Home Blog Page 3

5 Reasons To Visit Northern Spain

1
northern spain

When most people visit Spain, they aim firmly for the southern half of the country. After all, that’s where most of the big resorts are, and the Mediterranean weather is a big draw. What’s more, even those looking for some culture rather than sunshine will tend to visit the main Spanish cities. However, those who limit themselves to this part of Spain are missing out on plenty to see and do up in the north.

Mountains and Beaches: Northern Spain has it all!

reasons to visit Northern Spain

If you’ve only ever visited the south of Spain, then you’ve been missing out on some truly breathtaking scenery in the north. The Picos de Europa in Asturias are a range of snow-topped mountains that make for an unforgettable backdrop to your next vacation, and they are among the most untouched areas in the whole of Europe. If you love getting out there into the heart of nature, then the mountains here are ideal.

Even for those who prefer the fun and sun of the southern Spanish resorts, the north is still a wonderful option. While there are plenty of beaches in the south, the vast majority of them are packed full of other tourists, meaning you face a day full of screaming kids and overpriced food vendors. In the north, though, there are miles upon miles of untapped beaches just waiting to be discovered, and many of them are easily accessible from the major towns and cities in the region. Even better, since they see fewer tourists, you won’t find yourself getting ripped off when it comes to food and accommodation!

Some of the best beaches are in San Sebastian (famous for its waves and surfing communities) and in Noja.

Bilbao and the food. It’ll be hard to go back!

Bilbao, with its mix of modern landmarks such as the Guggenheim Museum and a picturesque old centre, is a place that will conquer you right away.

Bilbao, and the Basque Country in general, are also famous for offering some of the best food in all of Spain. Try pinxtos for happy hour (little sandwiches so rich that you’ll never look at sandwiches in the same way), or splurge at one of the many (over 40!) Michelin starred restaurants for an incredible dinner.

Northern Spain is a great place to relax

The prevailing stereotype of the Spanish is that of taking a siesta in the afternoon- and up in the north, that tradition is still going strong today, and is emblematic of the region in general. Up here, life is lived at a much slower pace, making for a more relaxed feel that’s perfect for when you want to forget the stress and hassle of your life at home.

Northern Spain is also easily reachable from the UK, so if you’ve had enough of hectic life in London, jump on a ferry to Spain from Portmouth or Plymouth.

The Wine, oh The Wine!

If you’re planning on visiting northern Spain, then you need to make sure you take a detour through La Rioja. This region is world famous for its wine, and there are literally hundreds of vineyards to choose from, so you’ll never run out of new taste sensations to discover. A tour of the vineyards is also a great excuse to take a train journey through the area, and see some more of the one-of-a-kind scenery that encompasses rolling hills of red and gold.

Skip the usual hotels, there are much better options in Northern Spain

Forget a regular resort- wouldn’t you rather spend your vacation staying in a real life castle, or an ancient monastery that’s just dripping with history? Then you need to head on up to the north of Spain. Here, such hotels, or “paradors”, are commonplace, and most of them are very affordable. Wherever you go, there will be somewhere unique to stay, so make sure your next vacation is truly memorable, and stay in a parador.

Are you convinced yet? Norther Spain is still quite off the beaten path, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be so quiet for much longer… so go now!

How To Visit The U.K.: Savor It

0

When you get to the United Kingdom, you will want to make every second count and there are, oddly enough, two very different ways to do this.

The first way to make every second absolutely unforgettable is to do what is known as the “whirlwind tour.” This entails trying to see everything you possibly can in three or four days, including tours of London, Glasgow and Edinburgh with side trips to Stone Hedges and Liverpool.

In the big city, you will want to stop at Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Churchill War Rooms, Westminster Abbey, the National Gallery, the British Museum and a few hundred other stops crammed in, including Convent Garden and the Soho art district. You will want to drop in on four pubs each day, eat at 15 different restaurants – a few of which you wouldn’t recommend to your cat – and take in two musicals and a play. Then you can go home and say you made the most of it.

Or you can go the other way. You can sip your tea slowly, so to speak, savoring this very British custom with unhurried panache. You can stop and smell each rose on a garden tour. You can go shopping with no particular agenda in mind. And you can take in a football game – the game you Yanks call soccer – and sit there and listen to the roar of the fans who take sports very, very seriously, as you might have heard.

One of my favorite things to do in London is to peruse the art that is available at no cost because it is the habit of painters and sellers to set up right there on the London sidewalks and put on a show for free.

No, this isn’t the kind of art that belongs in a museum much of the time, but sidewalk art is like running into a street musician. It’s more surprising than curated art that hangs in a serious gallery.

Nothing speaks of savoring the British culture more than taking in a show or a soccer game. The first comes in two varieties: A play or a musical. London, of course, is famous for both. No city on earth can boast of the quality and quantity of its theater district, except for the Big Apple in New York. And you can buy package deals, so you can do a lot of savoring at discount prices along the way.

Soccer is also a savoring event, but this is a place where you might be savoring the beer and the salty behavior (and language) of some of the fans, famous the world over as some of the rowdiest on earth.

If you are new to soccer or a long-time fan, there are advantages to buying Champions League ticket packages – which is an international league – or Premier League package, which will get you in to see the U.K.’s top players go head-to-head or toe-to-toe, as it were.

A just-getting-started soccer fan can buy a package deal, enjoy the discounts and take in a few games to get a quick education. A soccer connoisseur can also take advantage of package pricing and fully enjoy their stay in London town.
The point is, you don’t have to race around town to enjoy London. You might want to race through some of the meals you are served because London’s cooking is famous for being hearty, but lacking in sophistication. It’s a meat and potatoes town in which there are probably only two spices in the kitchen – salt and pepper.

But savoring your day is one of the joys of being on vacation and some of the best days I can remember in London are days without an itinerary. Shopping is not my favorite thing to do, but I remember a terrific afternoon of shopping in London in which I didn’t buy anything, but gawked at the variety of merchandise, like a kid in toy land. It was a pleasant afternoon and my company was very pleasant, as well and not being in a hurry with a good friend beats running around town with bad company any day.

While you’re not rushing around, remember to enjoy those moments that are not on your itinerary. Enjoy the bus ride or the taxi ride. Do some exploring as you wander the city trying to find a decent place to have lunch. Take amusing side trips when they present themselves.

One of my tricks is to take pictures of statures. Believe me, this is one way to chalk up some very dull pictures for my scrap album. But the excuse to take a photo of a statute is my excuse for exploring a small park I might otherwise have not noticed or to stop in at a downtown crossroads instead of rushing by. I have too many pictures of men holding swords aloft and I don’t really care for those things, anyway. In fact, I love the plaques at the foot of the statue more than the statue itself, because there’s a connection to history there and a bit of information that helps put it into context.

Try the stop-and-smell-the-roses tour. It’s more mundane, but it has as much to offer as the tour in which you rush around until you drop.

Exploring the Best of West Hollywood

0

West Hollywood is a phenomenal place to visit, especially for those who are attracted to the glamor of Hollywood. It is a way to see the reality behind the cinematic façade and to enjoy the lifestyle of famous actors and actresses. However, the area offers far more than this and deserves several days of exploration.

Home Away from Home

If you are visiting a city recognized around the world as the home of cinematic greats, it makes sense to want to pamper yourself a little. Luxury hotels in West Hollywood are a home away from home — well, if your home is a trendy mansion. If not, then these hotels are a great way to pamper yourself and escape the mundane for a short period.

Culinary Delights

When visiting West Hollywood you’ll want to make sure to take advantage of meal times by planning out which legendary experience you want to enjoy. Dan Tana’s is a celebrity favorite and will require a reservation but the delicious chick parmesan and people watching are worth the effort. If you want an amazing vegan experience, Gracias Madre is the place to visit. For those who are interested in something a little laid back, Irv’s Burgers has been a favorite since 1946. Pizza is a perennial vacation favorite that West Hollywood’s Prova elevates to another level with creatively topped wood-fired pizzas.

One of the amazing benefits of visiting West Hollywood is the abundance of food truck options. The Lobos Truck is one that locals are crazy about, especially the Wachos. You can’t go to Southern California without trying a fish taco, Del Solar Fish Taco Truck has some of the best. With Heirloom LA it is even possible to find fresh organic gourmet food roaming around the city.

Outdoor Adventures

For those who enjoy spending time outdoors, West Hollywood has some unique experiences that shouldn’t be missed. The Hollywood sign is one of the most iconic landmarks in the entire city. There are three hiking trails that provide a closer look and beautiful panoramic views; the Cahuenga Peak Trail, Mt. Hollywood Trail, and the Canyon Boulevard Trail.

If you are that close to the Pacific Ocean, you’ll want to spend some time in the water surfing or scuba diving. Some of the best points for scuba diving off the coast near West Hollywood include Big Rock, Redondo Beach, Flat Rock, Point Dume, and Malaga Cove. There are also some wreck dive sites nearby, including the Star of Scotland, Avalon, and Palawan.

Indoor Exploration

There are numerous historic and cultural points of interest in West Hollywood worthy of exploration. If you want to go way back in time, the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum are an absolute must visit destination. The tar pits in the area have the most substantial of Ice Age and Pleistocene-era fossils ever located in one area. More than 600 species of mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, and plants have been discovered. You can view the ongoing excavation or head indoors for a 3D movie, stage show, exhibitions, and working fossil lab.

For those more interested in more recent history, art, and culture the area has a wide collection of museums, including the Craft and Folk Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Lost Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, the MOCA Pacific Design Center, and the Petersen Automotive Museum.

West Hollywood is a beautiful and nostalgic place to visit while simultaneously managing to remain contemporary and trendy. There are a surprising number of cultural locations and outdoor activities to enjoy in addition to all of the celebrity site seeing.

10 Best Beaches in Vietnam

4

For one of the most beautiful countries in the world, surprisingly few people know much about Vietnam. To many people, the name simply conjures up images of the war-torn country depicted in films like Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. However, a lot has changed since the 1970s, and Vietnam is now a prime tourist spot, visited by people from all over the world.

Other than being one of the best ecotourism destinations in the world, one of the reasons why Vietnam is such a popular holiday destination is because of its gorgeous beaches- and with over 2,000 miles of coastline, you’re certainly spoilt for choice! When I first visited the country for a month in 2015, I spent quite a lot of my time chilling at some beach, and I couldn’t get enough.

If you too can’t get enough of sun, sea, and sand, then Vietnam is quite frankly a must for you- and I’ve selected the 10 best beaches in Vietnam for those interested in visiting the country.

Long Beach, Phu Quoc

best beaches in Vietnam

Phu Quoc is the jewel in Vietnam’s crown, a gorgeous island that combines lengthy white beaches and dense jungle- if that doesn’t sum up Vietnam, then what does? By far the best beach on the island is Long Beach, which (as the name suggests) is a 20km long beach with plenty of deserted spots for enjoying some peace and quiet while you soak up the sun. It’s a little out of the way, but that means the island retains some of its natural charms, making it ideal for a weekend away from the country’s big cities. This is Vietnam’s #1 destination for a romantic vacation or your honeymoon, and trust me: there are few places that get more romantic than this!

Nha Trang

Image via Flickr by glittaz

Located in the south of the country, Nha Trang is widely regarded as one of the best destinations in Vietnam for a beach vacation. The city is bordered by six kilometers of beaches, so as with Long Beach, there’s plenty of space to kick back and unwind. The great thing about this beach is that since it’s right next to a major city, that means plenty to do, including a wide selection of bars and restaurants.

There are also lots of opportunities for indulging in some water sports, and there are many quirky modern sculptures adorning the boardwalk as you walk along the seafront. If you’d prefer a spot of scuba diving, then Rainbow Divers, Vietnam’s first diving school, is also located here.

The other thing Nha Trang is known for is partying. Known as “Vietnam’s party town”, you can find many clubs and booze cruises here. If you are backpacking around South-East Asia, or just looking for a fun getaway with your friends, Nha Trang is the place to be at.

Cua Dai Beach, Hoi An

best beaches in Vietnam

If you are wondering what to do in Hoi An, worry not as there’s so much to do! In fact, Hoi An is the place where most tourists fell in love with Vietnam. Hitting the markets, getting a suit made in the tailor shops, and hitting the beach are on top of everyone’s list.

If you want to really experience life like a Vietnamese local, then make the trip by bike from Hoi An to the picturesque beach at Cua Dai. At Cua Dai Beach there are plenty of waterfront cafes and bars to enjoy, and the view of the sunset over the nearby Cham Islands (also recommended a visit if you’ve got some extra time) is just one of the best ones.

Cat Ba Island

best beaches in Vietnam

Every Vietnam guidebook will tell you that you can’t miss a stop in Unesco-listed Halong Bay, a magnificent bay famous for its karst formations – and in fact, you can’t. But going on an organized overnight tour around Halong Bay isn’t necessarily your best option. Tours can be a lot of fun, but if you are looking for something quieter or just prefer doing your own thing, don’t hesitate and head to Cat Ba Island.

The wild and rugged Cat Ba Island is the largest island in Halong Bay, and you can easily find a cheap hotel room, rent a motorbike, and explore the are on your own terms. Imagine breathtaking sunsets, green hills, fun adventures riding your motorbike around the island, and some very fine beaches where you might easily be all alone. Sounds tempting, uh?

China Beach

Image via Flickr by Kent MacElwee

China Beach is so huge, it’s actually got two different names. The northern half is known as My Khe, while the southern half is called Cua Dia. The whole thing, though, is simply breathtaking- and if you are a surfer, this is the perfect place to catch some waves. China Beach is also located near both the bustling port city of Danang and the quaint town of Hoi An, so it is a very convenient location for you to visit as part of your trip to Vietnam.

Con Dao

Image via Flickr by khoibinh

The Con Dao islands are located quite a way away from the mainland, but that just makes them the ideal location for those who like to visit less tourist-infested areas. Once hell for prisoners who were jailed here, now coral reefs and jungle-clad lovely beaches are what Con Dao islands are all about.

Here the imperative word is “relax”. There are a few resorts to stay in if you are looking to get pampered, and a huge selection of sandy shores. When you get tired of the beach though, the forest provides good opportunities for hiking and being active. Hurry up and make sure you visit soon, I have the feeling these islands won’t be this quiet for much longer!

Danang Beach

best beaches in Vietnam

Danang became world famous due to its role as a central combat zone in the Vietnam War, but nowadays, you’ll find the place is wayyy more relaxed. Danang is especially known for its fishing, surfing, and scuba diving, so you certainly won’t get bored during your visit.

If you can splurge, Furama Resort here is one of the most luxurious hotel complexes in Vietnam, although most people will find that its five-star fees place it more than a little out of their price range. But no worries, there are plenty of options for all budgets. Danang Beach is also located near China Beach, another one of our top picks, so you’ll easily be able to check them both out to see which you prefer.

Doc Let

Image via Flickr by Uschi & Horst Pix

Located just 30 miles away from the bustling beaches of Nha Trang, Doc Let is a welcome oasis of tranquility in what can be a pretty crowded part of Vietnam. You’ll find that there aren’t many places geared towards tourists here, but that’s just perfect for more adventurous travelers who want to try out something a bit different.

You can also pitch your tent and fall asleep with the sound of the waves. Whether you visit on a day trip, or plan your visit to Vietnam around Doc Let, this is indeed a wonderful place to soak up some authentic Vietnamese atmosphere and culture.

Lang Co Bay

Image via Flickr by Khanh Hmoong

Another quieter beach, this pleasant crescent-shaped bay is somewhat of a secret one and has been mercifully left alone by most of the tourist crowd. This means you’re sure of a relaxing visit without any of the big crowds that tend to flock to Vietnam’s more famous beaches.

The gentle sweep of the white-sand beach is so pleasing to the eye, the landscapes are beautiful… but where aren’t in Vietnam? Located on the other side of the Hai Van Pass, Lang Co Bay is easily accessible from Danang if you are planning your visit around there; just rent a motorbike for the day trip, or take the train for a really scenic ride (but make sure to check the timetables as the times tend to change often!).

Mui Ne

best beaches in Vietnam

What if I tell you that you can have the beach and the desert all at once? It’s possible in Mui Nee, where the main attraction are its huge red and white sand dunes. This is a surreal place you absolutely cannot miss, but when you come back from your adventures, relaxing on the beach in Mui Ne isn’t bad either.

Swimming isn’t always recommended as the currents can be pretty strong, but this means that the town retains a kite surfer vibe. You can also take some kitesurfing lessons at one of the many schools if you are a complete beginner!

Choosing the ten beaches to include in this list was hard, and there are so many other lovely beaches in Vietnam that are worth a visit. Have you booked your flight yet?

 

About the author:

Stefania Guglielmi is an avid traveler who believes a little glamour and sustainable travel can go hand in hand. She loves coffee and never leaves for a trip without a hat and her favourite lipstick. You can read about her adventures at EverySteph.com and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

 

Five Great Reasons to Visit Vienna

0
vienna

Europe is a fantastic continent to visit. Each country is very different, which means that there is always something new to enjoy, especially if you visit the major cities.

This is certainly true of Austria and its beautiful capital, Vienna. It has a unique ambience, which leaves a positive impression on most people who stay there.

The chance to enjoy some culture

Perhaps the nicest thing about Vienna is its old school charm. The city has many formal traditions that have not changed for hundreds of years. Of course, this is true of many places, but Vienna is different.

In Vienna, they do not just dress up in traditional costumes for the odd festival. Far from it, every day, there are old-fashioned formal events going on.

Refreshingly, the Viennese are not just putting on a show for the tourists. Culture really is a part of their everyday life. Importantly, they want visitors to the city to enjoy these events too. You are more than welcome to attend these special events as well. It is easy to pick up opera tickets from viennaoperatickets.com, or attend one of the many balls or concerts that are held in the city.

The opportunity to enjoy Austrian wine

If you love wine, Vienna is a good base. On a daily basis, bus tours run from the city to the wine taverns of the Wachau Valley, Gobel and Heuriger Wieninger. For those visitors who do not fancy spending the day outside the city this 3-hour wine walk provides an alternative way to learn more about local wines and enjoy tasting them.

Enjoy some indie shopping

For those who like to shop the Neubau district is a wonderful place. It is home to an amazing array of shops selling unusual items that you just do not see elsewhere.

Exceptional Christmas markets

Christmas markets are popular in many large European cities, but nobody does them as well as Vienna does. For most stallholders selling good quality products is important, so they are a great place to enjoy tasty festive food, pick up special presents and some nice festive decorations.

Great food and drink

Austria is not widely known for its cuisine, but it should be. In Vienna, you get to enjoy the best of what the country has to offer. The coffeehouses have been serving perfect coffee and divine pastries, for centuries. They offer a coffee drinking experience that is every bit as good as that found in Italy.

At the Nashmarkt, you can enjoy a beer and go to Umarfisch where you point at the fish and it is cooked in front of your eyes. You should also try Kaiserschmarrn and Millirahmstrudel. The residents of Vienna simply will not put up with poor quality food, so it is very unusual to be served a poor meal in the city.

These are just my favourite reasons to stay in this beautiful city. There are many more. Vienna really is well worth a visit.

Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica

0

The island of Jamaica in the Caribbean Sea is a world famous vacation destination with more to do and see than could ever be accomplished during one, or even a few visits. Because of the vast amount of activities available, it’s sometimes hard to figure out exactly what to do and where to spend your time during your quick trip to the island. Even those who are staying longer and spending a week or more at one of the island’s Jamaica resorts will find it hard to choose which activities to partake in and which to save for their next trip.

But, no matter how long your trip is, the Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon is an experience you don’t want to miss.

What is the Luminous Lagoon?

luminous lagoon in Jamaica
Flickr Credit: BWS052

Jamaica’s only natural night time attraction, the Luminous Lagoon is a natural event where microscopic organisms emit a type of phosphorescent light when they are agitated and disturbed. This means that you’ll see a beautiful blue light dancing across the water’s surface, making for quite the experience. The Lagoon itself is about 3 to 8 feet in depth, depending where you are in it.

Can you take a tour?

Yes, you can! You can book a tour with Glistening Waters, the on-site restaurant and marina. During this tour you’ll find yourself on the water for about 35 to 40 minutes after sunset when you’ll be able to see the blue light the best. You’ll also be treated to a delicious meal and a cocktail at the marina’s restaurant before the tour begins, making it a great night and one that is well suited to the romantically inclined. During the tour, you’ll get the chance to view the beautiful blue lights of the lagoon as each organism is disturbed by the boat passing through. This will cause for fish to move around as well, making it so that you can easily see their outlines surrounded by streaks of light.

During this tour you’ll also learn about the science behind the lagoon, making it a very educational trip for everyone, including those younger in age. You’ll also have the chance to swim in the lagoon, making for an even more impressive experience. Also, it is important to note that each boat tour can hold 30 guests, making it so that you’ll also have the opportunity to mingle with other visitors.

Can you take pictures?

luminous lagoon in Jamaica
Flickr Credit: Filipe Mota Rebelo

Of course you can! Just remember not to drop your equipment into the water unless it is waterproof and that flashes won’t work here. If you end up using a flash, you’ll find that the picture comes out less than perfect. Your ideal setup would be a DSLR camera and you’ll want to play with different shutter speeds.

A trip to the Glistening Water Luminous Lagoon is a great idea for those seeking to view something that’s unique to Jamaica and off the beaten path a bit. Just remember to bring a camera and your swim suit.