Category Archives: Regions

Why My Favourite Way to See Europe is Cruising

When it comes to traveling Europe, it’s safe to say I’ve done it all. I’ve visited Europe with a large tour group and explored Italy on my own backpacking tour when I was 20. So when my parents suggested getting the family together on a river cruise through Europe I agreed without hesitation. Was I worried I was going to be the only person under 35 on this cruise? Yes, but there was no way I was going to pass up another opportunity to visit Europe.

Before the trip, my family wasn’t sure which cruise company to go with. We had a lot of options and it was overwhelming to decide! There are many different cruise companies that operate in Europe. My dad ended up making the final decision with his eyes closed. He chose a river cruise called Scenic Cruises. I’ve never heard of this cruise line before this trip so I was excited for the new experience.

Traveling across Europe on a river cruise was different in many ways. Everything from the pace of the trip to the people you traveled with varied from my past travel experiences. The luxury river cruise my family chose to go on was everything you’d expect it to be when you first hear the words “luxury river cruise”: lavish suites, five-star guest experience and elegant, world-class excursions. My last Euro trip consisted of cheap eats and a constant go-go-go vibe; this river cruise couldn’t have been more opposite.

The first thing I noticed when I boarded the ship was the size: this was no 1000 plus guests ocean cruiser. With only 85 suites and a maximum head count of 169 guests, the ship I traveled on was designed with comfort and luxury in mind. It was an all-inclusive travel experience which meant I not only had free reign of the mini bar in my cabin but  my own personal butler (you have to see it to believe it). 

As a (relatively) young woman who’s had to make her own bed since the age of 10, I was thrilled to discover that for one glorious week, I wouldn’t have to worry about fluffing my pillows or finding spare change for laundry. On top of having your own butler, the cruise line offered nightly turndown service, complimentary laundry concierge as well as 24 hour room service. There were numerous restaurants available for dining as well as unlimited access to a gym, wellness centre, pool, panoramic lounge and sun deck (which lead me to put my guard down for one afternoon and go easy on the sunscreen- big mistake. Huge).

Obviously, I was over the moon with these discoveries; as seasoned cruisers, even my hard-to-please parents were impressed by the attention-to-detail. With a 1:3 crew to guest ratio, however, I shouldn’t have expected anything less than first class.

Perhaps the biggest difference I noticed between traveling on your own and via boat cruise is the touring schedule. With a river cruise, your travel itinerary is already organized and laid out for you. The daily routine in place aboard a cruise is that the boat will move at night and dock by breakfast. The daily land excursions alternate between half and full day and allow for little independent sightseeing, which I guess is the point for the majority of travelers aboard the cruise.

There is little time to go off on your own since the ship has a set schedule to dock and depart every night. Knowing what I do now, I can say it’s smart to do your research before choosing a cruise line.

Each cruise line will vary in style, itinerary and destination. The river cruise I experienced had every day of the trip organized and planned for guests- while I’ll admit it took a huge weight off my shoulders in terms of pre-cruise organization, the pre-arranged schedule did limit my ability to explore a city independently without another 15 people tagging along.

The land excursions, I have to say, are in a league of their own. Curated by the cruise line’s very own “journey designers,” I saw a part of Europe I couldn’t have possibly experienced backpacking on my own. While the attractions were similar, it was the extra attention-to-detail that made me become fully immersed in the country’s culture.

As an example, on day four of my cruise, I got to taste my way around a local market in Vienna, Austria but with an added twist- a local private chef was there to accompany fellow guests and teach us about the delicacies known to the region (there is a half finished note on my Iphone dating back to this excursion that reads, “How to make Bratwurst from scratch”). One of the highlights of my cruise though took place In Freudenberg, Germany. I had the most amazing day celebrating Oktoberfest with guests and locals alike-there was food, there was dancing and yup, there was a staggering amount of beer (beer everywhere!).

Celebrating a classic Bavarian tradition with a crowd that traveled from all over the world to experience it firsthand took a seemingly simple excursion to the next level. While we all took part in the excursion for different reasons- I came for the beer, my parents came for the bratwurst and Andrew from Australia simply wanted to get acquainted with his German roots- we all left with the same awesome memory.

After 15 days floating down the Rhine and Danube rivers, I have to say there’s something to putting your feet up and shelling out some extra cash (okay, a lot of cash) for someone else to do the hard work of planning a trip for you. That was my favourite part of taking the scenic route; if you ask my parents, they’ll reference “wine night” in Budapest, Hungary.

I personally think traveling around on a cruise is one of the best ways to go on a multi-country trip. Why? It’s easy, it’s relaxing and they make it oh-so-convenient. I will say that it’s not for everyone: if you’re an independent traveler or a club-goer, a luxury river cruise won’t give you what you’re looking for.

At 33, I was easily one of the youngest people aboard the ship; however, I wouldn’t write off a river cruise for that reason alone. I found the crowd to be interesting, educated and well traveled. Many were entrepreneurs with their own successful businesses (which would explain how they could afford the price tag). Again, this too, will vary from cruise to cruise.

In light of my early travel hesitations, I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the river cruise. I am so grateful! I met some amazing people and I got to experience Budapest to Amsterdam all in one shot (thanks mom and dad!)

Lauren Martineau

Professional freelance blogger & writer, storyteller & adventuress. When Lauren's not typing 80 wpm, she's travelling and staying fit.

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4 Can’t-Miss Autumn Adventures in Spokane

Spokane, Washington is absolutely stunning in the fall.  

Though I’m a Seattleite now, the “Lilac City” will always be a second home for me, after living there for several years.  I loved being so close to nature, feeling the stark seasonal changes, and seeing new restaurants and shops open up as downtown grew. 

Every year when the days begin to shorten, I always get a bit nostalgic about my time there.   The heat loses its bite and the city is transformed into a canvas of bright colors as the trees prepare to drop their leaves.  For those of us not lucky enough to live there, it’s a beautiful place for a peaceful weekend away.

Here are some of my favorite autumn adventures to enjoy in Spokane.

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Pavillion By Night by Matt Reinbold is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Marvel over the Victorian houses and bright colors of Browne’s Addition

If you’re visiting Spokane for a short trip, you’ll probably be staying in one of the downtown hotels.  Once you’ve dropped off your bags, a good place to stretch your legs is by walking to Browne’s Addition, which is widely known as one of the best neighborhoods in Spokane, and is just west of downtown.  Spend an hour or an afternoon strolling through its quiet streets, enjoying the stately homes and marveling at the bright colors of the trees lining the roads.  The sugar maples, which blaze in bright reds and oranges throughout the fall, are particularly vibrant.

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EJ Roberts Mansion by Tracy Hunter is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

If you have extra time, stop by the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture on 1st avenue (which is having a Halloween party this year!), or lengthen your walk by heading north, crossing the Spokane River on a footbridge.  From there, head East on the Centennial Trial to loop through Riverfront Park, where you’ll see more dazzling colors, before heading back to downtown Spokane.

Go apple picking at Green Bluff

A fantastic way to spend one of Spokane’s brisk, sunny autumn days is a visit to the orchards.  Greenbluff excursions are a strong tradition in Spokane, and it was always the day trip I looked forward to the most in the fall.  After your morning coffee, pile into the car with friends and family to make the short drive out of town to the north.  After about 30 minutes you’ll find yourself on a plateau, surrounded by a collection of orchards and farms.  Reserve an afternoon to stroll through the trees, filling a bucket with crisp, bright apples.  There’s a reason Washington is famous for this fruit! In fact, more than 100 million boxes of apples (at 40 pounds each) are produced in the state each year. 

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Apples by Shinya Suzuki is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Several Green Bluff orchards also have small presses where you can make a jug of sweet apple cider.  It doesn’t get any fresher than that! Just make sure to enjoy it over the next day or two, since there are no preservatives.  One way to use up that cider is to  try your hand at making a fancy fall cocktail

Taste seasonal beer from award-winning breweries

Though apples are Washington State’s most famous crop, did you know the Evergreen State also dominates the hop industry, producing around 70% of all hops grown in North America?

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Beer Sampler by Quinn Dombrowski is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Though cities like Seattle and Denver are well-known as craft beer havens, Spokane has been quietly been producing award-winning breweries.   There are plenty of good breweries around town, but No-Li Brewhouse on the river in the Logan Neighborhood, and Steam Plant Brewing downtown are great places to start. This time of year is particularly special, because “fresh hop” beers are in season, which is a must-try if you’ve never tasted them before.  

If beer’s not your thing, taste a “farm to table” craft liquor from DryFly Distilling or take a distilling class at Tinbender Craft Distillery

Take a scenic drive to Schweitzer and Lake Pend Orielle

When you think of the Rocky Mountains, what do you imagine?  It’s likely you thought of the wilds of Colorado, or perhaps Wyoming or Montana.  You might be surprised at how close Spokane is to the northern Rockies, which spill over into the narrow neck of neighboring Idaho.  Schweitzer Mountain Resort is a favorite skiing destination in the winter, but it’s also a gorgeous place to visit in the fall, and only about a 2-hour scenic drive.

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Lake Pend Orielle at Sunset by Bjorn is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Pack a picnic and make a detour to Farragut State Park, where you can explore Lake Pend Orielle or go on a hike.  Or, stop for lunch and window shopping in the quaint town of Sandpoint, located at the north end of the lake.  Shortly after leaving Sandpoint, you’ll begin the zig-zagging journey up the mountain, feeling the temperature cool as you climb.  When you reach the resort, stunning views of the mountain range reward you.  For adventurers who’d like an even better view, grab a chairlift ticket to the top of the mountain, where 360-degree views will take your breath away.  

Martha Burwell

Hola, Bonjour, Sabaidee! Having traveled the world, Martha Burwell is a writer and consultant based in Seattle who loves sharing stories about places she’s been. But her heart will always be in the Pacific Northwest, where she explores the nearby mountains on foot, by mountain bike, and by snowboard. Martha regularly writes for www.StreetAdvisor.com, and also consults on gender equity via www.MarthaBurwell.com and blogs about intersectional gender equity at www.EqualiSea.org.

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An Insider’s Guide to Visiting San Diego

San Diego is a picturesque beach town located in southern California. With warm weather year-round, surfers can be found out trying to catch a wave any day of the week. If you’re headed there for your next vacation, here’s an insider’s guide to visiting San Diego.

San Diego California

Image via Flickr

Visit La Jolla Cove

If you want to see seals, this is the place to come. Dozens of these creatures can be spotted daily lying out on the rocks, catching some rays. If you head down to the water, seal pups can be seen playing with each other in the water and trying to ride the waves. For a few dollars, you can visit the Cave, where a long set of wooden stairs takes you down a dark tunnel right into a hidden cave where the water comes in.

Spend the Day at Pacific Beach

San Diego has some of the most beautiful beaches in the United States. From Pacific Beach to La Jolla, there’s no shortage of places to lie on the beach or swim out in the ocean. Pacific Beach not only has sandy beaches, but is lined with restaurants and bars for when you need to refuel. Local attorney David Hiden elaborates on this, stating:

My favorite thing to do in San Diego is to go to the beach and enjoy the fine sand and the great water because San Diego is such a beautiful city and the beaches are well known to be clean and wonderful.

Walk Through Balboa Park

When you’ve had enough of the ocean, head over to this urban park to get in some exercise. At almost 2 square miles, it’s a green oasis perfect for jogging. There’s plenty to stop at along the way, including the famous San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Natural History Museum, and the San Diego Museum of Art.

Visit a Lighthouse

If you like lighthouses, you’ll love visiting the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. This beautiful lighthouse was first in operation in 1855 to help ships navigate through the fog to the shores of San Diego. While it stopped being used in 1891 in lieu of a new lighthouse in a different location, the building has been very well-preserved. You can go inside the lighthouse, as well as see the old living quarters from the 1800s.

Marissa Pedersen

Marissa is a freelance writer, travel blogger, and social media marketing manager from Seattle. She runs the travel blog Postcards to Seattle, which captures all her journeys from around the world. She likes to stay active wherever she goes, from kayaking in Italy to snowboarding in the Alps.

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JetBlue weekend getaways from Long Beach

Sometimes, you just want to get out of town for a couple of days.  And with JetBlue’s affordable, nonstop flights from Long Beach, you can jump on a plane after work on Friday and be sipping a cold drink in another state by the time the summer sun sets.  Here are a few ideas to get you started.

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Airplane by Tracy Hunter is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Long Beach to Seattle: 2h 38m

Escape the heat and jet off to the beautiful Emerald City, surrounded by mountains and resting on the shores of Puget Sound.  Summers here are known to be sunny and pleasantly warm, usually in the 70s and 80s during the day.  Start by exploring Seattle’s fun and unique neighborhoods, each one with a different feel.  Wander through the Fremont market, roast marshmallows over a sunset campfire on the beach at Golden Gardens Park, or sip a cold beer at one of the dozens of craft breweries.

Long Beach to Vegas: 1h 8m

Skip the long desert drive and jump on a short flight to Sin City for a weekend away. Though the nightclub and live music scene is world-famous, you might not know that Las Vegas is also an extremely popular destination for sports competitions and conferences.  For those who can manage a weekday getaway, many hotels are half price, and you can find nonstop JetBlue flights for as low as $49.   

Long Beach to Portland: 2h 11m

If you’re looking for some great outdoor concert series, but would rather not spend hours sweating under the blazing sun, try Portland.  The cooler climate is the perfect host for dozens of concerts and festivals in and around the city.  As a bonus, most have an abundance of craft brews available, which the city is famous for.  If that’s not your scene, take a stroll around the famous Pearl District, or rent a bike to explore the Rose City’s beautiful neighborhoods.   

Long Beach to Austin: 2h 52m

If you’re a museum or music buff, Austin is a fun weekend destination.  People flock from all over the world for the famous Austin City Limits and SXSW music festivals here, as well as the nightly live music scene up and down 6th avenue.  History lovers will want to spend hours exploring Austin’s museums, including the Mexican American Cultural Center, the Mexic-Arte Museum, and the Bullock Texas State History Museum, among others.  Not sure where to start?  See what the locals recommend in Austin.

Martha Burwell

Hola, Bonjour, Sabaidee! Having traveled the world, Martha Burwell is a writer and consultant based in Seattle who loves sharing stories about places she’s been. But her heart will always be in the Pacific Northwest, where she explores the nearby mountains on foot, by mountain bike, and by snowboard. Martha regularly writes for www.StreetAdvisor.com, and also consults on gender equity via www.MarthaBurwell.com and blogs about intersectional gender equity at www.EqualiSea.org.

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southwest collective house

Southwest Collective: a Coworking Retreat in Portugal

I came across Southwest Collective, a one week coworking retreat later this year, and since readers here are generally the digital nomad type, I thought I’d share.

Where: Guia, Portugal
When: 11-18 September 2016

The house attendees will stay at:

southwest collective house

More info and application, head over to their website: http://southwestcollective.co/

Having spent 2 weeks at StartUp Abroad in Bali in 2012, I can confidently say a co-working retreat is good for the soul.

PS: Coliving is one of the public groups we’ve added to Horizon’s web version (http://api.horizonapp.co/groups/). For those interested in coworking/coliving, I recommend you join.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Anthony Bourdain Says Go to Marseilles. Why?

In advance of a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown,” CNN released a video in which Bourdain is asked for the most underrated travel destination in the world. His answer is Marseille, where the episode is filmed. He calls the city a “glorious stew of Mediterranean madness, easily the most interesting, under-visited, underexploited place I’ve been in a really long time.”

In the episode itself, he declares his love even more openly: “I could retire here. That’s sort of the measure of a place, for me, if you start thinking thoughts like that.” These are strong words coming from the notoriously cynical Bourdain. What is so special about Marseille that it makes even Anthony Bourdain lose his edge? And why has it been under appreciated?

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A Cultural Melting Pot

Marseille is the second largest city in France and was settled by the ancient Greeks, who named is Massalia. As a port city, it has long been home to a wide variety of immigrants, including large groups of North Africans, Italians, Corsicans, and Armenians. Its religious diversity also contributes to reputation as a cultural intersection point. While a majority of the population identify as Roman Catholics, about 30% are Muslim, and there is a large Jewish community as well. This blend of influences with colliding cultures makes Marseille feel more like a diverse international seaport than a resort town in Provence.

But as Bourdain also notes in the CNN video, Marseille is a “victim of bad reputation.” Many in France associate Marseille with the drug trade and gang violence, a perception that is heightened by the city’s relative poverty and high unemployment rate. But violent crime has taken a sharp downturn in recent years, and the people of Marseille take great pride in their city and their sense of community. They are fiercely devoted to their club soccer team, Olympique de Marseille, and to their own flourishing local rap scene, which has produced popular groups such as IAM and Le 3ème Oeil.

Historic Sights and Natural Beauty

Marseille is known for its sunny beaches, such as the Catalans and Pointe-Rouge, and its relaxed seaside atmosphere. Many of the shopping streets in the city center have been blocked off as pedestrian zones, making leisurely strolling the ideal means of transportation. For the perfect rambling tour, start at entrance to the Old Port, which is flanked by two forts constructed in 1660 by Louis XIV, and continue up La Canebière, the city’s most famous historic shopping street. From there, head to the stunning Palais Longchamp, which houses a museum of fine arts and a natural history museum. Then turn south to see Notre-Dame de la Garde, a basilica in the Roman-Byzantine style. It’s built on the highest elevation in the city, and from the top it offers a panoramic view of Marseille and the sea.

For a taste of Marseille’s multiculturalism, head to the Noailles market, where Algerian couscous and Corsican cheese are sold side by side. And for the traditional Marseille culinary experience, bouillabaisse is essential. It’s served first as a broth with grilled bread and a rouille of saffron and garlic, and followed by a large platter of fish. The best in town may be from Gérald Passédat at Le Petit Nice, who holds three Michelin stars.

The area around Marseille offers stunning natural beauty as well as historic architecture. The Frioul archipelago off the coast is home to the Château d’If, where Edmond Dantès is imprisoned in Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo.” The beautifully isolated limestone structure is accessible by boat from Marseille. And for a sunny day adventure, head to the Calanque de Sugiton, one of the stone inlets that dots the Mediterranean coast. This one is accessible by boat or by hike and offers a lovely sea view.

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New Developments

Marseille served as the European Capital of Culture in 2013, which boosted the city’s profile and helped to improve its reputation. The city spent millions of dollars to revamp the port area, fix up old buildings, and make the city center greener and more inviting. The most notable addition is the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, which opened in 2013 as part of the festivities. The stunning modern building sits right on the waterfront, contrasting and complementing its neighbor, the 17th century Fort Saint-Jean. The building was designed by Algerian-born French architect Rudy Ricciotti, who trained in Marseille.

Marseille’s unique charm comes from the blending of disparate elements: Africa and Europe, nature and architecture, old and new. Those influences fuse into a strong identity and sense of place for its inhabitants. And if travelers can look past the city’s reputation, they will find a truly singular experience in Marseille’s intersection of cultures. With Bourdain’s recommendation, the city may not be underrated for much longer, so now is the best time to plan a trip. Marseille will defy expectations, offering a surprise at every turn.

Start Planning Your Trip to the Rio Olympics Right Now

The Rio Olympic Games may not take place until August 2016, but anyone hoping to attend the event in person should start planning their trip now. With more than half a million people expected to attend, a trip to the Olympics is going to require a significant amount of preparation. Check some of the big items off the to-do list now, and you’ll arrive in Rio de Janeiro as a gold medalist in trip planning. Here’s how to get started.

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1. Buy event tickets

Every country has its own official ticket source for the Olympics. In the U.S., that source is CoSport. Individual tickets went on sale back in May, which means tickets are now selling fast. In order to initiate the purchasing process, you’ll need to create an account on cosport.com.

There, you’ll be able to search for and purchase tickets on CoSport’s website. (Keep in mind that each account can purchase no more than 48 tickets.) Because ticket inventory is constantly being updated on the site, it’s a good idea to check back often to see if tickets for the events you want to attend have become available. If you have specific requests pertaining to group purchasing, accessibility needs, and so on, then contact CoSport before purchasing tickets.

If you’re still not seeing the tickets you want, you can try eBay, Craigslist, and other sites. But keep in mind that purchasing through these platforms can be riskier than going through the official reseller.

One important note: When purchasing tickets for different events, remember to allow for travel time between venues. CoSport recommends scheduling at least two or three hours between events that take place on the same day within the same city.

2. Purchase your flight

Think strategically before booking your flight to Rio. You’ll do your wallet a favor by trying not to fly at the same time as the majority of the spectators, like within a few days before the Opening Ceremony and on the day after the Closing Ceremony.

Instead, plan to fly in or out while the games are underway, or schedule in a few extra days of sightseeing on either side of the games. That way, when you do fly, the crowds and prices should be (at least slightly) less astronomical.

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3. Book lodging

Because hotel space in Rio is limited, it’s a good idea to book a hotel or hostel as soon as possible. While it might be tempting to take advantage of the offers for rental apartments online, Olympic representatives have warned visitors to be wary of staying anywhere that hasn’t been certified by a government agency. Your best bet is to book an area hotel, stat.

4. Obtain a visa

Currently, U.S. visitors to Brazil are required to obtain a visa prior to entering the country (to the tune of $160). However, there have been rumors that Brazil may waive the visa requirement for U.S. citizens who attend the Olympic Games.

The safest bet is still to go ahead and secure a visa. (Keep in mind that the process can take several weeks.) But if you want to hold out for the chance of saving the visa fees, then keep following the news to find out what Brazil’s tourism minister ultimately decides. If you have questions, contact the nearest Brazilian embassy or consulate.

While you’re at it, make sure your passport is up to date.

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5. Get the lay of the land

Before landing in Rio, learn what you can about the Olympic stadium and events as well as the surrounding areas. Developing familiarity with the Olympic venues and local customs will make the entire trip go more smoothly. Specifically, it’s helpful to know the following.

  • The competition venues are grouped in four main clusters: Deodoro, Maracana, Barra (the location of the Olympic Park), and Copacabana. Within these clusters, events will be assigned to different zones. Remember that if you want to see several events on the same day, you’ll need to budget time for moving between the different venues.
  • Public transportation on municipal and rapid transit buses is complimentary for visitors traveling to or from an Olympic venue and who are in possession of a valid ticket. Once you’re in Rio, check rio2016.com frequently for the most up-to-date information regarding public transportation.
  • Brazil’s monetary unit is the real. Rio can be an expensive city to begin with, and you can also expect many vendors to impose a 30 percent mark-up during the games. It’s a good idea to start saving for the trip now.
  • August is the end of winter in Brazil, so you’ll want to pack accordingly. Because Rio is located near the coast, expect exceptionally mild winter temperatures; daytime highs can pass 80 degrees while nights are typically in the 60s.
  • Rio is the second largest city in Brazil, and it’s known for its relaxed beach culture, tropical forests, and intercultural music and food scenes. The primary language is Portuguese. If you’re able, plan to explore the local culture while staying in the area.

6. Make preparations

Even though it’s too early to finalize many plans, it’s helpful to start prepping for the more minor details of the trip far in advance. Start creating an itinerary, figure out what sightseeing you want to do in Rio or surrounding areas, and think about security restrictions and what you’ll need during the days that you’re attending the games. The official website for the Rio Olympics, rio2016.com, offers a wealth of information to help you plan the details of your trip.

By doing as much as you can to prepare for a trip to the 2016 Olympics in advance, you’ll spare yourself the last-minute stresses that come with procrastinating on trip planning. While the rest of the world is scrambling to secure visas and book hotels, you can sit back, relax, and get excited for the games to begin.  

 

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The Most Majestic Architecture In Europe

Traveling through Europe is a great way to experience not only some of the world’s best food, art, and culture, but also some of its best architecture. Architecture in Europe seamlessly blends the ancient with the modern to create a landscape that honors history, while also being innovative and forward-thinking. Though nearly every European city offers up an array of beautiful museums and storied cathedrals, there are a few with magnificent architecture that set them above the rest.

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Valencia, Spain

Popular for its sunny beaches along Spain’s Orange Blossom Coast, Valencia is also well known for its breathtaking architecture. The buildings in the historic Barrio del Carmen are from ancient Roman times, while the soaring Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados is a Gothic behemoth that towers over the neighborhood’s winding cobble-stoned streets. Famed architect Santiago Calatrava designed the modern architectural jewel of Valencia: the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. A performing arts venue located at the at the end of the river Turia, the crystalline dome appears lifted straight from the riverbed, and makes for quite the spectacle as it sits glowing on the water at night.  

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Bilbao, Spain

North of Valencia in the Spanish Basque Country lies Bilbao, a small city that’s garnered a large reputation for its impressive architectural wonders. Chief amongst these wonders is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, one of the most admired creations of contemporary architecture. Designed by Frank Gehry, the museum was built in 1997 along the Nervion River and has since drawn massive crowds of people to gaze upon its warped metallic frame. Many experts have deemed it one of the most important architectural works of the twentieth century, as aside from its impressive construction, the museum is also well-known for its extensive contemporary art collection.

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Sintra, Portugal

Sintra is best known for its many 19th century Roman architectural monuments, which have garnered this colorful town the honor of being named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Just a quick day trip from Lisbon, tourists flock to this small wonder of a city to check out the prehistoric monuments like the Castle of the Moors and the National Palace of Pena. Several royal residences can also be found in the city, many of them dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries.

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Strasbourg, France

Another of Europe’s many UNESCO World Heritage sites is Strasbourg’s historic city centre, Grande Île. Grande Île was the first entire city centre to be placed on the World Heritage list, and for good reason, as many of its streets appear pulled straight out of the Middle Ages. The medieval landscape of ancient Strasbourg is captivating in and of itself, but its crown jewel is the Cathedral of Our Lady. Construction of the cathedral began in 1015 and wasn’t completed until the late 1400s, making it the tallest man-made structure in the world at the time.

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Cambridge, England

Around the same time as many of the buildings in Strasbourg were being built, The University of Cambridge was holding its first classes. Founded in 1209, Cambridge is one of the oldest and longest-surviving universities in the world, and today its name is synonymous with academia, prestige, and history. Its sweeping campus combines richly green lawns with stately, iconic halls, like King’s College Chapel and the Cripps Building at St. John’s College. The most notable feature of Cambridge’s architecture is the patterned brickwork found on many of its buildings, which experts believe to be some of the earliest examples of this style in the world.

Edinburgh is famous for its fresh, quality seafood, which you can get right down the block from great Edinburgh hotels.

10 Ways to Savour Scottish Cuisine in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is renowned for its castle and historic streets. It is also a top foodie destination, with many culinary attractions in easy reach of most hotels in Edinburgh. Here’s a lowdown on how to get a taste of Edinburgh’s food and drink highlights.

1. Chase the Game

Much of Scottish cuisine features wild game. For venison and more, check out Wildest Dram, which specializes in game cooking.

2. Learn to Cook

There are some great places to learn Scottish cooking techniques close to many of Edinburgh’s top hotels. Check out classes in seafood and Scottish specialties.

3. Dine in a Police Box

Some of the distinctive police telephone boxes in Edinburgh have been transformed into snack bars. You’ll find some eclectic local and world cuisine around the city and parks, served from these iconic structures.

4. Taste Haggis

Who could go to Scotland without tasting haggis? Be there on Burns Night in January to experience the historic traditions associated with this Scottish food. Don’t worry if you miss Burns Night because haggis is served year-round at Dubh Prais on Edinburgh’s High Street.

5. Take Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is quite an establishment in Edinburgh. You can enjoy sandwiches, cakes and even champagne at this traditional extra meal. One of the best places for an upmarket tea is the G&V Hotel on the Royal Mile.

6. Become a Whisky Expert

Scotland and whiskey are synonymous. The Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile offers tours showing how this renowned drink is made. There are also courses on becoming a whiskey connoisseur — with the obligatory tasting, of course.

7. Sample Local Specialties

Edinburgh has some excellent farmers markets. You’ll find a monthly Sunday market in Stockbridge, just a short walk from the city center, featuring local cheeses and other specialties. Each Saturday, Edinburgh’s Castle Terrace hosts another farmers market, resplendent with fine food.

8. Step Out on a Foodie Walking Tour

What better way to burn a few calories than to go on an Edinburgh Foodie Walking Tour? Tours include tastings at local delis, along with histories of local food production.

9. Shuck Oysters

Top-quality seafood is plentiful in Edinburgh, especially the local oysters. One of the best places to dine on fine seafood is Ondine’s on the George IV Bridge. Reservations are highly recommended.

10. Drink in a Haunted Pub

Some of Edinburgh’s many historic and famous pubs even come with their own ghosts. The Banshee Labyrinth is renowned for spooky events — like glasses suddenly falling off tables. For other eerie drinking places, try the White Hart or the Scotsman Hotel.

Edinburgh is a wonderful place to broaden your culinary horizons. Come for the food, and stay to enjoy the historic attractions.

 

 

 

 

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4 Reasons You Need to Explore Park City’s Backyard

Although the Uinta Mountains may not be a household name outside of Utah, with their vast beauty, they really should be. With their proximity to one of the nation’s best mountain towns, an abundance of stunning lakes, and endless trails, the Uintas can’t be beat. Take all the beauty of the Uintas plus the fact that you can potentially have the trails limited to you and maybe a handful of people, and you’ve got yourself a serious hidden gem. Enjoy the amenities of Park City, then head to the Uintas to explore their natural splendor.

1. Cataract Gorge

Like waterfalls? This hike and scramble leads you along the river and down into Cataract Gorge where you’ll pass by dozens of waterfalls, very few people, and catch amazing views along the way. Learn more.

2. Island Lake

You can turn this day hike into an overnighter if you bring your pack and your camping supplies. Either way you choose, be sure to enjoy your surroundings and have a little fun cliff jumping and swimming in this pristine lake. Learn more.

3. Grandaddy Basin

Hike up to Grandaddy Lake and if you’re looking for a slice of paradise to yourself, don’t stop there. Keep trekking a little further to one of the twenty lakes in the surrounding 2 mile radius. Learn more.

4. Amethyst Lake

This challenging hike is for the more adventurous traveler. Hit the the trail on this 13 mile roundtripper and if you time it right, be sure to snap your sunset picture of the peak reflecting off the lake.  Learn more.