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.
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).
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.
Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday is April 15th for 2012!
Easter is one of my favorite times to be in Greece for a couple of reasons. First of all even if you are not a devout Christian you can’t help but be moved by the ceremonies and the way life begins again on Easter Sunday after winter and 40 days of fasting. If you go to the countryside or to the islands wildflowers are in bloom and the hillsides that are usually parched brown in the summer are green from the winter rains. You can’t even imagine the fields of flowers and theway life seems to be popping and sprouting up from every crack and crevice. If you are not able to go to the islands or a village but have to stay in Athens, the city also seems blessed because everyone is gone. The streets are quiet and those people who have nowhere to go or who are like me and prefer to stay in Athens when everyone else has left, take walks in the streets and parks and the hills around the Acropolis which are also adorned with green grass and wildflowers.
I never really cared much about the church ceremonies leading up to Easter, with the exception of the candle lighting ceremony that begins at 11pm on Saturday night and ends after midnight when all the candles held by the people in and around the church have been lit by the holy flame and they begin their journey home, each person holding one. To me there is something beautiful and magical about this. I think it is the most important ceremony in Christianity because it affects believers and non-believers. To see the church begin to glow brighter as each candle is lit and then the masses of people walking through the city streets or the towns and villages fills me with a spiritual feeling of being part of something bigger than myself. Even in the USA when I have gone to the tiny Saint Barbara’s church in Durham where people take their lighted candles and get into their cars and drive home, there is something special about being on the highway after midnight on Easter Sunday and seeing the interior car next to you aglow.
Lately though I have taken an interest in the whole Easter celebration, not just the Easter Sunday ceremony and then the roasting of the lamb and drinking wine which of course is my favorite thing about Easter. For one thing people ask me about Easter all the time and by telling them that for me it’s all about lighting candles, eating a lamb and getting drunk they may think I am some kind of pyromaniac, gluttonous drunkard, which is only part of the story. I actually come from a very religious Greek Orthodox family. However my father was the least religious member of the family, a socialist agnostic who took us to church twice. Once when our grandmother died and once for Easter in 1963 at Agia Thomas in Goudi, Athens. It was this Easter service that had a profound affect on me. We lived in an apartment right across the street from the church and from our balcony we could see the people leave the church with their candles(photo) and the fireworks at midnight. Soon afterwards all the people left and walkied like a candle-lit parade through the empty streets of Athens while the bells rang all over the city. From another window we could see a procession of candles making its way down Mount Lycavettos. A psychologist would call this an imprint. I have loved Easter ever since.In 2003 John L Tomkinson, a scholar and teacher in Athens who has put out a series of books about Greece, published Festive Greece: A Calendar of Tradition. The book describes in detail all the holidays in Greece and how they are celebrated in various parts of the country. It was this book that inspired me to create this page. I suppose I could have written something about Easter before this, from my own perspective, but John’s book gave me the background that enables me to make sense of my perceptions which in the case of Easter tended to focus on the lamb and the wine and everything leading up to it was just something happening in the background. Through John’s book I have more of an understanding of Easter to go with the childlike attraction I have had for the most beautiful and holiest time in Greece.
Easter does not just happen in Greece on that Holy week. It begins with Apokreas, which is to Orthodox what Mardi Gras and Carnival is to Catholics. Several weeks of partying, a tradition that may go back to the celebrations of Dionysious, take place all over Greece with special celebrations in Patras, Athens, and in various other towns and villages, many with special activities such as the famous Goat dances of Skyros. In Athens the last two weekends of Apokreas people dress up in costume and go to the Plaka, hitting each other with plastic clubs that squeak, and throwing confetti. These clubs are thought to be a remnant of the veneration of the phallus from the ancient Dionysian festivals of Athens and in the town of Tyrnavo in Thessaly giant penises are paraded through the streets There are celebrations in Moschato and Rendi, between Athens and Pireaus, that are similar to being in New Orleans on Fat Tuesday. In Patras the celebrating goes on for forty days and as many as fifty-thousand people take part in the parades. But after the last weekend of Apokreas, known as cheese week (the week before is meat week) many Greeks begin their fasting on Clean Monday, which is a day for spending time with friends and family, going to the countryside and flying kites. From clean Monday to the week of Easter things calm down conciderably.
The week of Easter begins on Palm Sunday and there are church services everyday commemorating the last week in the life of Jesus Christ. The evening services are the most well attended of course, except for Wednesday when the Service of the Holy Unction is held in the afternoon. On Thursday morning the service commemorates the Last Supper and the Betrayal of Christ. This is the day that the hard-boiled eggs are dyed red, signifying the blood of Christ, and the Easter bread, called tsoureki, is baked. The evening service is a long one and features twelve gospel readings. It is in this service that a two-dimensional figure of Christ on the cross is brought into the church and set up, while the church bells ring. In some places a vigil is kept in the church all night.
From the point-of-view of a spectator from Friday it starts to get very interesting. The nails holding the figure of Christ are knocked off and the figure is taken down from the cross and wrapped in a white cloth. A large piece of cloth, embroidered with the image of Christ, called the epitaphios which has been decorated with flowers by the girls through the night, is brought into the church where it is sprinkled with rose-water and more flower petals are thrown upon it. The bells of the church begin to toll and all the flags in Greece are lowered to half-mast in while women in the congregation weep in mourning for the dead Jesus. In the evening a funeral service is held and at about 9pm the epitaphios is taken from the church and with the bells tolling mournfully, is carried through the streets in a solemn procession. In cities, towns and villages with more than one church the epitaphios parades may join together at certain points. In Hydra the epitaphios is taken into the sea at Kamini as it is in Tinos at the church of Saint Nicholas at Kalamia. In some places an effigy of Judas is burned while in others Barabbas is. In Skiathos the epitaphios service begins on Saturday at 1am and the procession through the town begins at four in the morning as it does in Zakynthos. On the island of Kea in the village of Ioulida the three congregations meet in the square with their epitaphios after taking different routes through the village. (photo)On Saturday the Orthodox Patriarch breaks the seal of the door of the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jeruselem and emerges with the Holy Fire, which is then flown by Olympic Airways, accompanied by high-ranking priests and government officials to Athens airport where it is met by an honor guard to the small church of Agia Anargyroi in the Plaka. From there the light is distributed to churches all over Attika and the rest of Greece.
Meanwhile around Athens there is all sorts of activity this week. The central market has thousands of lambs of all sizes and in Psiri the annual Lamb and Cheese Market has given the neighborhood a village atmosphere as farmers from the island of Naxos come to the city to sell their goods. Athenians who still have connections to their islands and villages on the mainland are preparing to leave the city as are people with no connections. On the islands people are working feverishly to paint restaurants, hotels and shops, white-wash houses and get ready for the second busiest holiday week of the year (after August 15th the Saint Day of the Virgin Mary or Panagia). By Thursday ferries, flights and the roads leading out of Athens will be full. By Saturday Athens will seem like a giant village. It’s a great time to be in Athens which is a good thing because it is a terrible time to leave because the traffic is so bad.
The Resurrection or Anastasis
At 11pm on Saturday night pretty much the entire country is in church. The lights are turned off at midnight and the priest announces that Christ has arisen from the dead as candles are lit from his and then from each other. The tiny glow at the front of the church grows and soon the whole room is illuminated by the light of everyone’s candles. At the stroke of midnight the priest intones the paschal hymn “Christ has risen from the dead and in so doing has trampled on death and to those in the tombs he has given life“. The church bells ring in celebration, fireworks go off, ships sound their sirens and the light and sound makes the 4th of July seem tame in comparison. People greet each other happily with the words Christos Anesti (Christ has arisen) which is replied to with Alithos Anesti (Truly He has arisen). Then everyone heads for home with their lighted candles where they trace the cross three times above the door and to bless trees and farm animals. Most people either stay home or go to a restaurant for the traditional bowl of margeritsa, a thick green soup made from the intestines of the lamb that will be roasted the next day, breaking their 40 day fast which began with the end of Apokreas. Gunshots, dynamite and fireworks will be going off for the next 24 hours or more shattering nerves and blowing off a finger or two.
There are many traditions and ceremonies held around the country. in fact too many to mention here, but Tomkinson’s book goes into great detail and is a very helpful way to decide where to spend Easter if you don’t have friends or family to be with in Greece.
Easter day is most people’s favorite day of the year. A lamb is roasted and friends and families get together to eat, drink, talk and dance. In some towns like Arachova and Livadeia, it is a community celebration with rows of lambs roasting in the village square. In other towns like Monemvasia, Rhodes, Hydra, Halkidiki, Koroni, Chania and Leros the effigy of Judas or Barabbas is burned. In Syros and Karpathos people bring their guns and shoot Judas as a scapegoat for society’s ills. In the town of Asine in the Argolid they actually have a street battle with the men of the upper and lower parts of the village hurling insults and fireworks at each other. In southern Messenia people go to the main squares to watch the saetapolemos, which are rockets without sticks that the men hold while the force of the explosions makes them jump as if they are dancing. This practice supposedly goes back to the War of Independence when people of the area fashioned this home-made bombs to scare the horses of the Turks to force their riders to dismount and lose their advantage. During the afternoon the red eggs are brought out and each person takes one and hits their end against someone else’s until the last person who has an un-cracked egg is considered the lucky person for the year.
Many Athenians who have not gone home to their villages or to the islands will go up to Mount Parnitha or somewhere in the countryside surrounding Athens. After their meal some people pick wildflowers and make wreaths like Loula, wife of George The Famous Taxi Driver. (Every flower in this wreath was picked on our Easter Sunday walk in the hills on the outskirts of Athens. They were all growing wild on the side of the road.) There are very few ferries running on Easter Sunday since most people are with their families. There may be one boat a day to and from some of the popular islands and a few boats to the Saronics. People who stay in Athens until Easter Sunday and then want to leave town to celebrate in the country have to drive. From Monday until Wednesday it is nearly impossible to get a flight or ferry back from the islands and the roads are full of returning Athenians. Athens gets busier and busier and if finally back to normal with traffic and horns blaring as people get back into the swing of city life with renewed vigor. Besides being the holiest time of the year Easter also means that in a few weeks it will be summer.
Ka-LO PA-ska=Happy Easter
There are several family-run hotels that invite guests to celebrate Easter with them. This is a great way to actually take part in Orthodox Easter instead of just being a spectator.
On the beautiful island of Lesvos you can join the Greek-Canadian Hahathakis family who own the Hotel Aphrodite Beach in Vatera for a an island Easter celebration that will not only have you taking part in the ceremonies but also learning how to make the various Easter dishes and exploring the island. The Grand Finale is a lamb roast at the beach with live Greek music. The price: 360 Euros per person for everything! See Easter on Lesvos
If you are planning to be in Greece for Easter be sure to make your reservations well in advance. Most of the hotels on the islands are booked full for that weekend as are ferries and flights.
Christmas is undoubtedly the most important holiday in Austria.
As in other European nations, December 6th is the day Saint Nicholas, the giver of gifts, makes his rounds. Arrayed in a glittering Bishops robe and accompanied by his devilish assistant, Knecht Rupnecht, he can occasionally be seen roaming the streets giving sweets and apples to good children while his companion playfully beckons “little sinners” to feel the string of his golden rod.
On December 24th, when the city is frantic with last minute shoppers, the countryside is a refuge for quiet traditions. Farmers chalk the initials of the Three Wise Men on the archway of the stable door; C for Caspar, M for Melchoir, and B for Balthazar, to protect the heard from sickness in the coming year. Christmas trees are lit on this day and in many villages “shelter-seekers” plod through deep snow from farm to farm re-enacting the plight of Mary and Joseph as they sought shelter on the eve of Christ’s birth.
In the snow-covered Alps, families descend from their mountain homes to the valley below, illuminating the night with torches held high to light their way in the darkness. Carolers gather in church towers and village squares to guide the people to Christmas services with their melodies. All shops, theaters and concert halls close their doors for this is an evening spent with only with family.
Following church services, families return home for their more intimate celebrating. First Christmas Eve dinner is served, often with “Gebackener Karpfen” (fried carp) as the main course. Dessert may be chocolate and apricot cake called “Sachertorte” and Austrian Christmas cookies called “Weihnachtsbaeckerei” (yes, this is the actual spelling).
After the meal, the ringing of a bell signals the opening of a door long locked against the anxious eyes of the little ones. For the first time the children are permitted to witness the Christmas tree glistening with lights and colored ornaments, gold and silver garlands, candies and cookies. Beneath the tree is usually arranged an elaborate manger scene. Almost every family owns hand- carved manger figures handed down from generation to generation.
Father opens the Bible and reads of the “Kristkindl,” Christ Child. Then all sing traditional Christmas carols such as “Silent Night” and “O’Tannenbaum.” After this the presents are distributed and opened.
In Austria, there is no Santa Claus. Children are taught that their presents have been brought by the “Kristkindl,” a golden-haired baby with wings, who symbolizes the new born Christ. The story tells how the Christ child comes down from heaven on Christmas Eve and, with his band of angels, decorates and distributes trees.
Image by peminumkopi via Flickr
Christmas Eve at Weikersdorf Castle
Not far from Vienna, you can experience a traditional Austrian Christmas Eve celebration which the whole family will love! Get into the yule time spirit, with a White Christmas in the beautiful Austrian alps.
Christmas Eve at the Castle of Weikersdorf in Baden regularly sells out weeks in advance, so you’ll need to book ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
Not far from Vienna, you can experience a traditional Austrian Christmas Eve celebration which the whole family will love! Get into the yule time spirit, with a white Christmas in the beautiful Austrian alps.
Likely to Sell-out! Christmas Eve at the Castle of Weikersdorf in Baden regularly sells out weeks in advance. Book ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
Travel from Vienna to the distinguished Renaissance Castle Weikersdorf in Baden. Take your seat at the table to enjoy a delicious four-course dinner, including glazed Christmas-turkey ‘Viennese Style’ while a live band entertains you with traditional music.
After your Christmas dinner, take a short walk to St Christopher’s Monastery of Heiligenkreuz, where midnight mass will be celebrated. This is followed by the Austrian Christmas Eve tradition of recreating a Nativity scene.
Before the night is over you will be presented with a gift as a souvenir of your wonderful night of celebrations.
Salzburg Christmas Eve Tour to the Silent Night Chapel
The most famous Christmas carol of all time ‘Silent Night’ was written as a poem in 1816 by an Austrian priest called Joseph Mohr. The story behind this is magica itself. The St Nicholas chruch organ at Oberndorf had broken a few days before Christmas, so the priest after considering the options decided to give the poem of Silent Night (Stille Nacht) to his friend Franz Xavier Gruber and the melody for Silent Night was composed and it was composed on a guitar!!
Travel through the foothills of the Austrian Alps, along the Salzach river valley to Oberndorf, where you will have the opportunity to take part in a touching Christmas celebration in the Silent Night Chapel.
The church is small accommodating only 12 – 15 people inside, therefore the Holy Mass will be celebrated on the outside of the chapel.
Christmas Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride from Salzburg
Take one of those excursions to take you along the Salzach river valley past many of Austria’s ski resorts. Near Schladming, location of the 1982 Ski World Championships, you will ascend up to the ‘Steirische Ramsau’ 3,281 feet (1,000 meters) above sea level at the base of one of the Alpine glacier massifs – the Dachstein. In the village there is time for a stroll in the frosty fresh air and lunch in one of the local inns. Your guide will give you advice on all of the possibilities. Then you will hear the jingling bells on the reigns as the sleighs line up across the field and your winter sleigh ride begins!
Down in England’s West Country lies the old county of Somerset, a patchwork of meadows, quiet villages and an orchard around every corner. It is a land of pigs snuffling fallen apples, old farmers telling tales in crumbling pubs, and field after field of wondrous English countryside.
Where it all begins: the orchard
At five o’clock each afternoon, Somerset slips into soft-focus. As the sun readies itself for the day’s end, the light turns hazy and golden, coating every scene with the warm graininess of a Super 8 home movie. Stand in an orchard as the glow of late afternoon is filtered through the laden branches, sending a lattice of pale shadow onto the fruit-covered floor, and it is easy to understand why the orchard holds an elevated place in British mythology. From inspiring Newton’s theory of gravity to the wassail ceremonies that drive evil spirits from the trees each January, the orchard has long been a place of quiet contemplation and a very British kind of magic.
What it hasn’t been is a stomping ground for sex-crazed llamas. But that is what I’m confronted with as I explore the orchards of Burrow Hill Cider Farm, near Stembridge village. Two man-sized llamas – one brown called Louis, one white called Rupert – unnervingly stare me out as I wander past a Gloucester Old Spot pig snuffling among the apples at the base of a tree. Barrelman Stephen Ward is quick to issue a warning: ‘Watch your back around Rupert,’ he says, as we walk towards the truck that has pulled into the farmyard, its bed piled high with freshly gathered apples. ‘He thinks he’s human. He has a habit of leaping onto your shoulders if you turn away too fast.’
The truck tips the red-and-green Kingston Blacks – just one of 40 varieties used – onto the courtyard. As a stream of water washes the fruit along an apple-clogged trench towards the mill, Stephen tells me how Burrow Hill has rejuvenated cider making in this corner of Somerset. The early 90s were a dire time for cider devotees – the drink was out of fashion, and local farmers were competing to sell off their orchards. Twenty years on, the same farmers are selling Burrow Hill their apple harvest, and seeing it turned into top class cider brandy. The man responsible for this turn of events is Julian Temperley, owner of Burrow Hill.
A cross between Boris Johnson and Wurzel Gummidge, Julian’s rumpled exterior belies a sharp business brain and penchant for mischief. ‘You fall into cider making by mistake, or by default. It’s not a logical decision,’ he says. ‘Cidermaking is the last bastion of the peasants. We’re an anarchic lot.’ But Julian is in no doubt of the importance of cider to Somerset. ‘If we lose these orchards, the landscape of this part of the world changes entirely. The cider tradition needs to be protected.’
I stroll through the orchard, serenaded by the thwock of apples falling to the floor (cider farmers don’t pick apples from the tree; they wait for them to fall). Across the road from the farmhouse is the steep hill that gives the farm its name. The climb is short but sharp and I am struck by the sheer immensity of the Somerset Levels. Standing under the sky here is a full 360° experience – it feels like being in the centre of a child’s snow globe. The horizon is a circumference, not a straight line, and the land below unrelentingly flat, divided only by orchards lined up like military regiments. The leaves on the trees have begun to smoulder, not yet set alight with full autumn colour. On the breeze comes the sound of a tractor in an orchard, collecting the windfall for the next batch of cider – the sound of an ancient tradition surviving, adapting and prospering.
The track down to Wilkins Cider Farm is dotted with handwritten signs, the disparate clues of a rosy-cheeked treasure hunt. Every so often there is a break in the hedge and an instant panoramic of the Somerset Levels surges through the gap, but for most, this is a head-down, no-nonsense trip – it is not the views they have come for.
Inside the breezeblock ciderhouse, the air is cool and damp. The atmosphere is anything but. Six ruddy-nosed Scotsmen, down for the week, merrily poke fun at each other around a Formica table, a tankard in each hand and a few crumbs of cheese in front. Next to them, four large barrels of cider – two sweet, two dry – sit in a row, hissing out the day’s cider to any pilgrim who turns up with an empty glass. The wall opposite is covered with photographs and cuttings, including an interview with the late Clash singer Joe Strummer. Encircled is his description of happiness: ‘chilling in Somerset with a flagon of Wilkins’ Farmhouse Cider’. No-one here today would disagree.
At the centre of it all is Roger Wilkins, a burly, gregarious, faded Teddy Boy in overalls and wellies. He purposefully strides around his farmhouse, making sure that every visitor is welcomed and quenched. He has been making cider here for some 50 years, after learning the trade from his grandfather. ‘I was weaned on this stuff,’ he says, raising his ever-present tankard of green-yellow cider to his lips. ‘I’ve been drinking it since I was five years old. And I’ve never had a bad head.’
The reason why Roger does not know the meaning of the word hangover is the same reason why his cider is so revered, why people will travel 400 miles to sit in his draughty farmhouse. It is just apples. He adds nothing bar a teaspoon of saccharine in the sweet barrels. ‘I test everything by taste,’ he says. ‘I know exactly what it should taste like at every stage.’ Wilkins Cider is how cider used to be before the big brands cleaned it up – rough and ready, with the occasional piece of floating pulp and a sharp tang. The head might be fine, but after a couple of pints, the unsuspecting punter won’t be able to work their legs.
Three times a day, the hubbub in the farmhouse falls silent as Roger begins a pressing. Bags of apples are poured into the mill and ground into a pomace. Roger spreads it over a lissom, a wooden board covered in a rough, porous cloth, and repeats the process until he has made up a ‘cheese’, eleven lissoms in total, which is wheeled on rails to the press.
The large vice squeezes down upon the cheese, and the apple juice drips to the trough below. Roger scoops up a palmful, slurps it down and nods, satisfied. There is a murmur of approval from the congregation as he begins to build the next cheese. ‘I’ve been coming here every day for 40 years,’ whispers the man next to me. ‘I never get tired of watching this.’
The sign on the wall of the Tuckers Grave Inn leaves visitors in no doubt as to the primary purpose of this tumbledown country tavern: ‘Drink hard cider as much as yer please. Loose yer teeth an bow yer knees. Sours yer gut an makes yer wheeze.’
Perhaps not the most inviting prospect for recent converts, but for the hardy souls crammed into this front room-disguised-as- a-pub there is nothing better than a tankard of gut-souring cider, and nowhere better to drink it than Tuckers Grave Inn.
A ring of seats is arranged around a flickering fireplace, the air filled with the chat of the regulars – Roger ‘Cravat’ Bonsall, resplendent in synonymous neckpiece; Graham Clylee, proud veteran of ‘every cider pub in Britain and Brittany’; Stuart Delbono, young farm hand. Each holds a tankard of the near-fluorescent orange Thatchers cider that landlady Glenda Swift pours from the barrels piled up under a window. There is no bar here; that would signal a divide between punters and owners. Rumour has it this room was once the lounge of Glenda’s house, adjacent to the bar, but she would get so many people popping in for a drink and a chat that she turned it into the main room of the pub.
‘Doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from,’ says Graham, roasting a handful of chestnuts on the crackling fire. ‘People will always talk to you in here.’ Glenda nods her approval. ‘No subjects are barred in this room,’ she says, looking around at her customers with a tenderness that belies someone whose job it is to get them royally drunk. ‘We know everything in here – where the skeletons are hidden, where the babies are conceived.’
For all the reverence and ritual that surrounds the making of cider, it is this, the final stage in the apple’s journey from the orchard to the glass, that is the reason why Roger Wilkins and Julian Temperley have dedicated their lives to what is, in effect, squeezing fruit juice.
The next day, it is clear that cider’s value to Somerset is appreciated far beyond the pubs and pressing plants. Barrington Court, a grand National Trust property, is hosting its Apple Day celebration. A crowd of Somersetians has descended upon the sprawling, orchard-laden grounds, joining in with the apple pressing, picking up the windfall, paying tribute to the humble fruit that defines their homeland. In the central building, there’s a display of the varieties grown here; the names sound more like dashing World War II pilots than fruit – Broxwood Foxwhelp, Ribston Pippin, Harry Masters, Tom Putt.
It may not quite be the Battle of Britain, but in a strange way the resurgence of cider, and Somerset, owes a similar weight of gratitude to the persistence of these wholesome balls of juicy goodness – forever the heroes of the West Country.
Trains to Yeovil Junction run direct from London Waterloo, Exeter and Salisbury (from £14.10 return; thetrainline.com).
Buses do not cover the whole of Somerset. Hire a car from Vincents Daily Rental in Yeovil (from £29 a day; vincentrental.co.uk).
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When you are on holiday, you’ve some pretty essential things to consider. Should I have the grilled octopus for lunch, or perhaps the fried squids? Go snorkeling first, or play beach volleyball? Wake up early to look at the sunrise on the beach, or don’t bother going to sleep at all? Of all of the stuff you need to take into consideration on holiday, the main thing you should not have to worry about is the budget.
The majority of us are never able to live our lives like the wealthy and famous do, taking luxurious holidays and investing huge amounts of money on the very best of everything. The all inclusive resorts, however, allow us to experience a somewhat similar lifestyle, at least for a short while.
To be certain, budgets really are a fact of life. So, does having a financial limit mean always controlling all your needs, simply because there is no room for them within your budget? Absolutely not. When you are on holiday, you should be spoiled. You’ve labored hard for so long, and you’ve gained the right to have some excellent food, a few expensive drinks and simply have a great time.
All-inclusive beach resort holidays make it easy for travelers to get the most bang for their buck. Today you will find over four hundred resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean alone offering all-inclusive travel packages for people looking for budget-friendly holiday opportunities.
Having said that, all-inclusive holidays aren’t always as trouble-free as they may appear. You have to thoroughly compare available resorts before finally selecting your holiday destination.
Comparing and researching the available offers will lead you to the conclusion that the packages, lodging and resorts themselves can differ to a great extent. Some hotels offer packages that are designed for couples only. Others introduce offers for singles, gay couples, or families. Many beach resorts are meant for grown ups only, so be cautious if you are planning a vacation with your little ones.
Besides the resorts as such, travel packages can differ when it comes to what they offer. Regrettably, not everyone’s understanding of “all-inclusive” is identical. Some include airfare and hotel. Others cover airfare, hotel, transfers, plus some foods. You will find resort holidays which are all-inclusive, except for airfare. Some beach resorts include all alcoholic drinks, as long as they are not premium brands, or offered before 7 pm or after 12 am. Make a price comparison while doing your research, and you will surely find ways to save cash. Including airfare in your all-inclusive package could cost less than booking a flight and having to pay for it on your own, and could save you some energy that scheduling your vacation undoubtedly requires.
If you wish to find a very good deal, it is best to first identify what you would like and need in order to have a great vacation. When you realize the characteristics and amenities you are expecting, you can start to examine all of the holiday offers you will find. Travel agencies and also the Internet are efficient ways to find many resorts and packages to check out.
The most significant benefit of booking an exciting-inclusive beach resort vacation is getting all you need for a one-time expenditure. Being aware of this, you will able to relax and revel in your vacations knowing there will not be any unpleasant surprises waiting at the destination. Your finances will remain intact, and the only thing you’ll have to make up your mind about will be the choice between an exotic drink or a cold beer.
By: Stan Rich
“Stan is an online entrepreneur and rock guitar player. He enjoys traveling the world together with his wife, two children and… four cats. He’s also the webmaster of Best All Inclusive Resorts.”
Burj Khalifa (“Khalifa Tower”),known as Burj Dubai prior to its inauguration, is a skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and is currently the tallest structure ever built, at 828 m (2,717 ft). Construction began on 21 September 2004, with the exterior of the structure completed on 1 October 2009. The building officially opened on 4 January 2010, and is part of the new 2 km2 (490-acre) flagship development called Downtown Dubai at the ‘First Interchange’ along Sheikh Zayed Road, near Dubai’s main business district.
The tower’s architecture and engineering were performed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill of Chicago, with Adrian Smith as chief architect, and Bill Baker as chief structural engineer. The primary contractor was Samsung C&T of South Korea.
The total cost for the project was about US$ $1.5 billion; and for the entire “Downtown Dubai” development, US $20 billion.[ In March 2009, Mohamed Ali Alabbar, chairman of the project’s developer, Emaar Properties, said office space pricing at Burj Khalifa reached US $4,000 per sq ft (over US $43,000 per m²) and the Armani Residences, also in Burj Khalifa, sold for US $3,500 per sq ft (over US $37,500 per m²).
The project’s completion coincided with the global financial crisis of 2007–2010, and with vast overbuilding in the country, led to high vacancies and foreclosures. With Dubai mired in debt from its huge ambitions, the government was forced to seek multibillion dollar bailouts from its oil rich neighbor Abu Dhabi. Subsequently, in a surprise move at its opening ceremony, the tower was renamed Burj Khalifa, said to honour the UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his crucial support.
Due to the slumping demand in Dubai’s property market, the rents in the Burj Khalifa plummeted 40% some ten months after its opening. Out of 900 apartments in the tower around 825 were still empty at that time.
Burj Khalifa lifts the world’s head proudly skywards, surpassing limits and expectations. Rising gracefully from the desert and honouring Dubai with a new glow. Burj Khalifa is at the heart of Dubai and its people; the centre for the world’s finest shopping, dining and entertainment and home for the world’s elite.
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. It is the site of the national Swedish government, the Riksdag (parliament), and the official residence of the Swedish monarch as well as the prime minister. Since 1980, the monarch has resided at Drottningholm Palace outside of Stockholm and uses the Royal Palace of Stockholm as his workplace and official residence. As of 2010, the Stockholm metropolitan area is home to approximately 22% of Sweden’s population. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality (2010), 1.37 million in the urban area (2010), and around 2.1 million in the 6,519 km2 (2,517.00 sq mi) metropolitan area (2010).
Founded circa 1250, Stockholm has long been one of Sweden’s cultural, media, political, and economic centers. Its strategic location on 14 islands on the south-central east coast of Sweden at the mouth of Lake Mälaren, by the Stockholm archipelago, has been historically important. Stockholm has been nominated by GaWC as a global city, with a ranking of Alpha-. In The 2008 Global Cities Index, Stockholm ranked 24th in the world, 10th in Europe, and first in Scandinavia. Stockholm is known for its beauty, its buildings and architecture, its abundant clean and open water, and its many parks.
It is sometimes referred to as Venice of the North.
Stockholm is a major international city with great natural beauty, good eateries, fabulous standard hotels, an internationally renowned club and music scene and a vibrant cultural life.
Stockholm, as a city, is over 700 years old and spreads across 14 islands as it faces proudly out to the Baltic Sea. You can get to just about all of Stockholm’s many wondrous sites on foot, a perfect way to see the city. You can also take a boat trip that will give you a different facet of Scandinavia’s largest and probably most beautiful city.
Attractions in Stockholm:
One of Stockholm’s top attractions, Djurgården (English: Game Park) is an island right in the middle of Stockholm, known for its beautiful green spaces, many sights, events, parks, and tourist attractions. The island Djurgarden has more than 10 million (!) visitors each year. The location is perfect for an interesting 2 hour Djurgarden walking tour across Stockholm’s popular island.
Gamla Stan is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centers in Europe, and one of the foremost attractions in Stockholm. This is where Stockholm was founded in 1252.
The Royal Palace
Welcome to one of the largest palaces in Europe! The Royal Palace is the official residence of His Majesty the King of Sweden, with over 600 rooms.
The Vasa Museum
The Vasa is the only preserved seventeenth-century ship in the world, and a unique art treasure.
Skansen Open-Air Museum
Skansen consists of the oldest open-air museum in the world and the Stockholm zoo, with a beautiful location on Royal Djurgården and a view over all of Stockholm.
Fotografiska is one of the world’s largest meeting places for contemporary photography. Fotografiska presents four unique major exhibitions and about 20 smaller exhibitions annually.
The City Hall
Stockholm City Hall is one of the country’s leading examples of national romanticism in architecture. The City Hall was designed by the architect Ragnar Östberg, and opened on Midsummer Eve in 1923. The City Hall is built from eight million bricks, and the 106 meter tall tower has the three crowns, which is the Swedish national coat of arms, at its apex. Behind the magnificent facades are offices and session halls for politicians and officials, as well as splendid assembly rooms and unique works of art
Experience one of Europe’s foremost collections of art from the twentieth century to today, featuring works by artists including Picasso, Dali, Derkert and Matisse.
The leading museum of art and design in Sweden, with collections of older paintings and sculptures as well as drawings, graphics, handicrafts and design up to the present day.
Royal National City Park
The world’s first national urban park is a green lung forming an arc more than six miles long, stretching around and through the city.
The park abuts the adjoining forests around the city, ensuring an exceptional wealth of species. You can encounter deer and hares, even foxes and moose, and spot rare birds, butterflies and insects, right inside the city. You can walk for days through the Ekoparken, discovering ever new lovely spots.
Food & drink!
Stockholm is recognised as one of Europe’s most dynamic and exciting gastronomic metropolises.
Regardless of what you prefer to eat, Swedish, international, ethnic or a fusion of all of these. Stockholm’s restaurateurs and chefs are renowned for their culinary creativity, and the restaurant atmosphere are very much part of the total experience.
There are a huge number of good restaurants, bars, cafeterias and cafés, many with an ethnic flavor.
For casual dining, every district in Stockholm has local restaurants that serve a wide range of dishes in various styles and frequently function as local meeting places as well, often with adjoining bars.
Fine dining in Stockholm
At the top of the scale Stockholm has a number of restaurants with a Michelin star, including the well-established F12 and Esperanto, where diners can enjoy modern fusion cuisine, and the chic Lux in the up and coming area of scenic Essinge Island.
Stockholm never sleeps
Nightlife in Stockholm
Most bars and nightclubs are open until around 3 am. All restaurants, bars and nightclubs in Norway are smoke-free indoors but often have a sheltered smoking area outside.
Oslo’s nightlife is anything but boring. Clubs and bars in Oslo are inviting and friendly and DJs from all over the world help keep the action and mood going in the city’s bars and nightclubs.
Blaa is situated in the Grünerlokka district and is popular among people over 25 in Oslo. It is well known for having new and upcoming bands and bringing in different popular international DJs at the weekends. The music varies between techno, soul, hiphop, house, electronica, rock and pop. The club is situated in an old factory by the river.
Looking for some great nightlife in Helsinki? Keep in mind that Finns love late nights: Clubs in Helsinki often don’t open before 10 pm and close at 4 am. At most nightclubs, you have to be 20 to get in.
Some of the most popular nightlife locations in Helsinki include The Lux Nightclub. If you’re looking for nightlife with class, go party at the Lux. It’s got five bars and big terraces, along with a suitable dress code, and is more expensive than other nightlife locations in Helsinki.
Ever heard of ice hotels? Well, Helsinki has an ice bar, located at Yliopistonkatu 5! The Arctic Icebar (temperature: -5 C) is a unique nightclub that provides you with gloves upon entering. EUR 10 admission includes a drink.
Looking for the nightlife scene in Sweden? Well, Malmo offers countless bars and clubs in different styles, so you’re sure to find something good. Most clubs stay open until 3 am or 5 am – nightlife starts late here. Slagthuset , which translates to “slaughter house” is Scandinavia’s largest night club with three different dance floors and a party on every weekend. Go bowling at Big Bowl, Malmo’s hangout for bowling, dining, gaming, and even dancing.
Very few cities offer nightlife on a par with Stockholm’s – a scene that really lives, seven nights a week, year in, year out. In this respect, Stockholm has very little competition from anywhere north of Paris and London. The various Stockholm districts abound in meeting places – pubs, cafés and club-style restaurants with different profiles depending on age group and musical preference.
The ‘shopholm’ of Stockholm
Stockholm is known as a leading design center, and design in the broadest sense – both contemporary and traditional – is an important part of the city’s exciting shopping scene.
The City area is home to department stores Nordiska Kompaniet (NK), Åhléns and PUB.
If it is happiness you are seeking a move to Denmark could be in order, according to the first scientist to make a world map of happiness.
Adrian White, from the UK’s University of Leicester, used the responses of 80,000 people worldwide to map out subjective well-being.
Denmark came top, followed closely by Switzerland and Austria. The UK ranked 41st. Zimbabwe and Burundi came bottom.
A nation’s level of happiness was most closely associated with health levels.
Prosperity and education were the next strongest determinants of national happiness.
Mr White, who is an analytic social psychologist at the university, said: “When people are asked if they are happy with their lives, people in countries with good healthcare, a higher GDP [gross domestic product] per capita, and access to education were much more likely to report being happy.”
He acknowledged that these measures of happiness are not perfect, but said they were the best available and were the measures that politicians were talking of using to measure the relative performance of each country.
He said it would be possible to use these parameters to track changes in happiness, and what events may cause that, such as the effects a war, famine or national success might have on the happiness of people in a particular country.
He said: “There is increasing political interest in using measures of happiness as a national indicator in conjunction with measures of wealth.
“A recent BBC survey found that 81% of the population think the government should focus on making us happier rather than wealthier.
“It is worth remembering that the UK is doing relatively well in this area, coming 41st out of 178 nations.”
He said he was surprised to see countries in Asia scoring so low, with China 82nd, Japan 90th and India 125th, because these are countries that are thought as having a strong sense of collective identity which other researchers have associated with well-being.
“It is also notable that many of the largest countries in terms of population do quite badly,” he said.
He said: “The frustrations of modern life, and the anxieties of the age, seem to be much less significant compared to the health, financial and educational needs in other parts of the world.”
Hokkaido (???, Hokkaid?) is the second largest, northernmost and least developed of Japan’s four main islands. Its weather is harsh in winter with lots of snowfall and below zero temperatures while its summer is mild and not as humid as the other parts of Japan. Hokkaido attracts outdoor lovers, skiers and snowboarders in the colder seasons and hikers, campers in the summer.
Hokkaido confounds expectations at every turn. While the mainland of Japan has a reputation for being tiny and crowded, Hokkaido is expansive and populated. While the mainland features typically Asian architecture, the major cities of Hokkaido have a European feel. Hokkaido has natural wonders, from fields of alpine flowers in the summer to breathtaking ice-scapes in the winter months.
Cherry blossom year 2018
It has been predicated that skaura (Cherry Blossom) will start to bloom as usual in Okinawa. Therefore, cherry blossom festivals are scheduled to be held at different spots between January 27, 2018 and February 12, 2018.
Places to visit in Hokkaido
Cities and Resort Towns
Furano and Biei
are towns in the center of Hokkaido, Known for their pleasant and pictureque rural landscapes. Best time to visit in July when the Lavender fields are in bloom. Furano is a popular downhill and cross country skiing resort.
Furano Ski Area is one of Hokkaido’s famous snow resorts. Located in a town known for its flowers and television dramas, the resort offers an exciting attraction for the cold winter months.
Asahikawa Winter Festival
The Asahikawa Winter Festival (??????, Asahikawa Fuyu Matsuri) is Hokkaido’s second largest winter festival after Sapporo’s Snow Festival. The festival takes place over a week in early February, about the same time as the Sapporo Snow Festival. Hence, it is possible for winter visitors to visit both festivals on the same trip as the two cities are only an 80 minute train ride apart from each other.
Asahikawa has some of the biggest snow sculptures. Every year one massive sculpture is made as a stage for music and other performances. The giant sculpture of a Korean fortress in 1994 even made into the book of Guinness World Records as the largest snow construction built. The giant sculpture has a different theme each year, such as a snowman castle in 2010 or the Daisetsuzan Mountains in 2011.
An Ice Sculpture in the Heiwa Dori Area
Rusutsu Resort is considered one of the best ski resorts in Hokkaido. It has a large
ski area that covers three mountains, each having a variety of long runs with a good mix of groomed trails, great powder and tree runs. It is close to Lake Toya (Toyako) and is on the other side of Mount Yotei from Niseko.
A large hotel complex sits at the center of the resort, consisting of the highrise Rusutsu Tower, A monorail connects the buildings with each other.
Rusutsu Resort offers numerous attractions beside Skiing, hot spring baths, as well as places catering to foreigners such as the Cricket Pub sports bar. Summer activities include golf and an amusement park with over 60 attractions and 8 roller coasters.
Noboribetsu Onsen is Hokkaido’s most famous hot spring resort. A large amount of Noboribetsu’s many types of hot spring water surfaces in the spectacular Jigokudani or “Hell Valley” just above the resort town. Noboribetsu is part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park.
Other Nearby Attractions
Lake Toya, Lake Shikotsu. Jigokudani, Hot Springs, ???Porotokotan, Mount Uso, Caldera Lake and Hell Valley.
is located inside Shikotsu-Toya National Park between the high cliffs of the Toyohira River. The town is only one hour from Sapporo, making it a popular side trip from the city for residents and tourists. As a result, Jozankei is very developed compared to smaller onsen towns in Hokkaido.
The onsen waters of Jozankei were discovered in 1866 and the town now has dozens of ryokan, restaurants and shops catering to hot spring tourists.
is Hokkaido’s third largest city, located at the island’s southern tip. Hakodate is best known for the spectacular views to be enjoyed from Mount Hakodate and its delicious, fresh seafood.
As one of the first Japanese harbor cities to be opened to international trade after the country’s era of isolation, Hakodate has experienced notable influence from overseas, and the foreign population’s former residential district and a Western style fort are among its main tourist attractions.
Onuma Park, a quasi national park with beautiful, island dotted lakes, is located only half an hour north of Hakodate.
The Shiraoi Ainu Museum, also called Porotokotan, is one of Hokkaido’s better Ainu Museums. Ainu culture and lifestyle is shown in an outdoor reproduction of a small Ainu village and inside a conventional museum building. Several performances, such as traditional Ainu dances, are held throughout the day.
Located in the center of Hokkaido, Asahikawa is the island’s second largest city after Sapporo. The city is not known as a leading tourist destination, but its zoo, Asahiyama Zoo, is among Japan’s best and most popular. The local noodle dish, Asahikawa Ramen, is also quite well known.
Otaru is a harbor city, Its beautiful canal area and interesting herring mansion make Otaru a pleasant one day trip from Sapporo to or from the Shakotan Peninsula.
Ferries from Niigata and Maizuru on Honshu arrive at Otaru Port
Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido and Japan’s fifth largest city. Sapporo is also one of the nation’s youngest major cities. In 1857, the city’s population stood at just seven people.
Sapporo became world famous in 1972 when the Olympic Winter Games were held there. Today, the city is well known for its ramen, beer, and the annual snow festival held in February.
Hokkaido and Asahikawa are Famous for its Ramen
Hokkaido, Asahikawa is famous for its ramen. Whereas Sapporo is known for its miso based broth and Hakodate for its salt based broth, Asahikawa is known for its shoyu (soya sauce) based broths. Shops serving shoyu based ramen can be found throughout the city.
The broth of Asahikawa Ramen is also known for being quite oily, and there is often a thin layer of oil on top of the soup. Another characteristic of the local ramen is the generally thin, hard and wavy noodles. The range of toppings is quite typical and includes green onions, pork, bamboo shoots and eggs.
On the outskirts of the city there is an interesting collection of ramen shops called the Asahikawa Ramen Village. Eight famous ramen restaurants from Asahikawa have opened small branch stores besides one another in the complex alongside a gift shop and a small ramen shrine.
Haghia Sophia Museum, the great masterpiece of Byzantine art. It was built by Justinian in 6th century AD and is the 3rd church to occupy this site.
At the time it was built, it was the largest church in existence. The church was sacked by the Latins during the 4th crusade in 1204 and many of its treasures taken to the west.
When Contantinople (Istanbul) was conquered by the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmet II in 1453, it was converted into a mosque.
Since 1936, by Ataturk’s order it has been a museum.
Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmet Camii is one of the most beautiful mosques in the world. Its name is derived from the blue tiles decorating its interior. Completed in 1616 by Mehmet Aga, Imperial Architect and one of the students of the great architect Sinan.
Its grace and beautiful proportions were intended to reflect the splendour of Islam. It was the supreme Imperial Mosque of the Ottoman Empire. The famous blue and green
Iznik tiles on the walls are bathed in glorious light that is filtered through 260 windows.
The city was founded on a hilltop and spread down to the plains. Aspendus has one of the best preserved and largest Roman theaters in Turkey. It was built in the 2nd C AD. The city’s aqueducts are also well preserved and worth a visit.
Commagene Kingdom at Mt.Nemrut
One of the most spectacular sites in Turkey especially at sunset. Mt Nemrut (approx. 2552m) is an extension of the Taurus mountain range in southeastern Turkey. After the division of Alexander’s Empire into three, the Seleucids established the relatively small and wealthy Commagene Kingdom in the region.
In 62 BC, Antiochos I became king of Commagene and developed his kingdom as a strategic crossroad on the important trade routes between Syria, Mesopotamia and Rome.
Pamukkale is one of the natural wonders of the world. It is a unique geological formation formed over 14.000 years. The spring water at Pamukkale has therapeutic qualities and since antiquity has been said to cure rheumatism, kidney and heart diseases.
Hierapolis, means sacred-city and its history goes back 6th C BC. At its peak the population reached about 100,000. The ruins at Hierapolis cover an extensive area.
The theater, Temple of Apollo, Colonnaded Street, Byzantine Gate, Plutonium and Necropolis (Cemetery) are some of the highlights of the city. The Necropolis has approximately 1000 tombs and is the largest in Asia Minor.
Ephesus is one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world with a history dating back the 12 C BC. It was an important trade and religious center. During the Roman period its population reached approx. 250,000.
One of the seven wonders of the world, Temple of Artemis was in Ephesus. It is also the site of one of the Seven Churches of Revelation.
St. Paul lived and preached for about 2 years in Ephesus.
One of the geological wonders of the world. Cappadocia is a high plateau in Central Turkey at an altitude of 3270 ft / 1000 m. It lies in a triangle formed by the three main towns of Kayseri, Nevsehir and Nigde.
The history of Cappadocia begins 60 million years ago with the eruption of 2 volcanos, covering the area with lava and tufa. In later periods rain and wind eroded the land and created unusual valleys, canyons and cones.
For many centuries Hittites, Assyrian Colonies, Greeks and Romans lived in the region. Cappadocia is also a very important region in early Christian History.
There are over 600 hundred rock-cut churches built by monks and hermits between the 4th and 11th centuries. In some of these, church walls have been decorated with wonderful frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible.
The history of the city starts in the 8th C BC when Aeolian Greek colonies settled in the area. The city was founded on a hill overlooking the Caicos plain. During the reign of Eumenes II in the 2nd C BC, it became one of the cultural and intellectual centers of the day.
With the invention of pergamena (parchment) its library grew to rival in size, the great library of Alexandria. The famous Altar of Zeus was here.
Pergamum was one of the Seven Churches of the Revelations. The famous Roman physician, Galen was born and studied in Pergamum.The
ruins are separated into 3 parts, the Acropolis, Red Courtyard and Asclepion, which was the cure center of Pergamum.
Sardis was the capital of the Kingdom of Lydia. It was founded on the banks of the famous golden-bearing river Pactolus. The legendary
King of Lydia Croesus (560-540 BC) controlled most of western Asia Minor and made generous offerings to the temples of Delphi, Artemis and Didyma.
Part of the Gymnasium was converted into a synagogue in 3rd C BC. Sardis is one of the Seven Churches of Revelation.
Gallipoli Anzacs – Canakkale
In 1915, Allied warships tried to force their way through the straits with the intention of opening a supply line to Russia via the Black Sea. Allied landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula were finally beaten off by the Turks following bitter warfare.
WHAT would you do with $600 billion in cash? If you’re the capital of the United Arab Emirates, rich in oil, the answer is easy: go shopping. Once aloof from the spendthrift ways of neighboring Dubai, Abu Dhabi — which, so far, has not experience the unrest many Arab countries are facing is now ticking off items on a five-star shopping list. Top-notch museums? New branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim are rising from the sands. High-profile events? The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi Film Festival and Gourmet Abu Dhabi have made their debuts in recent years. Toss in a multibillion-dollar hotel project and a stunning new mosque and you have one of the world’s most ambitious new destinations.
5 p.m. 1) ON THE CORNICHE
Come early evening, all of Abu Dhabi — expat professionals from Europe, South Asian laborers, local families in white dishdashas (for the men) and black abayas (for the women) — strolls along the Corniche, a picturesque seaside walkway. It’s the perfect vantage point for taking in the city’s fast-rising thicket of skyscrapers. Finish up at the Heritage Village (Marina Mall breakwater; 971-2-681-4455; free admission), an ersatz old fortress that tries to recreate the Abu Dhabi of yore through camel enclosures, Bedouin tents and traditional artisans. At its beachfront cafe, Al Asalah (971-50-526-5575), sip a watermelon juice (15 dirhams, or $4.15 at 3.60 dirhams to $1) while watching the twinkling city skyline across the bay.
9 p.m. 2) PALACE INTRIGUE
Even if you can’t afford to make a withdrawal from the ATM that dispenses bars of gold, the gargantuan and garishly opulent Emirates Palace Hotel (emiratespalace.com) is worth a visit. Built at a cost of $3 billion, the 362-room behemoth is said to be the most expensive hotel ever built and contains some fitting hangouts. Hakkasan restaurant-lounge (971-2-690-7999; hakkasan.com) opened last year with Asian-cool décor and cocktails like the Hakkatini (orange flavored vodka, Campari, Grand Marnier, apple juice; 50 dirhams). For a traditional Emirati dinner, hit Mezlai (971-2-690-7999). Reserve an outdoor tent and sample local specialties like creamy shark velouté, sautéed chicken livers (with garlic, cinnamon and pomegranate sauce) and lamb nachif (slow cooked in zesty garlic-turmeric sauce). A three-course meal for two runs about 450 dirhams, without wine.
11 p.m. 3) GLITTERY NIGHTS
The fastest-growing part of town is the formerly dusty Yas Island (yasisland.ae), now brimming with diversions: a lush 18-hole golf course, a Formula One track, a sprawling indoor theme park (Ferrari World; see below), a marina and a host of five-star hotels. Hugh Grant, Sir Richard Branson and Prince are among the luminaries who have been spotted in the fractal-like white interior of Allure (Yas Island Marina, 971-2-565-0050; nightcluballure.com; cover, 150 dirhams). Opened last year by the Cipriani restaurant group, the glittery nightclub serves three-liter bottles of Cristal Champagne (68,000 dirhams) and Bellini cocktails (65 dirhams) to a BlackBerry-toting international crowd.
10 a.m. 4) ISLAMIC GLORIES
It’s hard not to be awestruck as you stand on what is said to be the world’s largest handmade Persian carpet (about 65,000 square feet), gazing up at a huge, glittering chandelier in the main prayer hall of the enormous Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (Al Salam Street; 971-2-441-6444; szgmc.ae), which can hold more than 40,000. Opened in 2007, the marble mosque, with its 82 domes and some 1,000 columns, is a mix of Moorish, Ottoman and Mughal styles. Free tours are held on Saturday at 10 and 11 a.m. and 2, 5 and 8 p.m.
1 p.m. 5) A BOHEMIAN BREAK
Funky, bohemian and cheap are not adjectives normally used to describe anything in Abu Dhabi, but Zyara (Madinat Zayed area, next to Hilton Corniche Residence; 971-2-627-5007) is a rare bird indeed. Abstract art and couches upholstered with wild fabrics provide the décor at this cafe-restaurant, where locals and expats noodle on laptops (thanks to free Wi-Fi) and flip through Time Out Abu Dhabi. The menu ranges from French toast (22 dirhams) to savory manakish (warm flatbread rolled in spices and sesame seeds; 10 dirhams) and a dish called foul (mashed beans stewed with tomato, garlic and olive oil; 20 dirhams).
3 p.m. 6) NORMAN’S SOUK
Arabia goes avant-garde at the Souk at Central Market (Khalifa Street; 971-2-810-7810; centralmarket.ae/souk), a soaring new shopping center of geometric wood slats and colored glass that was designed by Norman Foster. Trouble finding a date? Zadina (ground floor; 971-2-658-8637) has them in abundance: plain dates (100 dirhams per kilo), dates stuffed with pistachios (125 dirhams per kilogram, or 2.2 pounds), chocolate truffles made with dates (450 dirhams per kilo), and much besides. For tea glasses (six for 400 dirhams) and other glassware etched and painted with Arabesque patterns, visit Kudu for Arts (ground floor; 971-2-627-8980; kuduforarts.com). Electronics stores, boutiques, waterpipe cafes and henna artists also fill the space.
5 p.m. 7) PEDAL TO THE METAL
Speed freaks, thrill jockeys, car buffs and lead-footed drivers will get their kicks at the futuristic Ferrari World (Yas Island; 971-2-496-8001; ferrariworldabudhabi.com), an amusement park that pays tribute to the most popular red product to come out of Italy since tomato sauce. The curvaceous complex houses pulse-quickening rides, from Formula One simulators to one of the world’s fastest roller coasters. Between thrills, check out the car exhibitions and the acrobatic musical show. Admission: 165 to 225 dirhams.
8 p.m. 8) SULTANIC CHIC
If the designer Terrance Conran had read “1,001 Nights” too many times, the result would be something like Pearls & Caviar (Qaryat Al Beri; 971-2-509-8777; pearlsandcaviar.com), a sultry den near the Shangri-La hotel with chain-mail curtains, a mosaic floor and a D.J.-spun soundtrack. The menu also melds Occident and Orient to original effect. Especially good are the tuna carpaccio (with pomegranate seeds and crispy thin bread) and tender strips of beef drizzled with hummus. The zucchini fries in a chickpea batter that are topped with a spicy tomato and red-pepper chutney are also excellent. A three-course dinner for two costs around 400 dirhams.
11 p.m. 9) DRINKS IN THE SOUK
Any lingering myths that there is no alcohol in the Islamic world will be put to rest at Souk Qaryat Al Beri (971-2-558-1670; soukqaryatalberi.com), a sprawling bazaar filled with canals, boutiques, restaurants and ample booze-soaked nightspots. Left Bank (971-2-558-1680) is a den of slick black surfaces and red banquettes where a young crowd drinks Left Bank Iced Teas (vanilla vodka, rum, cachaça, Bombay Sapphire, sour mix and ginger beer; 40 dirhams) and other creative cocktails. Everything goes white and bright at Sho Cho (971-2-558-1117; sho-cho.com), a sushi lounge whose drink list includes concoctions like the Sho Cho Infusion(Bacardi, ginger, lime, brown sugar, ginger beer; 43 dirhams).
10 a.m. 10) HIT THE BEACH
Started in 2008 and still expanding, the new (and free) Corniche Beach is endowed with powdery sand, translucent sea and abundant water sports, including waterskiing and parasailing (971-50-781-2312; empros.ae). There are even a few private family beaches — outfitted with sun beds and umbrellas — that can be rented for 10 dirhams.
Noon 11) A BOUTIQUE BRUNCH
Café Arabia (15th Street between Karam Street and Airport Road; 971-2-643-9698), a stylish new cafe and boutique, showcases creations from numerous Arabic-speaking nations. Ensconce yourself on the rooftop terrace or airy ground-level salon and feast on Lebanese fattoush (a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, red pepper, whole-wheat bread chips, powdered sumac and pomegranate syrup), Syrian fatteh (warm yogurt with croutons, chickpeas, garlic and mint), Moroccan-style mint tea and more. Afterward, shop for Palestinian ceramics (55 dirhams) and Egyptian mirrors (from 175 dirhams). Or score a chocolate bar made from camel’s milk. A high-end blend of East and West, it encapsulates the flavor of the new Abu Dhabi.
IF YOU GO
A sprawling low hotel complex with 128 rooms, One to One – The Village (Al Salam Street; 971-2-495-2000; onetoonehotels.com) has an impressive gym, a pool, a beer and shisha garden and several restaurants. Doubles from about 465 dirhams, or $130.
The towering Aloft hotel (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center; 971-2-654-5000; aloftabudhabi.com) has 408 rooms done in a sleek and angular style and contains the popular rooftop bar Relax@12, among others. Doubles from 405 dirhams.
Picturesque waterways run past the luxurious Shangri-La (Qaryat Al Beri; 971-2-509-8888; shangri-la.com), affording lovely views of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque on an opposite bank. Amenities include a private beachfront, the Asian-inspired Chi spa and the opulent Pearls and Caviar restaurant and lounge. Doubles from 960 dirhams. By SETH SHERWOOD
Could lead codices prove ‘the major discovery of Christian history’?
By Chris Lehmann Wed Mar 30, 11:36 am ET
British archaeologists are seeking to authenticate what could be a landmark discovery in the documentation of early Christianity: a trove of 70 lead codices that appear to date from the 1st century CE, which may include key clues to the last days of Jesus’ life. As UK Daily Mail reporter Fiona Macrae writes, some researchers are suggesting this could be the most significant find in Christian archeology since the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947.
The codices turned up five years ago in a remote cave in eastern Jordan—a region where early Christian believers may have fled after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. The codices are made up of wirebound individual pages, each roughly the size of a credit card. They contain a number of images and textual allusions to the Messiah, as well as some possible references to the crucifixion and resurrection. Some of the codices were sealed, prompting yet more breathless speculation that they could include the sealed book, shown only to the Messiah, mentioned in the Book of Revelation. One of the few sentences translated thus far from the texts, according to the BBC, reads, “I shall walk uprightly”–a phrase that also appears in Revelation. “While it could be simply a sentiment common in Judaism,” BBC writer Robert Pigott notes, “it could here be designed to refer to the resurrection.”
But the field of biblical archaeology is also prey to plenty of hoaxes and enterprising fraudsters, so investigators are proceeding with due empirical caution. Initial metallurgical research indicates that the codices are about 2,000 years old–based on the manner of corrosion they have undergone, which, as Macrae writes, “experts believe would be impossible to achieve artificially.”
Beyond the initial dating tests, however, little is confirmed about the codices or what they contain. And the saga of their discovery has already touched off a battle over ownership rights between Israel and Jordan. As the BBC’s Pigott recounts, the cache surfaced when a Jordanian Bedouin saw a menorah—the Jewish religious candleabra—exposed in the wake of a flash flood. But the codices somehow passed into the ownership of an Israeli Bedouin named Hassam Saeda, who claims that they have been in his family’s possession for the past 100 years. The Jordanian government has pledged to “exert all efforts at every level” to get the potentially priceless relics returned, Pigott reports.
Meanwhile, biblical scholars who have examined the codices point to significant textual evidence suggesting their early Christian origin. Philip Davies, emeritus professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, told Pigott he was “dumbstruck” at the sight of plates representing a picture map of ancient Jerusalem. “There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city,” Davies explained. “There are walls depicted on other pages of these books, too, and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem.”
David Elkington, an ancient religion scholar who heads the British research team investigating the find, has likewise pronounced this nothing less than “the major discovery of Christian history.” Elkington told the Daily Mail that “it is a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church.”
Still, other students of early Christian history are urging caution, citing precedents such as the debunked discovery of an ossuary said to contain the bones of Jesus’ brother James. New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado observes that since these codices are miniature, they were likely intended for private, rather than liturgical, use. This would likely place their date of origin closer to the 3rd century CE. But only further research and full translation of the codices can fully confirm the nature of the find. The larger lesson here is likely that of Ecclesiastes 3:1—be patient, since “to everything there is a season.”
Turkey’s geographical location, which features the only city to straddle two continents, Istanbul, has made it an ideal destination for living and doing business for centuries. Connecting two continents by a body of water known as the Bosphorus, Turkey is home to many ethnic backgrounds, religions and cultures. With the great cultural treasure that holds artifacts, traditions and literature, Turkey is a melting pot of many cultures and peoples. Due to its colorful and long history, this beautiful country is also a mix of old and new, eastern and western, worlds.
Culture and Customs
Modern day Turkish culture and customs are derived from European, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Slavic and Asian heritages, making it truly diverse. The three major religions of the world are also to be found within the culture, each claiming historical beginnings in the region. Other major ethnic groups include the Albanians, Arabs, Assyrians, Bosniaks, Circassians, Kurds, Laz and the three officially recognized minorities, i.e. the Armenians, Greeks and Jews. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk created what is now known as modern day Turkey; one of his primary goals was to make it a progressive, secular, unified state, which helps to illuminate Turkey’s western-leaning foundations.
Turkey is 99% Muslim despite being a secular state; the remainder of the population consists of Christians and Jews.
Turkish has been the sole official language of Turkey since the founding of the Republic in 1923.
States and Territories
Turkey consists of seven regions: the Black Sea Region, the Marmara Region, Aegean, Mediterranean, Central Anatolian, the East and Southeast Anatolian. Turkey has three major coastlines (Black Sea to the north, Mediterranean to the South and Aegean to the west).
Education is compulsory for ages 6-15 during primary school years. High schools are either 3 or 4 years long and students can choose from either public or private. The majority of Turkish adolescents attend public schools. Public schooling is free and users pay fees for private schooling. University entrance in Turkey is based on a national exam, the OSS, which allows you to attend Turkish universities based on the score received. The literacy rate is 95.3% for men and 79.6% for women.
Family is a cherished aspect of Turkish culture. Family ties here are strong, and extend far past the immediate members. Within recent years, younger generations are becoming more independent of their families and are establishing their own reputation and financial income. In rural areas, extended families tend to live together; a household might very naturally consist of parents, children, and grandparents and perhaps even aunts or uncles. Urban families mostly consist of parents and children and maybe grandparents. Because family life is so important here, children rarely move out unless they are married, even when/if they do, they still remain firmly connected and in frequent contact. Additionally, retirement homes are unheard of as their children almost always look after the elderly.
One of the most significant developments in the health care sector in Turkey recently has been the specialization of hospitals by branch, which has led to higher performance rates overall. Some of the most impressive hospitals include the Dünya Göz Hastanesi, which specializes in eye care, Acibadem Saglik Group’s Kozyatagi Acibadem Hastanesi, which specializes in neurology and oncology, and the Anadolu Saglik Merkezi, which focuses on oncology and was opened after an 80 million dollar investment. These hospitals are part of a collective with some of America’s most important medical schools including Harvard Medical and John Hopkins Medical Schools.
These investments have greatly increased the number of patients coming from abroad to receive treatment within Turkey, as well as having elevated the status of the health sector in Turkey significantly. For example, Turkey’s thermal hot springs are very popular and both locals and tourists enjoy the benefits of these natural wonders. In addition to the thermal hot springs, some of the most in demand treatments include organ transplantation, heart and eye surgeries, hair transplants and plastic surgery. Of the European and Middle Eastern countries, Danes, Norwegians and Swedes travel to Turkey in the largest numbers for treatments. Of the 100 billion dollars that will have been made in the health sector in the world, it is predicted that 10 billion dollars will belong to Turkey within the next 5 years.
The Turkish real estate sector, which experienced a surge in 2005, in Istanbul in particular, went through a golden age in the first half of 2008. Turkish real estate made significant developments in the city centre areas dominated by offices; in particular, in Istanbul, the area ranging from Barbaros Bulvari through Büyükdere Caddesi all the way to Maslak went through a major transformation during the golden years from 2005-2008. Many rented buildings and signed contracts even before the construction was done, thus elevating the status of the area and increasing the demand for even more buildings and in turn the prices as well.
Many international real estate companies are hoping to take advantage of the global economic crisis by significantly decreasing prices for real estate projects and thus filling a void in the market, by providing housing at more affordable prices.
Under the supervision of US company Pricewaterhouse- Coopers (PwC), The Urban Land Institute (ULI) prepared a ‘European Real Estate Sector New Trends Report’, earning Turkey the spotlight in 2006 for being the number one country to invest in. What made Turkey an attractive place for real estate investment were a number of things including the tourism sector’s potential, indicating the country’s need for more hotels as the report had stated. The report also stated that Istanbul and Izmir were among the most favorable cities to invest in, also due to a rise in their tourism sectors.
Recreation in Turkey tends to reflect the slower pace of European life. People of all ages enjoy meeting with friends and drinking tea, perhaps also while playing the very popular backgammon. Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Turkey and much time is spent watching, playing and discussing. The three most popular teams are Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Besiktas. Turkish people are very fond of the sun and everything that goes with it; the warmer months are spent outdoors or on the beach. Turkish people also love to dance and enjoy music, thus it is not out of the ordinary for a dinner party to turn into a dance party or sing-along. Turkey also has many impressive museums and the locals love to support the arts. Istanbul, for example, has the popular and impressive Istanbul Modern Art Museum, Sabanci Museum and Santralistanbul, just to name a few.
Though taxis are popular and inexpensive in urban areas, travelling throughout the country is usually done by bus. Traveling by water is another efficient option within the city and is popular in Istanbul and Izmir. One of the most exciting projects of late is the subway system, which is being worked on and developed. The aim is for the subway system to eventually be as impressive as that of any other European city. Istanbul has also been enjoying the addition of the Metrobus, which runs from Levent to the Airport; it is fast, inexpensive and easy. The best part about it? It has it’s own lane on the freeway, thus bypassing traffic completely.
Everyone has the right to work in Turkey if they have the right documentation and work permit. How quickly you can find a job in Turkey depends on economic factors, qualifications and skills, the type of work you are seeking, and particular circumstances that may affect the availability of certain types of work in different parts of the country. The government sets laws on wages and work conditions. The laws are about the types of legal agreements that define the work relationship between employers and employees. The agreements determine the amount paid to an employee, the hours worked and conditions such as safety, leave, allowances, training, anti discrimination and more. However, within private institutions working agreements are made between employer and employee directly. If you do not already have a source of income or a job available, and provided your visa allows it, you will need to look for work.