A hidden spy camera was found by the Barker family hidden in an Airbnb in Ireland, you can read the full article below…
(CNN) — Airbnbs have changed the way we vacation, offering accommodation that adds a whole new dimension to travel. Sometimes that extra dimension is delightful — a unique place to stay in a cool neighborhood, or the chance to experience life like a local. But lately, there have been a few incidents where the extra dimension is downright creepy. In the most recent, a family from New Zealand discovered a hidden camera live streaming from a property they were renting in Cork, Ireland. That follows claims of several other secret camera discoveries, which were reported last month by The Atlantic magazine.Of course, these are likely isolated incidents and Airbnb says it has taken action, investigated and apologized where appropriate. Airbnb insists negative experiences during stays are extremely rare.”The safety and privacy of our community — both online and offline — is our priority,” Airbnb said in a statement following the Ireland incident. “Airbnb policies strictly prohibit hidden cameras in listings and we take reports of any violations extremely seriously.”Nevertheless, after Andrew Barker from New Zealand used his professional IT security skills to detect the camera hidden in the house in Cork, his family advised other travelers to learn how to scan networks for covert devices.
“We think people need to realize that the travel market is largely unregulated and if you would take issue with being filmed, then you need to take all steps properly,” Nealie Barker said. But is it even possible to check for such spy devices without fully descending into paranoia? Arguably, we shouldn’t need to check at all. Any renting of accommodation, whether from a major hotel chain or from an individual, is an exercise in trust, without which it’s hard not to just stay home. “Obviously, this is happening in a tiny minority of the properties on the site, but it’s never a bad idea to take a careful look around your Airbnb when you arrive, not just for hidden cameras, but also for safety items, like unobstructed exits and fire extinguishers,” said Pauline Frommer, editorial director for the Frommer’s travel brand.
“The key to remember with all
Airbnb stays is that these are private properties, that are not subject
to the same kinds of inspections a hotel would be,” Frommer said.Not
that hotel guests are entirely immune from digital age privacy
invasions. In South Korea last month, arrests were made after police
said more than 1,600 people had been secretly filmed in motel rooms.For
those who want to follow the Barkers’ advice, security experts point to
varying levels of checks, from the cursory to the in-depth that could
help identify hidden lenses.First
of all, checks should be made around each room for strange devices, the
shine of camera lenses and tiny holes, according to tech websites such
as lifehacker and Digital Trends.They
say this should include the back ends of books, mirrors, light bulbs,
house plants, areas that would give the best field of view.
Apps and scanners
The camera the Barkers found was hidden in a smoke detector or carbon monoxide monitor. Nealie Barker Flashlights, like the one on a smartphone, can be used to pick up reflections from camera lenses. Tech experts advise turning off all the lights and shining a flashlight around the area to search for a lens. Any gadgets that look abnormal should be targeted: alarm clocks and smoke detectors are potential hiding places for cameras.
“Assuming the camera has some form of lens, you use a device that has a very bright light source and a viewfinder that allows you to scan for the reflections from the lens,” Professor Alan Woodward from the Center for Cyber Security at the UK’s Surrey University, told CNN. Some cameras can operate in the dark and to do that they need an infrared source, he added. “If that were the case you could (assuming it’s dark) turn off all the lights and use your forward-facing phone camera which tends not to have an IR filter fitted and so may see any IR illumination, assuming it’s there.”It’s also possible to install apps on your phone that can scan for hidden cameras or buy a radio frequency scanner. “If it does transmit RF, then you can again buy a standard bug detector that you sweep the room with to search for hidden sources of radio transmission,” says Woodward. “There are some products out there that combine the optical and RF detection methods.”Internet cameras need a data connection to store or stream their footage, says tech company Fing, so cameras may be connected to your Airbnb host’s network, the same Wi-Fi that you have been allowed to connect to — as was the case for the Barker family in Cork. Companies like Fing have devices that scan Wi-Fi networks and see all the other devices, both wired and wireless, connected. If a webcam camera has no connection to the Internet it can’t send its footage, so disconnecting the Internet would stop the streaming.
However, even if no cameras appear on a network scan, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no secret filming as some hosts provide a guest Wi-Fi that is separate from their personal Internet.Anyone who does find anything suspicious should contact local police so they can investigate and notify Airbnb, which has pledged to investigate such matters and take action where necessary.
Sarah Schlichter, a senior editor of advice site SmarterTravel, says that despite the recent headlines, snooping incidents are rare.She advises those concerned to make basic checks, but says travelers should be more worried about looking for bed bugs than electronic ones.And with no way of knowing in advance whether any room — hotel or Airbnb — is being spied upon, travelers should hope for the best.”I wouldn’t let this be the deciding factor on where you choose to stay,” she adds. “I also wouldn’t let anxiety over this affect your ability to relax in your room and enjoy your vacation. “If you’re concerned, check your room when you arrive. If you do find a camera, report it to your hotel or vacation rental booking site and seek new accommodations. Otherwise, there’s not much else you can do.”
Review any 401(k) accounts you may still have with former employers
Retirement and lifestyle opportunities overseas been researched by International Living for 38 years, we all love most of the distinations over the years! The Retirement Index is the most comprehensive and in-depth survey of its kind. This list of best retirement havens in 2018 is not just for retirees, it is for digital nomads or whoever wants to live abroad on a budget.
How International Living choose these places?
Their team covers five contents to come up with the index, it reflects the experience of every expat who has contributed to International Living since the publication of our first issue, nearly 38 years ago. The team members moved overseas and immersed themselves in the destinations where they live and learned their lessons the hard way, International living experts are ideally placed to compare, contrast, and bring nuanced insight to the most appealing retirement destinations in the world.
What are the Best retirement Havens in 2018?
Peru—Low-Cost Living, Vibrant, and Diverse
By Steve LePoidevin, IL Peru Correspondent
A climate to suit every taste…1,500 miles of coastline stretching from Ecuador to Chile…centuries-old Spanish colonial cities…hundreds of archaeological sites to explore….and towering mountains to climb and deep canyons to hike. These are just some of the things that have drawn an increasing number of adventurous expats to call Peru home, including me.
My wife Nancy and I have lived here a year and a half now and love it. We decided to look for a place where we could become permanent residents relatively easily, not too hot and not too cold, inexpensive and absent of a huge expat population. Peru seemed to be a good fit, and it is.
Spectacular Macho Pichu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley of the Incas have always been major attractions for tourists but more expats are now heading to this area for long-term stays and retirement. Nights are cool but midday highs can reach the 70s F for much of the year. You can find two-bedroom apartments to rent for as low as $250 per month and couples report monthly expenses of less than $1,000. From renting to eating out, you will be surprised at the high quality of life you can have in Peru with a modest income.
Head south to the city of Arequipa and you can bask in more than 300 days of sunshine per year. We spent our first year in the southern metropolis of Arequipa and discovered that it has a lot going for it. Less than a two-hour drive from the coast, it is easy to escape to the nearby popular beaches during the peak summer months of January and February. And the food is to die for. Arequipa is renowned for its range of high-quality restaurants, wonderful traditional cuisine, and centuries-old colonial center.
The capital city of Lima is home to the largest number of expats. They enjoy some of the best restaurants in the world, a large variety of art galleries and museums, a vibrant theatre scene, and the easily accessible international airport. And for anyone breaking into Peru’s business world, Lima is the place to see and be seen.
Surfers enjoy the year-round waves at seaside towns such as Huanchaco. Located only 15 minutes from Trujillo, the second-largest city in the country, it offers the best of both worlds. Huanchaco has maintained its small fishing town charm despite the annual increase in tourist numbers.
Although not in the top countries when it comes to public healthcare, Peru has a large network of excellent private clinics and hospitals. A variety of national private insurance companies offer healthcare plans for far less than in the U.S. Policies are available within individual healthcare networks for as little as $100 per month.
9. Spain—Romance, History, and Charming Villages
By Glynna Prentice, IL Editor
For decades, Spain has been a top vacation and retirement destination for Europeans. And today North Americans and others are following their lead… And why not?
Spain’s miles of beach and warm coastal climate mean there’s plenty of places where you can enjoy a seaside lifestyle, as well as temperate weather, pretty much year-round. The cost of living is one of Europe’s lowest—in many of Spain’s midsized coastal cities, a couple can live comfortably (including rent and private health insurance) for around $2,100 a month. And, of course, it’s true First-World living, with first-rate telecommunications, modern housing and amenities, and superb, widespread public transportation (so you can take the cost of car repairs and insurance right off your budget).
I love all the cultural amenities that cities offer, and for me, a big plus to Spain is that you can find a good level of cultural amenities—cineplexes, museums, and a music and theater scene—not only in the very large cities, like Madrid and Barcelona, but also in smaller cities. Alicante and San Sebastián.
Spain covers most of the Iberian Peninsula, from the Pyrenees Mountains right down to the Strait of Gibraltar, looking across at Africa. This gives it a climate that ranges from cool and moist in the northwest (rather like the U.S.’s Pacific Northwest), to hot and dry in the south, where you’ll enjoy sunshine up to 300 days a year.
But Spain offers more than just great beaches…it is rich in vibrant coastal cities and, between them, scores of charming villages. On Spain’s eastern, Mediterranean coast are popular metropolises like Barcelona and Valencia and the beach resort of Alicante. To the south is Málaga and the Costa del Sol. West of Gibraltar, on Spain’s southern Atlantic coast, are charming coastal villages that have been discovered by Europeans—but that are relatively unknown to North Americans. And if you prefer the cool, green northwest, there is bustling Bilbao, the chic resort (and foodie capital) of San Sebastián, and smaller, sleek Santander.
My own favorite city for full- or part-time living is Valencia. For me, it combines the best of all worlds. Spain’s third-largest city, it has all the goodies of a metropolis: convenient air and rail connections, major hospitals, universities, and plenty of parks.
From any coastal destination, you can easily explore Spain’s vast interior, with its romantic, historic cities: the ancient university city of Salamanca, in western Spain; Burgos, with its cathedral; Toledo, Almagro, and other Castilian cities on the central plain; and the Moorish wonders of Granada, Seville, and Córdoba, in southern Andalucía, just to name a few…
8. Nicaragua—Best Bang-for-Your Buck in Latin America
By Scott Hed, IL Nicaragua Contributor
If you’re looking for a tropical locale where your dollar will go far, Nicaragua deserves your attention. It’s a country on the up, developing fast, yet still among the most affordable on the IL beat. It’s easy to reach and being in the Central/Mountain time zones, makes it easy to stay in touch with family and friends in North America.
My wife Nicki and I moved to Nicaragua full-time in 2016, after visiting the country a number of times since 2011. We were seeking a respite from northern winters, with a low cost of living and a bit of adventure. We built a beautiful home just outside of Granada for a fraction of what the cost would have been back in the U.S.
Similarly, our daily living costs are lower and we’re able to afford luxuries like house and yard help as well as weekly massages.
Our neighbors Darrell and Amy Bushnell had similar reasons for making the move to the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes more than a decade ago. In their words, “Nicaragua is different enough to be interesting, but not so different as to be bizarre.”
Nicaragua offers much to do in the way of outdoor activities. You can peer into an active volcano, it has some of the best surfing in the world on its Pacific coast, and I enjoy the game fishing on the Caribbean coast. In the north you’ll find deserted beaches and just a few hours away temperate coffee highlands with hiking trails.
The larger cities also offer many shopping, entertainment, and dining opportunities that will keep urbanites happy while Nicaragua’s transportation and telecommunications infrastructure continue to improve annually. The highways between major cities are very good as is cell phone and internet coverage.
There is a large enough expat presence in the country—especially in the more popular destinations of Granada and San Juan del Sur, where many Nicaraguans also are bilingual to varying degrees—which means that in those places, at least, you could get by speaking mostly English, but learning a bit of Spanish will make things easier and more fulfilling.
To get a sense of expat life in Nicaragua and query those who are already living here, there are a number of Facebook groups you can join. Expats of Nicaragua, Expats of Granada, Expats of Leon, etc. Once in country, there are expat groups and clubs in most places where you can socialize, take up a new hobby, or give back to the community in many ways.
Daily living expenses in Nicaragua can be very modest, especially if you frequent the local markets for fresh meats and produce. A couple renting in Nicaragua and enjoying meals out several times per week could easily live well on $1,500 per month, and often for much less. Owning our home takes away a major expense, and we consistently spend under $1,000 per month, which includes automotive expenses, groceries, pet food, dining out and entertainment, part-time help around the house, even regular massages.
7. Portugal—Europe’s Best Retirement Haven
By Tricia Pimental, IL Portugal Correspondent
On a tree-lined square in the beach town of Ericeira, I sit at an outdoor café and inhale the aroma wafting from my hot coffee. On the table, butter melts on a torrada, a short stack of toast, fresh from the bakery’s oven. A cool autumn breeze hints of winter, yet the Iberian sun is warm enough for me to shed my sweater. This is the life for me.
I’ve lived in Portugal for five years, and as IL Portugal Correspondent, I have shared a lot about what makes this country great. Others agree. “It’s the people,” says expat Molly Ashby, who bought an apartment in Lisbon five years ago. “They’re mellow and very receptive to foreigners.”
Another reason is the affordable lifestyle. My husband Keith and I find we spend about a third of what we did to live in the States. For example, a simple lunch of soup, main course, beverage, dessert, and coffee runs about $10. A taxi start is about $4. Monthly utilities for a two- or three-bedroom apartment average $100 a month. We pay just $1,000 a month for a four-bedroom, four-bathroom home, half an hour from Lisbon.
Rated the third-safest country in the world in the 2017 Global Peace Index, Portugal is not only secure, but beautiful. “The blue-green water is absolutely fantastic with the sun shining on the sea; it’s as if diamonds are dancing on it,” says Annette Ford Rio, who lives in Cascais, near Lisbon. “The sunrise and sunsets are fabulous.”
I’ve had personal experiences with the healthcare system, both private as well as public, which offers professional treatment at little or no cost. Does that mean you won’t occasionally encounter some bureaucratic red tape? Of course not. But I certainly did in the States, too.
If Portugal’s attributes have convinced you to give it a try, here’s a tip: Begin your test drive in the capital. Lisbon is easy to reach, with direct flights from major cities around the world. English is widely spoken and comprehensive train, bus, tram, and taxi offerings make it unnecessary to own a vehicle. The city is a cultural cornucopia, with museums and historical sites like St. George Castle and the nearby Palace of Queluz. Expat organizations like Americans Living in Portugal, International Women in Portugal, and the Royal British Club are ready to help you find your way.
6. Colombia—Sophisticated and Affordable
By Nancy Kiernan, IL Colombia Correspondent
Perfect spring-like weather all year was the first thing that drew me to retire to Medellín, Colombia. I had lived my whole life in the northeast., and I never wanted to see or shovel snow again. While not exactly pioneers, my husband and I are two of the growing number of expats who have discovered that they can live a First-World quality of life in a country that’s only now showing up on fellow retirees’ radar.
Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, so you can easily find a climate and environment that suits your taste. If you want hot and tropical, consider retiring to the lovely Caribbean coastal cities of Santa Marta or Cartagena, where crystal-clear water laps against warm, sandy beaches. For those who prefer more temperate climates, then I suggest my adopted mountain city of Medellín, or anywhere in the “coffee triangle” of Pereira, Armenia, and Manizales, where you are surrounded by lush, green mountain scenery.
Colombia ranks high as a place for healthy living. The great weather allows retirees to enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle every day of the year. Walking, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, tennis, and even golf will keep your body strong and your spirit young. Pat Turney, a retired nurse from Idaho, refers to Medellín as “a city with a built-in weight management program,” thanks to all the walking she does.
And then, of course, there are the fresh fruits and vegetables that are locally grown and available year round. I’ve lived in Colombia for over five years, and I still haven´t sampled all the exotic varieties of fruit. Diego, a semi-retired and self-confessed foodie from the U.S. Midwest, is also impressed with the fresh and healthy food. “I love having fresh tomatoes all year round,” he says. In the U.S., he was used to waiting until late summer for the bounty, and then eating what he could and canning the rest. “Now I can get fresh vegetables any time of year.”
As we all reach retirement age, access to high quality but affordable healthcare becomes a front-and-center issue. I was a hospital executive in the U.S., so I know healthcare and understand why Colombia ranks so highly in that category. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Colombia #22 out of the 191 countries it reviews for quality of care. That surpasses Canada (#30) and the U.S. (#37). Colombia is home to 22 of the top 43 Latin American hospitals.
Retirees are discovering they can stretch their retirement dollars, thanks to the low cost of living and the great exchange rate. The Colombian peso has been hovering around 3,000 to the U.S. dollar since late 2015. Monthly rental costs range from about $300 in small towns to $1,500 and more for a penthouse or a sprawling country home. But in many areas of Colombia, a couple’s total cost of living can be $2,000 a month or less. I live in Medellín’s upscale neighborhood of El Poblado for 60% less than it cost me back in Maine. My combined utilities (water, waste, gas, electric, trash removal, cable, internet, home phone) average $94 a month.
Some of the best things about retiring in Colombia don’t show up on a survey, though. For example, the warm, welcoming Colombian people. As the expression goes, “You don’t meet a Colombian…you meet the entire family!” Here you’ll always feel part of the community.
Don’t let a lack of Spanish keep you from trying out Colombia. I saw it as an opportunity to learn something new. As word spreads about all that Colombia has to offer, expats are drawn to the metropolitan city of Medellín, especially the neighborhoods of El Poblado, Laureles, and Envigado, as well as to the coastal communities of Santa Marta and Cartagena. A cute two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in the Castrapol section of El Poblado currently rents for $750 a month, furnished. If you want to put your toes in the sand, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, only two blocks back from the beach in the Rodedero section of Santa Marta, goes for $500 a month.
5. Malaysia—Easy, English-Speaking, and First World
By Keith Hockton, IL Malaysia Correspondent
Cities with a buzz, idyllic beaches, islands that seduce the senses and some of the most pristine ancient rainforests in South East Asia—this is Malaysia. And these are just some reasons why I call it home.
As an ex-colony of Britain, English is widely spoken. Expat clubs have existed since the 1700s, yet still welcome new members. Bang-for-buck Malaysia is hard to beat, for instance it’s joint second in the “Renting” category for a reason. In Kuala Lumpur, a couple can live comfortably on $1,500 a month, or extravagantly on $2,500 a month, including rent. For $700 a month you can rent a 2,195 square-foot, four-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Penang on a natural harbor overlooking the Straits of Malacca
“Between the lower rental costs, lower utilities, and eating out a few days a week, we are looking at a 50% lower cost of living than our home in Canada,” says expat Ellen Ma of the life she and her husband Jim enjoy in Malaysia. Hobbies and pastimes won’t break the bank either: “A round of golf back home was $72, whereas here it’s $30. A tennis pro could cost up to $100 an hour [back home], whereas here it’s $15,” she adds.
In Penang, there are street stalls selling Chinese, Malay, and Indian fare that have my mouth watering just thinking about them. My favorite stall specializes in Nasi Lamak. Considered the national dish of Malaysia, the recipe combines dried anchovies, roasted peanuts, and chicken that has been cooked in sambal (a sauce made from chili peppers, shrimp paste, fish sauce, ginger, garlic, and lime juice). This is then added to fragrant rice that has been cooked in coconut milk. Heavenly. A serving rarely costs more than $1.50.
If white-sand beaches are your dream, you have here more than 878 islands to choose from. I’ve been to scores of them and my favorite two are Layang-Layang and Langkawi Island. Layang-Layang because of its pristine waters and deep drop-offs (great for Scuba divers), and Lankawi for its natural beauty and luxury. Located on the border with Thailand, there are a few established resorts to choose from, not to mention the countless deserted white-sand beaches where you will never see another soul. (Datai Bay is my favorite.)
Canadians Jacques and Sharon Giraud moved to Penang, sight unseen, just 13 months ago. “Although we hadn’t been to Malaysia, everything that we read made sense,” says Sharon. Jacques continues, “We didn’t consider anywhere else because Malaysia ticked all of our boxes. Why continue searching when the place that we wanted was staring us in the face?”
As for healthcare, when you compare surgery prices between the U.S. and Malaysia, the benefits are obvious. A knee replacement in Malaysia costs just $4,000 compared to $45,000 or more in the States, while a hip replacement can cost as little as $5,200, versus $39,000 in the U.S. When I tore my anterior cruciate ligament recently, the cost of my excellent care, including consultation with a top surgeon, MRI, surgery, and a private room, came to $2,000. In the U.S., the same would have set me back at least $18,000.
4. Ecuador—Diverse, Unhurried, and Metropolitan
By Wendy DeChambeau, IL Ecuador Highlands Correspondent
History-filled colonial cities…peaceful mountain villages…lazy coastal towns…cloud forest, nature-filled hot spots… For those looking for a sense of variety in their ultimate destination, Ecuador has it all. Choose a metropolitan lifestyle of luxury, the carefree existence of a sun-worshipping beach dweller, or just about anything in between. And because the country is small (about the area of Nevada), it’s easy to explore all that Ecuador offers.
Thanks to its many lifestyle options, Ecuador has become a retirement hot spot among North Americans. Most of us live along the Andean corridor or in a few beautiful locales along the Pacific coast.
With impressive mountain peaks, welcoming locals, and spectacular weather, Cotacachi, in the Andes, is where I chose to make my home six years ago. High altitude keeps temperatures nice and moderate, ranging between the low 50s F and high 70s F all year round. My days of shoveling snow are long gone.
While I appreciate the natural beauty and the mix of indigenous, Incan, and Spanish culture, one of my favorite benefits is the affordable lifestyle. My family of four lives on approximately $1,200 a month (without rent, as we own our home outright). At Cotacachi’s local produce market, I can load a canvas grocery bag full of fresh fruit and vegetables for $5 to $10. The mild climate means I don’t need to pay for heating or cooling, so my electric bill stays under $18 a month. And there’s no need for me to own a vehicle, since public transportation is everywhere and cheap. A one-hour bus ride costs just $1.50.
Doug Klaver and his wife Melody came to Ecuador from British Columbia. He says, “Living here allowed us to retire early, with a lifestyle we couldn’t have afforded in Canada. We now have 25 acres of land, chickens, six dogs, a couple of horses, and we’re growing cacao. What’s not to love?”
Many expats choose to start their Ecuadorian experience in Cuenca. This colonial city of 580,000 is easy to navigate, offers plenty of amenities and entertainment options, and is already home to several thousand North Americans. You’ll find the best of both Latin culture and back-home comforts here. Rentals are plentiful and affordable. Sara Coppler, from Kentucky, is renting a one-bedroom apartment right in the city center. “It’s by the Rotary Market, costs $200 a month, and is semi-furnished. The owner bought new appliances for me, and it has beautiful hardwood floors,” she says.
Ecuador has changed many lives for the better. Georgia natives Julian and Cassandra McClellan say, “We love Ecuador because we feel truly at peace. We’ve been given the gift of time and an unhurried pace where we can turn to our passions. That’s the most priceless gift ever.”
3. Panama—Friendly, Welcoming, and Great Benefits
By Jessica Ramesch, IL Panama Editor
Modern, convenient, and close to the U.S.—not to mention sunny, warm, and welcoming. It’s hardly surprising to me that Panama always does well in IL’s Annual Index. I’ve been living in and writing about Panama for nearly 12 years, and what impresses me most is how this country continues to grow, making it more attractive with each passing year.
Panama City is a destination for exciting food, beer, jazz, film, golf, tennis, and much more. The lush mountain towns of Panama rank among the best retirement destinations in the world. Our livable, clean, and uncrowded beaches include the popular beach hub of Coronado, the lesser-known gem that is the Pedasí region, and a Caribbean paradise—there is no other word for it—called Bocas del Toro.
The local people are fun, friendly, and welcoming…and so is the government. That’s why Panama wins out when it comes to benefits for retirees and ease of obtaining residence. Here I pay no income tax on my overseas earnings. The healthcare is top notch, too. The city’s four major private facilities include a technologically advanced Johns Hopkins International affiliate. My dental care is inexpensive, and yet I get the same quality of care I expected back in the States. (And I find it way more personalized…my doctors actually sit and talk to me.)
Panama City is a world-class capital (one that’s on the water) and comparable to cities in California. Yet you would be hard pressed to live comfortably in a major cosmopolitan city up north for $2,500 a month.
Leave Panama City and costs are even lower, with expats living well on a monthly $1,500 or less. And we’re talking convenient, idyllic settings—not depressed or remote areas. Power costs can be as low as $40 a month when you don’t need air conditioning or heating. Water and trash collection cost $10 to $25 a month. I know expats who spend as little as $15 on cell phone, $20 on internet, and $150 on outings. Healthcare costs are perhaps the biggest savings, with expats here spending 40% to 75% less than they did back home.
Expats in Panama report they are overwhelmingly happier and healthier since making the move. Just ask Mike and Deb Lunsford, who moved from Colorado to the lush mountain town of El Valle. They both say they’re healthier than before, with minimal effort. They don’t diet—they go out for pizza and drinks with expats and locals alike.
But fast food and processed meals aren’t the norm here. Produce tastes better to them, as it’s not full of preservatives. Deb enjoys gardening in the fertile, volcanic soil. Mike makes delicious nanobrews—his latest golden ale is perfect for sipping as you walk around their tree-filled property.
“It’s an amazing place,” admits Mike. “These days I don’t wear a watch and I barely look at my cell phone. You learn to go with the flow…and a slow flow means a lot less stress.”
2. Mexico—Convenient, Exotic, First-World Living
By Glynna Prentice, IL Mexico Editor
In Mexico’s Colonial Highlands, where I now live, I enjoy sunny, temperate weather basically all year round. A concert ticket costs me $4, a first-run film about the same, and a doctor’s visit about $40. Last week an evening out—drinks and dinner with friends, a symphony performance, and a taxi home—was less than $20, all in.
When I first moved to Mexico over 10 years ago, I did it for Mexico’s convenient location and low cost of living. (A couple can live here for anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 a month, depending on location—and that includes rent and healthcare.)
I didn’t even realize the host of other benefits that I’d enjoy. The near-First World lifestyle, for one thing. I don’t mind roughing it on occasion—say, when exploring Mexico’s Maya ruins, deserted beaches, or viewing wildlife in the jungle interior—but I like comfort for day-to-day life. In Mexico, I have that. Fast internet. Free long-distance phone calls worldwide. Plenty of gourmet foods in specialty markets. Cheap air fares on discount airlines to destinations all over the Americas. First-run films (in English). And much more. These are the goodies a huge, developing economy like Mexico’s can offer.
I have my pick of climates, from tropical beaches (thousands of miles of them) to temperate mountains. I can live in romantic, Spanish-colonial cities…or choose beach lifestyles that range from chic, sophisticated Puerto Vallarta to small, laidback villages on the Yucatán Gulf coast.
Healthcare is good to excellent, too. You can opt for private healthcare that tends to cost a quarter to a half of U.S. prices (and your doctor may speak excellent English, too). Or, if you have a residence visa, you can sign up for Mexico’s public healthcare, which costs a few hundred dollars a year. If you’re over 60 and are a legal resident, the public system is free.
But at heart, what I and most other expats love most about Mexico is the vibrant life and culture. Round a corner and you may find a perfect, tranquil plaza where bougainvillea blooms, a lone musician playing a tune, or a local parade of costumed dancers or riders on horseback. “Mexico is my bliss,” says expat Mona Primlani, who lives in the Colonial Highlands. “There are so many things that make me happy here…the comida [food], culture, and colors….”
Expat Steve Garcia considers himself “privileged to be able to experience culture in a way I never knew before—the music, the arts, the history…”
Throw in the many colorful traditions, such as the Day of the Dead celebrations, and you have a place that delights and stimulates your senses.
If you’re looking for your own slice of Mexico to call your own, there are plenty of expat havens where you can live a rich, varied, fulfilling life for pennies on the dollar. In fact, thanks to the current favorable dollar-to-peso exchange rate, Mexico is arguably less expensive today than it was when I moved here, over a decade ago.
For instance, I recently saw a small, furnished one-bedroom, one-bathroom house in Mérida, capital of the Yucatán Peninsula, renting for $650 a month
I love Costa Rica. You can kick your shoes off on white-sand beaches, hike through lush lowland jungle or mountain cloud forests, and bask in volcanic thermal springs. Rent a furnished two-bedroom home for just $500 a month, buy an ocean-view property for under $200,000, spend $25 in the feria (farmers’ market), and come home with a week’s groceries for a couple….
No wonder Costa Rica always seems to be on the shortlist. Readers at IL conferences tell me so, and expats I meet as I scout throughout Latin America often tell me, “We seriously considered Costa Rica.”
In an increasingly uncertain world, Costa Rica is a beacon of dependability. It’s not up-and-coming or edgy or the hot new thing. It has been quietly growing into a model country—a standout in the region. It has a steadily growing economy; dozens of multinationals like Amazon and Microsoft have major operations there. The low crime rate means you can feel safe just about anywhere in the country, day or night. There is a focus on preserving the environment, with 25% of the country’s territory protected. And there is commitment from the government to power the country on solely renewable sources, especially hydroelectric, wind, and geothermal.
Tens of thousands of U.S. and Canadian expats already live in Costa Rica full- or part-time. And millions have traveled there over the years for beach-resort vacations, surfing, fishing, rain forest treks, and more. There’s a comfort level knowing you don’t have to be a pioneer. Plus, with many Costa Ricans speaking English, it’s pretty easy to navigate as you learn more Spanish.
That’s not to say Costa Rica is too Americanized. It very much has its own rich culture and distinct way of life. This is expressed in a tradition of hospitality, which makes it very welcoming to expats, as well as a carefree attitude—and unofficial national motto—known as Pura Vida, which roughly translates to “life is good.” It’s an attitude that quickly rubs off on expats. Ticos, as Costa Ricans call themselves, have a live-and-let- live attitude. They value time with family and friends above all else. A strong sense of community exists and with it an emphasis on personal freedom, which appeals to many expats who feel hemmed in by the countless rules and regulations back home.
You may not know that Costa Rica has no army. It was abolished in 1949, after a brief but bloody civil war traumatized the nation. Since then, it’s had a stable government, a democracy with peaceful elections. The money that would go to the military is used to fund education for all (the literacy rate is 96%) and a solid national healthcare system, which is open to expat residents at a very low cost—averaging about $95 a month per couple. That’s a welcome respite from the spiraling costs in the U.S.
Good modern healthcare coverage, plus traditional and herbal medicine, natural foods, including abundant fresh fruits and vegetables—you can grow your own, thanks to the fertile soil—and a more active lifestyle (it never gets cold, so you can exercise outdoors year-round) combine to help many expats feel healthier than they have in years. Some have even found relief from chronic conditions. A friend of mine lost 40 pounds simply by deciding not to have a car (which is doable in many communities) and walking in the hills around his Central Valley home. As they built their stamina, he and his wife were inspired to hike the Appalachian Trail, which they recently completed.
You’ll find that most people are relaxed and low-stress, too. The need for status symbols and the anxiety that comes with the 24/7 news cycle disappears. In Costa Rica, you’ll come to enjoy a healthier body and mind.
With all these benefits, it’s not surprising that Costa Rica has topped the Happy Planet Index three times.
For such a small country, Costa Rica also packs a punch when it comes to variety of climates and landscape and the lifestyle that goes with it. You’ll find expats living in the eternal spring climate of the mountainous Central Valley. This is rural and small-town Costa Rica, where expats live in towns like Grecia and Atenas amid coffee plantations and forested hillsides. From their terraces they enjoy coffee from local beans and views of the surrounding countryside.
Some prefer life at the beach. There are funky beach towns like Tamarindo and Playas del Coco, resorts, and luxury communities on the northern Pacific. Head far south on the Pacific coast, and you discover rain forest-covered mountains, small coastal villages like Ojochal and Dominical, and the wild seaside of the Southern Zone. In the central Pacific you have fun beach communities like Jacó, plus the conveniences of the country’s capital, San José, an hour and a half down the road. The bohemian and undeveloped Caribbean, including towns like Cahuita and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, may be the most Pura Vida of all places in Costa Rica. You also have Lake Arenal, a highlands region known for a mild climate and rural charms; life on the lake is quiet and peaceful, with a close-knit expat community.
Expats live well in all these areas, whether they rent or buy. Try two- and three-bedroom homes in good locations with views, starting at $800 per month. One- or two-bedroom condos or apartments—even within a walk to the beach—are $500 and up. Many rentals come fully furnished—completely turnkey. And when you’re ready to buy, you’ll find bargains too, like one-bedroom beach condos for under $50,000. Mountain-view homes in the Central Valley list for under $100,000. It’s very much a buyer’s market in Costa Rica, so prices are negotiable. It also helps that property taxes are just 0.25% of assessed value, a fraction of what’s typical in the U.S.
It’s true that Costa Rica isn’t the cheapest country on our Index. But it offers excellent bang for your buck. It’s possible for a retired couple to live very comfortably on $2,500 a month in Costa Rica. On this budget, they might eschew the “fancy” grocery store with imported goods in favor of the feria, where they can fill the fridge for the week for $30. Instead of hitting up the tourist restaurants that charge a premium, they might go to local sodas, restaurants serving up hearty Tico fare. But combine those cost-saving measures with the modest expenditures required on healthcare, rental homes, and utilities (no heating costs, and no cooling costs at least in Arenal and the Central Valley) and you can see how a good life can come at a modest price.
Traveling alone can be an exciting experience. It can be enriching for the solo traveler, creating opportunities to gain lifelong friendships, learn important life lessons, and gain a fresh perspective on the world that awaits the solo traveler.
From the Croatian coast to the Banana Pancake Trail of Southeast Asia, there are many life-changing adventures out there awaiting solo travelers. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Middle East, there are prevailing misconceptions. Often, the Gulf coast is perceived as an unsafe and dangerous area for tourists, particularly the solo traveler.
But destinations like Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is so progressive that it can be the ideal place for a solo traveler. If you’re looking for your next adventure, why not make it Dubai?
Still not convinced? Here are some tips to make your solo trip to Dubai one to remember.
1. Try the local flavor
As a glitz playground for the ultra rich, Dubai and the UAE are home to some of the best and most exclusive high-end restaurants in the world such as Koi, an authentic Japanese restaurant and Boa, one of the world’s best steakhouses.
Luckily for solo travelers, Dubai has a diverse culinary landscape, offering some great under-the-radar dining options any budget. The city boasts plenty of intriguing cuisines, but no trip to this wonderful Emirate would be complete without trying some authentic Emirati cuisine.
From contemporary cooking at Aseelah to camel milk treats at The Majlis, there are many places throughout Dubai for solo travelers to get their fill.
2. Find the best places to stay
Whether you’re a seasoned or novice solo traveler, where you choose to stay can make or break your trip. The best hotels in Dubai are in neighborhoods and areas where one can easily access a wide range of restaurants, entertainment options and noteworthy cultural activities.
For instance, there are Dubai hotels with beach access if you love catching waves, as well as hotels with stunning ocean views that let you marvel at Dubai’s splendor from the comforts of your room. It’s important to take into consideration your hotel’s proximity to nearby transport as Dubai isn’t known to be a pedestrian city, especially during the summer, when it can be near impossible to navigate the city on foot. For solo travelers, consider staying in neighborhoods like Downtown Dubai, Dubai Marina or Jumeirah Beach.These districts are bustling neighborhoods, catering to locals and travelers alike with their vast array of tourist attractions.
3. Get a dose of local culture
While the shopping experiences in Dubai often make the headlines, there’s more to this cosmopolitan city than shopping.
This corner of the world is packed with unique, one-of-a-kind experiences that cannot be imitated elsewhere. Solo travelers are spoiled for choice when it comes to the variety of ways to get to know the city better.
There are daredevil adventures awaiting in the sand dunes for thrill seekers, sun loungers for that all-essential “me time,” and tourist attractions that offer a unique, high vantage point.
But to really understand Dubai, visitors are encouraged to immerse themselves in local culture. Mosques, museums, authentic souks, and art galleries all provide cultural experiences that help travelers better understand local culture and customs. Dubai’s historic districts offer an enlightening glimpse into the city’s humble beginnings.
4. Enjoy yourself
As one of the safest countries for tourists, Dubai is a city where solo travelers can truly relax and enjoy themselves. There’s no shortage of fun to be had in the City of Gold, so travelers can simply let their hair down and fearlessly embrace what the city has to offer.
Whether your preference is for some nocturnal action or more wholesome diversions, Dubai is more than happy to indulge you.
What are you waiting for?
Traveling alone allows you to truly discover a destination. The complete freedom solo travel provides is an experience unlike any other. And in a city like Dubai, with its unique attractions and enriching culture, do yourself a favor and explore.
Thomas Grundner is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for JA Resorts & Hotels. He has more than 20 years of expertise in the hospitality and leisure industry – across international markets including Germany, Egypt and Spain. Grundner oversees all sales, marketing and revenue efforts as the company continues to build on its key growth and development strategies and further cultivates its unique blend of “Heartfelt Hospitality” and “Casual Luxury.”
Ollolai, Italy is a gorgeous little town in the Puglia region and one hour away from Sardinia beaches.
Ollolai is a small town nestled in the mountains of Sardinia, is selling historic homes for just one Euro and they already have 200 applicants from all over the world.
Sardinia isn’t just a gorgeous little island off of the Italian coast, It is also where people live statistically longest and it was one of five Blue Zones mentioned in bestselling author Dan Buttner. This where you find best cheese and wine for longevity.
Ollolai is in the center of the Sardinia and an hour away from the cliffs of Cala Gonone, in the mountain region of Barbagia, famous for hikes, it’s a historic town filled with romantic beautiful alleyways and tiny restaurants with the greatest food on earth.
Young people left this town to the cities in search of better financial opportunity and left the houses abandoned.The city’s intent is to revive its dying historic district by selling these houses for 1 euro and bring investors to the town with the provision buyer has 3 years to finish renovating them. According to CNN, the village has already sold three houses, and more than 200 application
The mayor, Efisio Arbau, has proposed a solution similar to the one in Gangi Sicily in 2014, Around 20 houses were on sale for one euro ($1.30), with another 300 or so for up to 15,000 euros in an initiative the village hopes will reverse decades of population decline and boost the local economy even as Italy falls back into recession.
Australian film director Dominic Allen is one of a crowd of buyers from the United States, Britain, Dubai and Sweden who have rushed to Gangi to take advantage of these bargains and transform living spaces and animal stalls into summer homes. See article written in 2014 by yahoo business about Gangi Sicily
Mayor Efisio Arbau has proposed to sell the homes for as little as a 1 euro, with the provision that the buyer has three years to refurbish the dwelling, a project that would likely only cost about $25,000.
This solution will create jobs and make young citizens stay with their loved elderly ones.
It sounds too good to be true and it is if you don’t have enough money to renovate these old properties and in some cases, they need to demolish them.
A Traveler’s History of the Cinque Terre
Nestled along the coast, idyllic Vernazza was once prone to pirate attacks.
Nestled along the coast, idyllic Vernazza was once prone to pirate attacks.
It’s a sunny afternoon a thousand years ago in the Cinque Terre (CHINK-weh TAY-reh), long before it became the Italian Riviera. This string of humble villages, surrounded by terraced vineyards, is a two-day sail from Genoa.
The leathery old farmer, taking a break from tending his grape vines, picks a cactus fruit to quench his thirst. Suddenly howls come from the crude stony tower crowning a bluff that marks his village of Vernazza. Turkish pirates are attacking.
Avoiding powerhouse cities like nearby Genoa and Pisa, pirates delight in the villages. These Cinque Terre towns, famous since Roman times for their white wine, are like snack time for rampaging pirates. Villagers run for cover down corridors buried deep in the clutter of homes that clog Vernazza’s ravine.
A thousand years later, another leathery grape-picker is startled by the roar of a smoke-billowing train. Emerging from the newly built tunnel, it flies a red, white and green flag. It’s 1870 and the feudal and fragmented land of Italy is finally united. This first Italian train line, an engineering triumph of fledgling Italy, laced together Turin, Genoa, Rome…and, by chance, tiny Vernazza.
Decades later, in the 1930s, an Italian dictator teams up with a German tyrant. The war they started is going badly. In 1943 the German Führer calls on Vernazza’s teenage boys to report for duty. The boys, who are assured they’ll only work in German farms and factories, know they’ll end up as fodder on the front. Rather than dying for Hitler, they become resistance fighters. Running through the night, they climb the ancient terraces like giant stairsteps into the hills high above the village cemetery.
The 1970s bring on a different battle scene. Hippies exercise their right to lay naked on the Cinque Terre’s remote Guvano beach. Outraged, an angry armada of villagers — fully clothed and accompanied by a raft of reporters — converge on the ratpack of sunburned big-city hedonists. Conservative little Vernazza makes headlines across Italy.
Next, the age of tourism arrives. In 1978 a college-aged American backpacker, stumbling onto the region, finds the traditions vivid, the wine cheap, and the welcome warm. Inspired by the Cinque Terre and similar places throughout the Continent, he declares the region a “back door” and writes what will become a top-selling guidebook on Europe.
By the 1990s, word of this paradise is out. More and more travelers visit — staying in local apartments rather than in hotels. One day, at the crack of dawn, another invasion comes…this time by land. A platoon of Italian tax inspectors blitz the sleepy town, rousting out the tourists and cornering locals renting unlicensed rooms. B&B income in Vernazza is suddenly no longer tax-free.
Today gnarled old men still tend their grapevines. Now Vernazza’s castle — named “Belforte” centuries ago for the screams of its watchmen — protects only glorious views. And the screams ringing out are of delight from children playing on the beach below.
But the local economy has changed. The poor village is now a rich village, living well in its rustic and government-protected shell. Tourism drives the economy as the less-calloused locals feed and house travelers. While the private rooms rented are basic, the cuisine — super-charged by a passion for pasta, pesto, and seafood — is some of Italy’s best.
With friends at IDP (internally displaced persons) camp in Herat, Afghanistan.
I remember when President John F. Kennedy announced the formation of the Peace Corps in 1961. I thought it was a wonderful idea that arrived too late for me. I was married and had a young family and responsibilities at home. Thirty years later on October 24, 1991 I found out I was wrong. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer headed for Guatemala. It is now nearly seventeen years since that day. Although my Peace Corps experience was not everything I had hoped it would be, the doors that it opened have led to a very fascinating part of my life.
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala while in Peace Corps 1992.
In 1996, four years after leaving the Peace Corps, a former volunteer with whom I had served in Guatemala called me and asked if I would be interested in working on an election in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She said the Peace Corps was recruiting individuals to work as United Nations Volunteers. The principal requirement was some election experience. The opportunity offered work on the first post-war election in that devastated country. After some hesitation I decided to apply and was accepted. Thus began what has been, and is continuing to be, a rewarding and exciting journey. I have since worked in 14 countries and traveled to 38.
There are wonderful opportunities available to folks over 50 who wish to serve internationally. Although organizations like the Peace Corps and United Nations Volunteers require long-term commitments there are many organizations that offer shorter international volunteer opportunities. Short-term assignments are a very good way to for one to gain experience in international service and to determine if volunteering abroad is something one would like to pursue on a longer term basis. The prospective volunteer should carefully examine the programs and history of placement organizations prior to making a choice. A good fit with one’s background and goals is vital to a meaningful and challenging experience. The key is to work with an organization that has a track record and is well-organized. It should be working closely with an in-country organization to assure that its programs are providing a needed service to the communities and individuals served. It is important to talk with former volunteers over 50 years of age who have associated with the organization that you are considering. Ask them about their experiences, what their expectations were and if the organization met them. Did they feel that they made a contribution to the communities served? Did they feel comfortable with the age-mix of the volunteers and was their experience properly utilized? Regarding age-mix, one of the delights of my service is that I have, to this day, continuing friendships with former volunteers who had just graduated from college when I, at 56, was a Peace Corps Volunteer 17 years ago.
Peace Corps trainees with host family in Guatemala 1991.
Shorter term international volunteer assignments, with the exception of some organizations that have particular professional needs, usually require that a volunteer pay for the transportation and costs associated with the volunteer assignment. Most times these costs are tax-deductible. The volunteer should check with the placement organization and also with one’s tax advisor to determine the tax implications. There are very good reasons that the organizations charge for volunteer placements. They work, in advance, with in-country host organizations to develop programs that fulfill needs and contribute to the country of service. They travel to the program sites to set-up housing, medical care, food, transportation, insurance (if offered) and security for the volunteers. All of these tasks require time and financial resources.
When choosing a particular program it is best to select one in which you either have experience or one which encompasses long held interests i.e., hobbies, avocations. There are also many faith-based international volunteer opportunities. The new volunteer must adjust to new cultures and circumstances. A knowledge of, or deep interest in, one’s program, although not always necessary, does ease the adjustment. The positive use of one’s experience and interests can also make a greater contribution to the country of service. I must say that my observation of the Peace Corps provides a caveat to my advice. There were times when the Peace Corps seemed to assign people to specialties based on slots that needed filling rather than the individual’s experience. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t—but that was also true of some volunteers working their specialties.
IDP family, Herat, Afghaistan 2002.
A great way to find out what your interests are is to volunteer in your community. Most large communities have organizations that recruit and coordinate volunteer activities. You can check online for websites that provide domestic volunteer information. Among the websites I find useful are: www.volunteermatch.org, www.idealist.org, and www.volunteerguide.org.
There are some unique considerations that the over 50 group must think about when planning their international volunteer service. For longer-term assignments the future volunteer needs to arrange one’s investments and financial obligations. During such assignments some volunteers rent or lease their homes and apartments. The term of the lease or rental agreement must be carefully considered. One should think about what one would do should they return home earlier than they had originally planned. Having an alternate lodging plan in mind could be helpful. The advent of online banking has made it easier to handle one’s financial obligations while away. When I first left in 1991 I hired someone to pay my bills and look after my finances. I also did this on later, long-term assignments. I now find online banking very helpful, although I do need to have someone gather my mail. The storage or sale of automobiles, furniture and personal possessions must be considered. Arrangements for pets need to be made. There may be other matters you wish to consider. There are some very good books about volunteering that include lists of things to do prior to departure. One book I find helpful is: How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas, by Joseph Collins, Stefano DeZerega and Zahara Heckscher, Penguin Books 2002.
The volunteer organizations that you choose to work with will also have important planning information for you.
Showing photos, rural village, Rajshahi, Bangladesh 2008.
A major consideration for prospective volunteers of any age is health. Not just one’s current health but potential health risks on an assignment and the availability and quality of health care at the site of one’s program. A good place to start is with one’s physician. Get a thorough check-up and evaluation. Discuss your travel plans and destination with your doctor. Many long-term volunteer organizations will require pre-assignment health examinations. Although some long-term and most short-term organizations may not require the exams, it is good for the prospective volunteer to have a full picture of one’s health and medical needs. To determine the quality of health care at the program site the prospective volunteer should talk with the deploying organization and also former volunteers with that organization. Information about health and travel insurance should also be discussed at that time. Many organizations provide some insurance. If insurance is not provided a search of the internet will produce resources that sell the needed coverage.
One of my major concerns was what my adult children would think about my international volunteering. I should not have worried. My son and daughter could not have been more supportive. At times they seemed more excited than I. As my international experience has broadened over the years their excitement and interest has grown and endured.
After all is said and done, after all of the questions have been asked and the answers received, there is only one way to realize the truly fulfilling experience of international volunteering. You must do it! I encourage you to do so. I wish you the life enhancing pleasures that volunteering has given me and, most of all, abiding international friendships like those I now have as a result of my volunteer service.
In 1991 John Dwyer at age 56, joined the Peace Corps, a decision that has led to international service in 14 countries and travel to 38 countries. After Peace Corps service in Guatemala, John served as a United Nations volunteer in the first elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the Bosnian War. He has subsequently worked on elections in 10 other countries. He managed camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Heart, Afghanistan and did development work in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He continues to work internationally. John has a website, www.Over50andOverseas.com, which is a resource for individuals over 50 who wish to volunteer internationally. John also hosts the The Contrarian Traveler: A website for those who are seeking unique, fulfilling travel experiences. The resource site emphasizes unique and budget friendly travel opportunities.
Paris is popular year-round, as mentioned in my post “Paris the City of Love”, there is a low season as far as prices goes. In November you will find a lot of good bargains in Hotels and flights, you will find special discount on almost everything. So you’re more likely to save money on your Paris airfare by traveling in late summer and autumn.
Spring Weather in Paris
Paris in spring is a delight. After a few months of cold, and a little rain, the sight of new flowers and more consistent sunlight is always welcome – to Parisians and tourists.
There is a chance of getting rain in early spring. But the average temperatures climb noticeably from February into March. The nights are still cool, so bringing warm clothes is good policy. Pay attention to current Paris weather forecasts as you’re coming up to your trip, as much of Europe has been experiencing unseasonably warm weather in the Spring in the last few years.
Best Paris parks to enjoy in spring
Jardin des Tuileries
This formal beauty in the heart of the city links the Louvre with the Place de la Concorde, stretching along the north bank of the Seine.
The Tuileries Gardens get their name from the tile factories which previously stood on the site where Queen Catherine de Medici built the Palais des Tuileries in 1564. The famous gardener of King Louis XIV, André Le Nôtre, re-landscaped the gardens in 1664 to give them their current French formal garden style.
The gardens, which separate the Louvre from the Place de la Concorde, are a cultural walking place for Parisians and tourists where Maillol statues stand alongside those of Rodin or Giacometti. The gardens’ two ponds are perfect for relaxation. The Musée de l’Orangerie, where visitors can admire the works of Monet, is located south-west of Tuileries. From March to December, free tours in French are organized. For lovers of candyfloss, rides and thrills, go to the Fête des Tuileries from June to August.
Jardin du Luxembourg is situated on the border between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, the Luxembourg Gardens, inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence, were created upon the initiative of Queen Marie de Medici in 1612.
The gardens, which cover 25 hectares of land, are split into French gardens and English gardens. Between the two, lies a geometric forest and a large pond.
There is also an orchard with a variety of old and forgotten apples, an apiary for you to learn about bee-keeping and greenhouses with a collection of breathtaking orchids and a rose garden. The garden has 106 statues spread throughout the park, the monumental Medici fountain, the Orangerie and the Pavillon Davioud.
There are many activities and facilities for children such as puppets, rides and slides. Adults, whether they are Parisians or tourists, can play chess, tennis, and bridge or remote control boats. The cultural programme is characterized by free photography exhibitions on the garden railings and by concerts in the bandstand. You can read more in Paris official website of convention and Visitors Bureau
The screened entrance court faces the Place du Palais-Royal, opposite the Louvre. The larger inner courtyard, the Cour d’Honneur, has since 1986 contained Daniel Buren‘s site-specific art piece Les Deux Plateaux, known as Les Colonnes de Buren.
In 1830 the Cour d’Honneur was enclosed to the north by what was probably the most famous of Paris’s covered arcades, the Galerie d’Orléans. Demolished in the 1930s, its flanking rows of columns still stand between the Cour d’Honneur and the popular Palais-Royal Gardens.
The Jardin des plantes(French pronunciation: [?a?d?? d? pl??t]; French for ‘Garden of the Plants’), also known as the jardin des plantes de Paris when distinguished from other jardins des plantes in other cities, is the main botanical garden in France. The term Jardin des plantes is the official name in the present day, but it is in fact an elliptical form of Jardin royal des plantes médicinales (‘Royal Garden of the Medicinal Plants‘, which is related to the original purpose of the garden, back in the 17th century).
Built on the site of a former Citroën automobile manufacturing plant, the park is named after company founder André Citroën. When it opened in 1992 it was the largest park to open in Paris in more than a century.
Getting Around Paris, The Paris Metro or Metropolitan
France has a terrific rail network that reaches almost every part of the country. If you would prefer to navigate around Paris and France by bus, inter-regional bus services are limited but buses are used extensively for short distance travel within regions.
Having your own vehicle can be expensive and is inconvenient in city centers where parking and traffic is problematic. Renting a car is expensive if you book on the spot but pre-booked and prepaid promotional rates are reasonable.
Paris is one of Europe’s most walkable cities with all of the city’s top attractions close together.
Even whe cheap transportaiton and Metro is budget-friendly and easy to use, with stops at all major tourist spots, I did walk all over the city without taking
any transportation except when coming back to my room to sleep!
Update October 4th, 2018
Taxis and Uber “at the time this original post was written, there was no Uber!”
You can hail taxis from the side of the road, but it may be difficult. Taxis aren’t legally allowed to pull over if you’re within 50 metres of a taxi stand, which you can find throughout the city. You can also call and book a taxi in advance.
Uber is available and costs EUR €40-80 from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the city center “it depends where in the city you are going to”. From Orly International Airport, Uber is EUR€30-50.
(French: Métro de Paris) is the rapid transit metro system in Paris. It has 16 lines, mostly underground, there are 300 stations. Since some are served by several lines, there are 384 stops in total.
Paris has one of the densest metro networks in the world, with 245 stations within 86.9 km2 of the City of Paris. Lines are numbered 1 to 14, with two minor lines, 3bis and 7bis. The minor lines were originally part of lines 3 and 7 but became independent.
Lines are identified on maps by number and color. Direction of travel is indicated by the destination terminus.
Paris is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow It carries 4.5 million passengers a day, and an annual total of 1.388 billion (2007). Chatlet-Les Halles, with 5 Metro lines and three RER commuter rail lines.
The Paris subway system is the second oldest in the world
Why Paris in Spring?
I loved this poem by Sara Teasdale
Paris in Spring
Oh, it’s Paris, it’s Paris, And spring-time has begun.
I know the Bois is twinkling In a sort of hazy sheen, And down the Champs the gray old arch Stands cold and still between. But the walk is flecked with sunlight Where the great acacias lean, Oh, it’s Paris, it’s Paris, And the leaves are growing green.
The sun’s gone in, the sparkle’s dead, There falls a dash of rain, But who would care when such an air Comes blowing up the Seine? And still, Ninette sits sewing Beside her window-pane, When it’s Paris, it’s Paris, And spring-time come again.
I have to start my travel site talking about my favorite city in the world, the most romantic city in the world; I am referring to PARIS – the city of love! the city of light! a city to dream wild!
I have lived in Paris for one year in the late 90’s, still my faverite city in the world!
while i was living in Paris for one year i learned that……….to apologize humbly before asking any question.
I’ve learned to cross the streets on the red light at a slow pace.
I’ve learned to wear skirts in the middle of winter, and have my coffee last as a separate course.
I’ve learned that you can have it all and enjoy it without guilt, like a cheese course before a crème brulée, or five weeks of paid vacation!! I’ve learned that life is for living, here and now, and that money doesn’t have anything to do with quality of life. It’s attitude that matters!!!
Paris is the capital city of France. It is also said to be the city of lovers and the most romantic place on earth, where they speak French the language of love.
Paris is one of those cities that’s popular year-round, and most popular during spring and summer but also all year around you find tourist from all over the world.
Paris offers many tourist attractions and exquisite places that will ensure your trip is truly a memorable one. Including monuments, museums, parks and gardens, squares, bridges, the canals of Paris or trade fairs and conferences, whatever your interests, Paris has a lot to offer.
Paris is also known as the City of Light, is the world’s most popular city destination. Paris is the second-largest city in Western Europe, and the most things to see.
The center of Paris
is divided in 20 arrondissements , the first arrondissement in the middle and the higher numbers on the outer circle. Most of the arrondissements have their own characteristics. The majority of the world known attractions (Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, Louvre, Panthéon, e,…) are situated in the first 8 arrondissements.
The city of love
is a massive city with many attractions in reachable distance thanks to the
Highly efficient public transport system. It boasts of more than 80 museums and 200 arts
Galleries. A trip to Disney land and the magnificent Eiffel tower will make the trip worthwhile.
The attractive tourists spots
are the Arc de triomphe which spans over the tomb of an
Unknown Soldier, the forbidding gothic architecture of the Notre Dame cathedral, the picturesque
Sacre Coeur, to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Moulin Rouge and boat tours along the
Seine. Get the Carte Musees-Monuments pass, which gives access to 70 monuments and
Like summertime, autumn in Paris offers rich pickings when it comes to festivals. The Festival d’automne is probably the most eclectic of them all: featuring dance, cinema and theatre, it offers a range of diverse and high-quality events in 47 different venues in the capital and around. Are you an art enthusiast ? The event Rendez-Vous à l’Atelier is the opportunity to visit different artists’ workshops in Paris and discover the world of Delacroix, Moreau, Scheffer, Dubufe, Rodin, Bourdelle and Zadkine in the space of a weekend. For nightbirds, MaMa Festival is one of the top musical events of the new season with more than 120 concerts in 3 days. And for fans of jazz, swing and indie music, there are two not-to-miss festivals: Jazz à La Villette and the Pitchfork Music Festival.
First organized by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, more than 30 years ago, the European Heritage Days invite you to discover or rediscover Parisian monuments for free. Numerous special events take place over one weekend at participating venues.
CHECK THE WEBSITE FOR DATES
As the days shorten and autumn heralds winter, the Nuit Blanche event in Paris invites you to see the city in a different way, at night, lit by moonlight, neons and other lights.
On the first Saturday in October, in all parts of the city, artists will be proposing installations, exhibitions, concerts performances, trails, staged scene sets and creations that explore all facets of contemporary art and offer a new view of the city.Public transport stays open all night so that spectators can design their own route among the dozens of avant-garde projects of international artists. The Nuit Blanche was first organized in 2002, and, like the Fête de la Musique, it has spread around the world to other cities in France and other European capitals, a proof of its popularity and relevance today.
from 06 October 2018 to 06 October 2018
Tout Paris – Paris, Paris
Paris offers eclectic selection of events. Lasting 3hrs20, the eagerly-awaited tragic opera Traviata, by Verdi, comes to the Opéra Bastille (surtitled in both English and French). A number of great musicals will also have Paris audiences singing along from September onwards: Chicago will be playing at the Théâtre Mogador and the Fashion Freak Show at Folies Bergère. If you are a fan of circus acts, the Compagnie les 7 Doigts de la Main returns with the show Cuisine et Confessions, a savvy mix of acrobatic acts, theatre and culinary art. Finally, the new show by Bartabas, Le Sacre de Stravinsky, mixes equestrian art, dance and symphonic music at the Seine Musicale.
Paris is a great stage for international sporting events. This year, the coveted Ryder Cup is being staged for the first time in France, an opportunity for golfers and golfing fans in the Paris region to see the best European and American players. And for running enthusiasts, there is the 20 km de Paris with its 25,000 runners, and La Parisienne – an exclusively women’s race over 6.7 km in the heart of the city. Not forgetting the Qatar, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, a full weekend of horseracing events drawing the best thoroughbred horses and international jockeys.
There is no lack of things for kids to do in Paris ! For a family day out, head to the Fête at the Bois de Boulogne to enjoy this famous funfair. The exhibition T-Rex includes workshops for children and the largest T-Rex skeleton ever exhibited in France; and to find out all there is to know about Fire, head to the Cité des sciences et de l’industrie. Kids and adults will love Totem et Plume, two magical shows filled with acrobatic acts, music and lights.
What began as a rickety wood pathway to install antenna cables over a cliff in 1942 has become a hiker’s enigma often called the “Stairway to Heaven.”
World War II motivated the U.S. military to build a radio transceiver station atop Hawaii’s Pu?ukeahiakahoe mountain. The station sent low-frequency signals to communicate with submarines navigating around Japan. The Haiku Stairs (Ha?ik? means “sharp break” in Hawaiian) offers a steep 2,500-foot ascent on Oahu that reaches the now abandoned station. Despite receiving an $875,000 metal renovation in 2003, according to to-hawaii.com, the trail is forbidden to many visitors wanting to endure the series of steps. The prohibition, nevertheless, hasn’t held back everyone from the climb and arriving at its wonderful island landscape views.
We asked the Friends of Haiku Stairs (FHS) volunteer organization to get the inside scoop on the popular attraction:
What’s the current status and future of the Haiku Stairs?
FHS: Climbing on the stairs is illegal without consent from the owners — there are several, and they asked us not to share all of their names. The Friends of Haiku Stairs have a working agreement with all of the owners and are trying to obtain the newly required $1 million insurance policy that one of the owners is requiring us to have before we can even access them again, and that is only for maintenance and not recreation.
There is a continued movement to demolish the stairs altogether that is being fueled by people accessing them illegally. We believe there’s a better solution: Open the stairs to allow people to climb in safe conditions and that will alleviate the trespassing. To get there, we need political will.
Is it safe to climb the stairs?
FHS: The stairs are safe to climb if conditions are favorable, with caution, and in the daylight. People continue to access them illegally through the neighborhoods; or worse, they try to access them from the back side which is a treacherous, dangerous hike. The result is a surge in emergency calls and a strain on efforts from police and rescue teams.
How to Save on Airfare as Line Blurs Between Low-Cost and Legacy Airlines
By:Rick Seaney•December 11, 2012
You know how TMZ shows you side-by-side photos of D-List celebrities and asks you, “What’s the Big Frigin’ Difference?” Now do that with the airlines – look for the differences between low-cost carriers like JetBlue and Southwest and legacy airlines such as American or United. Not much difference (but don’t miss my tips to save money, below).
Fewer Amenities on All Airlines
A good example would be the things you used to get for nothing on the big airlines. Today most legacy airlines – and the discounters – charge a fee for the following items:
Checked-bags (JetBlue and Southwest still offer free checked-bags)
Meals in coach
Blankets and pillows
Extra-legroom such as exit seat rows
Reservations made over the phone
Change fees (Southwest does not charge a change fee)
Gap in Airfare Prices Also Narrows
Another legacy/low-cost airline difference that’s disappearing: the wide gap in ticket prices. Last week I looked at round-trip airfares from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City for the same dates in December, and here’s what I found:
Southwest – non-stop: $356
American – non-stop: $353
US Airways – one stop: $277
As you can see, the above prices run counter to conventional wisdom that the discounters always have the cheaper prices. What’s this all about? To quote a former commander-in-chief, “it’s the economy, stupid.”
Economy Blurs Airline Differences
The blurring of the line between discount airlines and legacy carriers began with 9/11 and continued through a period of rising oil prices and the 2008 recession. It was actually a pretty good decade for some of the discounters, and if you were running one of the old-line airlines, you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out it might pay to be more like them. The first experiments flopped as the big airlines created their own versions of discounters – remember United’s Ted and Delta’s Song? Then they simply remade the original product by slashing amenities in favor of fees and even more closely aligning airfare prices. The price blur is partly a byproduct of our increasingly competitive world of online shopping and since consumers can compare airfare prices, why pay more? Airlines understand this and know they must stay competitive to survive.
Tips to Find Cheap Flights in Changing World
Despite the blurring – the increasing lack of differences in this changing world of airlines – shoppers can still find cheap flights.
Shop Tuesdays: Traditionally, airfare sales are launched early Tuesday and by about 3 p.m. eastern time, the others have matched prices to stay competitive; that’s the time to shop.
Fly in and out of large airports: Hub airports have more flights and are generally cheaper – if a larger airport is within an hour or two’s drive of your hometown airport, compare prices and see if a little extra time on the road is worth it.
Compare non-stops to connecting flights: In most cases, you pay a premium of between 20% and 60% for a non-stop flight – only you can say if the convenience is worth it.
Be flexible: Often the cheapest flights are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and sometimes dirt cheap fares are available on overnight flights or at dawn. If you are flexible enough to take advantage of these deals, you can save big.
The holiday season in New York City is getting into full swing. “Magical” is the only way to describe the ambience as eager kids and grown-ups celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, the winter solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve and more in NYC, transforming the City into a veritable wonderland of stunning window displays, enchanting train shows, mesmerizing tree lightings and heartwarming concerts. And, of course, there’s the shopping. From holiday markets to luxurious Fifth Avenue department stores to downtown boutiques for the fashion savvy, there is truly no other place in the world that answers to all of your gift-buying needs. Meanwhile, the Rockettes kick their legs at Radio City Music Hall, youngsters sport marshmallow moustaches from all the hot cocoa, and families and friends cling to one another on ice-skating rinks. Explore the shops, treats and other things to delight in to figure out how you’ll spend the most wonderful time of the year.
October 20–January 6, 2013
The Grinch and his holiday workshop arrive at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan in an interactive exhibition inspired by Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Kids will enjoy seeing scenes from the book covering gallery walls, participating in a scavenger hunt, playing in a real-life sleigh and taking part in other ongoing Seuss-related holiday programming.
The Grinch and his holiday workshop arrive at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan in an interactive exhibition inspired by Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Kids will enjoy seeing scenes from the book covering gallery walls, participating in a scavenger hunt, playing in a real-life sleigh and taking part in other ongoing Seuss-related holiday programming. For more information and the complete schedule of family programming, visit cmom.org.
The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park
Photo: Jose Luis R. Cortes
October 26–January 6, 2013
Satisfy those on your shopping list and get into the spirit of the season with a trip to The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park. More than 120 merchants fill the park through early January selling clothing, jewelry, household items, crafts, art and more. Plus, indulge in some warm and gooey treats from the vendors and go ice-skating at Citi Pond (free for guests who bring their own skates!). Satisfy those on your shopping list and get into the spirit of the season with a trip to The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park. More than 120 merchants fill the park through early January selling clothing, jewelry, household items, crafts, art and more. Plus, indulge in some warm and gooey treats from the vendors and go ice-skating at Citi Pond (free for guests who bring their own skates!).
November 9–December 30
This iconic song-and-dance extravaganza, featuring the legendary Rockettes, is one of the holiday season’s must-see attractions. Celebrating 85 years of the Rockettes, this year’s show combines such classic scenes as “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “New York at Christmas” with all-new numbers and cutting-edge digital projection and digital mapping technology, which transforms Radio City Music Hall’s interior into a giant canvas.
This iconic song-and-dance extravaganza, featuring the legendary Rockettes, is one of the holiday season’s must-see attractions. Celebrating 85 years of the Rockettes, this year’s show combines such classic scenes as “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “New York at Christmas” with all-new numbers and cutting-edge digital projection and digital mapping technology, which transforms Radio City Music Hall’s interior into a giant canvas.
November 16–December 24
More than 100 red-and-white booths will fill Union Square Park for its 19th-annual holiday market. You’ll find plenty of affordable quality items, so your wallet will thank you—and friends and family on your list will, too.
Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Terminal
November 16–February 10, 2013
The New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex & Store at Grand Central Terminal is back with its annual Holiday Train Show, whose new layout features Lionel trains traveling through a two-level, 34-foot-long miniature New York City and countryside scene. Vintage trains from the museum’s collection, including New York Central models, and posters from the 1920s through the ’40s will also be on display.
New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show
November 17–January 13, 2013
The Holiday Train Show at The New York Botanical Garden features painstakingly crafted miniatures of New York City’s built environment, all made entirely out of plant parts. Seeds, bark, leaves and twigs are among the botanical resources employed to create the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and other landmarks. Model trains navigate the familiar, fantastically rendered New York landscape.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting
Rockefeller Center’s celebrated tree lighting, a holiday-season staple, takes place on November 28. The colorful and towering tree is a sight to behold, and the lighting ceremony always features celebrity guests, musical performances and more. The tree can be seen from the ice-skating rink below and is a must-visit for anyone in NYC during the holidays. It remains on view until 11pm on January 7, 2013.
Times Square Ball Drop
Celebrate the arrival of 2013 with the annual Times Square Ball Drop. Nothing compares with the exhilaration of watching the fete from the streets, plus you can catch music performances and other activities throughout the night. With all the revelry, it’s best to get there as early as possible in the day; street closures begin midafternoon and the choicest spots are usually filled by 3pm or earlier. For more information on spending New Year’s Eve in Times Square, read our guide.
The Gstaad-Saanenland holiday region in the Bernese Oberland is popular with a charming mix of visitors: while the chalet village of Gstaad attracts countless stars and starlets the smaller neighbouring villages offer attractive options for families with children.
In the past years the centre of Gstaad has developed into the most popular and shortest shopping street in Switzerland. With its top hotels, gourmet restaurants, luxury chalets and nearby Saanen airport, the car-free resort of Gstaad is a popular destination for international celebrities. With the neighbouring resorts of Saanen, Rougemont, Schönried, Saanenmöser, Zweisimmen, Gsteig and Lauenen, the Saanenland as a whole however offers a considerably broader spectrum: the nature preserve by idyllic Lake Lauenen with its waterfalls and high moors, the narrow streets in the historic village centre of Saanen, the advantageous situation of Schönried and Saanenmöser for winter sports enthusiasts and the peacefulness of the idyllic mountain village of Abländschen are examples of an extremely diverse holiday region.
The Saanenland ski and hiking arena with 57 transport facilities has been given the name «Gstaad Mountain Rides». It is accessible from several villages by link transport facilities. The Montreux-Oberland-Railways (MOB) and buses connect Gstaad with other base stations in Saanenmöser, Schönried, Zweisimmen, Gsteig, Reusch, Lauenen Rougemont and Château-d’Oex in the French-speaking neighbouring region of Pays d’Enhaut.
The wide-open countryside of the Saanenland offers a versatile and and diverse sports programme: hiking (trail network of over 300 km), mountain biking, paragliding and golf. On the River Saane there are opportunities for mountain torrent and canoo adventures. Summer cross-country skiing is possible in the «Glacier 3000» ski region. The summer toboggan run in Schönried, a via ferrata and the Lake Lauenen nature paradise are ideal excursion destinations for families.
In winter, 220km of pistes at altitudes of up to 3000 metres above sea level await skiers and snowboard riders. Several snowparks and numerous toboggan runs as well as 165km of trails for classic- and skating-style cross-country skiing are at the disposal of visitors. For walkers there are about 200km of winter walking trails. Among the rather more unusal activities on offer there is Bavarian curling in the centre of Gstaad and glacier- and heli-skiing.
Winter in the smaller resorts in the region, such as Lauenen, means peace and pleasure on long winter walks, while cross-country skiing or taking a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.
True to its slogan, “come up, slow down”, Gstaad provides a deliberate counterpoint to our increasingly hectic daily lives. The wellness destination of Gstaad guarantees a perfect wellbeing experience thanks to its intact nature, unsurpassed variety of leisure activities, healthy mountain agriculture and international top events. The right pampering programme is provided by five hotels with a publicly accessible and complete wellness infrastructure, eight hotels with a partial wellness offering and a sports centre with indoor swimming pool. The area’s harmonic topography is made up of five valleys. The location between 1,000 and 3,000 metres above sea-level has a positive impact on your wellbeing. Rushing mountain streams, sparkling mountain lakes, forests and gently rolling green hills with a spectacular Alpine backdrop lend the landscape its idyllic charm. Gstaad is also a paradise for fine diners, with more than 100 restaurants ranging from cosy raclette restaurants to acclaimed gourmet temples. Those who are fond of Alpine authenticity will find plenty of options for accommodation in traditional Alpine operations. Gstaad’s car-free promenade and its easily accessible recreation areas complete the overall impression in a pleasant way.
Gourmet restaurants – the gourmet’s paradise of Gstaad has no fewer than fifteen renowned restaurants, including the Restaurant Chesery which has been awarded 18 Gault Millau points.
Lake Lauenen – idyllic mountain lake you simply have to take a dip in and excursion destination with a restaurant for mountain bikers and walkers.
Scooter fun – Wispile-Gstaad or Sparenmoos-Zweisimmen offer fast descents on special scooters.
«Golden Pass» panorama railway – journey from Montreux on Lake Geneva via Gstaad to Lake Thun and from there on to Lucerne in Central
International Balloon Festival in Châteux-d’Oex – most important Alpine balloon event with about 90 hot-air balloons in a variety of shapes and colours (January).
Swatch FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour – 1to1 energy Grand Slam Gstaad – volleyball admidst impressive scenery (July).
Crédit Agricole Suisse Open Gstaad – international ATP Tennis Tournament with elite players (July).
Davidoff Saveurs Gstaad – celebration of authentic flavours from kitchen, cellar and humidor (July).
Menuhin Festival Gstaad – summer music festival in honour of the great violinist and conductor (July – September).
Hublot Polo Gold Cup Gstaad – international teams riding fiery Arab horses fight for victory (August).
Country Night Gstaad – leading country event encompassing a wide musical spectrum (September).
Sommets Musicaux de Gstaad – intimate festival of classical music in spring (February/March).
Rare dragon’s blood trees, found only on the island, which can grow for 300 years
The road to the forest of frankincense trees, on the Yemeni island of Socotra, is a rough one. From the passenger seat of a battered Toyota Land Cruiser, it looked like pure rock pile, on and on, up, down, over. Ahmed Said, my driver and guide, wrestled the wheel like a man engaged, surely and calmly, in a struggle to the death. When at last, after 90 minutes, he stopped and got out, we had traveled perhaps no more than five miles.
We stood on a rise overlooking a riverbed rushing with water. The ground underfoot was a rubble of granite boulders and chunks of sharp limestone karst. Small trees — short and gnarled, resembling mesquite — surrounded us. Ahmed approached one and pointed to an amber drop of sap oozing from its trunk: the essence of frankincense. Until that moment I’d had no clear idea what exactly frankincense was; nor that it derives from the sap of a tree; nor that, as Ahmed explained, Socotra is home to nine species of the tree, all unique to the island. I caught the drop of sap on my finger and inhaled a sharp, sweet fragrance; then I put it to my tongue. The torture of the drive was forgotten, and for the briefest moment, under the hot Yemeni sun, I tasted Christmas.
Situated 250 miles off the coast of Yemen, Socotra is the largest member of an archipelago of the same name, a four-island ellipsis that trails off the Horn of Africa into the Gulf of Aden. A mix of ancient granite massifs, limestone cliffs and red sandstone plateaus, the island brings to mind the tablelands of Arizona, if Arizona were no bigger than New York’s Long Island and surrounded by a sparkling turquoise sea.
Some 250 million years or more ago, when all the planet’s major landmasses were joined and most major life-forms were just a gleam in some evolutionary eye, Socotra already stood as an island apart. Ever since, it has been gathering birds, seeds and insects off the winds and cultivating one of the world’s most unusual collections of organisms. In addition to frankincense, Socotra is home to myrrh trees and several rare birds. Its marine life is a unique hybrid of species from the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific. In the 1990s, a team of United Nations biologists conducted a survey of the archipelago’s flora and fauna. They counted nearly 700 endemic species, found nowhere else on earth; only Hawaii and the Galapagos Islands have more impressive numbers.
Lately Socotra has begun to attract a new and entirely foreign species — tourists. A modest airport went up in 1999. (Before then, the island could be reached only by cargo ship; from May to September, when monsoon winds whip up the sea, it could be cut off entirely.) That year, 140 travelers visited. The annual figure now exceeds 2,500: a paltry number compared with, say, the Galapagos, but on an island with only four hotels, two gas stations and a handful of flush toilets, it’s a veritable flood.
They — I should say “we” — constitute an experiment. Encouraged by a United Nations development plan, Socotra has opted to avoid mass tourism: no beachfront resorts; instead, small, locally owned hotels and beachfront campsites. The prize is that rarest of tourists, eco-tourists: those who know the little known and reach the hard to reach, who will come eager to see the Socotra warbler, the loggerhead turtle, the dragon’s blood tree — anything, please, but their own reflection.
Riding with Ahmed, it was immediately evident that, though the island is small in size, it cannot possibly be seen without a hired driver and guide, for the simple reason that there are few proper roads, fewer road signs and no road maps.
The first paved roads were built by the Yemeni government only two years ago: wide, open scabs on the landscape that stretch across the island yet see virtually no traffic. The new roads, it turned out, were a sore spot with Ahmed and the United Nations Socotra Archipelago Conservation and Development Programme. “The experience is so different if you spend 45 minutes on a road versus three or four hours,” Paul Scholte, the program’s technical adviser in Sana, Yemen’s capital, said to me. “The whole perception of the island changes due to the road.” Then there was the matter of placement. Only at the last minute did the S.C.D.P. manage to convince the government not to send the road through a stretch of coastline designated as a nature preserve. It’s fair to say that Socotra’s future may be read in the lines of its roads: how many, how wide, where they lead and who is encouraged to travel on them.
Ahmed took me to the beach that would have been paved over: shimmering blue water, powdery white sand and not a soul in sight. A ghost crab, pure white, with just its pin-stalk eyes peeking above the water like twin periscopes, drifted by on a current in the shallows. I watched it watch me and then bury itself in the sandy floor.
According to Scholte, roughly half of Socotra’s tourists are Italians, who seem mainly interested in the beaches: “Italians go because it’s new, it’s cheap, but not because it’s special.” The French and Germans, in contrast, go for special: they come to hike, visit the island’s nature preserves, maybe rent camels and spend several days trekking as a group across the Haghier mountain range at the center of the island.
The island of Zakynthos, a beautiful green island in Greece, surrounded by the clear blue water of the the Ionian Sea.
Have a swim at the wide sandy beaches in the company of sea turtles, go snorkeling or scuba diving between rocks and in underwater caves.
Take a sailboat out or go surfing. Make a trekking-tour in the mountain-areas.
Enjoy the great weather on the sunniest island in the Mediterranean, and let yourself be swept away by the rhythms of Zakynthian life, joining the hospitable people of this island.
But that’s not all. Zakynthos (its total size is 406 square km) has much more to offer, so use the special links on the navigation board to see the aspects of this island of sea turtles, in which you may have an interest.
The Island is almost triangular in shape, with two green mountainous promontories extending into the sea to form the huge bay of Laganas.
There are more pine-covered mountains and hills in the north, but the centre is gentle and lush, richly planted with currant vines, olive trees, almonds and seasonal vegetables. There are dozens of beaches to choose from, sandy and sheltered with invitingly sparkling water. Flowers of every kind fill every available space, filling the air with the scent that so enraptured visitors of old.
With a sunny climate most of the year and good roads to facilitate exploring, Zakynthos lends itself to holiday – making in spring and fall as well as summer. Some of the best known summer resorts are Kalamaki, Argassi, Alykes, Tsilivi, Vassilikos, Keri and Volimes, while Laganas is the most famous of all. Its long beach and wide range of facilities attract thousands of tourists from May through October.
Hawaii is the most current of the 50 U.S. states, built entirely of islands. Hawaii is the northern island group in Polynesia, placed most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan and northeast of Australia. Owed to its mid-Pacific location, Hawaii has many North American and Asian influences along with its own vigorous native culture. Hawaii capital is Honolulu on the island of Oahu. The state comprises nearly the complete volcanic Hawaiian Island chain it encompass hundreds of islands spread over 1,500 miles. End of the southeastern archipelago, the eight “main islands” they are Kauai, Kahoolawe, Niihau, Hawaii, Lanai, Molokai and Oahu. Hawaii is largest and “The Big Island”. The archipelago is physiographical and ethnologically segment of the Polynesian sub field of Oceania. In United States the Hawaii is the 8th-least extensive, the 11th-least populous, and the 13th-most thickly populated. Hawaii’s coastline is nearly 750 miles long it is fourth in the United States after Alaska, Florida, and California. Hawaii has its own language. Hawaii’s different natural scenery, mild tropical climate, plenty of public beaches and oceanic surrounding, and active geology make it a popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists, and volcanologists alike. Hawaii Island has a remote climate. Hawaii has variety of environments like lush rainforests, volcanic deserts, and some of the world’s best beaches.
Hawaii Recreation Culture and Attractions
The earliest culture of Hawaii is Polynesian. Hawaii describes the northernmost expansion of the vast Polynesian triangle of the south and central Pacific Ocean. As Hawaii has become habitat to many different ethnic groups through the past 200 years, each ethnic group has further elements of its own culture. The culture of Hawaii is arguably one of the firm’s residual in the world and certainly within the United States. The roots of Hawaiian culture expand south to former areas of Polynesia and behind to the islands of the Western Pacific and the edges of Asia. Hawaii has two National Parks that is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii and Haleakala National park on Maui, as well as the vacation U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately many of these heiau were demolished when the early kapu system was revoked in the 19th century and when the early missionaries arrived shortly hereafter. Music has major role played in Hawaiian culture. Steel guitars were basically invented and popularized in Hawaii. Hawaii is familiar to numerous cultural events; some of the events are the Merrie Monarch Festival is a biggest hula competition and celebrated in April, Lei Day is a lei-making competition and celebrated in May, King Kamehameha Day is state holiday with parades and celebrated in June, Aloha Festivals are celebration with parades, cultural events, canoe races and Hawaiian music and celebrated in September and the Quicksilver/Eddie Aikau Memorial Big Wave Classic celebrated in December.Hawaii Demographics
Hawaii total population - 1,360,000
Hawaii male population - 680,000
Hawaii female population - 680,000
Hawaii White population - 25%
Hawaii Black population - 2%
Hawaii American Indian population - 1%
Hawaii Asian population - 39%
Hawaii Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population - 10%
Hawaii Other race population - 1%
Hawaii Two or more races population - 24%
Hawaii Hispanic/Latino population - 9%
Hawaii education system is managed by the Hawaii State Department of Education. It is only statewide public education system in the United States. The department also prepares a system wide budget for the public school system to submit to the Hawaii State Board of Education, which submits a final planned budget to the Legislature. The department is supervised by the education board and run by the superintendent of education. The Department of Education is separated into seven districts, four on Oahu and one for each of the three other counties. There is growing demand for upper division and graduate teaching from the neighbor islands which may only have a community college or education center. Public elementary, middle, and high school test marks in Hawaii are below national averages on tests authorized under the No Child Left Behind Act. Hawaii educates more students in independent organizations of secondary education than any additional state in the United States. The University of Hawaii is the major university in Hawaii. There are many private universities in Hawaii. Some of the private universities are Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Hawaii Pacific University, Wayland Baptist University, or University of the Nations.Hawaii HistoryBefore 300AD Hawaii was feasibly used as a base for peoples with a trans-Pacific communication between Asia and the northwest coast of South America. The primary habitation held up by archaeological evidence dates to as ancient as 300 CE, expediently by Polynesian settlers from the Marquesas, supported by a second wave of voyage from Raiatea and Bora Bora in the 11th century. The first entered European contact with the islands was in 1778 by British explorer Captain James Cook, who called Hawaii the Sandwich Islands. In 1782 Kamehameha I was the ruler of the Big Island of Hawaii. In 1819 Kamehameha II takes control of Hawaii. The Kingdom of Hawaii was monarch from 1810 till 1893 when the sovereign was beaten by resident American businessmen. In 1820 enter two new teams Hawaii the Congregationalist missionaries of the Calvinist ideology and New England whalers. Kamehameha III declares the First Constitution which consit of freedom of worship. Hawaiian capital is changed from Lahaina to Honolulu in 1845. 1868 saw the first Japanese liability workers arrive in Hawaii. In 1879 the first Portuguese land. In 1900 Hawaii became U.S territory. In 1941 Hawaii was the objective of a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan. The human history of Hawaii includes aspect of first Polynesian settlement, unification, British arrival, Euro-American and Asian immigrators, the depose of the Hawaiian monarchy, a brief period as the Republic of Hawaii, and admission to the United States as Hawaii Territory and then as the state of Hawaii. Hawaii is a 1,523-mile chain of islets and eight main islands-Hawaii, Maui, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, and Niihau, 2,397 miles west-southwest of San Francisco. “The Merry Monarch” David Kalakaua was the first king in history to vacation the United States.
Hawaii State nickname - Aloha State
Hawaii State bird - Nene
Hawaii State flower - Hibiscus
Hawaii State tree - kukui
Hawaii State Fish - The Reef triggerfish
Hawaii State motto - "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina I ka pono" - The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness
Hawaii State song - Hawaii Ponoi
Hawaii State mammal - Monk Seal
Most of the popular tourist attractions in all of the islands are located on Hawaii Island’s southeastern regions of Kau and Puna. Hawaii is the name of different islands and is among the numerous Pacific Islands in the Pacific Ocean. In summer months the outside visitors are visited. The Hawaii tourism based economy and the genuine aloha spirit assures that tourism is held seriously in the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii tourism contains world class lodging and accommodations, couture shopping for the latest runway trends, upscale fine dining and an array of things to do in Hawaii and tours at various magnificent locales on the islands sure to impress any world traveler. Hawaii with a bustling downtown, fine art galleries, upscale dining, Honolulu offers travelers urban culture in a tropical setting, world class entertainment and a thriving nightlife, with rural, unspoiled. Hawaii has significant tourism attractions are Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Hawaii and Lanai.Hawaii Taxes
Hawaii State Tax Rate Range Low 1.4% High 11.00%
Hawaii State Tax Income Brackets Lowest flat rate 2,400 - Highest flat rate 200,001
Hawaii State Personal Exemptions Single 1,040 - Married 2,080 - Dependents - 1,040
Hawaii has bus, airlines, railway, boats and ferries transportation system. A Hawaii of state highways comprises each main island. Only Oahu has national highways and it is the only area outside the bordering 48 states to have signed Interstate highways. Travel can be slow due to narrow turning roads and every major island has a public bus system. The major air port is Honolulu International Airport, is the piloting hub of Hawaii, with transnational services to North America, Asia, Australia, and Oceania. In Hawaii some more airlines are there they are Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele Airlines, Island Air and Pacific Wings. Private steamships and ferries were traveling between the islands from the 19th century till the 1950s. The Hawaii Super ferry maintained between Oahu and Maui between December 2007 and March 2009. Hawaii had a network of railroads on every larger island that helped move farm commodities as well as passengers. In World War II play important role moving troops and goods of OR&L, the mainline was abandoned in 1947.
Hawaii Universities and Colleges
University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hilo, Hawaii, USA - 3,900 Students
University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu CDP, HI, USA - 20,000 Students
University of Hawaii - West Oahu, Pearl City, Hawaii, USA - 1,000 students
Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA - 2,000 students
Chaminade University of Honolulu, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA - 4,000 students
Hawaii Pacific University, Hawaii, USA - 9,000 students
Hawaii Tourist Attractions
Pele's Cursed Tourist Rocks
Polynesian Cultural Center
Hawaii FiveO Jack Lord Bust
Hawaiian Trading Post
Tsunami Clock of Doom
Puuhonua - Place of Refuge
King Kamehameha the Great
Astronaut Ellison S Onizuka Space Center
East Hawaii Cultural Center
Isaacs Art Center Museum and Gallery
Kona Coffee Living History Farm
Laupahoehoe Train Museum
Lyman House Memorial Museum
Mokupapapa Discovery Center
Nani Mau Gardens
Onizuka Center for International Astronomy
Pacific Tsunami Museum
Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site
Akaka Falls State Park
Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area
Kalopa State Recreation Area
Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park
Kohala Historical Sites State Monument
Kona Coast (Kekaha Kai) State Park
Lapakahi State Historical Park
Lava Tree State Monument
MacKenzie State Recreation Area
Manuka State Wayside
Mauna Kea State Recreation Area
Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area
Wailoa River State Recreation Area
Wailuku River State Park
Hawaii Percent Religious population is 34%
Hawaii Catholic population is 19%
Hawaii LDS population is 4%
Hawaii Baptist population is 2%
Hawaii Episcopalian population is 1%
Hawaii Pentecostal population is 4%
Hawaii Lutheran population is 1%
Hawaii Methodist population is 1%
Hawaii Presbyterian population is 1%
Hawaii Other Christian population is 5%
Hawaii Jewish population is 1%
Hawaii Eastern population is 0%
Hawaii Islam population is 1%
The Hawaii is an Island 3,300 kilometers long and the broad arc in the mid-Pacific. The Hawaii Island at 8,150 square kilometers encompasses approximately two-thirds of the state’s total area, and it is referred to as simply the Big Island. Honolulu is the state capital of Hawaii is 3,850 kilometers west of San Francisco, California, 6,500 kilometers east of Tokyo, Japan, and nearly 7,300 kilometers northeast of the Australian coast. Hawaii total area is 10,932 square miles and 4,508 square miles of water. Kingman Reef and Palmyra atoll are the boundaries of Hawaii. Hawaii’s Big Island features hardly lava landscapes as well as Kilauea Volcano, erupting to this day at Hawaii. Hawaii is the 43rd largest state. Hawaii’s climate is ideal for the tropics, despite temperatures and wet. Mount Waialeale, on Kauai, has the second highest rainfall on Earth, around 460 inches. Hawaii has mainly two seasons they are bare season from May to October and humid season from October to April.Hawaii EconomyThe Hawaii economy is depending on tourism, agriculture and industries. The history of Hawaii can be followed regular a succession of dominant industries they are sandalwood, whaling, sugarcane, pineapple, military, tourism, and education. In Hawaii tourism has been the largest industry. Hawaiian exports bear food and apparel. Food exports are coffee macadamia nuts, livestock, pineapple, and sugarcane. Hawaii has a moderately high state tax burden. Hawaii citizens had the highest state tax per capita because education, health care and social services are provided by the state. Hawaii was one of the states to control gasoline prices into a Gas Cap Law.Hawaii GeographyThe Hawaii Government is decided by its constitution, and it emulates a general republic model where the government is separated into three branches they are legislative, executive, and judiciary. In Hawaii the legislative branch for Hawaii is formed of 25 senators and 51 representatives across the various districts. The head of the Hawaii is the Governor it is running mate of a Lieutenant Governor and both are the only statewide elected officials in Hawaii. The Lieutenant Governor is also investigated the Secretary of State of Hawaii. The Hawaiian Government, the Governor has the power to select officials for the 20 departments set by the constitution. The Hawaiian Constitution states the Hawaii have one Supreme Court, circuit courts, an appellate court, and district courts. The Local governments of Hawaii are spilt into four counties, although these could also act as municipalities at the same time. The budget for each city council is minor representatives and the nearly made by the local senate for each location.
New Zealand, a wealthy Pacific nation, is dominated by two cultural groups: New Zealanders of European descent, and the minority Maori, whose Polynesian ancestors arrived on the islands around 1,000 years ago.
Agriculture is the economic mainstay, but manufacturing and tourism are important and there is a world-class film industry.
New Zealand has diversified its export markets and has developed strong trade links with Australia, the US, and Japan. In April 2008 it became the first Western country to sign a free trade deal with China.
At a glance
Politics: John Key led the National Party to victory in elections in 2008 and 2011
Economy: The country officially went into recession in September 2008, for the first time in ten years
International: New Zealand troops have taken part in regional peacekeeping efforts and have been deployed in Afghanistan
British sovereignty was established under the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi – a pact between Maori chiefs and the British government over land rights.
The treaty gave rise to land claims which culminated in the “New Zealand Wars”, a series of skirmishes between colonial forces and Maori in the North Island.
The government awarded money and land in settlements during the 1990s, but the land issue remains controversial.
In 1984 the government embarked on a dramatic and controversial economic reform programme, which lifted controls on wages, prices and interest rates and removed agricultural subsidies.
New Zealand boasts a world-class film industry
The landscape is diverse, and sometimes spectacular. This has fuelled tourism; visitors are drawn to the glacier-carved mountains, lakes, beaches and thermal springs. Because of the islands’ geographical isolation, much of the flora and fauna is unique to the country.
New Zealand plays an active role in Pacific affairs. It has constitutional ties with the Pacific territories of Niue, the Cook Islands and Tokelau.
Its troops served in East Timor when violence broke out in the territory in 1999 and were part of a multinational force intended to restore order to the Solomon Islands in 2003. Further afield, New Zealand forces have backed peacekeeping and development efforts in Afghanistan.
But its anti-nuclear stance – including a ban on nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed vessels from its waters – put it at odds with the US in the 1980s.
A significant amount of New Zealand’s electricity is generated by hydropower sources and the country has a range of renewable energy sources at its disposal.
Migration patterns have changed, with most incomers coming from Asia and Pacific island states, rather than from the UK and Australia. Officials estimate that Asians will make up 13% of the population by 2021 from about 9% in 2009.
New Zealand Facts
Auckland: New Zealand’s largest city and a major port
Full name: New Zealand
Population: 4.3 million (UN, 2010)
Largest city: Auckland
Area: 270,534 sq km (104,454 sq miles)
Major languages: English, Maori
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 79 years (men), 83 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 New Zealand dollar ($NZ) = 100 cents
Main exports: Wool, food and dairy products, wood and paper products
GNI per capita: US $29,050 (World Bank, 2010)
Internet domain: .nz
International dialling code: +64
New Zealand Leaders
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor-general
Prime minister: John Key
Mr Key’s victory ended nine years of Labour rule
John Key led the centre-right National Party to victory in the November 2008 general election and again in the November 2011 elections.
His party’s 2008 victory ended nine years of Labour-led government.
The National Party fell short of a parliamentary majority in both the 2008 and 2011 elections and was compelled to form a coalition with other parties.
Born in 1961 and brought up in relative poverty by his Austrian-Jewish immigrant mother after the early death of his father, Mr Key became a currency trader and has acquired a substantial personal fortune.
He rose to be head of foreign exchange at Merrill Lynch in Singapore, and served as a member of the Foreign Exchange Committee of the New York Federal Reserve Bank in 1999-2001.
National Party president John Slater encouraged him to enter politics in 2001, and Mr Key was elected to parliament the following year. He was appointed opposition finance spokesman in 2004, and became party leader in 2006 after Don Brash resigned over allegations of election-funding irregularities.
Since taking over the party, Mr Key has positioned it more on the centre ground. His first speech as leader pledged a future government to measures to prevent the creation of an “underclass”, and he has said that reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in the next 50 years will be a priority.
New Zealand has a single-chamber parliament, the House of Representatives, which is elected for a three-year term. Coalition governments have been the norm since proportional representation replaced the “first past the post” electoral system in 1993.
16 July 2012 Last updated at 11:04 ET
New Zealand Media
Government-funded Maori TV aims to revitalise Maori language, culture
Broadcasters enjoy one of the world’s most liberal media arenas.
The broadcasting sector was deregulated in 1988, when the government allowed competition to the state-owned Television New Zealand (TVNZ). Privately-owned TV3 is TVNZ’s main competitor.
Satellite platform SKY TV is the leading pay TV provider. Freeview carries free-to-air digital terrestrial and satellite TV.
The New Zealand Herald newspaper has the biggest circulation.
Some 3.6 million New Zealanders – more than 80% of the population – were online by December 2011 (InternetWorldStats).
For those seeking the splendour of the Mediterranean at its peak, summer is an ideal season to visit Cyprus.
From May to mid-October, in Paphos, temperatures are at a steady high, the sky is a cloudless azure blue and, when the heat gets too much, the sea is a stone’s throw away for a refreshing dip. It’s also the ideal season for a range of water sports activities such as scuba diving and sailing.
The early part of the day is perfect for exploring the exceptional local archaeological remains, including the Temple of Aphrodite, where the goddess of love was worshipped.
During the summer, visitors must get into the habit of wearing sunscreen and protective head-wear.
April and May bring in early summer when days are comfortably warm but the evenings are cool. Light daytime clothing and long sleeved cotton or thin woolies are recommended for this part of the season. Especially in April, the countryside is in bloom with wild flowers making it an ideal time for nature-walking.
June, July and August mark the height of summer when temperatures soar and the beaches are at their busiest. There is a selection of tourist and less well known beaches to enjoy in Paphos. The Cyprus Tourist Organisation can advise visitors on where it is safe to swim.
A day-tip to the Troodos villages in the mountains provide an opportunity for traditional dining, visits to UNESCO churches and welcoming cooler climes.
Day Temperature High: 22C
Night Temperature Low: 12C
Sea Temperature: 20C
Hours of Daily Sunshine: 9
Days of Rain: 3 May
Day Temperature High: 26C
Night Temperature Low: 16C
Sea Temperature: 21C
Hours of Daily Sunshine: 10
Days of Rain: 3 June
Day Temperature High: 30C
Night Temperature Low: 18C
Sea Temperature: 24C
Hours of Daily Sunshine: 12
Days of Rain: 1 July
Day Temperature High: 32C
Night Temperature Low: 21C
Sea Temperature: 26C
Hours of Daily Sunshine: 12
Days of Rain: 1 August
Day Temperature High: 33C
Night Temperature Low: 22C
Sea Temperature: 27C
Hours of Daily Sunshine: 12
Days of Rain: 1 September
Day Temperature High: 31C
Night Temperature Low: 20C
Sea Temperature: 26C
Hours of Daily Sunshine: 11
Days of Rain: 10 October
Day Temperature High: 27C
Night Temperature Low: 16C
Sea Temperature: 24C
Hours of Daily Sunshine: 9
Days of Rain: 3
Looking for the perfect UK city break? Manchester is a great place. In the past decade, the thriving city at the heart of Northern England has broken free from its gloomy industrial past and emerged a vibrant, confident and forward moving city with plenty to entice and fascinate any visitor. Well-known for its strong sporting culture and state of the art museums and art venues it also boasts fantastic shopping and a buzzing nightlife, the perfect ingredients for a fantastic city break. A good place to start your discovery of this great city is the cultural treasure trove of The Quays, a fifteen-minute tram ride from the city centre. You are sure to find something for everyone in this square mile of architecturally amazing waterfront attractions.
History buffs will enjoy wandering through the Imperial War Museum North. It houses memorabilia from both World Wars, multimedia exhibitions, interactive displays to delight the kids and a viewing platform with phenomenal views over the city and best of all, entry is free! Close by, The Lowry will keep culture enthusiasts entertained. This arts and theatre powerhouse is home to two main theatres staging a variety of productions including opera, drama, musicals, music concerts and comedy acts as well as art galleries, a restaurant, cafes and bars.
Sports fans are also catered for as The Quays are close to the homes of two of Britain’s most renowned sporting clubs, Manchester United and Lancashire Country Cricket Club. Football fans the world over will recognize the historic Old Trafford Stadium, one of Manchester’s most popular tourist attractions, found nearby. Catching a game at this grand complex is a once-in-a-lifetime experience but if you can’t get tickets, the Museum Tour is good for an insight into the magnitude and quality of the famous stadium.
Back in the city centre, the Manchester Art Gallery houses an impressive collection of works by British and European masters and kids will love the Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil on display at the Manchester Museum. If it’s retail therapy you are after, Manchester has one of the most diverse shopping districts in the UK. The Arndale Centre is Europe’s largest city centre shopping mall where serious shoppers could easily spend the whole day whilst St Ann’s Square, the Triangle and surrounding roads offer something for the more luxury shopper, as does the popular Deansgate and The Avenue.
When the sun goes down, Manchester’s eclectic, buzzing nightlife comes to life. The bohemian Northern Quarter is the liveliest hotspot, with an array of independent bars, traditional pubs and live music venues favoured by students, while the swanky bars in The Locks and Deansgate attract a more sophisticated, stylish crowd. Oxford Road and the colourful Gay Village around Canal Street are also nocturnal favourites with plenty of great bars, pubs and nightclubs to enjoy a great night out in.
To grab a bite to eat, the city has plenty of options to suit any budget. Head to bustling Chinatown or Rusholm’s Curry Mile for something cheap and cheerful or splurge in the boutique restaurants of Manchester’s top city centre hotels including several Michelin Starred outlets. With such a myriad of things to see and do, plus an international airport and good connections to the UK’s rail network, Manchester city breaks really are the perfect UK getaway.
Disclaimer: The information contained within this article is the opinion of the author and is intended purely for information and interest purposes only. It should not be used to make any decisions or take any actions. Any links are included for information purposes only.
Professional photographers know that when taking shots of beaches, there are some important rules and guidelines to follow, such as: looking for a focal point, not disconsidering the horizon, the importance of timing, the UV filters and many others. That’s why in today’s showcase we have decided to present 50 of the most beautiful photographs of shores, as a result of following such rules and applying the knowledge in this type of art.
Be amazed and impressed, dream far away at the sunny places and relaxing sounds of the tide and waves! Some of the most famous vacation destinations by the sea and ocean can be admired in this post: Hawaii, Bora Bora, Ibiza, Seychelles.
What we have learned, though, is that not only a beautiful shore can make a stunning photo. A talented and patient photographer csn turn the most dull beach into a breath taking landscape. There’s proof of that too, just look below, through the whole showcase!
Beginning at approximately 9 p.m., Macy’s will have fireworks being released from four barges in the Hudson River. It’s the 36th Annual Macy’s Fireworks display and this year’s theme is Ignite the Night. This year’s fireworks soundtrack has been dubbed “America’s Mixtape,” and will feature both patriotic and pop standards that will be performed in sync with the fireworks. The music can be heard on 1010 WINS and Fresh 102.7. The night’s line-up will include performances by Katy Perry and Kenny Chesney. If you’re not in the area, NBC will broadcast the fireworks live beginning at 9 p.m. EST.
Where Can You Best View The Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks?
Fireworks will be launched from four barges in the Hudson River between 18th Street and 43rd Street. The best places to see the fireworks will be along the West Side Highway on the north-bound lanes and 12th Avenue between 14th and 59th Streets; some side streets between 11th and 12th Avenues and at Pier 84 (access from 44th Street). You can also view the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks from anywhere you have an unobstructed view of the sky above the Hudson River. See the Fourth of July Fireworks Map for details on viewing access and the best spots for seeing them live!
Along with backyard barbeques and baseball games, summertime is synonymous with wanderlust. And since this breezy season officially begins on June 20th, here are our picks guaranteed to make for a brag-worthy getaway in some of the latest travel hotspots, from Fourth of July celebrations in Philadelphia, the Birthplace of America, to spectacular shopping deals in St. Barts to a flurry of festivals in Montreal.
Why Go Now: 2012 is a big year in Boston, particularly for baseball fans, history buffs, and art aficionados. Two iconic structures are marking their 100th anniversaries: Fenway Park, the grand dame of baseball diamonds, and the majestic Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, which will host celebratory events throughout the summer. Then, artsy types will swoon over the recently unveiled Renzo Piano-designed new glass wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
On the history front, the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, along with the Star Spangled Banner Celebration, coincide with the always-popular Boston Harborfest during the week of July 4. And no matter which end of the political spectrum you fall on, the new Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, which opens on June 26, is a captivating blend of history and technology. Unwind all season long with the Summer on the Waterfront series, featuring live music and historic and cultural attractions.
Where to Stay: Boston’s newest lodging is The Revere Hotel, named for the city’s most famous patriot (rooms from $258). It’s a brilliant blend of historic flavor and modern-day style, with a balcony for all of its 356 rooms (just refrain from shouting “The British are coming!”). For luxury, the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, which turns 100 on August 19, can’t be beat. Price-wise, neither can its Celebration of a Century package, starting at $100/person for lodging for two.
Where to Eat: Wood-fired ovens are the inspiration at Area Four, producing divine puffed crust pizzas and roasted veggie dishes that are alone worth the trip to Cambridge. Tap into the city’s tacos and tequila explosion at Tico, a lively Nuevo Mexican hotspot in Back Bay that serves up tasty lobster-avocado tacos, ceviche, and margaritas.
Why Go Now: Bordeaux may be best known for its world-famous wines, but it’s also an under-the-radar destination for arts and culture, making it a magnifique choice for an upscale summer getaway. Oenophiles should mark their calendars for the famed Bordeaux Wine Festival, with nearly 80 appellations represented along a mile-long stretch of tastings (June 28-July 1), while art fiends can opt for a river cruise to UNESCO World Heritage sites or a visit to the prestigious National Opera of Bordeaux. Foodies will find their fill of culinary delights at the Les Epicuriales festival (June 14-July 1), which features about 30 top restaurateurs in the Allées de Tourny, or Golden Triangle, as well as cooking and tasting workshops in a festive atmosphere.
Where to Stay: The elegant Regent Grand Bordeaux, the masterpiece of famed French designer Jacques Garcia that opened in 2006, has added another luxe extra to its already-impressive amenity list: wine concierges. These grape gurus take the guesswork out of tasting logistics by setting up personalized tours and appointments at prestigious chateaux in the Bordeaux region and tracking down rare bottles.
Where to Eat: The Regent Bordeaux’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Pressoir d’Argent, is named after a coveted piece of culinary equipment, “The Silver Press”—a silver lobster press that’s one of a handful in the world. Order one of the lobster dishes from a quintessentially French menu, and you can see it in action. In town, locals are flocking to Solena, run by a French chef and his expat American wife for whom the restaurant is named. The farm-to-table French bistro serves an inventive prix-fixe menu focused on fresh, regional fare–recent items have included foie gras with sweet corn and a bone-in ribeye for two—complemented by a Bordeaux-centric wine list.
Why Go Now: Summer or not, Montreal has never been hotter, with a growing culinary status, exploding arts scene, and a terrific tradition of festivals–which, let’s face it, are way more appealing when the city isn’t blanketed in snow. From July to August, the head-spinning Montreal Festimania takes over with 11 overlapping festivals, from the 30th annual Just for Laughs Comedy Festival (Joel McHale and Howie Mandel are among the top names this year) to the Festival Mode & Design, a mashup of fashion shows, cutting-edge design exhibits, and, of course, chic parties galore.
Other noteworthy festivals: Festival International Montreal en Arts, or FIMA, an outdoor art extravaganza on the BoulevArt, a one-kilometer stretch of the car-free-for-the-summer Sainte-Catherine Street, and the Montreal International Jazz Festival (June 28-July 7, 2012), whose spectacular lineup of 650-plus shows (including 370 free outdoor concerts) includes everyone from James Taylor to Esperanza Spalding to Norah Jones. Finally, to enjoy one of summer’s simple pleasures Montreal-style, grab a set of wheels in the city’s acclaimed BIXI Bike rental program (day rentals, $7) for a carefree cruise.
Where to Stay: Recently re-opened after an extensive renovation, the Ritz-Carlton Montreal (rooms from $425), the first hotel in the world to bear the Ritz-Carlton name, boasts plenty of reasons besides its Aug. 31 centennial to celebrate: 130 elegantly redesigned rooms and suites, a new indoor saltwater pool and an exquisite lobby.
Where to Eat:BEVO Pizza, a fresh new bar and pizzeria in Montreal’s Old City, has earned rave reviews for its simple, well-executed pastas and wood-fired pizzas, accompanied by a cocktail list that puts a creative spin on the basics: prosecco sangria, for example, and a limoncello drop. Another trendy newcomer, Hambar Resto, co-owned by Phillipe Poitras, one of Montreal’s top sommeliers, serves up an extensive menu of charcuterie-inspired dishes and an excellent wine list in a chic, although sometimes noisy, setting in the St. Paul Hotel.
Why Go Now: Panama, one of our 21 Places to Go in 2012, has firmly planted itself on the map for in-the-know travelers. It’s no surprise why: cutting edge culture, adventure offerings galore, and inimitable Latin flavor, all at affordable prices. Experience it all by making Panama City your home base, which offers the best vantage point for exploring the city’s revitalized Casco Viejo (or Old Town (though the Spanish translation literally means “old shell”), and easy access to adventure-based day trips such as biking through the rainforest.
In addition to the ongoing expansion of the Panama Canal (its capacity will be tripled by 2014), another much-anticipated arrival to Panama is the Frank Gehry-designed Biodiversity Museum: Panama Bridge to Life, a spectacular tribute to both Gehry’s genius and the remarkable biodiversity of the region.
Insider Tip: Cap off your summer with a trip in August, as July is the rainy month in Central America.
Where to Stay: Panama City’s newest boutique offering, the Tantalo Hotel (rooms from $160), offers a breath of fresh, art-inspired air into the Old Town. With 13 rooms featuring the creations of 13 different artists, a stay here is like immersion into a hip museum. For a more glamorous experience, check out the 1,500-room Hard Rock Hotel Panama (rooms from $159), the Westin Playa Bonita (rooms from $185)with views of the Panama Canal, or the Trump Ocean Club (rooms from $175), a soaring, 70-story building that’s the tallest in Latin America and resembles a soaring sail.
Where to Eat: Tuck into simple, flavorful Pan-Asian favorites like spicy pork edamame, pad Thai, and shrimp curry at Elephant Grill, a local joint recently opened by one of Panama City’s most successful restaurateurs (reservations are recommended; no website; the restaurant is located on Calle Uruguay).
Why Go Now: The City of Brotherly Love is a destination that travelers, especially history and art buffs, are sure to love this summer, with a bevy of art events and 4th of July celebrations (annual favorite Let Freedom Ring brings together descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence to ceremonially tap the Liberty Bell). Creating plenty of buzz in art circles and beyond is the reopening of the world-renowned Barnes Foundation in a 93,000-square-foot architectural marvel that houses one of the world’s largest collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings.
More world-class creations beckon at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (“Visions of Arcadia” runs from June 20 to Sept. 3). A must-do item for any itinerary: Taking a peek at history’s oldest surviving biblical texts as part of the fascinating Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times exhibit at the Franklin Institute (through Oct. 14). And, for a perfectly patriotic cap-off, the The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen (through Sept. 3) provides visitors a rare look at 150+ artifacts from the career of this American music legend, including Fender Esquire guitar from the cover of Born to Run and numerous lyrics, handwritten by The Boss himself.
Where to Stay: Revel in both history and luxury at the Hotel Latham, a 139-room boutique property housed in a century-old former upscale apartment building (also on the National Register of Historic Places) that unveiled a multi-million renovation this spring. Expect sophisticated but welcoming décor, friendly service, and thoughtful extras like complimentary (though first-come, first serve) chauffeur service in an Audi A8 luxury sedan.
Where to Eat: A welcome new addition to bar-studded 18th Street is the Rittenhouse Tavern, housed in a 1906 mansion and part of the Philadelphia Art Alliance. Grab a table on the charming patio and order some bistro-style small plates and a hand-crafted cocktail (the gin-based Betsy Ross, perhaps). Over the summer, the tavern hosts Firkin Fridays, when it taps casks of ale and offers specially priced dishes. For creative comfort food–think cheese steak pot pie and white chocolate habanero chicken wings–in a cozy, ages-old vibe, check out the Square Peg, housed in a building that dates back to the 1790s.
Why Go Now: While this spectacular island has long been a holiday favorite for European jetsetters, it still remains under the radar for many foreign tourists. Get in on the secret during the dry summer months, lounging on sun-drenched beaches and savoring languorous seafood lunches by day and strolling the enchanting village streets by night, all against the majestic backdrop of Mount Etna (a still-active volcano!) and the Mediterranean and Ionian seas. While Palermo, the Sicilian capital in the northwest corner of the island, deserves a visit, in-the-know Italians opt for Taormina in the northeast, as our recent Insider’s Guide uncovers. From July to August, the city’s annual Summer Arts Festival takes center stage with music, dance, and opera, and this year’s lineup is studded with stars including Sting and Ben Harper. An idyllic day trip is the Egadi Islands, a blissfully secluded aquamarine paradise about a 40-minute ferry ride from Sicily.
Where to Stay: The Ashbee, a chic, spacious boutique property perched in a historic mansion on a cliff facing the Ionian Sea, is decidedly the latest it-spot for travelers, with whitewashed décor, an infinity pool, and exquisite gardens (rooms from around $340). About 15 minutes from Taormina’s town center, Villa Ducale is a longtime favorite (rooms from around $340), with cheerful, Mediterranean décor, balconies in every room, and gracious service.
Where to Eat: Spend a warm summer evening on the terrace of Al Duomo, a classic Taormina trattoria that serves traditional favorites from East Sicily (braised lamb stew, mashed beans, and seafood fresh from the sea) in a relaxed, friendly setting.
Why Go Now: Forget the sky-high prices and crowds of celebrities and their overstuffed entourages during winter’s high season, and opt for a swanky summer escape to this glam Caribbean paradise. Savvy fashionistas head to St. Barts in June, July, and August to snap up massive sales on breezy, boho-inspired beachwear and jewelry from some of the world’s top designers, including Calpyso, a beloved New York City brand that originated here. From Aug. 6-18, bargains flourish in the shopping haven of Gustavia. Francophiles will also delight in island-wide Bastille Day celebrations on July 14.
Where to Stay: Pamper shopping-weary feet at the ridiculously elegant Hotel Guanahani and Spa, which has a “Run of the House Room” special through July 15 (370 Euros includes single or double occupancy, breakfast and round trip transfers). Nestled in an upscale residential area, The Hotel Christopher beckons with a more low-key vibe without sacrificing sophistication or glamour. The recently refurbished property features well-appointed bungalows and modern décor (rooms from $412).
Where to Eat: Fitting for such a star-studded destination, celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten has brought his culinary pedigree to the restaurants at it-hotel Eden Rock. Savor a rosé-soaked lunch inspired by Vongerichten’s beloved ABC Kitchen at daytime hotspot Sand Bar, located right on the beach; by night, the chef’s vibrant Asian street-food flavors take center stage at On the Rocks.
Sometimes, when the travel bug strikes, the only cure is to pack your bags and go. But where to? We’ve compiled a list of our favorite spots from across the globe. Our list includes the most popular places and we’re adding new destinations all the time, so don’t worry if your favorite spot didn’t make the cut. Check back soon to see if your dream vacation makes the list.
Why go: Year after year, the magnetic City of Lights draws new travelers to its Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Notre Dame — but Paris also keeps experienced travelers coming back for more. See, there’s always a new Michelin-rated restaurant to try, a new exhibit to see at the Centre Pompidou or a new shop in which to swipe your credit card. And we can’t discount Paris’ je ne sais quoi charm that’s unexplainable but also unmistakeable.
Why go: Known around the world for its legendary fútbol team, Barcelona boasts much more than just athletic talent. Touring the city is a feast for the eyes: Visitors walk past medieval architecture in the Barri Gotic and the innovative creations of Gaudi in Parc Guell. Matching Paris’ Notre Dame with its own Sagrada Familia, Barcelona puts itself near the top of this list with a fun-loving spirit and creative ambition.
Why go: The United Kingdom’s capital city is a world unto itself. With eclectic neighborhoods and numerous landmarks, London requires several days (if not years) to get to know. That said, your inaugural visit (as you will certainly be coming back for more) should include trips to the Tower of London, the National Gallery, and the British Museum. But if you have more time, hit up Portobello Road and Borough Market to appreciate the local culture.
Why go: Relaxed yet professional, classic yet innovative — San Francisco takes its paradoxical qualities in stride, boasting diverse cultural enclaves. Neighborhoods like Nob Hill, the Castro and the Mission District offer unique experiences for every traveler. Yet, there are several monuments that you can’t miss, such as the cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz. And, of course, the city’s crowning architectural achievement — the Golden Gate Bridge — is unmistakable.
Why go: Author Ayn Rand once wrote, “I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline.” While many disagree with her politics, her sentiment for the Big Apple is widely shared. America’s most populous city hosts infinite urban adventures. Enjoy an afternoon in Central Park or visit the exhibits at the MoMa or the Met. While new sites, like the National September 11 Memorial, are always popping up, the classics, like the Empire State Building, never get old.
Why go: Of all the Hawaiian Islands, Maui might be the most beloved. The island encapsulates all that Hawaii has to offer: exotic beaches (like Kaihalulu), palatial resorts (like the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea) and lush terrain (as seen in the Iao Valley State Park). Maui can also cater to a range of budgets — the same cannot be said for some of its sister islands, like neighboring Lanai. Visitors regularly return to the mainland singing praise for Maui, but the smart few just put down new roots and pick up a Mai Tai.
Why go: Here, it’s as if Paris migrated to North America. Montreal boasts elements of French culture with a friendly Canadian feel. Travelers adore the quaint cafés, bustling marketplaces and old-world architecture that characterize Montreal. To truly appreciate the city’s majesty, visit St. Joseph’s Oratory, next to Mont-Royal. This immense basilica crowns the skyline and provides an ideal vantage point.
Why go: While it may not be as grand as New York City or as historic as Montreal, why Vancouver caught the attention of the International Olympic Committee is no mystery. This coastal Canadian city boasts a vast amount of outdoor activities that beckon to adrenaline hounds. Kayak in English Bay or test gravity on the Capilano Suspension Bridge before enjoying a scrumptious meal in the second-largest Chinatown in North America.
Why go: Whether they’re swimming in Lake Zurich in the summer or skiing down the nearby Alps in the winter, travelers find delight in Zurich. Delectable pastry shops abound, as do museums and historic churches. Excellent shops reside in upscale Bahnofstrasse and more affordable Niederdorf. For fun, locals and travelers alike hit up the bars and clubs of edgy Zurich West.
Why go: Pick a vacation experience you’re looking for, and Puerto Rico can oblige. An old town with historic architecture and cobblestone streets? Look no further than Old San Juan and it’s El Morro fortress. A beachside getaway with stunning vistas and miles of soft, white sand? Consider the bioluminescent bays of Culebra and Vieques. A cosmopolitan destination with high-end shopping and exciting nightlife? Head to the Isla Verde or Santurce neighborhoods of San Juan.
Why go: The U.S. Virgin Islands offers a taste of home (non-roaming cell phones, U.S. dollars, and no language barrier), as well as a varied international vacation (lively Carnival season, reggae music and clear Caribbean waters). For the best deals and weather, consider visiting in late spring or early summer.
Why go: One of the most visited cities in the U.S., the country’s capital is filled with a huge number of postcard-worthy monuments and buildings. The White House and the Lincoln Memorial are here, as well as a variety of eclectic and walkable neighborhoods. Those on a budget will especially enjoy themselves here since the noteworthy Smithsonian museums are free.
Why go: Budapest is sure to be a highlight of any trip to Central/Eastern Europe. The city has a lot to offer all types of travelers with all ranges of budgets. And Budapest will keep you occupied with its thermal baths, mellow coffeehouses, ridiculous nightlife and pretty much whatever else you can think of.
Why go: Over the past decade or two, Prague has transitioned from a backpacker secret to the unquestioned tourist capital of Central/Eastern Europe. With well-preserved sites, such as the Charles Bridge and St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague retains its gothic mystique. You can spend the days taking in the architecture and the evenings enjoying local pilsners on a never-ending bar crawl.
Why go: If you have to choose one island to visit in Greece, it’s easy to make a case for Crete. Its diverse landscape features everything from anicent ruins to gorgeous beaches, and you can spend a day doing anything from shopping in Agios Nikolaos to hiking the Samaria Gorge.
Why go: If you’re looking for gorgeous weather year round and parties set against beautiful backdrops, look no further than Miami Beach. This Floridian city bursts with colors, crazy nightlife, an amazing coastline and intriguing Art Deco architecture. Head to South Beach’s Ocean Drive to reach the heart of the action.
Why go: The Bahamas has so many islands that it’s hard to mash them all into one recommendation, compared to our other destinations. But that’s also part of their appeal. Airfare and hotel rates are generally modest year-round in the Bahamas, but you’ll get the best deals and have less crowds if you plan your visit for the summer or early fall. But take note: These islands’ atmosphere and activities largely cater to tourists, and you’ll be hard pressed to find an authentic Bahamian vibe during your getaway.
Why go: Puerto Vallarta stands out for its outstanding cuisine, eclectic bars and clubs and breathtaking landscape. You could spend just a day exploring the cobblestone streets and art-laden Malecón (or boardwalk) of Zona Centro, or extend your trip for a few more days to try out the nightclubs and European cafés of the downtown area, as well as the hiking in the nearby Sierra Madre Mountains.
Why go: You don’t need to be on a cruise vacation to experience two Caribbean countries for the expense of one. This dual-governed island nation offers chic dining and dazzling stretches of sand on the French side of Saint Martin, and animated nightlife, buzzing casinos, and some of the best duty-free shopping of the Caribbean in Dutch Sint Maarten. Consider visiting in late spring to cash in on the not-too hot weather and discounted hotel rates.
Why go: Limestone-carved Aruba will appeal to the adventure junkie better than any of our best destinations. Dive into the depths of Hadicurari Beach to explore the island’s many shipwrecks, avoid the Aruban rattlesnake on an ATV tour of the Arikok National Park, or party hearty until the wee hours on a booze cruise. But you should be prepared to pay for the adrenaline rush, as Aruba is also one of the pricier vacations on our list.
Why go: This notorious hedonist destination offers visitors every opportunity to make it or break it. Colossal casinos, like the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace, beckon to travelers with neon light, fascinating shows and, of course, sprawling casino floors. But these mega-resorts offer guests more than just slot machines and drink. Spas, pools, luxury hotel rooms, elite clubs and exotic restaurants are now part of the allure.
Why go: The City of Angels, La La Land, the Entertainment Capital of the World — Los Angeles needs no introduction. But its notoriety both help and hurt its reputation. The traffic on the “101” will tire you out just as much as an evening at a lively West Hollywood club. And your disgust at the thick smog over the city will negate your enjoyment of a sunset overlooking Santa Monica Beach. To appreciate Los Angeles, visit the area more than once and get advice from locals.
Why go: When it comes to the best of the best, size doesn’t matter. Austin may be small compared to other capital cities, but its personality is overwhelmingly large, with citizens holding fast to the city’s mantra, “Keep Austin Weird.” Although home to vast green spaces, funky boutiques and cozy coffee shops, Austin really comes to life at night; the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World” boasts numerous live music venues and one of the largest music festivals in the U.S.
Why Go: With the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing officially debuted on the global stage and is quickly outshining its more modern brethren — Hong Kong and Shanghai — as a tourist destination. The city boasts world-class attractions, like the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, that showcase country’s past and present. Plus, the jaw-dropping Great Wall of China stands just north of the city, making Beijing a world-traveler must.
Why Go: Sydney has more than just an opera house. At the sight of this famous white structure, outsiders quickly forget all the attractions of this world-class metropolis. You’ll find the bustling Sydney Fish Market and the striking Sydney Harbour Bridge, which stretches high above sailboats and azure waters. Plus, there are numerous beaches (Coogee and Bondi for starters) that draw locals and tourists alike. Also, in its rivalry with Melbourne, Sydney wins the weather battle with its warm, sunny climate.
Rio de Janeiro
Why Go: With its sun-drenched beaches and soothing samba rhythms, Rio jockeys with Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo as South America’s hottest destination — and not just with its temperatures. The famous Christ the Redeemer statue presides over Copacabana Beach and Lapa, a vibrant neighborhood. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more riotously fun event than Rio’s Carnival.
Why Go: While Jerusalem may be the old city, Tel Aviv is the trendy new one. Sitting along the Mediterranean, Tel Aviv boasts a broad, sun-drenched shoreline that lures both locals and travelers. And once the sun goes down, a pulsating nightlife erupts across the city. Foreign visitors savor the mouth-watering cuisine found at intimate eateries or street carts. Take your time with this metropolis: There’s a lot to surprise you.