Tour East

This month we are travelling with Tour East to unique parts of Asia. They are experts in travel to China for the past 40 years! Travel to China on this group journey of her key sites staying in good value accommodation with English speaking guides. From the Great Wall and Forbidden City in Beijing to the Terra Cotta Wariors in Xian to the city of Suzhou, once called the Venice of the East, where you can explore classical gardens and gain insight into the silk trade before continuing on to the picturesque town of Wuxi. Head onward to Hangzhou to discover this cultural gem and city of lore before traveling to Shanghai for a city tour. Complete with English speaking guides, many meals, and more!

 

A Take on Thailand

Travel Thailand uncover a country of contrasts. Offering plenty of everything from the vibrancy of Bangkok to rural villages and hill tribes to the idyllic southern islands.

Thailand is the sort of place you visit once and long to return.
Surround yourself with un-believable scenery – fascinating history – delectable food – beaches –
mountains – cities – villages and  most important – the 
amazing people who are so grateful you have arrived to visit their special country.

With hundreds of islands scattered through the sparkling Andaman Sea  the gorgeous Gulf of Thailand – deciding which island  to visit can be the most difficult decision of the day.

From waterfront stalls to the largest weekend market in the world, Bangkok has shopping to suit anyone’s taste and budget.

Positively massive in size, breath taking at every turn. Deserts and towering peaks –  temples & bustling markets – tiny villages – sprawling cities – history and  modernity all rolled up into one –  crowds and places so remote you won’t find another human  for miles – Thailand encompasses all this and much more. Don’t expect to absorb this magnificent land all at once. Dive in and allow it to seep into your skin.The sheer diversity of experiences to travellers when in Thailand – creates memories to last a life time.

Things to do in Reykjavik

From a vibrant art and music scene to a treasure trove of world renowned cultural and historical attractions, Reykjavík boasts endless opportunities for fun and adventure. But where best to start?  Find out in our Must Do  List of attractions found in and around Reykjavík.
Reykjavík (translated to “Smokey Bay”) is the northernmost capital of the world, comprised of a population so minute that it hardly amounts to a city. But, despite being home to fewer than 200,000 inhabitants, Reykjavík presents a wealth of sights and activities that appeal to culture, nature and nightlife enthusiasts alike.

As with any city, the choice for activity is truly plentiful; so plentiful, in fact, that no list could ever fully summarize all of the experiences on offer. The following list is recommended for those looking to relax, soak up the Icelandic culture and make memories to last a lifetime.

 Visit Reykjavik’s Swimming Pools

From the mighty glaciers to the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean to the steaming geothermal pots, Iceland is a land that, in many ways, is defined by water. What better way than to connect to Icelandic culture then emulating the locals and visiting one of Reykjavik’s local pools? Thanks to Iceland’s renewable energy policies, the use of water in large capacities (ie; for swimming pools/saunas) is very cheap, therefore making it a favourite past time amongst Icelanders. That passion results in 18 swimming pools being located in the greater Reykjavík area alone! Some of these pools have both an indoor and an outdoor pool, a sauna and at least one hot tub (some even have as many as 7 or 8!) Thankfully, the pools have heated water, making them accessible all year round. Think of Icelandic swimming pools as more like a luxury spa than your everyday communal pool at home. For the entry price of only 900 ISK, this might be the cheapest spa you’ve ever come across. Additionally, if you’re looking for something a little more natural, there is the geo thermally warmed up water by Reykjavík beach, Nauthólsvík, and a small foot bath called Kvika, found by Grótta Lighthouse. Both of these small pools have free entry.If you’re staying in central Reykjavík, the obvious choice would be to visit Sundhöll Reykjavíkur, situated only a few hundred metres behind the mighty Hallgrímskirkja Church. This swimming pool, housed in a building dating back from 1937 (the oldest pool within Reykjavík) is currently being renovated with a brand new outdoor pool and will be open again in August 2017. Another popular pool for people staying in central Reykjavík is Vesturbæjarlaug, the swimming pool in the west part of the city. This is an outdoor pool with a few hot tubs and a couple of saunas; a popular hangout spot for locals and travelers alike. There’s also a lovely café situated right across the street from the pool, Kaffi Vest that is perfect for a warm up after relaxing in a hot tub. A third one, and the largest pool in Reykjavík, is Laugardalslaug pool. This one is situated within Reykjavík’s recreational centre, Laugardalur, where you can also find: a sports hall, a botanical garden, a family park & zoo, a sculpture museum, a large gym (World Class), a spa (Laugar Spa) and a skating rink. Given the wealth of attractions on offer here, Laugardalslaug is the perfect place to bring the whole family. Given the sensibilities of our foreign guests, one thing to be aware of is that you will be required to get naked with the locals before entering the pools. This is not some peculiar ritual, but strictly hygiene. The showers are gender separated, but since there’s a very low level of chlorine in the swimming pools, everyone is required to wash thoroughly before taking a dip. If you try to avoid it, you will most certainly be told off by a local or even one of the bathing guards! Perhaps the best thing about Reykjavík’s swimming pools is that they can be enjoyed all year round and in every type of weather. You can perfectly enjoy a soak in an outdoor hot tub, even if it is -5° outside and snowing!

Visit Hallgrimskirkja Church

Towering over the centre of Reykjavík is Hallgrímskirkja church, visible from almost every angle of the city and therefore making it very easy to find. At the top of this 74.5m expressionist building is a viewing platform boasting 360° views over the entire city. Along with the view from Perlan on Öskjuhlíð hill, this is probably the best view you will get of the city, expect from the air. The tower is open daily, except on Sundays when there are services for mass. This is an operating church so the tower may sometimes be closed due to services or concerts being held inside. Entry to the top is 900 ISK for adults but 100 ISK for children aged 7-14. Traveling to the top is free for younger children.The church, the largest in Iceland, is named after pastor and poet Hallgrímur Pétursson, author of the Passíusálmar (The Passion Hymns). Its architecture is inspired by the beautiful basalt columns of the Svartifoss waterfall in South Iceland. The building was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, one of Iceland’s most well-known architects, and houses the largest concert organ in Iceland. The concert organ is 15m tall, has 5275 pipes and weighs 25 tonnes! The building was opened in 1986. Also take note of the beautiful entrance door and glass art, designed by local artist Leifur Breiðfjörð. In front of the church is a statue of Leif Eriksson, who discovered North America in the year 1000, more than 500 years before Columbus.

Explore the City by Foot

From Hallgrímskirkja church you’ll want to explore the nearby streets of Reykjavík’s city centre, best explored on foot or by bike. To truly soak up the culture, you’ll want to make sure to visit the main shopping streets; Laugavegur, Bankastræti, Austurstræti, Lækjargata, Skólavörðustígur – all easily accessible in the central area of Reykjavík.If shopping is your thing in particular, I heartily recommend the many outdoor clothing chains selling extreme wear and outdoor gear. Such companies as 66° North, Cintamani, Zo-On and Ice Wear can all be found in this area.You will also find Icelandic design to be extremely fashionable; you can catch up with the latest trends in shops such as Kraum, Spaks Manns Spjarir, Aurum, Herrafataverzlun Kormáks & Skjaldar, Verslun Guðsteins Eyjólfssonar, GK, Aftur and Jör.Away from the shopping, there are numerous other neighbourhoods in Reykjavík that are worth exploring. The Neighbourhood of the Gods (Þingholtin) is a good example; these are the residential streets between Hallgrímskirkja church and the city pond.The names of the streets in this neighbourhood all stem from Nordic religion and you can find Odin’s Street (Óðinsgata), Thor’s Street (Þórsgata), Loki’s Path (Lokastígur), Freya’s Street (Freyjugata) and a number of others. You’ll also find colourful houses, luscious gardens and plenty of street art, and will most likely bump into one of the resident cats (cats are very common pets in central Reykjavík.) Reykjavík’s city pond (Reykjavíkurtjörn, or for short Tjörnin) is popular with travellers, especially bird enthusiasts. In winter, the pond sometimes freezes over, meaning people can cross, go ice skating or even make a slippery football field. Right by the city pond, there is City Hall, where you’ll find Guide to Iceland’s tourist and travel information centre, as well as a large and informative 3D map of Iceland.South of the city pond, one will find both the Nordic House and the University of Iceland. The Nordic House is Reykjavík’s only building to be designed by an internationally famous architect, Finnishborn, Alvar Aalto. You’ll often find exhibitions or live music at The Nordic House, as well as a tasty restaurant. Further south, you’ll come to the sea and can walk along Ægissíða street. Travelling east, you will pass the domestic airport, heading towards Nauthólsvík beach and the forested Öskjuhlíð hill. Here, you can easily grab an excellent vantage point of the city by visiting the Pearl viewing platform. Alternatively, you could head further west towards Grótta with its lighthouse, beach and scenic foot bath (walking all the way to Grótta is a rather long and laborious; you might want to have a bike or, at the very least, set aside a whole day for your exploration).Austurvöllur Square is just north of the city pond, an excellent spot to gather with friends and family. On sunny days, people come here to drink beer and sunbathe, whilst during national celebrations, concerts are held. When people are upset politically, they come here to protest the Icelandic parliament, located just by the square. One side of the square is lined with cafés and shops and just behind the parliament building is Reykjavík’s oldest church, Dómkirkjan.Whilst treading the city streets, why not head towards the picturesque Old Harbour? Here, you can easily learn about Iceland’s marine life and even book a whale watching trip. If your stay in Reykjavík happens to cover a weekend, you could also visit the city’s very own flea market, Kolaportið, an eclectic marketplace where once can buy a hand knitted wool jumper (lopapeysa) – a must have souvenir!The flea market is located down by the Reykjavík harbour and has a lot of interesting stuff for sale, including many local delicacies. The shellfish is particularly recommended. The atmosphere is lively and good bargains can be made between 11:00 and 17:00 on Saturdays and Sundays.A little further ahead you can find Grandi, Reykjavík’s ‘fish packing district’, where old fishing factories and boat repair shacks have now turned into trendy shops, cafés, start-up companies, museums, restaurants and even breweries. Here is an example of the city’s ever-changing face.While here, you could visit Valdís for one of the best ice-creams in town, have a locally brewed beer at Bryggjan Brewery, or sit down for some Japanese tea at Kumiko. You could also check out the Marshall House, the Whales of Iceland Museum or Aurora Reykjavík Museum. Also look out for the stunning street art on Vesturgata and visit the grassy hill, Þúfa, an outdoor art piece by Ólöf Nordal.

Go On An Adventure

Reykjavík is a city of pleasant surprises. You can try discovering its hidden treasures on your own, or team up with some locals who, more than often, are eager to show you around.You could, for example, explore Reykjavík’s food scene and savour some of the countries most delicious delicacies. Alternatively, you could go on a scenic helicopter ride over the city where you might make a sightseeing stop on top of one of its surrounding mountains. You can also choose to go on a walking tour to explore this colourful and quirky city culture by joining a free City Walk Reykjavik, only a 2 hour tour.Other popular tours in and around the city include the whale watching and puffin tours as well as horseback riding tours. The most commonly sighted whales in the Faxaflói bay next to Reykjavík are minke whales, humpbacks, porpoises and dolphins.  On some tours you may also be able to visit the islands off the Reykjavik shore, the most famous of which is Viðey, home to the Lennon/Ono peace-tower. Various seabirds also frequent the shore and the islands, such as gannets, gulls, cormorants, the arctic tern and of course the puffins (only in summertime).

Experience Reykjavik’s Nightlife

Depending on who you ask, the Reykjavik nightlife is either famous or infamous. People party into the early hours and after closing, the streets will still be full of drunk party people, either trying to find their way home or to an after party.From Sunday to Thursday, cafés are open until 1 in the morning, but on Friday and Saturday nights, places stay open until 5 in the morning. A number of bars and cafés offer live music at night, and the city is bustling with all sorts of live entertainment, be it: stand up comedy, theatre, opera, drag shows, cabaret performances, musicals and even poetry brothels! Weekly, there are live jazz sessions in a number of cafés around town. Every Sunday night, there’s jazz at Bryggjan Brewery. Every Monday night, at Húrra, Tuesday nights at Kex Hostel and every Wednesday night at Peterson SuiteMúlinn jazz bar at the top of Harpa Concert Hall is also worth checking out. Rosenberg Reykjavík is a jazzy music venue that has events almost every night of the week, except Sundays when they are closed, ranging from live blues, jazz or folk performances to regular cabaret variety shows. Gaukurinn has a weekly stand-up comedy show in English on Monday nights and is also the venue of choice for the local drag scene, where our very own blogger Wanda Star makes a regular appearance. Tjarnarbíó and Iðnó are great venues for theatre, music and dance performances, located on either side of the City Hall. And Bíó Paradís is the city’s art cinema, often screening classic Icelandic films with English subtitles, as well as weekly party screenings of international classics. There are 2 film festivals in Reykjavík, Reykjavík International Film Festival (September/October) and Stockfish Film Festival (February/March.) Besides these regular events, there are endless amounts of one-off night outs; you can always see our weekly top picks, as well as a list of all festivals in Iceland in our article Top 10 festivals in Iceland.

Eat Your Way Through Reykjavik

Reykjavík has some truly outstanding local and international cuisine. You can find restaurants that specialise in seafood or grilled meats and besides Icelandic restaurants, there are also great Thai, Italian, Indian, Mexican, Japanese or even Ethiopian restaurants to be found within the city.Local cuisine focuses on seafood and lamb, and you can never go wrong by ordering the fish of the day in one of Reykjavík’s restaurants. However, if you feel like trying out something different, then you can also try whale meat, sheep heads or cod heads. Delicious! One of the most popular dishes at Matur og Drykkur is the cod’s head cooked in chicken stock. Try it, you won’t regret it.If you are not vegetarian or, by principle, averse to whale hunting, you can try out some whale meat. There are many restaurants that serve whale meat, particularly down by the Reykjavík harbour. One of these (a very affordable choice) is the Sægreifinn seafood restaurant, where they even serve whale kebabs.And if you’re into trying a different type of food then you are used to, then why not check out some of the traditional Icelandic cuisine. At the BSÍ bus terminal, in the shop Fljótt og gott, you can purchase the traditional boiled sheep’s head for a very moderate fee.One person’s disgusting food may be the other’s delicacy. The most notorious food in Iceland is probably the fermented shark. The shark is usually washed down with a shot of Brennivín, Iceland’s own black death schnapps. This is often seen as a sort of a rite of passage or proof of strength, and a particularly popular dare for Icelanders in regard to foreign visitors. Find some fermented shark in the flea market Kolaportið, open every weekend.Most people on your travels will recommend that you grab an Icelandic hot dog. The hot dog stand Bæjarins bestu (“The Town’s Best’), near Reykjavík harbour, has a reputation for selling the most delicious hot dogs in Iceland. There is usually a long queue there, particularly in the afternoon and on weekends, but most foreignvisitors claim these sausages to be the best in the world. Just ask Bill Clinton and James Hetfield, just two of the stand’s most well-known guests. A classic is to get “eina med öllu” i.e. “one with everything”: remoulade (a mayonnaise-based sauce), mustard, ketchup, crunchy onions and raw onions. Whatever your preferences, if you like a good hot dog, this is the place to go, and it won’t break the bank.Good cafés; there are far too many to list them all, but you could check out Kaffi Vínyl for records and vegan food, Café Loki for traditional Icelandic food, Stofan for a cosy atmosphere, Kaffibrennslan for people watching, Babalú for a drink on the balcony, The Cuckoo’s Nest for a weekend brunch, Svarta Kaffið for tasty soup served in a bowl made of bread, Peterson Suite or Loft Hostel for the views or Reykjavík Roasters for some of the best coffee in town – just to name a few…And your trip wouldn’t be complete without trying the cinnamon buns from the bakery Bread&Co!

Visit the Harpa Concert Hall/Old Harbour

Harpa Concert and Conference Hall is an impressive glass building situated by the old harbour of Reykjavík. It’s worth visiting this iconic building for its architecture alone, as you’ll be able to admire it both from the outside and inside and get some great pictures.It’s also worth checking out what’s taking place in Harpa during your stay in Iceland, as you might be able to see the Icelandic Symphonic Orchestra during a rehearsal or attend a concert with some of Iceland’s most famous bands.Harpa is the sole venue for the electronic music festival, Sónar Reykjavík; it’s also one of the venues for Iceland Airwaves and hosts Reykjavík Fashion Festival, Eve Fanfest and events and talks during Design March. At the end of 2017, it will be hosting an artistic residency for 6 days by Icelandic band, Sigur Rós.Multiple multicultural celebrations take place in the building and at night it’s lit up with a moving LED artwork by Ólafur Elíasson. The lights on the façade of the building have also been used in an interactive way, such as when people could control the lights by playing a light organ, splash a colour of their own on the lights through their phone or play the computer game, Pong.

Immerse Yourself in Art & Culture

It’s not just in Harpa and in the live performances that you can find some art in Reykjavík. Museums, galleries, outdoor sculptures and street art are all widely available; take your pick!The sculpture, Sun Voyager (pictured above), is a popular attraction, nestled along the seaside close to Harpa Concert Hall. The sculpture has a fantastic view towards Mt Esjan. If you keep your eyes peeled, you will likely be able to spot a number of other sculptures around town. The two largest sculpture museums are the Einar Jónsson Museum (next to Hallgrímskirkja church) and Ásmundur Museum in Laugardalur recreational area. There are a few other smaller sculpture museums around town, such as Hallstein’s park (Hallsteinsgarður) in Gufunes, and in Hólmasel in Breiðholt. You could also take a stroll along Grandi and visit the outdoor sculpture, Þúfa, a green circular hill that you can walk to the top of and get great views towards Harpa Concert Hall. There are also dozens of art museums and smaller art galleries. The largest ones are Reykjavík Art Gallery, Kjarval Museum and the National Gallery of Iceland. The newest member of this institutional family is the Marshall House. Besides these larger institutions, you can also find smaller venues dotted around such as: Mengi, Berg Contemporary, i8, Art Gallery 101, ART67 Gallery, Gallery Fold and Gallery List, just to name a few. On top of that, amazing street art has been blossoming in recent years, with mesmerising artworks taking over entire sides of buildings all over town. If it’s history and culture you’re looking for or simply knowledge about Iceland’s rich nature and wildlife, then you can also choose between a number of historical museums, such as the Saga Museum, the National Museum of Iceland or the open air Árbær Museum. To learn about nature, visit the Maritime Museum, Whales of Iceland Museum or Aurora Reykjavík: The Northern Lights Centre.

Explore the Green Areas and Public Parks

There are numerous green areas and parks you can visit in Reykjavík. Public gardens in the city include Hallargarður and Hljómskálagarður, by the city pond, as well as Klambratún/Miklatún, surrounding the art museum, Kjarvalsstaðir. These are popular areas for outdoor games throughout the summer time.Another popular destination all year round is Grótta, with its iconic lighthouse and views over Faxaflói bay and Reykjavík’s signature mountain Esjan (and even Snæfellsjökull glacier on clear days.) You can even find a foot bath (Kvika) in amongst the rocks by the seashore; the perfect spot to keep your feet warm whilst sipping on a drink (BYO) and watching the Northern Lights.  If you want to submerge yourself in water inside the city limits (but still maintain a view towards the ocean) then head towards Nauthólsvík beach. There is a warm wading pool by the sand, as well as a warm tub by the sea – if you’re brave enough, you can go for a swim in the ocean! Changing facilities are on site as well as a café serving light snacks and drinks. Right next to Nauthólsvík is Öskjuhlíð hill, where you can stumble across some remains of old bunkers, found just in between two crooked forest trails. Keep an eye out, you might even see a rabbit or two. Then there’s Elliðaárdalur, right in the middle of the city, where you can try your hand at fishing or have a picnic by a small waterfall. Elliðaárdalur is popular with locals that go jogging or cycling through this inner-city paradise. Venture a little further out of town into Reykjavík’s outskirts and you’ll find Rauðhólar (Red Hills) and Heiðmörk. The red and black hills of Rauðhólar have beautiful colour contrasts, and you can choose to go on a volcanic landscape horse riding tour through this beautiful area all year round. Heiðmörk is a nature reserve that’s filled with greenery, caves and secluded bbq picnic areas. In order to reach these two locations, you’ll need to take a bus from downtown, rent a car or go on a long bike ride.

See the Northern Lights

Iceland is one of the best places in the world to experience the rare and gorgeous Northern Lights. You may be able to spot them from downtown Reykjavik, but the best place to see them within the city limits is by the seaside at Seltjarnarnes. There, you will be away from the street lights and be able to take in the full majesty of the experience. The area of Grótta is particularly nice; many birds nest there and there is also a charming old lighthouse, perfect for photography enthusiasts. Anywhere you can get as far as possible away from the city’s light pollution is a good location, so make sure to pick your spot along the coastline, looking out towards the sea. Here you can find more information about the northern lights and all northern lights tours in Iceland. The northern lights can only be seen between late August and early May, so if you are here in the summertime, you can enjoy the midnight sun instead.


Travel Package to Reykavik, Iceland

A Foodie’s Paradise

Bagels, pizzas, cronuts and cupcakes: there’s no better way to learn about New York City’s multi-cultural heritage than through your taste buds. For a big bite of the Big Apple, here’s the lowdown on what I discovered and tasted on my various New York adventures and should be included on any food-lover’s trip to NYC.

1. Pizza

Italian immigrants brought pizza to NYC in the early 1900s, and it has been a New York specialty ever since. New York pizza is all about a thin and floppy base, fresh with a light mozzarella and a classic marinara sauce. Pizza connoisseurs say there’s something about the New York water that makes the dough taste so good, but size also counts here: 14 inches is often classed as a ‘small’!

Roberta’s (261 Moore St, NY 11206). This pizza joint in a quiet backstreet in the hipster Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick has been graced by the likes of Bill Clinton, as well as star couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Roberta’s specializes in large wood-fired pizzas and uses fresh herbs and vegetables picked from the restaurant’s garden. Try my favorite ‘Famous Original’ with caciocavallo cheese.

Lombardi’s (32 Spring Street, NY 10012.). Old-school charm and coal-fired ovens, Lombardi’s is in the ‘Pizza Hall of Fame’ not only as a legendary New York restaurant, but as the first pizzeria in the US, selling take-out slices for workers in Lower Manhattan as early as 1897. For something different, try the fresh clam topping or the White Pizza which has a mix of mozzarella, ricotta and romano cheese.

2. Bagels

Chewy on the inside, shiny and crispy on the outside; there’s an art to creating the perfect bagel. Brought to New York by Eastern European Jews in the 1880s, the city boasts some of the best bagels you’ll find anywhere.

Absolute Bagels (2788 Broadway, NY 10025). Satisfy your bagel craving with sixteen different types to choose from including: pumpernickel and cinnamon raisin, garlic and poppy seed. It’s a great budget place to grab lunch if you’re saving your cash for the sights – grab a basic bagel and cream cheese and head to one of New York’s beautiful city parks to enjoy it.

Murray’s Bagels (500 Avenue of the Americas, NY 10011). ‘We don’t toast’ is the company motto here, which in itself is testament to the freshness. Be sure to try the gourmet Eastern Nova Scotia salmon and cream cheese bagel sandwich, a little pricey but worth every bite.

3. Hotdogs

German butcher Charles Feltman first started selling hotdogs in Coney Island in 1871. Since then, the hotdog has become a traditional New York food and shows no sign of waning.

Crif Dogs (113 Saint Marks Place, NY 10009). The flavours here will blow your mind! For sweet-and-salt with a kick, try the Spicy Red Neck – a bacon wrapped dog with chilli, coleslaw and jalapeños. You can also dress your dog with avocado, sour cream, pineapple, melted cheese and much more. For a surprise, see what’s behind the secret door in the phone booth…

Nathan’s Famous (1310 Surf Avenue, NY 11224). Nathan’s Famous has served up their kosher beef hot dogs for over ninety years. Ask for the original sausage and add some thick, crinkle-cut cheese fries for the full experience. Nathan’s has food trucks and diners all over town, from the Yankee Stadium to Coney Island, so you’ll never be far from a quick ‘dog on the go.

4. Doughnuts and Cronuts

Homer Simpson really was on to something: New Yorkers go crazy for doughnuts, so much so that the City Reliquary Museum once held an exhibition in their honour! Some claim the first New York doughnuts came over with Dutch settlers as early as the seventeenth century, but the latest development in this sugary love affair is the croissant/doughnut hybrid that became a phenomenon in 2013, known as ‘The Cronut’.

Dun-Well Doughnuts (222 Montrose Avenue, NY 11206). This famous organic vegan bakery has over 200 different flavours in rotation including Chai Tea, Raspberry Pistachio, Root Beer and Mexican Chocolate.

Dominique Ansel Bakery (189 Spring St, NY 10012). If you want to see what the cronut craze is all about, come to the place where it was invented – they’ve trademarked it to make sure you know it! Cronuts come in many flavours and there’s a new exotic flavour each month, such as strawberry balsamic and mascarpone with basil sugar. Arrive early as lineups can get long even before the 8am opening time.

5. New York Cheesecake

There is cheesecake, and there is New York cheesecake. In 1929, restaurant owner Arnold Reuben claimed his family invented the first cheesecake. Word soon spread and this cream cheese concoction began appearing on dessert menus all over town.

Junior’s (386 Flatbush Avenue, NY 11201 and other locations). Open since 1950, the old slogan goes: “you haven’t really lived until you’ve had a cheesecake from Junior’s” and the giant portions and fluffy consistency keep fans coming back. The all-American Strawberry Cheesepie is amazing!

Eileen’s (17 Cleveland Place, NY10012). If you have dietary requirements, such as gluten-free or dairy-free, call ahead and Eileen’s will cater for you. You can also pre-order one of the fancier, cocktail-inspired flavours like Pina Colada or drop in for favourite varieties like Blueberry and Cookies and Cream, as well as the delicious, zingy original.

6. Pastrami on Rye

Kosher butcher Sussman Volk produced the first pastrami sandwich in 1887 and it’s been an iconic New York dish ever since. Pastrami is usually made from beef, and to prepare it, the meat is pickled with dry herbs and spices then pressed, smoked and steamed.

Katz Delicatessen (205 East Houston Street, NY 10002). Open since 1888 and made famous in the film When Harry Met Sally, Katz Deli is the place to come for a pastrami sandwich. There are cheaper (hot) sandwiches out there, but you’ll be rewarded with tender slices of beef pastrami stacked between soft rye bread with lashings of mustard on top and sour pickles on the side..

7. Cupcakes

The earliest mention of cupcakes was in an American cookbook in 1796, with instructions on how to bake cakes in small cups. The trend for cupcake shops in recent years means competition is fierce, so there’s plenty of temptation for cake fanciers on a trip to New York.

Magnolia Bakery (401 Bleecker Street, NY 10014). Featured in episodes of Sex and The City, this is the place to sample a perfect red velvet cupcake with decadent cream cheese icing.

Crumbs Bakeshop (Grand Central Station and various locations). There are over 50 different flavours at Crumbs and for those with an appetite, there’s even a colossal six-and-a-half inch high cupcake!

8. Burgers

Legend has it that the first hamburgers were served to homesick German sailors in the 1800s to remind them of their hometown, Hamburg. If you’re after a juicy patty, New York restaurants – and even the most cheap and cheerful of diners – serve up some of the finest in the world.

Balthazar Restaurant (80 Spring Street, NY 10012.). Perfectly grilled with a thick slab of melted cheese and a side of crunchy fries, at a hefty $21 the ‘Balthazar Cheeseburger’ is pricier than those you’ll find at fast food joints, but definitely worth it.

Shake Shack (Madison Square Park and other locations). The Shake Shack chain has spread all over the world, but started off in New York in 2004. Go for a 100% all-natural Angus beef burger or take a veggie option with the Portobello mushroom-filled ‘Shroom Burger, and be sure to get crinkle fries on the side.

9. Brunch

New Yorkers are crazy about brunch and frankly, it would be a sin to go to New York and not sample the pancakes, French toast and other lazy breakfast delights. Brunch is usually served from around 11.30 or 12pm and can run up until 3 or 4pm.

Clinton St. Baking Company (4 Clinton Street, NY 10002). Famous for their fluffy blueberry pancakes with warm maple syrup. Get ready to reach the dizzying heights of gastronomic goodness.

Roebling Tea Room (143 Roebling Street, NY 11211). A cosy Williamsburg tea room with an extensive brunch menu. Creative dishes mix savoury and sweet flavours including baked cheddar eggs with raisin fennel toast and apple butter and a smoked salmon plate with pumpernickel bread.

10. Wildcard options…

With so many places to eat in New York, it’s hard to narrow it down to just ten choices. If you’re after something unusual, why not try one of these alternative NYC restaurants?

Veselka (144 2nd Avenue, NY 10003). A Ukrainian restaurant that’s open 24 hours a day! Try the pierogi (stuffed dumplings) with sour cream, fried onions and apple sauce.

Kenka (25 St Marks Pl, NY 10003). Great Japanese food, crazy décor and a tiny cup of pink sugar with the bill so you can use the vintage candy-floss machine on your way out.

Angelica Kitchen (300 East 12th Street, NY 10003). Goodness on a plate, Angelica Kitchen describes its offerings as ‘organic plant-based cuisine’. It caters for the kosher, vegan, organic, raw and gluten-free palates. The huge menu rotates daily and includes curries, sushi, chilli and fabulous desserts with gluten-free options such as double chocolate walnut cookie.


TOURS

Food and Culture Walking Tours available from Columbus World Travel

North of Little Italy

Godfather, graffiti & good eats in this hip neighborhood filled with Little Italy’s secrets

Tour the cozy corners of New York City’s Nolita (the area North of Little Italy) where old-world charm meets a youthful downtown vibe. Taste mouthwatering eats from undiscovered spots that specialize in traditional recipes and century-old techniques.

Walk the same streets as John Gotti and Martin Scorsese while visiting sites made famous by The Godfather. Get a glimpse of the cobblestone streets of NoHo (North of Houston St. in the East Village) while continuing to taste from restaurants off the beaten path.

Taste Roman style pizza, Brooklyn blackout cake and authentic Mexican street food. Between the bespoke boutique stores, cute cafes and remarkable restaurants, you’ll want to move in and never move out.


The Best of Brooklyn: Half-Day Food and Culture Tour Bus Tour

An exclusive history and gastronomy lesson complete with Brooklyn Bridge views

Start with a drive and history lesson, through Greenwich Village, while getting great views of the famous Washington Square Park.

Follow the trail of NYC’s immigrant groups from their beginnings on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and then cross over the Williamsburg Bridge to see where they’ve settled. Capture gorgeous views of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Observe the Hasidic Jewish Population in their cultural enclave and note their traditional attire. Hear about North Williamsburg and its invasion of youthful & artistic hipsters who are reviving this food-focused area.

Visit Greenpoint, featuring one of largest Polish populations, and enjoy a feast of kielbasa sausage and pierogies. Watch our favorite Pizzaiolo prepare a delicious brick-oven pizza and taste chocolates at the famous Jacques Torres Chocolate Shop.

Contact for more details

☎︎ 604-255-7781   ☎︎ toll free 1-800-661-8005

Italy Escorted Tours

Let Columbus World Travel and Globus send you on a grand adventure with one of our Italy tour. High-end hotels and VIP access to wondrous attractions give you an Italy vacation in style – from the ancient ruins of Rome to the scenic Amalfi Coast. Our Italy tours provide an inspired vacation without the hassle and stress of planning, so you get an Italian vacation unlike anything you could plan on your own. Savor a Parmesan cheese tasting in Parma and balsamic vinegar tasting in Modena, just a couple of the unique experiences on your tour of Italy. Globus tours of Italy are the premier way to experience this European gem.

Tuesday, June 13th, 6;30 to 8:30pm at 1503 Commercial Drive

Space is limited so please R.S.V.P. by Sunday, June 11th, to 604-255-7781

or at info@clumbusworldtravel.com

Join us for an informative evening hosted by Globus and Cosmos Tours and Avalon Waterways. Learn why escorted tours are such great value, and may be just what you are looking for, for your next vacation. Meet likeminded travelers and share some of your experiences.

This is just a sample of what you will discover during the evening:

ITALIAN ESCAPE – 7 Day Tour from Rome to Venice

Experience the passion of Italy on an escape…without the crowds and without the high-season prices. You’ve heard about Italy—its mouth-watering cuisine, excellent wine, fabulous art, splendid beauty, ancient ruins, extraordinary statues, and remarkable architecture—and now it’s your turn to experience it all! On this Italy tour, get a taste of what the country has to offer and explore its most famous cities: Rome, Florence, and Venice. Have your camera ready as you discover the historical sights of Rome – St. Peter’s Basilica; the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, world-famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling paintings, as well as the Colosseum, the amphitheater used for deadly gladiatorial contests. Take a step back in time as you get up close to ancient buildings and ruins and imagine what life was like thousands of years ago.

Enjoy a walk through the Old Town of Assisi, and visit St. Francis Basilica, before arriving in Florence, known as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and often referred to as the art capital of Italy. Here, enjoy a guided walking tour that includes a visit to see Michelangelo’s famous David. Spend time shopping for local Florentine goods, and then marvel at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. In romantic Venice, bask in the sun on a private boat ride and visit the must-see sights, such as St. Mark’s Square and Basilica, the Doges’ Palace, and the Bridge of Sighs. You’ll also have time to explore the maze of streets and discover hidden treasures in their back alleys. Or relax at an outdoor café in St. Mark’s Square and enjoy this prime people-watching spot.

Throughout this Italy tour, Globus has arranged VIP access, so rather than waiting in long lines, you’ll get right to the front at all the famous sights. This gives you more time to experience the sights and more time to taste Italy’s sumptuous cuisine, shop for Italian goods, explore the stunning churches and museums, and participate in optional excursions. Just imagine the memories you’ll create on this fabulous Italian vacation at a price that’s as enticing as the wine and tiramisù!

**** NYC raffle information as well ****

Win a Trip to New York City


It’s back, Columbus World Travel’s annual giveaway.
Two airfare tickets to New York City.

Winner will be announced 30 June, 2017 

How to Enter 

Facebook

  1. Follow us on Facebook @columbusworldtravel
  2. Share and tag your ideal travel partner 

Instagram

  1. Follow us on Instagram  @columbusworldtravel
  2. Like the photo
  3. Tag 3 friends

Email

  1. First and Last Name 
  2. Email 
  3. Phone Number 
One entry per person for the above channels. 

The Fine Print

  • Raffle is open to residents of British Columbia only.
  • Participant must be minimum 18 years of age
  • Participant agrees to supply a valid e-mail address and to receive a weekly newsletter from Columbus World Travel.
  • Participants agree to have their photograph shared on our social media pages [ columbusworldtravel.com, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus &  Instagram].
  • This prize is non-transferable and has no cash value.
  • The prize must taken as awarded otherwise the win is NULL and VOID.
  • Travel is based on space available at time of booking and must be requested by December 01, 2017
  • Flight Validity – July 01, 2017 to June 30, 2018
  • The travel dates will not be extended.
  • Travel black out dates – Nov 26-29, Dec 17-Jan 3, Feb 15-19, Mar 14-28, subject to availability and flight schedule
  • Columbus World Travel reserves the right to offer a comparable flight in the event the trip described is unavailable due to circumstances beyond Columbus World Travel’s control.
  • Prize Draw will be held Friday, June 30th, 2017 

*Please be advised that all participants are to enter online, in store or at the following community event.*
11 June 2017 – Italian Day

Watch for more updates.
Good Luck!


Contact
☎︎ 604-255-7781
☎︎ toll free 1-800-661-8005

Zika Free Destinations for 2017

With each new warning about the dangers of the Zika Virus, it may be tempting to postpone your trip to Central and South America or the Caribbean, but keep your vacation days blocked on your calendar as all three of these destinations are home to some countries not currently affected by the outbreak, making them a safe choice for a vacation without Zika worries for travelers. Check out our list of getaways across Europe, the Americas and the Pacific which are all Zika free as of today but remember to keep an eye on the Government of Canada website https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/travel-health-notices/152 for updates.

Azores
Named one of the top places to go in 2017, this Atlantic island chain located two-thirds of the way to Portugal appeals to adventure travelers, beach bums, and Europhiles alike. The nine volcanic islands use the euro and speak Portuguese, but more importantly, offer hikes through hedges of blue hydrangeas, wine-tasting tours, and breath-taking whale-watching lookouts. These islands have so much to offer, you can’t go wrong.

Cyprus
European tourists have flocked to Cyprus’s beaches for years, and Canadians are finally catching on. With average daily temperatures in the mid to high 20’s celsius , Cyprus is beach-friendly as late as October, but pack a sweater, as nights can get chilly. If you tire of the Mediterranean sun and sand, (is that even possible?) you can head further inland into the pine and almond filled country sides.

Madagascar
If you seek an indulgent African beach vacation, opt for Madagascar. The island offers opulent resorts like the Miavana Island Sanctuary opened this year, and strong tourism infrastructure in place, the world’s fourth-largest island is one of those spots you’ll want to visit before your friends find out about it. Madagascar is home to the bug-eyed lemurs, geckos, giant moths, and other exotic fauna making it a hot spot for environmental travelers as well.

Bermuda
With pink sand beaches and pastel-colored homes, Bermuda is a pristine island with a strong British feel. The beautifully preserved town of St. George, Britain’s oldest town in the New World, is a World Heritage Site that also happens to have world-class shopping. Are you a golfer looking to practice your swing? The island is known for its golf, boasting some of the most challenging and scenic courses in the world. If on the other hand you are an action junkie, you will want to snorkel around the shipwrecks off Elbow Beach and hit the 22+ miles of bike trails.

Uruguay
Head to Uruguay’s interior and stay in an “estancia”, a working ranch, to experience gaucho life in the pampas. You’ll get an insider’s look at how these famous cowboys work with cattle and herd sheep in what are essentially the dude ranches of South America. Then head to the coast where the city’s capital, Montevideo, boasts a beautiful 19th-century opera house, Teatro Solís, on the outskirts of old town Ciudad Vieja. This area is also rich with beautiful old churches, Art Deco buildings, and museums.

Chile
Chile really does have something for everyone. Sightsee in urban Santiago, drive into the nearby Andes for world class skiing, head into the Atacama Desert to stargaze with astronomers, or pass through Chile’s vineyards to get to the coastal towns of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso Oh, and did we forget to mention trekking in Patagonia or visiting Easter Island? This South American country offers everything you may want and more.

Seychelles
It’s hard to go wrong on this Indian Ocean archipelago, straight north of Madagascar. Wander over the dramatic rock formations along Anse Source d’Argent on La Digue Island, explore the thick tropical forests of Praslin islands, snorkel with sea turtles, or simply relax at private island resorts like the new Six Senses Zil Pasyon. If you were thinking about heading to the Maldives, where Zika is a problem, the Seychelles are a comparable but Zika-free option.

Maui, Hawaii
It’s the best island in the U.S., according to our Readers’ Choice Award 2016 results, and has held that spot for the last 23 years. The choice of activities are endless, from lounging on the beach with no plans to snorkeling, hiking, and swimming in waterfalls all day, it means there’s something for everyone on the second-largest Hawaiian island. Beach bums can check out the #1 resort in the state, the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, while the outdoorsy, adventurous types should head out on the Road to Hana, a 68-mile scenic route that hits most of Maui’s most striking natural features, like the Seven Sacred Pools.

Australia
Are you looking for a more urban beach adventure? Head to Sydney, Australia, where you’ll want to check out the rock pools in addition to the classic sandy beaches like Bondi. Australia hasn’t seen the spread of Zika like its Southeast Asian neighbors, so you’ll be able to enjoy the serious food scene out on the patio without worrying about mosquitoes ruining your vacation.

Mallorca
In the summer, Mallorca is packed with European tourists. But, in the winter, you’ll find the classic Mediterranean blue waters, mountain views, and quaint cobblestone streets without the crowds. The lowest temperatures of the year hit in January and fluctuate in the 15 to 18C range, so it still won’t be too frigid for beach walks and boat rides.

New Zealand
New Zealand’s South Island is seeing a big boom in tourism thanks to some breathtaking Instagram shares of the mountains, but the beaches and wine regions have caught our eye also. You may want to skip this if you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, but adventurous travelers should head to Queensland for an adrenaline infusion before taking a break to sink their toes in the warm sands.

How to Pack Any Bag in 15 Minutes

We are starting to think about summer vacations and packing can make even the most seasoned traveler tremble a little. Packing one suitcase doesn’t have to take hours.

Pack efficiently, and lightning fast, by following these steps.
Whether flying halfway across the globe or driving an hour for a quick weekend getaway, packing is an unavoidable chore. And unless you’re blessed with monk-like minimalism and supreme foresight, it always ends up taking too much time. With this in mind, we share the best tricks and tips for cutting down packing time, for any bag, to a matter of minutes. Here, our trusty guide to streamlining the tedious process.

Step 1 : Always, always use a packing list
Compose your own or use one of many handy apps, which considers trip activities and local weather to generate lists. This time-saving step will prevent you from emptying out your whole closet or forgetting something crucial and once you customize, you’ll use it for endless trips to come. Added bonus: nothing is more cathartic than crossing items off a list.

Estimated time: We’re not going to count this one, because you could easily do this while commuting to and from work, or while half-watching reality TV. Read on.

Step 2: Keep toiletries and essentials pre-packed if at all possible
Liter-sized transparent bags are ideal for zipping through security. When it’s time to pack, you can just reach under your sink and grab them. Replenish after each trip so you’re set before your next one and not running out to get TSA-approved liquids at the drugstore or forced to toss that larger-than-allowed shampoo bottle you had hoped to sneak on.

Estimated time: Less than a minute

Step 3: Bring clothes that mix and match easily
A solid travel uniform, whether it involves a neutral color palette or avoids loud prints, will make for effortless styling and double (or triple) the outfit options using fewer pieces. For a long weekend, you can always get at least five great outfits from four tops, three bottoms, two pairs of shoes and if you’re a woman, one dress. For a longer trip, one to two weeks, add a few tops and maybe another dress or pair of shoes if there’s a fancier occasion involved. Jeans and pants can generally be worn multiple times without needing a wash. Remember to wear the bulkiest items, like boots and outerwear, while traveling to take up less luggage space.

Estimated time: 10 minutes

Step 4: Lay everything out before even opening your suitcase
This way, you can see it all at once and pare down if needed. You can also strategize where each type of item will go in your bag: Start with the heaviest items toward the wheels or bottom of bag, and cushion anything fragile in the center, this goes for hard and soft suitcases as well as duffel bags.

Estimated time: This can be done while choosing items in the previous step, taking up no additional time

Step 5: Select a luggage that you can comfortably handle and pack it in
To flat pack or roll? It seems this debate will never die, just remember that a strategic combination of both will allow you to pack everything in snugly, anything left loose results in wrinkles. Durable clothes like jeans, tees, and sweaters can be rolled to fit between crevices and around harder items, while delicate dresses, blouses or suits can be flat packed in plastic dry cleaning bags to minimize wrinkles. For those who want to leave room to bring back souvenirs, compression bags can be a game-changer: Although not as glamorous as shoe bags, use grocery bags to wrap up footwear so it doesn’t get the rest of your clothes dirty. And don’t forget to make use of any “dead space” by storing sunglasses and other small objects inside shoes.

Estimated time: 5 minutes

Take it from experienced travelers, once you have the first few steps of prep done, the whole process will go much faster for future trips. You may even find yourself packing your bag in less time than it took to read this article.

Travel Tips and Tricks for First Time Travelers

Everyone remembers the thrill and excitement of their first time travel
experiences, whether it’s traveling somewhere for the first time ever, visiting a
new destination, trying a new experience or staying in a new type of accommodation.

To get the most out of visiting a new destination, we have come up with a list of top tips for first time travelers following global research from the most creditable source, our clients who have been there, done that and have the passport stamp to prove it.

Be bold.
Don’t just book the holiday you think you should be going on. You are never too old or too young to visit a new city, go backpacking or venture out alone. It is never as challenging as you think it will be, disregard all the obstacles and do what you want to do!

Get the authentic experience.
Make sure you indulge in the local culture and try not to keep to the well-beaten tourist tracks. A great way to soak up the local atmosphere is to head to a restaurant away from the main drag, hot spots and ask the waiter to recommend their most popular dishes. Almost a third of first time travelers revealed that trying the local food was one of their favourite tips to give friends and family.

Be prepared well in advance.
Check if you require a Visa well ahead of departing from home. Some Visas require more effort and money than others, so make sure to check the relevant government website. Same applies for passports. Check your passport’s expiration date before you travel as certain countries require at least 6 months validity to enter.

Better to be safe than sorry. 
Take pictures of your passports, Visas and travel insurance and email them to yourself, just in case you lose them.

Be vigilant with your money. 
Always stash some money or a spare credit card in case you lose your wallet. Hide it away in a money belt or in a secret compartment in your travel bag. Many of our travelers agree that a secret stash of cash is one of the most important tips for those planning their first trip.

Get acquainted with the language. 
If you don’t speak the local language, a helpful trick is to download Google Translate to your mobile phone. It will take away the pain of wild gestures, furrowed brows and raised voices. You might also want to consider learning a few key phrases before you head out, especially words to help navigate travel, bookings and ordering from menus.

Pack less.
Always pack less than you think you will need. Many travelers regret packing too much when they leave the country. At least two days before you go, lay everything out on the bed that you think you will need, then put away a third and pack a travel bottle of washing detergent instead. Pack layers and put comfort first, especially when it comes to shoes!

Be mindful what you pack.
Check the luggage allowance before you fly and if necessary, pack heavier items (like chargers and cameras) in your hand luggage. If you’re heading somewhere hot, it’s worth packing a light sarong. It can be used for anything from a pillow on a long bus journey, something to cover your shoulders with when visiting a religious site, to blankets in the evening and a towel at the beach.

Sharing is caring.
When traveling with friends or family, share some of your clothes out amongst your bags. That way if a bag is lost, you’ll still have some items to wear.

Research, research, research.
Research local scams to watch out for – whether it be particular tour companies to avoid or how to get a reputable taxi from the airport. Many first time travelers feel researching local safety advice is an important part of any holiday prep.
Also, make sure to research the phone number of the Canadian consulate in the country you’re staying in, and keep it with you throughout your stay. And if worst comes to worse the international emergency number is 112, even if the phone is locked or it’s not showing any service provider.

Meet other tourists. 
If you’re traveling on your own, the best way to meet new people while traveling is by staying at social able accommodations such as hostels, B&B’s and family run hotels. There is a misconception that these accommodations are dangerous, dark places where masked killers attack innocent tourists. It might feel daunting at first, but traveling for the first time is all about exhilaration and pushing your boundaries.

No expectations.
Trust your gut, be open minded and don’t expect to experience anything in particular. If you’re heading somewhere for the first time, you’ll never really know what’s in store but go with the flow and enjoy. Remember to just relax and enjoy every single minute of this adventure.

Take a chill pill
Be flexible and don’t overdo the scheduling. Flexibility is key when traveling as you never know what kind of experiences will come your way, if the weather will take a sudden turn or who you may meet in your travels.

Take a mental picture instead
Get your eyes of your cellular device or camera and look up! Enjoy the landscape, the architecture, the sky and perhaps most importantly, read the signs in the airport. If you’re always looking through a camera lens or at your phone you’ll miss some of the most important moments of your trips. The moments that will make you feel fuzzy and excited even when you return home.

Avoid the extra charges 
Remember to let your bank and mobile provider know that you’re heading abroad too to avoid any card cancellations or surprise bills. Checking in with your bank and mobile provider is one of the most important tips to remember ahead of a trip abroad.

We hope these tips are helpful and if you have any others that we missed please share them with us so that we can in turn share with our followers.

Why Visit Australia in (Their) Winter?

Why Visit Australia in (Their) Winter?

Australia, just saying the name conjures up images and emotions.   Located in the Southern Hemisphere, where the toilets swirl backwards and the seasons are the opposite of home, and where you are secretly dreaming of visiting. Even if it is winter there we have some very compelling reasons (excuses?) to finally visit the Land Down Under, even during their “cold” season…

The weather is still wonderful and by “cold”, we mean not really cold. Australia, for the most part, is a pretty warm place, even during the winter Sydney normally hits a low of about 10 degrees Celsius and it’s even warmer in northern areas, where it mostly just gets less humid and rains much less. You’ll still be able to join surfers and swimmers at Manly Beach, catching waves until the winter sun falls into the sea.

Australia’s winter weather is better for some things, especially longer road trips. You may have heard that Australia’s Outback is a scenic yet steaming desert, which is why it’s best to see this beautiful part of the country during the winter months. Rent a camper van and take a major league road trip from tropical Darwin to Ayer’s Rock, it is said that it’s the closest you can get to driving on the moon while still on Earth. Another option would be to take a smaller but still spectacular 150-mile trek along the idyllic coast of the Great Ocean Road. You may need an extra blanket for sleeping in your van, but it’s better than roasting inside it during the 100-degree December heat.

Australia also hosts wonderful winter festivals, the greatest of which is VIVID Sydney, the largest party of lights, music and ideas in the Southern Hemisphere. Taking place in late May or early June each year, VIVID features free nightly light shows and incredible art installations, sparkling LED-decked boats cruising the harbor, live music, creative conferences, and the sails of the legendary Sydney Opera House illuminated with mesmerizing 3D projections.

If VIVID is not for you there are also other amazing and occasionally odd festivals. Vivid is followed by film and winter festivals in June and July. Aboriginal culture is celebrated with the August Amhem Land’s Garma Festival. Darwin hosts the ridiculous Beer Can Regatta, and yes, the boats are made our of beer cans, in early July. Then Katoomba becomes the most un-Grinch town as it celebrates Christmas in July, during Yulefest.

For summer sports, winter down under, is still warm enough to do all the water activities Australia is famous for surfing, swimming and snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. If sandy beaches and warm clear waters are not your thing, Australia offers other options too, with the snow skiing available on its peaks at top resorts like Mt. Buller and Perisher. Two sports so rough and fun they can be played at any time of year, Rugby and Australian Rules Football (a.k.a. “Footy”) are at the summits of their seasons during the winter months. If you don’t know the rules it doesn’t matter; there will be large men in short shorts punching oblong balls and each other as loud, excited fans scream at them. Simply find the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground, or a neighbourhood pub, for a match, and pick a team to cheer for.

Unlike Northern Hemisphere birds, the whales of the Southern Hemisphere migrate north for the winter, passing very near many parts of Australia during their quest to breed. The best whale watching kicks off in May in New South Wales and Tasmania, and in June in Queensland and Victoria. Book a boat tour to see them breach and splash up close.

If you need another important reason to head to Australia in their winter, your wallet will thank you for it too. Fewer tourists during the “off” season means better deals in June-August, and less crowded beaches, roads, and whale watching adventures. But don’t worry, the Footy matches and pubs will still be crammed with fun folks at any time of the year.

 

Majestic Beauty of Canada’s West Coast

How long has it been since you have taken time to explore the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains and Canada’s West Coast? 

With Anderson Vacations’ “Best of Canadian Rockies” travel through some of the most spectacular scenery in Canada on a fully escorted journey from the Rockies to the stunning Pacific Coast.

Your adventure begins in Calgary, then on to Banff for a visit to Canada’s first National Park.

The leisurely pace of Anderson Vacations Tours allows you time to explore Cascade Gardens and beautiful Bow Falls, visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site and ride the gondola up Sulphur Mountain to enjoy the unparallel view of the valley bellow.

Your days will be filled stunning views of the Bow Valley Parkway, Johnston Canyon, crossing the Continental Devide into Yoho National park, visiting Takakkaw Falls and the unbelievable blue-green hues of Emerald Lake, and catching unforgettable glimpses of wildlife. A highlight of your tour will be a visit to Lake Louise, surrounded by glistening glaciers and towering mountain peaks.

After the quiet beauty of Lake Louise you will have the opportunity to enjoy the fierce wildness of the Icefields Parkway which is voted as one of the most spectacular drives in the world. This winding road, that boasts a unique and irreplaceable landscape rich in history and natural beauty second to none, will take you to Peyto Lake and it’s baby blue water, and on to the Columbia Icefields and enjoy the experience of a lifetime with a ride on the Ice Explorer for a close up and personal look at the Athabasca Glacier.

Your stay in Jasper will give you time to ride up to Whistler Mountain on the Jasper Tram, enjoy a gentle walk down Maligne Canyon to see how the water has carved spectacular crevices out of the mountain. A short drive will take you to Maigne Lake, the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Anderson Tours also includes an evening float trip down the Athabasca River

As this tour meanders toward Vancouver you will have time for a stop at Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Enjoy the unique and unforgettable River Safari through Grizzly Bear Valley, right in the heart of the world’s only inland temperate rainforest. Here you can observe bears and other wildlife in their natural environment, without the constraints of gates and cages, from the safely of a boat mid river, giving you ample opportunity for that perfect photograph.

Your tour will end with a drive through the fertile Fraser Valley to Vancouver. This vibrant metropolitan, multicultural city is nestled between mountains, sparkling ocean and rainforests.

A city tour includes Stanley Park, Chinatown, English Bay, Capilano Park and the experience of the suspension bridge and the tree top adventure and the cliff walk.

Rediscover Canada

Join Columbus World Travel as we host Anderson Vacations for an informative evening. Be prepared to get bitten by the travel bug and rediscover Canada, this great country that we all call home.

Thursday, April 27th, from 6:30 to 8:00pm
1503 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
Please RSVP as space is limited.
P: 604-255-7781

This week we are continuing to highlight some of the wonderful tours offered by Anderson Vacations.

7 Day Haida Gwaii
Visit Haida Gwaii and experience a world of intrigue, adventure and undeniable breathtaking beauty!

The Haida have called these islands home for over 10,000 years. The voyage takes you through the Coast Islands, across the Hecate Strait to Skidegate and Queen Charlotte City. It is not unheard of for the Captain of the BC Ferry to spot whales when coming into the inlet and announce to the passengers that they can be seen. Be sure to have your binoculars and cameras ready! A local guide will accompany the group during your stay on the Haida Gwaii. We travel to Masset visiting Naikoon Provincial Park at the Northern end of Graham Island. At Tow Hill, a 20-minute walk can be taken to the Blow Hole along with a beach walk on Agate Hole along with a beach walk on Agate Beach and North Beach.

During your stay, visits will be made to The Balanced Rock, St. Mary’s Spring, and the new Haida Heritage Centre. The 26 million dollar centre is a series of long houses fronted by six traditional totem poles representing each of the 14 clans and is a celebration of the living culture of the Haida people. You’ll visit the Old Massett (Haida Indian Reserve) with time for shopping at the local stores featuring silver, gold and argillite carvings, prints and paintings. You will also travel to Port Clements an active forestry area. Here you will have time to visit the Forestry Museum and learn about the history and present conditions of the industry. In Skidegate you are treated to a traditional Haida feast in the company of local Haida residents.

8 Day Flavours of Quebec
Experience the many flavours of Québec – the history, culture and traditions are unique. View the majestic Laurentian Mountains, the mighty St. Lawrence River, Montmorency Falls and the pastoral Charlevoix Valley. Visit Québec City, the oldest walled city in North America and explore the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal and the famed Notre-Dame Basilica. Immerse yourself in the rich, diverse history of Montreal with a tour of the city. This afternoon board the deluxe motorcoach for a journey into the Laurentian Mountains and the stunning alpine resort of Mont-Tremblant. Take a short tour through this beautiful resort before checking in to your deluxe accommodation. After dinner take an evening stroll through the pedestrian village. Start one morning with a gondola ride to the top of Mont-Tremblant before departing for a scenic day of travel through the Laurentian Mountains. Take a leisurely journey to beautiful Québec City. Visit the magnificent Montmorency Falls, the world-famous shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré and view the pastoral farmlands on the romantic Île d’Orléans. Arrive in the walled community of Québec City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and enjoy a short familiarization tour of the city before dinner.  A leisurely morning guided tour of Québec City including Chateau Frontenac, Parliament Buildings, Plains of Abraham, Lower Village and Fortifications du Québec, will leave an afternoon  free for shopping and exploring galleries along the cobblestone streets of Old Québec City. This tour also allows a day for exploring the famous Charlevoix – Flavour Trail, a gourmet and shoppers delight. Visit farms, wineries, boutique cheese shops and sample freshly made bakery items and rich chocolate. In the village visit the galleries and cafes of the artisans of Charlevoix.

Anderson Vacations

Anderson Vacations takes you, our client, to every province and territory in Canada. We invite you to travel with us as you journey from coast to coast, through the rugged Rocky Mountains, the golden prairies, along the mighty St. Lawrence and into the Arctic Circle.  Canada’s 150th birthday will be celebrated this year and there’s no better way to join in on the celebration.  Choose from a range of popular Classic Escorted Tours, their exclusive Tours of Distinction or select your own journey with many Independent Travel options. With guaranteed departures and limited availability, make sure you book early. 

One of Anderson Vacations tour provides a combination of the Alaska and Yukon Full Circle tour with a cruise down the inside Passage with Holland America Line. Enjoy the stunning views as you travel by land from Calgary to Whitehorse and then relax as you cruise to Vancouver.

Or combine the colour, vibrancy and tranquility of an Arctic summer combined with a break in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city.

During the summer months, the Arctic awakens from its winter slumber and explodes with fireworks of colour, showing off its raw and pristine beauty. Led by the Inuit guide, the days will be spent looking out for whales and polar bears on a boat trip on legendary Frobisher Bay, kayaking in tranquil waters, and visiting museums and art galleries to learn more about the culture and history of the Inuit people of Iqaluit. This experience-filled tour to the Arctic will definitely leave you wanting more.

If meeting a polar bear is on your list of must do’s then Churchill, Manitoba, is where you need to go. Known as the polar bear capital of the world, a tour with Anderson Vacations will take you on an adventure right into the heart of polar bear country while exploring and traveling on world-famous Tundra Buggies.

These are just a sampling of the tours that we offer in conjunction with Anderson Vacations. In the next few weeks more tours will be highlighted.

Please join Columbus World Travel as we host Anderson Vacation’s for an informative evening. Be prepared to get bitten by the travel bug and rediscover Canada, this great country that we all call home.


Thursday, April 27th, from 6:30 to 8:00pm
1503 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
Please RSVP as space is limited.
P: 604-255-7781

info@columbusworldtravel.com

Places You Wouldn’t Have Visited 15 Years Ago [Part 3.]


The blog series continue with part 3. 

11. Montenegro
Less damaged by the Yugoslav Wars than some other parts of the Balkans, but a close ally of Serbia throughout, Montenegro has long been one of the most photogenic parts of the Adriatic world. That said, you could not have visited Montenegro the country in 2002 it did not exist. It emerged from its union with Serbia via independence referendum on May 21 2006. It has since become a sun-dappled seaside destination with a reputation for luxury hotels. 

12. Myanmar
A sterling example of a country coming in from the cold, at least in terms of tourism, Burma, to use its more popular name, endured a terrible second half to the 20th century, escaping British colonial rule in 1948, only to succumb to a coup d’etat and a military dictatorship in 1962. The men with guns stayed in control for almost 50 years, until a general election in 2010, and the dissolution of the junta in 2011, saw it tiptoe back towards democracy. Still scarred by its five decades under military rules, it has nonetheless leapt into tourist focus since the changing of the guard. Holidaymakers are keen to discover the Buddhist temples of Bagan (11th-13th century wonders, regarded as the “Angkor Wat of Burma”) and the near-mythical former royal capital Mandalay.

13. Sri Lanka
No bout of internal, civil conflict is ever exactly pleasant, but the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009) was thoroughly vicious, turning this fabled Indian Ocean island into a mass of despair and death. It pitted Tamil rebels in the north, seeking their own independent state, against the government, and dragged on for 26 years, eventually concluding with government victory in May 2009 amid accusations of genocide. You could certainly have gone to parts of Sri Lanka in 2002, not least the lovely south-coast city of Galle, with its Dutch and Portuguese colonial heritage. The north is only now beginning to open up to visitors.

14. Sudan
Would you have gone to Sudan in 2002? Good lord no. This North African country was listed by Canada (with good reason) as a state sponsor of terrorism; the USA even bombed a pharmaceutical factory in the capital Khartoum in 1998. Would you have gone to South Sudan in 2002? Definitely not! Not only did what is now the newest state on the planet not come into being until July 2012, 15 years ago, it was still in the midst of the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). You wouldn’t go there now either; South Sudan is still a conflict-torn firestorm. You can, though, go to the decidedly calmer Sudan. And you certainly should if you want to view ancient history at close quarters. Sudan has more pyramids than its neighbour Egypt and yet very few tourists to get in the way of your camera lens.

15. East Timor
This frazzled fragment of the Far East is only for the most intrepid of explorers, but it stands as the prime example of a country which has changed since 2002. It was in 2002 that it became the first new country of the 21st century, shrugging off Indonesia’s claim to its soil and its soul. The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, to use its full title, is the eastern half of the island of Timor. It spent the best part of half a millennium as a Portuguese colonial outpost, but was invaded by Indonesia (which owns the western half of Timor) as soon as it gained independence in 1975. Violence and suppression ensued, but Indonesia relinquished its grip in 1999, and May 20 2002 brought a rebirth. Ghosts of Portugal linger in the churches and architecture of what, unusually for the region, is a Christian state.

Places You Wouldn’t Have Visited 15 Years Ago [Part 2.]

The blog series continue with part 2. 

Angola
On the other side of the continent, Angola suffered a similar fate in the mid-Seventies, released from Portugal’s grip, only to fall prey to a firestorm within. The Angolan Civil War was longer and more divisive than Mozambique’s, and bled into the new millennium (1975-2002). Even now, this vast country is a niche destination, but the Canadian government travel advisory on it is surprisingly benign (“most visits to Angola are trouble-free; there is a low threat from terrorism”) and, should you choose, you can pay it a visit.

Beirut, Lebanon
It is perhaps fair to say that the Lebanese Civil War still dominates perceptions of Beirut. It raged between 1975 and 1990, and turned the country’s capital into a byword for death and destruction where westerners were likely to be kidnapped and held hostage. It echoed into the new millennium too, Lebanese president Rafik Hariri was assassinated by car bomb in 2005, in the year when the Syrian occupation of this little Mediterranean state finally ended. Even now, Lebanon still has its issues, and travel advice for Canadian visitors is a patchwork of troubled red hotpots. But Beirut has slowly been reclaiming its image as a “Paris of the Middle East” and is a splendid option for a city break on the beach. There are excellent restaurants and luxury hotels galore, including the five-star Four Seasons Beirut.

Northern Cyprus
Cyprus has been Europe’s sundered country for the best part of half a century, since July 1974, in fact, when divisions between the island’s Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot populations boiled over into a Turkish invasion of the northern half of the landmass. The infamous “Green Line” which still separates these two opposing halves has been in place ever since and was so fortified a barrier 15 years ago that no-one was permitted to cross it. However, border points were opened in April 2003, allowing islanders to pass between north and south. Tensions remain, with only Turkey recognizing the Republic of Northern Cyprus, and a barbed-wire border still running across the capital Nicosia. But as of 2003 tourists can pass a pleasant week in the upper potion of the country which has developed at a slower rate than its counterpart, and has a certain countrified charm because of it.

Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Balkans region was Europe’s blood-spot for much of the Nineties, and the tremors from the conflict which strafed the former Yugoslavia have continued to shake into the 21st century. Technically, Bosnia and Herzegovina announced its independence from the mother country in 1992, but had to fight its way through the Bosnian War (1992-1995) to make it reality. And it was still going through the aftershocks in 2007, bringing a lawsuit against neighbouring Serbia for genocide. Would you have visited it as a tourist in 2002? Almost certainly not! Should you go in 2017? Definitely, and not simply because Sarajevo is a fascinating and cultured capital whose history stretches far beyond military matters (even though it was the spark-point for the First World War as the scene of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in June 1914).

Kosovo
Another troubled shard of the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo could not be visited in 2002. At least, not officially, as it did not exist. Some would say that it still doesn’t. It declared its independence in February 2008, and has been recognized as a sovereign entity by 111 UN nations but Serbia is still refusing to accede to Kosovo’s claim, and its status remains ill-defined. The Kosovo War of 1998-99 was arguably the bloodiest and nastiest section of the Yugoslav Wars, culminating in the controversial NATO bombing of Serbian forces but Kosovo is now an intriguing option for tourism. 

Places You Wouldn’t Have Visited 15 Years Ago [Part 1.]

If you were to shape your existence by reading only the more lurid news headlines, you might believe that the world is an increasingly dangerous place. In fact, there are areas of the globe that, defined by war, conflict or tension at the start of this millennium, are now accessible to holiday makers. There are other destinations too which you could not visit 15 years ago, because, officially and legally, they did not exist. Here is an overview of countries, regions and landscapes which have only recently been added to our vacation map.

1. Iran
It still feels remarkable that a state which was included in George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” in 2002 should have become one of the planet’s hottest new travel destinations in 2017. But the fact remains that increasing numbers of British tourists are discovering Iran – and have been since July 2015, when the Foreign and Commonwealth Office lifted its blanket ban on travel to most areas of the country, and then-Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond saluted a “decreasing hostility under President [Hassan] Rouhani’s government”. Iran had been an all but impossible dream for western visitors since its Islamic Revolution in 1979, but its astonishing heritage has always transcended four decades in the international shadows. Not least because Persepolis, the Persian city founded in the sixth century BC, was one of the wonders of the ancient world.

2. Colombia
Wracked by drug wars and armed insurgency, Colombia was the part of South America you would not have thought of visiting at the turn of the millennium, even as interest in other areas of the continent boomed. The problem was the “Colombian Conflict”, which had inflamed the country since 1964, its bloodshed fuelled by the government’s struggle with guerilla group FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). But this has calmed considerably since the turn of the decade, and Columbia is now all but a mainstream destination, where Cartagena revels in colonial architecture, and some of the Caribbean’s best beaches proffer golden sands.

3. The Darien Gap
If many parts of Colombia were off-limits to tourists in 2002, its north-west corner was a death wish. The Darien Gap has always held a certain mystique. The narrow land bridge which links Central and South America is shared by Colombia and Panama, but it has long been difficult to cross, thanks to the activity of FARC forces, which were prone to kidnapping anyone who wandered into this area of swampland and dense forest. Indeed, the Pan-American Highway, the road which is supposed to connect Canada to Chile across the best part of 19,000 miles, is still a work in progress because its tarmac has not yet penetrated this lawless zone. However, the ceasefire signed between FARC and Bogota in the June of 2016 looks to have put a final end to the Colombian Conflict and tour operators are already inching into uncharted territory.

4. Colca Canyon, Peru
Peru has never endured the same level of notoriety as Colombia, despite trafficking and insurgency concerns of its own, but it had a notable militia problem in the Eighties and Nineties thanks to the Shining Path, a far-left group of the armed-and-dangerous variety. It was particularly active in the south of the country, in the impoverished regions of Apurimac, Ayacucho and Huancavelica – and even in 2002, you would have to have been fairly ill advised to visit Colca Canyon. This geographical star of the Peruvian south lays a twisting 100-mile drive north of the city of Arequipa, along an exposed Andean mountain road. Happily, it is now a keynote stop on many tour of Peru, even if its grandeur is still lost in the glow of Machu Picchu. Up to 3,270m in height from rim to valley floor, it can claim twice the depth of the Grand Canyon, and is a noted home of the majestic winged Andean Condor, that soar on its thermals.

5. Mozambique
This beautiful slice of south-eastern Africa exploded once it gained independence from Portugal; its brutal civil war (1977-1992) killed one million people, and displaced five million more. The devastation was such that, even a decade on from the cessation of hostilities, Mozambique was not a place for holidaymakers, its interior riddled with landmines. In parts, this is certainly still the case. But the country’s tourism industry has boomed in the last decade, thanks chiefly to its 1430 miles of coast on the Indian Ocean, and the beach resorts which have started to decorate it.

Tips to Help You Sleep Better

Tips to Help You Sleep on Flights and Arrive Better Rested
It is the bane of travelers getting on a plane for both business and pleasure—difficulty falling asleep in a seat, especially in coach, and the attendant horrors of jet lag after landing. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can decrease brain performance by 20 percent, so it’s crucial to anyone crossing time zones to rest as much as possible during the flight. Here are some tips for powering down (and getting at least a power nap) on a flight.

Plan ahead
Planning ahead, though it sounds simple, can be much harder in practice. However, it can make a huge difference in your ability to sleep well before a flight and on it. If you take the time to do things like pack, plan your transportation to the airport, and organize the things that need to happen at home while you’re away in the days leading up to a flight—not the night before—you will not be nearly as stressed-out, and sleep will come more easily.

Meditate
Recently, guided-meditation audio apps have been gaining a lot of popularity, and rightly so. It has been shown that these gentle talks help the brain to relax quickly, especially so when the listener is prompted to imagine they are using all of their senses. Say, if you are guided to a beach-side scene where you imagine hearing the waves, watching the sky, and smelling flowers and the salt air, it really helps you to disengage and fall asleep.

Pack lavender oil
I’m a big fan of lavender oil, it’s so calming, and is a great, simple thing to bring along on a trip. A small study was recently done that shows that people who inhaled 100 percent lavender oil before and during sleep had decreased blood pressure and deeper sleep patterns than those who didn’t. Put a few drops onto your travel pillow, apply it to your temples and wrists once you’ve settled into your seat, and prepare to dream.

Ignore in-flight entertainment
No matter how much you want to see the latest blockbuster, skip the movies and TV—the end result of staring at a screen during much your flight means that light is hitting your retinas, and telling your brain and body that it’s daytime, and sleep will be much tougher to achieve.

Make to-do lists
To train your brain not to race and worry when it’s time for rest, write down your to-do list well before bed. You want to get any obligations and important tasks out of your mind and onto paper during the day so that the mind is clear at bedtime.

Bring something comforting
To get great shut-eye on a plane, you’ll want the environment to be as comfortable and predictable as possible. If you have a travel pillow you love, always pack it when traveling. Its scent and familiarity will give your brain and body a behavioral cue that it’s time to relax and let go. The same effect can be achieved by a cozy scarf or sweater.

Cover your eyes
Wear a good-quality eye mask on your flight, there are many different models, so even if you think you hate them, if you shop around you’ll likely find one that’s comfortable for you. That little bit of light from a fellow passenger’s iPad two rows up can ruin your ability to fall asleep. The blue light from modern devices is very alerting to the brain, and absolute darkness prompts your body to produce melatonin.

Step away from the Scotch
While a relaxing adult beverage may be tempting, avoid alcohol. Having a drink in an airport lounge or on the plane is a reflex for many people, especially those who have anxiety around flying. However, it really messes with the quality of your sleep, so, close to bedtime, be conscious about drinking booze and caffeine, of course. Hydrate as much as possible.

Decrease the decibels
Though you’ve likely heard this before, earplugs are very important to have for your flight and your hotel stay while you’re traveling. Make sure to pack them in your carry-on, and, again, try different brands and designs until you find the ones that feel good to you. There is so much ambient noise on a jet—which is something airlines are working on muffling now—that you truly need to block out that sound, as well as screaming babies and unnecessary alerts from the cockpit.

Incorporate cardio
The relationship between exercise and sleep is very exciting, they are finding that the connection between the two is bi-directional; i.e., if you get enough of one, the other comes much more easily to you. The reality is that 40 percent of us are sleep-deficient. If you work to add an extra hour of sleep at night, you’ll be much more apt to exercise, and, when you do—especially before a flight—you will be able to doze off much more easily.

Bank sleep
 If in-flight snoozing is simply not an option, due to your utter inability to rest on a plane or because you simply must work while traveling, a little bit of prep work can help you stave off jet lag. You actually can bank sleep. Prioritize your sleep before a flight, and spend a little extra time sleeping or napping in the week before you depart. Lack of sleep really affects your immune system and the last thing you want on an important business trip or a long-awaited vacation is to get sick. Banking sleep beforehand will hopefully help mitigate the bad effects of jet lag.

Carnivale di Venezia 2017

Carnivale has just come to an end in one of the most beautiful cities of the world. Were you there to experience it first-hand like I was? If you weren’t, that’s OK! I’ve documented my experience and gathered together a list of useful tips that you can use for next year’s Carnivale! Or better yet, join me as I escort another small group in February 2018.

A little history, Carnivale is one of the most important festivals celebrated in Venice and its lengthy history dates back about a thousand years. During Carnival, Venetians both rich and poor could dress up with masks and become someone else for a short time, enjoying the fun of the festival in a relaxed and carefree way. Today, Carnival lasts about two weeks and always ends with “Fat Tuesday” (the day before Ash Wednesday). Years ago, however, it could start as early as December 26th, lasting for months! The typical greeting between those wearing the masks as they passed one another on the street was, “Good morning, Ms. Mask!” The most popular disguise (and that can still be seen today walking around the city during Carnival) was the Bauta, a simple white mask that completely covered one’s face, worn together with a triangular hat and a black coat. This was a mask that was also used on different occasions during Carnival: for example, the Venetian lords wore them so that they would not be recognized when out gambling (a very popular activity in the city at the time).

Carnival Today:
Today during Carnival you can see quite a variety of masks, ranging from the most traditional (such as the Bauta) to the Doctor of the Plague and Harlequin to name a few.

Modern masks are often inspired by real life current events, books or popular films of the moment.

The masks that now characterize the Venice Carnival worldwide are extremely elaborate: they completely cover the face, leaving only the eyes, and prestigious, bright colored clothing is worn.

They are also rather vain, proudly displaying themselves in Piazza San Marco, in front of the gondolas and the lagoon, or peeking out from between the columns of the Ducale Palace. Expecting to be photographed, they pose while dozens of photographers and tourists surround them, fascinated by their mystery and beauty. 

The Main Events of Carnival in Venice:
For anyone who is planning a trip to Venice, obviously the Carnival period is one of the busiest, but it is also one of the most beautiful and characteristic, enhanced by a full program of events. There are demonstrations in the streets – some of which are real pageants – to private masquerade balls that take place within luxury and antique Venetian palaces (these are, of course, are extremely exclusive affairs but tickets are available if that is something on your “Must do list”).

Here are some of the most famous and important events:
The Festival of the Marie: this festival takes place every year on the first Saturday of the carnival. It recalls the ancient tradition where, from all of the couples who were to be married in the coming year, the 12 poorest were selected to be dressed in rich clothing and paraded around the city in elegance.

Today, 12 girls, two from each district of Venice, are selected to parade the streets in beautiful period clothing and then the most beautiful “Maria” is chosen.

The Flight of the Angel or Dove: every year on the first Sunday of the Carnival, a company of Turkish tightrope walkers used to tempt their fate by walking on a rope that is strung between the bell tower of San Marco and a boat moored in the lagoon.

This tradition has since been replaced, and today a woman (usually a celebrity) descends from the bell tower of San Marco in a harness attached to a steel rope. This inaugurates the festival.

The Dance of the Doge: is one of the most exclusive events of the Venetian Carnival. This masquerade ball is held in Palazzo Pisani Moretta, one of the luxurious residences located along the Grand Canal. At the ball, it’s common to see international artists perform and there are also many VIPs who hide themselves behind masks and stunning costumes.

A Few Tips to make your Carnival more memorable:

1. Given that during Carnival, the city is crowded, my advice to you is to admire and enjoy the masks and Venice festival on the weekdays, I went on the last Monday, because on the weekends it is often difficult to make your way through the crowd. 

2. Obviously you can not visit Piazza San Marco because the heart of the festival is right there, but just wandering through the streets of the city to enjoy beautiful views and less tourist areas might allow you to stumble upon some masks that no one else has the pleasure of photographing.

3. Do not buy masks from the numerous little stands or souvenir shops: head to a store of real handmade Venetian masks. A hand crafted mask will certainly cost a little more, but this is the only way to have something that is truly “Made in Italy”.

4. Don’t forget to stop at a pastry shop and taste the sweets of the Venice Carnival: galani (sheets of fried dough that are dusted with powdered sugar) or frittelle which can contain a variety of fillings (chocolate, cream, zabaione, and the real Venetian fritelle contain raisins inside.)

Spring Break Destinations for Grownups

Congratulations you made it through the holidays. Now do something for yourself by planning an adult Spring Break that you can look forward to while it’s still chilly outside. Because really, why should kids have all the fun? Hear are a few popular beach spots and some emerging alternatives for 2017.

2016: Costa Rica
The Central America country continues to break its own world record in running purely on renewable energy, confirming even more its reputation for “pura vida”. Thanks to its cleanliness and reasonable safety, Costa Rica has long been a first time traveler, beginner-freindly destination, but its popularity means that it may be a spot that is better to visit during the rainy season that lasts until April.

2017: Nicaragua
A less developed destination is Nicaragua, with fewer zip lines and crowds, it’s worth considering. In addition to volcanos and gorgeous beaches, this country has a few undiscovered spots, lik the eco-conscious Jicaro Island Ecolodge and the more artsy Rancho Santana. You should plan a visit soon before developers start cutting the country in half with the construction of the Nicaragua Canal, that if completed , will forever destroy its fragile ecosystem.

2016: The Bahamas
Due to the easy access of flights to Nassau, the islands have long been popular with college and university students. You can still have a wonderful experience, especially at resorts like Kamalame Cay and the One & Only Ocean Club, winners of many awards.

2017: Jamaica
I’d recommend Jamaica as the place to unwind and recharge, Even if you are not the type to laze on a beach all day, the eclectic food scene is a must for adventurous foodies. This island has plenty to offer grownups looking for some R&R, from the Spice Bathing Ritual at the Rockhouse, or a seaweed wrap at Jake’s Hotel or the invigorating Blue Mountain Coffee scrub at the GoldenEye located in a sleepy lagoon on the northeast coast.

2016: Aruba

A gem in the Dutch Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles, Aruba has long been a favourite with its welcoming hotels and its temparate climate…a perfect destination for those who don’t want any surprises when traveling.

2017: Turks & Caicos

If you are looking for a place that has less crowds, the Turks and Caicos are for you. With only 8 of the 40 islands being inhabited, you’ll be sure to some quiet cove or beach.  If you leave Providenciales behind and head to Como Parrot Bay, you can explore the 1000 acre private island, or take a short 25  minute flight and check out the newly minted Sailrock Resort that opened last month. This resort will be your home base as you discover the unspoiled 8.2 square miles of South Caicos with the world’s third largest coral reef.

2016: Los Cabos, Mexico
This gem on the tip if Baja California Sur is a mecca for Spring Break. It’s been two years since Hurricane Odile created havoc in the area, all the resorts are completely restored and ready for you.

2017: Costalegre, Mexico
For a much more exclusive Mexican experience, head south of Pureto Vallarta, there you will find “Mexico’s Virgin Coast” overflowing with beaches, lagoons and untouched jungles. Preserving this region’s pristine flora and honoring some of the world’s greatest biodiversity are a couple of splendid resorts worth mentioning in the area are the Las Alamandas, with its 16 suites overlooking four private beaches and the Cuixmala, built in a Moorish inspired style and flanked by 25,000 acres of rare tropical forest

2016: St. Lucia
St. Lucia is home to the Pitons, a pair of volcanic spires, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, a collection of endemic plants and birds, and coastal rain forests and mountainous rainforests humming with wildlife and musical waterfalls.

2017:Anguilla
This Spring, the light shines brightest on the other end of the Caribbean’s string of islands: Anguilla.This island has remained wonderfully underdeveloped for a very long time, this eel-shaped islet has a few 5 star hotels worth mentioning, including The Reef by Cuisin Art which grows its ingredients from the property’s own hydroponic farm

Girls Only “Canadian” getaway weekend?

I find that the winter months are a perfect time for reconnecting and spending quality time with “the girls”. Take three days (or five) and get pampered, try something new or get reacquainted with the great outdoors. Here a few unusual suggestions, both local and some a little further a field. Contact Columbus World Travel and we’ll make your winter break a reality.

BE PAMPERED at:

Ste. Anne’s Spa, Grafton, Ontario

The quintessential girlfriends’ getaway involves spa treatments and plenty of pampering. Ste. Anne’s Spa, regularly ranked among the best spas in Canada, is the perfect place to relax with your friends. Ste. Anne’s is best known for the quality and variety of its treatments and its cozy country setting.

BE ACTIVE at:

Elkin Creek Guest Ranch, Nemaiah Valley, B.C.: If the girls are longing to escape to the great outdoors, but still want the comforts of an all-inclusive resort, this Nemaiah Valley property is the perfect destination. Take a horse for a ride, try your hand at fly fishing or take a sailboat out on the lake. This all-inclusive stay includes accommodation, three meals a day, use of the Ranch’s sauna and fitness centre and all activities.

EAT in:

Montreal, Que.: Combine culture with food during a girlfriends getaway in one of Canada’s top foodie cities: Montreal. From Montreal smoked meat sandwiches at the famous Schwartz’s Deli to streetside poutine to Montreal-style bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese at all-day breakfast joint Beauty’s, there is so much diversity and quality on the Montreal restaurant scene. Save room for wine and cheese, chocolates and fresh baked pastries.

DRINK in:

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.: Hire a car or appoint a designated driver and enjoy a day touring the many wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Ontario’s wine region is home to dozens of wineries, all within driving or biking distance, that offer tours and tastings of reds, whites and signature ice wines on-site. The estates of Inniskillin, Konzelmann and Jackson-Triggs are especially worth a visit.

ESCAPE to:

Sonora Resort, Sonora Island, B.C.: If you really just want to get away from absolutely everything, consider a vacation at the secluded Sonora Resort. From kayaking to bear watching to fly fishing, lovers of the outdoors will find plenty to keep them busy. Indoors, guests have access to a gym, mineral pools, wireless Internet service and the Island Currents Spa. Three meals daily are included in the price of your stay, as are snacks, appetizers, beer, wine, liquor and non-alcoholic beverages.

REMINISCE at:

Green Gables House, Cavendish, P.E.I.: Bring back memories of being young and discovering the adventures of Anne Shirley for the first time with a visit to Green Gables House in P.E.I. As Lucy Maud Montgomery’s inspiration for Anne’s adoptive home with Marilla and Matthew, this house now attracts visitors from around the world.

SUN & SAND in:

Wasaga Beach, Ont.: The world’s longest freshwater beach (14 km) awaits you and your friends on long, sunny summer days. Located on Georgian Bay, Wasaga Beach is a great place to relax waterside and offers beach-side shopping, entertainment and dining options for when you need a break from the rays.

GOLF at:

Predator Ridge, Okanagan, B.C.: The 36 picturesque holes of championship golf offered by Predator Ridge are an ideal place to play, while the luxury accommodations at Predator Ridge Resort really complete the package. Both suites and cottages with access to an outdoor hot tub and swimming pool, dining area, spa and clubhouse are available to guests.

SKI at:

Mont-Tremblant, Que.: Just an hour from Montreal in the Laurentian Mountains, Mont-Tremblant is one of Canada’s premier winter destinations and a great place for girlfriends to escape to. Enjoy your apres ski with the fine dining and nightlife options offered in the village.


The best gifts and souvenirs to bring home from your travels.

Travelers always want to bring home something that will remind them of their trip — but many often get stuck buying cheap knick knacks from tourist traps. To avoid getting something you’ll only throw away in a few months, we’ve rounded up a list of some authentic items you should buy when abroad. 

Forget key chains and mini Eiffel Tower sculptures, here are the “real” best things to bring home from around the world.

Argentina: Leather goods
Argentina is famous for its leather products, so it’s a perfect place to pick up a pair of leather gloves, some leather shoes, or a leather wallet. The country has plenty of small boutiques where you can buy quality leather goods. 

Belgium: Lace
Belgium is home to some of the best lace and tapestry studios in the world. Belgian lace is all handmade, and often involves using over100 threads per bobbin. The cities of Brussels and Bruges are both known for their intricate lacework

China: Tea Pots
Anything relating to tea would be a great souvenir to bring home from China. A painted tea pot or tea cups would be a beautiful memento, but you could also bring back a tin of authentic Chinese tea to continue to enjoy at home. Opt for green tea, black tea, brick tea, scented tea, and oolong tea.

England: Cadbury’s Chocolate
Cadbury’s chocolate is a perfect gift to bring home since many agree that it is the best chocolate in the world. Plus, the Hershey Company just banned Cadbury’s chocolate in the United States — so it will be an extra special treat for any American friends.

France: Macarons
They won’t last long but macaron cookies are a wonderful souvenir to bring back from France. There are hundreds of places to buy macarons around France, but the ones from Pierre Hermé are arguably the best. Try the unusual flavors from the ‘Jardins’ collection.

Germany: Beer Steins
This is a fairly common souvenir to bring back from German, especially during times like the German Oktoberfest. Beer steins are typically made from stoneware, porcelain, pewter, and sometimes even glass. There are plenty of local stores in cities around Germany that sell authentic handmade beer steins.

Greece: Olive Oil
Greece is famous for its virgin olive oil production, and it is used in almost all of Greek recipes. One of the best places to pick up authentic Greek olive oil is the Kritsa Lassithi agricultural co-operative in the island of Crete. The co-op makes world-famous olive oil, which is often referred to as the ‘Rolls Royce of oils’. If you don’t want to bring back traditional cooking olive oil, you can also pick up some soaps or cosmetics that are made with olive oil.

Hungary: Paprika
Paprika is the perfect gift to bring back from Hungary because it is all over the country and the spice is incredibly cheap. Hungarian paprika is also unique and it is said to be sweeter than paprika grown in other soils and climates. A great place to find authentic local paprikais Budapest’s Great Market Hall.

Ireland: Whiskey
A quality bottle of whiskey is a classic souvenir to bring home from Ireland. A recommended place to pick up the Irish whiskey is the Bushmills’ Distillery in Northern Ireland, where you can actually see and smell the whiskey being made.

Italy: Traditional Venetian Masks
A great souvenir to bring home from Italy is a traditional Venetian mask. The masks are used in the annual Carnival, and are often intricate and beautiful. Venetian masks can be made of leather, porcelain, or glass. Pick up the mask from Ca’Macana, one of the oldest mask making workshops in Venice. The store is known for its authentic handmade masks that are made in the same way Venetian artisans would do 800 years ago. 

Japan: Electronics
Japan is on the cutting-edge of technology and is known for its electronics. Sure, some electronics are cheaper here, but that’s not the only reason to buy electronics in Japan: you’ll also find innovative and sometimes bizarre products that you’d never find back home. The best place to buy electronics — from cameras and TVs to rice cookers — is the Akihabara district in Tokyo.

Morocco: Ceramics
A colorful hand-painted ceramic bowl is a beautiful and unique gift to bring home from Morocco. Decorative pieces are often hand-painted with intricate floral and geometric designs. The cities that are the main centers for ceramics are Safi and Fez.

The Netherlands: Cheeses
For any foodie, cheese is the perfect gift to bring back home from the Netherlands. There are plenty of different varieties available, and stores will usually have the cheese sealed airtight for free. In the Reypenaer cheese tasting room, you can test all different types of quality cheese before purchasing something to bring home.

Poland: Amber Jewelry
Amber is the native gemstone of Poland, and there are hundreds of shops selling quality jewelry around the country. Polish jewelers have more than 80 names to describe types of amber, from flame and honey to clouded and woolly, according to the National Geographic. It is also believed that amber jewelry can bring good luck.

Portugal: Ceramic Tiles
Portuguese tiles, known as azulejos, have had a huge influence on the culture. Azulejos tiles are everywhere in Portugal — they are on the walls of churches, homes, benches, fountains, bars, restaurants, and subways stations. Buying a tile item in one of the many souvenir shops around the country would be a perfect way to bring back a bit of Portugal.

Russia: Lacquer Boxes
Lacquer boxes can be found all around Russia, and are a great souvenir to take back home. The beautiful hand painted boxes are made of several layers of papier-mâché pressed together and oven-dried. The images on the boxes are usually scenes from Russian fairy tales and legends.  The top producers of lacquer art are the towns of Palekh, Fedoskino, and Mstera. 

South Africa: Amarula
Amarula is a cream liqueur made from the exotic Marula fruit, and is a great gift to bring back home for friends. The marula fruit is indigenous to the woodlands of Southern Africa — and the liquor is supposed to taste of slightly fruity caramel.

Spain: Wine
It’s usually a safe bet to bring home wine home as a souvenir — and what better place to buy wine than in the Spanish countryside?  Spain’s major wine regions are Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Valdepeñas.

Turkey: Copper Coffee Sets
Turkey is famous for its production of copper and its unique way of brewing coffee. A perfect souvenir for someone who wants to try to brew their own Turkish coffee is an authentic copper coffee set. You can find plenty of different types of coffee sets at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.

Ten Reasons Why You Should Book A Cruise Through A Travel Agent

1. Travel agents are knowledgeable experts.
First and most importantly, travel agents provide knowledge and expertise that has taken them years to collect. This consultative experience with travel agents is incredibly valuable to consumers because it allows them to combine their own research with the expertise of their trusted travel agent and ultimately feel very confident in their final decision.
2. Travel agents offer advice at little cost.
If you have a chance to hire a professional advocate and researcher at little cost to you (we’re paid by the suppliers), why would pass up that added value?
3. Travel agents deliver one-stop shopping.
We are able to create a seamless travel experience with transfers, air, as well as unique pre and post tours and hotels. We are also able to create private shore excursions that are unique to each port. We bring added value to every booking.
4. Travel agents provide an added level of support.
Cruise companies absolutely rely on agents as their primary means of distribution—and it’s not just the distribution, it’s also just the support travel agencies provide.
5. Travel agents serve as your advocate when things go astray.
There’s so much advice we can offer, it helps to have an agent before you go on a trip. But it’s also great to have an agent for when things go bump in the night, to have someone to call when you have a delayed flight. That’s what keeps customers coming back. Yes, they might get a lower price, but if you want service, we’re the ones who will be there for you at 3 a.m.”
6. Travel agents understand your needs.
Travel professionals get to know their customer, their wants and their needs, really well. It’s almost as if your best friend is booking a trip for you.
7. Travel agents are here to stay.
The profession is only going to become stronger and more needed…Cruise companies are going to need them to continue to sell cruises more than ever.
8. Travel agents are impartial advisors.
A good agent is impartial and will always recommend and give insights into the best choice for the client, not the supplier. Going direct to suppliers limits your feedback to what is best for you, the client.
9. A live travel agent is better than a click.
When you get a good travel agent on the phone she can enhance your vacation with knowledge and expertise that you can’t get on the internet. And we have access to all types of promotions.
10. A travel agent is a personal shopper at no cost.
With most cruise lines there is no price difference between booking direct and booking with a local travel agent, so the customer gets all the benefits of a personal shopping experience at no extra cost. It’s the equivalent of the perfect storm of reasons to work with travel agents! Travel agents are also close to home, allowing a personal and very customized experience, and this is something that no 1-800 number can provide. 

10 Wacky Christmas Traditions From Around the World

unwrap-the-world


What make the holidays super special apart from the food, family and friends, are the traditions. Some traditions are…well, very traditional. But others can be fun and very weird. Here’s a highlight of the weirdest and most interesting Christmas traditions from around the world that we have found for you.

Christmas Pickle
It’s an old tradition where a pickle ornament is hidden on the Christmas tree. The first person to find the pickle among all the other ornament is said to receive an extra present on Christmas. The tradition has stories originating from the Spain to Germany, but either way it seems like a fun and not to mention weird tradition!

Roller Skating to Mass
From December 16th to December 24th, there’s a very unique tradition that takes place in Caracas, Venezuela. The busy city streets of Caracas are closed off before 8 AM to any motor traffic. This allows the streets to be open to traffic on 4-wheels! It has been customary in Venezuela to attend Misa de Aguinaldo (Early Morning Mass) and by closing traffic off to bulky cars and buses; everyone can skate to mass on time.

Spider Webs (Here’s an odd item you wouldn’t automatically associate with Christmas.)
On a Ukrainian Christmas tree the site of a spider or web is not unusual. The folk tale that goes with the tradition says a poor family woke up on Christmas morning to find their once bare tree decorated with spider webs that shined silver and gold in the morning sun.

Crackers
Christmas crackers or bon-bons are a fun item to celebrate with in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries. The cracker is a cardboard tube wrapped in holiday wrapping twisted at the ends. The fun part starts when you hold on to one side of the twisted end, another person holds the other, and you pull! With a BANG, the cracker will split unevenly, and the luckier individual will be holding the longer end of the cracker — which holds a special prize.

Crackers are also a part of New Years celebration in some places. Wouldn’t it be just fun if crackers were a part of every holiday?

Fried Chicken
Make reservation for your Christmas Chicken today! Those residing in Japan have already begun the process of pre-ordering their fried chicken for Christmas. Unlike the traditional ham or turkey North Americans are used to seeing during the holidays, many in Japan celebrate by eating fried chicken. While less than 1 percent of the Japanese population is estimated to be Christian, by the power of marketing and advertising it has become common practice to eat KFC during Christmas. The meal is also accompanied by a delicious Christmas cake for dessert. Let the feasting begin!

Christmas Witch
In Italy, children will go to bed waiting for a magical being to bring presents, and I don’t mean Santa Claus.

In Italian folklore, an old witch delivers gifts and candy to children on Epiphany Eve (January 5th). Santa’s competitor, La Befana, is usually portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick, usually covered in soot as she enters homes through chimneys. Very similar to the tradition of leaving cookies and milk for Santa, children will leave wine and food out for the Befana.

Brooms
Ok — so going along with the Christmas Witch story, here’s one about brooms. There’s a superstition in Norway that advises households to hide their brooms on Christmas Eve. It is believed that witches and evil spirits will rise from the graves and use the brooms to fly through the sky and create chaos until dawn. Doesn’t this sound very much like Halloween?

SantaCon
If there’s a reason to celebrate, you are sure to find all sorts of gatherings! Around this time of the year, there’s a huge Santa gathering in New York City. To celebrate the holiday season, New Yorkers get together dressed up head-to-toe as Christmas characters. The city is filled with reds and greens, as Santas and Elves spread holiday cheer during SantaCon.

Radish Carvings
Radish figures line the central plaza of Oaxaca on December 23rd and 24th. Nativity scenes, conquistadors, dancers, historical and mythological events are sculpted from radishes by Mexican artisans and add to the colorful holiday celebration. El Festival de los Rabanos (The Festival of Radishes) is a one-of-a-kind festival that features dance, food and delicately carved radishes.

Out of all the wacky traditions, this one is probably the weirdest and funniest of them all.

The Pooper
In the principality of Catalonia, it has become customary to decorate the traditional nativity scene with an extra something, or rather someone. This extra character is known as El Caganer, also known as “the pooper.” While traditionally the ceramic figure has been that of a shepherd, contemporary figures range in all different personalities from politicians to Darth Vader.

Do you have an interesting family holiday tradition? Why not try one of these wacky traditions or start a new one.

Happy Holidays!