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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 in ‘Things to do in North America’

Nashville offers a universal experience

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Since its opening, the Adventure Science Center in Nashville has been determined to generate interest in the sciences among children and rarely will visitors find an establishment that does it better.

Their modern, interactive philosophy and hands-on approach means that the exhibits are just as much fun for adults as they are for kids.

In turning handles and pushing buttons children from four to 94 can absorb information on technology, physics, health and the environment providing a fun way of introducing people to the inner and outer mechanics of the world around them.

Visitors are particularly encouraged to set aside two hours of their trip to see the wonders of the Universe at the Sudekum Planetarium where regular shows project over six million stars and enhanced animations against a state-of-the-art dome.

The atmosphere is generated by the 5.1 surround sound system and gently sloped seating creates a genuinely unique night-sky experience from horizon to horizon.

The Universe is waiting at 800 Fort Negley Boulevard, Nashville TN.

The Adventure Science Centre is open from 10:00 until 17:00 every day except Monday.

Special Interest – Nightlife – From an extravagant meal to an eerie ghost walk – plenty of things to keep you entertained after the sun goes down.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18771761-ADNFCR

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Take a liberty in New York

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What stands 92.99 metres high and has an index finger measuring eight feet in length?

Just over 38 years after it was dedicated on October 28th 1886, this landmark was declared a national monument in 1924.

The structure contains 125 tonnes of steel and 31 tonnes of copper and yet it sways six inches from side to side when the wind blows in excess of 50 miles per hour.

It has been covered entirely in snow, a tidal wave, buried up to its torch in sand and destroyed by aliens, in the movies at least.

This universal symbol of democracy was given by the people of France to the people of the United States and has a twin in Paris.

It is hard to imagine a visit to New York without following in the footsteps of the millions of people who have made the trip from the southern tip of Manhattan Island to one of the most iconic landmarks in America.

Indeed it could be classed as pointless as giving the Mona Lisa a miss on a visit to the Louvre but if you remain unsure as to what this tourist magnet could be, perhaps you should take a trip to the New York Public Library to find out.

New York – From the dizzy heights of the Empire State Building to the serene Central Park New York has it all!ADNFCR-1652-ID-18769859-ADNFCR

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Photos of La Jolla Seals

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I would like to thank Karen Lorah for submitting her fantastic photographs of La Jolla for yesterday’s blog about top wedding locations – I had to post more of them!

For those of you that don’t know, La Jolla is a wealthy seaside resort or “village” in San Diego, California, which annually attracts not only lots of tourists but also…lots of adorable SEALS.

Check out Karen’s photos:

La Jolla Seals

 

La Jolla Seal 2

 

La Jolla Seal 3

 

So cute!  Thanks again, Karen!

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So you’re getting married?

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Having recently attended a marvellous, heartwarming, wonderful, life-changing, fairytale-of-a-wedding in Oxford, I’m feeling inspired to go ahead and…

Wedding Magdalen Chapel

…write a blog about beautiful places to get married!

Some picture perfect places to tie the knot…

1. Magdalen College, Oxford.

The picture above was taken in the Magdalen College Chapel in Oxford.  I am partial to this wedding venue not only because the chapel and college grounds are absolutely stunning (see blogs about Magdalen and May Morning for more photographs) but also because, as is the case with many college weddings, the ceremony, dinner and reception venues are all located under one (beautiful!) roof.

After the ceremony, we filed out onto Cloisters Quad for a bit of late afternoon champagne action; this was followed by a four course meal in the portrait-lined, Harry Potter-esque dining hall.  And the evening ended in the Old Kitchen Bar, the oldest room in the college—lots of character, lots of fun.

We set off the next morning after breakfast in Batwillow Meadow, where we enjoyed live music and leisurely punting (What exactly, you ask, does ‘punting’ entail?  Read this blog.)

2. Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

For the smal scale family wedding, any tiered town on this beautiful stretch of Italian coastline will do.  My personal favourite would be Positano, which many of you may recognize from the hit feature Under the Tuscan Sun.

Positano Amalfi Coast

Positano is one of the most charming, romantic towns that I encountered during my five month visit to Italy: the views are amazing—pastel architecture, rugged terrain, turquoise water—the people are lovely, the restaurants are quaint, and the cuisine is delectable….

Where to tie the knot?  There are plenty of venues scattered across the town, including a local Wedding Hall, a Baroque Cathedral and, of course, the beach!

3. La Jolla, California

You are definitely missing out if you have never seen this most gorgeous area near San Diego.  La Jolla (pronounced “La Hoya”) is, in my opinion, the perfect destination for the eloping couple.

How would you like to say your vows on a cliff overlooking a sparkling bay full of seals?  In a secluded beach cove?

Known for its incredible shoreline, abundant sea mammal population, pristine views, clear skies and gorgeous weather, La Jolla boasts some of the most amazing scenery on California’s coast.

La Jolla coastline

Why wait six more months?  Even three more weeks? Hop on a plane, say “I do”, and stay for your honeymoon….or forever (you’ll certainly want to!).

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Los Angeles offers the weird and wonderful

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Everyone can claim to have a dusty old edition of the Guinness Book of World Records on a shelf somewhere but visitors to Los Angeles may want to have a look at the museum.

It is situated on Hollywood Boulevard just yards from the famous Chinese Theatre and, predictably, has a section devoted to the history of the movie industry but its exhibits go way beyond that.

Showpieces include the world”s heaviest man and there are several other curios from the realms of human endeavour, sports, architecture, and the animal kingdom.

One of the more intriguing attractions is the actual-size model of the world”s tallest man Robert Wadlow who at eight feet, 11 and a quarter inches casts a very long shadow over and beyond the world”s smallest woman Lucia Zarate who stood at just 26 and a half inches high.

Via the magic of television, a rare interview given by Mr Wadlow is on show but the museum tries not to exploit the freakish unlike its close neighbour – Ripley”s Believe It Or Not museum.

This museum specialises in the bizarre and may not be suitable for the kids.

If you still haven”t had enough of the weird and wonderful, you could always cross the street and have a wander around the Hollywood wax museum.

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-18767702-ADNFCR

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Boston; the cradle of US history

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Boston is regarded as one of America”s more accessible cities because of its compact layout which means that, not only is it possible to cram in a lot on foot, there is actually no better way to explore.

The past and present live happily side by side and visitors to this historical city can get to know it well by walking the Freedom Trail.

The route is one of America”s first walking tours and has helped to enhance Boston”s image as a walking city.

There are several organised tours to choose from but they”re not compulsory and the route is clearly marked by red brick or a painted line so visitors can explore at their own pace.

Tours normally last around two to three hours and visit 16 historical sites but many prefer to take things slower in order to absorb over 200 years worth of history and change.

It is very easy to spend the entire day taking in the sights and the atmosphere of the city.

Official guided tours begin every 30 minutes from the Park Visitor Center at 15 State Street, opposite the Old State House.

Seniors – Historic Tours – From the Roman Empire to the Second World War, these tours bring world history to life.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18765545-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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Small Town Getways (US and UK)

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TRUE OR FALSE:

In the past 30 days, you have:

1. ‘Accidentally’ elbow checked 5 or more fellow morning commuters in one 20 minute period.

2. Purposely umbrella-jousted a wandering sightseer to spite her for interrupting your morning commute, damn her tourist-idiot-who-gets-to-be-on-vacation…while you are stuck in flourescent lit basement office.

3. Submitted yourself to that recent Craigslist ad to become the poster child for the 2009 CACTS (Campaign Against Carpel Tunnel Syndrome).

4. Wished yourself away to an exotic beach and/or a vast expanse of desolate countryside.

5. Subsequently checked your bank statement and audibly cursed the ‘credit crunch’, Jesus, and your boss’s mother (in the middle of a conference meeting).

6. Gone and checked Craigslist—or Googled ‘CACTS’—after reading number 3.

If you answered TRUE to one or more of the above statements, particularly #6, I pity you. And I think it’s safe to say that you need a vacation (- holiday!).

Did you know that approximately 31% of employed US adults and 23% of employed UK adults will not use all of their vacation days this year? (See Expedia ‘Vacation Deprivation’ Survey, 2008.)

There’s something wrong here, people.

What’s the deal? ¿Que pasa?

¿Porque no nos vamos de vacaciones?

Why don’t you get out of that office and see some of the world?

Oh, right, because the world suddenly got a bit, er, A LOT expensive. But it is important that you break free from your ‘daily grind’ every once in a while, even if only for a few days…and even if you’re not going far. And EVEN if you think you can’t afford it. Because believe me, you can. Stop it with the grande lattes, walk/cycle to work, and pack your lunches. It’s time to plan your (affordable! nearby!) vacation.

Staycations?

…are great if you live in Maui, San Diego, West Palm Beach, Aspen, Savannah…Cornwall, Devon (…or even Thanet?). But what about those of us who are stuck in congested, landlocked metropolises? Who wants to join the tourists in museum queues (- especially the ones that you’ve been stabbing with your umbrella?) Not I…

Sometimes, all that you really need to recharge your batteries is a change of scenery and a bit of small town charm. When’s the last time you visited a mom and pop grocery store? A kite festival? A bog snorkelling championship? A craft show?

Yeah, that’s what I thought. It’s time to abandon the city chaos, and get rural.

small town getaways with Big Time Charm:

1. Saugatuck, Michigan, USA

Nationally renowned beaches? Check.
Thirty plus art galleries ? Check.
Music? Theatre? Internationally acclaimed film festival?
Check. Check. Check…

Midwestern village, population 1,000?

That’s right!

Having spent a large chunk of my childhood locked in ‘the middle’ (of Missouri, specifically), I can empathize with those who long to dip their toes in something other than the local chlorine pond. How to solve this without spending your annual bonus on gasoline/airfare? You’ll have to make do with the lakes (as in Great. Though we went to the Ozarks when I was a kid.)

Chi-towners: you’ve got options (and loads of them!). I know, I know, the urban backdrop of North Ave Beach is no Cinque Terre village. So then try something new: cruise up the coast of Lake Michigan for a bit of sun, fun and culture…in Saugatuck! This harbour town is the hub of Michigan’s ‘Art Coast’—apparently a culture vulture’s ‘seaside’ heaven—boasting Victorian B&Bs, steamboat cruises, outdoor exhibitions, fairs, festivals, nightly shows and, of course, a do-it-yourself ‘Art Barn’.

What more?

Distance? 127 miles from Chicago, 193 miles from Detroit.

During? Summer for beaches (though they claim to have ‘six seasons’)

2. Lewes, Delaware, USA:

Lewes, Delaware (pronounced like the name ‘Lewis’) is actually my hometown, so I can vouch for its loveliness…with about 12 years of experience to draw upon. This quaint, beachside gem’s claim to fame: it is, officially, the ‘First Town in the First State’, having been settled by the Dutch in 1631. Beyond the easily accessible beaches: Lewes Beach on the Delaware Bay ( = no waves!) and Cape Henlopen State Park on the Atlantic Ocean ( = waves!), the historic downtown area boasts a range of high quality, locally-owned shops and cafes, alongside fantastic eateries, canal front accommodation, and a handful of interesting, historic landmarks (including ‘The Cannonball House’, named for a British ‘gift’ that has been lodged into its foundation since the War of 1812…).

Tips: go outlet shopping (Delaware is one of two states with no sales tax), and check out the Kite Festival if you visit in March.

(If you want to know about specific restaurants, hotels, nearby bar scenes for young people, etc, post a message below, and I will get back to you with loads of info!)

Distance? 119 miles from D.C., 120 miles from Philadelphia, 203 miles from New York.

During? May, early June, or mid-late September (less people, less jellyfish).

3. Lewes, England, UK:

Okay, we’ve pond hopped to the ‘original’ Lewes! (not surprisingly, Lewes, Sussex County, Delaware was named after Lewes, East Sussex, England…oh, what a transnational blog this is…)

Right…so Londoners, have you ever sipped a pint of Harveys Old Ale on a Sunday afternoon?

Lewes, home of Harveys Pub and Brewery, is a lovely little market town that can be reached by train from London in under two hours. A welcoming bunch, the chirpy Lewesians take pride in their local and national culture, identifying with a range of historic sights (- including a castle!) and, famously, the most debaucherous Guy Fawkes Day celebration in the country, which they host each year on November 5th.

The canal-front town is set against picturesque, chalky white cliffs: catch a ride to the top for some amazing views. And don’t forget to take a tour—and a taste—of Harveys Brewery!

Distance: Under two hours from London by train.

During: …predict British weather? Your guess is as good as mine. I would avoid Guy Fawkes Day (but if you really want to go, you should find a local to stay with).

4. Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, UK

Fancy a bog snorkel? In Wales’s, um ‘wildest’ peat bog?

Take an amusing—and last minute—break from the humdrum of city life by discovering the smallest town in Britain! Llanwrtyd Wells is known for its quirky annual festivals, the most popular being the annual Bog Snorkelling Competition, which will draw in competitors from all over the world and is happening THIS BANK HOLIDAY MONDAY AUGUST 25th.

If I didn’t already have plans to go to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, I would so be there.

Distance? 104 miles from Birmingham, 202 miles from London.

During? Now

May you escape the big city madness for one last summer adventure!

Cheers to small towns, quirkiness, and last minute whims…..

 

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Last chance to see Medieval and Renaissance pieces at the Met

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Two exhibitions will close in New York in mid-AugustAugust 17th is the last date of the Medieval and Renaissance exhibition on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

On loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the 35 treasures of the collection have not been seen previously in the Big Apple.

Included in the exhibition are the Carolingian ivory cover of the Lorsch Gospels, an ivory statuette of the crucified Christ by Giovanni Pisano, Donatello”s bronze Winged Putto with Fantastic Fish, a pair of gilt-bronze statuettes of prophets by Hubert Gerhard, and the Codex Forster 1, one of Leonardo da Vinci”s treasured notebooks.

Around the same time, the Geo/Metric: Prints and Drawings exhbition also ends at the MoMA.

August 18th is the last chance to see this collection of works done in the styles of the Cubist, Futurist, Russian avant-garde artists of the 1910s and 1920s and Minimalists.

New York – From the dizzy heights of the Empire State Building to the serene Central Park New York has it all!
ADNFCR-1652-ID-18725749-ADNFCR

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Globe trotters unite: a journey with a purpose.

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Our ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest entries have been rolling in! A few of you got very creative with your responses, crafting globe trotting itineraries with inventive themes. Here are some of our favourites thus far:

1. ‘Southern Music Odyssey’, by Greg Davies

A road trip with a difference—i.e. not your usual ‘Route 66’ or ‘Coast to Coast’ American Dream. Due to my late grandfather’s musical obsession that he passed onto me, my dream holiday would be to drive the southern United States, visiting and enjoying some of the famous sights and sounds of Country music—the Grand Ol’ Opry, Memphis, Tupelo, Austin, Nashville—all in an old convertible…staying at old-style motels along the way and enjoying southern hospitality and good ol’ time music, the way it’s meant to be enjoyed!

2. ‘A Taste for Travel’, by Lydia Houghton

I’d have lobster in Cancun, cocktails in New York, A balti in Bombay, A Guinness in County Cork, coq au vin in Paris, a pizza in fair Rome, a chop suey in Beijing, and Swedish meatballs in Stockholm.

It would be such a treat to take a break from all the cooking, but the only problem is… my tummy might need tucking!

3. ‘Natural World Wonders’, by Chris Woodroofe

My Perfect Holiday would be a tour around all of the natural world wonders: Serengeti Migration, Galápagos Islands, Grand Canyon, Iguazu Falls, Amazon Rainforest, Ngorongoro Crater, Great Barrier Reef, Bora Bora Cappadocia and Victoria Falls. All I would need would be a backpack, a diary, and a camera…this would be my perfect holiday—very simple, but very rewarding, as the natural world wonders are being destroyed…

That’s all for now!

The official shortlist will be posted on the isango! website very soon. Be sure to vote!

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