Cinque Terre, Italy
Sahara of Morocco
Japan Cherry Blossom

Buy a Home in Italy for Just One Dollar

Ollolai, Italy is a gorgeous little town in the Puglia region and one hour away from Sardinia beaches.
Ollolai is a small town nestled in the mountains of Sardinia, is selling historic homes for just one Euro and they already have 200 applicants from all over the world.

Sardinia isn’t just a gorgeous little island off of the Italian coast, It is also where people live statistically longest and it was one of five Blue Zones mentioned in bestselling author Dan Buttner. This where you find best cheese and wine for longevity.

Ollolai is in the center of the Sardinia and an hour away from the cliffs of Cala Gonone, in the mountain region of Barbagia, famous for hikes, it’s a historic town filled with romantic beautiful alleyways and tiny restaurants with the greatest food on earth.

Young people left this town to the cities in search of better financial opportunity and left the houses abandoned.The city’s intent is to revive its dying historic district by selling these houses for 1 euro and bring investors to the town with the provision buyer has 3 years to finish renovating them. According to CNN, the village has already sold three houses, and more than 200 application

The mayor, Efisio Arbau, has proposed a solution similar to the one in Gangi Sicily in 2014, Around 20 houses were on sale for one euro ($1.30), with another 300 or so for up to 15,000 euros in an initiative the village hopes will reverse decades of population decline and boost the local economy even as Italy falls back into recession.
Australian film director Dominic Allen is one of a crowd of buyers from the United States, Britain, Dubai and Sweden who have rushed to Gangi to take advantage of these bargains and transform living spaces and animal stalls into summer homes. See article written in 2014 by yahoo business about Gangi Sicily
Mayor Efisio Arbau has proposed to sell the homes for as little as a 1 euro, with the provision that the buyer has three years to refurbish the dwelling, a project that would likely only cost about $25,000.
This solution will create jobs and make young citizens stay with their loved elderly ones.
It sounds too good to be true and it is if you don’t have enough money to renovate these old properties and in some cases, they need to demolish them.

By: A.Dababneh

A Traveler’s History of the Cinque Terre

A Traveler’s History of the Cinque Terre
Nestled along the coast, idyllic Vernazza was once prone to pirate attacks.
Nestled along the coast, idyllic Vernazza was once prone to pirate attacks.

It’s a sunny afternoon a thousand years ago in the Cinque Terre (CHINK-weh TAY-reh), long before it became the Italian Riviera. This string of humble villages, surrounded by terraced vineyards, is a two-day sail from Genoa.

The leathery old farmer, taking a break from tending his grape vines, picks a cactus fruit to quench his thirst. Suddenly howls come from the crude stony tower crowning a bluff that marks his village of Vernazza. Turkish pirates are attacking.

Avoiding powerhouse cities like nearby Genoa and Pisa, pirates delight in the villages. These Cinque Terre towns, famous since Roman times for their white wine, are like snack time for rampaging pirates. Villagers run for cover down corridors buried deep in the clutter of homes that clog Vernazza’s ravine.

A thousand years later, another leathery grape-picker is startled by the roar of a smoke-billowing train. Emerging from the newly built tunnel, it flies a red, white and green flag. It’s 1870 and the feudal and fragmented land of Italy is finally united. This first Italian train line, an engineering triumph of fledgling Italy, laced together Turin, Genoa, Rome…and, by chance, tiny Vernazza.

Decades later, in the 1930s, an Italian dictator teams up with a German tyrant. The war they started is going badly. In 1943 the German Führer calls on Vernazza’s teenage boys to report for duty. The boys, who are assured they’ll only work in German farms and factories, know they’ll end up as fodder on the front. Rather than dying for Hitler, they become resistance fighters. Running through the night, they climb the ancient terraces like giant stairsteps into the hills high above the village cemetery.

The 1970s bring on a different battle scene. Hippies exercise their right to lay naked on the Cinque Terre’s remote Guvano beach. Outraged, an angry armada of villagers — fully clothed and accompanied by a raft of reporters — converge on the ratpack of sunburned big-city hedonists. Conservative little Vernazza makes headlines across Italy.

Next, the age of tourism arrives. In 1978 a college-aged American backpacker, stumbling onto the region, finds the traditions vivid, the wine cheap, and the welcome warm. Inspired by the Cinque Terre and similar places throughout the Continent, he declares the region a “back door” and writes what will become a top-selling guidebook on Europe.

By the 1990s, word of this paradise is out. More and more travelers visit — staying in local apartments rather than in hotels. One day, at the crack of dawn, another invasion comes…this time by land. A platoon of Italian tax inspectors blitz the sleepy town, rousting out the tourists and cornering locals renting unlicensed rooms. B&B income in Vernazza is suddenly no longer tax-free.

Today gnarled old men still tend their grapevines. Now Vernazza’s castle — named “Belforte” centuries ago for the screams of its watchmen — protects only glorious views. And the screams ringing out are of delight from children playing on the beach below.

But the local economy has changed. The poor village is now a rich village, living well in its rustic and government-protected shell. Tourism drives the economy as the less-calloused locals feed and house travelers. While the private rooms rented are basic, the cuisine — super-charged by a passion for pasta, pesto, and seafood — is some of Italy’s best.

By: Rick Steves


Categories: Italy, Travel

Volunteering Overseas for Over 50


With friends at IDP (internally displaced persons) camp in Herat, Afghanistan.

I remember when President John F. Kennedy announced the formation of the Peace Corps in 1961. I thought it was a wonderful idea that arrived too late for me. I was married and had a young family and responsibilities at home. Thirty years later on October 24, 1991 I found out I was wrong. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer headed for Guatemala. It is now nearly seventeen years since that day. Although my Peace Corps experience was not everything I had hoped it would be, the doors that it opened have led to a very fascinating part of my life.

John Dwyer in Guatemala
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala while in Peace Corps 1992.

In 1996, four years after leaving the Peace Corps, a former volunteer with whom I had served in Guatemala called me and asked if I would be interested in working on an election in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She said the Peace Corps was recruiting individuals to work as United Nations Volunteers. The principal requirement was some election experience. The opportunity offered work on the first post-war election in that devastated country. After some hesitation I decided to apply and was accepted. Thus began what has been, and is continuing to be, a rewarding and exciting journey. I have since worked in 14 countries and traveled to 38.

There are wonderful opportunities available to folks over 50 who wish to serve internationally. Although organizations like the Peace Corps and United Nations Volunteers require long-term commitments there are many organizations that offer shorter international volunteer opportunities. Short-term assignments are a very good way to for one to gain experience in international service and to determine if volunteering abroad is something one would like to pursue on a longer term basis. The prospective volunteer should carefully examine the programs and history of placement organizations prior to making a choice. A good fit with one’s background and goals is vital to a meaningful and challenging experience. The key is to work with an organization that has a track record and is well-organized. It should be working closely with an in-country organization to assure that its programs are providing a needed service to the communities and individuals served. It is important to talk with former volunteers over 50 years of age who have associated with the organization that you are considering. Ask them about their experiences, what their expectations were and if the organization met them. Did they feel that they made a contribution to the communities served? Did they feel comfortable with the age-mix of the volunteers and was their experience properly utilized?  Regarding age-mix, one of the delights of my service is that I have, to this day, continuing friendships with former volunteers who had just graduated from college when I, at 56, was a Peace Corps Volunteer 17 years ago.

Peace Corps trainees with host family in Guatemala.
Peace Corps trainees with host family in Guatemala 1991.

There are other questions you may have when considering an organization. I recommend reading the articles in the Volunteer Work Abroad and Volunteer Vacations section of this publication.

Shorter term international volunteer assignments, with the exception of some organizations that have particular professional needs, usually require that a volunteer pay for the transportation and costs associated with the volunteer assignment. Most times these costs are tax-deductible. The volunteer should check with the placement organization and also with one’s tax advisor to determine the tax implications. There are very good reasons that the organizations charge for volunteer placements. They work, in advance, with in-country host organizations to develop programs that fulfill needs and contribute to the country of service. They travel to the program sites to set-up housing, medical care, food, transportation, insurance (if offered) and security for the volunteers. All of these tasks require time and financial resources.

When choosing a particular program it is best to select one in which you either have experience or one which encompasses long held interests i.e., hobbies, avocations. There are also many faith-based international volunteer opportunities. The new volunteer must adjust to new cultures and circumstances. A knowledge of, or deep interest in, one’s program, although not always necessary, does ease the adjustment. The positive use of one’s experience and interests can also make a greater contribution to the country of service. I must say that my observation of the Peace Corps provides a caveat to my advice. There were times when the Peace Corps seemed to assign people to specialties based on slots that needed filling rather than the individual’s experience. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t—but that was also true of some volunteers working their specialties.

IDP family, Herat, Afghaistan
IDP family, Herat, Afghaistan 2002.

A great way to find out what your interests are is to volunteer in your community. Most large communities have organizations that recruit and coordinate volunteer activities. You can check online for websites that provide domestic volunteer information. Among the websites I find useful are:,, and

There are some unique considerations that the over 50 group must think about when planning their international volunteer service. For longer-term assignments the future volunteer needs to arrange one’s investments and financial obligations. During such assignments some volunteers rent or lease their homes and apartments. The term of the lease or rental agreement must be carefully considered. One should think about what one would do should they return home earlier than they had originally planned. Having an alternate lodging plan in mind could be helpful. The advent of online banking has made it easier to handle one’s financial obligations while away. When I first left in 1991 I hired someone to pay my bills and look after my finances. I also did this on later, long-term assignments. I now find online banking very helpful, although I do need to have someone gather my mail. The storage or sale of automobiles, furniture and personal possessions must be considered. Arrangements for pets need to be made. There may be other matters you wish to consider. There are some very good books about volunteering that include lists of things to do prior to departure. One book I find helpful is: How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas, by Joseph Collins, Stefano DeZerega and Zahara Heckscher, Penguin Books 2002.

The volunteer organizations that you choose to work with will also have important planning information for you.

Showing photos, rural village, Rajshahi, Bangladesh
Showing photos, rural village, Rajshahi, Bangladesh 2008.

A major consideration for prospective volunteers of any age is health. Not just one’s current health but potential health risks on an assignment and the availability and quality of health care at the site of one’s program. A good place to start is with one’s physician. Get a thorough check-up and evaluation. Discuss your travel plans and destination with your doctor. Many long-term volunteer organizations will require pre-assignment health examinations. Although some long-term and most short-term organizations may not require the exams, it is good for the prospective volunteer to have a full picture of one’s health and medical needs. To determine the quality of health care at the program site the prospective volunteer should talk with the deploying organization and also former volunteers with that organization. Information about health and travel insurance should also be discussed at that time. Many organizations provide some insurance. If insurance is not provided a search of the internet will produce resources that sell the needed coverage.

One of my major concerns was what my adult children would think about my international volunteering. I should not have worried. My son and daughter could not have been more supportive. At times they seemed more excited than I. As my international experience has broadened over the years their excitement and interest has grown and endured.

After all is said and done, after all of the questions have been asked and the answers received, there is only one way to realize the truly fulfilling experience of international volunteering. You must do it! I encourage you to do so. I wish you the life enhancing pleasures that volunteering has given me and, most of all, abiding international friendships like those I now have as a result of my volunteer service.

For More Info

Volunteer Organizations

Peace Corps:

United Nations Volunteers:

Cross Cultural Solutions:

Earthwatch Institute:

Global Citizens Network:

Global Service Corps:

United Planet:

World Teach:

Note: There are other organizations that are listed in the volunteer section of Transitions Abroad and also at

In 1991 John Dwyer at age 56, joined the Peace Corps, a decision that has led to international service in 14 countries and travel to 38 countries. After Peace Corps service in Guatemala, John served as a United Nations volunteer in the first elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the Bosnian War. He has subsequently worked on elections in 10 other countries. He managed camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Heart, Afghanistan and did development work in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He continues to work internationally. John has a website,, which is a resource for individuals over 50 who wish to volunteer internationally. John also hosts the The Contrarian Traveler: A website for those who are seeking unique, fulfilling travel experiences. The resource site emphasizes unique and budget friendly travel opportunities.

Article and photos by John Dwyer

Categories: volunteer Tags: Tags:

Paris in Spring

Paris in spring:

Paris is popular year-round, as mentioned in my post “Paris the City of Love”, there is a low season as far as prices goes. In November you will find a lot of good bargains in Hotels and flights, you will find special discount on almost everything. So you’re more likely to save money on your Paris airfare by traveling in late summer and autumn.

Spring Weather in Paris

Paris in spring is a delight. After a few months of cold, and a little rain, the sight of new flowers and more consistent sunlight is always welcome – to Parisians and tourists.

canal-st-martin-spring1There is a chance of getting rain in early spring. But the average temperatures climb noticeably from February into March. The nights are still cool, so bringing warm clothes is good policy. Pay attention to current Paris weather forecasts as you’re coming up to your trip, as much of Europe has been experiencing unseasonably warm weather in the Spring in the last few years.


imagesGetting around Paris

France has a terrific rail network that reaches almost every part of the country. If you would prefer to navigate around Paris and France by bus, inter-regional bus services are limited but buses are used extensively for short distance travel within regions.

Having your own vehicle can be expensive and is inconvenient in city centers where parking and traffic is problematic. Renting a car is expensive if you book on the spot but pre-booked and prepaid promotional rates are reasonable.

marais-paris-shoppingThe Paris Metro or Metropolitan (French: Métro de Paris) is the rapid transit metro system in Paris. It has 16 lines, mostly underground, there are 300 stations. Since some are served by several lines, there are 384 stops in total.

Paris has one of the densest metro networks in the world, with 245 stations within 86.9 km2 of the City of Paris. Lines are numbered 1 to 14, with two minor lines, 3bis and 7bis. The minor lines were originally part of lines 3 and 7 but became independent.
Lines are identified on maps by number and color. Direction of travel is indicated by the destination terminus.


Paris is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow It carries 4.5 million passengers a day, and an annual total of 1.388 billion (2007). Chatlet-Les Halles, with 5 Metro lines and three RER commuter rail lines.
The Paris subway system is the second oldest in the world

2000047-460x686Why Paris in Spring?
I loved this poem by Sara Teasdale

Paris in Spring

Oh it’s Paris, it’s Paris,
And spring-time has begun.

I know the Bois is twinkling
In a sort of hazy sheen,
And down the Champs the gray old arch
Stands cold and still between.
But the walk is flecked with sunlight
Where the great acacias lean,
Oh it’s Paris, it’s Paris,
And the leaves are growing green.

The sun’s gone in, the sparkle’s dead,
There falls a dash of rain,
But who would care when such an air
Comes blowing up the Seine?
And still Ninette sits sewing
Beside her window-pane,
When it’s Paris, it’s Paris,
And spring-time’s come again.

Sara Teasdale

Categories: Countries, Paris, Vacation, World Travel Tags: Tags:

Paris A city to dream wild

Paris the City of Love

I have to start my travel site talking about my favorite city in the world, the most romantic city in the world; I am referring to PARIS – the city of love! the city of light! a city to dream wild!

Paris is the capital city of France. It is also said to be the city of lovers and the most romantic place on earth, where they speak French the language of love.

Paris is one of those cities that’s popular year-round, and most popular during spring and summer but also all year around you find tourist from all over the world.

Paris offers many tourist attractions and exquisite places that will ensure your trip is truly a memorable one. Including monuments, museums, parks and gardens, squares, bridges, the canals of Paris or trade fairs and conferences, whatever your interests, Paris has a lot to offer.

Paris is also known as the City of Light, is the world’s most popular city destination. Paris is the second-largest city in Western Europe, and the most things to see.

The center of Paris is divided in 20 arrondissements , the first arrondissement in the middle and the higher numbers on the outer circle. Most of the arrondissements have their own characteristics. The majority of the world known attractions (Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, Louvre, Panthéon, e,…) are situated in the first 8 arrondissements.

The city of love, is a massive city with many attractions in reachable distance thanks to the
Highly efficient public transport system. It boasts of more than 80 museums and 200 arts
Galleries. A trip to Disney land and the magnificent Eiffel tower will make the trip worthwhile.
The attractive tourists spots are the Arc de triomphe which spans over the tomb of an
Unknown Soldier, the forbidding gothic architecture of the Notre Dame cathedral, the picturesque
Sacre Coeur, to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Moulin Rouge and boat tours along the
Seine. Get the Carte Musees-Monuments pass, which gives access to 70 monuments and
The attractive tourists spots are the Arc de triomphe which spans over the tomb of an
Unknown Soldier, the forbidding gothic architecture of the Notre Dame cathedral, the picturesque
Sacre Coeur, to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Moulin Rouge and boat tours along the
Seine. Get the Carte Musees-Monuments pass, which gives access to 70 monuments and

Categories: Countries, Uncategorized Tags: Tags:

Hawaii’s forbidden ‘Stairway to Heaven’


What began as a rickety wood pathway to install antenna cables over a cliff in 1942 has become a hiker’s enigma often called the “Stairway to Heaven.”

World War II motivated the U.S. military to build a radio transceiver station atop Hawaii’s Pu?ukeahiakahoe mountain. The station sent low-frequency signals to communicate with submarines navigating around Japan. The Haiku Stairs (Ha?ik? means “sharp break” in Hawaiian) offers a steep 2,500-foot ascent on Oahu that reaches the now abandoned station. Despite receiving an $875,000 metal renovation in 2003, according to, the trail is forbidden to many visitors wanting to endure the series of steps. The prohibition, nevertheless, hasn’t held back everyone from the climb and arriving at its wonderful island landscape views.

Stairway to Heaven

Stairway to Heaven

Haiku Stairs

We asked the Friends of Haiku Stairs (FHS) volunteer organization to get the inside scoop on the popular attraction:

What’s the current status and future of the Haiku Stairs?

FHS: Climbing on the stairs is illegal without consent from the owners — there are several, and they asked us not to share all of their names. The Friends of Haiku Stairs have a working agreement with all of the owners and are trying to obtain the newly required $1 million insurance policy that one of the owners is requiring us to have before we can even access them again, and that is only for maintenance and not recreation.

There is a continued movement to demolish the stairs altogether that is being fueled by people accessing them illegally. We believe there’s a better solution: Open the stairs to allow people to climb in safe conditions and that will alleviate the trespassing. To get there, we need political will.

Is it safe to climb the stairs?

FHS: The stairs are safe to climb if conditions are favorable, with caution, and in the daylight. People continue to access them illegally through the neighborhoods; or worse, they try to access them from the back side which is a treacherous, dangerous hike. The result is a surge in emergency calls and a strain on efforts from police and rescue teams.

View from the Omega station 2

Haiku Pump Station


Photos from jselanikio, geekyrocketguy, thejoltjoker, Kyle Ford, John.Mccluskey, Michael Keany, bennyboie, and ERiN SiTT.

Posted by Arnold Chao
Categories: Hiking

How to Save on Airfares

dollar paper airplaneHow to Save on Airfare as Line Blurs Between Low-Cost and Legacy Airlines

By:Rick Seaney•December 11, 2012

You know how TMZ shows you side-by-side photos of D-List celebrities and asks you, “What’s the Big Frigin’ Difference?” Now do that with the airlines – look for the differences between low-cost carriers like JetBlue and Southwest and legacy airlines such as American or United. Not much difference (but don’t miss my tips to save money, below).

Fewer Amenities on All Airlines

A good example would be the things you used to get for nothing on the big airlines. Today most legacy airlines – and the discounters – charge a fee for the following items:

  • Checked-bags (JetBlue and Southwest still offer free checked-bags)
  • Meals in coach
  • Blankets and pillows
  • Extra-legroom such as exit seat rows
  • Reservations made over the phone
  • Change fees (Southwest does not charge a change fee)

Gap in Airfare Prices Also Narrows

Another legacy/low-cost airline difference that’s disappearing: the wide gap in ticket prices. Last week I looked at round-trip airfares from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City for the same dates in December, and here’s what I found:

  • Southwest – non-stop: $356
  • American – non-stop: $353
  • US Airways – one stop: $277

As you can see, the above prices run counter to conventional wisdom that the discounters always have the cheaper prices. What’s this all about? To quote a former commander-in-chief, “it’s the economy, stupid.”

Economy Blurs Airline Differences

The blurring of the line between discount airlines and legacy carriers began with 9/11 and continued through a period of rising oil prices and the 2008 recession. It was actually a pretty good decade for some of the discounters, and if you were running one of the old-line airlines, you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out it might pay to be more like them. The first experiments flopped as the big airlines created their own versions of discounters – remember United’s Ted and Delta’s Song? Then they simply remade the original product by slashing amenities in favor of fees and even more closely aligning airfare prices. The price blur is partly a byproduct of our increasingly competitive world of online shopping and since consumers can compare airfare prices, why pay more? Airlines understand this and know they must stay competitive to survive.

Tips to Find Cheap Flights in Changing World

Despite the blurring – the increasing lack of differences in this changing world of airlines – shoppers can still find cheap flights.

Shop Tuesdays: Traditionally, airfare sales are launched early Tuesday and by about 3 p.m. eastern time, the others have matched prices to stay competitive; that’s the time to shop.

Fly in and out of large airports: Hub airports have more flights and are generally cheaper – if a larger airport is within an hour or two’s drive of your hometown airport, compare prices and see if a little extra time on the road is worth it.

Compare non-stops to connecting flights: In most cases, you pay a premium of between 20% and 60% for a non-stop flight – only you can say if the convenience is worth it.

Be flexible: Often the cheapest flights are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and sometimes dirt cheap fares are available on overnight flights or at dawn. If you are flexible enough to take advantage of these deals, you can save big.

Chistmas in New York City (NYC)

Holidays in NYC

The holiday season in New York City is getting into full swing. “Magical” is the only way to describe the ambience as eager kids and grown-ups celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, the winter solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve and more in NYC, transforming the City into a veritable wonderland of stunning window displays, enchanting train shows, mesmerizing tree lightings and heartwarming concerts. And, of course, there’s the shopping. From holiday markets to luxurious Fifth Avenue department stores to downtown boutiques for the fashion savvy, there is truly no other place in the world that answers to all of your gift-buying needs. Meanwhile, the Rockettes kick their legs at Radio City Music Hall, youngsters sport marshmallow moustaches from all the hot cocoa, and families and friends cling to one another on ice-skating rinks. Explore the shops, treats and other things to delight in to figure out how you’ll spend the most wonderful time of the year.

The holiday season is a magical time in New York City. Across the five boroughs, ice-skating, tree lightings and classic events like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular provide an endless supply of festive offerings that last through the New Year. Bundle up and venture out into the joy-filled streets to peruse one-of-a-kind wares at the Union Square Holiday Market, take in celebrity performances at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting and revel in seasonal festivities at Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square. If you’d rather duck out of the cold, the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show proves a breathtaking retreat ye after year, while performances of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker bring a timeless holiday tale to life. View the full slideshow for more information on these and many other events. And for additional ideas, visit our weekly “Free in NYC” and “Top Five Events” features; check out our concertfashionartnightlife and sports listings; see our roundup of annual events; and search for an event in our calendar.



Celebrate the season with the City’s holiday happenings, including Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting and the New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop.
Ice-skating is synonymous with winter in New York City, though many of the City’s rinks actually open in early fall—including Citi Pond at Bryant Park and The Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center—and others, such as Sky Rink at Chelsea PiersCity Ice Pavilion and Aviator Sports & Events Center, are available year-round. The holiday season is pretty much peak time for skating, but it’s worth the wait just to whoosh around the ice in the open-air chill. (For more information, read our feature “New York Skate of Mind.”)




The Grinch’s Holiday Workshop

October 20–January 6, 2013
The Grinch and his holiday workshop arrive at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan in an interactive exhibition inspired by Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Kids will enjoy seeing scenes from the book covering gallery walls, participating in a scavenger hunt, playing in a real-life sleigh and taking part in other ongoing Seuss-related holiday programming.

The Grinch and his holiday workshop arrive at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan in an interactive exhibition inspired by Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Kids will enjoy seeing scenes from the book covering gallery walls, participating in a scavenger hunt, playing in a real-life sleigh and taking part in other ongoing Seuss-related holiday programming. For more information and the complete schedule of family programming, visit




The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park

Photo: Jose Luis R. Cortes

Photo: Jose Luis R. Cortes

October 26–January 6, 2013
Satisfy those on your shopping list and get into the spirit of the season with a trip to The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park. More than 120 merchants fill the park through early January selling clothing, jewelry, household items, crafts, art and more. Plus, indulge in some warm and gooey treats from the vendors and go ice-skating at Citi Pond (free for guests who bring their own skates!). Satisfy those on your shopping list and get into the spirit of the season with a trip to The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park. More than 120 merchants fill the park through early January selling clothing, jewelry, household items, crafts, art and more. Plus, indulge in some warm and gooey treats from the vendors and go ice-skating at Citi Pond (free for guests who bring their own skates!).

Bryant Park
Manhattan, NY 10018


Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Courtesy, Radio City Music Hall

Courtesy, Radio City Music Hall


November 9–December 30
This iconic song-and-dance extravaganza, featuring the legendary Rockettes, is one of the holiday season’s must-see attractions. Celebrating 85 years of the Rockettes, this year’s show combines such classic scenes as “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “New York at Christmas” with all-new numbers and cutting-edge digital projection and digital mapping technology, which transforms Radio City Music Hall’s interior into a giant canvas.

This iconic song-and-dance extravaganza, featuring the legendary Rockettes, is one of the holiday season’s must-see attractions. Celebrating 85 years of the Rockettes, this year’s show combines such classic scenes as “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “New York at Christmas” with all-new numbers and cutting-edge digital projection and digital mapping technology, which transforms Radio City Music Hall’s interior into a giant canvas.



Radio City Music Hall

1260 Sixth Ave
Manhattan, NY 10020


Union Square Holiday Market

Photo: Will Steacy

Photo: Will Steacy

November 16–December 24 
More than 100 red-and-white booths will fill Union Square Park for its 19th-annual holiday market. You’ll find plenty of affordable quality items, so your wallet will thank you—and friends and family on your list will, too.








Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Terminal

November 16–February 10, 2013
The New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex & Store at Grand Central Terminal is back with its annual Holiday Train Show, whose new layout features Lionel trains traveling through a two-level, 34-foot-long miniature New York City and countryside scene. Vintage trains from the museum’s collection, including New York Central models, and posters from the 1920s through the ’40s will also be on display.







New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show

November 17–January 13, 2013
The Holiday Train Show at The New York Botanical Garden features painstakingly crafted miniatures of New York City’s built environment, all made entirely out of plant parts. Seeds, bark, leaves and twigs are among the botanical resources employed to create the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and other landmarks. Model trains navigate the familiar, fantastically rendered New York landscape.







 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting

November 28
Rockefeller Center’s celebrated tree lighting, a holiday-season staple, takes place on November 28. The colorful and towering tree is a sight to behold, and the lighting ceremony always features celebrity guests, musical performances and more. The tree can be seen from the ice-skating rink below and is a must-visit for anyone in NYC during the holidays. It remains on view until 11pm on January 7, 2013.





Times Square Ball Drop

December 31
Celebrate the arrival of 2013 with the annual Times Square Ball Drop. Nothing compares with the exhilaration of watching the fete from the streets, plus you can catch music performances and other activities throughout the night. With all the revelry, it’s best to get there as early as possible in the day; street closures begin midafternoon and the choicest spots are usually filled by 3pm or earlier. For more information on spending New Year’s Eve in Times Square, read our guide.





By: NYC The Official Guide




Bernese Oberland

The Gstaad-Saanenland holiday region in the Bernese Oberland is popular with a charming mix of visitors: while the chalet village of Gstaad attracts countless stars and starlets the smaller neighbouring villages offer attractive options for families with children.

Zoom map


In the past years the centre of Gstaad has developed into the most popular and shortest shopping street in Switzerland. With its top hotels, gourmet restaurants, luxury chalets and nearby Saanen airport, the car-free resort of Gstaad is a popular destination for international celebrities. With the neighbouring resorts of Saanen, Rougemont, Schönried, Saanenmöser, Zweisimmen, Gsteig and Lauenen, the Saanenland as a whole however offers a considerably broader spectrum: the nature preserve by idyllic Lake Lauenen with its waterfalls and high moors, the narrow streets in the historic village centre of Saanen, the advantageous situation of Schönried and Saanenmöser for winter sports enthusiasts and the peacefulness of the idyllic mountain village of Abländschen are examples of an extremely diverse holiday region.

The Saanenland ski and hiking arena with 57 transport facilities has been given the name «Gstaad Mountain Rides». It is accessible from several villages by link transport facilities. The Montreux-Oberland-Railways (MOB) and buses connect Gstaad with other base stations in Saanenmöser, Schönried, Zweisimmen, Gsteig, Reusch, Lauenen Rougemont and Château-d’Oex in the French-speaking neighbouring region of Pays d’Enhaut.


The wide-open countryside of the Saanenland offers a versatile and and diverse sports programme: hiking (trail network of over 300 km), mountain biking, paragliding and golf. On the River Saane there are opportunities for mountain torrent and canoo adventures. Summer cross-country skiing is possible in the «Glacier 3000» ski region. The summer toboggan run in Schönried, a via ferrata and the Lake Lauenen nature paradise are ideal excursion destinations for families.



In winter, 220km of pistes at altitudes of up to 3000 metres above sea level await skiers and snowboard riders. Several snowparks and numerous toboggan runs as well as 165km of trails for classic- and skating-style cross-country skiing are at the disposal of visitors. For walkers there are about 200km of winter walking trails. Among the rather more unusal activities on offer there is Bavarian curling in the centre of Gstaad and glacier- and heli-skiing.

Winter in the smaller resorts in the region, such as Lauenen, means peace and pleasure on long winter walks, while cross-country skiing or taking a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.



True to its slogan, “come up, slow down”, Gstaad provides a deliberate counterpoint to our increasingly hectic daily lives. The wellness destination of Gstaad guarantees a perfect wellbeing experience thanks to its intact nature, unsurpassed variety of leisure activities, healthy mountain agriculture and international top events. The right pampering programme is provided by five hotels with a publicly accessible and complete wellness infrastructure, eight hotels with a partial wellness offering and a sports centre with indoor swimming pool. The area’s harmonic topography is made up of five valleys. The location between 1,000 and 3,000 metres above sea-level has a positive impact on your wellbeing. Rushing mountain streams, sparkling mountain lakes, forests and gently rolling green hills with a spectacular Alpine backdrop lend the landscape its idyllic charm. Gstaad is also a paradise for fine diners, with more than 100 restaurants ranging from cosy raclette restaurants to acclaimed gourmet temples. Those who are fond of Alpine authenticity will find plenty of options for accommodation in traditional Alpine operations. Gstaad’s car-free promenade and its easily accessible recreation areas complete the overall impression in a pleasant way.


  • Gourmet restaurants – the gourmet’s paradise of Gstaad has no fewer than fifteen renowned restaurants, including the Restaurant Chesery which has been awarded 18 Gault Millau points.
  • Lake Lauenen – idyllic mountain lake you simply have to take a dip in and excursion destination with a restaurant for mountain bikers and walkers.
  • Scooter fun – Wispile-Gstaad or Sparenmoos-Zweisimmen offer fast descents on special scooters.
  • «Golden Pass» panorama railway – journey from Montreux on Lake Geneva via Gstaad to Lake Thun and from there on to Lucerne in Central

Top Events

  • International Balloon Festival in Châteux-d’Oex – most important Alpine balloon event with about 90 hot-air balloons in a variety of shapes and colours (January).
  • Swatch FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour – 1to1 energy Grand Slam Gstaad – volleyball admidst impressive scenery (July).
  • Crédit Agricole Suisse Open Gstaad – international ATP Tennis Tournament with elite players (July).
  • Davidoff Saveurs Gstaad – celebration of authentic flavours from kitchen, cellar and humidor (July).
  • Menuhin Festival Gstaad – summer music festival in honour of the great violinist and conductor (July – September).
  • Hublot Polo Gold Cup Gstaad – international teams riding fiery Arab horses fight for victory (August).
  • Country Night Gstaad – leading country event encompassing a wide musical spectrum (September).
  • Sommets Musicaux de Gstaad – intimate festival of classical music in spring (February/March).

The Wonder Land of Socotra, Yemen


Rare dragon’s blood trees, found only on the island, which can grow for 300 years

The road to the forest of frankincense trees, on the Yemeni island of Socotra, is a rough one. From the passenger seat of a battered Toyota Land Cruiser, it looked like pure rock pile, on and on, up, down, over. Ahmed Said, my driver and guide, wrestled the wheel like a man engaged, surely and calmly, in a struggle to the death. When at last, after 90 minutes, he stopped and got out, we had traveled perhaps no more than five miles.

We stood on a rise overlooking a riverbed rushing with water. The ground underfoot was a rubble of granite boulders and chunks of sharp limestone karst. Small trees — short and gnarled, resembling mesquite — surrounded us. Ahmed approached one and pointed to an amber drop of sap oozing from its trunk: the essence of frankincense. Until that moment I’d had no clear idea what exactly frankincense was; nor that it derives from the sap of a tree; nor that, as Ahmed explained, Socotra is home to nine species of the tree, all unique to the island. I caught the drop of sap on my finger and inhaled a sharp, sweet fragrance; then I put it to my tongue. The torture of the drive was forgotten, and for the briefest moment, under the hot Yemeni sun, I tasted Christmas.

Situated 250 miles off the coast of Yemen, Socotra is the largest member of an archipelago of the same name, a four-island ellipsis that trails off the Horn of Africa into the Gulf of Aden. A mix of ancient granite massifs, limestone cliffs and red sandstone plateaus, the island brings to mind the tablelands of Arizona, if Arizona were no bigger than New York’s Long Island and surrounded by a sparkling turquoise sea.

Some 250 million years or more ago, when all the planet’s major landmasses were joined and most major life-forms were just a gleam in some evolutionary eye, Socotra already stood as an island apart. Ever since, it has been gathering birds, seeds and insects off the winds and cultivating one of the world’s most unusual collections of organisms. In addition to frankincense, Socotra is home to myrrh trees and several rare birds. Its marine life is a unique hybrid of species from the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific. In the 1990s, a team of United Nations biologists conducted a survey of the archipelago’s flora and fauna. They counted nearly 700 endemic species, found nowhere else on earth; only Hawaii and the Galapagos Islands have more impressive numbers.

Lately Socotra has begun to attract a new and entirely foreign species — tourists. A modest airport went up in 1999. (Before then, the island could be reached only by cargo ship; from May to September, when monsoon winds whip up the sea, it could be cut off entirely.) That year, 140 travelers visited. The annual figure now exceeds 2,500: a paltry number compared with, say, the Galapagos, but on an island with only four hotels, two gas stations and a handful of flush toilets, it’s a veritable flood.

They — I should say “we” — constitute an experiment. Encouraged by a United Nations development plan, Socotra has opted to avoid mass tourism: no beachfront resorts; instead, small, locally owned hotels and beachfront campsites. The prize is that rarest of tourists, eco-tourists: those who know the little known and reach the hard to reach, who will come eager to see the Socotra warbler, the loggerhead turtle, the dragon’s blood tree — anything, please, but their own reflection.

Riding with Ahmed, it was immediately evident that, though the island is small in size, it cannot possibly be seen without a hired driver and guide, for the simple reason that there are few proper roads, fewer road signs and no road maps.

The first paved roads were built by the Yemeni government only two years ago: wide, open scabs on the landscape that stretch across the island yet see virtually no traffic. The new roads, it turned out, were a sore spot with Ahmed and the United Nations Socotra Archipelago Conservation and Development Programme. “The experience is so different if you spend 45 minutes on a road versus three or four hours,” Paul Scholte, the program’s technical adviser in Sana, Yemen’s capital, said to me. “The whole perception of the island changes due to the road.” Then there was the matter of placement. Only at the last minute did the S.C.D.P. manage to convince the government not to send the road through a stretch of coastline designated as a nature preserve. It’s fair to say that Socotra’s future may be read in the lines of its roads: how many, how wide, where they lead and who is encouraged to travel on them.

Ahmed took me to the beach that would have been paved over: shimmering blue water, powdery white sand and not a soul in sight. A ghost crab, pure white, with just its pin-stalk eyes peeking above the water like twin periscopes, drifted by on a current in the shallows. I watched it watch me and then bury itself in the sandy floor.

According to Scholte, roughly half of Socotra’s tourists are Italians, who seem mainly interested in the beaches: “Italians go because it’s new, it’s cheap, but not because it’s special.” The French and Germans, in contrast, go for special: they come to hike, visit the island’s nature preserves, maybe rent camels and spend several days trekking as a group across the Haghier mountain range at the center of the island.

Categories: wonder land, Yemen Tags: Tags: , , , , , ,


Zakynthos (Zante) Island

The island of Zakynthos, a beautiful green island in Greece, surrounded by the clear blue water of the the Ionian Sea.

Have a swim at the wide sandy beaches in the company of sea turtles, go snorkeling or scuba diving between rocks and in underwater caves.

Take a sailboat out or go surfing. Make a trekking-tour in the mountain-areas.

Enjoy the great weather on the sunniest island in the Mediterranean, and let yourself be swept away by the rhythms of Zakynthian life, joining the hospitable people of this island.

But that’s not all. Zakynthos (its total size is 406 square km) has much more to offer, so use the special links on the navigation board to see the aspects of this island of sea turtles, in which you may have an interest.

The Island is almost triangular in shape, with two green mountainous promontories extending into the sea to form the huge bay of Laganas.

There are more pine-covered mountains and hills in the north, but the centre is gentle and lush, richly planted with currant vines, olive trees, almonds and seasonal vegetables. There are dozens of beaches to choose from, sandy and sheltered with invitingly sparkling water. Flowers of every kind fill every available space, filling the air with the scent that so enraptured visitors of old.

With a sunny climate most of the year and good roads to facilitate exploring, Zakynthos lends itself to holiday – making in spring and fall as well as summer. Some of the best known summer resorts are Kalamaki, Argassi, Alykes, Tsilivi, Vassilikos, Keri and Volimes, while Laganas is the most famous of all. Its long beach and wide range of facilities attract thousands of tourists from May through October.


Hawaii Information

Hawaii is the most current of the 50 U.S. states, built entirely of islands. Hawaii is the northern island group in Polynesia, placed most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan and northeast of Australia. Owed to its mid-Pacific location, Hawaii has many North American and Asian influences along with its own vigorous native culture. Hawaii capital is Honolulu on the island of Oahu. The state comprises nearly the complete volcanic Hawaiian Island chain it encompass hundreds of islands spread over 1,500 miles. End of the southeastern archipelago, the eight “main islands” they are Kauai, Kahoolawe, Niihau, Hawaii, Lanai, Molokai and Oahu. Hawaii is largest and “The Big Island”. The archipelago is physiographical and ethnologically segment of the Polynesian sub field of Oceania. In United States the Hawaii is the 8th-least extensive, the 11th-least populous, and the 13th-most thickly populated. Hawaii’s coastline is nearly 750 miles long it is fourth in the United States after Alaska, Florida, and California. Hawaii has its own language. Hawaii’s different natural scenery, mild tropical climate, plenty of public beaches and oceanic surrounding, and active geology make it a popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists, and volcanologists alike. Hawaii Island has a remote climate. Hawaii has variety of environments like lush rainforests, volcanic deserts, and some of the world’s best beaches.


Hawaii Recreation Culture and Attractions

The earliest culture of Hawaii is Polynesian. Hawaii describes the northernmost expansion of the vast Polynesian triangle of the south and central Pacific Ocean. As Hawaii has become habitat to many different ethnic groups through the past 200 years, each ethnic group has further elements of its own culture. The culture of Hawaii is arguably one of the firm’s residual in the world and certainly within the United States. The roots of Hawaiian culture expand south to former areas of Polynesia and behind to the islands of the Western Pacific and the edges of Asia. Hawaii has two National Parks that is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii and Haleakala National park on Maui, as well as the vacation U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately many of these heiau were demolished when the early kapu system was revoked in the 19th century and when the early missionaries arrived shortly hereafter. Music has major role played in Hawaiian culture. Steel guitars were basically invented and popularized in Hawaii. Hawaii is familiar to numerous cultural events; some of the events are the Merrie Monarch Festival is a biggest hula competition and celebrated in April, Lei Day is a lei-making competition and celebrated in May, King Kamehameha Day is state holiday with parades and celebrated in June, Aloha Festivals are celebration with parades, cultural events, canoe races and Hawaiian music and celebrated in September and the Quicksilver/Eddie Aikau Memorial Big Wave Classic celebrated in December.Hawaii Demographics

Hawaii total population - 1,360,000
Hawaii male population - 680,000
Hawaii female population - 680,000
Hawaii White population - 25%
Hawaii Black population - 2%
Hawaii American Indian population - 1%
Hawaii Asian population - 39%
Hawaii Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population - 10%
Hawaii Other race population - 1%
Hawaii Two or more races population - 24%
Hawaii Hispanic/Latino population - 9%


Hawaii Education

Hawaii education system is managed by the Hawaii State Department of Education. It is only statewide public education system in the United States. The department also prepares a system wide budget for the public school system to submit to the Hawaii State Board of Education, which submits a final planned budget to the Legislature. The department is supervised by the education board and run by the superintendent of education. The Department of Education is separated into seven districts, four on Oahu and one for each of the three other counties. There is growing demand for upper division and graduate teaching from the neighbor islands which may only have a community college or education center. Public elementary, middle, and high school test marks in Hawaii are below national averages on tests authorized under the No Child Left Behind Act. Hawaii educates more students in independent organizations of secondary education than any additional state in the United States. The University of Hawaii is the major university in Hawaii. There are many private universities in Hawaii. Some of the private universities are Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Hawaii Pacific University, Wayland Baptist University, or University of the Nations.Hawaii HistoryBefore 300AD Hawaii was feasibly used as a base for peoples with a trans-Pacific communication between Asia and the northwest coast of South America. The primary habitation held up by archaeological evidence dates to as ancient as 300 CE, expediently by Polynesian settlers from the Marquesas, supported by a second wave of voyage from Raiatea and Bora Bora in the 11th century. The first entered European contact with the islands was in 1778 by British explorer Captain James Cook, who called Hawaii the Sandwich Islands. In 1782 Kamehameha I was the ruler of the Big Island of Hawaii. In 1819 Kamehameha II takes control of Hawaii. The Kingdom of Hawaii was monarch from 1810 till 1893 when the sovereign was beaten by resident American businessmen. In 1820 enter two new teams Hawaii the Congregationalist missionaries of the Calvinist ideology and New England whalers. Kamehameha III declares the First Constitution which consit of freedom of worship. Hawaiian capital is changed from Lahaina to Honolulu in 1845. 1868 saw the first Japanese liability workers arrive in Hawaii. In 1879 the first Portuguese land. In 1900 Hawaii became U.S territory. In 1941 Hawaii was the objective of a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan. The human history of Hawaii includes aspect of first Polynesian settlement, unification, British arrival, Euro-American and Asian immigrators, the depose of the Hawaiian monarchy, a brief period as the Republic of Hawaii, and admission to the United States as Hawaii Territory and then as the state of Hawaii. Hawaii is a 1,523-mile chain of islets and eight main islands-Hawaii, Maui, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, and Niihau, 2,397 miles west-southwest of San Francisco. “The Merry Monarch” David Kalakaua was the first king in history to vacation the United States.

Hawaii Symbols

Hawaii State nickname -  Aloha State
Hawaii State bird - Nene
Hawaii State flower - Hibiscus
Hawaii State tree - kukui
Hawaii State Fish - The Reef triggerfish
Hawaii State motto - "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina I ka pono" - The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness
Hawaii State song -  Hawaii Ponoi 
Hawaii State mammal - Monk Seal

Hawaii Flag

image of Hawaii flag


Hawaii Tourism

Most of the popular tourist attractions in all of the islands are located on Hawaii Island’s southeastern regions of Kau and Puna. Hawaii is the name of different islands and is among the numerous Pacific Islands in the Pacific Ocean. In summer months the outside visitors are visited. The Hawaii tourism based economy and the genuine aloha spirit assures that tourism is held seriously in the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii tourism contains world class lodging and accommodations, couture shopping for the latest runway trends, upscale fine dining and an array of things to do in Hawaii and tours at various magnificent locales on the islands sure to impress any world traveler. Hawaii with a bustling downtown, fine art galleries, upscale dining, Honolulu offers travelers urban culture in a tropical setting, world class entertainment and a thriving nightlife, with rural, unspoiled. Hawaii has significant tourism attractions are Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Hawaii and Lanai.Hawaii Taxes

Hawaii State Tax Rate Range Low 1.4% High 11.00%
Hawaii State Tax Income Brackets Lowest flat rate 2,400 - Highest flat rate 200,001
Hawaii State Personal Exemptions Single 1,040 -  Married 2,080 -  Dependents - 1,040

Hawaii Transportation

Hawaii has bus, airlines, railway, boats and ferries transportation system. A Hawaii of state highways comprises each main island. Only Oahu has national highways and it is the only area outside the bordering 48 states to have signed Interstate highways. Travel can be slow due to narrow turning roads and every major island has a public bus system. The major air port is Honolulu International Airport, is the piloting hub of Hawaii, with transnational services to North America, Asia, Australia, and Oceania. In Hawaii some more airlines are there they are Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele Airlines, Island Air and Pacific Wings. Private steamships and ferries were traveling between the islands from the 19th century till the 1950s. The Hawaii Super ferry maintained between Oahu and Maui between December 2007 and March 2009. Hawaii had a network of railroads on every larger island that helped move farm commodities as well as passengers. In World War II play important role moving troops and goods of OR&L, the mainline was abandoned in 1947.

Hawaii Universities and Colleges

University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hilo, Hawaii, USA - 3,900 Students
University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu CDP, HI, USA - 20,000 Students
University of Hawaii - West Oahu, Pearl City, Hawaii, USA - 1,000 students
Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA - 2,000 students
Chaminade University of Honolulu, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA - 4,000 students
Hawaii Pacific University, Hawaii, USA - 9,000 students

Hawaii Tourist Attractions

Pele's Cursed Tourist Rocks
Polynesian Cultural Center
Hawaii FiveO Jack Lord Bust
Hawaiian Trading Post
Tsunami Clock of Doom
Puuhonua - Place of Refuge
King Kamehameha the Great

Hawaii Museums

Anna Ranch
Astronaut Ellison S Onizuka Space Center
East Hawaii Cultural Center
Greenwell Store
Jaggar Museum
Isaacs Art Center Museum and Gallery
Kona Coffee Living History Farm
Laupahoehoe Train Museum
Lyman House Memorial Museum
Mokupapapa Discovery Center
Nani Mau Gardens
Onizuka Center for International Astronomy
Pacific Tsunami Museum
Parker Ranch
Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site

Hawaii Parks

Akaka Falls State Park
Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area
Kalopa State Recreation Area
Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park
Kohala Historical Sites State Monument
Kona Coast (Kekaha Kai) State Park
Lapakahi State Historical Park
Lava Tree State Monument
MacKenzie State Recreation Area
Manuka State Wayside
Mauna Kea State Recreation Area
Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area
Wailoa River State Recreation Area
Wailuku River State Park

Hawaii Religions

Hawaii Percent Religious population is 34%
Hawaii Catholic population is 19%
Hawaii LDS population is 4%
Hawaii Baptist population is 2%
Hawaii Episcopalian population is 1%
Hawaii Pentecostal population is 4%
Hawaii Lutheran population is 1%
Hawaii Methodist population is 1%
Hawaii Presbyterian population is 1%
Hawaii Other Christian population is 5%
Hawaii Jewish population is 1%
Hawaii Eastern population is 0%
Hawaii Islam population is 1%

Hawaii Government

The Hawaii is an Island 3,300 kilometers long and the broad arc in the mid-Pacific. The Hawaii Island at 8,150 square kilometers encompasses approximately two-thirds of the state’s total area, and it is referred to as simply the Big Island. Honolulu is the state capital of Hawaii is 3,850 kilometers west of San Francisco, California, 6,500 kilometers east of Tokyo, Japan, and nearly 7,300 kilometers northeast of the Australian coast. Hawaii total area is 10,932 square miles and 4,508 square miles of water. Kingman Reef and Palmyra atoll are the boundaries of Hawaii. Hawaii’s Big Island features hardly lava landscapes as well as Kilauea Volcano, erupting to this day at Hawaii. Hawaii is the 43rd largest state. Hawaii’s climate is ideal for the tropics, despite temperatures and wet. Mount Waialeale, on Kauai, has the second highest rainfall on Earth, around 460 inches. Hawaii has mainly two seasons they are bare season from May to October and humid season from October to April.Hawaii EconomyThe Hawaii economy is depending on tourism, agriculture and industries. The history of Hawaii can be followed regular a succession of dominant industries they are sandalwood, whaling, sugarcane, pineapple, military, tourism, and education. In Hawaii tourism has been the largest industry. Hawaiian exports bear food and apparel. Food exports are coffee macadamia nuts, livestock, pineapple, and sugarcane. Hawaii has a moderately high state tax burden. Hawaii citizens had the highest state tax per capita because education, health care and social services are provided by the state. Hawaii was one of the states to control gasoline prices into a Gas Cap Law.Hawaii GeographyThe Hawaii Government is decided by its constitution, and it emulates a general republic model where the government is separated into three branches they are legislative, executive, and judiciary. In Hawaii the legislative branch for Hawaii is formed of 25 senators and 51 representatives across the various districts. The head of the Hawaii is the Governor it is running mate of a Lieutenant Governor and both are the only statewide elected officials in Hawaii. The Lieutenant Governor is also investigated the Secretary of State of Hawaii. The Hawaiian Government, the Governor has the power to select officials for the 20 departments set by the constitution. The Hawaiian Constitution states the Hawaii have one Supreme Court, circuit courts, an appellate court, and district courts. The Local governments of Hawaii are spilt into four counties, although these could also act as municipalities at the same time. The budget for each city council is minor representatives and the nearly made by the local senate for each location.

Hawaii Information Sources




New Zealand

New Zealand, a wealthy Pacific nation, is dominated by two cultural groups: New Zealanders of European descent, and the minority Maori, whose Polynesian ancestors arrived on the islands around 1,000 years ago.

Agriculture is the economic mainstay, but manufacturing and tourism are important and there is a world-class film industry.

New Zealand has diversified its export markets and has developed strong trade links with Australia, the US, and Japan. In April 2008 it became the first Western country to sign a free trade deal with China.

At a glance

New Zealand
  • Politics: John Key led the National Party to victory in elections in 2008 and 2011
  • Economy: The country officially went into recession in September 2008, for the first time in ten years
  • International: New Zealand troops have taken part in regional peacekeeping efforts and have been deployed in Afghanistan

British sovereignty was established under the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi – a pact between Maori chiefs and the British government over land rights.

The treaty gave rise to land claims which culminated in the “New Zealand Wars”, a series of skirmishes between colonial forces and Maori in the North Island.

The government awarded money and land in settlements during the 1990s, but the land issue remains controversial.

In 1984 the government embarked on a dramatic and controversial economic reform programme, which lifted controls on wages, prices and interest rates and removed agricultural subsidies.

Lord of the Rings cast
New Zealand boasts a world-class film industry

The landscape is diverse, and sometimes spectacular. This has fuelled tourism; visitors are drawn to the glacier-carved mountains, lakes, beaches and thermal springs. Because of the islands’ geographical isolation, much of the flora and fauna is unique to the country.

New Zealand plays an active role in Pacific affairs. It has constitutional ties with the Pacific territories of Niue, the Cook Islands and Tokelau.

Its troops served in East Timor when violence broke out in the territory in 1999 and were part of a multinational force intended to restore order to the Solomon Islands in 2003. Further afield, New Zealand forces have backed peacekeeping and development efforts in Afghanistan.

But its anti-nuclear stance – including a ban on nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed vessels from its waters – put it at odds with the US in the 1980s.

A significant amount of New Zealand’s electricity is generated by hydropower sources and the country has a range of renewable energy sources at its disposal.

Migration patterns have changed, with most incomers coming from Asia and Pacific island states, rather than from the UK and Australia. Officials estimate that Asians will make up 13% of the population by 2021 from about 9% in 2009.

New Zealand Facts

Auckland: New Zealand’s largest city and a major port
  • Full name: New Zealand
  • Population: 4.3 million (UN, 2010)
  • Capital: Wellington
  • Largest city: Auckland
  • Area: 270,534 sq km (104,454 sq miles)
  • Major languages: English, Maori
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 79 years (men), 83 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 New Zealand dollar ($NZ) = 100 cents
  • Main exports: Wool, food and dairy products, wood and paper products
  • GNI per capita: US $29,050 (World Bank, 2010)
  • Internet domain: .nz
  • International dialling code: +64

New Zealand Leaders

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor-general

Prime minister: John Key

NZ PM John Key
Mr Key’s victory ended nine years of Labour rule

John Key led the centre-right National Party to victory in the November 2008 general election and again in the November 2011 elections.

His party’s 2008 victory ended nine years of Labour-led government.

The National Party fell short of a parliamentary majority in both the 2008 and 2011 elections and was compelled to form a coalition with other parties.

Born in 1961 and brought up in relative poverty by his Austrian-Jewish immigrant mother after the early death of his father, Mr Key became a currency trader and has acquired a substantial personal fortune.

He rose to be head of foreign exchange at Merrill Lynch in Singapore, and served as a member of the Foreign Exchange Committee of the New York Federal Reserve Bank in 1999-2001.

National Party president John Slater encouraged him to enter politics in 2001, and Mr Key was elected to parliament the following year. He was appointed opposition finance spokesman in 2004, and became party leader in 2006 after Don Brash resigned over allegations of election-funding irregularities.

Since taking over the party, Mr Key has positioned it more on the centre ground. His first speech as leader pledged a future government to measures to prevent the creation of an “underclass”, and he has said that reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in the next 50 years will be a priority.

New Zealand has a single-chamber parliament, the House of Representatives, which is elected for a three-year term. Coalition governments have been the norm since proportional representation replaced the “first past the post” electoral system in 1993.

16 July 2012 Last updated at 11:04 ET

New Zealand Media

Maori TV logo Government-funded Maori TV aims to revitalise Maori language, culture

Broadcasters enjoy one of the world’s most liberal media arenas.

The broadcasting sector was deregulated in 1988, when the government allowed competition to the state-owned Television New Zealand (TVNZ). Privately-owned TV3 is TVNZ’s main competitor.

Satellite platform SKY TV is the leading pay TV provider. Freeview carries free-to-air digital terrestrial and satellite TV.

The New Zealand Herald newspaper has the biggest circulation.

Some 3.6 million New Zealanders – more than 80% of the population – were online by December 2011 (InternetWorldStats).

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

Summer In Cyprus


For those seeking the splendour of the Mediterranean at its peak, summer is an ideal season to visit Cyprus.
From May to mid-October, in Paphos, temperatures are at a steady high, the sky is a cloudless azure blue and, when the heat gets too much, the sea is a stone’s throw away for a refreshing dip. It’s also the ideal season for a range of water sports activities such as scuba diving and sailing.
The early part of the day is perfect for exploring the exceptional local archaeological remains, including the Temple of Aphrodite, where the goddess of love was worshipped.
During the summer, visitors must get into the habit of wearing sunscreen and protective head-wear.
April and May bring in early summer when days are comfortably warm but the evenings are cool. Light daytime clothing and long sleeved cotton or thin woolies are recommended for this part of the season. Especially in April, the countryside is in bloom with wild flowers making it an ideal time for nature-walking.
June, July and August mark the height of summer when temperatures soar and the beaches are at their busiest. There is a selection of tourist and less well known beaches to enjoy in Paphos. The Cyprus Tourist Organisation can advise visitors on where it is safe to swim.
A day-tip to the Troodos villages in the mountains provide an opportunity for traditional dining, visits to UNESCO churches and welcoming cooler climes.

Day Temperature High: 22C
Night Temperature Low: 12C
Sea Temperature: 20C
Hours of Daily Sunshine: 9
Humidity: 67%
Days of Rain: 3
Day Temperature High: 26C
Night Temperature Low: 16C
Sea Temperature: 21C
Hours of Daily Sunshine: 10
Humidity: 68%
Days of Rain: 3
Day Temperature High: 30C
Night Temperature Low: 18C
Sea Temperature: 24C
Hours of Daily Sunshine: 12
Humidity: 64%
Days of Rain: 1
Day Temperature High: 32C
Night Temperature Low: 21C
Sea Temperature: 26C
Hours of Daily Sunshine: 12
Humidity: 60%
Days of Rain: 1
Day Temperature High: 33C
Night Temperature Low: 22C
Sea Temperature: 27C
Hours of Daily Sunshine: 12
Humidity: 61%
Days of Rain: 1
Day Temperature High: 31C
Night Temperature Low: 20C
Sea Temperature: 26C
Hours of Daily Sunshine: 11
Humidity: 59%
Days of Rain: 10
Day Temperature High: 27C
Night Temperature Low: 16C
Sea Temperature: 24C
Hours of Daily Sunshine: 9
Humidity: 64%
Days of Rain: 3

Original Story


Manchester-UK- The Perfect City Getaway

Looking for the perfect UK city break?  Manchester is a great place. In the past decade, the thriving city at the heart of Northern England has broken free from its gloomy industrial past and emerged a vibrant, confident and forward moving city with plenty to entice and fascinate any visitor. Well-known for its strong sporting culture and state of the art museums and art venues it also boasts fantastic shopping and a buzzing nightlife, the perfect ingredients for a fantastic city break. A good place to start your discovery of this great city is the cultural treasure trove of The Quays, a fifteen-minute tram ride from the city centre. You are sure to find something for everyone in this square mile of architecturally amazing waterfront attractions.

History buffs will enjoy wandering through the Imperial War Museum North. It houses memorabilia from both World Wars, multimedia exhibitions, interactive displays to delight the kids and a viewing platform with phenomenal views over the city and best of all, entry is free! Close by, The Lowry will keep culture enthusiasts entertained. This arts and theatre powerhouse is home to two main theatres staging a variety of productions including opera, drama, musicals, music concerts and comedy acts as well as art galleries, a restaurant, cafes and bars.

Sports fans are also catered for as The Quays are close to the homes of two of Britain’s most renowned sporting clubs, Manchester United and Lancashire Country Cricket Club. Football fans the world over will recognize the historic Old Trafford Stadium, one of Manchester’s most popular tourist attractions, found nearby. Catching a game at this grand complex is a once-in-a-lifetime experience but if you can’t get tickets, the Museum Tour is good for an insight into the magnitude and quality of the famous stadium.

Back in the city centre, the Manchester Art Gallery houses an impressive collection of works by British and European masters and kids will love the Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil on display at the Manchester Museum. If it’s retail therapy you are after, Manchester has one of the most diverse shopping districts in the UK. The Arndale Centre is Europe’s largest city centre shopping mall where serious shoppers could easily spend the whole day whilst St Ann’s Square, the Triangle and surrounding roads offer something for the more luxury shopper, as does the popular Deansgate and The Avenue.

When the sun goes down, Manchester’s eclectic, buzzing nightlife comes to life. The bohemian Northern Quarter is the liveliest hotspot, with an array of independent bars, traditional pubs and live music venues favoured by students, while the swanky bars in The Locks and Deansgate attract a more sophisticated, stylish crowd. Oxford Road and the colourful Gay Village around Canal Street are also nocturnal favourites with plenty of great bars, pubs and nightclubs to enjoy a great night out in.

To grab a bite to eat, the city has plenty of options to suit any budget. Head to bustling Chinatown or Rusholm’s Curry Mile for something cheap and cheerful or splurge in the boutique restaurants of Manchester’s top city centre hotels including several Michelin Starred outlets. With such a myriad of things to see and do, plus an international airport and good connections to the UK’s rail network, Manchester city breaks really are the perfect UK getaway.

Disclaimer: The information contained within this article is the opinion of the author and is intended purely for information and interest purposes only. It should not be used to make any decisions or take any actions. Any links are included for information purposes only.

The World’s Most Dreamy Beaches

Professional photographers know that when taking shots of beaches, there are some important rules and guidelines to follow, such as: looking for a focal point, not disconsidering the horizon, the importance of timing, the UV filters and many others. That’s why in today’s showcase we have decided to present 50 of the most beautiful photographs of shores, as a result of following such rules and applying the knowledge in this type of art.

Be amazed and impressed, dream far away at the sunny places and relaxing sounds of the tide and waves! Some of the most famous vacation destinations by the sea and ocean can be admired in this post: Hawaii, Bora Bora, Ibiza, Seychelles.

What we have learned, though, is that not only a beautiful shore can make a stunning photo. A talented and patient photographer csn turn the most dull beach into a breath taking landscape. There’s proof of that too, just look below, through the whole showcase!

Hanalei Mist – Kauai, Hawaii

Hanalei Mist - Kauai, Hawaii
author: Patrick Smith

Pearl Beach Resort Bora Bora


Beautiful Beach

Beautiful Beach
author: RAIS1


author: atoes

Sunset Beach Resort Seychelles

Indigo and Aqua

Indigo and Aqua
author: Dan Cabral

Sta Rita Island Beach Resort

Sta Rita Island Beach Resort
author: Lenareh

Anantara Dhigu Maldives

Anantara Dhigu Maldives
author: The Maldives

Aerial View of Riomaggiore


author: Terrance Lam


author: Daniel Go

Pigeons on the Beach

Pigeons on the Beach
author: Dexter Baldon

Six Palms

Jolly Beach Resort Antigua

Jolly Beach Resort Antigua
author: David Pollitt

Bentota Beach Hotel Sri Lanka

Beach Resort

Bali Resort

Bali Resort
author: alexhepburn

Coral Garden


Truly Maldives

Truly Maldives
author: Smokegreen

Komandoo Island, Maldives

Komandoo Island, Maldives
author: Tibor Mester

Paradise @ Sancho

Barbados Beach

Barbados Beach
author: p0p0c4t3p3t3l


author: André Landin

Tallows Beach, Byron Bay

Tallows Beach, Byron Bay
author: Kim Fong

Bora Bora – Tahiti

Bora Bora - Tahiti
author: Nanah66


Pearl Resort, Moorea, Tahiti

Pearl Resort, Moorea, Tahiti
author: Mark Watts


author: Klaus Wiese

Seychelles Islands

Seychelles Islands
author: Nanah66

The Emerald

The Emerald
author: Nanah66

Imbricated Turtle in Desroches Island


author: Viktoria-a

The Beach

The Beach
author: Viktoria-a

Baie Lazare

Baie Lazare
author: Viktoria-a

Four Rocks

Four Rocks
author: Juan F Ribas

Somewhere at Ibiza

Ibiza’s Spring

Ibiza Spring
author: eswendel

Whitehaven Beach 1

Whitehaven Beach 1
author: jdurbin


author: Jason Round

Whitehaven Beach

The Recipe

The Recipe
author: Jeff Jacobson

Tulum Dream

Tulum Dream
author: joseluisrg

Fraser Island

Fraser Island
author: Mike Hince

Datai Beach

Datai Beach
author: Jansen Tang

Haena Surf – Kauai

Haena Surf - Kauai
author: Patrick Smith

Napali Coast

Napali Coast
author: Dain Blair

Maya Bay – Koh Phi Phi

Sunset at Turimetta Beach

Sunset at Turimetta Beach
author: yury
Author: Giulia

Fourth of July in NYC 2012

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Beginning at approximately 9 p.m., Macy’s will have fireworks being released from four barges in the Hudson River. It’s the 36th Annual Macy’s Fireworks display and this year’s theme is Ignite the Night. This year’s fireworks soundtrack has been dubbed “America’s Mixtape,” and will feature both patriotic and pop standards that will be performed in sync with the fireworks. The music can be heard on 1010 WINS and Fresh 102.7. The night’s line-up will include performances by Katy Perry and Kenny Chesney. If you’re not in the area, NBC will broadcast the fireworks live beginning at 9 p.m. EST.

Where Can You Best View The Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks?
Fireworks will be launched from four barges in the Hudson River between 18th Street and 43rd Street. The best places to see the fireworks will be along the West Side Highway on the north-bound lanes and 12th Avenue between 14th and 59th Streets; some side streets between 11th and 12th Avenues and at Pier 84 (access from 44th Street). You can also view the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks from anywhere you have an unobstructed view of the sky above the Hudson River. See the Fourth of July Fireworks Map for details on viewing access and the best spots for seeing them live!


Where to Go this Summer

Posted by Fodor’s Guest Blogger on June 18, 2012 at 4:25:01 PM EDT

By Blane Bachelor

Along with backyard barbeques and baseball games, summertime is synonymous with wanderlust. And since this breezy season officially begins on June 20th, here are our picks guaranteed to make for a brag-worthy getaway in some of the latest travel hotspots, from Fourth of July celebrations in Philadelphia, the Birthplace of America, to spectacular shopping deals in St. Barts to a flurry of festivals in Montreal.



Why Go Now: 2012 is a big year in Boston, particularly for baseball fans, history buffs, and art aficionados. Two iconic structures are marking their 100th anniversaries: Fenway Park, the grand dame of baseball diamonds, and the majestic Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, which will host celebratory events throughout the summer. Then, artsy types will swoon over the recently unveiled Renzo Piano-designed new glass wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

On the history front, the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, along with the Star Spangled Banner Celebration, coincide with the always-popular Boston Harborfest during the week of July 4. And no matter which end of the political spectrum you fall on, the new Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, which opens on June 26, is a captivating blend of history and technology. Unwind all season long with the Summer on the Waterfront series, featuring live music and historic and cultural attractions.

Where to Stay: Boston’s newest lodging is The Revere Hotel, named for the city’s most famous patriot (rooms from $258). It’s a brilliant blend of historic flavor and modern-day style, with a balcony for all of its 356 rooms (just refrain from shouting “The British are coming!”). For luxury, the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, which turns 100 on August 19, can’t be beat. Price-wise, neither can its Celebration of a Century package, starting at $100/person for lodging for two.

Where to Eat: Wood-fired ovens are the inspiration at Area Four, producing divine puffed crust pizzas and roasted veggie dishes that are alone worth the trip to Cambridge. Tap into the city’s tacos and tequila explosion at Tico, a lively Nuevo Mexican hotspot in Back Bay that serves up tasty lobster-avocado tacos, ceviche, and margaritas.



Why Go Now: Bordeaux may be best known for its world-famous wines, but it’s also an under-the-radar destination for arts and culture, making it a magnifique choice for an upscale summer getaway. Oenophiles should mark their calendars for the famed Bordeaux Wine Festival, with nearly 80 appellations represented along a mile-long stretch of tastings (June 28-July 1), while art fiends can opt for a river cruise to UNESCO World Heritage sites or a visit to the prestigious National Opera of Bordeaux. Foodies will find their fill of culinary delights at the Les Epicuriales festival (June 14-July 1), which features about 30 top restaurateurs in the Allées de Tourny, or Golden Triangle, as well as cooking and tasting workshops in a festive atmosphere.

Where to Stay: The elegant Regent Grand Bordeaux, the masterpiece of famed French designer Jacques Garcia that opened in 2006, has added another luxe extra to its already-impressive amenity list: wine concierges. These grape gurus take the guesswork out of tasting logistics by setting up personalized tours and appointments at prestigious chateaux in the Bordeaux region and tracking down rare bottles.

Where to Eat: The Regent Bordeaux’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Pressoir d’Argent, is named after a coveted piece of culinary equipment, “The Silver Press”—a silver lobster press that’s one of a handful in the world. Order one of the lobster dishes from a quintessentially French menu, and you can see it in action. In town, locals are flocking to Solena, run by a French chef and his expat American wife for whom the restaurant is named. The farm-to-table French bistro serves an inventive prix-fixe menu focused on fresh, regional fare–recent items have included foie gras with sweet corn and a bone-in ribeye for two—complemented by a Bordeaux-centric wine list.



Why Go Now: Summer or not, Montreal has never been hotter, with a growing culinary status, exploding arts scene, and a terrific tradition of festivals–which, let’s face it, are way more appealing when the city isn’t blanketed in snow. From July to August, the head-spinning Montreal Festimania takes over with 11 overlapping festivals, from the 30th annual Just for Laughs Comedy Festival (Joel McHale and Howie Mandel are among the top names this year) to the Festival Mode & Design, a mashup of fashion shows, cutting-edge design exhibits, and, of course, chic parties galore.

Other noteworthy festivals: Festival International Montreal en Arts, or FIMA, an outdoor art extravaganza on the BoulevArt, a one-kilometer stretch of the car-free-for-the-summer Sainte-Catherine Street, and the Montreal International Jazz Festival (June 28-July 7, 2012), whose spectacular lineup of 650-plus shows (including 370 free outdoor concerts) includes everyone from James Taylor to Esperanza Spalding to Norah Jones. Finally, to enjoy one of summer’s simple pleasures Montreal-style, grab a set of wheels in the city’s acclaimed BIXI Bike rental program (day rentals, $7) for a carefree cruise.

Where to Stay: Recently re-opened after an extensive renovation, the Ritz-Carlton Montreal (rooms from $425), the first hotel in the world to bear the Ritz-Carlton name, boasts plenty of reasons besides its Aug. 31 centennial to celebrate: 130 elegantly redesigned rooms and suites, a new indoor saltwater pool and an exquisite lobby.

Where to Eat: BEVO Pizza, a fresh new bar and pizzeria in Montreal’s Old City, has earned rave reviews for its simple, well-executed pastas and wood-fired pizzas, accompanied by a cocktail list that puts a creative spin on the basics: prosecco sangria, for example, and a limoncello drop. Another trendy newcomer, Hambar Resto, co-owned by Phillipe Poitras, one of Montreal’s top sommeliers, serves up an extensive menu of charcuterie-inspired dishes and an excellent wine list in a chic, although sometimes noisy, setting in the St. Paul Hotel.



Why Go Now: Panama, one of our 21 Places to Go in 2012, has firmly planted itself on the map for in-the-know travelers. It’s no surprise why: cutting edge culture, adventure offerings galore, and inimitable Latin flavor, all at affordable prices. Experience it all by making Panama City your home base, which offers the best vantage point for exploring the city’s revitalized Casco Viejo (or Old Town (though the Spanish translation literally means “old shell”), and easy access to adventure-based day trips such as biking through the rainforest.

In addition to the ongoing expansion of the Panama Canal (its capacity will be tripled by 2014), another much-anticipated arrival to Panama is the Frank Gehry-designed Biodiversity Museum: Panama Bridge to Life, a spectacular tribute to both Gehry’s genius and the remarkable biodiversity of the region.

Insider Tip: Cap off your summer with a trip in August, as July is the rainy month in Central America.

Where to Stay: Panama City’s newest boutique offering, the Tantalo Hotel (rooms from $160), offers a breath of fresh, art-inspired air into the Old Town. With 13 rooms featuring the creations of 13 different artists, a stay here is like immersion into a hip museum. For a more glamorous experience, check out the 1,500-room Hard Rock Hotel Panama (rooms from $159), the Westin Playa Bonita (rooms from $185)with views of the Panama Canal, or the Trump Ocean Club (rooms from $175), a soaring, 70-story building that’s the tallest in Latin America and resembles a soaring sail.

Where to Eat: Tuck into simple, flavorful Pan-Asian favorites like spicy pork edamame, pad Thai, and shrimp curry at Elephant Grill, a local joint recently opened by one of Panama City’s most successful restaurateurs (reservations are recommended; no website; the restaurant is located on Calle Uruguay).



Why Go Now: The City of Brotherly Love is a destination that travelers, especially history and art buffs, are sure to love this summer, with a bevy of art events and 4th of July celebrations (annual favorite Let Freedom Ring brings together descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence to ceremonially tap the Liberty Bell). Creating plenty of buzz in art circles and beyond is the reopening of the world-renowned Barnes Foundation in a 93,000-square-foot architectural marvel that houses one of the world’s largest collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings.

More world-class creations beckon at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (“Visions of Arcadia” runs from June 20 to Sept. 3). A must-do item for any itinerary: Taking a peek at history’s oldest surviving biblical texts as part of the fascinating Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times exhibit at the Franklin Institute (through Oct. 14). And, for a perfectly patriotic cap-off, the The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen (through Sept. 3) provides visitors a rare look at 150+ artifacts from the career of this American music legend, including Fender Esquire guitar from the cover of Born to Run and numerous lyrics, handwritten by The Boss himself.

Where to Stay: Revel in both history and luxury at the Hotel Latham, a 139-room boutique property housed in a century-old former upscale apartment building (also on the National Register of Historic Places) that unveiled a multi-million renovation this spring. Expect sophisticated but welcoming décor, friendly service, and thoughtful extras like complimentary (though first-come, first serve) chauffeur service in an Audi A8 luxury sedan.

Where to Eat: A welcome new addition to bar-studded 18th Street is the Rittenhouse Tavern, housed in a 1906 mansion and part of the Philadelphia Art Alliance. Grab a table on the charming patio and order some bistro-style small plates and a hand-crafted cocktail (the gin-based Betsy Ross, perhaps). Over the summer, the tavern hosts Firkin Fridays, when it taps casks of ale and offers specially priced dishes. For creative comfort food–think cheese steak pot pie and white chocolate habanero chicken wings–in a cozy, ages-old vibe, check out the Square Peg, housed in a building that dates back to the 1790s.



Why Go Now: While this spectacular island has long been a holiday favorite for European jetsetters, it still remains under the radar for many foreign tourists. Get in on the secret during the dry summer months, lounging on sun-drenched beaches and savoring languorous seafood lunches by day and strolling the enchanting village streets by night, all against the majestic backdrop of Mount Etna (a still-active volcano!) and the Mediterranean and Ionian seas. While Palermo, the Sicilian capital in the northwest corner of the island, deserves a visit, in-the-know Italians opt for Taormina in the northeast, as our recent Insider’s Guide uncovers. From July to August, the city’s annual Summer Arts Festival takes center stage with music, dance, and opera, and this year’s lineup is studded with stars including Sting and Ben Harper. An idyllic day trip is the Egadi Islands, a blissfully secluded aquamarine paradise about a 40-minute ferry ride from Sicily.

Where to Stay: The Ashbee, a chic, spacious boutique property perched in a historic mansion on a cliff facing the Ionian Sea, is decidedly the latest it-spot for travelers, with whitewashed décor, an infinity pool, and exquisite gardens (rooms from around $340). About 15 minutes from Taormina’s town center, Villa Ducale is a longtime favorite (rooms from around $340), with cheerful, Mediterranean décor, balconies in every room, and gracious service.

Where to Eat: Spend a warm summer evening on the terrace of Al Duomo, a classic Taormina trattoria that serves traditional favorites from East Sicily (braised lamb stew, mashed beans, and seafood fresh from the sea) in a relaxed, friendly setting.


St. Barts

Why Go Now: Forget the sky-high prices and crowds of celebrities and their overstuffed entourages during winter’s high season, and opt for a swanky summer escape to this glam Caribbean paradise. Savvy fashionistas head to St. Barts in June, July, and August to snap up massive sales on breezy, boho-inspired beachwear and jewelry from some of the world’s top designers, including Calpyso, a beloved New York City brand that originated here. From Aug. 6-18, bargains flourish in the shopping haven of Gustavia. Francophiles will also delight in island-wide Bastille Day celebrations on July 14.

Where to Stay: Pamper shopping-weary feet at the ridiculously elegant Hotel Guanahani and Spa, which has a “Run of the House Room” special through July 15 (370 Euros includes single or double occupancy, breakfast and round trip transfers). Nestled in an upscale residential area, The Hotel Christopher beckons with a more low-key vibe without sacrificing sophistication or glamour. The recently refurbished property features well-appointed bungalows and modern décor (rooms from $412).

Where to Eat: Fitting for such a star-studded destination, celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten has brought his culinary pedigree to the restaurants at it-hotel Eden Rock. Savor a rosé-soaked lunch inspired by Vongerichten’s beloved ABC Kitchen at daytime hotspot Sand Bar, located right on the beach; by night, the chef’s vibrant Asian street-food flavors take center stage at On the Rocks.

Photo Credits: Boston: Bostonvia; Bordeaux: Bordeax countrysidevia; Montreal: Montreal via; Panama: Panama City via; Philadelphia: SeanPavonePhoto /; Sicily: Taorminavia; St. Barths: St. Barthsvia

World’s Best Places to Visit


Sometimes, when the travel bug strikes, the only cure is to pack your bags and go. But where to? We’ve compiled a list of our favorite spots from across the globe. Our list includes the most popular places and we’re adding new destinations all the time, so don’t worry if your favorite spot didn’t make the cut. Check back soon to see if your dream vacation makes the list.




Why go: Year after year, the magnetic City of Lights draws new travelers to its Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Notre Dame — but Paris also keeps experienced travelers coming back for more. See, there’s always a new Michelin-rated restaurant to try, a new exhibit to see at the Centre Pompidou or a new shop in which to swipe your credit card. And we can’t discount Paris’ je ne sais quoi charm that’s unexplainable but also unmistakeable.


Why go: Known around the world for its legendary fútbol team, Barcelona boasts much more than just athletic talent. Touring the city is a feast for the eyes: Visitors walk past medieval architecture in the Barri Gotic and the innovative creations of Gaudi in Parc Guell. Matching Paris’ Notre Dame with its own Sagrada Familia, Barcelona puts itself near the top of this list with a fun-loving spirit and creative ambition.


Why go: The United Kingdom’s capital city is a world unto itself. With eclectic neighborhoods and numerous landmarks, London requires several days (if not years) to get to know. That said, your inaugural visit (as you will certainly be coming back for more) should include trips to the Tower of London, the National Gallery, and the British Museum. But if you have more time, hit up Portobello Road and Borough Market to appreciate the local culture.


Why go: Relaxed yet professional, classic yet innovative — San Francisco takes its paradoxical qualities in stride, boasting diverse cultural enclaves. Neighborhoods like Nob Hill, the Castro and the Mission District offer unique experiences for every traveler. Yet, there are several monuments that you can’t miss, such as the cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz. And, of course, the city’s crowning architectural achievement — the Golden Gate Bridge — is unmistakable.


Why go: Author Ayn Rand once wrote, “I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline.” While many disagree with her politics, her sentiment for the Big Apple is widely shared. America’s most populous city hosts infinite urban adventures. Enjoy an afternoon in Central Park or visit the exhibits at the MoMa or the Met. While new sites, like the National September 11 Memorial, are always popping up, the classics, like the Empire State Building, never get old.


Why go: Of all the Hawaiian Islands, Maui might be the most beloved. The island encapsulates all that Hawaii has to offer: exotic beaches (like Kaihalulu), palatial resorts (like the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea) and lush terrain (as seen in the Iao Valley State Park). Maui can also cater to a range of budgets — the same cannot be said for some of its sister islands, like neighboring Lanai. Visitors regularly return to the mainland singing praise for Maui, but the smart few just put down new roots and pick up a Mai Tai.


Why go: Here, it’s as if Paris migrated to North America. Montreal boasts elements of French culture with a friendly Canadian feel. Travelers adore the quaint cafés, bustling marketplaces and old-world architecture that characterize Montreal. To truly appreciate the city’s majesty, visit St. Joseph’s Oratory, next to Mont-Royal. This immense basilica crowns the skyline and provides an ideal vantage point.


Why go: While it may not be as grand as New York City or as historic as Montreal, why Vancouver caught the attention of the International Olympic Committee is no mystery. This coastal Canadian city boasts a vast amount of outdoor activities that beckon to adrenaline hounds. Kayak in English Bay or test gravity on the Capilano Suspension Bridge before enjoying a scrumptious meal in the second-largest Chinatown in North America.


Why go: Whether they’re swimming in Lake Zurich in the summer or skiing down the nearby Alps in the winter, travelers find delight in Zurich. Delectable pastry shops abound, as do museums and historic churches. Excellent shops reside in upscale Bahnofstrasse and more affordable Niederdorf. For fun, locals and travelers alike hit up the bars and clubs of edgy Zurich West.


Why go: Renowned for the Edinburgh Festival in August, this Scottish city entertains guests year round. Set among steep hills like Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh impresses visitors with its historic sites along the Royal Mile and its casual pub culture. While you’re here, don’t miss Edinburgh Castle or Holyroodhouse Palace for a glimpse of the royal lifestyle.


Why go: Pick a vacation experience you’re looking for, and Puerto Rico can oblige. An old town with historic architecture and cobblestone streets? Look no further than Old San Juan and it’s El Morro fortress. A beachside getaway with stunning vistas and miles of soft, white sand? Consider the bioluminescent bays of Culebra and Vieques. A cosmopolitan destination with high-end shopping and exciting nightlife? Head to the Isla Verde or Santurce neighborhoods of San Juan.


Why go: The U.S. Virgin Islands offers a taste of home (non-roaming cell phones, U.S. dollars, and no language barrier), as well as a varied international vacation (lively Carnival season, reggae music  and clear Caribbean waters). For the best deals and weather, consider visiting in late spring or early summer.


Why go: One of the most visited cities in the U.S., the country’s capital is filled with a huge number of postcard-worthy monuments and buildings. The White House and the Lincoln Memorial are here, as well as a variety of eclectic and walkable neighborhoods. Those on a budget will especially enjoy themselves here since the noteworthy Smithsonian museums are free.


Why go: Budapest is sure to be a highlight of any trip to Central/Eastern Europe. The city has a lot to offer all types of travelers with all ranges of budgets. And Budapest will keep you occupied with its thermal baths, mellow coffeehouses, ridiculous nightlife and pretty much whatever else you can think of.


Why go: Over the past decade or two, Prague has transitioned from a backpacker secret to the unquestioned tourist capital of Central/Eastern Europe. With well-preserved sites, such as the Charles Bridge and St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague retains its gothic mystique. You can spend the days taking in the architecture and the evenings enjoying local pilsners on a never-ending bar crawl.


Why go: If you have to choose one island to visit in Greece, it’s easy to make a case for Crete. Its diverse landscape features everything from anicent ruins to gorgeous beaches, and you can spend a day doing anything from shopping in Agios Nikolaos to hiking the Samaria Gorge.


Why go: If you’re looking for gorgeous weather year round and parties set against beautiful backdrops, look no further than Miami Beach. This Floridian city bursts with colors, crazy nightlife, an amazing coastline and intriguing Art Deco architecture. Head to South Beach’s Ocean Drive to reach the heart of the action.


Why go: If you want a laidback, family-friendly vacation, San Diego should be a top contender. Here, you can sunbathe on Mission Beach, engage in some retail therapy in the Gaslamp Quarter, hike through Torrey Pines State Reserve or the San Diego Zoo, and dine at the historic Hotel del Coronado. There’s plenty to keep you busy, but the Southern California ambiance keeps the pace of life at a comfortable level.


Why go: The Bahamas has so many islands that it’s hard to mash them all into one recommendation, compared to our other destinations. But that’s also part of their appeal. Airfare and hotel rates are generally modest year-round in the Bahamas, but you’ll get the best deals and have less crowds if you plan your visit for the summer or early fall. But take note: These islands’ atmosphere and activities largely cater to tourists, and you’ll be hard pressed to find an authentic Bahamian vibe during your getaway.


Why go: Puerto Vallarta stands out for its outstanding cuisine, eclectic bars and clubs and breathtaking landscape. You could spend just a day exploring the cobblestone streets and art-laden Malecón (or boardwalk) of Zona Centro, or extend your trip for a few more days to try out the nightclubs and European cafés of the downtown area, as well as the hiking in the nearby Sierra Madre Mountains.


Why go: You don’t need to be on a cruise vacation to experience two Caribbean countries for the expense of one. This dual-governed island nation offers chic dining and dazzling stretches of sand on the French side of Saint Martin, and animated nightlife, buzzing casinos, and some of the best duty-free shopping of the Caribbean in Dutch Sint Maarten. Consider visiting in late spring to cash in on the not-too hot weather and discounted hotel rates.


Why go: Limestone-carved Aruba will appeal to the adventure junkie better than any of our best destinations. Dive into the depths of Hadicurari Beach to explore the island’s many shipwrecks, avoid the Aruban rattlesnake on an ATV tour of the Arikok National Park, or party hearty until the wee hours on a booze cruise. But you should be prepared to pay for the adrenaline rush, as Aruba is also one of the pricier vacations on our list.


Why go: This notorious hedonist destination offers visitors every opportunity to make it or break it. Colossal casinos, like the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace, beckon to travelers with neon light, fascinating shows and, of course, sprawling casino floors. But these mega-resorts offer guests more than just slot machines and drink. Spas, pools, luxury hotel rooms, elite clubs and exotic restaurants are now part of the allure.


Why go: The City of Angels, La La Land, the Entertainment Capital of the World — Los Angeles needs no introduction. But its notoriety both help and hurt its reputation. The traffic on the “101” will tire you out just as much as an evening at a lively West Hollywood club. And your disgust at the thick smog over the city will negate your enjoyment of a sunset overlooking Santa Monica Beach. To appreciate Los Angeles, visit the area more than once and get advice from locals.


Why go: When it comes to the best of the best, size doesn’t matter. Austin may be small compared to other capital cities, but its personality is overwhelmingly large, with citizens holding fast to the city’s mantra, “Keep Austin Weird.” Although home to vast green spaces, funky boutiques and cozy coffee shops, Austin really comes to life at night; the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World” boasts numerous live music venues and one of the largest music festivals in the U.S.

Also Consider…

Why Go: With the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing officially debuted on the global stage and is quickly outshining its more modern brethren — Hong Kong and Shanghai — as a tourist destination. The city boasts world-class attractions, like the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, that showcase country’s past and present. Plus, the jaw-dropping Great Wall of China stands just north of the city, making Beijing a world-traveler must.


Why Go: Sydney has more than just an opera house. At the sight of this famous white structure, outsiders quickly forget all the attractions of this world-class metropolis. You’ll find the bustling Sydney Fish Market and the striking Sydney Harbour Bridge, which stretches high above sailboats and azure waters. Plus, there are numerous beaches (Coogee and Bondi for starters) that draw locals and tourists alike. Also, in its rivalry with Melbourne, Sydney wins the weather battle with its warm, sunny climate.

Rio de Janeiro

Why Go: With its sun-drenched beaches and soothing samba rhythms, Rio jockeys with Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo as South America’s hottest destination — and not just with its temperatures. The famous Christ the Redeemer statue presides over Copacabana Beach and Lapa, a vibrant neighborhood. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more riotously fun event than Rio’s Carnival.

Tel Aviv

Why Go: While Jerusalem may be the old city, Tel Aviv is the trendy new one. Sitting along the Mediterranean, Tel Aviv boasts a broad, sun-drenched shoreline that lures both locals and travelers. And once the sun goes down, a pulsating nightlife erupts across the city. Foreign visitors savor the mouth-watering cuisine found at intimate eateries or street carts. Take your time with this metropolis: There’s a lot to surprise you.



Easter in Greece

Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday is April 15th for 2012!

Easter is one of my favorite times to be in Greece for a couple of reasons. First of all even if you are not a devout Christian you can’t help but be moved by the ceremonies and the way life begins again on Easter Sunday after winter and 40 days of fasting. If you go to the countryside or to the islands wildflowers are in bloom and the hillsides that are usually parched brown in the summer are green from the winter rains. You can’t even imagine the fields of flowers and theway life seems to be popping and sprouting up from every crack and crevice. If you are not able to go to the islands or a village but have to stay in Athens, the city also seems blessed because everyone is gone. The streets are quiet and those people who have nowhere to go or who are like me and prefer to stay in Athens when everyone else has left, take walks in the streets and parks and the hills around the Acropolis which are also adorned with green grass and wildflowers.
Leaving the church at midnight Easter Sunday in KeaI never really cared much about the church ceremonies leading up to Easter, with the exception of the candle lighting ceremony that begins at 11pm on Saturday night and ends after midnight when all the candles held by the people in and around the church have been lit by the holy flame and they begin their journey home, each person holding one. To me there is something beautiful and magical about this. I think it is the most important ceremony in Christianity because it affects believers and non-believers. To see the church begin to glow brighter as each candle is lit and then the masses of people walking through the city streets or the towns and villages fills me with a spiritual feeling of being part of something bigger than myself. Even in the USA when I have gone to the tiny Saint Barbara’s church in Durham where people take their lighted candles and get into their cars and drive home, there is something special about being on the highway after midnight on Easter Sunday and seeing the interior car next to you aglow.
Easter at midnight, Ag Thomas, Athens GreeceLately though I have taken an interest in the whole Easter celebration, not just the Easter Sunday ceremony and then the roasting of the lamb and drinking wine which of course is my favorite thing about Easter. For one thing people ask me about Easter all the time and by telling them that for me it’s all about lighting candles, eating a lamb and getting drunk they may think I am some kind of pyromaniac, gluttonous drunkard, which is only part of the story. I actually come from a very religious Greek Orthodox family. However my father was the least religious member of the family, a socialist agnostic who took us to church twice. Once when our grandmother died and once for Easter in 1963 at Agia Thomas in Goudi, Athens. It was this Easter service that had a profound affect on me. We lived in an apartment right across the street from the church and from our balcony we could see the people leave the church with their candles(photo) and the fireworks at midnight. Soon afterwards all the people left and walkied like a candle-lit parade through the empty streets of Athens while the bells rang all over the city. From another window we could see a procession of candles making its way down Mount Lycavettos. A psychologist would call this an imprint. I have loved Easter ever since.In 2003 John L Tomkinson, a scholar and teacher in Athens who has put out a series of books about Greece, published Festive Greece: A Calendar of Tradition. The book describes in detail all the holidays in Greece and how they are celebrated in various parts of the country. It was this book that inspired me to create this page. I suppose I could have written something about Easter before this, from my own perspective, but John’s book gave me the background that enables me to make sense of my perceptions which in the case of Easter tended to focus on the lamb and the wine and everything leading up to it was just something happening in the background. Through John’s book I have more of an understanding of Easter to go with the childlike attraction I have had for the most beautiful and holiest time in Greece.


Easter does not just happen in Greece on that Holy week. It begins with Apokreas, which is to Orthodox what Mardi Gras and Carnival is to Catholics. Several weeks of partying, a tradition that may go back to the celebrations of Dionysious, take place all over Greece with special celebrations in Patras, Athens, and in various other towns and villages, many with special activities such as the famous Goat dances of Skyros. In Athens the last two weekends of Apokreas people dress up in costume and go to the Plaka, hitting each other with plastic clubs that squeak, and throwing confetti. These clubs are thought to be a remnant of the veneration of the phallus from the ancient Dionysian festivals of Athens and in the town of Tyrnavo in Thessaly giant penises are paraded through the streets There are celebrations in Moschato and Rendi, between Athens and Pireaus, that are similar to being in New Orleans on Fat Tuesday. In Patras the celebrating goes on for forty days and as many as fifty-thousand people take part in the parades. But after the last weekend of Apokreas, known as cheese week (the week before is meat week) many Greeks begin their fasting on Clean Monday, which is a day for spending time with friends and family, going to the countryside and flying kites. From clean Monday to the week of Easter things calm down conciderably.

Great Week

Friday of the Epitaphios in KeaThe week of Easter begins on Palm Sunday and there are church services everyday commemorating the last week in the life of Jesus Christ. The evening services are the most well attended of course, except for Wednesday when the Service of the Holy Unction is held in the afternoon. On Thursday morning the service commemorates the Last Supper and the Betrayal of Christ. This is the day that the hard-boiled eggs are dyed red, signifying the blood of Christ, and the Easter bread, called tsoureki, is baked. The evening service is a long one and features twelve gospel readings. It is in this service that a two-dimensional figure of Christ on the cross is brought into the church and set up, while the church bells ring. In some places a vigil is kept in the church all night.

Epitaphios procession in KeaFrom the point-of-view of a spectator from Friday it starts to get very interesting. The nails holding the figure of Christ are knocked off and the figure is taken down from the cross and wrapped in a white cloth. A large piece of cloth, embroidered with the image of Christ, called the epitaphios which has been decorated with flowers by the girls through the night, is brought into the church where it is sprinkled with rose-water and more flower petals are thrown upon it. The bells of the church begin to toll and all the flags in Greece are lowered to half-mast in while women in the congregation weep in mourning for the dead Jesus. In the evening a funeral service is held and at about 9pm the epitaphios is taken from the church and with the bells tolling mournfully, is carried through the streets in a solemn procession. In cities, towns and villages with more than one church the epitaphios parades may join together at certain points. In Hydra the epitaphios is taken into the sea at Kamini as it is in Tinos at the church of Saint Nicholas at Kalamia. In some places an effigy of Judas is burned while in others Barabbas is. In Skiathos the epitaphios service begins on Saturday at 1am and the procession through the town begins at four in the morning as it does in Zakynthos. On the island of Kea in the village of Ioulida the three congregations meet in the square with their epitaphios after taking different routes through the village. (photo)On Saturday the Orthodox Patriarch breaks the seal of the door of the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jeruselem and emerges with the Holy Fire, which is then flown by Olympic Airways, accompanied by high-ranking priests and government officials to Athens airport where it is met by an honor guard to the small church of Agia Anargyroi in the Plaka. From there the light is distributed to churches all over Attika and the rest of Greece.
Naxos Easter Lamb and Cheese market in Psiri, AthensMeanwhile around Athens there is all sorts of activity this week. The central market has thousands of lambs of all sizes and in Psiri the annual Lamb and Cheese Market has given the neighborhood a village atmosphere as farmers from the island of Naxos come to the city to sell their goods. Athenians who still have connections to their islands and villages on the mainland are preparing to leave the city as are people with no connections. On the islands people are working feverishly to paint restaurants, hotels and shops, white-wash houses and get ready for the second busiest  holiday week of the year (after August 15th the Saint Day of the Virgin Mary or Panagia). By Thursday ferries, flights and the roads leading out of Athens will be full. By Saturday Athens will seem like a giant village. It’s a great time to be in Athens which is a good thing because it is a terrible time to leave because the traffic is so bad.

The Resurrection or Anastasis  

Easter at Ag Thomas, Athens, GreeceAt 11pm on Saturday night pretty much the entire country is in church. The lights are turned off at midnight and the priest announces that Christ has arisen from the dead as candles are lit from his and then from each other. The tiny glow at the front of the church grows and soon the whole room is illuminated by the light of everyone’s candles. At the stroke of midnight the priest intones the paschal hymn “Christ has risen from the dead and in so doing has trampled on death and to those in the tombs he has given life“. The church bells ring in celebration, fireworks go off, ships sound their sirens and the light and sound makes the 4th of July seem tame in comparison. People greet each other happily with the words Christos Anesti (Christ has arisen) which is replied to with Alithos Anesti (Truly He has arisen). Then everyone heads for home with their lighted candles where they trace the cross three times above the door and to bless trees and farm animals. Most people either stay home or go to a restaurant for the traditional bowl of margeritsa, a thick green soup made from the intestines of the lamb that will be roasted the next day, breaking their 40 day fast which began with the end of Apokreas. Gunshots, dynamite and fireworks will be going off for the next 24 hours or more shattering nerves and blowing off a finger or two.

There are many traditions and ceremonies held around the country. in fact too many to mention here, but Tomkinson’s book goes into great detail and is a very helpful way to decide where to spend Easter if you don’t have friends or family to be with in Greece.

Easter Sunday

Easter day is most people’s favorite day of the year. A lamb is roasted and friends and families get together to eat, drink, talk and dance. In some towns like Arachova and  Livadeia,  it is a community celebration with rows of lambs roasting in the village square. In other towns like Monemvasia, Rhodes, Hydra, Halkidiki, Koroni, Chania and Leros the effigy of Judas or Barabbas is burned. In Syros and Karpathos people bring their guns and shoot Judas as a scapegoat for society’s ills. In the town of Asine in the Argolid they actually have a street battle with the men of the upper and lower parts of the village hurling insults and fireworks at each other.  In southern Messenia people go to the main squares to watch the saetapolemos, which are rockets without sticks that the men hold while the force of the explosions makes them jump as if they are dancing. This practice supposedly goes back to the War of Independence when people of the area fashioned this home-made bombs to scare the horses of the Turks to force their riders to dismount and lose their advantage. During the afternoon the red eggs are brought out and each person takes one and hits their end against someone else’s until the last person who has an un-cracked egg is considered the lucky person for the year.

Loula: Wife of George the famous Taxi driver with the wreath she made from the wildflowers she picked from the walk we took Many Athenians who have not gone home to their villages or to the islands will go up to Mount Parnitha or somewhere in the countryside surrounding Athens. After their meal some people pick wildflowers and make wreaths like Loula, wife of George The Famous Taxi Driver. (Every flower in this wreath was picked on our Easter Sunday walk in the hills on the outskirts of Athens. They were all growing wild on the side of the road.) There are very few ferries running on Easter Sunday since most people are with their families. There may be one boat a day to and from some of the popular islands and a few boats to the Saronics. People who stay in Athens until Easter Sunday and then want to leave town to celebrate in the country have to drive. From Monday until Wednesday it is nearly impossible to get a flight or ferry back from the islands and the roads are full of returning Athenians. Athens gets busier and busier and if finally back to normal with traffic and horns blaring as people get back into the swing of city life with renewed vigor. Besides being the holiest time of the year Easter also means that in a few weeks it will be summer.

Ka-LO PA-ska=Happy Easter

There are several family-run hotels that invite guests to celebrate Easter with them. This is a great way to actually take part in Orthodox Easter instead of just being a spectator.

On the beautiful island of Lesvos you can join the Greek-Canadian Hahathakis family who own the Hotel Aphrodite Beach in Vatera for a an island Easter celebration that will not only have you taking part in the ceremonies but also learning how to make the various Easter dishes and exploring the island. The Grand Finale is a lamb roast at the beach with live Greek music. The price: 360 Euros per person for everything! See Easter on Lesvos

If you are planning to be in Greece for Easter be sure to make your reservations well in advance. Most of the hotels on the islands are booked full for that weekend as are ferries and flights.

Original Article

Categories: Greece, Travel Tags: Tags:

New Year’s Eve in Times Square

It’s bone-shatteringly cold. Approximately 1 million people are packed in tighter than commuters on a 6 train during rush hour. Mostly, they stand around waiting. Heck, they’re not even allowed to drink champagne.

Still, it’s no wonder that many New Yorkers and visitors want to spend at least one New Year’s Eve in Times Square. To people all over the world—an estimated 1 billion–plus viewers, in fact—Times Square is New Year’s Eve, the backdrop to a lifetime of Dick Clark (and, more recently, Ryan Seacrest)–hosted TV specials, the place where the ball drops, the fireworks explode and the streets are bathed in a ton of confetti. And we don’t mean “a ton” as in “a lot”—we mean an actual ton, as in 2,000 pounds.

So if you choose to be part of the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve party this time around, here are some essential tips to ensure that your experience is memorable and pleasant. (For more details, visit the Times Square Alliance website, our main source for Times Square dos and don’ts.)

The Basics
The famous illuminated Waterford Crystal ball—which can display more than 16 million colors and billions of patterns—drops from a flagpole atop 1 Times Square. The Alliance recommends watching on Broadway between West 43rd and West 50th Streets and on Seventh Avenue up to West 59th Street. Be sure to arrive early, as police officers close down streets as they fill up. (Here’s a rundown of last year’s street-closure times.) Those who score the choicest spots typically arrive before 3pm; the ball rises to the top of the flagpole at 6pm, and by 10:30pm, it’s nearly impossible to find a spot with a view of the ball. Spectators with disabilities should take special care to arrive far in advance, as the designated accessible viewing area—at the northwest corner of West 43rd Street—fills up quickly, too.

Last year, entertainment for those awaiting the New Year and its accompanying pyrotechnics included live music, hourly countdowns and even midnight-smooch practice. Expect more of the same as you ring in 2012.

Take the Train
Public transit is by far the best way to reach the celebration, but try to detrain at a stop other than 42nd Street/Times Square and walk the rest of the way. That subway station in particular becomes uncomfortably crowded on New Year’s Eve.

Wear Comfortable Shoes
We know you want to look nice on New Year’s Eve, but no one is going to see your feet in this crowd. If you arrive early enough to get a good viewing spot, you’ll be standing for many hours, and a pair of Reeboks will serve your tired feet much better than a pair of Manolos. Whatever comfy shoes you wear, just make sure they’re closed-toe (and accompanied by a thick pair of socks), or it won’t be long before your feet go numb.

Leave Your Bag at Home
The cops won’t let you past the barricades with a bag, period. Plus, you’ll be glad not to have any accessories weighing you down.

Bundle Up
It’s going to be very, very cold, and the temperature will continue dropping as the hours pass. Wear more layers than you think you’ll need. The Times Square Alliance website actually references GORE-TEX® by name, which tells you everything you need to know about the conditions in Times Square on December 31.

Fuel Up
You can’t reclaim your viewing spot if you leave the area, so grab a bite beforehand on nearby Restaurant Row or elsewhere—but make sure you’re sufficiently nourished and hydrated for the long haul once you join the throng.

Visit the Restroom in Advance
There are no portable public bathrooms in the viewing area, so be sure to go before you arrive.

Have Cool Friends
It won’t hurt to like the people you’re with and have plenty of conversation topics ready—it’s going to be a fun night, but a long one, too.

Of course, if Times Square isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other ways to ring in 2012—especially in New York City. For example, you could catch a concert, take a cruise or see a comedy show. However you choose to celebrate, have a great time. Happy New Year!

By: NYC The Official Guide

Christmas in Austria

Christmas is undoubtedly the most important holiday in Austria.
As in other European nations, December 6th is the day Saint Nicholas, the giver of gifts, makes his rounds. Arrayed in a glittering Bishops robe and accompanied by his devilish assistant, Knecht Rupnecht, he can occasionally be seen roaming the streets giving sweets and apples to good children while his companion playfully beckons “little sinners” to feel the string of his golden rod.
On December 24th, when the city is frantic with last minute shoppers, the countryside is a refuge for quiet traditions. Farmers chalk the initials of the Three Wise Men on the archway of the stable door; C for Caspar, M for Melchoir, and B for Balthazar, to protect the heard from sickness in the coming year. Christmas trees are lit on this day and in many villages “shelter-seekers” plod through deep snow from farm to farm re-enacting the plight of Mary and Joseph as they sought shelter on the eve of Christ’s birth.
In the snow-covered Alps, families descend from their mountain homes to the valley below, illuminating the night with torches held high to light their way in the darkness. Carolers gather in church towers and village squares to guide the people to Christmas services with their melodies. All shops, theaters and concert halls close their doors for this is an evening spent with only with family.
Following church services, families return home for their more intimate celebrating. First Christmas Eve dinner is served, often with “Gebackener Karpfen” (fried carp) as the main course. Dessert may be chocolate and apricot cake called “Sachertorte” and Austrian Christmas cookies called “Weihnachtsbaeckerei” (yes, this is the actual spelling).
After the meal, the ringing of a bell signals the opening of a door long locked against the anxious eyes of the little ones. For the first time the children are permitted to witness the Christmas tree glistening with lights and colored ornaments, gold and silver garlands, candies and cookies. Beneath the tree is usually arranged an elaborate manger scene. Almost every family owns hand- carved manger figures handed down from generation to generation.
Father opens the Bible and reads of the “Kristkindl,” Christ Child. Then all sing traditional Christmas carols such as “Silent Night” and “O’Tannenbaum.” After this the presents are distributed and opened.
In Austria, there is no Santa Claus. Children are taught that their presents have been brought by the “Kristkindl,” a golden-haired baby with wings, who symbolizes the new born Christ. The story tells how the Christ child comes down from heaven on Christmas Eve and, with his band of angels, decorates and distributes trees.

christmas tree

Image by peminumkopi via Flickr

Christmas Eve at Weikersdorf Castle

Not far from Vienna, you can experience a traditional Austrian Christmas Eve celebration which the whole family will love! Get into the yule time spirit, with a White Christmas in the beautiful Austrian alps.
Christmas Eve at the Castle of Weikersdorf in Baden regularly sells out weeks in advance, so you’ll need to book ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

Not far from Vienna, you can experience a traditional Austrian Christmas Eve celebration which the whole family will love! Get into the yule time spirit, with a white Christmas in the beautiful Austrian alps.
Likely to Sell-out! Christmas Eve at the Castle of Weikersdorf in Baden regularly sells out weeks in advance. Book ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
Travel from Vienna to the distinguished Renaissance Castle Weikersdorf in Baden. Take your seat at the table to enjoy a delicious four-course dinner, including glazed Christmas-turkey ‘Viennese Style’ while a live band entertains you with traditional music.
After your Christmas dinner, take a short walk to St Christopher’s Monastery of Heiligenkreuz, where midnight mass will be celebrated. This is followed by the Austrian Christmas Eve tradition of recreating a Nativity scene.

Before the night is over you will be presented with a gift as a souvenir of your wonderful night of celebrations.

Salzburg Christmas Eve Tour to the Silent Night Chapel

The most famous Christmas carol of all time ‘Silent Night’ was written as a poem in 1816 by an Austrian priest called Joseph Mohr. The story behind this is magica itself. The St Nicholas chruch organ at Oberndorf had broken a few days before Christmas, so the priest after considering the options decided to give the poem of Silent Night (Stille Nacht) to his friend Franz Xavier Gruber and the melody for Silent Night was composed and it was composed on a guitar!!
Travel through the foothills of the Austrian Alps, along the Salzach river valley to Oberndorf, where you will have the opportunity to take part in a touching Christmas celebration in the Silent Night Chapel.

The church is small accommodating only 12 – 15 people inside, therefore the Holy Mass will be celebrated on the outside of the chapel.







Christmas Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride from Salzburg

Take one of those excursions to take you along the Salzach river valley past many of Austria’s ski resorts. Near Schladming, location of the 1982 Ski World Championships, you will ascend up to the ‘Steirische Ramsau’ 3,281 feet (1,000 meters) above sea level at the base of one of the Alpine glacier massifs – the Dachstein. In the village there is time for a stroll in the frosty fresh air and lunch in one of the local inns. Your guide will give you advice on all of the possibilities. Then you will hear the jingling bells on the reigns as the sleighs line up across the field and your winter sleigh ride begins!






Enhanced by Zemanta