Hike in Scotland’s National Parks

One of the best way to explore Scotland is through its national parks where mountains, tundra, forests, and wildlife can all be found. Tour operator Wilderness Scotland has recently added two new wilderness walking adventures as well as one new luxury walking experience.

Wilderness Scotland has been rated Europe’s No. 1 adventure travel company by National Geographic, and is Scotland’s only five-star accredited adventure tour operator, according to the company. It offers active and nature based travel throughout the British Isles. New tours include:

High Points of the Cairngorms National Park (Six nights)

Exploring Scotland’s largest mountain range, the Cairngorms, travels will hike up peaks as high as 4,000 feet. Along the way, guides will point out rare species like the ptarmigan, capercaillie, red squirrels and osprey. The all-inclusive trip is based out of a private wilderness lodge in Glen Feshie.

National Parks of the UK (Nine nights)

If exploring national parks is priority, clients will love this tour. Stopping at five National Parks in Scotland in England, travels will take part in some of the best hiking in the U.K. Guests will stay in country inns and hotels offering authentic local Scottish and English delicacies such as whisky in the Highlands, cream tea in Yorkshire, and Kendal Mint Cake in the Lakes.

North Highland Coast (Six nights)

Based from the exclusive luxury Kinloch lodge beneath the rocky slopes of Ben Loyal, travelers explore one of the quietest areas of the Highlands with an expert guide, surrounded by superb food and drink. Each day offers new landscapes to explore including mountains, beaches, islands of Sutherlands, and even ruined castes, abandoned villages, and an iron-age ‘broch.’

How to Get Everything from a Hotel Stay

Hotels are expensive. Like break-the-bank expensive. Even staying on the cheap — in a small town no one’s ever heard of or at a resort during the rain-miserable off-season — it can be hard to get your money’s worth. There’s a reason Ross Geller felt justified stealing the salt from the salt shakers. “You have to find the line between stealing and taking what the hotel owes you,” he memorably told Chandler. Words to call the front desk by.

But there are ways to ensure that you are getting the most of your hotel stay and scoring free upgrades. The rule is a good one in so many parts of life: When you want something, ask for it. Most hotels want to get to know your needs and wants instead of blindly offering recommendations, so always be thorough and clear with what you’re looking for. Several hotel GMs we spoke with said they empower their staff to help guests have a great experience, whether it’s surprising you with a cool local treat in your room or helping you get to the airport for free.

Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai, UAE | Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock
Seebach, Germany | Juergen Wackenhut/Shutterstock
Positano, Italy | Alex Tihonovs/Shutterstock

Traveling Solo

Travelling by yourself can be liberating and self-indulgent in the best possible ways.

Some of my most treasured memories are from the times I set out on my own. It’s not just the fact that I could do whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it, it’s the way I got to know more about myself as I discovered new places.

That said going it alone does have its challenges, from not having anyone to wait in line or watch your bags while you pop to the bathroom, to no second opinions on the best way to tackle a public transport system. There are also times when you miss not being able to share some of the highs and lows of travel with a friendly face.

But for me the solo travel pros greatly outweigh the cons, and there are ways to make the experience easier and safer.

THE TRUTH ABOUT HOTEL SLIPPERS

10 TRICKS FOR GETTING A HOTEL UPGRADE

SOLO TRAVEL: THIS TIP WILL SAVE YOU THOUSANDS

media_cameraGet out and see the world alone. Picture: On The Go Tours.

SLEEPING ALONE

I talk to empty hotel rooms a lot when I travel solo. Don’t worry it’s not behind closed doors, but I like to create the illusion that someone else is there with a casual ‘I’m back’ and ‘see you soon’ as I enter and leave. I also ask for two keys at check in for my imaginary friend and I.

The Australian Government’s Smartraveller website suggests female solo travellers should book and check in using a first initial and surname only with no Miss, Ms or Mrs, and it’s a good idea not to tell anyone where you’re staying if they know you’re by yourself.

If anyone else is within earshot when you are asked your room number at breakfast give your name instead, and always listen to your intuition.

If your room doesn’t feel safe when you check in, ask to change rooms or move to another hotel. If someone waiting for the same lift makes you feel uneasy, say you’re waiting for a friend and will get the next one.

Avoid a ground floor room if you can as they are the easiest to break into, and as so many hotel doors don’t have chains on them a simple rubber door wedge can help you sleep better at night.

media_cameraPretend you’re greeting someone in a hotel room.

GETTING AROUND

If you’re planning on getting a taxi from the airport ask the hotel how much it should be and then ask the taxi driver the same question before you get in so you’re not taken for the wrong sort of ride.

Sit in the back seat behind the driver and either make a call to someone to say you’re on your way or mention to the driver that your partner is waiting for you. If you opt for the train instead, avoid sitting in an empty carriage.

Jenny Gray, Product Manager Intrepid Travel says petty theft can happen regardless of where you travel so it’s best not to carry all of your cash and cards on you when you’re out and about.

“Keeping a reserve locked away in the hotel means you have a back-up plan should the worst happen. Make scans of important travel documents and email them to yourself, this will save hours of time in paperwork if anything does happen.”

Ask your hotel if there are any areas you should avoid before you go exploring, and if you ever do feel a little lost or uncertain, don’t show it. Walk with calm confidence and retrace your steps until you’re back in your comfort zone.

If you start to crave human interaction join a walking tour, shoot the breeze with a friendly barman, or Skype with someone you love back home.

And don’t be put off if you see a Sold Out sign on a show you want to see. Single seats can appear so ask and you may be happily surprised.

media_cameraDon’t let being single stop you from seeing the world. Picture: On The Go Tours

TABLE FOR ONE

Solomangarephobia is a fear of eating alone in public. Personally I’m quite happy taking myself out to dinner but if it makes you nervous there are some things you can do.

Bring along a book or magazine, take the time to write postcards or capture your travels in your journal, edit the photos in your phone or do a little social media update.

But don’t spend the whole time with your face in your phone or book. Really taste the food and take in the scene around you.

A counter seat or a seat at the bar can be a good option, but if you prefer a table don’t let the waiter stick you on the worst one in the corner just because you’re alone. Ask if you can sit at a table you like and if they refuse you can always move onto somewhere you’ll feel more welcome.

While bathroom breaks are easy if you’re in a nice restaurant and won’t lose your seat, if you’re in a café leave something like a book or scarf to show your seat is taken and tell a waiter or another customer you’ll be right back while always taking your valuables to the rest room with you.

media_cameraGet out on your own.

CONSIDER A GROUP HOLIDAY

If your friends or family don’t want to travel to the same places you do but you’re not keen on going it alone then a group tour could be for you.

Greg Carter, co-founder of Latin America and Polar Specialist Chimu Adventures says apart from the social aspect of travelling with like-minded people, they give inexperienced solo travellers a sense of security and confidence.

“But even for the veteran traveller a group tour can be a great idea as it can give you access to regions that may be hard to visit independently.”

The Managing Director of Insight Vacations, Alexandra O’Connor says different tours are tailored for different travelling styles and so you should check what best suits your interests from city highlights to off the beaten track.

O’Connor says your Travel Director is like a 24 hour concierge and can give you all the tips you need before you do some exploring on your own.

“Listen to your Travel Director when they offer safety tips and areas to be mindful of (and) ensure you have their mobile number in case you’re running late or lost. But overall enjoy and take in all of your surroundings from the sounds to the scents and everything in between, some of the best experiences and memories are captured when you’re solo and can fully immerse yourself in your surroundings.”

While some group tours pair you up with someone of the same sex so you can save money on a single room, others waive single supplements altogether.

There are also companies like Monograms that mix the flexibility of travelling by yourself with the support found on a guided holiday.

Monograms’ Chris Fundell says their holidays include a choice of hotels, transportation and transfers, but guests are free to explore at their own pace.

“They include a selection of special activities and guided sightseeing as well as the services of a Monograms Local Host to offer advice and assist with planning additional excursions. The packages also give travellers the option of VIP access to popular tourist attractions, a perk that is usually only available to larger groups.”

media_cameraGet a group of solo travels together on tour. Picture: Intrepid

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE

When it comes to deciding on a destination there are some countries that are easier for solo travellers than others.

Places like the UK, USA and Canada offer a mix of the new and exciting with the familiar and comforting as you speak the same language and are familiar with most of the customs, and you can easily meet fellow solo travellers in popular tourist spots throughout Europe and Asia.

On The Go Tours’ Carl Cross says solo travel can be daunting in places like Russia and in parts of Africa where overland travel is next to impossible without a local guide.

“Also, when touring overland across several borders, it can be much safer and more efficient to travel with a tour company in certain parts of the world. In some countries, solo female travel is not advised, often due to cultural considerations, so a tour group in these places is an ideal solution.”

No matter where you decide to go, make sure you do your research beforehand.

“Read and subscribe to the travel advice for the countries you plan to visit (and) talk to friends, relatives and colleagues who have travelled to the places you plan to visit.” A spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says. “Remember that careful planning before you leave is essential to help you choose a destination where you’ll feel safe and comfortable, and be prepared for any issues you might face.”

Register your trip with Smartraveller.gov.au, download the Smartraveller app and make sure you have the right insurance for all of the activities you plan to do.

Listen to your intuition, follow your travel dreams and remember a solo trip is one of the best gifts you can ever give yourself. And you deserve it.

Travelling by yourself can be liberating and self-indulgent in the best possible ways.

Some of my most treasured memories are from the times I set out on my own. It’s not just the fact that I could do whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it, it’s the way I got to know more about myself as I discovered new places.

That said going it alone does have its challenges, from not having anyone to wait in line or watch your bags while you pop to the bathroom, to no second opinions on the best way to tackle a public transport system. There are also times when you miss not being able to share some of the highs and lows of travel with a friendly face.

But for me the solo travel pros greatly outweigh the cons, and there are ways to make the experience easier and safer.

THE TRUTH ABOUT HOTEL SLIPPERS

10 TRICKS FOR GETTING A HOTEL UPGRADE

SOLO TRAVEL: THIS TIP WILL SAVE YOU THOUSANDS

media_cameraGet out and see the world alone. Picture: On The Go Tours.

SLEEPING ALONE

I talk to empty hotel rooms a lot when I travel solo. Don’t worry it’s not behind closed doors, but I like to create the illusion that someone else is there with a casual ‘I’m back’ and ‘see you soon’ as I enter and leave. I also ask for two keys at check in for my imaginary friend and I.

The Australian Government’s Smartraveller website suggests female solo travellers should book and check in using a first initial and surname only with no Miss, Ms or Mrs, and it’s a good idea not to tell anyone where you’re staying if they know you’re by yourself.

If anyone else is within earshot when you are asked your room number at breakfast give your name instead, and always listen to your intuition.

If your room doesn’t feel safe when you check in, ask to change rooms or move to another hotel. If someone waiting for the same lift makes you feel uneasy, say you’re waiting for a friend and will get the next one.

Avoid a ground floor room if you can as they are the easiest to break into, and as so many hotel doors don’t have chains on them a simple rubber door wedge can help you sleep better at night.

media_cameraPretend you’re greeting someone in a hotel room.

GETTING AROUND

If you’re planning on getting a taxi from the airport ask the hotel how much it should be and then ask the taxi driver the same question before you get in so you’re not taken for the wrong sort of ride.

Sit in the back seat behind the driver and either make a call to someone to say you’re on your way or mention to the driver that your partner is waiting for you. If you opt for the train instead, avoid sitting in an empty carriage.

Jenny Gray, Product Manager Intrepid Travel says petty theft can happen regardless of where you travel so it’s best not to carry all of your cash and cards on you when you’re out and about.

“Keeping a reserve locked away in the hotel means you have a back-up plan should the worst happen. Make scans of important travel documents and email them to yourself, this will save hours of time in paperwork if anything does happen.”

Ask your hotel if there are any areas you should avoid before you go exploring, and if you ever do feel a little lost or uncertain, don’t show it. Walk with calm confidence and retrace your steps until you’re back in your comfort zone.

If you start to crave human interaction join a walking tour, shoot the breeze with a friendly barman, or Skype with someone you love back home.

And don’t be put off if you see a Sold Out sign on a show you want to see. Single seats can appear so ask and you may be happily surprised.

media_cameraDon’t let being single stop you from seeing the world. Picture: On The Go Tours

TABLE FOR ONE

Solomangarephobia is a fear of eating alone in public. Personally I’m quite happy taking myself out to dinner but if it makes you nervous there are some things you can do.

Bring along a book or magazine, take the time to write postcards or capture your travels in your journal, edit the photos in your phone or do a little social media update.

But don’t spend the whole time with your face in your phone or book. Really taste the food and take in the scene around you.

A counter seat or a seat at the bar can be a good option, but if you prefer a table don’t let the waiter stick you on the worst one in the corner just because you’re alone. Ask if you can sit at a table you like and if they refuse you can always move onto somewhere you’ll feel more welcome.

While bathroom breaks are easy if you’re in a nice restaurant and won’t lose your seat, if you’re in a café leave something like a book or scarf to show your seat is taken and tell a waiter or another customer you’ll be right back while always taking your valuables to the rest room with you.

media_cameraGet out on your own.

CONSIDER A GROUP HOLIDAY

If your friends or family don’t want to travel to the same places you do but you’re not keen on going it alone then a group tour could be for you.

Greg Carter, co-founder of Latin America and Polar Specialist Chimu Adventures says apart from the social aspect of travelling with like-minded people, they give inexperienced solo travellers a sense of security and confidence.

“But even for the veteran traveller a group tour can be a great idea as it can give you access to regions that may be hard to visit independently.”

The Managing Director of Insight Vacations, Alexandra O’Connor says different tours are tailored for different travelling styles and so you should check what best suits your interests from city highlights to off the beaten track.

O’Connor says your Travel Director is like a 24 hour concierge and can give you all the tips you need before you do some exploring on your own.

“Listen to your Travel Director when they offer safety tips and areas to be mindful of (and) ensure you have their mobile number in case you’re running late or lost. But overall enjoy and take in all of your surroundings from the sounds to the scents and everything in between, some of the best experiences and memories are captured when you’re solo and can fully immerse yourself in your surroundings.”

While some group tours pair you up with someone of the same sex so you can save money on a single room, others waive single supplements altogether.

There are also companies like Monograms that mix the flexibility of travelling by yourself with the support found on a guided holiday.

Monograms’ Chris Fundell says their holidays include a choice of hotels, transportation and transfers, but guests are free to explore at their own pace.

“They include a selection of special activities and guided sightseeing as well as the services of a Monograms Local Host to offer advice and assist with planning additional excursions. The packages also give travellers the option of VIP access to popular tourist attractions, a perk that is usually only available to larger groups.”

media_cameraGet a group of solo travels together on tour. Picture: Intrepid

 

El Dorado, Arkansas

The city of El Dorado, Ark., a two-hour drive south of Little Rock, probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind as an up-and-coming tourist destination, but if Terry Stewart, 71, the former chief executive officer and president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, has his way, this perception may soon change. As the chief executive officer of El Dorado Festivals & Events, Mr. Stewart is charged with turning the city into the next music and arts hub in the United States.

A $70 million infusion is key to the project: The money comes from a combination of donors, including Murphy Oil Corporation, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Walton Family Foundation. The first phase of the initiative, the $54 million, six-block Murphy Arts District in downtown El Dorado, is making its debut on Sept. 27. The district’s five-day opening celebration will have performances by artists like Brad Paisley, Smokey Robinson, Ludacris and the hip-hop trio Migos.

Below are edited excerpts from an interview with Mr. Stewart.

What exactly is the Murphy Arts District?

It’s essentially a new neighborhood in the center of El Dorado. We’ve repurposed a number of historic buildings to create a cabaret restaurant, a 2,000-seat music hall and an outdoor amphitheater which can seat 10,000 people. There’s also a two-acre play park for children with climbing equipment, slides, a zip line and a water area where there are fountains to run and jump through.

The amphitheater and music hall will be venues for music concerts by both famous and lesser-known artists and also for touring Broadway shows. The cabaret restaurant will host performances by cabaret acts

The city of El Dorado, Ark., a two-hour drive south of Little Rock, probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind as an up-and-coming tourist destination, but if Terry Stewart, 71, the former chief executive officer and president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, has his way, this perception may soon change. As the chief executive officer of El Dorado Festivals & Events, Mr. Stewart is charged with turning the city into the next music and arts hub in the United States.

A $70 million infusion is key to the project: The money comes from a combination of donors, including Murphy Oil Corporation, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Walton Family Foundation. The first phase of the initiative, the $54 million, six-block Murphy Arts District in downtown El Dorado, is making its debut on Sept. 27. The district’s five-day opening celebration will have performances by artists like Brad Paisley, Smokey Robinson.

Luggage Help

(Recently posted in the Independent)

You check your shiny new suitcase onto a flight. Hours later an unrecognisable, battered old version of it is spat out onto the luggage carousel. What happened to it while you were snacking on peanuts and watching action movies? And is there anything you can do to protect it?

If anyone can advise, it’s Tricia Davis. As an airline employee she’s heard many stories from heartbroken travellers about their damaged luggage. But she promises not all luggage handlers are brutes and says there are things you can do to help your bags fare better.

“In my nine years of working for an airline, I have handled thousands of bags,” says Tricia. “I have also been a compulsive traveller my entire life and am always on the lookout for great bags. Your suitcase should protect the items inside and in order to do that, it needs to survive the journey itself.”

Here are Tricia’s top tips on everything from bag material to wheel configuration and how to claim for damaged luggage.

Cost

“My first suggestion is always to hit up charity shops. People don’t want to store suitcases and often donate them after their travels, I have purchased quite a few hundred dollar bags for less than five dollars. Some high end bags do come with a warranty but only if the bag is defective, not poorly designed.

Wheels

“I’m not sure why suitcase companies switched to four spinner wheels from two recessed rollerblade wheels, but it was a bad idea. Look in any cargo pit and you’ll see the spinner wheel graveyard. When your bag is pulled from the top of the stack, it comes crashing down on those wheels. Always get recessed wheels whenever possible. Unless it’s for your carry-on, when recessed wheels allow you to bring your bag sideways down the aisle.”

Materials

“Plastic suitcases were not created with travel in mind. Unless you’re travelling in a Lear jet or a limo, your plastic bag may not make it to your destination intact. Plastic cases crack in cold weather, they get crushed under the weight of all the other bags in the cargo pit, and they slide off the stack and land on the tarmac.

“Fabric bags are certainly more durable. They also tend to still come with recessed wheels. My favourite travel bag is a two compartment rolling duffle bag, very sturdy and you can squeeze a lot in. And they are survivors if you need to drag them up or down a flight of stairs.”

Name tags

“Yes you need them. If your bag came with one, fill it out. Name, phone number and city. Not your street address or your email. And your mobile number, not your home or office number. If your bag didn’t come with a name tag, buy one and put one of the airport ones on it too. Also, put one on your carry-on, especially if you have a black roller bag.”

Covers

Some high end bags come with a fitted clear plastic cover. There are also some cool stretchy covers, like a T-shirt for your suitcase. These are helpful for a few reasons. They protect your bag from dirt and grease from carts and belts, keep zip pulls from being snagged and ripped off and can customise your bag with a fun design.”

Zips

“Make sure all your zips are closed, even if nothing is in the pocket. If not, the open pocket can get hooked on something in the conveyer system which can rip the front off.”

Straps

“Loose and unhooked straps are a disaster waiting to happen. If your bag has a separate shoulder strap, take it off and put it inside your bag. You want as few reasons as possible for your bag to get caught on something and shredded.”

Old barcode labels

“When you arrive at your destination, remove all the barcode stickers from your bag. Ticket agents don’t always have the time to do it and your bag travels by barcode. So if your bag doesn’t arrive at your current destination, the airline may not have lost your bag, it could have gone to one of your previous destinations.”

Colour

“I suggest a multicoloured fabric bag. If you do choose a solid, stick to darker ones. I’ve seen some beautiful pink, white and yellow bags totally covered in grime after the first trip. And if you do get a black bag, do something to distinguish it from all the others. Just make sure it’s not a big scarf that will get stuck on a conveyor belt.”

Damage

“If your bag is damaged, make a claim as soon as you pick it up. Most airlines have a 24 hour window to make a claim. Keep the original bag tag on the bag because If you make an online claim you may need to return the empty bag back to the airport.”

 

WOW Airlines

Can St. Louis support a non-stop route to Iceland? How about Cleveland, Cincinnati and Detroit?

Icelandic budget carrier WOW Air thinks so, and – with fares that begin at less than $100 one-way – it’s betting those Midwest markets will be profitable additions to its fast-growing U.S. network.

WOW Air announced service from the four cities on Wednesday, an expansion that will give it a total of 12 U.S. destinations.

WOW’s new routes will launch this spring, with tickets going on sale Wednesday. One-way fares to Iceland will start at $99.99 from all four cities. Connecting flights to WOW’s other European destinations begin at $149.99.

USA TODAY$99 flight to Europe? Here’s what it really costs | WOW Air offers $99 fares to Europe; What’s the catch?

“We’re very excited about these cities,” WOW Air founder and CEO Skúli Mogensen said to USA TODAY’s Today in the Sky blog.

Asked if there was demand to support the new non-stops to Iceland, especially from the smaller markets included in Wednesday’s announcement, Mogensen struck a bullish tone.

“We like the region. We think there’s opportunity there. We think it’s under-served,” he said to Today in the Sky, adding that the company is “very data driven” in seeking out prospective new markets.

On all four routes, WOW will fly four flights a week on single-aisle Airbus A321 aircraft to its hub at the Keflavik airport near Reykjavik. Connecting itineraries will be available to more than two dozen destinations in Europe.

“Our unique opportunity is to use Iceland as a hub. We can then distribute the traffic to our main destinations in Europe, be it London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Berlin, Copenhagen, etc.,” Mogensen said. “That’s really the key. Instead of having a single point-to-point flight, we actually give you a very affordable flight to multiple destinations in Europe via Iceland.”

TODAY IN THE SKYIcelandair: Cleveland will be newest U.S. city

From three of the new cities – Cleveland, Cincinnati and St. Louis – WOW will be one of the few airlines with a trans-Atlantic option. From St. Louis, WOW will be the only carrier flying to Europe. At Cincinnati, only Delta flies to Europe with flights to Paris Charles de Gaulle. And in Cleveland, WOW’s only trans-Atlantic competitor will be national rival Icelandair, which interestingly just announced its own Cleveland-Reykjavik service on Tuesday.

“We welcome competition from all airlines,” Mogensen said about the fresh competition from Icelandair. “No other airline has offered as low fares as we have done over the Atlantic. We will continue to add destinations in the U.S. in the next weeks and as always offer the lowest fares.”

WOW Air first began flying to the U.S. just in 2015, when it launched service from Baltimore/Washington (BWI) and Boston. While its earliest U.S. destinations were focused on the East and West coasts, WOW’s four newest cities continue its recent expansion in the interior of the country. Most recently, the airline begin flying from both Chicago O’Hare and Pittsburgh earlier this year.

With the new Midwest additions, WOW’s full line-up of U.S. gateways includes BWI, Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and San Francisco. In Canada, WOW flies from Montreal and Toronto.

(Recently posted in USA Today)

 

Bermuda’s Nine Parishes

(Courtesy of Travel Institute)

Bermuda’s Nine Parishes

 

Destination knowledge is critical to your job as a travel consultant. Today let’s take a look at Bermuda’s nine parishes from The Travel Institute’s Destination Specialist Caribbean course.  

 

In 1616 the islands were surveyed and divided into tribes (shares of land), each one named after a member of the original Bermuda Company. These tribes are today’s nine parishes. From west to east the parishes are:

Sandys:

  • Port for mega ships, westernmost parish
  • Bermuda Arts Centre showcases Bermuda artists
  • Bermuda Maritime Museum, artifacts from the Sea Venture
  • Casemate Barracks in the Dockyard
  • Clocktower Mall, shopping center at Dockyard
  • Dolphin Quest, swim with dolphins at Dockyard
  • Royal Naval Dockyard, port, entertainment, and shopping complex
  • Somerset Village, one of Bermuda’s five main settlements
  • Somerset Bridge, world’s smallest drawbridge

Southampton:

  • Church Bay public beach for snorkeling
  • Horseshoe Bay, the most photographed beach. In 2012 the bay got Wi-Fi
  • Gibbs Hill Lighthouse (built in 1846), tallest Bermuda structure with 185 steps to top

Warwick:

  • Two fine public golf courses
  • Cliffs and beaches on the south shore
  • Long Bay Beach

Paget:

  • Across the bay from Hamilton
  • Botanical Gardens with an orchid house, fruit groves, and formal gardens
  • Camden, historic house in typical Bermudian architecture
  • Hungry Bay, national park and nature reserve
  • King Edward VII Memorial Hospital
  • Salt Kettle Peninsula, a ferry terminal

Pembroke:  with Hamilton, the capital and a port

  • City Hall, seat of government
  • Fort Hamilton
  • Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, sponsor of the Newport-to-Bermuda race.
  • Underwater Exploration Institute

Devonshire:

  • Arboretum
  • National Sports Centre
  • U.S. Consulate General

Smith’s:

  • Devil’s Hole, sinkhole that forms a natural aquarium
  • Harrington Sound, for fishing, sailing, kayaking, and viewing
  • Spittal Pond, island’s largest nature reserve, and wildlife sanctuary
  • Verdmont, manor house unchanged since the late 1700s

Hamilton Parish: (different from the site of the city)

  • Bermuda Aquarium, Museum, and Zoo
  • Crystal Caves, natural limestone caves
  • Flatt’s Village, one of Bermuda’s five main settlements „ Mangrove Lake
  • Swizzle Inn

St. George’s:

  • Port
  • Bermuda Trust Museum
  • Former U.S. Naval Air Station; Lighthouse Hill; the Natural Arches
  • Tucker’s Town, one of Bermuda’s five main settlements
  • King’s Square in St. George’s, Designated World Heritage Site
  • Forts surrounding St. George’s
  • St. Peter’s Church (1617), oldest Anglican Church in the Western Hemisphere

Uber

July 29, 2017

Number Three Travel Log

 

This week June and made a trip over to the “Big Easy”.  We had a number of places where we needed to visit and as you know parking is expensive in New Orleans if you can find an empty lot.

So, I decided to down load the Uber app on my smart phone.  I had more problems that I thought I should getting them to recognize my credit card but with their tech folks help I got it done.

We stayed at the Whitney Hotel on Poydras.  It was a nice hotel.

June and I used Uber six different times Dave’s Travel Blog

while we were in New Orleans.  We were picked up within three to five minutes after I put the information in the app where we wanted to go.

Also, the app tells you who the driver will be and what type of vehicle they are in.

Since your credit card is on file with Uber you don’t pay the driver any money it shows you the charge.  I always gave the driver a couple of dollars for a tip but you can do that on the app if you don’t have any money on you.

For the six trips, we made around New Orleans which were within a few miles of each other our cost was about six to seven dollars per ride.  I figure a taxi would have cost at least four or five dollars more plus the wait time.

All the Uber drivers were quite nice.  A good mix between male and female.  Most did it to make some extra money.  All the vehicles were clear.

Also, another thing to know is you can request an Uber ride thirty days out.

Our first Uber ride in New Orleans I had requested 24 hours ahead and since it was my first time I was concerned it would not arrive.  But about five minutes before the prearranged time I received a message that the driver was on his way.

Maybe too many of you this is old hat.  But for us this was stepping out of our comfort zone and doing something new.

I know I will do this again the next time I go to New Orleans.  Stress free.

Remember you can see many other tourist articles at my web site Tourwithdave.com.

Romania

(Recently published by Rick Steves)

Romania is full of surprises and wonderful people. And as you leave the capital of Bucharest, it gets even better. In the countryside, the history and traditional culture survive vividly.
A hard-fought past is evident in the fortress-like churches scattered through the Transylvania region in central Romania. In medieval times, big towns were well-protected, but smaller villages were vulnerable to invaders, so industrious German settlers, imported by the local overlords to tame the wild frontier, fortified their churches.
Like medieval fortresses, these Saxon churches have beefy bastions, stout lookout towers, and narrow slits for raining arrows on enemies. Entire communities could take refuge inside — within wraparound defensive galleries.
Today most of Romania’s ethnic Germans are gone, having emigrated in the late 19th century or fled to Germany after World War II. But their legacy lives on. Stepping inside these churches feels like stepping into medieval Germany. Decoration is humble, pews are simple benches, and Bible quotes are in German.
The whitewashed and ramshackle church of Viscri, hidden deep in the hills, is one of the oldest (c. 1100). Most of the pews don’t have backs. That’s because of the starched dresses and long headdresses of traditional village women, who wanted to avoid creases in their best clothing. The pews with backs were for the families of those who were from elsewhere, usually the minister and the teacher.
Farther north, Romania’s Maramures region is Europe’s most traditional corner. While it takes some effort to reach, Maramures is well worth the effort for those who want to see a real, living open-air folk museum. It’s a rolling, pastoral landscape speckled with haystacks.
Thanks to its rugged terrain and its great distance from Bucharest, Maramures avoided communist farm collectivization — so people still tend their small family plots by hand. Horse carts seem to outnumber cows. Men in overalls and distinctive straw hats pile hay onto their wooden wagons. Women wear big, puffy skirts just above the knee, babushkas on their heads, and baskets laden with heavy goods on their backs. This region feels like Europe’s Amish Country, where centuries-old ways endure. It’s not for the benefit of tourists — it’s just their lifestyle.
Wander through any village and peek into family compounds. Each one is marked with a huge, ceremonial wooden gateway — just big enough for a hay-loaded horse cart to trot through. The gates are carved with a whole iconography of local symbols: starburst (pagan sun worship), wolf teeth (protection), bull horns (masculinity), leaves (nature), and — most importantly — the “rope of life” motif, a helix-like design suggesting the continuity of life from generation to generation. Inside each courtyard, you’ll usually see — in addition to the main house — a humble barn with a paddock, a garden patch, and an old-fashioned, hand-pulled well.
You’ll be surprised how often you’ll be invited inside. Many Maramures residents are eager to show curious visitors their humble homes. In Romania, meeting people often comes with a welcoming glass of the fruity, 100-proof Romanian moonshine called “palinca.” It’s strong stuff — kind of like rubbing alcohol with a touch of plum.
One of the most memorable sights in this part of Romania is the Merry (as in “joyful”) Cemetery. I’ve enjoyed a variety of graveyards throughout Europe, but this one in Maramures is one of a kind. In 1935, a local woodcarver — inspired by a long-forgotten tradition — began filling this cemetery with a forest of vivid memorials. Each one comes with a whimsical poem and a painting of the departed doing something he or she loved.
Although the cemetery is dubbed “merry,” many of the poems are downright morose. Tales of young lives cut short by tragic accidents, warriors mowed down in the prime of life, or people who simply never found happiness are a reminder that death, and life, are sometimes nothing to be cheerful about. Even if you can’t read the poems, the images speak volumes: weaver … loved bikes … television repairman … soldier … hit by a car … struck by lightning … nagging mother-in-law.
It’s a poignant celebration of each individual’s life, a chronicle of village history, and an irreverent raspberry in the face of death. And it’s all painted a cheery blue to match the heavens where the souls are headed.
Traveling in the Romanian countryside, you’ll find both evocative reminders of the past and time-warp lifestyles, seemingly oblivious to the modern world that’s the norm elsewhere. More than any place I’ve found in Europe, this is a place where, when you slow down and let adventures unfold, they will. In Romania, you’ll find that rather than famous sights, it’s the happy and unpredictable serendipity that leaves you with lifelong memories as souvenirs.

Visit Greenland

(Recently published in the Independent)

With its vast ice-sheet and tremendous calving glaciers, its tundra and its fjords, Greenland is a must-see adventure travel destination. The lure of the wilds is strong and tourists don’t linger for long in the city; most bypass it completely and head directly into nature. But there is a growing community of artists, chefs and artisans keen to prove that there is more to Greenland than icebergs and huskies. Nuuk, they enthuse, is the new Nordic city of culture.

Nuuk is one of the smallest capital cities in the world, with just 17,000 inhabitants – a mixture of Greenlanders and Danes. In 2009 Denmark granted Greenlanders the right to self-rule and the sense of newly-found freedom is still tangible, with Greenland playing an increasingly significant role in the global Arctic community. Last year the Arctic Winter Games – a high-profile event for northern athletes – was hosted here. In October, 200 artists from Scandinavia, Iceland and the Faroe Islands gathered in the city for the Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival, drawing an audience of around 10 per cent of Greenland’s entire population.

“The interest in the Nordic culture scene is developing rapidly,” says Mats Bjerde, director of the Nordic Institute of Greenland (NAPA), which promotes Greenlandic and Nordic cultural cooperation. “We want to create a cultural Nordic playground in Nuuk where new skills can be born and avant-garde productions can be created across all creative genres.”

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Historic artworks in Nuuk Art Museum (Kari Herbert)

Nivi Christensen, curator of the Nuuk Art Museum, is equally passionate about supporting up-and-coming artists and engaging a new audience. Christensen says: “When I first became curator here, I wondered whether Nuuk was ready to have a cultural institution which had not only old paintings and sculptures, but also new, exciting and challenging artworks. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

The single greatest cultural change in Nuuk came with the creation of the Katuaq Culture Centre, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in February. The undulating, timber-clad building, designed by architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen, echoes the form and movement of the nearby fjord, icebergs and the northern lights.

“Katuaq was built at a time when there was growing focus on the country’s own culture,” explains the director, Julia Pars. “And so the centre became a symbol for nationalism, imagination and the possibility of a new Greenland. Today, we aim to be a window both to our own culture and to the outside world.” Katuaq – which means “drumstick” in Greenlandic – has become the beating heart of the city, hosting film screenings, theatre performances, gigs and exhibitions that attract 100,000 people a year. “Katuaq is like a musical instrument that can begin to play at any moment,” enthuses Pars. “During the day it’s full of dreams – at night it acts like a magnetic field, drawing people into the light.”

Creative expression in modern-day Nuuk takes many forms, from exceptional “new-Nordic” cuisine or artisan craft beer made with glacial ice, to video installations and street art. With the exception of the Katuaq centre, Nuuk’s architecture is, on the whole, rather grey and unimaginative (some would say ugly). Yet this was an ideal canvas for artists Stefan Baldursson from Iceland and Guido van Helten from Australia, who created the huge artworks that bookmark Nuuk’s Soviet-style apartment blocks.

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Stefan Baldursson and Guido van Helten created these murals on Nuuk’s apartment blocks (Kari Herbert)

“I’ve always been attracted to extreme places. That’s why I really wanted to paint in Greenland,” explains van Helten. “It’s been a privilege to work on the [apartment] block, especially as it symbolised another time and migration.” His artwork was inspired by a photograph taken in 1906 of a hunter who was relocated from a smaller community to Nuuk as part of a Danish objective to “modernise” Greenland.

The artworks, say Sarah Thode Andersen from Sermersooq Business Council, symbolise “Colourful Nuuk” – the branding initiative recently launched to promote the capital. “We want to show the outside world that the city has many different layers – the traditional, the new, the edgy and the beautiful,” says Andersen. “Nuuk is a melting pot of different individuals. These artworks reflect how diverse Nuuk is.”

It is Saturday morning, the temperature is around 2˚C and a few makeshift stalls have been set up on the main street. Weathered fishermen are sitting beside a tarpaulin spread over drifts of snow, displaying their haul of fresh fish. There is no seal meat on offer today. Opposite, a carver is sanding down a reindeer antler that will eventually become a “tupilak” – a carving of a spirit animal. Nuuk may be evolving into a modern Arctic city, but traditional culture is still very much alive. So, could Nuuk become the new Reykjavik? “Immaqqa,” as they say in Greenland – “Maybe.”

Travel Essentials

Getting there

Nuuk is a three-hour flight from Reykjavik. Air Iceland (airicelandconnect.com) flies from Reykjavik to Nuuk from around £572 return. WOW Air (wowair.co.uk), Icelandair (icelandair.co.uk) and Easyjet (easyjet.com) fly to Reykjavik (Keflavik) from London and Bristol from £69.98 return.

Staying there

Hotel Hans Egede (hhe.gl) is ideally placed in the centre of town and is home to Sarfalik, the best restaurant in Nuuk, which boasts unbeatable views of the surrounding city, mountains and fjord. Doubles from £195, B&B.