Travel Plans

UK – Realization of a Lifelong Dream

By on May 4, 2014
london, tower bridge, blue hour, uk city breaks
Tower Bridge – Blue hour

While the nearest I’ve been to Britain is through movies and pictures, I much prefer going there through another route, books – through short stories, poems and other forms of literature. Well, it could be the old English countryside but it is nonetheless vividly described with such romanticism and charm; they’ve become places where I always want getting lost to. My companion while I travel were Wuthering Heights on the Moorish marsh, The Other Boleyn Girl while admiring the rural landscape of medieval England, Tintern Abbey through the banks of the River Wye and of course, Sherlock Holmes through the streets of old London. All these and many other books depicting the British landscape had instilled in me the longing to walk on those cobblestones and see the beauty of patchwork quilt of green fields with my own eyes.

Imagine the hysteria I caused when hubby told me to browse for UK city breaks that we can book for on  a  semester break – I was like an attention-deprived toddler screaming my heart out for a lollipop!

stonehenge, uk city breaks
photo via pinterest

In my head I am already planning where to go, what to do – first, to be inspired by some of the world’s greatest works of art, we’d go visiting: David Hockney at the Tate Modern and Tate Britain, and Salts Mill in Yorkshire, William Tate at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, John Constable at the National Gallery in London, LS Lowry at the Lowry in Salford, Greater Manchester and most of all JMW Turner at the Petworth House in Petworth in West Sussex.

And what about installations and creations of Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko? We’ll visit Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives, Cornwall, Tate Britain, London, and Tate Modern, London to see their works…for free!

But, with just a short stay it would be impossible to do everything in one go. I still have to convince hubby for at least 2 weeks of hopping here and there to have everything else done. There are a lot of other whyfors the UK is a top tourist destination, aside from the arts as cited.

Second, and needless to say, photography is one of the other reason why I love to travel in general. That I am able to take a chunk of reality in that particular moment that may never happen again through photos is my motivation. So where are the most picturesque places in the UK for perfect photos? Here’s my list:

Stonehenge, Wiltshire. Still an awe to this day, the prehistoric monument has baffled every visiting individual at how our ancestors were able to carry these humongous stones at where they stand now.

Tower Bridge at Night, London. This bascule and suspension bridge over the River Thames is most picturesque at dusk.

The Jurassic Coast, Dorset. One of Britain’s many World Heritage Site worth visiting in this lifetime. It is consisted of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous cliffs, spanning the Mesozoic Era, documenting million years of geological history. How could one say no to this piece of creation?

Seven Sisters, Sussex. A series of chalk cliffs by the English Channel, occurring naturally as a result of erosion. This is living proof that yes, our Creator knows and has crafted his masterpieces well.

Isle of Harris, Scotland. Talk about an oxymoron of sorts in the most beautiful sense. White-sand beaches spectacularly laid out in front of views of snow-peaked mountains in the distance.

Wastwater Lake, Cumbria. England’s deepest lake and coincidentally the title of the play my daughter takes part in.

Castles? Here’s a list: Warwick Castle in Warwirckshire, Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, Stokesay Castle in Shropshire, Leeds Castle in Kent, the Tower of London in London, Cardiff Castle in Wales and of course, Windsor Castle in Berkshire where the queen resides. I am sure there’s a lot more to list down, with 400 to be found only in Wales, even a whole month won’t be enough to see all.

Wheew! A short-stay will definitely not suffice to see the grandeur that is Britian, there’s still so many to see and there’s so little space in this humble blog to list all of them. But, you know what I really want to see the most? Jane Austen’s House in Hampshire. You can never just make a hopeless romantic forget her heroines.

london eye at night
London Eye at night.

photos courtesy of: http://travellers-stories.com/

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France

All the Nice things in Nice

By on January 28, 2014

 

nice, france
Arenes de Cimiez
We’ve established from the previous posts that when in Rome, you’re told to do as the Romans do.  But when you happen to find yourself in the vicinity of Nice, France, you don’t have to try too hard to pose as a dignified Frenchman or a lady with her nose up in the air.  Just be your touristy self, and bask in the many fun things Nice has to offer.  With the many different attractions in this part of the globe, you’re sure to find something to suit your fancy, here are some of what I recommend:

Arenes de Cimiez.  If you are a huge fan of jazz music, then this is the perfect place for you to get your fix.  This is where they hold the annual Nice Jazz Festival amid the backdrop of the remains of the Roman city of Cemenelum.  Here you’ll also find a park with a vast olive grove that stretches as far as the eye can see.  The thousands of olive trees sprawled around the garden and the wide lawns make it an ideal place for families to hang out.

 

musee matisse
Musee Matisse

Musee Matisse.  The artsy one will definitely consider this place to be Mecca.  This museum holds the personal collection of artist Henry Matisse.  Here you’ll find his famous sculptures, paintings, drawings and gouache cut-outs.  If you have kids with you, you can bring them here as they also hold children’s workshops and various activities on specific themes.  The museum is situated in a villa within the premises of the Arenes de Cimiez park.

Cote d’azur observatory.  You just might find your luck and get to wish on a falling star when you visit this famed astronomical observatory in Nice.  It’s right on the summit of Mont Gros, 1,066 feet above sea level.  Now that’s reaching for the stars!  They have a guided tour, so as you gaze in wonder at the sky, you’ll get to understand what the universe is all about.

 

nice, france port
Nice port

 

Vieux Nice.  Also known as The Old Town of Nice, this is one place where you absolutely wouldn’t mind getting lost in.  If you were a mouse and this was a mouse trap, you’d say, “Bring it on!” This is where it’s happening, as it’s always bustling with activity, day and night.  You can drown yourself in drinks or stuff yourself with a good old traditional meal as you take in the Mediterranean baroque feel of it all.  Be sure to sample their main local dish called “socca” (a yummy pancake made of chick pea flour, water and olive oil).  If you’re not up for partying, you can simply do a walking tour and explore the different shops lining the streets.

Castle Hill.  What could be more wonderful than standing on top of a hill, bellowing at the top of your lungs as you bask in the beauty of the view below you?  This is just what you might end up doing when you find yourself atop Castle Hill.  Restrain yourself from bellowing, and you could simply walk along the secluded tree-lined footpaths winding up to the Hill.  Once you’re up there, the view is breathtaking.  Don’t miss the astounding waterfalls on top of Castle Hill, overlooking the Promenade.
There’s never a dull moment in Nice, France.  With the many stunning places to visit and things to do here, you won’t feel homesick at all. I say, book a week or two in a one of the nice apartments in Nice (pun not intended) and enjoy this enchanting city in full. It won’t even come as a surprise if you no longer want to go back home.

Colline du Chateau, castle hill nice france
The waterfall on the Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill)

 

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Featured | Italy | Rome

Rome Alone

By on December 16, 2013




 

Five hours in the Eternal City is never enough to cover and discover all that this enchanting comune has to offer. That’s what I had though when hubby and I went “roaming alone in Rome” for some me-time each with the challenge of not taking a taxi but just the metro trains. 😀 I was hesitant at first but, I thought it would be good for me since I walk slowly, I could drink in the culture, sights, atmosphere and scenery more and escape the eye rolls I get from the annoyance I seem to bring hubby whenever I get left behind. ^_^

Five hours….considering my being slow, I could have seen more, taken photos of the city more but, in a nutshell, this is a story of what I did and saw in Rome…alone. Well, with a good-old map actually and my ever-reliable 7d.

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Sunny view of the Colosseo

Sun high-up (it was 5:30PM!), kissing my skin as it pleased, people – tourists and locals alike walking here and there…vendors, gladiator-clad men, each busy with their routine abound. Hubby and I separated at the metro train station Colosseo – most probably named after the  building just across – the largest ampitheatre the world has known. Albeit a famous tourism spot nowadays, the Colosseo or Coliseum still stands proud today, 1933 years after its completion and even marking its way to a spot in the New Seven Wonders of the World list.

A few steps from the Colosseum is another historical monument, the arch of Constantine. For some unknown reasons, I cannot find a decent shot of it from my archives. I think they were doing some renovations to it as on many other buildings that time. The above photo though shows it peeking a bit…(I’m sure hubby took a photo of this when we went back together but that would be in another post).

colosseo2
tourists dwarfed by the Colosseo

Not being a sun-lover, I went around the elliptical structure immediately, stopping in middle-awe (where there’s shadow of course) and just savoring all the history and magnificence it imposes. Had hubby been there, we were sure to have gotten in but, I was hesitant to go in alone so I got back to the train station instead. Rome’s train stations are relatively clean…well, most that I’ve been to and as expected, the trains themselves are crowded.

Did spoke with an American family while on board…they’re from Detroit and spending a whole week in Rome, then was there last day. What struck me would be the sticker warning signs the train doors have. Quite morbid for my taste. 😀

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going down to the trains

So I got off at the metro station Ottaviano, one of the nearest station that leads to Vatican City. Via Ottaviano (street) is lined up with shops, trattorias, pizzerias and of course residential houses. I was tempted to just shop than actually go to my destination – St. Peter’s Square. Hubby and I went there early in the morning that day but, it was too warm and humid I didn’t really enjoy it so much, I was seeking shelter from the shadows of the surrounding buildings at the plaza.

It was a bit before 7 then so it has cooled down a bit. It was also at this time when I saw the time-traveller musician. (Had you been to my music and food blog you’d know him). I walked the street parallel to via Ottaviano, the wall of the Vatican city on the right and a handful of souvenir shops on the left.

orange
not sure which street 😀

I entered the plaza/square via the colonnades – the right side and this time, there aren’t as much tourists, no sun to annoy me but, also no hubby to go inside with and see the beauty of the Sistine chapel ceiling, nor the Pieta and not even the Vatican Library. Even not being catholics, seeing these historical pieces were on our bucket list. Sad to say, we run out of time the following days and never got to fulfill this. Rome being an hour away from Vienna by plane is easy to revisit and I’d definitely cross these out  from the bucket list when I get back. ^_^

At the square, the Tuscan colonnades were towering over the crowd of people as it was designed like to embrace them – symbolically back into the church. It is said to be one of Italian architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s most innovative design.

obelisk and fountain
St. Peter’s square – Colonnade, Obelisk and Maderno’s fountain

I walked around the square a bit more, shot this and that corner and went back the same route I had earlier. This time, I did some shopping. Bought some chocolates – Italian kisses, Baci, and a handful more sweets, some souvenirs and a few pieces from my favorite design house, Desigual.

I spent a considerable amount of time gawking at stuff there, teehee…when I finally got hungry and when my phone battery was almost dead, I went to the nearest restaurant I saw…and that’s a review shared on my food blog. ^_^ Long story told, I had one of Rome’s more known dish, pasta alla gricia made special with the experience of meeting a polyglot.

shops
Saldi…calling me to shop. 🙂 I obliged

When dusk blanketed the city, I headed for the Pantheon. I didn’t follow the map this time but the advise of the above-mentioned polyglot. I took the scenic, longer bus route. I hopped off at Lagro Argentina and went the wrong way so I had to ask for directions a lot of times. ^_^

The Eternal city lives well to its name, the night streets so picturesque, I think it took me longer than I should reaching the spot where hubby and I would rendezvous because I stop by every corner to click my camera.

Still very much alive at 9 in the evening, my perception of Rome as a very busy city all transpired there.

night1
streets at night

I arrived at Piazza della Rotonda in one piece. ^_^ Rome’s very lively culture, the Italians’ happy disposition and free-spirited nature can all be seen in here. I spent some minutes listening to Italian music played on guitar at the middle of the plaza….I was waiting for hubby but, I was too surprised when I saw him there held (actually dragged) by a pantomime…Had I not been so quick, he would have probably been taken away by a chinese lady! ^_^ The night went on with some more walking, night shots, wine, pasta and more walking. This trip may not be one of those cheap late holidays we booked in a hurry…we definitely spent more but it’s all worth it! Sometimes opting for the budget offer is a good idea, but spending a bit more, that’s both time and money, in a city as Rome, is definitely one to try!

pantheonplaza
Piazza della Rotonda and Pantheon

 

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San Francisco

The Alcatraz Island – The Famous Tourist Trap

By on December 8, 2013

 

san francisco bay bridge
Golden Gate bridge (all photos in this post by hubby)

If you love watching movies, especially the ones based on true stories, actual historical places, or real people (those whose names became popular either because of their good deeds or their notoriety), then you have probably seen “The Rock” and “Escape from Alcatraz”. Both movies were set in the infamous Alcatraz Island, a small island located in the San Francisco Bay, about 1.5 miles offshore from San Francisco. Because of its topography and its size, the island was aptly nicknamed The Rock.

A tour of the island will bring you face-to-face with the site of the first lighthouse and US-built military fortification on the West Coast. In 1868, the entire island (with some areas converted into housing rows) became a military prison. Later on, The Rock became a federal penitentiary (1933-1963) that was off-limits to the public. Then, in 1964 and 1969-1971, a group of Aboriginal peoples (Indians of All Tribes) from San Francisco who were trying to save themselves from Native activism marred by public protests (they were being terminated by federal policy) sought safety on the island and stayed there for 18 months. This move by the Indians of All Tribes was monumental for it sparked a change in the federal policy towards American Indians.

the rock, alcatraz island
The Rock, Alcatraz island

It was only in 1972 when Alcatraz Island became a national recreation area, the justifiably popular tourist attraction that it is now (one of many prisons to become so), and to this day, it continues to draw in thousands of tourists, year in and year out.

The allure of the area extends far beyond the walls of the prison, although the same never fail to mesmerize tourists. The Rock itself exudes a unique appeal – the island is rugged and exceptionally beautiful at the same time, with gardens, tide pools, and bird colonies that will surely leave visitors breathless. Given that it right smack in the middle of San Francisco Bay, it offers an unparalleled view of the city.

It is worth noting that only inmates who posed greatest threats of violence and escape were sent to Alcatraz, which is considered a maximum-security prison. There, inmates were housed one man to a cell. Unlike inmates at other prisons who could spend their days out of their cells to do mandatory work programs, attend education classes, or enjoy recreational activities, Alcatraz inmates had to earn time out from their cells through good behavior.

remains
a building’s remain in the island

There is a cell house audio tour being offered, which is a self-guided tour featuring narration of former inmates and guards. You’d get a glimpse into the lives of the most notorious federal inmates in history such as:

Alphonse “Al” Capone – also known as “Scarface”, he was the brutal kingpin of the Chicago underworld. He was incarcerated because of federal charges of tax evasion.
James Lucas – he tried to kill Al Capone by stabbing him in the shower.
George “Machine Gun” Kelly – a notorious kidnapper.
Floyd Hamilton – Bonnie and Clyde’s accomplice and noted bank robber.
Arthur “Doc” Barker and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis – both are members of the infamous Ma Barker Gang.
Roy Gardner – last of the “Old West” train robbers.
Morton Sobell – convicted in the Rosenberg espionage case
Robert Stroud – the Birdman of Alcatraz and one of the most notorious criminals in American history. He was depicted as a kindly bird lover in the movie “The Birdman of Alcatraz” where Burt Lancaster played his part, but in reality, he was a homicidal sociopath whom officers in Alcatraz likened to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

alcatraz cells
cells

You’ll also see the recreation yard (or at least, part of what’s left of it), where inmates played their favorite sport of softball during their few hours of yard time on weekends. There are collections of objects made by notorious inmates, historic photographs and documents, escape materials, and inmate artwork, as well as items used by officers, including correctional materials, when Alcatraz was a federal penitentiary from 1934-1963; military prison period materials from 1859-1934; and the American Indian occupation of 1969 -1971.

Obviously, there is a wealth of knowledge and history waiting for tourists at Alcatraz Island. The rich history of the place makes it one of the most popular tourist attractions ever, and it surely deserves a spot in your list of must-visit places.

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Music Scene

The Musical Greats of Seattle

By on December 4, 2013
Seattle Skyline, Space Needle upfront (wiki)

Seattle, Washington, known as the City of Goodwill and also as Emerald City, is known for coffee, rainy weather, the Space Needle, and some great musical legends. While it may not be along the lines of New York or Hollywood in terms of being a magnet for entertainers, Seattle’s high quality of life, strong arts culture, and much educated populace are enough reasons for the city to generate more talent than anywhere else.

Here are some of the famous artists, musicians, and bands that came from Seattle or at launched their careers while living in Seattle.

1. Jimi Hendrix

Hendrix had a short-lived career, spanning seven years. In all of those seven years, the last three years catapulted and cemented his stature as the “Black Elvis”. These last three years of superstardom were and still are considered among the most influential in the history of pop music.

Jimi Hendrix was born and bred in Seattle. In fact, his first ever gig was in the basement of Temple De Hirsch, a synagogue in Seattle. His ticket to fame was touring with the Isley Brothers and going to London, where he attained worldwide fame as a singer, songwriter, and guitar phenomenon.

He died a premature death due to the fatal combination of alcohol and sleeping pills. He was only 27 years young then.

2. Ray Charles

Technically, Ray Charles isn’t a native of Seattle. He was born in Albany, Georgia on September 23, 1930, lived as a blind, orphaned young boy in Tampa, Florida, and later on moved to Seattle to get as far away as he could from where he currently lived.

He stayed briefly in Seattle, but it was noted that it served as the launch pad of his career. This was where he cut his first record and developed the genre-bending musical style that made him the international star that he was.

ray charles
Ray Charles, 2003

3. Quincy Jones

Quincy is a record producer, composer, arranger, conductor, film and TV producer, and musician rolled into one. His career spans six decades and his resiliency in the entertainment industry is proven by his record 79 Grammy award nominations. Of these, he has won 27 awards, including the prestigious Grammy Legend Award in 1991. He has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry including Celine Dion, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Jackson. Incidentally, Quincy Jones was a good friend of Ray Charles, and in fact, owed his musical beginnings to the latter.

4. Nirvana and Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain grew up in the logging town of Aberdeen. In the late 80s, he formed the band Nirvana together with his fellow Aberdeener, Krist Noveselic. Nirvana was famous for grunge music, and it was in the early 90s, through the said genre, that Seattle shot to a type of cultural prominence it has never experienced before.

Kurt’s strong vocal prowess, uncanny command of melody, and adolescent rage combined to form hits such as “Smells like Teen Spirit”. Sadly, Kurt’s life was cut short when he took his own life at the age of 27, after struggling with depression, stomach pain, and heroin abuse.

5. Kenny G

Known as the titan of smooth jazz, Kenneth Bruce Gorelick was born in Seattle, Washington on June 5, 1956. He attended Franklin High School and University of Washington. After graduating from college, he became a successful jazz instrumentalist and even played along with Barry White while on tour. Eventually, he recorded his own work, which paved the way for his multi-platinum success. Over the years, he has sold over 70 million records and he continues to be a popular jazz instrumentalist to this day.

Some of other famous bands/musicians (living and otherwise) who hail from Seattle are:

Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam
Macklemore
Alice in Chains
Bing Crosby
Dave Matthews
Soundgarden

All these names are proof that Seattle has, indeed, a great musical history and that it has produced more talent per capita than any other city in the United States.

cobain
Kurt Cobain, 1993

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North America

Where to? Emerald City versus City By The Bay

By on November 29, 2013

 

Twelve hours apart from each other by car and just about two hours by plane, Seattle and San Francisco tend to be two cities with a highly educated, nature-loving, culturally-rich population. They are both favourites among travellers, especially those who enjoy long driving trips. There are still a lot to see and do in between and what would you actually expect when you spend a week in each of these wonderful cities? There are so many differences and similarities, so let’s try pinning them down and maybe if you’d be in a pinch in choosing which city to stay longer in, this list would help.

seattle
Seattle (hubby)

Skyline and Architecture

Depending on where you stand, both cities offer perfect panorama skyline shots. Both define what makes each a unique city and would spell a character of being bustling, friendly or adventurous.

Seattle holds the most number of high-rises in Washington, numbering over 200 completed ones and is still growing. There are 13 listed complete skyscrapers and a lot more under construction. The tallest building in Seattle is the 76-story Columbia Center. A visit to Seattle’s observation tower, the Space Needle is a must-see!

San Francisco boasts of 436 high-rises and 21 skyscrapers, the tallest of which is the Transamerica Pyramid. Of course, the famous Bay Bridge, one that has the longest span in the world, at dusk would be a lovely sight.

Don’t forget to take your camera and a fast lens when going out at the blue hour for a captivating shot.

San Francisco skyline
Downtown San Francisco at dusk, famous bridge on facade (wiki)

spell rain over Seattle (Christian Bobadilla – http://hdrcreme.com/)

 

Weather

The best months to visit Seattle is between May and September, typically a mixture of clouds and sunshine with mild temperatures. Although many would say it is rainy all throughout, don’t be discouraged, locals would prove you that there are much more lovely days to walk by than not and  why not enjoy a dance in the rain while you’re there?

San Francisco’s Mediterranean climate is characteristic of the cool-summer and moist mild winters. The fog that blankets the city at times, gives it a mysterious aura that sends tourists wanting to discover more. September and October are the best months to visit San Francisco, for with its crisp air, mild temperature and there’s a bit of sunshine that would peak from the foggy landscape.

bay bridge fog
Makes for a perfect postcard (wiki)

Pacific Science Center, seattle
Pacific Science Center (wiki)

Culture, Entertainment and the Arts

Seattle and San Francisco fare well in the scene of music, entertainment, and the arts. Seattle has been a regional center for the performing arts for many years and is considered the home of grunge music being the home to artists such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Mudhoney. It also lists Jimi Hendrix,Duff McKagan, Kenny G, Nikki Sixx, and Quincy Jones to its famous  musicians. And though much younger compared to other cities, it is home to a number of museums such as the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture which holds 14 million artifacts and specimens. There are also a  lot of notable art galleries and studios mostly housed in the famous Pioneer Square. Overall, Seattle’s lively neighborhood would be dear and valuable to music and art enthusiasts.

Diversity describes San Francisco’s various museums. To name a few, there’s the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum and Learning Center, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Mexican Museum, the Museo ItaloAmericano, the Museum of Russian Culture and the Museum of the African Diaspora. The museums’ names alone would describe the multifarious culture you will experience in the city.

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Palace of fine arts, SF (hubby)

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Seahawks (hubby)

Outdoor Activities and Sports

Seattle’s nickname “Emerald City” comes from the lush evergreen forests in the area and this is not just lip service. Strategically located between the saltwater Puget Sound to the west, lies the Kitsap Peninsula and Olympic Mountains on the Olympic Peninsula; to the east, beyond Lake Washington and the eastside suburbs, are Lake Sammamish and the Cascade Range, spanning all-over 7 hills. Thus, Seattle is perfect for hunting, as well as a handful of activities such as sailing and kayaking in the waters of Puget Sound, camping, skiing, , rock climbing, bicycling, and hiking: all year-round in the any of the hills and even the cities suburbs. Seattle boasts of more than 5000 acres of parkland, walking alone is worth an activity to do everyday in this picturesque city. It is fitting to be called the fittest city in the United States for all these activities citizens enjoy.

San Francisco Bay is famous for boating, sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing and Golden Gate Park has facilities for such sports as tennis. There are a number of clubs and parks open for golf, swimming and rowing. The Escape from Alcatraz triathlon is a must for professional and amateur triathletes for its annual race. The city has a yacht harbor in the Marina District and hosted this year’s America Cup yacht racing competition.

Both cities’ professional sports profiles fare well in the country, not limited to football, baseball and basketball.

sf giants
Batting, SF Giants (hubby)

 

That each city is unique and offers diverse chunks of culture, architecture and entertainment is given. Seattle is a bit an underestimated city that has a lot to boast while San Francisco lives up to its reputation of being one of the best cities in the United States. It is in the best interest of every traveller to get the finest holiday experience in every city they visit. In the same way, there are several sites for online holiday comparison where one can get deals from to somehow save a few bucks which he or she can add to his or her pocketmoney. Seattle and San Francisco are two cities worth visiting, one may be cheaper than the other but with a good planning and some researching, you’d be able to enjoy the best of  both  these beauties!

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North America | Seattle

Much Ado about the Space Needle

By on November 20, 2013

 

Seattle is considered the major commercial, educational, and cultural powerhouse of the western Washington region. It may seem like an ordinary city, but you would never want for anything when you visit the place. The city boasts of extraordinary and fun things to do no matter what age group you belong to.

At least three bodies of water surround Seattle – Lake Union, Lake Washington, and Elliot Bay. In addition, it’s where you’ll find Mount Olympic, Cascade, and Mount Rainier. Aside from these natural treasures, Seattle boasts of a thriving city life, world class museums such as the Seattle Art Museum, classic theaters, restaurants that serve world class cuisine, and many more famous landmarks.

seattle space needle
at 605 ft

Nevertheless, one of the most famous distinguishing features of Seattle is the Space Needle. This 605 feet tower, which was built for the 1962 World Fair, has become a favorite tourist attraction and a symbolic figure in Seattle. It is to Seattle as Sears Tower is to Chicago or the Statue of Liberty is to New York.

Edward Carlson envisioned the Space Needle, and he had the Stuttgart Tower in Germany to thank for the inspiration. Upon seeing the tower in Germany, he immediately made rough sketches on a napkin of something that would eventually become the Space Needle. Carlson’s original design had a top that looked like a floating balloon. However, the man who was responsible for bringing it to life was John Graham. For practical reasons, Graham and his team of architects decided to tweak Carlson’s original design, transforming the balloon top of the tower into a UFO. This is the sauce-topped tower we see now.

You’re probably wondering why Carlson would design something so futuristic. Well, the theme of the 1962 World Fair hosted in Seattle was “Century 21”, which explains why the Space Needle’s design had to be so. At 605 feet, the Needle seems to be teetering on a precarious ledge. However, the architects made sure that its concrete foundation was 30 feet deep in order to balance the structure. The actual tower and 24 lightning rods ensure that the structure is safe when lightning strikes.

Ever since it was created, the Space Needle has always had a light atop the structure. Through the years, this light has seen different “versions”, the most recent of which is the Legacy Light. The Legacy Light was first illuminated on New Year’s Eve of 1999/2000, as the whole world ushered in a new millennium. This beam of light shines its light skyward from the top of the Space Needle and is lit up to honor national holidays and commemorate other special occasions celebrated in Seattle.

The Space Needle owes part of its appeal to its observation deck, which is at 520 feet, and this provides a 360-degree view of Seattle’s landscape. Through telescopes found on the deck, you could zoom in on 60 different landmarks found around the city of Seattle.

The Needle also has a restaurant called the SkyCity, which revolves fully at 500 feet every hour. Incidentally, Where Magazine’s Visitors Choice Dining Awards named this restaurant “Best View”, and the Washington Wine Commission named it Best Restaurant for 2009. There is also the Skyline Banquet Facility that hosts events at 100 feet. If you want to go shopping for souvenirs, there is a gift shop at the base of the Space Needle aptly called the Space Base.

A trip to the Space Needle would be pretty special, and just the mere sight of this beautiful structure is enough to confirm that. If you haven’t been there, go and visit the place to find out why people are abuzz about it and why Seattle Weekly calls it the “Best Place to Get Engaged”.

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South Africa

Stunning Shorelines: The Best of South African Beaches

By on October 24, 2013

 

South Africa is a beautiful and vibrant country, and with such a vast history – both devastating and exciting – there’s so much for tourists to experience here. With millions of people visiting South Africa every year, there’s no doubt that it’s stunning countryside, museums, restaurants and bars offer a wealth of entertainment, and one of the highlight attractions will always be its glorious beaches. From dolphins and whales to beach sports and finishing excursions, South Africa’s beaches are the hub of some of the most cultured and social activity in the country, and if you’re thinking about visiting this magnificent country this year, you’re going to need to know which ones to visit!

Eastern Cape – Port St Johns, The Wild Coast

Both iconic and beautiful, Port St Johns can be found on South Africa’s Eastern Cape, and it one of the most visited shorelines in the country. Although it’s fairly undeveloped, there’s no underestimating the natural beauty of this beach, with hubs of tropical beauty everywhere you look. Furthermore, the water is some of the warmest of the coastline, meaning it’s popular with swimmers and surfers alike.

Port Elizabeth
Port Elizabeth image via http://www.flickr.com/photos/exfordy/

Port Elizabeth

Another of the Eastern Cape’s tourist hotspots, Port Elizabeth is a little more commercial than Port St Johns, mainly because it’s port and marina are still active trading destinations. Protected by the gentle curves of Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth’s shoreline is peaceful and calm, juxtaposed to the hustle and bustle of the port in many ways. With safe surfing and swimming, as well as offering a number of bars overlooking the sea, Port Elizabeth is a must-visit beach destination, especially if you’re holidaying with the family.

East London

A far cry from the east part of England’s capital, South Africa’s East London is a laid back but thriving community, offering a beach culture like no other. With golden sand, historic rocks and spectacular scenery, this is a beach for cameras and long walks, and you might even pump into a campfire or two!

Cape Vidal, iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Cape Vidal image via http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlauret/

KwaZulu-Natal – Cape Vidal, iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Not only one of the finest beaches in the whole of South Africa, but one of the finest beaches in the World! Stunning snow-white stand lines the shores as marine life thrives from the ocean’s minerals, and with humpback whales as well as dolphins patrol the waters, this is a natural attraction that shouldn’t be missed.

Umhlanga Rocks

Located just north of the city of Durban, Umhlanga’s beaches are most lively during the school holidays in South Africa. People travel from all over the country to visit the exciting and diverse sands here, and there are plenty of activities to take advantage of, including surfing competitions and mini festivals. Make the most out of your holiday in South Africa this year by booking your airfares at http://www.cheapflights.co.za – there are so many great deals to take advantage of!

South Beach, Durban

This is one the highlights of Durban’s famous ‘Golden Mile’, and it’s a hotspot for swimming and surfing. From mini markets selling handmade goods, to live music and beach sports, this is the place to bring the family, and there are loads of restaurants overlooking the beach too, just in case you get hungry!

Umhlanga Lighthouse

 

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Accommodations

Rooms on a Budget Through Hotel Discount Sites

By on September 20, 2013

 

Shopping is always fun when you are getting things at a bargain.  The same is true when shopping for hotel accommodations for your vacation.  There are budget rooms and suites available in many hotel discount sites online.  All you need to do is to check these websites at some point and find wonderful deals for your next vacation.  But first, you have to choose your discount sites carefully.  There are a lot of scams online and you do not want to be the next willing prey.  Take a look at the following factors when you evaluate the deal website:

bologna, italy
wandering in bologna

Reliability.  How good a deal really is can only be proven when you avail of it.  Most of the people who are conned into making online purchases find out too late that their money is gone and the product they got is no good.  You want to make sure that the travel website that you are getting your hotel deals from will truly deliver.  Check out its reputation and read through the customer testimonials on the website itself or in other review websites as well.

Timing.  You have to be quick to take advantage of these hotel deals.  Some of them are offered within a short promotional period only.  This is why it is best if you are subscribed to receive notifications for certain deals in your chosen destinations.  It is also a good idea to have a tentative travel date and some other travel preferences in mind.  This will allow you to make a quick decision when the right travel deal comes along.  Have a list of your “requirements” in a hotel room:  number of beds, available amenities, access to business facilities, guided tour availability, and airport transfers among others.

Security.  Make sure that your personal and financial details are safe at all times.  You want an assurance that your data will not be exposed to other entities without your consent.  Even if it’s just for regular promotional emails, you do not want the travel website to be giving out your email address to their partner establishments.  Make sure too that you get your proof of payment every time you transact in any travel website to purchase your hotel deals.

hotel novotel fiera
Novotel Bologna Fiera

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United Kingdom

Famous and Historical London Casinos

By on July 12, 2013

 

The city of London offers many casinos for tourists to visit while in the city. Not surprisingly, some of these casinos have historical roots given the age of the city. However, one can also find newer casino venues that have become rather famous given what they can offer. Knowing what casinos are available prior to your departure can help you best manage your time while visiting London.

Warwick Street, Mayfair

The Palm Beach Casino is located in central London in the Mayfair neighbourhood which is home to other casinos. Like most casinos in London, membership must be obtained if you plan on making a bet over £1,500. Otherwise, visitors can easily enter the casino without being charged. The specific dress code of any casino in London is key as it varies considerably. Despite the setting and décor of the Palm Beach Casino, visitors can be admitted with casual dress so long as it is neat looking. While the Palm Beach is not a large casino, one will notice that the gaming tables are spread out which makes it much easier to navigate through the establishment.

lighted

Casino games found here include popular favourites that many play at online casinos including roulette, poker, blackjack and slots. Rooms can be found surrounding the main casino floor which are for those who wish to have more of a private game. The roulette tables found in the Palm Beach Casino number ten. They also have some tables with rather low minimum bets which will appeal to casual gamblers. Blackjack is found at three tables in the casino. Within the high roller area expect to find extremely high buy-in amounts for this game. The variation of poker that is most people here is Texas Hold ‘Em. However, casual poker players be warned, often there many only be one table open and it could have a rather high table minimum.

london
Berkeley square at the Mayfair neighborhood

 

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