Did You Know?

Annecy-France

Annecy is one of the most beautiful, romantic places on earth, may be even more stunning than the majestic French Alps that surround it. Just 22 miles from Geneva in the Upper Savoy region of eastern France, Annecy is divided by small canals and streams running from the brilliant blue Lac Annecy. Highlights include the popular terraces that line the canals, giving it a Venice-like feel, as well as the famous Palais de l’Isle, a picturesque 12th century castle built right in the middle of one of the canals.

And all this time I thought Paris was the most romantic place on earth! I definitely have this enchanting place on my places I need to visit!

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Destination of the Week: Kyoto, Japan!

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One of Kyoto poet Buson’s most famous haikus reads: “On the one-ton temple bell a moon-moth, folded into sleep, sits still.” If Japan is the temple bell, Kyoto is the moth—tranquil, delicate, intricate, and wildly mysterious, centuries after the first outsider was drawn to its woodsy hilltop Shinto shrines and rarefied Buddhist temples. The city is about to get an influx of luxury hotels, making room for more tourists, but for now a walk along the Kamo riverbank still reveals the gentleness and gracefulness of Japan’s ancient capital. The Shigemori Residence features a dynamic Zen garden designed by mid-20th-century landscape architect Mirei Shigemori.

When to Go: Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season typically is late March through mid-April. Fall foliage peaks in November!

Holland in Springtime?

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If you are thinking of taking a little trip during spring, you should really think about visiting Holland! I have only been in the summer, but I can imagine how beautiful it must be in the spring time! Take to the waterways of the Netherlands aboard the newly renovated canal barge the M.S. Magnifique, and discover medieval towns and landscapes with spring’s bright blossoms. Stroll through a patchwork of flowers at the Keukenhof gardens, or ride a bike past the windmills of Kinderdijk. Explore The Hague, Haarlem, and the picturesque canals and markets of Amsterdam. Trace the footsteps of Anne Frank and view the artworks of the Dutch masters, from Rembrandt and Vermeer to Vincent van Gogh! Spend the morning amid a riot of colors and fragrances at the breathtaking Keukenhof gardens, where more than seven million vibrant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and other flowers display their bright hues. Stroll acre after acre of the world’s largest flower garden, taking in a beauty that lasts just a short time each spring. If you love flowers then you should go see the the world’s largest flower auction in Aalsmeer, where more than five billion flowers are sold every year! Witness the haggling and deal-making among flower vendors, and get a taste of life behind the scenes of the tulip trade.

Some great things you can do there are:

  • Bike through the green heart” of the Netherlands and discover the verdant countryside
  • Immerse yourself in the excitement of the world’s largest flower auction in Aalsmeer
  • Visit the cheese weighing house in Gouda and a working porcelain factory in Delft

A truly beautiful place to visit one day if you have the chance 🙂

Destination Of The Week: Colmar, France

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Described as “one of the most attractive towns in Alsace,” Colmar is situated in east-central France, in a border region that was once disputed between France and Germany. It serves as something of a gateway for those seeking to travel overland from France to the Rhine Valley. Colmar is 273 miles from Paris and 73 miles from Strasbourg, France. Colmar’s main draw is its well-preserved and colorful old town. This district is a good reminder of Colmar’s place in a border region, as its half-timbered architecture is noticeably more German than French. Two highlights of a walking tour of the old part of Colmar are the Maison des Tetes (“House of Heads”), so-named because it is decorated with faces; the ancient wooden Pfister House; and the pink St. Martin Church. The Unterlinden Museum is home to a fine collection of old armor, furniture and other items, but its main point of interest is the Isenheim Altarpiece, with its striking paintings of scenes such as the Crucifixion and the temptation of St. Antony. According to Fodor’s, the low rainfall and distinct seasons of Alsace make pretty much anytime a good time to go to Colmar. The city enjoys a snowy, Christmas-postcard atmosphere in winter and golden colors in autumn. The summers are warm and mild, and in spring the vineyards of the surrounding countryside come alive with grape blossoms.

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November 14!

Tomorrow’s my birthday (and my twin sisters too ;)! Twenty four wonderful magical enchanting and  unforgettable years living in this beautiful planet! I’ve always wanted to go to Miami and I am so happy that my dream is finally coming true!! I am taking my family to Miami Beach for a few days of awesome fun and holiday under the sun! I also feel so proud of myself because this is the first trip that I paid on my own to take my family on a vacation 😀 Keep a look out for my pictures! I also want to wish all of the November babies a very happy birthday!!!

Destination Of The Week: Harbin Ice Festival, China

The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival has been held since 1963. Harbin is located in Northeast China under the direct influence of the cold winter wind from Siberia. Officially, the festival starts January 5th and lasts one month. However the exhibits often open earlier and stay longer, weather permitting. Ice sculpture decoration technology ranges from the modern (using lasers) to traditional (with ice lanterns). While there are ice sculptures throughout the city, there are two main exhibition areas: Enormous snow sculptures at Sun Island (a recreational area on the opposite side of the Songhua River from the city) and the separate “Ice and Snow World” that operates each night. Ice and Snow World features illuminated full size buildings made from blocks of 2–3 feet thick crystal clear ice directly taken from the Songhua River. There are ice lantern park touring activities held in many parks in the city. Winter activities in the festival include Yabuli alpine skiing, winter-swimming in the Songhua River, and the ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden. The Harbin festival is one of the world’s four largest ice and snow festivals, along with Japan’s Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada’s Quebec City Winter Carnival, and Norway’s Ski Festival. It was also a Guinness Record of the largest snow sculpture: 250 metres long, 28 feet (8.5 m) high, using over 13,000 cubic metres of snow.

What’s Fall Without Visiting The Fall Foliage Viewing and The Great Allegheny Passage

Hokkaido, Japan

Japan’s northernmost and second largest island has a rugged frontier spirit and landscape. Beyond the boundaries of its capital city, Sapporo, Hokkaido is largely an unspoiled natural paradise home to abundant wildlife (including sika deer and Hokkaido brown bears), towering mountain ranges, remote virgin forests, and volcanic caldera lakes.

Peak koyo (fall foliage) season begins in Daisetsuzan National Park (Japan’s largest) in mid-September, rolling south in stages across the island. Natural factors dictate the exact koyo calendar, but the golden, orange, and crimson display typically blazes brightest in isolated eastern Shiretoko National Park and World Natural Heritage Site in late September; in Sapporo in early October; and at the southern tip of the island in Onuma Koen and Hakodate by mid-October.

Denver based Samurai Tours arranges self-guided koyo itineraries for solo travelers who want to explore Hokkaido at their own pace. Packages typically include transportation, airport transfers, and nightly lodging in traditional ryokans (Japanese-style inns) or onsen (hot springs) resorts, as well as the support services of a local English-speaking staff.

Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The 141-mile Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) rail-trail winds over the rivers and through the woods of western  Maryland and southwestern Pennsylvania. Built mainly on abandoned rail  beds, the packed, crushed limestone route is free of motorized vehicles.  A 15-mile-an-hour speed limit ensures a leisurely pace for cycling,  hiking, and strolling. Spend a weekend, or a full week,  exploring part of the route and the historic trail towns along the way.

Frostburg, Maryland (mile 15), hosts the Appalachian Festival,  September 14-15, on the Frostburg State University campus. Free events  include regional music and dance, goat milking and beekeeping, and  traditional arts and crafts. October 5-7 is PumpkinFest in Confluence, Pennsylvania (mile 60), and the West Newton,  Pennsylvania (mile 114), Miracle on Main Street Parade and Light Up  Night is November 24.

Extend your ride all the way to Washington, D.C. (about 334 miles total) via the historic Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath.  Mountainside Bike Tours specializes in custom Washington-to-Pittsburgh  itineraries. Options include lodging, gourmet meals, luggage transport,  and side trips to Antietam National Battlefield and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.

Destination Of The Week: Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

Brecon Beacons is a north-facing mountain range in South Wales, near the town of Brecon. The range includes the highest point in southern Britain,; Pen y fan, which climbs 2,907 feet high.  The fields of Brecon Beacons National Park are filled with evidence of many years of human history, including single standing stones, or menhirs, from the Bronze Age. The remains of ancient stone circles and Iron Age Celtic hill forts can also be found here.  Surrounded with grasslands and water meadows, Llangorse Lake offers an appealing abode for geese, warblers, starlings, ducks, and other birds, which can be seen from the lakeside hide. The lake also features the remains of an Iron Age crannog, or human-made rock island, on the northern shore. Historians believe the ninth-century King of Brycheiniog may have sheltered here from The Vikings.

How to Get There: The park is just an hour from Cardiff International Airport. Trains stop at Abergavenny, Llandeilo, Llandovery, and Merthyr Tydfil. Buses also run to these main centers and offer connections to smaller communities inside the park.

When to Visit: Anytime is a great time to visit Brecon Beacons, but many people around the world flock to Hay-on-Wye, a town with some 40 bookshops, for the Hay Festival in late May and early June. U.S. President Bill Clinton called the event “the Woodstock of the mind.”

How to Visit: On holidays and summer Sundays, visitors can take advantage of the Beacons Bus, which is based in Brecon and runs routes around the park. Visitors can hop on and off at their convenience.

Destination of the Week: Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Fernando de Noronha is a beautiful archipelago with pristine beaches, landscapes and wildlife, situated 220 miles off the northeastern coast in Brazil. The archipelago was discovered by Amerigo Vespucci in 1503 and temporarily occupied by the Dutch and French before Portugal established dominion in 1737. Today only the largest of the 21 islands is inhabited with a population of about 3,500. Its  pristine beaches, landscapes and wildlife attract tourists. The easiest way to get around is by bus which goes back and forth along the main road from the Port on one end of the island to Praia de Sueste on the other.  Another option is to hitchhike as almost all the local people and sometimes the taxi drivers or truck drivers will be happy to pick you up and give you a ride if you are going in their direction. The island offers boat tours, dolphin watching, kayak tours and you can even go surfing!

 

Best Hotels in Britain, and Ireland

Drommoland Castle, one of Ireland’s finest castle hotels, offers guests the experience of living like landed gentry, surrounded by luxury, beauty and service. Dromoland is one of the few estates tracing its history to native Gaelic Irish families of royal heritage. Today, blending old world elegance with modern day comforts, the castle serves as one of the most desired destinations in Europe. Dromoland Castle encourages its guests to explore the woodlands by foot or horseback nearby stables offer horse riding lessons. Guests can also spend time fishing at Dromoland Lake for trout or perch. On the castle’s 375-acre estate, guests can enjoy numerous activities including hunting, fishing, horseback riding, golf, tennis and much more. Through your bedroom window, the grounds of the estate are spread magnificently before your eyes.

Photo: Dromoland Castle hotel Ireland

The Old Course Hotel enjoys a spectacular location overlooking the famous links courses, the West Sands beach and the beautiful Scottish coastline. Discover the historic university town of St Andrews, just a short stroll from the resort, and explore the surrounding countryside of the ancient Kingdom of Fife.  With a combination of classically elegant and contemporary interiors, the hotel offers quietly confident service, luxurious facilities and a warm welcome in the finest traditions of Scottish hospitality. This prestigious five-star hotel has 144 rooms including 35 suites and is recognised as one of Europe’s leading resorts.

The Old Course Hotel offers an exceptional choice of bars and restaurants from the chic informality of the Sands Grill to the fine dining in the acclaimed Road Hole Fine Dining Restaurant. In addition, the hotel’s traditional pub The Jigger Inn serves fine home cooked food and The Duke’s Bar & Grill offers a traditional Scottish golfers’ menu.  And their award winning Road Hole Bar offers Scotland’s finest malt whiskies from over 200 distilleries!

Photo: Golf course at the Old Course Hotel

Isle of  Eriska Hotel, Spa, and Island, Benderloch, Argyll Situated on the scenic west coast of Scotland, Eriska´s secluded setting makes it the perfect place to relax in tranquil surroundings. There is a range of individually decorated bedrooms to choose from, furnished with every amenity. Enjoy spectacular views and delicious cuisine in the Conservatory Restaurant, take a pre or post drink in the luxurious drawing room. Work out, grab a snack or treat yourself to a pampering session at The Stables Spa. If you are feeling really energetic, you can choose from a host of outdoor activities around the island!