Category Archives: Destinations

5 Things to Do in Barbados

If you’re looking for a Caribbean vacation packed with things to do, look no further than Barbados. There are so many interesting and active things you can get up to on the island, so book up one of the beautiful villas in Barbados and get ready for the holiday of a lifetime.

Also, Best At Barbados holidays offer affordable luxury holidays to exclusive hotels and resorts in Barbados, including Sandy Lane and Turtle Beach by Elegant Hotels..

barbados

Hire a Car and Tour the Island

Barbados is so diverse that the best way to see it is by car, so you can enjoy the gorgeous and quiet coasts to the north and east, surfing beaches of the south, and rolling countryside in the center of the island- and everything in between. The island is a completely different experience when you escape the crowded beaches, and explore the beautiful land within. Make sure to stop at the rum shops along the way!

fish fry

Oistins Fish Fry

Every Friday night is fish night on Barbados, and Oistins in the parish of GetChrist Church is the happening spot to catch up with locals and dine on some fabulous freshly caught fish and chips. Live music starts up around 7 pm, with everything from reggae beats to ballroom dancing providing the entertainment for this festive event.

submarine

Get Underwater

It wouldn’t be a complete trip to Barbados without checking out the vibrant life under the sea. Snorkel among colorful fish along the bright coral reefs- the crystal waters let you see for what seems like miles. Or if you prefer to stay dry, take the Atlantis submarine down to depths of 100 feet to view all manner of sea life!

hiking

Go Hiking

A great way to meet locals and enjoy the beautiful natural landscape is by joining a hiking group though local website www.hikebarbados.com. They organize weekly walks and hikes all over the island on Sundays- with varying degrees of difficulty.

Watch a Sporting Event

Barbados has cricket pitches in every Parish, so check out those or the main stadium in in the Capital for a lively afternoon watching oen of the island’s popular sports. The island also hosts a marathon, half marathon and several fun runs if you’d like the experience of competing with people from all over the world.

 

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Special Perks of Sunny Florida

A Florida vacation is one of those trips that everyone deserves to experience at least once in a lifetime. The state has something for everyone. Whether your preference is sunbathing on the beach or you would rather attend a sporting event or visit a fabulous theme park, you can do it all in Florida!

disney world

Disney World

Florida Attractions

Besides its beaches Florida is well known for its theme parks – especially for Walt Disney World. This park is actually several parks in one, and it offers countless shows, attractions, rides, and shopping and dining options. In fact, Disney World most people agree you will need to spend several days there. You can find online guides and detailed information about the theme park. People come from around the world to experience Walt Disney World.

Other popular theme parks include Universal Studios and Sea World. There are also beautiful gardens, alligator farms, and many other attractions located throughout the state. No matter what your preference, there is sure to be an attraction that will interest you.

Florida Sporting Events

Florida is a great place for sports enthusiasts. Daytona International Speedway is definitely the place for NASCAR lovers. In Florida you can follow the Marlins at spring training and you can find out what is so exciting about Jai-Lai. Purchase Miami Dolphins tickets to enjoy a memorable night out.  The point is, Florida offers countless types of professional spectator sports.

If you want to take a more hands on approach to sports you can choose diving, surfing, sailing, swimming, boating, or various horseback riding activities or hiking. There are many, many things to do in Florida. Just get out and do it.

Top Florida Destinations

Daytona Beach is well known for the Daytona 500, which is held in mid-February. In May – October sea turtles come to the beaches in the area to lay eggs. Daytona is also recognized for its flea markets, water parks, and fishing.

Miami is unique because the city has beaches, plus it is a short drive from the Florida Keys and from Biscayne Bay. In addition, Miami is the only city that has the Florida Marlins, the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Heat, and the Florida Panthers. It is definitely a great place for those that enjoy watching sports!

Orlando is best known for Walt Disney World, but it is also home to Universal Studios, Discovery Cove, and Sea World. Countless lakes surround the city and not surprisingly, numerous hotels and other accommodations are offered.

Besides its beaches, Tampa is perhaps best recognized for the beautiful theme park called Busch Gardens. The city is also home to the Cracker Country History Museum and the Glazer Children’s Museum.

Florida Weather

Central and northern Florida has a humid, subtropical climate, but southern Florida has a true tropical climate. The days can sometimes be very hot, but an afternoon or evening shower can often cool things down as much as 10 degrees for the remainder of the day.

Because most of Florida has such a wonderful breeze, many people say they do not notice the humidity in the air. However, the summertime temperature can rise well above 90. Could it be that people in Florida are having too much fun to notice the heat?

 

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Things to See in Normandy

Europe is filled with places that are artistic, beautiful, historic, and amazing. One place that is all of those things is Normandy. Sitting on the English Channel in North West France, Normandy has a rich history and several sites that no traveler should skip over. Normandy is the perfect stop to make when traveling from England to France. You can take a ferry from Portsmouth to Caen which will show you all that the beautiful English Channel has to offer. When you get there here are some of the best things that you can see and do.

Visit the D-Day Beaches

If you’re like me, you hear the D-Day beaches and can only remember the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. I promise the beaches are not as grim as they were on that day. This once focal point of WWII, which its take over by allied forces is a highlight of the war, is now one of the best places for travelers to go to. For one reason, its free. Anyone can walk onto any of the five beaches that, collectively, make up the D-Day beaches. These beaches are Juno, Sword, Gold, Omaha, or Utah. As you walk the 50-mile stretch of beach (maybe take a couple of days?) there are museums, monuments, soldier cemeteries, and and different bomb shelters that you can visit. This is bound to be a moving experience for not only history buffs, but everyone. Tours are available if you would like a little more direction during your visit.

Go to the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Rouen

This cathedral was, at one point from 1876-1880, the tallest building in the world. The cathedral is comprised of two towers that stand tall against the French sky. The cathedral became famous for the way that it changed in the light. So much so, that famous impressionist Claude Monet would study the cathedral for hours on end and it became the subject of many of his works and influenced the way he painted changes of light. If it was marvelous enough for Monet, it is definitely marvelous enough for me! Beauty is not the only reason to take a visit, inside the cathedral is the tomb of Richard the Lion Heart. And again, the best part about this site is that it is free.

Cathedral Notre Dame de Rouen

See Claude Monet’s House and Gardens

The impressionist artist painted most of his work inside his Normandy home. Much of the house has been preserved in fantastic condition. This allows visitors to get as close as they can to seeing exactly what Monet saw during his days painting. And taking a walk outside can show you just where Monet got his inspiration for his Japanese Bridge and Water Lilies paintings. Without his garden, Monet would not have produced some of the best impressionist work of his era. The house and gardens are only open for tours from April to November. So plan your trip to Normandy during those months to make sure that you won’t miss out on this treasure. Tours cost about 8 euros or 11 USD.

Monets Garden

What are you waiting for? Plan your trip to Normandy today and use these three stops as jumping off points into your next adventures!

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Lebanon: Full of Surprises and Awesomeness

For many Americans that were politically conscious in the early 1980s, “Beirut” is synonymous with the suicide bombing that killed 300 servicemen. For the French, Liban represents a decline of global influence after WWII. For Australians, Brazilians, and many other countries that received torrents of refugees during Lebanon’s 15 year civil war, the country is the source of large social groups that had never existed before. For other Arabs, the Lebanese society is often a symbol of westernization and departure from traditional Muslim values. But whatever your background, you will find that Lebanon is full of surprises if you’re lucky enough to visit it.

Lebanon 1Beirut has reemerged once again as a chic and cosmopolitan capital city, reclaiming a title that it once held—the Paris of the Middle East. Its downtown has been rebuilt in the wake of the war into a modern, clean, and highly organized center. Nearby neighborhoods like Achrafiyeh and Gemmayzeh are known for their extensive nightlife options, ranging from hole-in-the-wall bars to massive nightclubs with internationally-renowned DJs. Hamra Street connects these East Beirut landmarks with Ras Beirut, on the west side of the city, known for its cultural melting pot and student culture. I studied at the American University of Beirut for a semester and enjoyed the liveliness and friendliness of the Hamra neighborhood. Beirut borders the ocean on both the west and north sides, and the lovely Corniche road follows this coastline. This seaside promenade is perfect for morning jogs and evening strolls, and it is a popular local pastime to bring chairs to hang out by the sea and smoke nargilehs with friends and family. Throughout the rest of Beirut are interesting historical neighborhoods with drastically different political and religious leanings, divisions that can at times lead to violence but recently have seen cooperation and coexistence for the most part.

Lebanon 2Outside of Beirut, there are many places worth visiting. In winter, one can ski without the crowds at Faraya or The Cedars and swim in the Mediterranean in the same day, a famously clichéd statement about Lebanon that is entirely true and totally delightful. Jbeil, also known as Byblos, is a short drive north of Beirut along the coast and is said to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. It has fascinating ruins of crusader castles and much, much older settlements that will interest archeology and history buffs. In the south, towns like Nabatieh have conservative charm, offering a much more traditional cultural picture of the country than the modern, European cities. Driving through the hills and vineyards is enchanting—the terrain is beautiful, and the rural villages and farms are all welcoming of polite foreigners. Lebanon 3Tripoli, in the north, is the country’s second largest city and boasts more coastal atmosphere. It even has islands famous for palm trees and green turtles. Further to the east, the ancient ruins of Baalbek are larger and better preserved than the Parthenon in Greece, albeit much less famous. This ancient Roman city has layers of intricate stonework built on top of it from Arab and Ottoman periods, and is exquisite in its detail, scope, and preservation. A visit here is a must.

Lebanon is so small that visiting the entire country is not difficult at all. One should always do some research on political conditions, but in general it is a safe place for westerners. People are nice, well-educated, and guaranteed to be curious about you. If nothing else, the sheer variety of the country is reason enough to visit.

 

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Adventures in Nicaragua

Once off-limits due to its extreme politics, military control of society, and high crime rates, Nicaragua now enjoys a substantial tourism industry and stands as a much more welcoming state. While it certainly still has its share of problems, it was third on a recent New York Times list of the 46 places to visit in 2013, and with good reason. Nicaraguans enjoy an excellent quality of life, and trips to their homeland are always worthwhile.

Of course, that’s excluding Managua, the capital. Managua is a pretty awful place—there really is no center of the city, no downtown, no cultural hub. It is just a sprawling mess, poorly served by police and sanitation and other government offices, and not much to look at. Visitors arriving in Managua are encouraged to escape as soon as possible. However, this poor introduction to Nicaragua shouldn’t dissuade you. The rest of the country is great.

Nicaragua 1Many people take in Granada when they visit, and are very pleased with the decision. This pleasant town 50 kilometers from Managua has great colonial architecture, a vibrant restaurant and live music scene, and plenty of art galleries spread around. There are colorful and artistic old mansions, great bars, and plenty of shady spots to cool off on cobbled backstreets. Granada stands on the edge of Lake Nicaragua, and there are excellent opportunities for renting kayaks and canoes on the shore. Small groups with local guides paddle around the hundreds of tiny islands forming an archipelago in the lake, some only large enough for one modest house. One isle is home to hundreds of monkeys that live in mango trees and offer endlessly entertaining animal watching. When you finish with the lake, there is a magnificent cloud forest on the opposite side of the city. Scaling the slope of a dormant volcano, Nicaragua 2the Mombacho Forest is a great place for treks. Dense mist at times obscures the line of sight down the mountainside, but it occasionally parts and rewards persistence with fantastic views. You can even peer down into the crater of the volcano, now overgrown with jungle. There are also several companies offering canopy tours and zip-line courses, which are a generally safe but still very exhilarating diversion. This is great for children as well as adventurous adults—my mom was brave enough to do it with me on my last visit, and she loved it.

Nicaragua 3Another great place to visit is Ometepe, an island made up of two dormant volcanoes within Lake Nicaragua. Crowded but fun ferries take you to the island, and an uneven road circles its perimeter. Ometepe is known for coffee plantations, hiking trails of various intensity on the volcanoes, and a little bit of ancient history. Large rocks inscribed with petroglyphs stand overgrown with foliage and date back thousands of years. There are also smaller islands within swimmable distance from Ometepe’s shore. Be careful though—this is one of a few places in the world where freshwater sharks have evolved (though they have been hunted almost to extinction at this point).

If you are more adventurous or have more time, you may consider making the trip out to the Corn Islands, or taking a boat down the Rio San Juan. There are tons of options within this underdeveloped country, and at least for now you don’t have to share them with too many other travelers. Enjoy!

 

 

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Desert Dreams Part II: Western Rajasthan

The deeper you go into India’s desert state, the more rewarding the experience can be. From ancient cities to modern hangout spots to truly unique cultural experiences, there is a lot to see. If you missed it, make sure you check out the previous post in this series to see our top recommendations for eastern Rajasthan. For now, though, deeper into the desert!

West Rajasthan 1

Jodhpur contrasts to Jaipur in many ways, and in my opinion is preferable. Its extensive old city is painted various shades of deep blue, and wandering through the back alleyways is fascinating. There is excellent food to be found, and endless opportunities to see local life played out—incense burning on windowsills, flower offerings on doorsteps, children playing with cows in the street, and so on. The Blue City is perhaps even more impressive when viewed from above, either from a guesthouse rooftop or on the parapets of the awe-inspiring Mehrangarh Fort. Jodhpur’s location makes it a possible starting point for camel treks, for anywhere between an afternoon and a week.

West Rajasthan 2Even more famous for camel-related activities is Jaisalmer, further into the desert and another tourist hotspot. Known as the Gold City (notice a trend, yet?), Jaisalmer is famous for massively inflated prices—haggle like your life depends on it, and even after that plan on paying around three times as much as an item is actually worth. Better yet, just don’t buy anything. Still, the city has great architecture, and plenty of music and dance on offer (something it exports to the rest of the country). This is a place to see a lot of cultural variety, and get a really foreign feel for India. Just keep an eye on your wallet and think carefully before buying gifts for yourself or people back home—can you get this same item in another city? If so, it is almost guaranteed to be cheaper elsewhere.

West Rajasthan 3One last stop to consider on your Rajasthani adventure is Udaipur. Another city around a lake, Udaipur is a princely place that retains its relaxed character in contrast to somewhat overrun spots like Jaipur and Jaisalmer. It too has its share of impressive palaces and architecturally rich mansions, as well as enjoyable streets for walking. The surrounding hills are attractively green, and the size of the lake gives it a cooler atmosphere. There’s even some pop culture history here—the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy was filmed here, on an island in the lake and around the city. Many guesthouses have showings of the movie every night, so you’re sure to see Roger Moore in action if you haven’t yet.

Wherever you choose to go, Rajasthan is a romantic destination. It is easy to access from Delhi and Agra, and offers totally unique cultural experiences. This is the India that many first time visitors are looking to discover. Enjoy!

 

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Desert Dreams Part 1: Eastern Rajasthan

East Rajasthan 1

Trips to India can vary widely depending on how much time you have available and how much off the beaten path you want to go. Most short visits include Delhi (the megacity capital, where most flights arrive, and a textbook example of the poverty and wealth that exist side by side across the country) and Agra (home to the Taj Mahal and a few other, less famous monuments). The third corner of the classic India-in-one-week triangle is the desert kingdom of Rajasthan, known for its camels, handicrafts, and colorful festivals. Finding your way in this expansive state can be difficult, be here are some pointers on what to see and what to pass on.

Jaipur is the easiest accessed of the Rajasthani cities via the traditional route. Known as the Pink City, it has a historic old city that is required by local law to be painted an odd shade of coral that dates back to the king’s decision to paint it that color in the 1800s. Jaipur has plentiful markets and some interesting architectural sites like the honeycombed Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) and the Jantar Mantar, an impressively accurate set of car and building-sized astronomy instruments. Nearby is the Amber Fort, a sprawlingly huge castle. While there is plenty of the local charm and color, you may find Jaipur overrun with tourists and those who make a living by taking advantage of them.

East Rajasthan 2For a much more laidback experience, hit up Pushkar. This much smaller town surrounds a small lake and is painted entirely in a pleasing pastel blue shade. Pushkar is a holy site and the destination for many religious pilgrimages, but also an important stop on the so-called Banana Pancake trail. Hippies are pilgrims too, in their own way. This ultra-chilled out place is a great spot to meet other travelers, eat Israeli food, drink bhang lassis (a canniboid extract legal in Rajasthan, surprisingly strong—be careful). A word of warning: don’t accept “free” flowers or assistance from anyone offering to help you do a puja (prayer) at the lakeside. You’re getting conned, and a large amount of money is going to be demanded.

East Rajasthan 3

Not far away is the town of Ajmer. Ajmer doesn’t have much going for it besides a massive Jain temple that is worth a stop as you transit to or from Pushkar. The Jain religion is similar to Buddhism in many ways, but predates it and generally has stricter rules relating to asceticism and purity. Their temples, however, are some of the most interesting in India. Ajmer’s is three stories tall, with a central hall that is filled floor to ceiling with a wood and gold models of religious figures and a fantasy city or heaven. There are elephants and angels and kings and mythological creatures and a whole paradise in miniature. The whole display is astoundingly large and intricate, and visitors can circle it on all three levels on walkways around the perimeter. There are even models hanging from the ceiling, of swans and flying boats. Jain’s definitely know how to build a temple.

This is only a few of the excellent places to visit around this colorful state. Rajasthan has a lot to offer—stay tuned for the second post in this series with more expert tips!

 

 

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