the opposite side of the terrace from the Taj Mahal) was where the photo was actually taken. But I assumed it was actually the other bench (closest to the tomb and, oddly enough, ignored by most tourists even though it offers a much better photo opportunity) where it was taken, a hunch that was confirmed the next day when I checked the internet for the photo.

There is a small museum (free) on the West side of the grounds halfway between the Royal Gate and Taj Mahal that is well worth a visit. I knew it was there and as our guide tried to steer us toward the tomb I asked if we could visit, but he said “it’s closed for renovations”. I could see that people were entering and leaving the building, so I insisted on going over to check. “Oh, they must be letting a small number of people in, you are very lucky” he exclaimed as we walked up to the doorway. The museum has four small rooms with artifacts from the site and other interesting exhibits, so take 30 minutes and visit.

You can read about the Taj Mahal in many places, so I will not elaborate here. I will say that it is absolutely breathtaking and a MUST SEE in your lifetime, this coming from someone who has traveled to 51 countries and having seen many of the most beautiful and famous attractions in the World. Even though the tour guide lied to me about the museum, normally a deal breaker, he took 4+ hours out of his day to show us around Agra, so I gave him a 500 rupee tip ($8.20 – he probably would have gotten 1,000 rupees if he had not lied), a small price to pay for an experience of a lifetime.


CombatCritic Gives The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort 10 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!




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Title: DayTripQuip™: New Delhi to Agra … The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort


Key Words: Agra, New Delhi, new, delhi, Taj Mahal, taj, mahal, fort, taxi, bus, train, travel, tour, day, trip, quip, DayTripQuip, CombatCritic, value