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Make Your New Year’s Resolution to Visit an Island!

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Islands are small, but that does not mean that there is not a plethora of activities to do while there. But don’t get lulled into the idea that each island is the same, either. Each island – whether it’s in the Pacific or Atlantic – has its own culture and feel. So I challenge you to visit an island, any island, this New Year! (As a side note: they’re also great places to escape the cold of the winter season.)

Hawaiian islands

This famous string of islands in the Pacific is best known for its volcanic activity. In fact, the islands were created from volcanic activity- over time, the various underwater volcanoes built up the islands to what they are today. The best part? The islands still aren’t finished. The volcanoes on the islands, especially on the Big Island, are still active. Visiting these island-shapers is a must when you’re on Hawaii- it was on the top of my list when I finally got there!

Fiji islands

This small collection of islands near Australia is an exotic destination that reaches the top of anyone’s list. With over 330 smaller islands around the main island of Fiji, this destination will not fail to entertain. The water in the Fiji islands is absolutely stunning, and you cannot help yourself from spending time in it- or above it. Kayaking in the Fiji waters is spectacular and lovely. The peaceful waters make it perfect for this activity, and the clear quality of the water enables you to see almost to the sandy bottom.

Jamaica

Jamaica in the Caribbean is one of the most colourful islands, in a region where each island is colourful in its own way. The birthplace of Bob Marley and reggae, Jamaica is a great combination of beautiful sandy beaches and cool rainforests. There is always something to do on this island, whether it be laying on the beaches, hiking through the forests, trekking to a waterfall or swimming with dolphins, Jamaica will always promise to be a great holiday spot!

These three that I have highlighted is barely the tip of the iceburg. In the Hawaiian and Fiji islands alone there are a plethora of islands to discover, with their own distinct histories, traditions and cultures. The same goes for the Caribbean islands. Jamaica is just one in a whole line of beautiful islands, each with something unique to offer. Wherever you decide to go, I promise you will not be disappointed!

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Cruise Through Europe

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Many cities in Europe are laced with rivers and canals, and some are at the edge of the Atlantic or Mediterranean Oceans. So why not make time for some cruises, featuring gorgeous sights in some of the most beautiful cities in the world?

Prague, Czech Republic

One of my favourite cities in Europe, Prague has a perfect combination of Neo-classical charm and modern attractions. It is one of the few cities that as just as beautiful during the night as it is during the day. This tour takes you through an informative and insightful trip through the city, stopping at some of the most notable places. It then proceeds to a picturesque glide down the Vltava River, giving you a wonderful view of Prague’s skyline by night. Food and drink are provided on the cruise, as well as live entertainment.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

A wonderful combination of a canal and city cruise, this Amsterdam tour takes you past some of the most prominent landmarks of the city, like the Royal Palace and the Skinny Bridge, as well as some of the iconic sights of Amsterdam, such as the windmills and 17th Century Merchant Warehouses. Enchanting and informative, this cruise crosses off two must-do’s in Amsterdam.

Frankfurt, Germany

This activity brings together a tour of the city with a dinner cruise by one of the most scenic parts of the city, the Rhine! The tour begins on an open-top bus, and stops twice: at Romer Square and Sachsenhausen. The cruise takes you through the Rhine Valley, which has inspired many poets and artists. Enjoy dinner with this picturesque backdrop in a charming waterside restaurant.

Venice, Italy

When you think of canals, you think of this Italian city. Out of the many Europeans cities I have visited, Venice is my favourite because of its quaint houses and built-in charm. Venice is famous for its myriad of twisting and connected canals, but that is not all there is to this loveable city. The islands close to Venice are just as remarkable, with unique aspects of their own! Visit Murano to see how its distinctive and beautiful glasswork is made, Burano for the wonderful lacework and Torcello for Venice’s first cathedral.

Budapest, Hungary

A defining aspect of Budapest is the river that runs through the city. The Danube used to separate two separate cities – the Buda side from the Pest side – but history has brought these two cities together into the one we all know. So slide along this historic and beautiful river to the many other towns along its edge. This cruise is extremely lovely and allows you to appreciate the beauty of river outside the bustling city of Budapest.

Whichever cruise you decide to try out, a good time and beautiful scenes are guaranteed!

 

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Revisit the Olympic Park!

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Olympic Stadium Even if you didn’t get a chance to see the 2012 Olympics live in London, you don’t have to worry about never being able to see the venues! The Park is still open for tours even now, and the venues will be reopening in 2013 for public use! The Olympic Park, to be renamed the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in 2013, was built not only for the 2012 Olympics but also so be used in legacy. This is in keeping with the London Commission for Sustainable Development’s goal for the 2012 Olympics to not only be “the greenest games ever” but also to be used after the Olympics, so that the venues do not become behemoth eyesores, like some Olympic venues have in other countries.

The Olympic Stadium and the Copper Box will reopen in the summer of 2013 for public use. The Aquatics Centre will not be reopened until 2014, but that is because a crèche, family-friendly training centres, café and a new public plaza will be added. The Water Polo stadium that was erected for the Olympics was merely temporary, so the Aquatics Centre will be used for Water Polo events as well. The renewed Eton Manor will feature a tennis centre with four outdoor and two indoor courts, and a hockey centre. In fact, this will be the only permanent 2012 Paralympics venue. The Velodrome and BMX track will be joined with a new mountain bike and road bike tracks to form the Lee Valley VeloPark. These will be modified to suit bikers of all ages and abilities.

Not only will the venues be reused, but they were also constructed using recycled materials or with the idea of sustainability in mind. For example, the Copper Box was constructed with water fittings designed to reduce the water consumption, its copper covering is made of 60% of recycled copper, and the use of skylights reduces the need for artificial light. The Velodrome’s cable roof reduced the steel usually needed for a roof that size, and the timber used for the track was sustainably resourced. The ring beam that supports the fabric roof on the Olympic Stadium was made of reclaimed gas pipes, and the whole stadium used less than half the steel than other stadia, making it one of the lightest stadia in the world.

I personally love the idea of reusing the venues for future use. The idea to build these venues using recyclable materials and to reduce the carbon footprint was commendable, and the effort into making that part of London – which was a heavily industrialised area – into a greener place, bringing back wildlife and planting up to 4,000 trees and 300,000 other types of plants, was excellent. The Olympic Park is now a beautiful place, and you would have never guessed what it looked like before they began construction. I would highly suggest visiting the Olympic Park and checking out all these venues for yourself!

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Visit Three Countries in a Day!

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Three different times of the day, three different activities and three different…countries? Yes, countries! It is very possible to visit three countries in one day, especially when on the Mediterranean Coast stretching between France and Italy. What some people don’t realise is how close these bordering countries are with each other- something I certainly did not understand until I crossed European country borders myself! I come from a small island, and the only way to get into another country is either to get on a plane or boat. With the Schengen Agreement, you are allowed to travel between a large number of European countries without having to whip out your passport every time you pass through the border. So why not try to visit three different countries in a day?

Your trip can begin in Nice, France and end in Ventimiglia, Italy. These towns are along the Mediterranean coast referred to as the French Riviera and are so close together you can stop by them all along your way north the coast. The French Riviera is the coastline of the south of France, and is an area that had the first modern resorts because of its natural beauty. Tours of this coastline are sublime, because of the splendour of the area and the good weather year-round. It has hot, dry summers and mild winters, making it a pleasant destination at any time of the year. You can spend a whole day (or more!) in Nice, for it has much to offer- such as shopping, ruins from Roman times, and charming views.

Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, and is completely surrounded by France on three sides, its fourth side facing the Mediterranean. It is directly between the French town of Nice and the Italian town of Ventimiglia, and will be your second stop on this trip. Monte Carlo is famous for its gambling and also has a large entertainment centre, featuring restaurants, nightclubs and sports clubs. I can promise that you would not want to spend merely a few hours there, for there is much to do! You can loiter there for a few days…but why would you, when you can travel onto Italy, making it your third country in one day?

Wrap up your hectic day with some pasta and wine in the charming seaside Italian town of Ventimiglia. Not as much of a tourist destination as Nice, it is more laid back but still has bits of its history scattered around…such as the remains of a Roman theatre, the medieval city centre, as well as other remnants of its ancient past. It’s a good end for an amazing journey, and if there is any town you want to revisit, it will be just a short car ride away.

Three countries in one day: didn’t think you could do it, huh? If you plan your day well, it is very possible along the French Riviera.

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New Year’s Kiss

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New Year's Kiss A friend once told me that her New Year’s resolution was to be kissed as the clock struck twelve on the first day of the New Year. So here are some great and different places that I would suggest for that magical kiss with that special someone:

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Famous for its Carnival, Rio is also great destination any other time of year. This is one of the few times of the year that the locals join the tourists for a great time! This celebration is on par with their Carnival and the fireworks are absolutely amazing. Dress up in white and share that New Years kiss on the beaches of Rio! And you cannot come all the way to Brazil without experiencing its rainforests, can you?

Venice, Italy

This small city in Italy is perfect for a New Year’s kiss. On the last night of the year, many restaurants in Venice have feasts starting from 9p.m. and lasting until midnight, with great food and cheap wine. Also, in St. Mark’s Square there is a huge celebration with music, fireworks and a huge group kiss at midnight. And nothing spells romantic like a gondola ride through the canals of Venice!

Cape Town, South Africa

Welcome the New Year dancing in Cape Town! Some of the hottest parties and celebrations are held in this seaside city, and you can have your special New Years Kiss while on the beach. You of course will have to try the wine while in South Africa, for it rivals even Italy for quality!

Hong Kong, China

Although the Chinese Lunar New Year does not coincide with December 31st, there are still celebrations held in Hong Kong! You will not be at a loss to find a popping party the night of. Top the Hong Kong experience off with your New Years kiss while LED lights count down the last 60 seconds of the old year! You cannot forget the wonderful beauty outside Hong Kong either, for China is home to some of the most breathtaking sights.

Sydney, Australia

Although not as typically romantic as European cities, Sydney has a lot to offer. Enjoy your New Year’s kiss as some of the first New Year’s fireworks in the world explode in the night sky amid music! The best part of being in Sydney at the end of the year is that it is not wintertime; you will be coming in the height of summer. You can spend your days at the beach, dolphin spotting and enjoying the Australian lifestyle!

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Things to do in Jamaica: Music and Good Vibes.

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Jamaica
Jamaica is known as the home of reggae, Bob Marley and jerk chicken. But there is more to Jamaica that meets the eye. The Jamaica Ocho Rios Jazz Festival celebrates music at its finest and is a definite can’t-miss for music lovers. It occurs during June, giving you a taste of summer in the Caribbean. Quick tip: bring a lot of sunscreen and mosquito repellent!

If you really want to cool down, you can always kayak in the White River Valley! This will give you a nice dunking in fresh water, a thrilling ride through rapids, and you will even get to see a riverside dwelling reminiscent of early inhabitants of Jamaica!  If river kayaking is not your thing, you can try the White River Valley Tubing – a more relaxing way to experience this river. It’s slower paced, giving you more time to appreciate the beauty of Jamaica and take pictures. Another great way to cool down is to take a Jeep Safari to Dunns River Falls. You will get to see a bit of Jamaica as the zebra-striped jeep takes you to some breathtaking sights. And, finally, the famous Dunns River Falls, where you can climb the 600-foot cascades!

Ocho Rios, despite its name, is not all about rivers. If you’re in the mood for something a little less conventional, you can always try Jamaican Dog Sledding. Yes, I know, dog sledding is usually done over snow and Jamaica never has snow. But why should that stop you? You will learn about the adventurous individual who decided to start the whole movement, meet the dogs, and harness them in preparation of your own ride! This is a great and rather unusual way to see Jamaica, and something to brag about to your friends.

If you cannot make it in June for the Jazz festival, or if Jazz just doesn’t tickle you the right way, you can always come down for the Reggae Sumfest in July. Eat some great food and soak in some of those ‘irie vibes’ as you listen to the music. To authenticate the experience even more, you can take the Bob Marley tour. Get the full history of the creator of Reggae and all the places he visited, lived, and is buried.

If you’re all ‘reggae-d out’ by the end of the Sumfest, there are many other things you can do in Montego Bay, like, let’s say, a zip-lining tour. This thrilling tour takes place in the canopy of Jamaica’s forests and will give you a fantastic bird’s eye’s view of the Jamaican rainforest- literally! And if you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, you can always try the ATV Safari in Sandy Bay. Sandy Bay is known as one of the most idyllic parts of this small island and you will get to experience and see some of Jamaica’s rich history while zooming along.

Jamaica is full of rich culture, fantastic music, beautiful sights and friendly people, and is a must-visit for everyone who wants a Caribbean holiday. Yeah mon!

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Christmas Shopping in the Fashion Capitals of the World

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The Christmas season is upon us once again, and you know what that means- shopping! No matter how much you love to shop, at this time of year, it can get tedious. But why not combine travel to a fantastic city with that little bit of pleasure and pain? Here are some great ideas for your Christmas shopping:

Paris: Paris is well known as the city of love and lights, but it is also one of the oldest cities in the world.  In the Antique Shopping tour, you can acquire little pieces of its past! This tour ensures you do not go into Paris to face the many shopping options alone. Your guide will pick a market in Paris for you to visit, where you can either enlist your guide’s help in shopping, or go around on your own. Whether you’re looking for antique furniture, jewellery, or clothing, you’re sure to find it while on this tour. Antique items make a great and unique Christmas present for anyone, and you will be satisfied with the great prices!

Dubai: Dubai is not an ancient city like Paris, but it has been climbing the ranks in one of the most fashionable cities in the world. So why not treat yourself with a shopping tour with an expert guide? This tour will take you to some of the best malls and souks where you can get some amazing bargains! You will not only get to visit the more conventional malls, but also the more traditional markets and really get a feel for the city of Dubai.

Milan: Everyone knows that Milan is the capital of fashion, but Serraville Outlet is the capital of brand names. It’s the first designer outlet in Italy and the largest in Europe, and only 50 minutes outside the fashion capital! It is a huge area with 180 shops and boutiques of the most prestigious brands in a very pleasing surrounding.

London:  I’ve only been in London for a couple of months, but I’ve noticed that Londoners love their markets! The markets are absolutely amazing and provide unique and great presents for family and friends, and at great prices! You also don’t have to brave these London markets on your own; a guide can be with you. What’s even better, the tour is not the same every day, so you can go on the same tour twice, but get two totally different experiences!

New York City: New York City is well known worldwide for being a great destination for tourists, business, food, and of course, shopping. So it is no surprise that there is a Fifth Avenue Shopping Tour! On this tour you get to visit some of the most popular stores in the Big Apple. Not only that, but an expert stylist is your tour guide- so you can get clothes that fit your body and budget! This tour also includes coffee and cake at the famous Trump Tower. No matter what place you decide to visit for your Christmas shopping, you can be guaranteed a great shopping experience, a beautiful city, and great tours besides!

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