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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Posts from September, 2008

Monster truck safari in the sun

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Most tourists who choose a Caribbean holiday are usually lured by the promise of the kind of rest and relaxation that the region is famous for but one Dominican Republic excursion guarantees to boost adrenalin levels.

The Monster Truck Safari takes the more intrepid to areas of the island where the more traditional tour coaches can”t, on an 8×8 monster truck that is able to cover harsh terrain giving guests the chance to have a look at the real country.

A fascinating insight into the heart of the island is on offer as the trucks plunge through rivers and over off-the-map trails.

The safari also takes in typical villages where passengers can catch a long look at the Dominican way of life and sample some of the best coffee in the world which may well have been growing that morning.

One of the many stops on the trip is at a river where guests get the chance to have a cooling dip before heading off for the lunch which is included in the package.

Active and Adventure – Air Activities – Enjoy an exhilarating helicopter ride over New York or a serene hot air balloon ride over the Australian outback.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18763061-ADNFCR

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Underwater wonders from the Canary Islands

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Many uphold that spontaneity is the key to a good time but sometimes a ringside seat for a natural spectacle needs to be booked in advance to avoid any disappointment.

A two-hour marine life watching voyage aboard the Spirit of the Seas off the shores of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands is one such experience.

The ship”s itinerary is barely the same twice as she leaves three times a day from the south-western port of Puerto Rico at 10:00, 12:30 and 15:00.

Spirit of the Sea has been specifically equipped as a purpose-built aquatic life search vessel and can get much closer to underwater wildlife than most vessels because of her modified ”silent” engines.

Up to 30 people can be accommodated in the two glass-bottomed keels to give guests a rare glimpse of a little-explored domain.

Because of the limited fishing allowance, the area is known for its wide variety of sea life and constant contact with other vessels practically guarantees sightings of several species such as bottle-nose dolphins and pilot and finback whales.

Spirit of the Sea dolphin cruises must not be missed but 48 hour booking notice is advised to ensure a seat.

Culture and Sightseeing – City Tours – Whichever city you are in these tours will help to ensure you do not miss a thing.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18762533-ADNFCR

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Free theatre in St Louis

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A hastily constructed temporary theatre built between two enormous oak trees in 1918 is now a historical landmark as America”s oldest outdoor venue.

The Municipal Opera in Forest Park, St Louis – known locally as the Muny – was completed in just 49 days and over the years, productions have starred such theatrical giants as Debbie Reynolds, Pearl Bailey and Lauren Bacall.

Some of the most contemporary productions regularly premiere amongst the annual feature of seven musicals including shows like High School Musical and The Producers, and this season”s programme includes the familiar classics My Fair Lady and Fiddler on the Roof.

Seats begin at $9 but where the Muny differs from most other theatres is that 1,500 of the 11,000 seats are given away free on a first come, first served basis and many theatre-goers bring a picnic to enjoy while they queue.

Regulars in the free seats would recommend you take a decent pair of binoculars as they are located in the last nine rows.

Culture and Sightseeing – City Tours – Whichever city you are in these tours will help to ensure you do not miss a thing.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18761112-ADNFCR

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Climb Mount Olympus because it”s there

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The Greek temperate climate means that there are alternatives to simply topping up your tan.

This diverse country is equally adept at presenting the adventurer with plenty of activities including a hike up to the summit of the nation”s highest peak.

Home to the gods of ancient Greek mythology, Mount Olympus is possibly the most iconic Greek symbol and at 2,917 metres, Mytikas is the country”s highest point.

An adventurous local named Christos Kakalos made the earliest recorded ascent in 1913 and he lived in the nearby town of Litochoro which is now a thriving tourist town in the shadow of the famous mountain.

A certain fitness level is advisable when climbing Mount Olympus as a steady ascent normally takes two days but, such is the diversity of the fauna and flora, many choose to extend their climb and make use of the many refuges on the way.

Even in summer, warm clothes, a decent pair of hiking boots, sunscreen and an easily-obtained local map are absolute necessities but no specialist gear is needed to negotiate the several well-worn trails and pathways.

Active and Adventure – Air Activities – Enjoy an exhilarating helicopter ride over New York or a serene hot air balloon ride over the Australian outback.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18760383-ADNFCR

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Take a trip to the dark side

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The Tunisian territory of Djerba is the largest island off the North African coast and remains a less crowded and stunning alternative to the more popular Tunisian resorts.

Djerba has deep legendary connections with the ancient world and has been the subject of speculation and debate as to whether it was once the island of the Lotus Eaters where Odysseus was marooned on his journey through the Mediterranean as mentioned in Homer”s ”Odyssey”.

For the benefit of visitors, July”s Ulysses Festival in Djerba town contains a re-enactment of the character”s landing on the island and provides the best of traditional colour and folklore.

Aside from legend, Djerba belongs in the future as science-fiction fans would instantly recognise the permanent film set at the coastal city of Ajim which was used in 1977 as the external location scenes of Mos Eisley in Star Wars IV – A New Hope.

Djerba has remained largely undiscovered and still remains one of the few places in Tunisia where the Berber language is still spoken and when you”ve had your fill of myth and legend, there”s always the beach.

Culture and Sightseeing – City Tours – Whichever city you are in these tours will help to ensure you do not miss a thing.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18760329-ADNFCR

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Mahiki’s Famous Treasure Chest

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My sincere apologies for the delays in posting photographs—I’ve been having some technical difficulties…

If you missed yesterday’s blog about Mahiki, which is, apparently, Prince Harry’s favourite London night club, you can read it here.

Right, so I’ve decided that a photograph doesn’t do Mahiki’s signature concoction much justice, but, nonetheless, here it is:

Mahiki Treasure Chest London

…those straws are about to do a lot of damage!

Crazy, right?

End story: Mahiki is a fantastic venue for a hen party or a stag, if you can foot the bill?

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Tranquil Butterfly Valley

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It is not an accident that the Turkish coastal resort of Fethiye has a reputation as a summer tourist magnet, a reputation which has remained intact for many years.

Along with its several cultural, historical and tourist attractions that keep the visitor numbers flocking to the area year after year, is the fact that it also provides a great staging point from which to take in the sights of the surrounding area.

One such attraction is the natural phenomenon of Butterfly Valley on the Turquoise Coast which can be witnessed all through the summer months when millions of butterflies representing around 70 different species amass here to breed.

Boats leave regularly from Belcekiz Beach in Olu Deniz every day to enable visitors to see this incredible sight or for the more energetic, hikers can access it by walking the Lycian Way.

The area is protected but hikers will be relieved to learn that camping is allowed a short distance away and a small turquoise bay with its two waterfalls provides a great way to cool off from the dusty trail.

Entry is free to Butterfly Valley where tranquillity is paramount and flash photography and loud noises are not allowed to disturb the peace.

Family – Theme Parks – Treat the family to a day at one of the Disney resorts or to a splashing day out at a Spanish waterpark.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18758348-ADNFCR

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Tenerife Zoo and Monkey Park

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Visitors to the Canary Islands are generally attracted by the guaranteed sunshine and the fact that the well known resorts there have been waving goodbye to millions of satisfied customers for decades.

But there is more to Tenerife than just European gold standard beaches and the facilities and attractions to be found there.

One little-known gem which the whole family can enjoy together is the Tenerife Zoo and Monkey Park which gives visitors the opportunity to interact with sociable primates and other animals.

Although feed can be bought for the animals at the entry kiosks, guests stand a much better chance of forming a friendship with a chimpanzee if they go armed with a bag full of fruit, and the animals appear to prefer it that way too.

However, visitors are also encouraged to bring a packed lunch and take advantage of the picnic areas as there are no restaurant facilities, as long as it is understood that there may be others interested in their lunch.

There are also cappuccino monkeys, lemurs and iguanas and the park has many areas where supervised interaction takes place and where the animals will happily sit on your shoulder or hold your hand while you feed them.

Tenerife Zoo and Monkey Park is open all year-round and admission costs around €10 (£8).

Family – Theme Parks – Treat the family to a day at one of the Disney resorts or to a splashing day out at a Spanish waterpark.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18758107-ADNFCR

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Prince Harry, Part II: Mahiki Madness

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I was pumped when my close friend from college announced that she would be having her “hen party” (British term for bachelorette) at MAHIKI (reportedly Prince Harry’s favourite club).  We thought for sure that we would have some royal/celeb sightings at this famous London hotspot.  What geeky American tourists we are…

You know, in all honesty, we could have seen Madonna, Harry and the Dalai Lama by the time we finally hit the dance floor…that is, after emerging from our tropical “submersion” in champagne-filled treasure chests, flaming booze lava fountains and enormous conch shells, spilling over with red rum fruity goodness…

But let’s back up for a minute…

Mahiki Hens: the adventure begins…

9:33 pm:  Eleven, dolled up twenty-somethings arrive to the door of London’s most famous club.  One sparkling bride-to-be, flanked by eight fellow Americans, one Canadian and two authentic “hens” (only one Brit and one Aussie in attendance…but we called it a hen party anyway…). Three are giggling, one is hobbling on crutches (me), and two are scheming re: the fact that we have missed the free entry cut off time by 3 minutes—how to get around this?

9:34 pm:  “Ten pound entry fee, five hundred pound minimum per table” asserts chic, blonde woman at door. 

I repeat, woman at door. We definitely aren’t getting around this…

9:35 pm: Julia Allison, long time friend of bride-to-be reveals her true colors as celeb. mag columnist and lifestyle/entertainment guru.  So much for her night of undercover debauchery with the girls.  Julia flashes biz card, dishes PR schpeel to chic blonde woman, who, after 38 seconds of conversing with Julia, officially loves us.  “Such lovely girls…’ she coos.  Free table, complementary drinks—yes, yes can all be arranged.

We’re in.

9:40 pm:  We are escorted to a large, tropical bungalow-esque table by a camp cabana boy waiter.  We keep our eyes peeled for Harry and co.

9:50pm: Against our better judgement, we order THE TREASURE CHEST (pictures to come ASAP).

10:00pm: THE TREASURE CHEST arrives, filled with ice, fruit, an unidentifiable concoction of hard liquor and 11 straws.  A pirate queen’s dream come true.  Camp cabana boys pour champagne into chest.  We assemble into a giggling circle and sip.

10:10pm: Still sipping…

10:20pm: Still sipping…

10:30pm: Is this a bottomless chest?

Circa 10:40pm: Cabana boys arrive with two flaming “volcanoes” of booze.  And, of course, 11 straws.  We’ve just (barely) finished our treasure chest, and the bride is drunk.  My fractured foot is, magically, “all better!”……

??:??pm: Cabana boys return with two of  the largest conch shells I have ever seen, filled with red, fruity mystery punch.  One of which is now the centrepiece of the bride’s work desk back in Oxford.

??:??pm: Dance floor…

Circa 12:15am: Bride and her crew from Oxford realize that they are not going to make it to the station in time for their 12:15am train home (why they booked a 12:15 train, I will never know….).

??:??am:  … ???

Right, so, in conclusion, Mahiki is an absolute blast; however, I will probably never be able to go there again: I’ll never be able to top our amazing hen party adventure—I’ll never again receive the same, superb degree of service (thank you, Julia!)…  

Well…maybe I’ll go when I get married.  Or next time Harry comes to town.  Or both, if you catch my drift? J

 

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