Monday, July 19, 2010



The Best Seven Sunken Ruins of World Civilizations

Posted: 19 Jul 2010 02:20 PM PDT

Antirhodus, Alexandria

Cleopatra has to be one of the most intriguing characters in World History. She broke away from tradition, learned Egyptian and assumed the role of the goddess to her people. The tragedy of her death by suicide has been highly romanticized by writers like William Shakespeare and modern pop culture.

Now one of the few remains of her glorious reign can just off the Alexandrian coast part of  Alexander the Great’s citadel. Frack Goddio of France, together with his team of explorers, had unraveled upon the ruins they believe to be the residence of Cleopatra herself. The palace and the other islands off the harbor sunk around 1,600 ago after encountering staggering earthquakes and tidal waves.

The team centered their efforts on sunken Antirhodus where historians peg Cleopatra’s palace to be. The digs yielded ruins which contained columns of red granite carved with Greek letterings and a shipwreck. However it is the startling discovery of two statues, one a priestess of the goddess Isis and the sphinx adorned with the bust of Ptolemy XII confirms the historian’s speculations. The items were returned to their original positions after the government wants to create an undersea museum.

Port Royal, Jamaica

Once, perhaps the scurviest place in the Caribbean, the city of Port Royal, home to pirates, prostitutes and  grog, encountered an earthquake which cleaved the thirty three acres of the city. The earthquake  of 1692 effectively sent a time capsule of the architecture and semblance of life during this age of exploration. Various buildings, thoroughfares, homes and corpses lie under the waves of Kingston Harbor.

The Nautical Archaeology Program of Texas A&M, Institute of Nautical Archaeology and the Jamaican National Heritage Trust fielded a team to probe the remaining 13 acres of Port Royal in 1981. According to their research, the parts that went under cracked and were buried under the top half of the remains. However the team ventured further and found other ruins which had been saved from destruction.

Contrary to impressions, the Port Royal ruins rewarded investigators with valuable yields. There had been a lot of preserved food found in areas where no oxygen is present to destroy them. Thanks to the dig, social scientists have an idea of life in the Caribbean during the 17th century.

Mahabalipuram, India

Archaelogists theorize that the mysterious temple by the shore in Mahabalipuram is not a single edifice but part of a temple complex consisting of seven shrines. Only one of the temples remain floating while the six others have sunk. Latest discoveries corroborate this idea as one ruin was discovered in April, 2002 off the coast of Tamil Nadu’s part of Mahabalipuram. A team of marine archaelogists from Scientific Exploration Society and Indian institution National Institute of Oceanography found stone masonry and wall ruins as well as cut rocks and blocks and ascending stairs hidden by rock formations.

A lion statue in the fourth site of the excavation points to the possible existence of a bustling complex of temples.  The builders of the temple complex is reputed to be the Pallava Dynasty who ruled India during the 7thcentury AD. These rulers erected such stuctures around Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram.

Experts are still investigating why the temples sunk.

Yonaguni-Jima, Japan

These ruins were discovered by accident by an expert diver during a trip in 1995 when he wandered farther than he intended from Okinawa and alittle closer to Taiwanese waters. The ruins measures around 100X50X25 meters and features slabs of rock standing at 90 degrees. According to scientists who measured the age of the rocks, Yonaguni-jima is estimated to be at least 8,000 years old. This particular evidence debunks various ideas about world history considering the technology used by the men who built the complex was too early for its time.

Because of the mystery surrounding the origins of these ruins, various scientists have postulated different theories on how Yonaguni-Jima came to be. The more conservative archaeologists and scientists believe that the cut stones is actually a natural geological formation. However, their ideas are confronted by the stairs and the hallways found in the structure itself. The more open-minded scientists argue that the ruins is proof of the existence of Mu, a continent which is believed to have sunk 10,000 years ago.

Until scientists invent a way to be able to safely perform archaelogical digs in the challenging currents at the area of the ruins, speculations that Yonaguni-Jima is part of the country which started civilization, will not be put to rest.

Pavlopetri, Greece

One of the coastal towns of the Greeks during the Bronze Age of the Greeks, the submerged Pavlopetri is a potential motherlode of archaeological information of life during that particular period. Scientists believe that the buildings, tombs, courtyards and walkways of the town date back to 2800 BC when the Myceneans ruled much of the Meditarreanean. This is the time when the most important events essayed in classic literature occurred including the battle of Troy which Homer detailed in the Iliad.

Despite having painted life in the Classical period due to extensive digs and research on inland sites, scientists are clamoring to find out how coastal towns like Pavlopetri worked. Pavlopetri is stipulated to be a major coastal town which was a trade hub for various countries resting in the Mediterranean. The coastal formation of the town hint of its serving as a dock for the ships during that period.

Dr. Jon Henderson of the University of Nottingham gained access to Pavlopetri 40 years after the first team made a survey of the ruins. He stresses the importance of preserving and studying the town before the waters finally erode Pavlopetri away.

Dwarka, India

One of the most important Indian ruins rests submerged off the beaches of Bet Dwarka and Dwarka. According to archaeologists, the ruins is part of the ancient city of Dvaraka, where Krishna was supposed to have lived. Many Indians believe in Krishna as the supreme being. It is this mythological dimension which lends excitement to the investigations that had been carried out in the area since 1983. Aside from the city there are also ruins containing temples from India’s medieval kingdoms.

Because of the active cataclysms in that part of the country, experts believe that Dvaraka has gone six times under and the current modern incarnation of Dwarka is already the 7th metropolis in the coast.

The investigations are still underway to look for Dvaraka and Krishna’s abode.

Lost Villages, Canada

As progress roared in Canada in 1958, it demanded the creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway, a large canal system which allowed ships from the Atlantic to cross the land and into the great lakes of the continent. Unfortunately, the towns of Osnabruck and Cornwall and eight other communities lay in the path of the projected pathway. After negotiations and lands were bought and the families having been moved, the government proceeded in flooding the area through the destruction of a cofferdam.

Four days later a majority of these townships are submerged under freshwater. On a clear day, people on boats can see the sidewalks and remains of the buildings. When the waters levels are low, these such ruins can likewise be seen on  the shore. The higher areas of the communities now float around the seaway as islands.

Top 8 Extraordinary Places to Say “I Do”

Posted: 19 Jul 2010 02:07 PM PDT

Each person who has ever fantasized about their wedding often dreams about it in the most romantic way. The sun shining at its peak focuses its sun rays on the stained glass and all the laces and cloths that decorate the aisles just are all ablaze in white.

However there are some imaginative couples out there who eschew the immaculateness of churches and go for some offbeat places to hold their weddings. Like say a shark tank. Since a wedding is a once in a lifetime event, why not go for broke and get married in a jet or a submarine or in a tiger cage?

The allure of these extraordinary weddings stem out of a need to symbolize what the man and the woman mean to each other. For the more commonplace settings like a dollar store, the couple is indulging their need for a vow without sacrificing the practicality of a shoestring budget Some other couples just hold the weddings in weird places because they just have off-the-wall personalities.

Whatever the altars are and whoever presides in the wedding, what lasts are the memories of the couples themselves. Memories that have been spurred by these following places.

Taco Bell

Why not get married at the place where you like to hang out? This is what probably the idea that came to Paul and Caragh Brooks minds when they made their wedding plans. The couple became a pair through the Internet. After nine months of phone conversations, Caragh Brooks of Australia immigrated to the United States in order to become closer to Paul Brooks. The local Taco Bell branch saw them through their relationship as the couple frequented the establishment. It was only fitting that the branch becomes the place where the couple affirm their eternal love to each other despite the stray ground beef and taco bits. Paul and Caragh sat in an orange booth while their common friend Ryan Green, who was ordained by Internet, administered the couples vows. The crew members were all very supportive of the wedding and had appropriately decorated the branch with streamers. The people at the counter were given ketchup packs with the words "Will you marry me." In spite of the ceremony, it was business as usual for the branch. The best summation of people’s reactions to the wedding comes from the Taco Bell manager, Carl Hamlow, who said he never dreamed that in his entire career of working at the fast food that there would be people who would get married there.

The Cyclone at Coney Island

In a cynical and cold world, the ceremony of weddings is child-like and optimistic. What better way to signify the purity of the marital vows but to a return to childhood. For many New Yorkers, this particular place is Coney Island and the particular ride, the Cyclone. Never mind the sensational name, this roller coaster has been in the park since June 26, 1927 and has assisted a lot of children in their pursuit for thrills and heights. This 80 plus year old ride saw generations of New Yorkers through their good times at Coney Island. With this much history on its wheels, the Cyclone is sure to draw the kids that have ridden it back to its cars. It just so happens that these returning kids are bringing the people, they want to spend the rest of their lives with, along for the ride. It would be an unusually daring wedding entourage and an equally cardiac arrest proof minister or priest if the ceremony is done while the Cyclone is in motion. However since no one that is crazy, ceremonies are done in the boarding station while everyone is seated on the coaster. After the kiss, the Cyclone moves on its trip through the loops as a fitting metaphor of married life.

Voodoo Doughnut

What is the similarity between a ring and a doughnut? You got that right. It’s the hole. Voodoo Doughnut is an off the wall doughnut place located in Portland Oregon which caters the sugar glazed needs of evening diners. This establishment, started by Kenneth Pogson and Trey Shannon, doesn’t just employ crazy interiors in their shop in order to cover up for bad doughnuts, their products are surprisingly true to the form of their marketing. The doughnut flavors are plain sinful and hedonistic. They have a Cap’n Crunch doughnut peppered with the cereal on top of vanilla icing. One would think that people would steer away from their Ol’ Dirty Bastard, but it is difficult to resist this chocolate cake ring topped by chocolate icing, crumbles of oreo cookies, and peanut butter drizzles. This doughnut shop has been made in order to draw the community together. Due to the communal aim of the business, the shop became a backdrop for weddings. Voodoo Doughnut has several wedding packages to offer interested parties. Now there’s one more thing that rings and doughnuts have in common.

99¢  Only Store

Sometimes the best and golden weddings are those done dirt cheap. Consider the simple ceremony performed for 9 couples last September 9, 2009 or 09/09/09 at the 99¢ Only Store branch in Hollywood. The wedding dress for each of the nine brides was made by Kathy Jacobs, the discount store diva, out of the products sold in the store like white t-shirts and napkins. Looking at the Chanel dress that inspired Ms. Jacobs, one can hardly tell its difference with the one made from store items. Nine family members were present for each bride and groom and all the entourages were treated to a wedding reception worth $99.99 at the store itself which served its produce and food items. However, despite its commitment to the cost-effective wedding concept, the store lavished the nine couples with a stay in Hotel Angelenos, a dinner for two in  West Restaurant and Lounge, complementary round-trip air fare from Southwest, and goody bags for each bride and groom.

Replica of the Titanic

If your idea of a wedding is something close to a blockbuster and you like Celine Dion, you can consider getting married Titanic style. A Titanic Museum is docked in the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This massive ship measuring all of 30,000 square feet is just half the size of the original Titanic. However this museum alone carries 20 galleries worth of memorabilia from the fateful vessel. These pieces which have been carried by survivors on boats or found floating after the ship sunk now line the walls of the museum. Weddings can be held in the grand staircase of the ship which is similar to the one in James Cameron’s movie. After the wedding vows, the reception can be held in the restaurant of the museum. This fine dining experience models itself after the original ship’s from the staff uniforms to the menu and the plates. Tacky as it may appear, holding a wedding in this place can be one ceremony which will inspire good memories that go on and on.

50 feet off the ground

Getting married can be quite the elevating experience. However, some couples do want the lift the ceremony brings to be a little more literal. Enter a company called Marriage in the Sky. Marriage in the Sky sets up a platform 50 feet high in the air. This feat is done through the help of cranes and suspensions made of steel. Depending on the type of platform used, the entourage is usually strapped to their seats for safety. The most one platform can hold is 20 individuals. The company does not have any restrictions on where they can setup the entire rig for their customers as long as the location has the dimensions of 30 by 15 meters for the trucks and the cranes. People who want to get married in this way have 15 countries they can choose from in order to set their wedding.

Shark Tank Wedding

A wedding is made not just by the place where it will be consecrated but also in the quality of the entourage. And what better and more honest entourage can be found in all the animal kingdom than sharks?  The sharks in the 120,000 gallon tank of the Atlantis Marine World Aquarium saw their first (human) wedding last July 6, 2010 when divers Michael Curry and April Pignataro exchanged their vows in the safety of the dive cage. The groom looked dashing in his black wetsuit and the bride beautiful in her white one as a minister officiated the ceremony from the outside viewing glass through the help of radio headgear. According to the couple, they love the ocean and getting married inside the tank in the company of prowling predators symbolizes them as individuals.

Race Track

Single life can be a harrowing and fast-paced race. For people who like living fast or who wish to at last finally slow down, holding their wedding ceremony in NASCAR’s Daytona International Speedway can be a fitting cap to all these games. One of the more famous love stories that have found their ending in the speedway’s Victory Lane is Bryan and Stacey Willey’s. The two had an elementary puppy love story with Bryan walking Stacey home everyday when they were young. Unfortunately Stacey had to go away and the two got married to separate partners. The couple found each other in Myspace and decided to go for the finish line.

The Best Summer Places To Find and Rekindle Romance

Posted: 19 Jul 2010 01:58 PM PDT

As the summer sun dawns, the many possibilities of encountering love or renewing its flame open up. You think that the heat is getting to you or its just the matter of throwing away your plans for the entire week and a sudden zest for barefoot walks in the beaches, but summer is indeed the season for romance.  Consider these places for a getaway with your partner.

Washington: Whidbey Island

Take a ferry from Mukilteo and be captivated with Whidbey Island. Whidbey Island is one of the islands located in the Puget Sound and is part of the Island County of the state of Washington. This island features redwoods and its coasts boast of coves where you can view the Sound. Go driving across the Whidbey Isle Way, a large highway bridge that crosses the gap between the different islands. If you want to save on gas, taking it slow and riding the bike is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the scenery. Aside from these, visitors can go kayaking across the islands or take whale watching tours.

Italy: Vico Equense

Sometimes the best kinds of romances are hidden ones. This explains the draw of Vico Equense, one shy hamlet in Italy’s Sorrento Coast. Imagine a castle bustling with battlements hiding by the side of a tuff cliff. Drive by the sea and encounter Salvatore Gennaro and Annamaria Cuomo selling cheeses and preserved meats at their market called La Tradizione. In Chef Gennaro Esposito’s restaurant situated in a tower – Torre del Saracino, enjoy epicurean treats like risotto cooked with cod and some figs. You can find lodgings in the Hotel Capo La Gala with a stunning view of the coast. Hotel Capo La Gala sports a seafaring theme where you can view out of portholes. Hurricane lamps light you way as you navigate the lobby. The navy colored rooms have little boats. Breakfast on croissants and sip cappuccino as you view the bay.

Maine: Bar Harbor

Go east of Maine and see the coast lined with different privately owned islands. Clapboard, Chanterelle and Oar hosts couples bent on getting away from civilization and spending time in a little paradise of their own making. One of the top spots to go is Spectacle Island. This piece of land measures only about four acres but it is home to cottage with three rooms called the Spectacle Island Estate. Among the estates features is the master suite with its view of the sea, a whirlpool and the four post bed. Couples can cuddle in the warmth of the fireplace when the nights turn cold and foggy or cozy up on the porch while watching the birds chirp by. If you want to adventure on other islands, you can go to Acadia National Park. The park hosts trails where you and your beloved venture. When you rent an island you also avail the services of a boat captain and his powerboat. For some fine dining you can go eat lobsters and pasta like seafood cioppino  at La Bella Vita in Harborside Hotel.

Canada: Vancouver Island

Stray across the Canadian west coast and encounter Vancouver Island. This island located in British Columbia hides beautiful and untouched beaches bordered by forests. If you are not over eager to traipse in the beaches, you can go for a gourmet trip to the main city of Victoria. Once the wilderness tugs you again, go into Tofino and get lost in its beaches, mountains, and forests. People looking for a place to stay can head on up to Wickaninish Inn just near the beach and watch lightning streak along pink clouds in the horizon. Sunset viewing is ideal in Shell Beach, a tiny alcove cloistered in Chesterman Beach.

Sweden: Furillen

A romantic trip doesn’t need luxurious trappings to be memorable. For a getaway focusing only on the essentials try the little island of Furillen. Furillen is an islet located near the larger island of Gotland in Sweden. This little piece of land  boasts a pearl in Fabriken Furillen which was a limestone quarry in its past life. The new owners transformed the mine into a designer hotel. Part of Fabriken Furillen’s chic is that  it is so hard to get to being located in the farthest reaches of Sweden. The rooms are decorated with sheepskin rugs created by local craftsmen and coupled with antique furnitures from Midcentury. This combination has created interiors that are awash in warm allure. Lodgers are also treated to the modern day amenities of digital flat TVs and Bang & Olufsen stereos.

France: Montpellier

One of the best ways to recharge a relationship or find a new flame is to go on a learning experience. Not all learning experiences will do. Focus on something the expands on your sensual experience as a couple. Montpellier, France has a solution to offer in its perfumery course. You and your beloved can be mixing smells like mint and geranium or lavender in large farmhouse located in the lush region of Languedoc. Instructors will teach you how to create the background smells called base notes and the main striking scent called heart notes. Hungry beginner perfumery students are given a table with roasts and locally manufactured wine. At night time, couples can sleep in rooms decorated with French antiques.

Alaska: Denali National Park

As the sun blazes even in the climax of midnight in Alaska, couples can go on a long adventure together by hiking through the state’s frontier. You and your beloved can walk hand in hand and challenge Sable Pass and go through a terrain sprawling with willow brush and ice. When you cross Igloo Creek, you can sight the majestic Cathedral Mountain enclosed by glaciers. Tired couples can find respite in the log cabins of Camp Denali which offers the right amount of privacy without being too secluded from the nearest neighbors. The windows in the log cabins are hung with gingham curtains while large wooden beds offer comfort. When it turns dark,couples can light up the gas lamps. Couples prefer cabins where they can see Mt. Mckinley.

Michigan: Wine Country

Michigan is a cornucopia of vineyards and wine.  The state currently has four major wine trails to choose from, namely the Lake Michigan Shore, the Pioneer Wine l, the Old Mission, and the Leelanau County trails. Couples can on roads flanking acres and acres of vineyards. Enjoy samples of the region’s best wines from Pinot Blancs and strong spirits from the Brys Estate and Left Foot Charley. Black Star Farms welcomes lodgers. This bed and breakfast boasts a farmer’s market on its grounds, a stable, and a creamery. Satisfy yourself at  restaurant called Blu and savor their fresh dishes made of game like their quail roasted with stuffings of foie gras as you sup by the shores of Lake Michigan.

France: Chassignoles

Go to France and traverse the heights of Livradois-Forez, the biggest national park in France. Venture just a 100 miles from Lyons and you will encounter the hamlet of Chassignolles. This town will enchant you with its pace as you spend languid days among the livestock. One can’t help but get immersed in the country’s rustic beauty as farmers, without knowing it, create a beautiful alignment of hay bales. Rockroses are abloom in the lanes. Stay at Auberge de Chassignolles and enjoy their simple rooms with windows that frame the town’s features like the antique church and the various flower meadows. Harry Lester, Auberge de Chassignolles chef, makes dishes out of the local ingredients so one can expect fare like dandelion and marigold salad with sunflower oil dressing, lemon fused goat cheeses and tarts bursting with cherries and almonds.

French Canada: Nova Scotia

The French coast of Nova Scotia is peppered by different rustic fishing villages originally set up by Acadian settlers in the 17th century. The region is lined with roads that border cliff faces and crags.  Venture into alcoves and discover quiet and private restaurants in faded wooden houses lit by candles. If you want to travel a little further, Peggy’s Cove boasts of art galleries or be enamored with the rising and swirling of the tides in Digby. Digby’s rocky beaches is home to rolling roads, little bed and breakfasts, and the ocean’s perennial lapping. Couples can go into the Victorian 100 Acres & an OX, an inn sitting across 100 acres of woods. Rest up at Halifax Harbour and wake up to th oranges and the yellows of sunrise.

Greece: Patmos

Considered to be the site where St. John wrote passages of the Revelation, this 14 square mile island in the archipelago of Dodecanese offers a romantic getaway for couples. You can get to it by renting a boat to the island’s port Skala. Afterwards you can take a ride going to Chora, a small town which is a veritable maze of chapels, mansions and courtyards. One of these mansions is the only place you can lodge. Archontariki offers rooms which are combinations of Greek country and modern interiors. Enjoy the rustic designs of stone archways and teak furnishings. Afterwards you can go up the rooftop and view the Aegean. If you feel like a little walk you can go to the beaches and discover your very own cove and beach. The silent coastline of Patmos is replete with these abandoned and solitary wonders. Strolling into Diakofti Beach will warrant an order of zucchini balls at the stand. When the night falls on the sea, head to Benetos at Sapsila Bay for some fresh seafood. Their menu contains such hits as grouper fillet topped with caramelized onions or the Japanese inspired grilled tuna with wasabi, herbs and seaweed.

California: Northern California

Northern California contains a sampling of the different kinds of rugged views that can be found in the United States. Go to north of San Francisco and breach into lands dotted with pastures, woodlands and farmlands which suddenly get swallowed by thick forests. Breaking on through the landscape, you encounter the Pacific howling beneath under cliffs.  Stay at Inverness Lodge in Manka where you can partake of their finely made dishes while in the company of the various trophies that line the walls of the dining hall. Put Point Reyes Station in your plans, a town which revives the frontiersman in every traveler. After eating your share of the food, Tomales Bay Foods hosts Cowgirl Cremery which specializes in picnic goods. Set a table up ath Dillon Beach and enjoy some swimming and surfing.

Morocco: Essaouira

This beach town in Morocco is one of the water sporting meccas that can be found in the coasts of Africa. You and your partner can enjoy some kite-boarding , surfing and windsurfing. Aside from these amusements, the town is also a hotbed of cultural activity as the local community of artists host music events and arts launches. The galleries in Essaouira are also replete with the shows of world-class artists. The town’s ancient medina has been restored and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy the ruins of the medina’s ramparts and palaces and be transported into another time. Dar Mimosas offers lodgers a place to stay. This compound measuring 3 and a half acres are flush with bougainvillea and oleander, providing the best backdrop for a couple’s Moroccan dreams.

The Best US Lake Towns to Visit in the Summer

Posted: 19 Jul 2010 01:20 PM PDT

Chelan, Washington by Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan is a 50 mile lake located in Washington. Its glacier-fed waters are perfect for swimming, kayaking, windsurfing and fishing which is why the adventurous hike off there. On the shores of the Lake Chelan, lies Stillwater Inn. The inn is ideal for those who want lodgings that feel like they are home away from home. The staff at Stillwater offer the best breakfasts which include fruits and pastries. The town of Chelan also boasts of treasure like the Ruby Theatre. This facility serves as a gathering place for Chelan locals and as a venue for hosting presentations. Go to the harbor and ride the ferry to see the sites that the lake is hiding like the cliffs of the North Cascades towering over the waters. Midway across the trip, the ferry will stop at a little town of 95 people called Stehekin. You can savor the locally grown food like their vegetables as well as their dairy just fresh off the livestock. Enjoy their yogurt and the goat cheese while you picnic along the banks of Chelan.
Grand Marais, Minnesota by Lake Superior

Start your trip of Lake Superior at Grand Marais in Minnesota. The town sits on the part of the lake called Boundary Waters. Boundary Waters is a group of interconnected lakes which offer the adventurous 1,500 miles worth of canoeing. Sport fishers who are thirsting for a little salmon and some trout will find that Lake Superior offers these games in abundance after being repopulated by the local authorities. Before casting off your journey to trade civilization for the solitude of the wilderness, enjoy the doughnuts at the World’s Best Donuts. With a name like the place is worth giving a chance. If you have a night to spare, try eating dinner at the Angry Trout which serves freshly caught fish.

Dillon, Colorado by Lake Dillon

If you want a lake experience in Colorado after some skiing in Keystone, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain, Lake Dillon is the place to go. Go to the Dillon Marina and view the regattas or rent a boat. Guides also take hikers during Saturdays around the lush environment near the lake. Kids can also enjoy these guided walks for some serious wildflower viewing. During the night time venture into the Tiki Bar where people sip rum runners on the island-themed bar. Rum Runners is the marquee drink of the Tiki Bar but people can only be served a maximum of two rounds of the spirit. The rum runner kicks hard. An afternoon stroll into the farmers market on a Friday guarantees that a find as a hundred sellers set up stall. Musicians provide folk-rock accompaniments to the bustling market scene. You can challenge some locals to a round of bowling in the Lakeside Bowl.  If you’re looking for a place to stay travelers recommend the Best Western Ptarmigan Lodge because of its proximity to the dock.

Forest Grove, Oregon by Hagg Lake

A  vacation in Hagg Lake means staying in Forest Grove. Forest Grove’s downtown is a throwback to the golden years of old as it is replete with classic street lamps, wine bars with staff who know what they are serving, and interesting gift shops. Places like Joe’s Ice Cream and Deli transports travelers back to their youth and rewards nostalgia with real servings of home made flavors like  black-licorice. When you have gotten your fill of the town, you can travel to Lake Hagg itself. The mountain range of Oregon is within view of Lake Hagg’s shores. The lake offers picnic spots as well as facilities for boats. There are also various hiking trails around the lake. People who love to fish will find an abundance of bass of both the largemouth and smallmouth variety as well as rainbow trout and yellow perch. The lake is also a haven for kayakers and waterskiiers. Travelers who are looking for lodgings near the lake can try the 77-room McMenamins Grand Lodge. This masonic-styled house offers a soaking pool and some movies in its Compass Room Theater.

Rangeley, Maine by Rangeley Lakes

Travelers hankering after some time alone in the wilderness, can find their escape in Maine. If you want to share some space with eagles, moose and herons, you can get a tour of Rangeley Lake with Sam-O-Set Four Seasons and Dockside Sports Center or you can simply ask the staff there to  provide you with a canoe. If you want to cruise the lakes at faster speed, they also have a speedboat for rent. Before you cast off, you can try supporting the community by visiting the shops which sell antiques and quilts. Some establishments even offer quilting classes which present opportunities for travelers to mingle with the townies. The Main Mountain Maple sugar plantation is also an interesting stop where after seeing the process of making syrup, tourists are treated a taste which they will likely never forget. For lodgings, people go to North Country Inn Bed and Breakfast which provides one of the highly recommended morning meals in this part of the country.

Leland, Michigan by Lake Leelanau and Lake Michigan

What better way to go on a lake vacation but to have two lake trips in one. The town of Leland lies on a strip of land between Lake Michigan and its smaller neighbor Lake Leelanau. Because the town is largely bordered by fresh water, cars are rare in Leland. The modern day town harkens back to its roots as the small cluster of shanties that provided shelter for the town’s founders are still alive in Fishtown. Fishtown provides the downtown  experience to Leland with the shanties now housing shops and restaurants. One of the mainstays in the Fishtown scene is the Village Cheese Shanty known for its sandwich made of pretzel-bread. The Dam Candy Store supplies the locals with sweets like ice cream and cherries coated with chocolate. Travelers looking for some fine dining can go to Riverside Inn and Restaurant. This upscale yet humble establishment offers a varied array of wines. The Leland River provides a backdrop for diners.  For travelers who were able to bring vehicles, there are a lot of winemakers waiting with a sample of their products. One of these wineries is Chateau Fontaine, known for its pinot noir.

Truckee, California by Donner Lake

Along the warm waters of Donner Lake is the town of Truckee. This small town is a witness to the days of the  Old West. As proof of this, Truckee still maintains its old 1875 jail. Aside from the rich history simmering in the streets of the town, there is also an array of outdoor activities visitors can do in the lake. The current trend in water activities is stand-up paddleboarding. The artists of Truckee are likewise getting in on the action as new spaces featuring their work have opened. One of these galleries is Riverside Studios which feature art in different kinds of mediums. Carbo-loaders will love the restaurant called Jax at the Tracks. Their best meal is called All Day Addiction and is an interesting mix of avocado, hash browns, Canadian Bacon and eggs. Later in the night, travelers can wet their whistles at the Fifty Fifty Brewing Co. The signature brew is the Base Camp Golden Ale. For people who want to stay over, Loch Leven Lodge awaits.

Oakland, Maryland by Deep Creek Lake

The people of Oakland, take pride in the various establishments of their town. People hungry for some ice cream will find satisfaction in the flavors the Lakeside Creamery serves. Their peach ice cream is one of the all time favorites there. It is made only with the peaches from the nearby orchards and the freshest dairy from the local farms. Along the street as the Lakeside Creamery, travelers can find the Copper Kettle Popcorn. The popcorn stand sells a variety of flavors from the standard salty-saccharine to local flavors like Old Bay. Aside from popcorn, the store also sells fudge and chocolate-coated pretzels. People can choose to  drive there or drop by boat. People who want to see the waters can rent different kinds of freshwater craft and amusements e.g. water trampolines. Swimmers can go to Deep Creek Lake State Park. Nature lovers can avail of the guided hikes into the woods. These treks culminate in campfire conversations about the animals that live in the area. People looking for a place to stay can rent a cabin in Lodges at Sunset Village. This establishment is nestled by a forest just eight miles off Oakland. The cabins can fit as much as ten people while warming them with fireplaces.

Air travel in Europe shows significant improvement from recession

Posted: 19 Jul 2010 12:56 PM PDT

Two years after the financial crisis that affected countries across the globe, it seems that there are some improvements in business particularly air travel.

According to the AEA, or the Association of European Airlines, data shows that for the month of June this year, the passenger traffic in Europe has returned to its normal rate before the strike of the recession. This means that the number of air travellers in Europe has reached figures similar to that before the financial crisis.

More and more passengers are booking themselves on longer flights this year, thereby increasing passenger kilometres to eight per cent compared to data from June 2009.

Authorities say that the main reason behind this is the surge of bookings to countries that are in the far eastern part of the globe. Instead of travelling to neighbouring countries, Europeans are more and more drawn to the allure of far-flung places such as Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, which offer a more exotic setting.

The AEA added that this is one of the first indications that this sector has made progress to levels before the recession.

Data for the month of May also indicates an increase in air travel by four per cent this year, compared to May of 2009. This is positive news for those in the industry considering that airlines had to deal with massive gridlock in airports earlier this year due to the volcanic ash that spread through the European skies, temporarily closing the heavens to any form of air transport. Around 10,000 flights were cancelled because of the volcanic ash, and thousands more passengers were left stranded in airports all across Europe.

Comparing the data of May 2009 and May 2008, the previous shows that it even experienced lower air traffic of about eight per cent.

Aside from far eastern countries, places which showed a growth in passenger traffic are South America and Middle East, where booming cities like Dubai and Jeddah are slowly attracting more and more tourists each year. Not to be left behind is North Africa, which also shows a growth in its number of European visitors.

New coach service offers dynamic experience: leave London by bus, arrive in Dublin by boat

Posted: 19 Jul 2010 12:51 PM PDT

Before the end of the month, travelers in the United Kingdom will be able to move around and visit nearby cities by bus and ferry through the new service brought by Eurolines.

The popular European coach service, which transports passengers by bus along long-distance routes, has tapped boat operator Irish Ferries to provide transportation for people travelling around the UK.

This will effectively link Holyhead in North Wales to London in England, and even Dublin in Ireland, making trips fairly easy and comfortable.

For those interested in trying the new route, passengers can catch the coach leaving London starting this Friday, or July 16. The coach leaves London at 6:30am and makes the trip to Birmingham where it is scheduled to arrive at 9am. At Birmingham, the coach can pick up more passengers. From there, it makes its way to Holyhead which is a popular port in Anglesey Island. The coach is then scheduled to board the ferry that will set sail for Dublin. Upon arrival at the port, the coach simply rolls off the ferry and once more drives its way to the city's central station, where it is expected to make its final stop at around 6:10pm, just in time for passengers to catch their dinner.

All in all, the entire trip can take a whole day, but Eurolines says passengers can expect a comfortable trip as they make the journey to the land of shamrocks, bagpipes, kilts, and golf. To prevent a scenario of shuttling a bunch of sweat-drenched passengers, all of the coaches will be air-conditioned. Reclining seats will also be ideal for those who want to catch some z's during the trip. Eurolines also says that there will be plenty of room for your legs and knees, avoiding the unnecessary tingly sensation when your legs fall asleep after being folded in a cramped position four hours and hours; it is also good news for passengers who are quite tall.

During the drive to Holyhead, passengers can also admire the view of the different English cities as they roll by.

All aboard!

As was mentioned earlier, the coach will board the ferry as it crosses the waters to reach Ireland. The ferry that will transport the coach is none other than Ulysses—which is currently the largest among all car ferries in the world.

For first-time travelers, this can be an opportunity not only to see the sights around UK, but also to try the different types of transportation in the area.

Once on board, passengers can step off the bus and enjoy the trip as it navigates its way to Dublin. Passengers can stretch their legs while they take a short walk across the deck of the boat. Those who unfortunately forgot to bring some food with them can have a bite at the restaurant or perhaps have a drink or two at the bar. Shoppers can also bide away their time at the shops, or watch the feature being shown at the cinema.

Declan Mescall, who heads the office concerning passenger sales at Irish Ferries, says they are pleased that Eurolines has chosen them to ferry passengers from England to Ireland. He adds that not only does the use of both buses and boats make for a dynamic travelling experience, it is also Earth-friendly because studies show that travelling by air still emits more carbon emissions compared to other modes of transportation.

Round-trip tickets cost about 61 pounds for each person, with a free allowance for baggage. Passengers are entitled to carry two average-sized bags with them on their trip. The new route will be available until the first week of September.

Express your way to the top of Sydney Harbour’s Bridge

Posted: 19 Jul 2010 12:43 PM PDT

It is often the case that when an attraction is built, people from all over the world flock like geese to try it out or see it for themselves. Take Disneyland, which can be a melting pot of sorts, especially during the holidays. In Australia, one of the more popular sights is the Harbour Bridge in Sydney. But studies have shown that travelers to the land down under don't just visit Sydney to ooh and aah at the bridge. Instead, they seem to be more interested in going on the bridge climb to have their breaths taken away by the magnificent view. Interestingly enough, a big number of these travelers who often dare to scale the towering structure, since the climb was first introduced over a decade ago in 1998, are in fact Australians. Roughly 35 per cent of the 2.5 million people who climbed the bridge are locals.

The BridgeClimb is an exciting and interesting way of seeing Sydney. Ascending the bridge not only presents travelers with a fantastic view of the city upon reaching the top, it also lets climbers experience the city in a sort of spine-tingling, gasp-inducing way. Travelers who book themselves on the BridgeClimb don't just see Sydney, but also feel it. It's ideal for adrenaline junkies who are looking for an alternative to surfing.

Make no mistake about it, although commonly hailed as exciting and wondrous, the BridgeClimb is not for the faint of heart. Those who are intent in conquering the massive structure have to be committed. For starters, the climb will take about three hours and thirty minutes, definitely longer than a standard movie. Needless to say, this is some sort of endurance test, which is not recommended to those who easily get wobbly knees or worse, vertigo. Climbers who aren't quite the master of their bladders are also recommended to go easy on the Gatorade lest they suddenly feel the urge to relieve themselves at high altitudes.

But now, there is good news for brave soldiers who aren't prepared to spend three hours off the ground. There is now a new service called the Express Climb to cater to those who are looking for a shorter way to the top.

Shortcut to the summit

The Express Climb will take about two hours to complete. Compared to the classic climb, the Express is exclusively limited to accommodate only a dozen people. This means that the guides are able to know every person in the group, and subsequently answer some questions from other curious climbers. The guides of course are stocked with information about the bridge and its history, so the climb can also serve as a lecture, but far from being boring. Also, there are exhibits being showcased in the museum where guests can take their time to know more about the bridge and how it was constructed.

However, just because it's a shorter trip to the summit, doesn't mean that the climb will be a piece of cake. The longer climbs allot more time for stopovers to let climbers rest their knees and inhale some fresh air. Climbers on the Express have to be prepared to be on the move for most of the time. The trek to the top can be a pain, but at the end of the journey you can still count on being 134 meters above water level and own the bragging rights in a conversation when you show your friends your picture against the backdrop of the Sydney Harbour. As proof of participating in this fast-paced expedition, each guest will be awarded a Climber Certificate upon reaching the ground.

Climbers can choose to go up during the day or at night. The rates for the day climb start at US173 dollars, while the rates for the night climb start at US164 dollars. There is also a third option, which is the twilight climb; the rates start at US225 dollars.

So the next time you find yourself in the vast country slash continent of Australia, do what the locals do: swim in the beach, eat some kangaroo steak, and climb the bridge in Sydney Harbour.

An affordable holiday at Wall Street’s Holiday Inn

Posted: 19 Jul 2010 12:37 PM PDT

Ah, New York—the city that never sleeps. Every year, this glittering metropolis attracts millions of visitors to its streets. Smell the pizza in the air, descend into its underground world and ride the grimy subway, see the expanse of the grounds from the top of the Empire State Building, get bedazzled by the dancers in Broadway, bite into a steaming hotdog with relish and pickles, get lost in central park, growl at the dinosaurs in the museum, etcetera. Cheap plane tickets can easily be had online, but the trick is to finding affordable accommodation where the carpet doesn't smell like cheese.

This month, Holiday Inn is opening a new hotel in Manhattan, which caters to people traveling to New York both for leisure and for business.

The new hotel, whose official lengthy name is Holiday Inn Express Wall Street New York, will be opening its doors to the public this week. The Holiday Inn is conveniently situated in Manhattan's famed financial district, occupying a corner lot at 124-126 Water Street and Wall Street. Being so close to other hotels that can also be found in the area, it will be competing with other more popular establishments, but fortunately for guests, the new hotel is said to have cheaper rates compared to its Wall Street neighbors such as the W NY Downtown Hotel & Residences, and the Andaz Hotel.

According to the IHG or the Inter Continental Hotel Group, which handles Holiday Inn, the new hotel will stand at 26 storeys and have 112 rooms to accommodate guests, which might be pleased to find out that it is quite close to a couple of popular attractions like the NY Stock Exchange, Battery Park, the sea port, and—keeping the shopaholics in mind—Century 21.

Checking out the interior

People staying at the hotel will be treated to a comfortable stay with more or less ample 21stcentury technology like 32-inch flat-screen high-definition television, sophisticated furnishings and the ever-essential wireless internet—and that's for the entire building, mind you. Health buffs can continue their work-out while on vacation at the fitness center, and businessmen can keep up to date with their schedules and dealings at the business center.

If you're interested about the itty bitty details, management has announced that the guest rooms will be equipped with bathrooms featuring sophisticated showerheads with matching unique shower curtain and curved rod. The towels are 100 per cent cotton and a custom made bath products are available for those who want to de-stress. After taking a bath at the end of a day's worth of sightseeing, guests can rest their spines on crisp bedding and pull up the duvet. Upon waking up the next day, a complimentary breakfast with an option of hot or cold is offered to get guests started on another adventure in the city.

While the hotel is under the IHG, it is actually owned by the popular hotel group, McSam. Sam Chang, who owns the group, said that he is proud of the new hotel and is confident that guests enjoy the new look and fantastic service that it is prepared to offer.

Room rates beginning July 19 will be offered at slightly less than US200 dollars for a king-sized bedroom for non-smokers (excluding tax). Compared to nearly US300 dollars per night at the Andaz and US400 dollars a night at the W Hotel, the Holiday Inn is obviously cheaper. Not to mention that at other places, the rates don't usually include the fee for wireless internet.

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