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3 Perfect Outdoor Activities for your Next Vacation in the Dominican Republic
The Caribbean’s second-biggest country (behind only Cuba) may also be its most diverse. The Dominican Republic’s beaches are the headliners, but centuries of history, magnificent mountain ranges, vivid riverways and national parks, one-of-a-kind culture, cuisine and local products, all combine to provide a tropical island destination that goes well beyond the sunny coasts.

You can do more than defrost on the island’s famous beaches this winter. 
 
On your next trip to the eastern half of the Caribbean’s second-largest island, get off your lounge chair and get involved in the Dominican Republic’s most famous sporting activities.
 

Golf like the Greats

 
It’s the most celebrated golfing destination in the Caribbean. Voted “Golf Destination of the Year for Latin America and the Caribbean” in 2019 for the fourth time by the Global Golf Tourism Organization, the Dominican Republic’s courses are legend.
 
Avid golfers can book tee times at lush seaside and inland greens designed by the most acclaimed golf course architects, including Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones Sr., Gary Player, Tom Fazio, Nick Price, and Greg Norman. 
 
From La Romana to Punta Cana, Juan Dolio, and Puerto Plata, the country boasts 86 sea-facing holes and 39 ocean-side, where the course design and ocean breezes provide challenge as well as the breathtaking views.
 
Golf pros regularly flock to the country for working holidays and tournaments including the Dominican Republic PGA Tour.   You can get a taste of that high-flying golf lifestyle at any of the DR’s dozens of top-tier golf courses. 
 

Gone Fishin’ in the Caribbean

 
Dominican Republic is a fisherman’s paradise. Surrounded on three sides by rich waters, the island’s local fishermen have a long history of bringing home the day’s catch. You can do that, too.


Whether you’re looking for a laid-back fishing getaway or a high-energy, man v fish challenge on the high seas, you can give your fishing tackle a workout in the Dominican Republic.
 
Visit one of the local sports fishing centers or work with an expert guide who can bring you to the shore’s most abundant waters, where you’ll be certain to reel in a brag-worthy catch.
 
Push your Dominican Republic holiday into May, and you can join other anglers for the Torneo de Pesca fishing tournament. The high profile annual event showcases Bayahibe’s best catches and its unique and colorful fishing atmosphere.
 
Further east along the southern coast, the Casa de Campo International Blue Marlin Classic Tournament in La Romana in April brings visitors to one of the country’s hottest spots for the majestic blue marlin.
 
The pleasure you’ll get from this exciting fishing event is enhanced by the stunning surroundings. Casa de Campo was designed by an Italian architect, and mimics the old seaside villages of the Mediterranean. The Casa de Campo Marina is one of the region’s most prestigious, and accommodates up to 350 yachts.  You’ll want to do some interesting people watching after you return with your day’s catch.
 
 

Dominican Republic’s National Pastime

 
Baseball may be America’s game, but it has deep roots in Dominican culture and history.

Known lovingly as “pelota” in Dominican Republic, is the country’s undisputed favorite sport, the game you’ll see played in every tiny neighborhood park, and the source of dreams for countless young players. The Dominican Republic punches above its weight in producing international baseball stars.
 
Many of the world’s most legendary players hail from the country, including Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martínez, David Ortiz, Robinson Canó, José Reyes, Juan Marichal and Bartolo Colón, among many others.
 
There aren’t many opportunities for visitors to the country to play, but lots to enjoy baseball from the stands. Attending a “juego de pelota” is more than just watching a game—it’s also a ticket to a live party, and an opportunity to share with locals a celebration of one of the country’s greatest passions.
 
The Dominican Republic’s baseball season runs from mid-October through late January. Game schedules can be found at the Dominican Baseball League’s official website. Six teams compete at stadiums around the country, and for baseball lovers, the experience is not to be missed.
 
Whether your picture-perfect getaway involves the challenge of an oceanside golf course, a day at the baseball field or an open water adventure in pursuit of your next great catch, Dominican Republic delivers memories that last a lifetime – as well as the opportunity to recharge and refresh pool- and beachside.
 

Start your Trip!


Photos: Dominican Republic Tourism

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The Ultimate Travel Experience for Your Favorite Star Wars Fan
The Force is Strong with This Plane. Just in time for the debut of the movie Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, United Airlines has unveiled an opportunity for fans young and young at heart to fly the friendly galaxy.

It has re-imagined one of its planes in epic Star Wars mode, from the eye-catching livery on the outside, to the experience on board.


The plane is flying across the US, Canada, the Caribbean and Central America. But you’ll think you’re in a galaxy far, far away when you see this plane on the tarmac. The exterior paint design captures the Star Wars atmosphere with imagery of spacecraft including X-wing and TIE fighter starships against a black, space-like background. 


The two sides of the aircraft reflect the two opposing sides of the Force...


even down to the dramatic tail art: a different colored lightsaber lit against the darkness and ready for the hand of its invisible Jedi to wield.



Remember what they said about the Millennium Falcon? Well, no one will call this state of the art, unforgettable aircraft a ‘hunk of junk’!


Just as unforgettable for Star Wars and movie fans is the on the ground and on board experience.

 
You might find yourself running a gauntlet of Stormtroopers en route to your flight.

Or needing some extra time for some photos....


Even pilots are getting some selfies!


Once you’re on board, pick your seat carefully: good or evil? The interior is divided, like the exterior livery, between both sides of the Force, with headrests displaying emblems of the dueling sides: the Resistance and the First Order. 
Classic Star Wars-themed music plays during boarding, and even amenity kits are themed for this final film in the Skywalker saga.  


About Safety, This Is (said in your best Yoda voice). Your in-flight safety video (click here to see it for yourself) features appearances by iconic Star Wars characters, space sequences, footage of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker movie experiences around the world, and some of the most recognizable music in movie history to highlight safety procedures in case of an emergency while you’re flying far, far away. 

The airline’s loyalty club members can even bid their award miles on some additional Star Wars experiences and perks, including access to premieres of the film in LA and London, as well as exclusive screenings in United hub cities before the movie has its theatrical release, travel packages to filming locations, and packages with one-of-a-kind themed collectors’ items.

You can ask your travel agent to book you on your next flight by looking up the plane’s tail number, N36272.
 
And while not everyone will have the chance to see United’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker plane in person, you can track the aircraft via a special icon on online flight tracking platform FlightAware (below image).


For the first time, film becomes aviation reality as flight and Star Wars enthusiasts can track past and future flights by entering the plane's tail number, and the new livery will appear on FlightAware's flight tracking maps as the X-Wing starship.
 

Start your Trip!


Images courtesy United Airlines unless otherwise noted.

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Tips for Drinking in Japan
Just as water is served automatically at a restaurant table in the West, green tea appears magically on every restaurant table in Japan. But what about a more… spirited beverage? Japan’s consumption of alcohol is legendary, and involves its own beverages and etiquette.

Here’s what you need to know before you order.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Sipper-in-Chief, BestTrip TV

Japan has embraced both beer and whisky from the West, and proceeded to develop excellent and well-know brands of both.

But for more local flavor, the two main contenders for an evening’s entertainment in one of the countless bars and restaurants and karaoke lounges throughout Japan you should consider are: sake (sah-kay) and shochu (show-choo). 

Shochu


Shochu originated in Japan at least 500 years ago, and may be even more ‘Japanese’ than sake, even though sake is better known in the West. In fact, while the West sees sake as the essential Japanese spirit, in Japan itself, far more shochu is consumed than sake.

Shochu is sometimes confused with Korean soju, and there are some similarities. They are both distilled beverages made from rice, or sweet potato. Japanese shochu can also be made from barley. Each has its own quite different taste.

If you drink it neat/ straight up or on the rocks, shochu is a stronger drink than sake, averaging 25-30% alcohol.
However, it’s often mixed with cold or hot water, or fruit juice/flavored water, and as a mixed drink, its strength drops substantially.

Sake


Sake is made exclusively from rice, with roots in Japanese tradition dating back to at least the 700’s, and possibly in its earliest forms close to 2000 years ago.

Where shochu is distilled, sake is fermented. You sometimes hear it called ‘rice wine’, but that’s not a good description. In fact, sake is more similar to beer than wine, as it’s made with grain, and brewed and fermented with yeast. Unlike beer, sake then goes through a second fermentation with a certain type of mold.

The results can range from sweet to dry, from clear to cloudy, and are weaker than sochu, with only about 15% alcohol. Although sometimes in the West, cocktails are made with sake, in Japan, it’s almost exclusively consumed on its own.

There’s nothing to warm you up on a chilly winter’s day on one of Japan’s ski hills, like hot sake, served in tiny cups with no handles that warm your hands up in no time.

I’m a big fan of warm sake, but it’s also served at room temperature and also chilled. Right now in the West, the trend-setters and tastings focus on cold sake. It is true that heating can kill subtle flavors, so it’s reserved for less refined varieties. If you are really intent on discovering the differences between different types of sake, room temp is the way to go.
 

Japanese Drinking Etiquette


Never pour your own drink. Your host/ friend/ colleague/ fellow drinker at a communal table will pour your glass for you. You should hold your glass lightly with both hands while your friend pours. 

Similarly, do pour drinks for your friends. 

Here’s where it can get tricky. Alcohol is served in small glasses. Your friends top you up often. So it’s hard to keep track of exactly how much you’re consuming. 

You know where this is going. So to keep your head on your shoulders, it’s helpful to decline being topped up until your glass is empty, then at least you know you’ve had, for example, three full glasses and it’s time to quit.

It’s hard to decline a drink in Japan; a sense of hospitality, combined with the work-hard/ play-hard psyche of many Japanese people, keeps the drinks flowing. However, holding your hand flat above the top of your glass, or leaving it full, will deflect another hospitable top-up. 

Kanpai! (kahn-pie!) = Cheers!


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The Hotel that made Copacabana Famous
Some hotels help define their destinations.   Not only with an historic pedigree, but with a location that makes them central to the local lifestyle.

The Belmond Copacabana Palace helped create the mystique of Rio de Janeiro that thrives even today.
Imagine a time when Rio’s now-epic beaches were unused and unfashionable. In the 20’s, Brazil’s upper classes lived in the cooler elevations of the hills.


So when the country’s president asked a local wealthy businessman to build a landmark hotel on Copacabana beach to help mark Brazil’s centenary, a lot of eyebrows lifted.

But the idea turned out to be the start of a legend. A French designer created an Art Deco palace inspired by the elegant, white limestone and marble hotels lining the seashore in Cannes and other storied Mediterranean destinations where the rich and famous went on holiday.    

It instantly put Copacabana on the world stage… and ever since, it’s drawn a global who’s who of royalty, celebrities and history-makers, from Princess Diana, to Marilyn Monroe, to Nelson Mandela and Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who calls the hotel a second home.

The breathtaking property anchoring Rio’s Atlantica Avenue on Copacabana beach has seen millions of dollars of renovations and upgrades in recent years, and been brought into the Belmond hospitality family that includes the legendary Orient-Express luxury train, and Venice’s most prestigious hotel, the Cipriani. Today, the Belmond Copacabana Hotel maintains its rank among that stratospheric tier of worldwide hotels who help define their destinations.



It is the landmark on what is now one of the world’s most epic beaches, an oasis from the throbbing beach lifestyle, just across from the famous mosaic boardwalk known the world over.

 
The architectural character that includes towering ceilings, period furniture crafted from Brazilian freijo or mahogany wood, along with antiques, French fabrics and fine oriental carpets is married with modern design elements and all the comforts of 6-star hospitality, including beds so comfortable, it’s said Keith Richards’ wife asked to buy some after staying in the hotel while the Rolling Stones were there on tour.

 
Guests can sip cocktails and champagne and enjoy the refreshment of fresh fruit trays and iced towels that pool staff bring around as they lounge by Belmond Copacabana Palace’s scenic, half-Olympic sized pool, spend time in the spa that is the largest urban space of its kind in Brazil, work on their serve on on-site, urban tennis courts, and join the local and international A-listers in Rio’s top bars and restaurants, from the first restaurant on the continent awarded a Michelin star, to an Italian restaurant named after its sister Hotel Cipriani in Venice, to a restaurant that overlooks the Copacabana’s legendary swimming pool.

 
(Photo: Belmond Copacabana Palace)

The Copacabana Palace evokes a sense of being part of a timeless era of international glamour, perhaps most when it hosts the celebrated Rio Carnival Ball, a tradition begun the very year the hotel opened in the 1920’s. The Carnival ball has become an event as synonymous with the city’s Carnival as the costumed samba parade itself, considered one of the greatest shows on earth.
 
The society and couture fashion highlight of Carnival, this is where the rich and famous come from around the world to party like Brazilians. The spectacular black-tie event takes over the hotel, with live samba music in different art deco ballrooms, and on the spectacular hotel veranda, overlooking Copacabana Beach that the hotel helped turn into the legend it is today.  
 

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Move over Halloween: 5 Reasons to Travel to Mexico for Day of the Dead
It’s the fantastical backdrop of the opening sequence of a James Bond movie. And one of the items on the list of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Mexico’s Day of the Dead is often mistaken as the country’s equivalent of Hallowe’en, but Día de Muertos has its own history, traditions and practice in modern Mexico that make it the celebration worth planning a trip at the end of October.

Aztec + Christian Mash-up

Hallowe’en’s roots lie in ancient Celtic culture. But Day of the Dead began with Mexico’s local traditions and a festival dedicated to an Aztec goddess around the time of the fall corn harvest. 

October 31st, November 1st and November 2nd. Three Christian holy days associated with death and resurrection. Hallowe’en emerged on the Christian calendar on All Hallows Eve, October 31st; and Mexico’s ancient local traditions also converged with new, Christian feast days: November 1 and 2, the Catholic All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. 

In Mexico, Day of the Dead still has spiritual significance celebrating death as part of the cycle of life, and loved ones moved on to the afterlife. 

Celebrating Death…

Day of the Dead is not a single day. It’s actually a multi-day celebration where families gather to remember deceased members and provide support for their spiritual journey to the afterlife.  It is not a sad time, but a happy one, where departed loved ones ‘join’ the living for the celebration.

Mexicans build altars in their homes and visit graveyards to decorate with candles to light the way of the departed, photos and personal items, and highly fragrant orange marigolds whose strong scent was believed to draw the souls of the dead to their living relatives celebrating their memory. In some places, families picnic in the cemetery, and spend all night beside their relatives’ graves.

 
Makes you Hungry

Bread of the Dead, a sweet bread decorated with skulls, bones arranged in the circle of life, or teardrops for sorrow, skull-shaped sugar confections, and bottles of pulque (fermented agave juice) or tequila, and jars of cinnamon-flavored corn porridge all featured in Day of the Dead celebrations.
 
All About the Face – A Skull Face

The icon of the Day of the Dead has become ‘La Catrina’, short for La Calavera Catrina, or ‘Elegant Skull’, the image of a female skeleton dressed in historic fancy dress. La Catrina originated from an early 20th century illustration by that name of a female skeleton’s head wearing only an ultra-stylish European ladies’ hat of that era.

It was meant to be a satirical put down of the social pretensions of Mexico’s upper classes. But it took on new life as the symbol of the Day of the Dead. A quote attributed to the artist, “We are all skeletons”, says it all: underneath even fancy dress, we are all the same, and will all eventually die. 
 
Hallowe’en has a whole cast of ghoulish characters, from ghosts to vampires and zombies and other ‘Undead’, but Mexico’s Day of the Dead is symbolized by the Elegant Skull dressed for a formal ball.

Death do us Party

They say art imitates life, but in this case, life may be imitating art. The opening scene in the James Bond film Spectre, of a spectacular Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City, actually inspired a concerted effort by local residents to make what had been a small scale, random occurrence into a grand, annual affair. 

Not only has a grand parade leading up to the Day of the Dead become popularized for the local community, it’s become a tremendous tourist attraction, and gives visitors a way to participate in authentic local culture.

You’ll see couples and entire families dressed up, with ladies as La Catrina (many even finding this an excellent way to re-purpose their wedding gowns) and men in formal wear as the male equivalent, catrines.

Visitors are encouraged to don their own skull masks or makeup and historic fancy dress to participate in a revitalized and growing essential experience of Mexican culture.

Start your Trip!



Images: Getty

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Finding Wellness in the Waters of Jamaica
You probably already know that Jamaica is famous for its beaches.  And you may even have already come back relaxed from a beach holiday in the island country that has been voted top Caribbean destination, and one of the top 20 in the world.

But the unique terrain of Jamaica has also yielded natural healing waters inland from the beach.  Here are some of the places and ways you can make wellness a part of your next getaway to Jamaican waters. 


On the Ocean

On the west end of famous Negril beach, a wellness escape combines the water with the principles of Shiatsu.  Jackie’s On The Reef offers this treatment, called Watsu, at its whimsical, waterfront property.   

Guided by a specialized therapist, the treatment takes place in warm, waist-deep water to take weight off the vertebrae, allowing the spine to twist and stretch – ultimately relieving pressure off the nerves and organs. Watsu can be a profound treatment, and it’s believed to treat the mind and renew a person’s sense of connection and oneness with others. It’s only one of the ways guests can connect with the sea, including yoga, meditation and spa treatments. 

In addition to sparkling beaches, the country’s natural springs and therapeutic baths add a new dimension to your next wellness vacation.  

Milk River Bath

Jamaica’s South Coast has one of the best mineral baths in the world. Milk River Bath contains high levels of the minerals magnesium, calcium, sulfate and natural chloride in waters averaging 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more all year round. The mineral intensity is more than 50% stronger than famous natural bath spas in Europe, and helps relieve rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica and nerve conditions as well as liver disorders.

You can stay among the lush landscape of the Jamaican countryside at the local Milk River Hotel & Spa, where you can enjoy the therapeutic baths, in private bath houses.


Rockfort Mineral Bath

These natural baths on the outskirts of Kingston are rich in minerals including calcium and sodium bicarbonate. It’s fed by a cold spring from Rock River, and locals have been using the natural mineral baths to stimulate vital processes including blood circulation.  Visitors have caught on too, and also enjoy the soothing waters by dipping in at the swimming pool, private whirlpools, or one of 11 open-air baths.


Bath Fountain

These two mineral springs, one cold and one piping hot, have been a popular destination since their discovery as far back as the 1600’s.  Bath Fountain is located in the foothills of the John Crow mountains and contains lime, sulfur and magnesium. They are said to relieve gout, rheumatism and skin conditions. 

There’s a nearby, secluded hotel with the same name that has running water from the mineral springs feeding directly into its indoor baths.

(Photo:  GoldenEye Hotel & Resort)

Traditional Jamaican Bush Bath

In addition to the Nature-provided mineral baths and springs, Jamaica has a healing cultural tradition.  Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind wellness practice, where a variety of herbs and botanicals are steeped in an outdoor bath, and treat stress, colds, skin problems and other ailments. 

Some hotels offer visitors this therapeutic experience in their spas, including the Fern Tree Spa at Half Moon and the FieldSpa at Golden Eye (of James Bond author Ian Fleming fame), with a menu of four different Healing Waters Bush Baths.

Make sure your next island vacation includes more than a swim at the beach.  Relax, and enhance your physical, spiritual and mental wellbeing with Jamaica’s healing natural springs, therapeutic baths and oceanside aquatic treatments.

(Private tub for herbal baths at the award-winning Fern Tree Spa at Half Moon)

Start your Trip!


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The Real Downton Abbey and 3 Other Majestic English Manor Houses That Star in Films
If the Downton Abbey movie and TV series has you fantasizing about life in the elegant and storied surroundings of England’s stately homes, you are not alone. The stories and history made in these estates are legendary.

At one time, there were tens of thousands of country houses owned by Britain’s noble families. The English countryside is still dotted with breathtaking architectural marvels punctuating sweeping landscapes, as well as smaller, more humble versions. Some are still homes to lords and ladies of the manor; others are grand museums, hotels, event spaces. Some are both. 

All are fascinating windows into a history and lifestyle brought to life in countless favorite novels, TV series and films. 

If you feel you were ‘to the manor born’, you’ll feel quite at home at the real ‘Downton Abbey’ and these three other, splendid examples of British stately homes that have been on the big and small screen.

HIGHCLERE CASTLE


The stately home at the end of a sweeping drive, framed by majestic ancient trees in the hero shots of every Downton Abbey show, is the real-life Highclere Castle in Berkshire (pictured, top).  

The perfect proportions and striking Jacobean architectural style are enhanced by the surrounding gardens designed by maestro landscape architect ‘Capability’ Brown.

Rather than the fictional Crawley family, it’s been the real ‘seat’ of the Earls of Carnarvon since the 1600’s, with the current Earl and Countess still in residence today.

In addition to standing in as the Earl of Grantham’s ‘Downton Abbey’, Highclere Castle welcomes visitors through its now-famous front doors. So you really can wander through some of the rooms featured in Downton Abbey and imagine yourself at a dinner party, tea, or even a ball with the Crawleys.

Downton Abbey is not the first time Highclere has been at the centre of media attention and the public imagination. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was involved in the discovery of the epic riches of the Tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt in 1922. When he ‘mysteriously’ died a short time later, it fueled tabloid stories of the ‘Curse of King Tut’. He actually died of blood poisoning from an infected insect bite, so visit Highclere Castle without fear of ancient curses lingering today!

 

BLENHEIM PALACE


Anyone with an interest in English or WW2 history must put Blenheim Palace on their travel bucket list.  

The sprawling, rare example of English Baroque architecture is woven into British history. A grateful Queen Anne gave the land in Oxfordshire, an immense sum of money, and the highest non-royal title, 1st Duke of Marlborough, to the victor for Britain in the War of Spanish Succession at the beginning of the 1700’s. It’s the only non-royal and non-Church country house bearing the name ‘Palace’.  

The descendents of that 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, have eclipsed his fame and impact on world history. It was at Blenheim Palace that Winston Churchill was born, and the name of the Marlborough family now is Spencer-Churchill, related to Lady Diana Spencer, who became Princess of Wales. 
 
Blenheim Palace and its 2000-acre signature gardens by the very busy Capability Brown have even been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The vast country house continues to be the home of the Dukes of Marlborough. 

Film fans recognize Blenheim Palace from scenes in wildly diverse films including Transformers: The Last Knight, James Bond’s Spectre, MIssion Impossible: Rogue Nation, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Young Victoria, and even the TV show the Amazing Race. 


CHATSWORTH HOUSE


You catch your breath the first time you see Chatsworth House, the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire since the 1500’s. It’s regularly voted Britain’s favorite country house, and it’s easy to see why. Built on the banks of a river, surrounded by exquisite parkland and backed by wooded, rocky hills, it’s a stunning building in a dramatic setting.

16 generations of the Cavendish family have been born and died at Chatsworth, including recent generations. The recently-deceased Dowager Duchess was one of the famed Mitford sisters (that included renowned novelist Nancy Mitford), the upper-class ‘Kardashians’ of their day.

Chatsworth House today still houses a remarkable collection of paintings, Old Master works, neoclassical sculpture, books and artefacts. 

If it looks familiar, Chatsworth too has been the real-life setting for famous fiction. It was named in the original 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice as one of the estates Elizabeth Bennet visits before arriving at Mr. Darcy’s home Pemberley; and that fiction came full circle as Chatsworth stood in as fictional Pemberley itself in the 2005 movie adaptation of the novel starring Keira Knightley. Another Knightley film, The Duchess, was filmed at Chatsworth, as were scenes of The Crown. 


LYME PARK


Lyme Park has the largest house in Cheshire, and it’s the only property on this list that is not still used as a family home. It was handed over to Britain’s National Trust, which preserves its history, architecture, and park lands for the public to appreciate and enjoy.

From the 1300's until after the Second World War, the estate was owned by the Leghs of Lyme, with the house dating back to the late 1600’s, and including both Palladian and Baroque styles. The lavish house interiors reflect its Regency-era rejuvenation. 

In addition to the mansion, Lyme Park is famous for its tree-lined avenues, formal gardens and park with an immense herd of red deer dating back to the 14th century. The views are tremendous, and include a building called ‘The Cage’ on a nearby hilltop that was originally a hunting lodge and later became a park-keeper’s cottage and prisoner lockup. 

Fans of British period dramas will also recognize the reflecting lake as the setting of the famous scene where Mr. Darcy met Miss Bennet in the BBC production of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. 

Start your Trip!


Images Courtesy Visit Britain.

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3 Hurricane-Free Caribbean Islands
Recent, extreme hurricanes have devastated favorite Caribbean island communities.

For travel, the impact of more extreme hurricanes is double. It can take years for tourism infrastructure in island destinations to rebuild and welcome visitors again, so your favorite destinations and resorts may be unavailable.
 
Plus some travelers avoid Caribbean island vacations (and cruises) during the Atlantic summer and fall hurricane season, especially during the peak two months of risk mid-August until mid-October, for fear of being stranded or worse if a hurricane hits during their holiday.

The solution? Head south.

There's no perfectly 'hurricane-proof' island in the Caribbean, but the three Dutch 'ABC' islands at the southern most edge of the Caribbean are just beyond the fringes of the hurricane belt, and havens for hurricane season island vacations. 

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV
 

ARUBA


The furthest of the ABC islands is only 15 miles off the coast of South America. Still, Aruba is just a couple of hours flight from Miami.
 
Unlike other Caribbean islands which are tropical, Aruba's climate is a desert. You'll see a landscape of cactus and aloe vera plants; especially in Arikok National Park, which covers nearly 1/5th of the island, and is also home to caves and archeological remains of original inhabitants.

 
The dry, sunny weather includes constant trade winds that contort the local, iconic divi divi tree into fantastic, bonsai-like shapes.
 
Palm Beach, Eagle Beach, and nearby capital of Oranjestad are home to the island's international restaurants, shopping, casinos, golf and other international travel amenities.

BONAIRE


The smallest of the ABC Islands, Bonaire is essentially a coral reef pushed out of the sea and surrounded by one of the world's most celebrated coral reef systems. The reefs have made Bonaire a bucket list destination for divers who consider it one of the very best shore diving destinations in the world.
 
Bonaire has led the Caribbean in nature conservation and eco-tourism. The entire coastline was designated a marine sanctuary in 1979. It protects the 350 species of fish, 60 species of coral and 4 species of sea turtle in its reefs.

 
Bonaire's shoreline is dotted with lagoons and inlets that are home to marine birds including rare nesting grounds of pink Caribbean flamingos. Mangrove forests are popular kayaking and snorkeling destinations for hotel guests and passengers in port from cruise ships.
 

CURACAO


Larger than Aruba and Bonaire, Curacao is also more commercial, with financial and oil-refining industries. It's a popular cruise port and has direct flights from cities on the East coast, as well as Miami and the Netherlands.
 
Curacao's capital Willemstad dates from the early 1600's. Its collection of well-preserved Dutch colonial architecture, cotton-candy and lacy versions of typical buildings from the era in the Netherlands, has earned UNESCO World Heritage status (pictured, top).
 
The island also has a thrilling geological feature for avid scuba divers: the 'Blue Edge', where the sea shelf drops sharply off only 200 feet from shore.

 
Possibly more famous than the island itself is its world-famous namesake blue liqueur. Curacao is distilled from the island's Laraha fruit, a bitter orange that resulted from Spanish settlers' attempts to raise Valencia oranges in the dry, poor soil. Although its fruit is inedible, the peel is powerfully aromatic. The liqueur's trademark blue? Just added color.
 
The ABC Islands should be on any traveler's list of top Caribbean destinations, especially during hurricane season.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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If you haven't been to Montreal recently, the Golden Square Cocktail at Montreal's new Four Seasons Hotel (VIDEO ABOVE) is just one reason to book a trip or a pre or post cruise stay in the second-largest French-speaking city in the world.

Montreal still has its European lifestyle, credentials as the fashion capital of Canada, and a UNESCO City of Design.
It's still the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil, and a global city of festivals ranging from the Canadian Grand Prix race to the Guinness World Record-holding Montreal International Jazz Festival. And its culinary scene has been celebrating 'local' long before it became a trend.

Celebrating its 375th birthday, Montreal also developed new, high concept attractions, including an observation wheel at the water's edge, a high-tech sound and light walking tour of Old Montreal, and a breathtaking sound and light music in the heavenly Notre Dame basilica.
 
A re-imagined Montreal is breathing magic into Old Montreal, the Old Port, and its signature neighborhood, the Golden Square Mile.

Montreal was once home to ¾ of Canada's wealth, and the Golden Square Mile is where that wealth and prestige lived. This historic neighborhood has been compared to New York's 5th avenue. Streets beginning at the base Mount Royal were lined with the mansions of Canada's elite: Scottish-immigrant shipping and railroad tycoons, bank founders and nation builders.

Remaining mansions have been incorporated into prestigious McGill University, become museums, cultural institutions, galleries, boutiques… and luxury hotels like the new Four Seasons.
 
Here are our favorite luxury hotels in Montreal's Golden Square Mile.
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

Four Seasons Hotel Montreal

Montreal's Four Seasons Hotel is uniquely at home in its neighborhood, Montreal's 'Golden Square Mile'.
In the heart of the historic Golden Square Mile, it's a high concept, modern building. The Four Seasons shares a dramatic façade with Golden Square Mile landmark, the luxury department store Ogilvy. There are interior entrances for hotel guests and shoppers can enter the hotel directly onto the fourth, lifestyles floor, where the New York-based celebrity chef Marcus has a namesake restaurant, and already one of the hottest lounges in town.


Inspired by the neighborhood and also very on-trend luxury design, gold and a blush – yes, the color often called 'Millennial Pink'  are a recipe for instant instagram fame. Check out the video for the other ways the Four Seasons Montreal Hotel makes your stay 'golden'.

The World's First Ritz-Carlton

The 'Grand Dame' of Montreal's luxury hotel scene is the Ritz-Carlton. Built in grand style in the early 1900's when the Golden Square Mile was at its height, it was the first hotel to bear what is now a legendary name.

Over its hundred-plus years, the Ritz-Carlton Montreal has welcomed the powerful and famous: Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill, Sofia Lauren, who made homemade pasta in her suite, the Rolling Stones who were turned away from the dining room and returned wearing jackets, Elizabeth Taylor, who married Richard Burton for the second time in the hotel's epic, lavender-and-gold Oval Room. It opens out onto the most famous terrace in the city and an urban courtyard garden with its famous duck pond.


Recent additions to the Ritz-Carlton include a namesake restaurant by Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud, and the world's only Dom Perignon champagne bar that shares the legendary Palm Court with the hotel's epic afternoon tea.

Le Mount Stephen Hotel

But one of Montreal's newest boutique hotels has an equally historic pedigree. Le Mount Stephen hotel occupies a National Historic Site; the former mansion of an immigrant who became the President of the Bank of Montreal, the first President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and a founder of Canada's textile industry. George Stephen became Lord Mount Stephen, and his elegant, limestone mansion was considered the most opulent home in Canada, complete with elaborately carved exotic woods, onyx fireplaces and gold hinges that make today's visitors gasp as they walk through the door.


The historic property has undergone a luxe, eye-catching re-purposing that elevates the historic design. Its former main floor parlor and dining rooms have been transformed into one of Montreal's can't-miss bars, Bar George, with plush teal sofas, a life-size bronze pig acting as a lounge table top, with curling stones and other classic Quebec winter sports equipment decorating the restaurant. The hotel lobby and guest rooms are in an attached ultra-modern tower that affirms the city's design credentials.


Montreal's Golden Square Mile has attracted sole Canadian outposts of a number of luxury hotel brands. In two cases, it's a French connection.

Sofitel

Mid-century French luxury hotel brand Sofitel established itself in Montreal in a modern building erected where a Golden Square Mile mansion once stood at the foot of Montreal's vast, city-center green space, Mount Royal.
French 'art de vivre' is the essence of the hotel experience, and staff is trained to take initiative to personalize guest stays. 

The hotel cultivates relationships with cultural institutions and events so it can offer exclusive, VIP experiences in Montreal to their guests. The acclaimed, creative French restaurant at street level is named Renoir after a painting by the French master loaned by a Sofitel executive to the Fine Art Museum down the street.


Climb the mid-century stairs to the mezzanine to look at the custom lobby carpet that's a tapestry of Montreal signature festivals and events.

Le Meridien Versailles

The sole Le Meridien in Canada stays true to the brand's mid-century roots as Air France's hotel brand and reflects its design and lifestyle priorities with art installations including an aerial map of the Golden Square Mile, and an art partner, the Canadian Center of Architecture, located in an historic mansion nearby. It has a bicycle partnership so you can sign out bicycles and even pack a picnic lunch to explore the city.


It also continues the Le Meridien tradition of serving a locally-inspired, signature éclair; Montreal's has maple and Montreal's famous steak spice.

Loews Hotel Vogue

The only Loews-branded property in Canada is right across the street from the new Four Seasons.

When Loews took over the existing Hotel Vogue, it doubled down on the fashion magazine heritage, incorporating framed layouts in guest rooms. Grand entrances into its conference rooms mimic the blue arched doors of iconic couture house Chanel's atelier in Paris.


The new hotel restaurant is a French bistro complete with hand-laid mosaic tile floors and French Belle Epoque design.
 

Start your Trip! 


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This Italian Wine Region is Now a UNESCO Site
Pop the cork on the bubbles! If you're a fan of sparkling wine, you are likely already familiar – and in love with – Italy's signature rival to French champagne.

Finally, Italian prosecco is getting some recognition - you might agree it's long overdue. After a 10-year wait, Italy's Prosecco hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene have been designated the country's 55th UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It's a recognition and commitment to preserve the unique 'Cultural Landscape' of the area near Venice that produces one of the world's favorite wines. 

 
Italy's prosecco hills are the 10th wine region in the world to achieve UNESCO designation. They join Alto Douro, Portugal; Tokaj, Hungary; Pico Island, Portugal; Lavaux, Switzerland; Langhe Roero and Monferrato, Italy; Champagne, France; Burgundy, France; Saint-Emilion, France; and Wachau, Austria.

The UNESCO designation of the prosecco hills – as in the case of other wine regions – celebrates the heritage of generations of individual winegrowers who recognized the precious gifts of the terroir and toiled to establish the vines and a community based on a valued wine. And of course, the incredible beauty of the region of vineyards.

In the case of the prosecco wine hills, the beauty is unique. The area of area of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene is characterized by steep hills, which you do associate with other wine regions and which contribute to the particular and complex flavors in the region's sparkling wine.

But here, the challenges of cultivating the terrain was overcome in the 17th century by the creation terraced small plots of vines that resemble a patchwork or checkerboard pattern, surrounded by local forests and farmland, dotted with small iconically-Italian villages.

Traditionally, winegrowers in the prosecco wine hills also trained their vines in a distinctive, rhomboid grid pattern. Called the 'bellussera' technique, it provided prosecco grapes with exposure to the sun and protection from diseases, and also added to the one-of-a-kind aesthetic and appeal of the landscape.

You rarely find – admittedly expensive, expert labor-intensive - 'bellussera' trained vines these days. But it's hoped that the UNESCO designation, as well as a trend in viniculture as well as other heritage food production to recover traditional techniques, will inspire a return to prosecco's 'roots'.  


It also codifies a commitment to sustainability for the region – both in its cultivation and production of these highest quality designated prosecco wines – and also in welcoming visitors to discover the riches of the area.

The prosecco hills, that stretch 30 km (nearly 20 miles) through this picturesque part of northeastern Italy, have been cultivating wines for hundreds of years.

Their new UNESCO designation confirms their value to the sum of human and natural heritage, and also why you should add a journey to northeastern Italy to your travel or wine travel bucket list to taste this delightful sparkling wine at the source and savor the landscapes and culture that nurture them.

Start your Trip!




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The Return of a Legend: Singapore's Raffles Hotel Re-opens

It's one of a handful of heritage hotels around the world that define a destination. The storied Raffles hotel is synonymous with Singapore. 


And after closing for more than two years for restoration and re-imagination, Raffles re-takes center stage as a hospitality icon in this South-East Asian city-state – and the world.



First opened in 1887, Raffles' restoration retains what makes the hotel a treasure. It's a magical place in Singapore: a combination of gracious luxury and expansive tropical colonial design that stirs your historical and travel imagination. Polished teak verandahs and white marble colonnades clustered around lush tropical gardens evoke the romance of life-changing travel.

Add the famed Raffles butlers discreetly providing legendary service, visitors to Singapore are transported to another era of transformative travel and legends in the making. 

The hotel was declared a National Monument a century after it opened. It's treasured by Singaporeans, who deeply value its breathtaking architecture, singular heritage, and Raffles' place in local, Asian and global history. 


They continue to proudly share epic tales of the early years of the hotel and of modern Singapore. You can't visit Singapore without hearing about the times when the occasional tiger would wander into the hotel's Long Bar from the jungle, and legendary authors, playwrights, taste-makers and trend-setters and empire builders called Raffles home during their time in the East.

The restoration maintains and enhances Raffles as an incomparable luxury oasis for today's well-traveled. The revitalized Raffles Singapore offers enhanced luxurious all-suite accommodations, across nine distinct suite categories. The hotel has added three more types of suites so guests can choose among: State Room Suites, Courtyard Suites, Palm Court Suites, Personality Suites, Residence Suites, Promenade Suites, Grand Hotel Suites and Presidential Suites.

 
The hotel is the center of social life and society in Singapore. The refreshed oasis in ultra-modern Singapore delivers a compelling mix of culture, beauty and gentility. Vibrant lifestyle experiences and exclusive dining concepts are designed for international visitors and Singaporeans to meet, stay, shop, dine and celebrate.

 
The Raffles Arcade has been newly outfitted with a charming Raffles Boutique and various bespoke retail brands. Guests and locals will also delight in exploring the worldly restaurants and bars at Raffles Singapore, including restaurant collaborations with
 
  • Chef Anne-Sophie Pic, of the three-Michelin star Maison Pic in Valence, France;
  • the venerable French Master Chef Alain Ducasse; and
  • Chef Jereme Leung, known for his innovative Chinese cuisine.

And one of the most famous places within Singapore, Raffles' Long Bar, begins a new chapter too. Under palmetto fans, guests will continue to enjoy the hotel's most famous cocktail invention, the original Singapore Sling, along with the timeless tradition of tossing peanut shells on the floor.
 
Singapore's heritage treasure is back. This is where it all started, and faithful to its roots, a refreshed, re-imagined and revitalized Raffles Singapore continues to define emotional luxury lifestyle.
 
Not just in Singapore. Raffles continues its tradition of gracious living, intuitive service and meaningful experiences. Raffles has grown beyond Singapore. Connoisseurs of life choose Raffles around the world for its heritage, beauty and gentility, and for the extraordinary way they feel staying at Raffles. Each Raffles, whether in Paris, Istanbul, Warsaw, Jakarta or the Seychelles, is an oasis where travelers arrive as guests, leave as friends and return as family.
 
You can look forward to more Raffles around the world, too. The return of this flagship property to Raffles Hotels & Resorts paves the way for the expansion of the brand to new destinations in cities such as Udaipur, London and Boston.
 

Start your Trip!

 
Images: Raffles Singapore
 
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Where Every Gaming Teen Wants to Travel This Summer
If your family has a teen who spends time immersed in electronic games, take heart! We've discovered the perfect summer holiday everyone in your family will enjoy.

There's a vibrant summer destination that not only delivers an unforgettable skyline and cityscape, shopping, culture and food scene ranging from gourmet street food to Michelin-starred cuisine… and one of the world's most exciting e-Sports events.

The e-Sports & Music Festival Hong Kong takes place annually in late July in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, and it gives gaming teens as well as the rest of their families an exciting summer holiday destination.
 
Featuring tournaments played between some of the best players in the world and live-streamed in 3 languages, as well as experiences for amateur gamers and visitors, the EMFHK ensures e-Sports enthusiasts in your family will be happily occupied for all three days of the festival, and free up the rest of you to explore Asia's World City.

Top Level International Team Tournaments

  • The EMFHK launched the first-ever official International College Championship in 2019. The League of Legends International College Cup. 12 winning college teams from all over the world compete for glory in this highly competitive, fast paced action-strategy game.
 
  • CS:GO World Invitational gives gaming fans the chance to witness first-hand two top professional teams fighting for a HK$500,000 prize pool.
 

Mobile Game Regional Tournaments
 
  • EMFHK - e-Sports Tournaments “Honor of Kings” Official City Tournament
“Honor of Kings” is the most played Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) mobile game in China, with over 50 million players per day. Qualifiers from 4 regions in the Greater Bay Area of HK/China compete for the championship.
 
  • PUBG Mobile Hong Kong Tournament
Winning teams from online qualifiers gather to battle for the championship title of the most played Battle Royale mobile game in the world.
 
Interactive Experiences for Visitors
 
Your teens will lose themselves for hours in the Experience Zone, which includes a showcase of cool retro arcade machines, along with VR experiences and professional e-racing equipment they can test drive. They'll experience the trendiest mobile games at the “CSL Mobile Game Party” and can check out “Street Fighter” and “The King of Fighters” in the “Retro Fighting Game Zone”.
 
Nightly entertainment during the three-day Festival features performances and parties that include events like an ACG & e-Sports Cosplay Competition, an electronic dance music (EDM) party featuring Korean rappers, performances featuring popular local bands and artists.
 
Tickets are all-inclusive of admission to the tournaments, the Experience Zone, nightly performances and even free admission to the Ani-Com & Games Hong Kong that runs at the same time. 
 
Build a summer holiday around Hong Kong's e-Sports & Music Festival, and you'll be in your gaming teens' good books for the whole year!

Start your Trip!

 
Images courtesy Discover Hong Kong

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Everyone experiences travel differently, and this may be most true of historic sites. Standing on the spot where history was made is a profound experience that transcends any amount of studying, reading, watching documentaries or films. When you are actually there, the sights, sounds, perspective and your historic imagination all combine for a more meaningful understanding of moments that changed our world.

The Juno Beach Centre provides visitors today with the opportunity to visualize first-hand the WW2 DDay Landings in June, 1944, from a Canadian point of view. No matter what you thought you knew or understood coming to the Juno Beach Centre, its interactive displays, stories, interpretive tours of the restored bunkers and beaches themselves speak to each visitor differently.

It's a pilgrimage all Canadians should undertake.

BestTrip asked staff and visitors which aspect of visiting the Juno Beach Centre impacts them the most. You'll have your own favorite experience after you visit Juno Beach, too.

Start your Trip!




It was a week at the end of May 1969 that became an iconic, unforgettable moment of 60's counter-culture and protests against the Vietnam War.
 
2019 marks the anniversary of the legendary time when music uber-star and peace activist John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono booked themselves into Montreal's Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel, and held their 'Bed-in for Peace'. 

The event resonated around the world, drawing global media who broadcast images of the couple in their pajamas in bed and their messages of peace. While in bed, they composed and recorded the anthem 'Give Peace a Chance' that resonates even today. It was Lennon's first solo single and marked the beginning of the end of the Beatles as well as marking the history of the peace movement. Music history and activist history made on the grand stage of a bed in a suite in the hotel.

The suite in the hotel has been a beacon, drawing pilgrims and fans to take photos in front of the room's door. And now, as part of a $100 million-plus renovation of Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, the four rooms Lennon originally booked have been joined together in a single suite, renamed in honor of the couple and designed with all the comforts of a modern luxury hotel, but also in homage to the 60's era, the Bed-in for Peace, and the urgent, memorable song 'Give Peace a Chance' with interactive, multi-media immersions that bring to life the media frenzy and impact of this once-in-a-generation event.

The John Lennon and Yoko Ono suite at Montreal's Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth is not normally open to the public, but BestTrip got access to experience the suite today, re-live that week in 1969 and its message of 'Peace and Love', and share it with you.
 

Start your Trip!


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There's no visit to Argentina's capital without experiencing tango. It is both music and an unmistakable dance, perhaps the most sensual dance in the world.


Our Monograms tour of Buenos Aires included an incredible tango dinner show at El Viejo Almacen that took our breath away! A Monograms agenda allows for plenty of free time to explore our own interests (in addition to an orientation tour of the city that includes the world's widest boulevard, the cemetery where Eva Peron (immortalized in the musical Evita, and song 'Don't Cry for me, Argentina!' is interred, and tastes of the country's obsession with soccer as well as its famous way with beef and wine).


And in Buenos Aires, at the top of my personal agenda was a studio/ showroom visit to Comme il Faut, to meet the designer whose glamorous shoes single-handedly elevated tango to being as elegant as it is passionate.


Our Monograms guide gave us helpful, local expert's advice about the best way to get to the tucked-away 'Rue des Artisans' in BA's old neighborhood, where whitewashed buildings, wrought iron trim, black awnings, and jardinières on the street made me feel like I really was in Paris. No wonder Buenos Aires is called 'The Paris of South America'.

Parts of Buenos Aires may evoke Paris, but the soundtrack is all tango.And for me, the chance to meet Comme il Faut's designer and founder, Alicia Muñiz, whose limited edition shoes are wearable trophies for tango dancers and women of elegance around the world, was a personal highlight of Buenos Aires.


In this video, I share her passion for tango, her inspiration, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit that transformed tango shoes for a new generation of professional and everyday dancers, and built a creative business… from the 'foot' up.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV


Start your Trip!

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10 Amazing Facts about the Tasmanian Devil
Move over, cuddly koalas and cute kangaroos. Meet the Tasmanian Devil. 

No, not the Looney Tunes cartoon character that travels like a spinning top, drooling, snarling and terrorizing Bugs Bunny's friends. The real animal, found in the wild only in one state Down Under.

In Australia's collection of one-of-a-kind creatures, the Tasmanian Devil is a stand out member. So between photo ops with koalas, and watching kangaroos hopping through wildlife parks, head to Australia's southern, island state, to get to know the Tasmanian Devil.

It's a keystone species in Tasmania and the symbol of many organizations in the state. We visited a wildlife sanctuary only a half-hour's drive from Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, and discovered amazing things about Tasmanian 'Devils'.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV
 
1. Cute and cuddly they are not. Tasmanian Devils look a bit like bear cubs, or like a big-boned small-ish dog at under 30 pounds fully grown. When they're not aggressive, they look a bit sweet. But I had a chance to touch a baby being raised at the sanctuary, and even so young, its fur was like coarse bristles. And they are not sociable or friendly, living alone and coming out at night. 
 
2. They smell bad, too. Tasmanian Devils have a 'scent gland' used to mark territory with very strong and repulsive scent.
 
3. They have a great naming story. Tasmanian Devils are aggressive if they feel threatened or are competing for food. They bare teeth, lunge, and emit loud, blood-curdling shrieks in the dark hours that made early settlers imagine demons had surrounded them in the wilderness. That's how they were dubbed Tasmanian 'devils'. (Check out this video to hear Tasmanian Devils screeching).
 
4. Their oversized heads have incredible jaws that can open to 80 degrees wide! and deliver the strongest bite for its size of any mammal in the world. They have the power to bite through thick metal wire! The staff at the sanctuary joked to keep fingers away from the babies' mouths; even at that size and age, if they'd bitten onto our hands, 'they wouldn't stop til they reach your elbow'. Possibly a joke to make the point, but it paints a picture of:
 
5. The world's largest carnivorous marsupial. (Marsupials are mammals that carry their newborns in pouches). Tasmanian Devils eat only meat: they hunt birds, snakes, other mammals up to the size of small kangaroos, but they also eat carrion – dead animals. They put those tremendous jaws to good use, eating 'pretty much anything they sink their teeth into', crushing and ravenously ingesting even the bones.  
 
6. Even a Tasmanian Devil's teeth are unique. They have the same number of teeth as a dog - 42 – but unlike dogs, a Devil's teeth grow continuously throughout its life, contributing to its phenomenal ability to consume bones of its prey.
 
7. Like all marsupials, Devils store fat in their tails, which thicken up (like humans' waistlines!).  

8. Although Tasmanian Devils once thrived throughout Australia, now they are native only in the island state of Tasmania. There, they have adapted very well to a variety of environments in Tasmania, from coasts to forests to even suburbs. So rather than environmental change, it's believed their extinction on Australia's mainland can be blamed on the arrival of dingoes – which never spread to Tasmania to threaten the Devils.
 
9. It wasn't all smooth sailing for Tasmanian Devils in Tasmania, either. Those settlers who christened the 'Devils' mistakenly believed they killed livestock (a theory which has now been debunked) and hunted and poisoned them nearly to extinction, until the government stepped in to protect them in the 1940's.

 
10. The Tasmanian Devil population rebounded, but today, they're in danger again. Not from angry farmers. Tasmanian Devils adapted to modern life, with these carrion eaters finding a new food source in the form of roadkill … except these black animals eating roadkill at night are invisible to oncoming traffic, and they, too are killed in great numbers on roads. In addition, a catastrophic facial tumor disease is spreading through the population. The tumors build up in affected animals' mouths and stop them from eating, and they eventually starve to death. Tens of thousands of Tasmanian Devils have died since the disease appeared in the late 90's. 
 
Since 2008, Tasmanian Devils have been listed as endangered. Wildlife sanctuaries attempt to save and raise young in the pouches of mothers killed on the roads, and programs are isolating and breeding populations unaffected by disease. 
 
Devils are also being sent abroad to partner international zoos to contribute to population insurance programs for Tasmanian Devils too.
 
You can see Tasmanian Devils in some zoos – but better yet, by visiting and supporting a sanctuary on their home turf in Tasmania.
 

Start your Trip!

 
(Images: Getty)
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See the World's Tallest Indoor Waterfall at this New Airport

It's one of the world's top ten busiest airports, with a flight every 80 seconds. A hundred airlines transport over 60 million passengers yearly to and from Singapore's Changi airport. So millions of travelers are already familiar with the breathtaking Nature features in the airport that's the gateway to Asia's 'City in a Garden'. 


But 2019's new Jewel Changi Airport brings the natural world into an airport environment in a whole new, spectacular way that makes Singapore's airport a destination itself.

The Rain Vortex was inspired by Singapore's tropical rains. It's a 7-story feat of design and engineering that astounds you the moment you walk in the door. At over 130 feet high, it's the tallest indoor waterfall in the world, cascading dramatically through an oculus in the glass and steel dome.


The experience of the Rain Vortex changes depending what time of day you are at Jewel Changi Airport. Every evening, the flowing water, along with mist and music, becomes the centerpiece of an hourly, magical Light & Sound show designed by the same company responsible for the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and hundreds of other water, fire, light, fog and music installations around the world.

Jewel's indoor waterfall is surrounded by 5 acres of lush gardens and greenery – 2000 trees and 100,000 shrubs from 120 species in different 'parks' that make Jewel Changi Airport a lifestyle destination for visitors and locals too.

Areas like Forest Valley and Canopy Park are shopping and dining neighborhoods in a whimsical green wonderland, with cobblestone walking trails, indoor clouds, play attractions like Sky Nets, Hedge Maze, Mirror Maze and Discovery Slides that flow through themed gardens - all in climate-controlled comfort. In a man-made environment, you can enjoy tropical gardens without tropical weather!
 
With all the world-class shopping, dining and entertainment, Jewel is still a functioning airport that anticipates travelers' needs and offers conveniences that are a breath of relief, even for travelers with only a brief stopover in Singapore. 
 
Thoughtful airport facilities that have been added in Jewel include early check-in counters and kiosks, a baggage storage service and the Changi Lounge, a 150-seat lounge with shower facilities, offering seamless transfers for passengers connecting to and from cruise and ferry services
 
Jewel also has the first YOTELAIR in Asia. The tech-savvy, smart-design, space-efficient cabin hotel concept has 130 cabin-units in Jewel in three categories. The Premium, Accessible and Family cabins can be booked for as little as four hours. They are a game changer for travelers with short daytime layovers, a very early arrival in Singapore, even an extra half day to spend time exploring all that the airport has to offer before you fly out of Singapore - even overnight stays. Hotel check-in / check-out is seamless, with time-saving, airline-style self-check-in kiosks.
 
Jewel also adds capacity to accommodate increasing numbers of travelers at Changi Airport. Another 3 million passengers will now be able to be accommodated annually, bringing the airport's total capacity to 85 million. And it's going to be needed with an airport that's enough reason alone to visit Singapore.
 
The multi-faceted innovation at Jewel gives local residents a new destination where lush Nature meets Singapore's urban energy. And it gives a renewed sense of novelty and wonder at the experience of air transportation to everyone traveling to or from Singapore. 
 

Start your Trip!


Photos: Jewel Changi Airport Devt.

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 Whether you love Old Havana colonial style, rhythms and cocktails, Mid-Century modern tropical, Rat Pack vibes, or contemporary luxury urban resort on a world's top beach... Puerto Rico's El San Juan Hotel fits the bill.


Following a post-hurricane, $65-million reno, this grande dame of Puerto Rico society and must-visit destination for visitors to Puerto Rico's capital is back - in spectacular style combining all three eras and captivating your travel imagination.
The El San Juan Hotel alone is worth the trip to this US island territory! 

It's ideal as a destination tropical resort for your whole vacation or destination wedding/ vow renewal / business event, or as an extension before or after your Caribbean cruise embarking or disembarking from Puerto Rico; the El San Juan Hotel is 5 minutes from the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, 10 minutes from San Juan Cruise Port… and 15 minutes from historic Old San Juan, on 2 miles of Isla Verde Beach that's been voted the Best Urban Beach.

Start your Trip!


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3 New Cruise Line Private Islands
It used to be that private islands were the playgrounds of the ridiculously rich and fabulously famous. Then cruise lines got into the game. Now, cruise lines are competing with each other to build exclusive tropical enclaves in the Caribbean for their guests to experience not just a day on the beach, but create travel memories they can't get anywhere else.

Most of the actual private cruise line islands are small, uninhabited islands ('cays', pronounced 'keys') among the hundreds of islands in the Bahamas, like the very first cruise line private island in the Caribbean, Norwegian's Great Stirrup Cay, Holland America's Half Moon Cay (WATCH VIDEO OF HALF MOON CAY HERE), and Disney's Castaway Cay.



Harvest Caye is a private island off coast of Belize. It's for guests of sister cruise lines Norwegian, Oceania and Regent.


But the term 'private islands' has also expanded to include private cruise line day resorts developed on larger, inhabited islands, like Labadee on Haiti for guests of Royal Caribbean, and Princess Cay on Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

And cruise lines continue to acquire real estate to up the ante on the ultimate resort experience for a day ashore on the beach.

Whether you've never stepped foot on a cruise line private island, or you've got a favorite you cruise to over and over again… check out these new private island destinations you can only reach by cruise ship.

They're all in the Bahamas, but designed by three very different cruise lines, and offer three very different private island experiences. Find your cruise line private island match!


 
The Cruise Line: Virgin Voyages
The Destination: The Beach Club at Bimini, the Bahamas
The Experience: High-Style Island Beach Club/ Music Festival on the Beach

As Sir Richard Branson launches his new, adults-only cruise line, Virgin Voyages, and its first flagship, the Scarlet Lady, he also launches a private island destination just for Virgin Voyages guests.


No, not HIS private island. But The Beach Club on the Bahamian island of Bimini takes its cues from Sir Richard's famously high-living, party-loving, music industry persona. Along with exquisite beach and turquoise water, The Beach Club provides an atmosphere like beach party destinations Ibiza and St. Tropez.


A detox/retox formula starts with beach yoga and meditation to the sounds of the sea earlier in the day, chilling in hammock groves and cabanas, snacking on complimentary, locally-sourced island cuisine and sipping cocktails from 6 bars, playing on the beach and taking part in watersports, leading up to in-demand DJ-led pool and flotilla parties in the evening, and finally winding down late at night with a beach bonfire and acoustic music before a very late night ship departure.

The Cruise Line: MSC Cruises
The Destination: Ocean Cay Marine Reserve, the Bahamas
The Experience: Soft Adventure Meets Nature on the Beach


Only 65 miles off Miami, MSC will also be able to offer late night departures from its new private island (pictured, top).

7 beaches, each with its own atmosphere and experiences, ranging from shallow paddling for small children to water sports. Dining includes food trucks that incorporate local flavors, and multiple bars including one inspired by Hemmingway's famous taste for rum cocktails overlooking the ocean. MSC's Aurea Spa treatments are available on shore at Ocean Cay. And shopping includes vendors of local arts and crafts as well as branded items.


In addition to the usual beach-side water sports, Ocean Cay offers eco-friendly soft adventure experiences like kayak tours and snorkel safaris highlighting the natural beauty of the island and its seas.

Ocean Cay is surrounded by dozens of square miles of protected seas, and that's the point. The development protects the local wildlife and ecosystem, and there are plans for a coral nursery to actively contribute to the region's environment.
 
The Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
The Destination: Cococay, the Bahamas
The Experience: 'The Perfect Day at CocoCay' / Over-the-top Theme Park on a Beach

Royal Caribbean ships are whirlwind experiences of ice skating rinks, climbing walls, theme park type rides, restaurants and shopping… more than you could hope to ever do in a single week of cruising. Its new concept, 'Perfect Day', is a collection of private islands around the world that take 'thrill and chill' to a new level, beginning in the Bahamas with 'The Perfect Day at CocoCay'.


Perfect Day at CocoCay is a shopping list of record-breaking builds, adrenaline-charged activities, and unexpected firsts: The tallest waterslide in North America. The largest wave pool in the Caribbean. The first overwater cabanas in the Bahamas. The Up, Up and Away helium balloon ride that takes you 450 feet up to the highest viewpoint in the Bahamas. A soaking by 30 water cannons on a shipwrecked galleon, and an 82-foot geyser. A 1,600-foot zip line – ending with the only splash water landing in the region. A freshwater infinity edge pool and bar, spanning a whopping 2,600-plus feet. And a whole host of other dining, drinking, and shopping activities to pack a full day even fuller.




Royal Caribbean believes Perfect Day at CocoCay will live up to its name – and set the scene for more Perfect Day Island Collection destinations in the Caribbean as well as Asia and Australia.
 
These 3 wildly diverse new cruise line private islands prove: there's a perfect new cruise – and a new cruise line private island - just waiting for you to discover.

Start your Trip!


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If you're like me, Spring can never come too soon. And nothing says Spring like new flower blossoms.

This year, treat yourself to an abundance of Spring in one of these famous floral travel destinations.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Host/Producer, BestTrip TV
 

Tulips in the Netherlands

Where: Keukenhof Gardens and surrounding tulip fields
When: April

It's the world's largest spring flower garden. The Keukenhof Gardens are a showcase for the Netherlands' biggest agricultural export: flowers and bulbs. The tulip is the ultimate symbol of a Dutch spring, and there are an astounding 7 million bulbs – tulips and other spring flowers - bursting into bloom on the 80 acres of castle grounds at Keukenhof. Open just a few weeks every spring, Keukenhof is a gardener's dream: themed garden plots and pavilions, an windmill you can climb for a viewpoint over acres of surrounding tulip fields in bloom, boat rides in canals lined with never-ending blossoms.

You can also order bulbs of the blooms you can see at Keukenhof; they'll be shipped to you ready for planting in the fall.

WATCH VIDEO, TOP: THE WORLD'S LARGEST SPRING FLOWER GARDEN ON AN AVALON RIVER CRUISE
 
Also Find Tulips at:

The Ottawa Tulip Festival, Canada


There's a Dutch connection to this flower festival in Canada's National Capital. During the Second World War, the Dutch Royal Family took refuge in Canada's capital, and a royal baby was even born on Canadian soil, as overseas, Canadian soldiers led the liberation of the Netherlands. In thanks, after the war, the Dutch sent tulips. 100,000 tulips, and tens of thousands more each year since. The mid-May Ottawa Tulip Festival is not only a symbol of Spring, it's a symbol of peace and cooperation between nations.
 

Chelsea Flower Show

Where: London, England
When: 5 Days Late May

(getty/ BethAmber)

This might be the most famous flower and landscaped garden show in the world. Members of the British Royal Family join garden lovers from around the world at the 11-acre site of the Royal Horticultural Society's annual love-in of traditional, trend-setting and even avante-garde flowers and gardening. You'll see glorious displays of beautiful and also rare spring flowers, floral exhibits and cutting edge design as well as traditional English gardening that is loved and imitated the world over. 

The Chelsea Flower Show is the perfect place to buy English gardening tools and gifts for yourself or your friends at home.
 

Japanese Cherry Blossoms

Where: Japan
When: Peak season on Japan's main island is early-mid April

(Getty/ Torsakarin)

The Japanese don't just have a word for cherry blossoms: 'sakura'. The also have a word 'hanami' that means to view the cherry blossoms. It's a tradition that dates back a thousand years or more, originating with the Imperial Family and continuing today for all Japanese. It's one of the most festive times of the year, when Japanese gather with friends, family and colleagues under cherry blossom trees filling parks, surrounding historic castles, temples and shrines, and lining riverbanks, drinking sake and picnicking under the trees long into the twinkling evening hours.

It's not just the stunning beauty of clouds of white and pale pink blossoms hovering overhead; the Japanese also view short-lived cherry blossoms as a poetic symbol of the fleeting nature of life itself.

Also Find Cherry Blossoms in:

Vancouver, British Columbia
An estimated 50,000 blossoming cherry trees line streets and grace parks from February all the way through April, including the city's famous urban Stanley Park.  The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year for most of the month of April.

Washington DC

(Getty/ zrfphoto)

America's capital has a glorious annual reminder of the thousands of cherry blossom trees given by Japan to the US in the early 1900's as a sign of friendship. Famously lining the shore of the Tidal Basin, DC's cherry blossoms are celebrated annually during the National Cherry Blossom Festival from mid-March to mid-April. 
 

Texas Bluebonnets

Where: Throughout the state, especially the City of Ennis and its 'Texas Bluebonnet Trail'
When: April

(Getty / leekris)

This wildflower is the state flower of Texas and believed to be named from its resemblance to a pioneer sunbonnet. Bluebonnets are actually several varieties of lupins. They thrive in lesser soil and so line roadways as well as fill public lands and pastures. 

The city of Ennis, south-east of Dallas-Fort Worth, is the official home of the bluebonnet, with over 40 miles of flower-bedecked roadsides, as well as an annual Festival. The Texas highway department not only delays roadside trimming so people can enjoy the spring bloom, its early officials were instrumental in encouraging these wildflowers to thrive. Today, they still plant about 30,000 pounds of wildflower seed each year, contributing to the preservation of Texas' native vegetation.
 
Also Find Lupins:

In Canada's maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

 (Getty / bilbowden)

The lupins you'll find growing wild in Canada's eastern provinces are a larger variety than Texas bluebonnets, and although they're more purple-y blue as well as pink and white, they're an equally cheerful sign of spring. Well, actually early summer. The cooler climate means peak lupin season here is late June – early July.
 
 

Azaleas in America's South-East

Where: Gardens throughout the region and especially: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, South Carolina
When: Throughout April

(Getty/MargaretW)
 
Azalea shrubs originated in Asia and were successfully taken to many places in the world. But in America's south-east, they've gained a special place as an iconic garden favorite and symbol of gracious Southern living. Unlike other spring blooms, they're quite long lasting, spreading joy for weeks of the season.

Many public and private gardens have a spectacular spring showing of azaleas, but special mention goes to Charleston's Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. The former rice plantation dates from the 1600's, and is the oldest public gardens in the U.S, opening its doors in 1870 to visitors who wanted to enjoy its thousands of cultivated flowers and plants. The less-formal, 'Romantic' style garden is not only on the list of one of 'America's Most Beautiful Gardens'. Magnolia was also the first garden in the country to plant azaleas outdoors, in the 1840's.
 
Today, hundreds of thousands of azaleas bloom in flame pinks, oranges and reds, lining paths and lakes in a breathtaking spring bloom.

Start your Trip!


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Think Overwater Villas are the Height of Exotic Luxury Travel? Try This UNDERwater Villa
It puts new meaning into being immersed in the local natural beauty. The pristine waters of the Maldives are epic, surrounding one of the world's most romantic, remote and legendary tropical eco paradise destinations. 

Now you can sleep alongside your sweetheart or family as well as the rich marine life that animates the waters of these tiny islands in the Indian Ocean. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is a pioneering resort: the first international hotel in the Maldives, the first underwater restaurant, and now, the first undersea residence.


It's called the Muraka, or 'coral' in the local Maldivian language, and it is an extraordinary way for up to 9 guests to experience of one of the world's most breathtaking marine environments. Specialized aquarium technology was used to create the 2-story villa, consisting of above-sea-level space, and a spiral staircase to an underwater suite more than 16 feet below sea level with a king size bedroom, living room, and bathing area under a dome with 180-degree views of the ocean.

Sleeping in an undersea dome is an almost surreal vacation, but the overwater part of the villa above is unforgettable, too. More bedrooms, one with an ocean-facing bathtub, more bathrooms, gym, space for a butler and private security, living room, kitchen, bar and dining area with a deck facing the sunset, and another deck with an infinity pool facing sunrise. 

The Muraka butlers are dedicated 24-7 to hyper-personalized service. They are also ambassadors of the Maldivian island experience for undersea villa guests, sharing their passion for culture, the environment and adventure throughout your custom-crafted stay at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.


The resort is located in the Maldives' best diving and snorkeling locations. It melds harmoniously with the environment, flowing from island, over the ocean, to the overwater/undersea residence.


You can double down on the undersea experience at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island at its trailblazing underwater restaurant. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is also a world's first, where the fusion local and Western lunch and dinner menus, fine wine pairings, and mid-morning cocktails are accompanied by a panoramic view of coral gardens 16 feet below the surface of the ocean.

 
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is one of dozen resort restaurants and bars that regularly make 'best of…' lists. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island also features an overwater spa and a Spa Retreat, and experiences inspired by the local environment and culture round out the ultimate island escape. Sunrise and sunset yoga practice. A meditation pavilion. A 5-hour journey to inner tranquility via a unique Zen revelation. A Spa Retreat with over a dozen water villas, its own restaurant, and a selection of therapies including a signature treatment inspired by the beauty practices of Maldivian women, including a heated coconut stick massage and organic, pineapple and papaya body scrub.


Consciously-designed villas and suites, from ultra-private beach villas nestled amongst the rich tropical landscape with direct beach access, to overwater villas ranging from private and romantic, to expansive for an extended group of family or friends, complete with sundecks, hot tubs steps into the sea, spa treatment rooms and more, provide the iconic Maldives vacation.
 
Start your Trip!
 
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Top 10 Souvenirs from a Trip to Hawaii

You'll come home with a million sun-drenched memories of a holiday in Hawaii. Here are 10 mementos you can take with you.

 

ANYTHING PINEAPPLE



They may be the most common symbol of Hawaii, and you'll find pineapples, pineapple products, and pineapple motifs everywhere. Pineapples are actually native to South America, and their Hawaiian name 'halakahiki' means 'foreign fruit'.  They arrived in Hawaii in the 1500's, but it wasn't until James Dole, the 'Pineapple King' came to the islands in 1899, that Hawaii became synonymous the world over with pineapples.


At one time, Hawaii produced 75% of the world's supply. Hawaii is no longer the world's big kahuna of pineapple production. But the second most visited attraction in Hawaii is the Dole Pineapple Plantation Experience. Roadside stands sell delicious, perfectly ripe pineapples you'll enjoy during your stay, and that's where they'll have to stay. You can't take fresh fruits off the islands. But you can take candied and chocolate versions of pineapple with you – as well as an unlimited selection of items with pineapple motifs that will remind you of lazy days in the Hawaiian sun. 
 

OTHER TROPICAL FRUIT

The Hawaiian islands are America's tropical paradise, with market and roadside fresh guavas, papayas, mangos, bananas, lychees, passionfruit as well as pineapples. Like pineapples, they are not native to the islands, although bananas were one of the dozen staple crops brought on the first journey to Hawaii by Polynesians. Other tropical fruit came later and many have even gone wild, even becoming invasive in the wilderness. 


The same no-fresh-fruit in your luggage rule applies. Fresh tropical fruit juices make delicious toppings on Hawaii's favorite refreshing treat: shaved ice. And look for tropical fruit preserves to take home to relive your vacation every morning with your breakfast toast.
 

LOCAL WOOD



Sustainable local woods, especially local, fast growing and immense acacia koa are turned in the hands of artisans into both beautiful and useful memorabilia of your Hawaiian vacation. From salad tongs and bowls, fruit and nut bowls, platters, yes, even in ubiquitous pineapple styling, Hawaiian tropical wood products make a warm and heart-warming souvenir for yourself or family and friends.
 

ANYTHING TIKI



Much of the world associates tiki culture with the Hawaiian islands. Tiki culture is not actually a real 'thing', in fact, it's a mash up of elements, some real and some imaginary, of stylized elements of the Pacific tropics, like statues, sweet and complex cocktails, tropical décor including bamboo, flaming torches, brightly patterned fabrics (see: Hawaiian shirts), rattan furniture, and bead curtains. Tiki culture developed in the mid-1900's, and picked up speed with a post-war fascination with the romantic and exotic - brought home by returning US troops from the Pacific war theater and exaggerated by Hollywood. 


Now, tiki has a fun, retro vibe, and is a perfect theme for a back yard barbecue, complete with mai tai's garnished with fresh fruit and tiny umbrellas.
 

HULA GIRLS - OR GUYS

The adorably kitschy, wiggling, dash-top décor is a fun and retro memento of one of Hawaii's most powerful, unique and authentic traditions: the hula dance. Accompanied since the 19th century by western-influenced instruments like the ukulele, Hawaii's hula is a complex and ancient dance tradition, where hand movements can represent the swaying of a tree or wave in the ocean, even an emotion, along with unmistakable foot and hip movements. 


Hopefully, you'll experience a hula performance live in Hawaii. The hula girl (or guy) on your dashboard gives you fond memories and a little hipster credibility.
 

HAWAIIAN SHIRT



Channel your inner 'Magnum' or Don Ho with the modern man's loudest item of clothing, worn un-tucked and cool in the tropical heat of Hawaii. Traditional and local Aloha shirts are more muted in tones and style, and are considered formal wear locally, equivalent to shirt, tie and jacket in all except the most formal of scenarios, perfect for the local climate. The Aloha shirt is the top textile export from the islands, so you'll be in good company if you add one to your wardrobe at home.
 

ALOHA ACCESSORIES



Not everyone can pull off an Hawaiian shirt. The rest of us may have to make do with more subtle expressions of Aloha style: plumeria/ frangipani flower hair clips, and shell or silk flower leis. The custom of lei floral and leaf garlands was brought to the islands of Hawaii by settlers who made the incredible journey from Polynesia in canoes.  They've become the symbol around the world of welcome to America's 50th state.
 

MORNING JOE AND AFTERNOON TEA

The word in coffee in Hawaii is 'Kona'. Various efforts on the islands in the 19th century to grow coffee failed, but the slopes of the Kona or west side of the island of Hawaii, where sugarcane was unsuccessful, is ideally suited to coffee production. The Kona district became the center of coffee production in Hawaii and is Hawaii's coffee designation of origin; it must be grown in a two-mile-wide belt of terrain at 700-2000 feet of elevation to be labeled Hawaii's most prestigious coffee.


Kona coffee grows on west side slopes, and the opposite, east side has conditions conducive to growing tea. Tea production in Hawaii is much more recent, and growers are experimenting with black, green, oolong teas, scented with local flowers and fruits, so tea drinkers also have a local hot beverage to enjoy on island or to take home.

GET NUTTY



The pale, round and incredibly rich macadamia nut – sometimes even called the Hawaii nut - is also associated with classic Hawaiian snacks and cooking. But it, like the pineapple, originates elsewhere. Macadamia was introduced to Hawaii from Australia in the 1800's, and a local macadamia nut plantation just after WW2 helped spread the popularity of Hawaiian macadamia nuts through the US.  Enjoy them freshly roasted and take them home in cans, made into brittle, chocolates and countless other reminders of the flavor of Hawaii.

SALT



Hawaiians have been living off the land since their brave Polynesian ancestors made their way by celestial navigation thousands of miles across the Pacific. Harvesting sea salt has always been a fundamental part of island tradition, and continues today, with varieties of sea salt highlighting different flavors and unique characteristics of the areas they are harvested. The perfect foodie souvenir!
 

UKULELE

The soundtrack of any trip to Hawaii is the one-of-a-kind tunes of a ukulele. Looking like a miniature guitar, the ukulele is a Hawaiian adaptation of string instruments brought to the islands by Portuguese immigrants in the 19th century. The word has a whimsical meaning: 'jumping flea', thought to reflect the movement of a player's fingers. Ukulele music was popularized by the patronage of King Kalakaua in Hawaii, and it spread to the US and the rest of the world in the early and mid-20th century, along with post-war fascination with the South Seas and 'tiki' culture. Even Elvis famously played the ukulele in Hawaiian-themed performances.


You too can buy a ukulele in Hawaii, even visit an artisan workshop where they're made from traditional acacia koa, and take lessons, to liven up your next summer barbecue with the ultimate sounds of the Hawaiian tropics.
 

START YOUR TRIP!


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7 Castles in Ireland Where You Can Stay
St. Patrick and the Emerald Isle. Dramatic coastline. Historic towns and cobblestone streets. Pubs and parties. Folklore and green pastures… and castles.
 
Hundreds of castles and manor houses dot the Irish countryside. They not only evoke Ireland's storied past. Many allow you to live out your inner fantasy world of warrior kings and legendary princesses during overnight stays.
 
Look for a tour of Ireland that allows you to lay your head at some of these stately homes:

Ashford Castle, County Mayo

 
You'll be joining the illustrious ranks of not only early Irish nobility when you stay at Ashford Castle. British royalty, American presidents and sports and entertainment superstars have all stayed at 800-year-old Ashford Castle. It's a 5-star resort lifestyle in a magnificent French chateau style building on a 26,000 acre estate – complete with is own school of falconry, horseback riding, fishing, archery and clay shooting, as well as more modern pass times like a spa, golf, kayaking, tennis, tree climbing and zip lining.

 
Ashford Castle has been voted the best resort in Ireland and one of the top three in Europe.
 

Bantry House, County Cork

 
Since the 1700's Earls of Bantry have occupied Bantry House overlooking Bantry Bay on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way on the southern coast. You can stay in one of the finest historic manor houses in the country in luxurious bed and breakfast or self-catering style.  

 
As well as the Wild Atlantic Way, you'll want to explore Bantry House's elegant gardens especially when the azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom. The design is dramatic with seven terraces – the house is on the third terrace - 100 steps, and a fountain.
 

Drumoland Castle, County Clare

 
 Another magnet for global political figures and celebrities, 5-star Dromoland Castle is the ancestral home of the O'Brien family that traces its roots 1000 years back to the famous High King of Ireland Brian Boru. 

 
400 acres of Irish heaven include a top-rated golf course, walking and cycling trails, tennis, hiking, horse riding and pony carriage rides, traditional archery, falconry, fishing and clay shooting. Deluxe décor and luxury living include a spa, afternoon tea, casual and fine dining that once earned a Michelin star.
 

Ballyfin Demesne, County Laois

 
Your travel imagination may picture your castles with gothic towers, but don't miss Ireland's most celebrated Regency / Georgian mansion. With only 20 guest rooms, you'll feel like you're lord of the manor at this 5-star Georgian country house nestled on 600 acres at the foot of the scenic Slieve Bloom Mountains.

 
It's the ultimate mix of old world charm and modern home and hotel comforts – and perfect to take over for a special, destination family or even business event.
 

Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway

 
Voted #1 Irish luxury castle hotel, Ballynahinch is an elegant 17th century castle with magnificent views over 700 acres of woodland and rivers. Relax indoors by one of six open log fires or dine in elegance at one of Irelands' best restaurants. 

 
Take long walks or cycling tours with backdrops against the 12 Bens Mountain range along the Wild Atlantic Way. Or climb onto a boat for a guided trip of its famous salmon and lobster fishery.
 

Crom Castle, County Fermanagh

 
Lord and Lady Erne still dwell at the historic seat of the Earls of Erne, magnificent Crom Castle in Irelands' beautiful Fermanagh Lakelands (pictured top). But the castle's West Wing can be yours, it's available year round for up to 12, with even a cook provided if you wish. 
 
Nearly 2000 acres at Crom are a unique nature reserve with one of the largest semi-natural woodland remaining in Ireland, the largest surviving area of oak woodland in the country, and one of the largest freshwater habitats in the British Isles. You can see two rare butterflies and pine-marten, the largest heronry in Ireland, wild geese and deer.
 

Lismore Castle, County Waterford

 
Some of the most notable names of Europe and the Americas over the last few centuries have visited and stayed at this 12th century castle of the Dukes of Devonshire. Fewer than 30 guests at a time enjoy truly regal hospitality, with use of the castle and estate facilities, and even the Duke's personal butler and staff. The Castle kitchens create formal, informal, indoor and outdoor meals from local and on-site ingredients.

 
Live like the Irish nobility with salmon fishing, golf, horse riding and racing, kayaking and boat trips, even kite surfing, scuba and hot air balloon rides.
 
Make sure your next vacation to Ireland includes a stay fit for a king on one of the Emerald Isle's historic castles.  

(Images courtesy ireland.com)
 

Start your Trip!

 
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If you close your eyes and picture 'Italy', chances are, it's the rows of vineyards and cypress trees, villas and farmhouses, fabled towns and household-name works of art of Tuscany that come to mind.


There are a million reasons why Tuscany is the setting of so many escapist novels, movies and life-changing travels. Here are our favorites:

FLORENCE

The red rooftops of Florence are the symbol of Tuscany's capital and epic Italian Renaissance magic. Wandering the alleys and cobblestoned streets, the Boboli Gardens and the Ponte Vecchio lets you drink in Firenze's one-of-a-kind atmosphere. 


But its greatest attractions are indoors. Italy's greatest collection of art is housed in Florence's Uffizi Gallery. The richness of its collection is unparalleled; so many Renaissance masterpieces – recognizable even if you weren't an art history student - you'll hit Botticelli sensory overload quickly, so you'll want to break up your visit into multiple days. Michelangelo's statue of David at the Galleria dell'Accademia makes visitors gasp in awe at the 17-foot marble nude – as does its replica placed in its original 1504 setting outside the Palazzo Vecchio.

SIENA

Art lovers may argue whether it's Renaissance Florence or Gothic Siena that is the most breathtaking Tuscan city for art and architecture. Luckily, you don't have to choose, immerse yourself in the cathedrals and squares and museums in both. In a part of the world teeming with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Siena's Piazza del Campo stands out in its majesty cradled at the foot of three hills surrounding it. Work off some of that extraordinary Tuscan cuisine climbing the Torre del Mangia, a tower at the Palazzo Pubblico. Your reward is a breathtaking viewpoint over Siena.

 

THE PALIO

Time your visit to Siena right, and you can be a part of one of the world's most famous and storied sports/ cultural historic events. The Palio di Siena is a bareback horse race that feels like a Gothic time capsule. The 10 horses and riders are decked out like, knights of yore, in the medieval colors representing city wards; flags hang from the balconies and buildings in the city.

It's one of the most exciting 90 seconds in sport/ pageantry. The riders cling desperately to their horses for three laps of Siena's packed Piazza del Campo, and often, a few are thrown especially at the tight turns along the way, with riderless horses running into the crowds in the middle of the square or crossing the finish line with the other horses. The Palio is run twice a summer, on July 2nd and August 16th, and the Corteo Storico, a boisterous pageant, precedes the race.  Tip: arrange your visit to Siena's Palio through a tour operator that has balcony access overlooking the Piazza for the best view above the throngs.
 

CINQUE TERRE

'Five Villages' sounds quite humble, but in Tuscany, it's magic. Clinging to the sides of the cliffs overlooking the sea, these five colorful villages are among the most recognizable images of Italy. The area is a national park and also protected by UNESCO World Heritage status that attempts to shield these seaside jewels from excessive tourism/ commercialism.  


It's an epic view from the sea, if you're lucky enough to be on a Mediterranean cruise that sails along the Ligurian coast; smaller ships especially may sail close enough. On land, hiking trails provide both a wonderful outdoor activity and spectacular views of the different villages. There is also a coastal train that stops in each town. 
 

PISA

Pisa's 12th century Leaning Tower has been touristy since there were tourists in Italy – and that's a long time. You too will join the millions of people on Instagram in a photo of yourself 'propping up' the 180-foot tower that is about 4 degrees off a perfect vertical. That doesn't sound like much, but it means the top is 13 feet off center! 

The tower began leaning during construction due to poor foundations. In recent years, hundreds of millions have been spent re-stabilizing the bell tower. Unbelievably, it is safe enough you can even climb 300 steps to the top in a medieval version of a funhouse.

VESPAS

Tuscany is the home of the original, and world's favorite scooter. The Vespa isn't just quaint, retro memorabilia. It was designed (its name means 'wasp' for the insect its shape and handlebars evoke) to lead a transportation revolution: vehicles that are inexpensive and easily parked and maneuvered in urban areas.
 
Vespas are still made at the Piaggio factory in the Tuscan city of Pontedera, not far from Pisa, which has a museum displaying the Vespa customized by Salvador Dali.  They have a cult following around the world. Renting one to tour around Tuscany may be one of the most authentic, fun, and heartwarming local experiences.

WATCH VIDEO AT THE TOP: MEETING A VESPA COLLECTOR/ RESTORER IN TUSCANY


WINE AND DINE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE

As captivating are Tuscany's cities, the iconic scenery of region's rural areas are transformative. Chianti vineyards, white truffle farms, olive groves along country lanes lines with sculpted-looking cypress trees, with villas, farmhouses, and chapels integrated by the centuries into the gently rolling landscape.

To visit Tuscany is to spend time, by vespa or bicycle or on foot, in the countryside, and even better, to stay in a rural castello or villa with its own vineyard and restaurant to treat all of your senses to a taste of Tuscany.
 

Start your Trip!


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Everyone wants to try 'real' local food when they travel. But we don't always have a real local to point us in the right direction.
 
That's why we loved our Avalon Waterways' culinary tour of the Jordaan, a walking-sipping-snacking tour of the revitalized neighborhood in Amsterdam. It gets you out of the tourist core and into the heart of the Dutch lifestyle the way the locals in the Netherlands really live. 
 
Want to taste the local beer? And the snack the locals order at the bar? You've heard of pickled/ raw herring but never had the nerve to try on your own? Do you want to sample a Dutch cheese you'd never find in a market at home? Or discover the best Dutch chocolate shop to buy souvenirs for family and friends?

We did it all on our culinary discovery tour of Amsterdam with Martine, our Amsterdam guide who knew every shop keeper and even better: the best tips to get that herring down the hatch – and love it!
 
BestTrip's culinary tour of the Jordaan in Amsterdam is just one of Avalon Waterways' collection of included shore excursions that let you get hands-on in a destination and experience the local lifestyle the way you enjoy.
 
How do you like to explore? With 3 types of included excursions and onboard activities on Avalon Europe cruises you can create your own personalized trip.
 
CLASSIC
A local expert is ready to guide you through the history and heritage of local destinations and the “must see” sites.
 
DISCOVERY
Inspiring and interactive hands-on activities designed to speak to your interests - you spend your day immersing yourself in the destination’s unique culture, from cuisine, to art, to wine and more.
 
ACTIVE
Embark on energetic excursions keeping you in motion and on the go — from a guided jogging tour, to biking, paddling, and hiking your way through scenic locales.
 
Every European river cruise destination has its own special character, and Active, Discovery, and Classic styles of exploration mean that from the Seine to the Danube, the Rhine to the Rhone, you'll be traveling the way you want on your Avalon Waterways River Cruise, and gathering the travel stories that put a smile on your face for years to come. 
 

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