Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Athens, Greece

By Paul Everton

SUMMARY: Athens is where Democracy was born & the city where significant men of science and philosophy lived & gave their lights to the rest of the world. It is also one of the cities that created Greek Civilization.

Athens is where Democracy was born & the city where significant men of science and philosophy lived & gave their lights to the rest of the world. It is also one of the cities that created Greek Civilization.

Nightlife is Great here particularly in the core. You may likewise have a great time on one of the well-organized beaches, that are just four km. away from Athens. Of course there are Greek shops & global firms to make sure you will find whatsoever you please. The visitor should go up to the rock of Acropolis to see the unparalleled architectural structures that were built up between 447 and 438 B.C. The nation's trademark the Parthenon as well remains firm there.

You should visit likewise, the Parliament, where the kings of Greece used to reside. It now houses the Greek parliament from 1933 & it is placed at the constitution square.

The National gardens are as well very nearby. You could go up Lycabetus hill wherever there are several restaurants, cafes & shops.

The Panathenean stadium has great meaning as the 1st modern Olympic Games were carried there in 1896.

You can visit Monastiraki that is packed of little shops with Greek artifacts, Plaka with its old neoclassical houses & narrow streets full of little cafes & eating places, taverns & bars. On the other hand there is the National Archaeological museum & the National Gallery of Art. Two of the richest areas of Athens are Ekali & Kifissia. A walk amidst the beautiful houses and villas may be highly rewarding. Atheneans have welcomed the Metro in their lives, which one also links with older lines to cover the whole of Attica.

The heart of Athens is beating in Syntagma Square. In which Parliament & most of the Ministries are. But aside from the center, there are other regions with tourist development such as Monastiraki, Kolonaki, Lycabettus Hill & a few kilometers from the historic core Faliro, Glyfada, Voula & Vouliagmeni, where you could have a good time in the sea breeze. Or you may head north to Marousi, Melissia, Vrilissia and Kifisia and smell the fresh air.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mind Your Travel Manners in Aruba

By Justin Burch

SUMMARY: There are plenty of travel stories about "ugly Americans." Usually, these travelers aren’t aware they are doing anything wrong while on vacation. But if you aren’t aware of local customs and etiquette, offending those around you may be inevitable.

There are plenty of travel stories about “ugly Americans.” Usually, these travelers aren’t aware they are doing anything wrong while on vacation. But if you aren’t aware of local customs and etiquette, offending those around you may be inevitable. Though you will find that the uniquely Caribbean hospitality and slower pace of Aruba tourism are markedly different than anything in the U.S., adjusting isn’t nearly as difficult as it seems. As you enjoy all of your activities in Aruba, here are some tips to make sure you and everyone else remain happy and comfortable.

As you are traveling to escape the often hectic nature of American life, try to enjoy the more relaxed pace of Aruba. Instead of being pushy and trying to speed up your meals and activities, simply be patient and friendly. Don’t wait until returning home to realize how much you relished these opportunities to relax.

Regardless of where you plan on traveling, engage in some research on local greetings and customs. If you are greeted with a hug or a kiss on the cheek, return the favor graciously. When addressing the staff of any establishment you enter, try to be friendly and always introduce yourself with a “hello” or “good day.” The respect you show towards others will be returned to you whenever you need assistance.

It also isn’t too difficult to be a classy tourist. When traveling to Aruba, pack some business attire along with the swimsuit and sandals. As you wouldn’t wear beach gear to a restaurant at home, you should try to look your best when out on the town abroad. Take your courtesy one step further and try to understand the dining traditions of your destination. It is a good idea to pay close attention to others’ behaviors in formal situations. If you find yourself confronted with unknown foods, try your best to expand your palette. When attending events, be an attentive and appreciative audience member regardless of how much you enjoy a performance.

When traveling to a country that speaks any language other than English, make an effort to learn important phrases. You should be able to understand and return greetings and ask simple questions. When you use English, speak clearly and without slang, paying close attention to other people’s reactions to determine if you are being understood. But do not expect to be accommodated with English translation everywhere you go. Traveling to foreign places always involves a compromise.

If you find yourself staying in someone else’s home or any individual goes out of their way for your vacation, a small gift is always a nice touch. If you are invited to dinner, bring flowers or a bottle of wine. Tokens like these can greatly assist common interactions and even earn you some friends. Obviously, gifts don’t have to be expensive; your good intentions will certainly be recognized on their own.

Be generous with your tips, but don’t overdo it. Most people in the service industry rely heavily on gratuities, yet a tip far above the accepted amount could be perceived as an arrogant flaunting of wealth. The following is a list of generally expected gratuities, but you can always ask your concierge about local guidelines: A doorman should receive $1 to $2 for carrying your luggage and up to $4 for securing a taxi. If a bellhop assists you getting to your room, $1 to $2 per bag is customary with an additional $2 to $3 for bringing a requested item. The concierge, always a valuable resource when traveling, deserves $5 to $10 when performing any special service and probably more when securing tickets to a sold-out event or a difficult dinner reservation. When dining, waiters and bartenders should always receive 15-20% of your total bill amount. It is also a good idea to offer tips of $2-3 to housekeepers and valets whenever they come to your assistance.

Most importantly, enjoy your vacation. As long as you keep in mind that you aren’t at home and need to practice moderation and respect, you will always look like a smart traveler, not an “ugly American.”

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Melbourne and the Yarra Valley Wine Tour: A Traveler's Guide to Victoria

By James Lush

SUMMARY: If you are visiting Melbourne, in the state of Victoria (Australia), you should also make time to visit the gorgeous Yarra Valley - home to over 55 wineries and the very best food and views that the Victorian countryside has to offer. Read on to find out my recommendations for the best things to do, places to go and spots to stay at.

A few weeks ago, I had a month-long vacation in Australia, mostly in Melbourne. It was my third trip to this city and the best one yet. It seems like every time I visit Melbourne, I always discover something new and this time, it was the excellent wineries in the area. I was virtually raving to my friends about all the fine wines I had tasted on my visit. Hence, at their urging, I am writing this traveler's guide to Melbourne, with a special eye on its delightful wine.

Firstly, on any visit to Melbourne, I strongly suggest that first-time visitors take a day or two to explore this magnificent city. Among all of Australia's major cities, this is the one that will likely have that special attraction to even the most jaded, well-traveled and world-weary tourist. As the locals say, Melbourne can mean different things to different people. It may seem foreign at first but there is always something that is strangely familiar and which, on some level, reminds the globe-trotting visitor of home. I guess that's why they call Melbourne a chameleon city.

Melbourne is a city of diverse cultures and remarkable contrasts. Here, different groups have learned to co-exist comfortably with one another. For instance, the Italian neighborhood and the Chinese neighborhood, which are side by side.

Whether your lifestyle is beachside or bohemian, Melbourne has something that will appeal to you, be it the food, wine, art, style, customs, nightlife, businesses or beliefs.

Once you're ready to start your wine tour, the place to begin is the Yarra Valley, a prime wine-growing district that began making wine in the late 19th century. Its cool climate and rich soil are ideal for producing dry red wine, chardonnays and pinot noirs. Among the excellent small wineries are Yeringberg, Yarra Yering, St. Hubert's, Seville Estate and Coldstream Hills.

Sample the offerings of wineries such as de Bortoli, Yarra Yering and Domaine Chandon (sparkling wines). You can have lunch at one of the wineries and spend the night in the area where there are a number of first-class hotels with luxurious accommodations.

On your second day, begin with a hefty breakfast (Yarra Valley offers the popular option of having breakfast on a hot air balloon as you cruise the sky, interested?) before heading to Healesville Sanctuary to view the indigenous koalas, kangaroos, wallabies and platypus. A little way further will take you to the Mornington Peninsula and its 30 wineries. There are excellent accommodations in the area for an overnight stay.

On your third day, have breakfast and taste the wine at Karina Vineyard then head to Dromana Estate for lunch and more wine tasting. The combination of the sea, cool climate and the area's excellent volcanic soil all contribute to the production of exquisite chardonnay and pinot noir. Spend the night in the vicinity.

On your fourth day, with your wine tasting tour over, you may want to ride the ferry to Queenscliff for a tour of the Great Ocean Road before heading back to Melbourne.

If you're visiting Melbourne in Victoria Australia - be sure to also take the time to go and check out the Yarra Valley.

Home to more than 55 wineries plus some amazing restaurants, you can find plenty of great luxury Yarra Valley accommodation - chateaus, bed and breakfasts, retreats, estates, lodges and so forth.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Visit MOMA in New York, the Big Apple's Premier Art Gallery

By Andrew Regan

SUMMARY: New York's Museum of Modern Art has been one of America's foremost modern art galleries since its opening in 1929, a position that has only been cemented by its recent architectural overhaul.

New York is arguably the premier city for American art; its variety of eclectic galleries always provides something for the art lover, whether you're a fan of impressionism or post-modern sculpture. Some of New York's most famous galleries are the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and, perhaps most famously, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

MOMA first opened its doors in 1929 and has been the toast of the modern art world ever since. The first New York gallery to dedicate itself solely to modern art - though it was closely followed by the opening of the Guggenheim in 1936 - MOMA's first director, Alfred H. Barr Jr. soon realised the gallery's potential as an outlet for new forms of modernist art. Barr commented:

"This museum is a torpedo moving through time, its head the ever-advancing present, its tail the ever-receding past of 50 to 100 years ago."

Nearly 80 years on this still seems to be a very accurate summary of MOMA's ambitions and aims. Its current collection houses some of the art world's most infamous pieces, including works by iconic American painters Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol, as well as those by celebrated international artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo. Furthermore, its photography collection is one of the most important in the world hosting works by important photographers like Cindy Sherman and Andreas Gursky.

While the stature of its art collection is staggering, one of the main reasons that MOMA has remained so important today is its intriguing architectural landscape. Since 1929, the museum has shifted its location four times - three of those in its first year - before moving to its present permanent home between 5th and 6th Avenue. Between 2002 and 2004, MOMA was closed for renovation, while its building was designed and re-imagined by Yoshio Taniguchi. Taniguchi is the celebrated Japanese architect, also responsible for Tokyo's Nagano Prefectural Museum and the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures at the Tokyo National Museum.

When MOMA re-opened in November 2004, Taniguchi's redesign was initially very controversial; however, it has since been lauded as one of New York's most interesting landmarks and upheld as a bold example of contemporary architecture, making MOMA in itself a piece of art that visitors can enjoy. MOMA is certainly an essential point to visit when you're on a trip to New York; its optimum location means that visitors will find plenty of great hotels near the gallery, such as the luxury Waldorf Astoria, through to other slightly less lavish accomodation options for the budget conscious. So make sure you visit MOMA on your next trip to New York - your understanding of the American and international modern art world will never be the same again.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Alicante: A Guide to Sightseeing

By Peter J. Wilson

SUMMARY: There are many opportunities for sightseeing in Alicante. The area is home to several museums and old churches. You will have the opportunity to experience Spanish heritage and culture here. The beaches remain one of the most popular attractions in the summer. The shops and cafes of the harbour area are a great place to eat, relax and shop.

Alicante is the second largest city in the Valencia Province. The city is a major tourist attraction and there are many opportunities for sightseeing in Alicante. Over six million tourists visit the Costa Blanca region each year. Many of them enter the region through the Alicante airport and spend some time in the city.

Sightseeing in Alicante: Attractions

The Old City centre is home to many museums and historic buildings. There is so much to see and do in this area to experience Spanish history and culture. It takes days to see all that the area has to offer. Plan to spend a few days of your trip in this area, taking in all the sights.

The Nativity Scene Museum is located on San Augustin Street. The museum features hundreds of Nativity scenes on display from all over the world. Kids and people who love Christmas will love this museum. Admission is free. This attraction is popular even in the summer tourist season.

The Concathedral of San Nicolas de Bari is an amazing old Cathedral. The large blue dome on the church is a landmark in the city. There is a large black marble sculpture of Saint Nicholas in the entrance of the church. It is also home to the Bishop of the Province.

The Avenida del Teatro is a huge theatre. It has large, Roman style columns at the entrance. The theatre is a great place to go for evening entertainment. A variety of shows and plays can be seen in this theatre.

The Castle of Santa Barbara is one of the largest Medieval fortresses in Europe. It was built by the Moors in the ninth century. There is a great view of the city from the tower. The castle is full of local history. Artifacts dating back to the Bronze Age have been found at the site. There is an amazing display of Spanish sculpture inside the castle.

Alicante has plenty of opportunities to enjoy the night life. The Barrio Santa Cruz, also known as the Old Quarter is a great place to experience the city at night. The area has a Medieval style feeling. There are a lot of bars and pubs in the area. If you enjoy music and abundant nightlife, be sure to visit the Old Quarter at least one night of your stay in the city.

Sightseeing in Alicante: Shopping and Beaches

The beaches are the biggest attraction in Alicante. The Costa Blanca has the longest summer season in Spain and is the best place to enjoy the sun. There is a promenade near the beach that is lined with palm trees. There are several sidewalk cafes here for eating and enjoying the beautiful weather.

The Plaza Nueva Alicante is a little aquarium in this area of the city. It is surrounded with palm trees and a modern display. The aquarium is a great place to relax and take a break from sightseeing.

There are many small and large stores for shopping throughout the city. The harbour and old city area have an abundance of small shops as well as El Corte Ingles, which is a large department store chain. In addition, there are local craftspeople along the waterfront selling a variety of crafts.

Alicante also has a large shopping mall. The Panoramis Shopping Mall is located near the harbour. It is similar to malls found in America, with a large variety of stores for shopping. In addition to the great shopping, the mall offers a beautiful view of the harbour area.

The Real Club de Regatas, or Royal Regatta Club is located in this area as well. Members of the Spanish Royal Family have been known to visit the club. You may get lucky and get a glimpse of royalty during your visit.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Marco Island is Almost Paradise

By Caitlin Moore

SUMMARY: Let’s just focus on Marco Island for this vacation, considering that it is well-equipped to handle all the needs and expectations you have for a sunny beach getaway.

You may have thought that all of Florida is pretty heavenly, but it in fact has a special region known as the Paradise Coast that ranks among the best places to spend a few relaxing days. Collier County is the actual name and it contains the towns of Naples and Marco Island, but you can call it whatever you like. Here are a few ideas; bliss, dreamland, cloud nine…

Let’s just focus on Marco Island for this vacation, considering that it is well-equipped to handle all the needs and expectations you have for a sunny beach getaway. Much of the land in these parts is protected as a park and nature preserve, meaning that you’ll glimpse the Everglades in all their untouched glory. The splendid marshland and abundant wildlife are just a couple of reasons that this coastal refuge is equated with the idea of paradise.

The rest of the reasons are pretty solid as well. Marco Island’s crescent shaped beach encompasses a few miles of white sand and recreation-friendly water. Tigertail Beach Park is an excellent place to sit down for a picnic, a sunbathing session or just a few hours of family fun building sand castles and frolicking in the surf. The sunsets tend to be spectacular, the sea shelling is sublime and the man-made aspects of the area are set up to ensure that every visitor is treated kindly and well.

Culture junkies won’t starve here thanks to the Marco Island Historical Society as well as several art galleries. Florida tends to attract and inspire all sorts of artists with its natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere, and Marco Island is no exception. Take a look around if you’re in the market for the perfect piece to hang above your mantel, and if you’re lucky you’ll come across exactly what you’re looking for. Or, if you’d rather just window shop or fill your head with a few tasty tidbits of information about the area’s Native American influences (the Calusas were the first ones here, by the way) then you’ll be all set.

Venture out on the water by renting a boat or hopping aboard a chartered cruise. Watch for dolphins, sea turtles, manatees and all sorts of exotic deep-sea fish that you probably aren’t used to seeing except for on your plate at a fancy restaurant. From sailboats to canoes, kayaks to wave runners, there are many methods of gathering speed as you skim across the surface of the Gulf. Nothing makes you forget about deadlines and email like feeling the salty spray awaken your fun-loving side, so save ample time for this exhilarating pastime.

Continue your tour of tantalizing delights as you get to know the rest of Marco Island. Golf courses, nature tours, spas and boutiques will compete for your attention and allow the members of your group, who probably have varying interests, to do their own thing for a few hours. Meet back up for dinner to exchange stories, telling each other of the day’s adventures over a fabulous meal of seafood and other exotic dishes. Moods will be light and the laughter will come easy thanks to everyone having spent a fabulous day doing what they love.

End it all on a high note by returning to your fantastic accommodations; in this case, a beach house should definitely do the trick. Marco Island Vacation Rentals are plentiful and come in all shape and variety; they also tend to add a special touch to what is already sure to be a wonderful getaway. Pick one that matches your needs in terms of size and location, then sit back, relax and enjoy the view of paradise.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Australia - Something For Every Traveler

By Gordon Phillips

SUMMARY: If you want to travel somewhere that's full of diverse sights and experiences, then Australia is the place for you. Whatever you're looking for, chances are that the 'Land Down Under' can provide it. It's possible to take multiple vacations in the one visit.

If you want to travel somewhere that's full of diverse sights and experiences, then Australia is the place for you. Whatever you're looking for, chances are that the 'Land Down Under' can provide it. It's possible to take multiple vacations in the one visit.

For those who love big cities, then you can stay in Sydney or one of the other capital cities. In Sydney, you can enjoy a cruise on the spectacular Sydney Harbor, check out the Sydney Harbor Bridge, or enjoy one of the many cultural events held at the magnificent Sydney Opera House.

If horse racing is more your thing, then Melbourne has some of the best horse racing facilities in the world. If possible, time your visit for the first Tuesday in November, when the Melbourne Cup is run. It's probably the only horse race in the world with its own public holiday! If gambling is more to your liking, then the city of Perth is home to a world-class gambling resort.

But if you just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, Australia is home to a multitude of unspoiled landscapes in the outback. Want to try and make a fortune while you're on holiday? Try mining for opals in the surreal city of Coober Pedy. Do you like discovering different cultures? Experience the culture of the Aborigines, and learn more about their arts and crafts that use traditions passed on for thousands of years.

For wide-open spaces, there's nowhere quite like Central Australia, home to the stunning Ayer's Rock (also known as Uluru). You can see kangaroos and emus nearby as you watch the kaleidoscope of colors displayed by the massive rock.

As an island, Australia is home to a huge variety of water sports. Try snorkeling or diving on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, or do some sailing around the Whitsunday Islands. The unspoiled seacoast near Darwin is beautiful, and unlike anything you've probably seen before.

Although Australia is a relatively new country for western civilization, there is still history to be found, particularly on the island of Tasmania. Here there are old-fashioned bridges and buildings, guaranteed to make you feel like you've stepped back a hundred years in time.

But one of the best things about traveling to Australia is the people. Renowned for their sense of humor and Aussie welcome, it's the people who will remain in your memory long after you return home. They help to make your Australian vacation something that you will never forget.