Iceland Golden Circle guide: Big attractions and hidden secrets

SOURCE: CNN.com

(CNN)With dreamy landscapes and an out-of-this-world feel, it’s not surprising that the Golden Circle tour is considered one of the best things to do in Iceland.

Better still, especially for those using the volcanic island as a brief stopover between North America and Europe, it can be done in a day as part of a bus tour or self-drive.
There’s a downside though.
That ease of access, and the ethereal allure of this geological wonderland, means the Golden Circle can get a little busy, particularly when the tour buses arrive.
Not only that, but in following that well-worn trail, visitors could be missing out on equally stunning, but somewhat more hidden marvels elsewhere in Iceland.
To help, we’ve put together a guide to the Golden Circle that offers alternatives to the big attractions for those with extra time on their hands and adventure on their minds.

Þingvellir National Park

Thingvellir, or Thingvellir as many people pronounce it, is a national park and an extraordinary first stop on the Golden Circle tour.
Here, under what looks like the solid ground of Iceland, the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are splitting apart a few centimeters (an inch) each year, meaning that eventually the island will be pulled in two at this spot.
ingvellir also holds cultural and historical value for Icelanders — it’s here that the Althing, the national parliament of Iceland, was established in 930 AD, making it the site of the first Viking parliament.
Sessions were held until the end of the 18th century, when the parliament moved to Reykjavik.
While it’s rugged and filled with boulders, ravines and creeks with crystal-clear water, it’s easily accessible by trails.

Gullfoss

Skálholt

Skalholt Cathedral is an important structure in Icelandic history, having been a bishop’s seat since 1056, and the location of the country’s first school.

It’s also the site of the bloody ending of Catholicism in Iceland in 1550 when the last Catholic bishop was executed here along with his two sons, clearing the way for the Lutheran church.
The current Cathedral is large compared to most Icelandic churches, and its white walls and tower can be seen far away.
Visitors can stay overnight in dormitories and cottages in summer, and classical concerts take place here in July.

Nesjavellir geothermal power plant

Many streets in Reykjavik are heated in winter thanks to the geothermal fields around the city which provide a supply of hot water straight from the ground.
Some of the water comes from the foothills of the active mountain Hengill on the Golden Circle route.
The geothermal areas here are among the most powerful high-temperature fields in Iceland, and are processed by the Nesjavellir plant, which is open to visitors.
Perched in the hills, it looks more like a moon base than a power plant, and it’s equally fascinating to learn about the way the water is processed here.
That sulfur-smelling hot water in the hotel shower in Reykjavik? It’s probably also from Nesjavellir.

Secret Lagoon

A dip into the geothermal waters at the Secret Lagoon, a public pool built over natural hot springs in the small village of Fludir completes the Golden Circle loop.
The name is misleading. It’s not really that secret anymore, but it’s still a relaxing way to end a busy day.
The water here stays at 38-40 C (100-104 F) throughout year, and there’s even a small geyser visible from the pool which erupts every five minutes.
Visit in winter and there’s a chance of seeing the Northern Lights while bobbing in the hot water.

Beyond the Golden Circle

Northern Lights put on stunning display

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After knocking off the Golden Circle classics, it’s worth livening up any Icelandic adventure with a few bonus outdoor wonders a bit farther from Reykjavik.
Here are three extra spots to add to the Nordic adventure:

Reykjanes Geopark

The Mid-Atlantic ridge comes ashore on the Reykjanes peninsula between Reykjavik and the international airport in Keflavik.
The newly opened Reykjanes Geopark is one of the only places on earth where it’s visible above water.
The park is home to breathtaking geological formations — including the geothermal area of Gunnuhver, where the ground is constantly erupting with boiling mud and hot steam wafting across silica hills.
Geology here goes back many millennia, with the last series of eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula beginning around AD 1000.
Fittingly, Gunnuhver is named after a ghost that allegedly plagued locals 400 years ago.

Asbyrgi

Ásbyrgicanyon lies in northern Iceland, about an hour’s drive east of the northern city of Hsavk.
The horseshoe-shaped depression is part of Vatnajkull National Park and, for over half of its length, the canyon is divided by a distinctive, 25-meter-high (82 feet) rock formation called Eyjan (Island), where hikers can enjoy spectacular views.
sbyrgi was formed by glacial flooding after the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago. The wooded canyon with steep cliffs up to 100 meters (328 feet) is popular with hikers and locals camping here in summer.
A rare wooded area on a volcanic island, visitors to sbyrgi can hike up to the cliffs or even play a round of golf on the nearby course.
From the cliffs, one might even glean the mythological origin of the canyon: according to legend the canyon was formed when Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, touched one of its feet to the ground here.

Hraunfossar

Cameras ready? Hraunfossar, near Reykholt in western Iceland, is a series of beautiful waterfalls streaming over a distance of about 900 meters (2,950 feet) out of Hallmundarhraun, a porous lava field.
The waterfalls pour into the Hvítá  river from ledges in the hardened lava, flowing dramatically out from what looks like solid ground.
Just upstream is another smaller waterfall called Barnafoss, or waterfall of children.

Source: CNN.com

 

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/04/travel/iceland-golden-circle-guide/index.html

Peru’s Andean Explorer: A luxury train journey on the roof of the world

 

SOURCE: CNN.com

(CNN)Long train journeys are inescapably romantic. They’re all about the journey; the destination is irrelevant and distance is an ally.

SOURCE: CNN.com

 

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/01/travel/peru-andean-explorer-luxury-train-journey/index.html

You don’t need to go far to discover new, unique experiences

Image: the Diplomat Beach Resort Hollywood, Curio Collection by Hilton
 SOURCE: mashable.com

We all want to travel the world. Who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture and discover what life is like somewhere else?

But let’s face it that’s not always possible. A recent survey by Hilton revealed that 29% of Americans say that limited time is the biggest thing preventing them from taking a vacation. Whether we’re dealing with limited time off, financial hurdles, or maybe even a fear of flying, sometimes taking a vacation for longer than a weekend just isnt an option.

Luckily, there are ways around this roadblock and Curio Collection by Hilton offers one-of-a-kind hotels stateside along with some local guides to make your vacation or weekend getaway memorable #IRL so you dont have to partake in the #bowwowchallenge.

The United States is bursting with its own unique culture. There are many different things each region has to offer the discerning traveler, and there’s no shortage of activities to keep you occupied.

At these five unique hotels and resorts, you can get a remarkable vacation experience without ever leaving the U.S. And since each hotel is part of the Hilton Honors guest-loyalty program you can rack up points to use toward free nights, bypass the front desk with Digital Check-In on the Hilton Honors App and much more.

Image: markthomas/pixabay

Image: John Cole for The Darcy Washington D.C., Curio Collection by Hilton

1. The Darcy Washington D.C.,CurioCollection by Hilton

Want to get in touch with your American pride? There’s no better place to do that than in the nation’s capital.

This gorgeous hotel complete with a Haberdashery and a complimentary cocktail hour for guests is centrally located in the trendy 14th Street corridor near Logan Circle. The prime location allows you to see all the famous monuments you want before catching a meal in one of DC’s hottest new restaurants, Siren a farm-to-table restaurant from acclaimed chefs Robert Wiedmaier and Brian McBride, which is located in The Darcy and features fresh seafood, a raw bar, and live jazz.

You’re also not too far from several Smithsonian Institute museums and galleries such as the Hirshhorn; the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, which holds Jazz in the Garden during the summer months; the New Columbia Distillers, where you can partake in tours and tastings from the creators of Green Hat gin; and more fun and educational places to explore.

Need to brighten up your day? No problem, because this hotel features a bi-monthly pop-up Flower Bar through a partnership with local start-up UrbanStems.

Image: LondonHouse Chicago, Curio Collection by Hilton

Image: Neal Kumar for LondonHouse Chicago, Curio Collection by Hilton

2. LondonHouse Chicago,CurioCollection by Hilton

For an authentic taste of the Midwest, Chicago is the place to go and this iconic hotel is the place to stay.

LondonHouse Chicago boasts a structure that is almost 100 years old. Originally opened as the London Guarantee Building in 1923, the historic, award-winning work of architecture was recently restored to pay homage to its storied past while also embracing modern amenities. It also features the citys only tri-level rooftop with sweeping views of the city.

This is a phenomenal city for food-lovers. Not only is Chicago famous for hot dogs and deep-dish pizza, but they also have some great places to indulge for dessert. Fans of ice cream, for example, should make it a point to visit Jeni’s.

Avid Instagrammers and SnapChatters will want to take advantage of the beautiful views and architecture in this city, perhaps on a Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise a favorite even among locals.

Image: Ames Boston Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton

Image: tpsdave/pixabay

3. Ames Boston Hotel,CurioCollection by Hilton

Ah, Beantown a city that perfectly encapsulates all the unique passion, history, and charm of New England.

Ames Boston Hotel is located right in the middle of the city, so you wont have to go far to check out what Boston has to offer. And with complimentary bicycles (available seasonally) its easy to explore the city from the stylish hotel.

And if history is your thing, be sure to check out the Freedom Trail, Paul Revere’s House, and the Old State House. For shopping, food, and caf’s, Faneuil Hall is your perfect spot. For a bite with a view, stop in at Granary Tavern gastropub and enjoy the patio overlooking the lush Rose F. Kennedy Greenway.

And all those sports fans out there will absolutely have something to root for. You can see where the Celtics or the Bruins play at TD Garden, or cheer on the Red Sox at the famous Fenway Park. (But beware of the Green Monster!)

Image: Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa, Curio Collection by Hilton

Image:

Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa, Curio Collection by Hilton

4. Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa,CurioCollection by Hilton

For a more relaxing getaway, head to Indian Wells in California just a short drive from Palm Springs.

Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa is the perfect place to unwind amid olive trees and citrus groves. Guest rooms and suites feature sprawling views of the Santa Rosa Mountains, and you’ll have plenty of space to spread out. It’s the home of the 12,000 square foot Well Spa a must-visit for anyone who needs some recharging, complete with a courtyard with two private saltwater pools.

Even if a spa isn’t your thing, the resorts immaculate manicured gardens and palm tree-lined roads will put your mind at ease and allow you to exhale for a while.

Coffee-lovers will need to check out IW Coffee, famous for their awesome latte art.

And it wouldn’t be a trip to sunny California without some sushi. Make sure you stop into Misaki Sushi & Grill to get your fix.

Image: The Diplomat Beach Resort Hollywood, Curio Collection by Hilton

Image: the Diplomat Beach Resort Hollywood, Curio Collection by Hilton

5. The Diplomat Beach Resort Hollywood,CurioCollection by Hilton

Nope, not that Hollywood. The East Coast one.

If you’re looking for a beach resort, this is the one to visit. The glamourous hotel fresh off a $100 million transformation complete with celebrity chef restaurants has breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway. If you want to just chill out on their (private) beach, make way for the shore and dig your toes into the sand. But more active types will also find this area enticing.

There’s a boardwalk for you to peruse and a ton of shops to explore. Fans of contemporary art will need to check out the interactive fountains created by Japanese artist Ritsuko Taho in Arts Park at Young Circle.

For the perfect night out, visit The Village at Gulfstream Park. There, you can see some live entertainment or give gaming a try.

So no matter what corner of our beautiful country you decide to visit, these places will offer you an authentically local experience you’ll never forget. All Curio Collection hotels are bookable online or by using the Hilton Honors mobile app, where members get the best rates and other exclusive benefits including Digital Key and Points Pooling to make that weekend getaway or summer vacation with friends a reality.

 SOURCE: mashable.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/30/unexpected-travel-destinations/

Mauritius: The best Africa destination you know almost nothing about

 

SOURCE: CNN.com

 

(CNN)Mauritius is a model of true democracy for every African country.

First, I want to argue on behalf of the title of this article; that this tropical island 2,000 miles off the southeast coast of Africa does indeed provide a template for a model African travel destination.

1. Mauritius: The Island

When your island is surrounded by perfect white sand beaches, themselves surrounded by the stunning blue Indian Ocean, and the center of the island contains mountains and breathtaking scenery, plus almost year-round sunshine, it’s difficult to be miserable.
I lived in Mauritius for more than three and a half years until June 2010, enjoying its scenery and also witnessing its democratic impetus firsthand.
Since gaining independence in 1968 there’s never been a coup, or military or populist uprising of any kind on this small Indian Ocean island (just more than 2,000 square kilometres in size).
The population of almost 1.3 million is 68 percent Indian, but also comprises Creole, Chinese, French, plus a smattering of English and South Africans.
Between them they speak English (the country’s official language), French, Mauritian Creole, Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Bhojpuri and Hakka.
Often, the sound of the native Sega music (an Indian Ocean version of calypso) inspires dancing and laughing on the beaches all night.
Participants refresh themselves with the local ice cold Phoenix beer, the occasional Green Island rum and Coke and barbecue, freshly caught seafood like snapper, dorado, prawns, octopus and lobster.
Yet any holiday on Mauritius needn’t be a laze on the sand.
For sightseers there are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Aapravasi Ghat and Le Morne Cultural Landscape), the colonial capital of Port Louis, one of the oldest horseracing tracks in the world at Champs de Mars, one of the world’s best botanical gardens at Pamplemousses, the Blue Penny Museum (home to one of the world’s rarest stamps), the Black River Gorges National Park and the Casela Wildlife Park, where you can walk with lion cubs.
To get to any of these, or just to get around Mauritius, you can use taxis (find a good one on your first day and stick with him), hire a car or use one of the many tour companies in Mauritius like White Sands Tours (www.whitesandstours.com) or Mauritours (www.mauritours.net).
Living on Mauritius can also be cheap, with a modest one bedroom flat costing from US$320 a month, car rental from US$350 a month and utility bills much cheaper than most countries.

2. Food

The cuisine of Mauritius is a blend of Creole, Chinese, European and Indian. It’s common for a combination of cuisines to form part of the same meal.
Strong ties with the French (who ruled the island from 1710-1810) has meant that even today French dishes such as bouillon, tuna salad, daube and coq au vin are popular, while Indian workers who migrated to Mauritius brought their cuisine with them, making curries, chutney, rougaille (tomato paste that’s popular especially when served with fish) and pickles popular especially when given a unique Mauritian flavor.
The arrival of Chinese migrants at the end of the 19th century led to rice becoming part of the staple diet of the island and noodles, both steamed and fried, became common.
Chinese appetizers such as crispy chicken and crispy squid have also become part of the Mauritian diet.
Le Chteau de Bel Ombre: Located in the south of the island this lovingly restored 19th-century colonial mansion is the best restaurant on Mauritius.
In an elegant setting, la carte fusion food is served, while on Saturday, Mauritian night, there’s the chance to try authentic island dishes.
Domaine de Bel Ombre, Southwest Mauritius; +230-266-9768;
Domaine Anna: One of my favorites when I lived close by in Flic en Flac, this spectacular Chinese restaurant is set in the midst of sugar cane fields.
At night guests are greeted with lit torches along the driveway and eat in individual gazebos set on manmade lakes within tropical gardens in this palatial restaurant.
All the vegetables are grown locally and there’s live music and dancing at weekends.
Domaine Anna Restaurant, Mdine, Flic en Flac, West Coast; +230 453 9650.

3. Activities

Land sports: Any resort hotel will also have its own people to provide you with almost any land sport you want. Otherwise, companies such as Yemaya (www.yemayaadventures.com) provide mountain biking, hiking, kayaking and cycling.
Mauritius Horse Trails (www.mauritiushorsetrails.com) can take you on some wonderful horseback tours of the island.
Golf: There are seven great golf courses on the island, the best being Golf du Chateau and the Four Seasons Golf Club at Anahita, plus several nine-hole courses.
Deep sea fishing: Mauritius has some of the best deep sea fishing in the world and the Marlin World Cup (www.marlinworldcup.com) is held here every February/March.
Best expert charters on the island are run by JP Henry Charters Ltd (www.blackriver-mauritius.com).
Mountain trekking: There are well more than 20 great mountains to trek up. The best people to guide you here are YANATURE (www.trekkingilemaurice.com).
Watersports: Any resort hotel will have its own people to provide you with any watersport you can think of.
Any village on the coast will likewise have several companies to do the same. Just ask and any Mauritian will tell you where to go.
Shopping: Local arts and crafts stores can be found in most villages, as well as designer factory outlets that sell Ralph Lauren and other brands at a fraction of European prices.
And there’s the magnificent shopping mall at Caudan Waterfront (www.caudan.com) in Port Louis.

4. Hotels

Mauritius is filled with luxurious five-star hotels and resorts, plus plenty of budget options. For a list of accommodation on Mauritius visit www.mauritius.net. Meanwhile here are a few of my favorites.
Lakaz Chamarel: Mauritius has numerous small boutique hotels well off the beaten track and, for my money, this is the best.
It’s located high in the Chamarel hills in the south of the island and has 20 luxurious guest rooms and a superb restaurant.
With rates starting at around MUR4,700 (US$160) a night it’s not cheap by island standards, but its tropical surroundings are worth it.
Piton Canot, Chamarel; +230 483 5240; www.lakazchamarel.com
Le Touessrok: This great place is on the island’s east coast, with luxurious rooms, most with Indian Ocean views, a great golf course on its own island, regular shows at night and a wonderful selection of restaurants of which Three-Nine-Eight, serving cuisine from nine different countries, is unparalleled.
Trou d’Eau Douce, Flacq; +230 402 7400; www.letouessrokresort.com
Villa Paul Et Virginie Hotel: Located in Flic en Flac on the west coast, the Villa Paul et Virginie is a beautiful hotel for those on a tight budget.
Just two minutes walk from the beach and serving excellent food, this 12-room hotel has an outside bar covered with a huge honeysuckle plant that provides welcome shade from the noonday sun.

5. Seven-day itinerary

Day one: You can get over the long flight by relaxing on the beach, snorkeling in the beautiful Indian Ocean and chilling out with a few local beers and fresh-caught seafood.
Good to know: Mauritius has some of the best spas in the world at all the major resort hotels.
Day two: Sightseeing in the south. Start with the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the magnificent Le Morne mountain then head up into the Chamarel hills for lunch at one of the roadside Creole restaurants.
After lunch take in the Black River Gorges National Park before watching the sun slowly set at Le Chamarel Restaurant, which has incredible views across the south of the island, Le Morne and the Indian Ocean beyond.
Day three: Time for some sport or, for sun worshippers, some lazing on the beach or by a pool. Otherwise play golf, go deep sea fishing, mountain trekking, mountain biking or maybe take a cruise around the island.
The golf clubs will have great restaurants for lunch and the other activities will provide packed lunches.
Day four: If this is the first Saturday of your trip, Saturday is Port Louis day. You could spend the morning touring the old colonial center of town before grabbing lunch at Champ de Mars, the oldest horseracing track in the southern hemisphere.
In the evening, the huge Caudan Waterfront shopping center (home to the Blue Penny Museum) offers a chance to pick up souvenirs, enjoy street entertainers and find a good restaurant for dinner.
Day five: Sightseeing in the north. Visit Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens at Pamplemousses, one of the best botanical gardens in the world. Spend a long morning here then take a late lunch in ritzy Grand Baie, Mauritius’ main tourist spot.
After lunch explore the wild north including Grand Gaube, where the British first landed on Mauritius, before returning to Grand Baie for dinner and to enjoy the nightlife.
Day six: Shopping day. Souvenirs. The Central Plateau area around Phoenix and Curepipe is great for this with several large malls, arts and crafts markets, and the Mauritian Glass Gallery where, in addition to picking up all manner of souvenirs made entirely of glass, you can watch the glass blowers at work and tour the Glass Museum. Have lunch in one of the malls and find a really romantic restaurant for dinner on the way back to your hotel.
Day seven: It’s your last day in paradise. Go to the Casela Wildlife Park (www.caselayemen.mu) and walk with lion cubs if you’ve got time.
Tony Smart is a lifelong golf fanatic and journalist who’s been lucky enough to play golf all over the world. He has written for a wide variety of magazines including Golf Digest Ireland, Golf World, Golf Monthly, Golf International, The Robb Report, Asian Golf Monthly, Golf Vacations and The Peak.
Editor’s note: This article was previously published in 2013. It was reformatted, updated and republished in 2017.

SOURCE: CNN.com

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/06/travel/mauritius-best-africa-destination/index.html

Hawaii travel tips: What to do — and what to avoid

SOURCE: CNN.com

(CNN)Looking to get to Hawaii without blowing your child’s college fund? Want to experience the islands but not sure when to go?

Here’s how to avoid costly and exhausting mistakes during your Hawaiian vacation.
Don’t travel to Hawaii during school holidays.
Tourists crowd Hawaii’s stunning beaches in summer and winter. During school holidays, flight and hotel rates are off the charts — between Christmas and New Years, condos and vacation rentals can run three times as much as rates in early December.
Do visit Hawaii in the off-season.
Hands down the best values on visiting Hawaii can be found in May and October. With prices reasonably low and the weather at its peak — not too hot, not too rainy — take advantage of the perks of off-season travel to jet off to the islands. Current spring and fall flight deals from the West Coast are half of July rates.
Additionally, hotels and condos generally slash their prices off-season, rewarding visitors with oceanfront accommodations that typically sell out in peak months.
Don’t blow your whole budget on a luxury resort.
While staying in a luxurious Hawaiian resort where birds flutter through the open-air lobby and fresh papaya is served at the swim-up bar is nice, it is likely to cost between $400-$600 a night in high season. Instead, fork over the cash for a lomilomi massage and gourmet seafood dinner, and make your own poolside Mai Tai at a rental condo.
Do consider staying in a condo.
Repeat visitors know to rent a condo. Kitchens, ample square footage, washing machines and privacy afford travelers a more authentic (and often less costly) vacation experience.
It’s common for numerous companies to manage individual units in the same complex, meaning one property may be decked out by a globetrotting interior decorator, while another may be awash in wicker. Be sure to see photos of the particular condo you’re interested in and get specifics on the number and configuration of beds.
Don’t try to see everything.
While each island has its own personality, it is too expensive (and exhausting) to island-hop the entire archipelago on one vacation. Inter-island flights generally run between $70-$140 each way and most travel to Oahu, so if you want to get from Kauai to the Big Island, you might have to stop in Honolulu and basically pay the equivalent of two inter-island flights each way.
Do stick to one or two islands.
Each region on each island has its own flavor. The north and east sides of the islands are more tropical, while the south and west regions offer sunnier skies and a more arid landscape.
Instead of island hopping, break your trip up by staying in a plush hotel within walking distance of a sunny south shore beach and then cozy up in a rental house near the more tropical (read: rainy) north shore. If you want to island-hop on the cheap, Maui offers ferry service to Lanai and Molokai.
Don’t fall for the luau.
Most luaus are overpriced and far from the real thing (usually family events on a beach for a first birthday). While they seem like an authentic experience, you can actually piece together the highlights of a luau yourself.
Grab a picnic of poke, lomi lomi, fresh pineapple, and poi from a local market. In the evenings at most malls on Kauai and Maui, and at sunset at Waikiki Beach, you can watch free hula shows featuring some of Hawaii’s best dancers.
Do splurge on an adventure.
Whether you fancy diving deep into the sea, soaring over waterfalls on a helicopter tour, or a kayak trip along the Na Pali Coast, treat yourself to at least one adventure. Be sure to book early in your trip in case of bad weather.
And lastly, do not forget to relax on the beach.
No need to be on a boat, or a horse, or a helicopter, or a zip line the whole time. Save time to enjoy Hawaii’s world-class beaches. From the shore, you can walk right out into the sea and snorkel with sea turtles, angelfish and monk seals basically for free.
As the sun descends over the Pacific, unwind under a coconut palm and watch the sky burst with color as surfers ride the last sunlit waves onto the white sand.
Michele Bigley is the author of “Great Destinations, Kauai” (Countryman Press) and the upcoming “Backroads and Byways of Hawaii” (Countryman Press).

This article was originally published in May 2012.
SOURCE: CNN.com

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/27/travel/hawaii-travel-tips/index.html

Barbados holiday guide: the best beaches, restaurants, bars and places to stay

SOURCE: www.theguardian.com

Barbados holiday guide:

You dont need a pop stars budget to enjoy the palm trees and sunny Caribbean sea of this popular island. Genie Austin reveals her homelands best beaches, cheap eats, rum shops and typically tropical activities

 

When I tell people Im from Barbados, I usually get some variation of the same response. Ooh, paradise, they say, as they conjure up coconut trees, tropical drinks, bright sunshine and foam-crested azure waves.

But on an island where holidays can come at shockingly high prices, this idea of paradise feels woefully beyond the reach of the average traveller. However, as every Bajan knows, the charms of this tiny coral island between the Caribbean and the Atlantic can be unlocked without breaking the bank at a luxury hotel or being limited by a package deal.

There are plenty of charming low-cost hotels, cheap-and-cheerful eateries and bars, under-the-radar beaches and free or low-cost fun activities to be enjoyed if you know where to look.

Barbados map

WHAT TO DO

Take a hike

Barbados doesnt have soaring peaks, waterfalls, rivers or tropical rainforests like some of its neighbours. Nevertheless, it is a tropical island, and its vegetation can be lush, wild, and breathtakingly beautiful. Hike Barbados is a local organisation that conducts free hikes through less accessible areas. Its three-hour hikes run throughout the year, with morning walks starting at 6am, afternoon walks at 3.30pm, and moonlight walks at 5.30pm.
barbados.org/hike.htm

Watch the sun sunrise at Farley Hill

Old
Old 19th-century Sugar Plantation House, Farley Hill. Photograph: Alamy

At least once during every visit to Barbados, we get up 45 minutes before dawn and drive to Farley Hill national park to watch the sunrise. Farley Hill, a ruined plantation house, is worth a visit on its own merits, but try sitting atop the hill in its grounds overlooking the Atlantic one cool morning, and watch the sky gradually lighten before the sun finally makes its dramatic appearance. All the while, blackbirds and wood doves lend their approval to this feat of nature, as the wind whistles through the large casuarina trees along the hilltops ridge. Its an unforgettable experience. And although its an isolated spot, its quite safe. On our last visit we noticed the park has added an overnight security guard at the entrance.
barbados.org/fhill.htm

Catch a drive-in movie

I grew up going to open-air, drive-in cinemas, so was surprised to find theyre not the norm everywhere. Theres still one in Barbados, the Globe Drive-In in Vauxhall, and I always go when Im home because its a unique experience. Tickets are 6. If your accommodation will permit it, take blankets and pillows for a picnic under the stars while you watch your flick. Youll be almost entirely among locals, and when the film reaches a dramatic moment like the satisfying death of a villain be ready for the chorus of car horns beeping their approval.
globedrivein.mobi

See the Christmas parade

Christmas
Photograph: Alamy

If you have the good fortune to be in Barbados in the festive season, head to Queens Park in the capital, Bridgetown, on Christmas morning, where dressed up people promenade in a ritual going back over 100 years. The park, formerly the grounds of the Commander of the British troops in the West Indies, was acquired by the government in the early 1900s. In 1907 it commissioned the Royal Barbados Police Band to hold free morning Christmas concerts to establish it as a peoples park. Youll be blown away by the colourful and outlandish outfits, sexy Santa costumes and splendid ballgowns. Walking around in 30C heat, rum punch in hand, caught up in the festivity of a tropical Christmas, sums up for me the meaning of peace on Earth and goodwill to all men.

BEST BEACHES

Barbados has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean and although in recent years erosion has taken its toll, there are still many unspoilt gems. The key is to choose a beach based on what you want to do, or not do.

Paradise Beach

Paradise
Photograph: Getty Images

The west coast of Barbados is fringed by the calm Caribbean, so is ideal for relaxing. I have a few favourites here, but Paradise Beach is my top pick. It gets its name from a hotel that was here until the 1980s. With its closure, and efforts to open another hotel stalled for years, its an oasis of peace, interrupted only by the occasional boat or jet ski. Most visitors have no idea the beach exists you get there by walking south from neighbouring Batts Rock Beach but its a wonderful place for relaxing, swimming and enjoying the peace.

Paynes Bay

Beach
Photograph: Hans-Peter Merten/Getty Images

My second-favourite beach on this coast is a great place to try jet skiing, sailing and waterskiing, and for finding a boat to go swimming with hawksbill and leatherback turtles. There are organised tours from 80, but the many local operators of jet skis and boats will do deals for around half that for a 30-minute excursion, including snorkelling equipment. Paynes Bay is a short walk from the Sandy Lane Hotel beach, for some discreet spotting of celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Wahlberg, and Naomi Watts.

Pebbles Beach

For a more meditative beach experience head just south of Bridgetown. The water in this sheltered bay is quite still, making it an excellent place for standup paddleboarding (SUP). Paddle Barbados offers classes at 50 for a 90-minute group class, and SUP Yoga at 30 for a 75-minute class.
paddlebarbados.com

WHERE TO EAT

Eating out in Barbados can be very expensive, and food costs can exceed those of accommodation. Happily, though, there are plenty of good inexpensive eateries on both sides of the island.

Sand Dunes Bar and Restaurant, Windy Hill

This restaurant on the islands rugged east coast is one of my favourites. The food is simple and unpretentious but fresh and full of flavour. The menu changes daily and consists of local favourites such as breadfruit coucou (mashed with butter and milk), salt fish with gravy, and a salad or side vegetables. There may also be fried flying fish served with rice and peas, and macaroni pie. A full meal will cost around 12 a head.
Ermy Bourne Highway, Windy Hill, +1 246 422 9427

Animal Flower Cave, North Point

Animal

Aside from the delicious, if slightly pricy, food rotis from 13, salads from 10 what makes this restaurant stand out is its location on the cliffs of North Point, where between December and April humpback whales can be spotted playing in the surf. Beneath the restaurant is the islands only accessible sea cave, Animal Flower cave, known for its fascinating sea anemones (animal flowers). Guided visits adult 8, child 4.
+1 246 439 8797, animalflowercave.com

Orange Street Grocer, Speightstown

Orange

Bajans are not big coffee drinkers, but a handful of places serve really good coffee, and this beautifully designed cafe, with a large terrace overlooking the ocean, is one of them. Its a great place to start the morning or watch the sun go down in the evening. It serves salads, pizza and other light fare, but I find these a little pricey, so usually stick to coffee and one of their tasty desserts, which cost around 6.
theorangestreetgrocer.com

Cuzs Fish Shack, near Pebbles Beach

Cuzs

Even if youre not staying on the south coast, pay a visit to this colourful and somewhat ramshackle Barbadian equivalent of a food truck. Cuz first became a favourite among divers and surfers on nearby Pebbles Beach. The cutters the local term for any sandwich made using a bun known as salt bread are filled with fried steakfish, tomato, lettuce, Bajan pepper sauce and a bit of mayo, with optional toppings of cheese or a fried egg. They cost 25 and are delicious with a cold Banks beer or a Plus, an energy drink made from sugar cane.
On Facebook

WHERE TO DRINK

Rum shops, everywhere

John
John Moore Bar; one of many rum shops on the island. Photograph: Alamy

Bajans like to boast that Barbados is the birthplace of rum. Records show that the honour might actually belong to Brazil, but Barbados is the unrivalled champion of the rum shop scene in the Caribbean they have been part of our landscape for more than 300 years. They come in every shape, colour and size, and are much more than just a bar: theyre a place for friends to meet, drink, talk politics, tell jokes, and play dominoes. And they are incredibly cheap. In general, a beer costs about 1.50, a rum punch (a deliciously refreshing concoction of rum, lime juice, sugar cane syrup, a splash of Angostura Bitters and a scrape of nutmeg) is 4, and a small bottle of rum is just 2. The best approach is to simply walk into any shop that catches your fancy they are convivial places where everyone is welcomed.

One Love Bar, Holetown

One

On one of my return visits, I wandered into this bar with my husband Andrew. Id never been there before, but we were tired and needed a break from the heat. We ordered two bottles of Plus, and were promptly told by one of the patrons, who was already pretty plastered at 3pm, that men dont drink Plus. He then proceeded to pour Andrew some of his white rum, and there followed a pleasant afternoon of aimless, good-natured chatter and much drinking. One Love Bar is a bit of an anomaly among the expensive restaurants and swanky boutiques of the west coast, and were always relieved when we return to see it still there going strong.
1st Street, Holetown, on Facebook

Bay Tavern, Martins Bay

Bajans come from all corners to this east coast fishing village to lime (hang out) and fire a rum. Thursday afternoons are particularly popular, so stop by then as it has a real party atmosphere. It also does lunch and dinner. Local dishes, grilled marlin, rice and peas and fried plantain, say, are delicious at around 10.
On Facebook

WHERE TO STAY

South Gap Hotel, St Lawrence Gap

South
Photograph: Leslie St John

The south coast of Barbados has a party reputation, so this is the place for those whose idea of a perfect holiday involves frequent nights out. The South Gap is a modern hotel with pool, restaurant and bar in St Lawrence Gap, a lively 1.3 km stretch of road in the parish of Christ Church. A studio for two with balcony and mini kitchen costs from 100 B&B.
southgapbarbados.com

Beckys by the Sea, Fitts Village

Beckys

Just across the road from the beach in Fitts Village on the west coast, this modern guesthouse has two en suite rooms from around 50 a night. Guests have use of living areas, several patios and kitchen. Beckys doesnt offer breakfast but promises that youll wake to freshly brewed coffee, herbal teas, local fruit and juice when in season. For more substantial fare, take a bus to Holetown, a few miles up the road, where BeannBagel cafe does a real Bajan breakfast of fried flying fish and bakes (the local version of a pancake) or a more traditional cooked breakfast.
beckysbythesea.com

The Stables, Little Holders House, Holetown

Stables
Photograph: Genie Austin

For 55 a night for two, this spacious, fully equipped cottage a few miles further up the west coast has a large patio, open-plan layout and a mixture of traditional and modern furniture. It offers quintessential Caribbean living.
airbnb.com

Rostrevor Hotel, St Lawrence Gap

Rostrevor
Photograph: Leslie St John

The most affordable approach to a Barbados family holiday is to self-cater, but to escape household chores, try the Rostrevor Hotel. This beachfront property on the south coast has doubles with small kitchens from about 94 a night room only. It also has a poolside bar-restaurant.
rostrevorbarbados.com

SOURCE: www.theguardian.com

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/mar/25/barbados-holiday-guide-best-beaches-bars-restaurants-hotels

8 challenge vacations that’ll turn you into a superhuman

(CNN)Getting in shape for vacation isn’t just about looking good in a bikini.

In fact, the only way to make hiking through the Sahara Desert in roasting heat or skiing through the Arctic Circle any tougher would be to do it in a bikini.
One thing’s for sure, competing in these events involves life-changing levels of fitness.

Arctic Circle Race (Greenland)

Three days, 160 kilometers and a whole load of snow.
The Arctic Circle Race, which takes place near Sisimiut on Greenland’s west coast, is colder than it sounds as it takes place 65 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle.
Sleeping in tents, if they survive the fierce winds, competitors must negotiate temperatures around -30 C (-22 F) and hope their clothes don’t freeze during the night.
It all starts on April 1 — but this is no April Fools.
“When you start the race then it’s exciting but along the way you use all your energy,” Nukannguaq Geisler of Greenland says on the competition’s official site.
“So you get more and more tired. So the last 10 kilometers you think you can do it, especially the last day and when you reach the goal there’s a lot of emotion.”
Sounds a bit much?
There’s the ACR 100 which covers, as the name suggests, 100 kilometers.
And there’s also a short race for children.
There’s one event that goes beyond all the others.
The Marathon des Sables, which takes place in the Moroccan Sahara Desert, is a grueling six-day trek in one of the world’s harshest climates.
The 254-kilometer ultra marathon attracts daredevils from across the world with some as old as 78 facing the 49 C heat while running up and down sand dunes.
Even the rests sound grueling.
Runners must sleep in bivouacs along with seven other competitors.
They also have to prepare and pack their own food for the entire race.
This is not an event for the halfhearted.
Organizers advise weekly runs of between 160 to 190 kilometers in the lead-up to the marathon.
If that’s not enough, wearing a practice backpack weighing between 3-10 kilograms is also recommended.
Anyone who hasn’t been training at least three times a week for months on end can forget entering this one.
And if you not dare enter the full marathon but still want a challenge there is a new half marathon that will take place in September 2017.
Half Marathon, September 25-30, 2017
Got three friends?
Think they’ll still be your friends after trekking with you through the heart of southern Chilean Patagonia?
Then this could be the ideal challenge.
In teams of four, which must be mixed sex, competitors take on a course ranging from 600 to 800 kilometers, depending on the year.
The race route is only revealed 24 hours before the start and takes in a number of different conditions including the large glaciers of the Campo de Hielo Sur (Southern Ice Fields), uninhabited forests and running rivers.
Compass, map navigation and route planning skills are crucial for any chance of victory.
All teams will have to negotiate trekking through mountains, cycling and kayaking for up to 150 kilometers.
Only half of the teams that set out typically manage to finish the course.

Iditarod Trail Invitational ultra marathon

The Iditarod Trail Invitational is so tough that in 2012, no one managed to complete its toughest event.
It claims to be the world’s longest ultra marathon by bike, foot or ski.
Staged in Alaska, it offers competitors the choice of running, riding or skiing 350 miles (563 kilometers) from Knik to McGrath, or pushing on 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) to Nome.
Training is a must — the freezing winter conditions are unforgiving.
“We offer very little support, and we wanna keep it that way. It’s an adventure and these people have to be prepared,” race director Kathi Merchant told Alaska’s KSKA public radio.
“But also they’re very much on their own and they do enjoy that solitude and the experience of the wilderness of Alaska. They don’t want an aid station every 10 miles and people everywhere.”
in 2014, David Johnston broke the record for the 350-mile foot record by reaching McGrath in just over four days.
John Lackey did the business on the bike in 2015 completing the course in one day, 18 hours and 32 minutes.
Results vary on the weather.
The failure of the entire field to complete the 1,000 miles to Nome in 2012 was down to appalling conditions.
But in 2014, 16 made it to the end within the 30-day limit.
Application open April 1, 2017

Jungle Marathon

The threat of scorpions, snakes, caimans, piranhas and jaguars are scary enough without throwing a 254-kilometer race into the mix.
The Jungle Marathon takes runners through the swamps, mangroves and foliage of the Amazon rainforest.
It’s billed as the world’s toughest jungle marathon.
There’s not just the fear of being eaten alive to contend with, there’s also the 99% humidity and the 40 C heat.
That said, only 11 of the 41 who started the last race dropped out.
Those not up to the full distance can enter 127- or 42-kilometer events.

Mont Blanc ultra marathon (France, Switzerland, Italy)

Anyone wanting to enter the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc needs to do their homework.
For the 2017 race, competitors must acquire nine qualification points from three races just to get a place in the event.
There’s no room for part-timers.
Starting in Chamonix, France, the route takes in Italy and Switzerland, is 168 kilometers in length and has to be completed within 46 hours 30 minutes.
Not to be underestimated, it takes in seven valleys, 71 glaciers and 400 summits — not to mention the 9,400 meters of altitude.
But as the world’s premier 100-miler, featuring jaw-dropping views, it’s worth the effort.

Le Grand Tour (Sweden)

Just a quick glance at the race information is enough to give anyone the chills.
According to the organizers, the trekking stage will “smash your legs.”
Requiring helmets, harnesses, wetsuits and kayaks, it’s an ice-cold challenge encapsulated in 24 hours of absolute mayhem.
The seven-stage race, held in September, is usually fought out between teams of four.
Those unlucky enough to have three friends mad enough to do it can compete in pairs.
Entrants need to be pretty flexible in all disciplines to cope with the trekking, running, kayaking, yet more running — and the rope activities.

L’Etape du Tour (France)

How many armchair cyclists have watched the Tour de France on TV and thought, “I can do that?”
Well, this event lets them put their money where their mouth is.
Since 1993, the L’Etape du Tour has given amateurs the opportunity to ride a stage of Le Tour and pretend they’re Bradley Wiggins or Chris Froome.
Entry for 2017’s event are already closed. Places go quickly!
Organizers lay on the full works for the riders with nine feeding stations and bananas imported from Guadeloupe and Martinique.
Last year’s ride took place through the Alps, so building endurance and being able to sustain a high level of power is key.
This year’s route promises to be just as challenging.
SOURCE: CNN.com

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/10/travel/sporting-challenge-vacations/index.html

New York City: Insider Travel Guide

(CNN)Trying to do the best of New York City in a few days is like announcing you plan to see Africa in a week: it minimizes just how much there is to experience and completely disregards travel times.

Hotels

Luxury
Mandarin Oriental New York
Located atop one of the twin sentries comprising the Time Warner Center, the five-star Mandarin enjoys unobstructed views through its floor-to-ceiling windows of the Hudson River, Central Park, Brooklyn and Portugal (at least, it feels that way).
Its best of New York City position in bustling Columbus Circle centralizes it near perfectly — just north of Midtown — with subways linking to virtually every part of the city.
Unlike in much of the rest of the United States, there’s no shame in walking in New York.
Plenty of attractions are within an easy stroll, including Lincoln Center, Broadway, Hell’s Kitchen and Times Square.
Crosby Street Hotel
With high ceilings and full length windows reflective of SoHo’s history as a factory cum gallery district, Hotelier Firmdale’s only non-London property is an all-new structure built in the neighborhood’s classic style, its 86 guest rooms each receiving their own individual designs.
As charming as the cobblestone street out front, the hotel has an outdoor sculpture garden, all-day afternoon tea service with cakes and sandwiches in the bar and a 100-seat screening room with a Sunday Night Film Club open to all.
The neighborhood’s overall lower profile makes the Crosby’s upper floors all the more recommended.
Mid-range
The Standard, High Line
If aesthetics are a requisite, The Standard, High Line — situated directly above a stretch of old elevated railway now known as High Line Park — is a best of New York City landmark in Manhattan’s most model-intensive neighborhood.
The decor is mod and the vibe is downtown, so go ahead and pack your shiniest shirts for the clubs, bars and bistros of the surrounding Meatpacking District.
Among the property’s greatest draws are its views.
Of models, yes, but also of the Hudson River, downtown and, to a lesser extent, New Jersey.
Ensure you see as much as possible by getting a room ending in 24, which will net you two walls of windows.
The Bowery Hotel
Two hundred years ago, the Bowery was a poor man’s Broadway. By the turn of the last century, it was just poor.
But those familiar just 10 years ago with this erstwhile skid row would hardly recognize it today, and the Bowery Hotel embodies its new, loftier status.
Lying right at the intersection of hip and elegant, the hotel is appointed with luxurious old world refinements and dcor while retaining a vibe that’s lively and modern.
Factory windows offer 360-degrees of the city, while several rooms have their own terraces, complete with outdoor showers.
Budget
The Pod Hotel
The only way you can stay overnight in Manhattan for less than one of the single rooms in this Midtown budgetier is by staying with family in the area.
And if you stay at the Pod’s 51st Street location, in some cases it, too, requires you to share a bathroom with people you may not like.
But rooms at the newer Murray Hill location all feature private bathrooms, along with free Wi-Fi and an emphasis on communal space typified by the Pod 39’s rooftop lounge.
The hotel’s perks are few and the rooms are barely bigger than the beds, but if you want hip and affordable, you won’t likely do better.

Dining

Per Se
With its modern decor and swanky address at the tip of Central Park, Per Se strives to turn your dinner into “a journey that returns you to sources of pleasure you may have forgotten,” which would seem pretentious if that wasn’t precisely what it accomplishes with nearly every dish.
Hailed by food critics ever since its doors opened, Per Se is the brainchild of Thomas Keller, the only American chef to have been awarded three Michelin stars for two different restaurants (including Per Se).
Per Se is the East Coast version of his flagship French Laundry in California, having since far surpassed it on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
While the chef’s tasting menu changes daily, there are mainstays, such as Keller’s well-known twist on “oysters and pearls,” which combines succulent oysters, tapioca pearls and caviar.
Keens Steakhouse
Americans tend to value massive portions; fine dining is inevitably about small but perfect items.
Keens earns best of New York City marks by seeking to combine the best of both philosophies.
While up against worthy steakhouse competitors including Peter Luger, Old Homestead and The Strip House, Keens has an edge by serving the city’s top mutton chop.
The chop comes flanked by pieces of lamb bacon.
Keens also has the edge in decor. Its ceiling is stippled with thousands of clay pipes that represent an erstwhile club membership including American icons Theodore Roosevelt, Babe Ruth and General Douglas MacArthur.
Atera
With novelty as a guiding, but not solitary, principle, chef Matthew Lightner is dazzling diners at his tiny new tasting room in Tribeca.
Foraged ingredients and innovative ideas drive a constantly changing 22-course menu that’s designed as much to stir emotions as it is taste buds, which can go unrewarded in any given moment in favor of a gastro-narrative revelation four courses later.
Modernist creations like gin-cured scallops, cedar-oil-drizzled lamb and a baguette colored with squid ink to resemble a razor clam are served on flat rocks, hay and driftwood in the naturist style pioneered in Portland, OR.
The award of two stars by Michelin isn’t doing anything to ease accessibility to an already modest space, so reservations are vital.
Osteria Morini
“New York” magazine recently called Michael White “the city’s hottest Italian chef,” and “Esquire” put his bustling new Osteria Morini on its list of best restaurants in the city.
So why shouldn’t we put it on our best of New York City list?
White has earned praise with his knack for taking home-style fare and providing a gourmet twist, like tortellini with a duck-liver cream sauce.
Of course, man cannot live on food alone, and Osteria Morini’s cocktails are also superb.
The Dutch
Dress code at The Dutch?
“This ain’t no country club, but it’s no ball game either,” states the American bar/restaurant’s website.
“This is New York. Do what you feel, but keep it fresh.”
That casual but earnest logic lies at the heart of Andrew Carmellini’s latest offering in New York.
Inspired by a mix of cafs, country inns and seaside shacks, diners get reinterpretations of American classics like the good old porterhouse steak and fried chicken served with biscuits.
Just remember to look up from your food occasionally, or else you’ll miss the celebrities meandering through the dining room.
Caf Nougatine
Jean-Georges Vongerichten is one of the most celebrated chefs in New York.
If you want to experience his creations at reasonable prices, try the lunch deal at Jean-Georges’ Caf Nougatine in the Trump Building.
The French haute cuisine goes for around $25 every lunch hour at the acclaimed restaurant.
Miss Lily’s Cakes
While the name promises cakes, this hip diner in downtown Manhattan serves remarkable Jamaican dishes.
The most revered item at this best of New York City diner is jerk chicken.
The decor is simple, but you won’t care as you watch leggy servers carry hearty platefuls of curry goat, oxtail stew and, yes, even cakes if you so desire.
Warning to anyone looking for a relaxed island vibe: the atmosphere of Miss Lily’s tends to get clubbier and the music louder as the night goes on.
Joe’s Pizza
For a best of New York City experience, there’s no more quintessential fast food than a slice of pizza.
Joe’s modest storefront unloads exceptional slices to an uninterrupted queue of patrons nearly 20 hours of every day.
Stand in line, point, pay, apply Parmesan and chili flakes from the public shakers, fold, eat and hustle back to work.
Hey, now you’re practically a local.

Nightlife

Campbell Apartment
Step back in time and behold fully restored glasswork, furnishings and architectural appointments of a cavernous lounge that was once the massive private office of 1920s magnate John W. Campbell.
Now a swanky club, Campbell Apartment evokes images reminiscent of the more elegant side of “The Great Gatsby.”
(For Gatsby-esque smoking ruins, you’ll have to look elsewhere.)
Having a cocktail amid such elegance comes at a price: no jeans or sneakers allowed.
The Breslin Bar & Dining Room
In the lobby of the Ace Hotel, The Breslin is separated into small rooms for eating, drinking and generally feeling good about rubbing shoulders with trendy New Yorkers.
There’s a good chance you won’t even get a table in the bar, which has dark wood, antique pendant light fixtures and the feel of a private British club — but the buzz and people scenery will make up for it.
The Breslin’s lamb burger draws raves from regulars.
The dining room is the place for pork in all its marrow and other modern guises.
The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, 16 W. 29th St. (between Broadway and Fifth Avenue); +1 212 679 1939
GoldBar
Anyone who feels every New York nightclub is the same should hit this NoLita (North of Little Italy) establishment with an interior every bit as eclectic as its playlist, which includes new wave, rap, rock and pop.
How eclectic? For one, the entire space is swathed in gold.
For another, it includes a wall studded with gilded human skulls. (That’s right, skulls.)
Be advised that while you’ll likely want to capture an evening here for posterity — it’s pricy enough that it’s less a night out than an investment — photography is not permitted.
McSorley’s Old Ale House
As at Campbell Apartment, you feel like you’re stepping back in time. McSorley’s, however, is the sort of place that would welcome those traveling steerage as warmly as those in first class.
Rough-hewn wood floors, workmanlike bartenders and assorted memorabilia said to have been in the building since 1910 make you feel like you’re in a simpler age.
There are only two options for sale here: dark beer and light beer, the latter being called “light” not for its caloric value, but because it’s not the former.
Since beers here must be ordered in pairs, try one of each.
ReVision Lounge
ReVision’s theme is reclamation, with a front room furnished in bar stools made of recycled snow skis and a countertop of shredded, outdated U.S. currency glazed to a smooth finish.
But it’s the best of New York City back room you’ll remember.
Filled with couches fashioned from old coffins, porcelain bath tubs and the back ends of 1970s American luxury cars, it’s got a DJ table formed by the front end of an old Cadillac.
If you get in early in the evening you might be able to dodge the often unbearable late crowds.
Just be sure not to show up wearing real fur. (Seriously.)

Shopping/Attractions

Bergdorf Goodman department store
All high-fashion roads lead to this city institution, where the merchandise, layout and presentation are first-class, the staff is renowned for obsessive courteousness and historic New York department store shopping is still a dignified experience.
Bergdorf’s offers some impressive sales, though half off a US$1,000 sweater is still 500 bucks
BG’s four on-site restaurants are surprisingly good, a find for anyone who normally wouldn’t dream of eating in a store.
Century 21
For expensive stuff cheap and cheap stuff even cheaper, there’s no more beloved and simultaneously bemoaned retailer in New York City than Century 21.
Shoppers ascend C21’s five floors, slipping through the hordes searching for deeply discounted designer fashions, mainstream basics and mall-brand overstock, as well as items including luggage, watches and handbags.
If you’re willing to brave masses of consumers, C21 probably has a version of whatever clothing item you desire at every level of the economic spectrum, whether it’s a $1,200 coat for $400 or a $25 pack of socks for $10.
B&H Photo Video
B&H does a healthy amount of Internet business, making it known to many planet-wide, but the brick-and-mortar version is a hive of retail wonderment that really must be observed offline.
Thousands of daily customers seek counsel and competitive prices from hundreds of employees on photo and video cameras, computers, audio and lighting equipment, TVs, portable media devices and all of their associated accessories.
It’s worth it alone to buy something just to watch it travel via the store’s overhead rail delivery system.
National September 11 Memorial & Museum
Finally opened on September 12, 2011, after years of legal and architectural haggling, the 9/11 Memorial replaces the footprints of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers with reflecting pools fed by gargantuan ground-level waterfalls.
While the scale is massive, the aesthetic is in many ways quite personal, making the experience imposing yet touching all at once.
As long as construction continues around the site, visits require advance reservations; go to the official site to secure your visit time.
Top of The Rock observation deck
Like Meg Ryan and King Kong, you may be filled with a yen to rush to the top of the Empire State Building.
Unfortunately, this is an impulse shared by a zillion or so other tourists.
Instead, check out the observation deck at Rockefeller Center, which offers 360-degree views that are nearly as stunning and can be seen after a fraction of the wait.
Central Park
The expanse of green in the middle of Manhattan is your chance to do everything from seeing Shakespeare in the Park (there’s also a Marionette Theater at the Swedish Cottage if your little ones aren’t ready for Titus Andronicus) to challenging old Italian men to a game of bocce on the green near Sheep’s Meadow.
In the summer, Conservatory Water is filled with model boats. For even bigger kids, rental rowboats are available.
In winter, you can ice-skate at either Wollman or Lasker Rink.

Seasonal attractions

Visitors might experience completely different New Yorks depending on the time of year.
Here are some seasonal suggestions.
Winter
Madison Square Garden
Hopes are high again at the Garden as the resurgent New York Knicks NBA franchise has emerged from one of the bleaker stretches in its proud history to contention for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
If you prefer your athletes with fewer teeth, the Garden is also home to the New York Rangers, one of six original members of the National Hockey League.
Citi Pond at Bryant Park
Ice-skating at Rockefeller Center may be the most iconic activity available for any winter visit to New York City.
Unfortunately, every other visitor willing to lace on skates knows this, as well.
If lines prove too horrific, consider heading south to the seasonal Citi Pond at Bryant Park.
The park also fills up in winter with holiday shops to amuse those who choose to stay off the ice.
Admission free, skate rentals US$14.
Spring
Hudson River Park
New York’s west side waterfront has undergone wholesale improvements over the last decade, including the installation of an eight-kilometer bike and walking path, tennis and basketball courts, soccer fields, batting cages, playgrounds, skate park, trapeze school, open lawns and free kayaking at Piers 96, 40 and 72nd Street.
Yes, that’s right, trapeze school.
Good burgers and beers can be found at the Frying Pan, a wartime barge turned bar and grill at 26th Street.
Yankee Stadium
From April through September, the Bronx comes alive for the most successful sports franchise in North America, which supplies New York with a good chunk of its swagger — it’s easier to call yourself “the greatest city in the world” when you’ve won 27 World Series, not to mention those two by the Mets.
Take the B, D or 4 subway trains to 161st Street for a game, including time to stroll the team’s new billion-dollar stadium.
Beware purchasing tickets from street scalpers: counterfeiters here are among the best in the world.
Summer
Brooklyn Bridge
Ironically, one of the best ways to appreciate Manhattan is to leave it.
Get off the F train at York Street in Brooklyn and enjoy the two-and-a-half kilometer walk back to the city via its most historic gateway, enjoying a remarkable view of Manhattan that will make you feel like you’re living a particularly charming moment from a Woody Allen film.
Before making the journey, spend some time in Brooklyn.
Check out Brooklyn’s bridge-side DUMBO neighborhood, which offers a waterfront view and features warehouses converted into an array of residences and businesses.
If you enjoy waiting in line for food that you eat with your hands, check out Grimaldi’s, one of New York’s best-rated brick oven pizzas.
Fall
The Cloisters
If you’re looking for a museum missed by most tourists (and a surprising number of New Yorkers), make time for the Cloisters, located in Fort Tryon Park.
A reassembled French building houses the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s medieval Europe collection, but for many visitors the best part of the visit occurs when you step outside and see gardens patterned faithfully after medieval designs for landscaping and architecture.
You’ll be going far further north than most visitors, but when you witness an attraction unlike anything else in New York you’ll know it’s worth the journey.
SOURCE: CNN.com

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/29/travel/insider-guide-new-york-city/index.html

Machu Picchu Travel

Machu Picchu travel trips are an adventure of a lifetime! This high elevation climb is easier if you have the right gear. Before you set off to Peru, you’ll need to gather many essential items.Your hiking shoes should be broken in and waterproof. Carrying a small foot care kit and your favorite snacks will make your hiking experience more pleasant. Hiking pants that “zip off” into shorts or cropped pants are handy.Well, some of you need tour operators, some of you do not. If you are planning to visit Machu Picchu, stay in Aguas Calientes ( I wrote down about Aguas Calientes in detail below) one or two nights, you do not need a tour operators. But if you are planning to hike Inca trail, then you need a tour operator. As per new law, only licensed tour operators can operate in Inca trail. There is exception for those who want to go independently, but they have to carry their own equipment, luggage, food and tents, so it is not practical to go to hike Inca trail without tour operators.

It was confirmed as a The Country’s Historical Attraction in the early part of the 20th Century and garnered a distinction as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since the Machu Picchu was not plundered and destroyed by the colonizing Spaniards, its structure remained intact and became an important cultural location and is measured as a consecrated location based on the Incan’s religion. Machu Picchu was acknowledged as a part of the New Seven Wonders of the World throughout a telephone and online polls accomplished by the New7Wonders foundation.Machu Picchu is divided in two areas: the agricultural area which includes large Inca terraces, and the urban area which is the place where the Incas lived and organized their religious and civil activities. The latter has indeed two sectors: Hanan, “High Sector”, inhabited by the Inca and his descendants and Urin, “Low Sector”, destined to the rest of the population.

The train then descends into the Sacred Valley and the foothills of the Andes, along the Urubamba River, passing through a beautiful landscape packed with typical Andean crops and grasslands, herds of llamas, and colourful villages. Many old Inca buildings and archaeological sites can be seen along the journey, in particular the magnificent Wiay Wayna ruins and Q’ente (hummingbird in Quechua), amidst a lush vegetation where a nearby waterfall attracts oversize hummingbirds and colourful flowers blossom all the time.Although the ancient Incans left behind no writing to tell us about this “wonder of the world,” modern archeologists have solved many of its riddles by examining clues left in the stone and earth. We now know that Machu Picchu was a royal estate constructed around 1460, when the Incan Empire was at its height.

Touring the ruins can be done in about a day, although some visitors opt to stay longer to absorb the surroundings and to further explore the area. Area tour guides will be glad to lead you through the ruins and explain what is known about the mysterious ruins. In Machu Picchu, you’re not too far from basic needs either.

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