• 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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  • How to plan an adventurous date

    We all look forward to date night; however, it can be easy to slip into a mundane dating routine. If your relationship needs a little bit of spicing up, why not plan a fun and exciting date experience?

    From outdoor activities to arts and cultural events, there are endless adventurous dating opportunities inCanada. Here are some easy tips for coming up with fun and environmentally friendly date ideas, which will inject a bit of adventure into your love life.

     

    What does adventure really mean in a relationship?

    The thing to keep in mind is that adventure means different things to different people. Spicing up your dating doesn’t need to mean hurtling down a ski slope, though if that sounds like fun then Canada can certainly oblige.

    Adding a splash of adventure to your love life is really as simple as trying new things and pushing the boundaries of what you consider the ‘usual.’ If you’re looking for someone to try new things with, online dating is an excellent place to find like-minded singles. To find out who your potential matches are, simplyvisit the eHarmony Canada dating website today.

     

    Inspiration

    When you’ve eaten at the same restaurant every Friday night for a decade, trying a new cuisine is a pretty exciting change. Toronto is a multicultural hub that’s home to an endless choice of dining options, from perfectly spiced Thai to delicate sushi rolls.

    Adventure dates can also come in the form of the endless activities that Canada has to offer. Banff features some of the best ski facilities and conditions in the world. Why not book a long weekend away and finally learn to snowboard together? Or if Canada’s wildlife has always fascinated you, head to the heart of the Canadian Rockies and witness bears, wolves, elk and cougars in their natural habitat.

    Finally an adventurous holiday together might simply mean booking an accommodation style that’s different to what you’re used to. If middle of the range hotels are usually your getaway of choice, why not rent a rustic wood cabin?

    Adventure without the side effects

    Too often adventure holidays and dates lead to negative side effects for the natural world. Today, it’s important to create date ideas that leave a small carbon footprint and little ecological side effects in your wake. Some easy green date ideas could include:

     

    Cycling

    Riding a bike across the stunning Canadian countryside not only limits your carbon emissions, it’s also an incredibly romantic mode of transport.

     

    Plan a green camping trip

    Leave your gadgets behind and reconnect with the natural world. There’s no shortage of beautiful National Parks near to most major cities. For anyone dating in Vancouver or the surrounding suburbs, there’s the nearby Alice Lake Provincial Park or, for Toronto couples, the Ontario scenery is the perfect backdrop for a camping adventure. Just be sure to take your rubbish home with you.

     

    Enjoy a candle lit dinner

    Sound old fashioned? Well it is a little. But by cracking out the candles and switching off the lights, you’re not only saving on your electricity bill, you’re also reducing your carbon footprint. Prepare an ecologically friendly meal and be sure to do the dishes in organic dishwashing detergent.

     

    Volunteer

    If you’re serious about making a contribution to the environment, volunteering together is a feel good and rewarding way to do it. Take part in an eco-tourism initiative or, perhaps, help out at an animal sanctuary for a weekend.

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  • Best Family Locations for Caribbean Holidays

    Caribbean holidays are what dreams are made of. With tropical temperatures, year-round sunshine, idyllic beaches and a vast range of family-friendly resorts to choose from, the Caribbean is an ideal family holiday destination.

    Often, it makes sense to go all-inclusive so that you can keep tabs on your spending, while resting assured that the little ones are kept entertained.

    Here are five family favourites:

    Cayman Islands

    Grand Cayman is particularly popular with families – Seven Mile Beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand. Divetech offers snorkelling programmes for children from five and up, scuba diving from eight and over.

    Children will enjoy swimming with, feeding and holding the rays at Stingray City. Boatswain’s Beach is a marine park with giant sea turtles, a nature trail and aviary and older children love Cayman Brac’s bat-filled caves.

    The Kids Sea Camp runs on Grand Cayman over certain summer weeks, while Cayman Brac’s Family Week offers family activities and special rates. The annual Caymans’ Pirates Week runs for 11 days and is packed with exciting events.

     

    Antigua

    With countless beautiful beaches and calm waters, Antigua is a tranquil and relaxing family holiday destination.

    Popular Dickenson Bay and Runaway Bay offer family-friendly water sports, Half Moon Bay is ideal for snorkelling and at Long Bay there’s coral reef to explore.

    There’s a Stingray City and the Sea Wolf Diving School runs dives for children and offers childcare for younger kids.

    Take the Subcat Antigua for a serious submarine adventure, go ziplining, kayaking or hiking or hop across to sister island, Barbuda. The crumbling ruins of old sugar estates are well worth a look. If you are looking for a trip to one of the Caribbean’s best family locations, try Best At Antigua for holidays to antigua.

     

    Bahamas 

    One of the most affordable Caribbean destinations, each one of the Bahamas’ 20 inhabited islands is unique, ranging from glitzy duty-free hubs to sleepy, un-spoilt islands.

    Families love the crystalline waters, fine sand, snorkelling, and underwater expeditions. Atlantis Coral Towers has a water park, watersports and a host of activities to keep the little ones amused.

    Feed sharks at Stuart’s Cove, swim with dolphins and stingrays in Nassau, visit Ardastra Zoo, kayak through Gold Rock Creek or take a glass-bottom boat over coral reef.

     

    Barbados 

    Dubbed the ‘Little England of the Caribbean’, Brits are bound to feel at home in the former colony of Barbados. Children are welcomed with open arms by resorts and locals alike and there are heaps of activities to keep the family happy.

    Explore an exciting new world underwater on an Atlantis Adventures submarine trip and snorkel with turtles over coral reef. Enjoy a jeep safari adventure around the island, visit the Barbados Wildlife Reserve and experience dancing, music, fire-eaters, folklore and feasting at the Bajan Roots and Rhythm dinner.

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    Jamaica 

    Jamaica has long been popular with families for its affordable flights and all-inclusive beachfront resorts.

    Adventure activities are big here – climb the Dunn’s River Falls and Park or take older children for a hike in the Blue Mountains.

    The Sugar Mill Falls water park features a lazy river and 280-foot water slide. The Green Grotto Caves were a haven for escapee slaves in the 1700s and can be explored wearing hard hats.

    Visit Jamaica brings locals and visitors together with its Meet the People programme, which gives a taste of the true Jamaica.

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