Tag: "plan"

Craft Beers across Canada travel itinerary

Please enjoy this guest-authored travel plan: I love micro-brewed beers & craft beers with intense full flavour and I’ve had the luxury of sampling them in almost all the provinces across Canada via my music touring. Canuck brewing has come a long long way in the last 10 or so years. I first developed my love of beer when in university in Belfast, Northern Ireland when I realized they all didn’t need to be kind of watered down bland-tasting pale brews catering to the broadest spectrum of palates possible. My hunch at the time (survey of one 1!) was that British and Irish people liked more flavour in their beer than North Americans but I’ve seen as the Canadian offerings have become more and more interesting that the uptake amongst my friends has been pretty significant. I think we were settling for mediocre mass produced brews because that’s what we could buy. But now, we’ve seen that locally made craft beers can be gutsy and bold and there are so many now that with some digging you can find a favorite. They can be extremely hoppy, or really bitter. They can even incorporate local fruit flavours or coffees if they want, and they know they aren’t there to please everyone – which is just fine by me and those who love them. They own their niche, and they own it well.

I’ve been able to pick a favorite or 2 in many of the provinces in Canada that I’ve toured to with my performing and I thought I’d share a few of them here. If you come across them you might want to give them a try. (Caveat: for all I know, some of these have been discontinued since I tried them! If so, try some other brews by these breweries – they’re all doing good things.) Happy Tasting! NOTE: I make no claim to be an expert. Rather, I’m merely sharing some beers that I enjoyed, and hope you do too.

If you were taking a Trans-Canada drive here is a bit of a beer itinerary I’d recommend, starting at the West coast and working your way East.

Monday: British Columbia: Granville Island Brewery (Vancouver) – Robson St Hefeweizen

Start your trip off with this fresh unfiltered wheat ale. It has some fruit overtones to it – and it’s often served with a wedge of lemon or orange: a nice start to your trip. You’ll be driving past the Okanagan Valley with all of its fruity goodness en route to Alberta so this seems a good fit.

Wednesday: Alberta: Wild Rose Brewery (Calgary) – Alberta Crude Oatmeal Stout

As you pull into oil-country after you’ve doddled through the beautiful Rocky Mountains, I’ll point out that you can only get this aptly named wonderful stout on tap. It’s not actually bottled! So go try it in the brewery’s taproom in Calgary as a treat. It’s got a nice complex taste and if you like Guinness this certainly gives it a run for its money.

Thursday: Saskatchewan: Bushwakker Brewpub (Regina) – Palliser Porter

Staying on highway #1, your next big urban centre (population 220,000!) is the queen city of Regina Saskatchewan. You’ve just driven through some insanely flat prairie turf and you’re a bit bored so you need a pick me up. I discovered Bushwakker brew pub in Regina years ago and keep going back. They brew fantastic delights. There’s a tiny bit of sweetness in their malty Palliser Porter. It’s pure deliciousness in a pint-glass. You can get this bottled too, but go try it right at Bushwakkers and check out this amazing brew pub on Dewdney Avenue.

Friday: Manitoba: Half Pints Brewing Company (Winnipeg) – Stir Stick Stout

An easy 6 hour drive from Regina and you’re in Winnipeg. Winnipeg never fails with this lovely brew on the menu. I discovered this after a gig at the Park Theatre. It’s pretty strong tasting stout (6% alcohol) and most of the flavours I get from this are of the locally roasted coffee ingredient, but there are chocolate notes as well. It’s delightful! I’ve only had this bottled. Not sure if you can get this on tap too?

Sunday: Ontario: Mill Street Brewery (Toronto) – Mill Street Belgian-Style Wit Beer

When you pull into Toronto after the drive from Manitoba you’ll be ready to collapse. But instead, take this advice & head on down to the actual Mill Street Brewery in the incredibly quaint distillery district. It’s like walking back in time. The Victorian industrial space is so well-preserved with it’s cobblestone and brick streets, and 1800s architecture. You’ll get thirsty just looking at it. Wind through the lanes to find the Mill St brewery and belly up to the bar. Their Wit Beer is unfiltered & cloudy, and pretty citrus-y. There’s a hint of coriander and actually banana (somehow). You can get this one bottled too. I’d be amiss to not mention their Tankhouse Ale which you can now get bottled all across Canada. It’s a go-to beer for me too but is almost becoming too common for me now. Hence me recommending the Wit! It’s different and worth a try.

Tuesday: Quebec: McAuslan Brewery (Montreal) – St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

You’re likely in Montreal by now and you’d be crazy not to try this one. This stout is available both bottled an on tap. It makes a great creamy head and is super black in a pint glass. It has rich coffee and chocolate notes. It’s one of my go-to Quebec beers.

Thursday: New Brunswick: Pumphouse Brewery (Moncton) – Scotch Ale

I’ve had this New Brunswick brew in a bottle and quite liked it – my bandmate didn’t. All the more reason for you to try it. I’m pretty sure I tried it in Moncton and am not sure about it’s availability elsewhere in Canada, but I noticed elsewhere in NB. It’s a nice dark brown when poured into a glass and has a great smoky caramel taste going on – kind of a woody/peat flavour so you know what you’re getting into. I actually think the aroma is more robust than the actual taste when you sip it. The aftertaste is fairly strong too. Certainly unique and worth a try.

Friday: Nova Scotia: Propeller Brewing Co. (Halifax) – Propeller Porter

I tried this porter when in Halifax last year. Two words: So. Good. It has a nice thick creamy head and the flavours are that chocolately coffee goodness I tend to migrate to in a porter. This seemed to have a few dark fruity hints too. It’s actually a little lighter than some other porters I’ve had which was a nice contrast. Maybe a good entry porter if you’re not used to drinking them?

Saturday: PEI: Prince Edward Island Brewing Co. (Charlottetown) – Iron Bridge Brown Ale

You’ll drive the confederation bridge over to PEI and you’ll be ready to settle in that evening for a pint. The PEI brewing company brews it up in Charlottetown, the capital. I had this one in a bottle and it was medium bodied compared to other ales I’ve had – maybe a bit thin if you like them super full bodied. It had a yummy malty chocolate taste and there was something a bit ‘grainy’ (roast cereal?) about the taste too. I’m sure that’s polarizing for some tasters but I’d do this one again for sure.

There are some obvious locales of this Canadian beer trip that I’ve not mentioned yet. It’s either because they didn’t fit the route I just described or I’ve not visited yet and have yet to pick a favorite. One more worth noting is in Yukon though:

Yukon: Yukon Brewing (Whitehorse) – Midnight Sun, Espresso Stout

I had this from a bottle in Whitehorse when up in the Yukon for a show as part of the Western Canadian Music Awards a few years ago. This stout had a nice malt + espresso coffee flavour. It was really robust with chocolate notes. I remember the bottle being BIG too!

If you’re looking for brew thoughts from Newfoundland/Labrador, NWT and Nunavut you’ll need to wait for a future post. I’ve yet to try the brewed delights there. I can’t wait though, as it’s been pretty fun doing this trans-Canada tasting. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little post and if you get to try some of the beers I’ve mentioned please post/reply and let me know what you think.
Cheers! Jeffery
www.jeffstraker.com

5-Day travel itinerary for Costa Rica: Monteverde Cloud Forest, Arenal Volcano

With so much to see and do in Costa Rica, it’s well worth having a plan in place before you arrive. 5 days may just be a short break, but you’ll be able to see plenty if you take a little time to consider your itinerary. Here, we give you a recommended plan for 5 days in the beautiful setting of Costa Rica.

Day 1: Arrive and settle in

Many itineraries that you find online will have you trekking all over on your first day, but it’s wise bearing in mind that you’ve got several full days ahead of you. This considered, we’d strongly recommend using your first day to settle into your hotel in San Jose and familiarise yourself with the surroundings. Head to a local shop to buy some water, and take a leisurely walk around the neighbourhood. You’ll stumble across many stands that sell exotic and fresh fruits that you should definitely sample.

On the evening, head over to the National Theatre and see a show if there’s anything on that you’d be interested in. You’ll have a busy few days ahead, so make sure that you get a reasonably early night so you’re well rested for your adventures!

It’s worth noting that San Jose is divided into dozens of neighbourhoods, known as ‘barrios’, and some are obviously safer than others. Stick to the tourist areas and avoid the Coca Cola Bus Station. If you need to get from A to B and are unsure about safety, it could be worthwhile getting a taxi. It will only cost you a few dollars to be taken anywhere within the city, though bear in mind that you’ll usually have to provide the name of a landmark or building rather than a street address. It’s always worth carrying a map with you.

Day 2: Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

Set your alarm clock for an early start and take a guided tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Having an expert guide on hand will be invaluable when it comes to making sure that you see everything. You’re likely to experience the hummingbirds just near the entrance, as well as the bat jungle and the frog pond.

It can easily fill up a whole day, so be sure to take plenty of sun cream. The temperatures can really soar during the warmer months.

Day 3: Arenal Volcano

Rent a car and take a drive up to the Arenal Volcano in the National Park. It’s an impressive site of natural beauty, and many people revel in the opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

There are several natural spas in the area, so be sure to call in for a relaxing treat. There’s also plenty of places to pick up souvenirs for your loved ones back at home. After a day that will inevitably include a lot of walking, treat yourself at a luxury restaurant. Benedictus Steak House comes highly recommended and offers fantastic views and excellent service.

Though it’s possible to get a good feel for the area in just one day, many travellers feel that it isn’t quite enough to really soak up the atmosphere. If you can stay a little longer, it’s well worth it.

It takes around three hours to get from San Jose to Arenal, so you’ll need an early start. The route is a fairly easy one, but be aware that roads aren’t always maintained to the highest standards, so watch out for potholes. Car crime is notoriously high in some places, so take a wheel lock just to be on the safe side.

Day 4: Boat tour

The waters of Costa Rica are absolutely beautiful, so schedule in a little time to get out on the open seas. There are many organised tours available that will call by all the main attractions, so look out for deals. Wherever you’re staying, you’ll find plenty of options available.

We definitely recommend just kicking back and relaxing on one of the many golden beaches, though if you’re more of the adventurous type, take your hiking boots and get exploring. There are many walks that cater for different abilities. Snorkeling is also popular, so keep your eyes open for boat tours that will take you to the hotspots spots.

Day 5: Fly home

You’ll be flying home today, so it’s worth factoring in a little extra time for organisation and any last minute things that you need to take of. Especially if you’re travelling with children, it can be a stressful day! Have a leisurely breakfast from a local café, then do any shopping that you still need before leaving.

Fly back home with plenty of happy memories and photographs to show your friends and family!

There’s room for flexibility in this itinerary, so if there’s something else that you particularly have you heart set on, just do a little bit or rejigging so you can fit in everything that you’d like to do.

If you like things to be taken care of for you, you might want to consider booking through a travel provider. Click here to find out more about offerings from The Holiday Place.

Have you ever been to Costa Rica? What would you consider to be the highlights?

This article was brought to you by Ruth Richards on behalf of The Holiday Place. Click here to read more about their exotic break options, including holidays to Cuba.

Travel Plan Idea – Destination Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, offers travelers a look at the culture, the maritime history of Portuguese explorers, and a romantic ambiance. All types of music, especially Fado the folk songs of the poor, are an attraction for many travelers to Lisbon. Although the Mediterranean climate is generally pleasant year round, Spring may be the best time to visit this beautiful city. This itinerary should work in any season.

Day 1 – Arrive La Portela Airport and taxi to the Sofitel Lisboa Libertedad hotel, only 4 miles away and centrally located on one of the main avenues in Lisbon. Check in to a tastefully decorated room with a pleasing combination of historic and modern amenities and decor. Dine in at the hotel’s elegant Ad Lib restaurant and begin sightseeing tomorrow. The menu offers a variety of a la carte Portuguese and French gourmet cuisine such as quail and foie gras appetizers, seafood, pasta, and meats, as well as an extensive wine list. Avg Prices (entrees): $28-$50. Dinner Hours: Mon-Sun, 7:30pm-12Midnight. The restaurant is also open for weekend brunch and lunch, Mon-Fri, 12:30-3pm Avg Room Rate: $126.

Day 2 – Out and About

Buffet breakfast at the hotel and off to explore. Take Tram 28, the best way to reach St George’s Castle, a 6th century B.C. fortress on a high hill overlooking the city and the Tagus River. Hours: Mar-Oct, 9am-9pm, Nov-Feb, 9am-6pm. Entry: $8
(Note: Trams avg fares $2-$5.) Wander through the narrow streets of the historic Alfama district before a tram ride to the 16th century Belem Tower, a former lighthouse, fortress, and prison, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hours: 10am-5pm daily except Monday. Free admission.

Leaving the Tower, visit Jeronimo’s Monastery, part of the same World Heritage Site. Built by King Manuel I during the Age of Discoveries to give thanks for Vasco de Gama’s safe journey to India. A unique mix of architectural styles can be seen throughout the entire monastery, in the halls, cloisters, and tombs. Hours: May-Sep, Tues-Sun, 10am-6:30pm. Oct-Apr, 10am-5:30pm. Adults – $9. Under 14 – Free.

For lunch head over to Flor dos Arcos for gazpacho, the local specialty “bacalhau” cod fritters, and a glass of white wine. Cozy, good service, reasonable prices.

A few hours left before dinner and time to take the 40-minute train ride to the nearby town of Sintra to visit the Pena Palace and Park. Designed by King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II and completed in 1847, it became a World Heritage Site and one of the “Seven Wonders of Portugal.” Tourists will be intrigued by the different, somewhat gaudy architectural styles and pastel walls of the exterior and the lavish interior furnishings. Stroll through the splendid gardens and see the Chalet of the Countess of Edla, built for Ferdinand’s second wife.
Hours: Pena Park – 9:30am-8pm, Palace – 9:45am-7pm, Chalet – 9:30am-7pm. Closed 25 Dec & 1 Jan.
Ticket Prices: $15 – Palace & Park. Guided Tours: $7

After a full day of sightseeing, return to the hotel before dinner tonight at Café de Sao Bento, perhaps the best steakhouse in Lisbon and a long-time favorite of politicians and celebrities. Excellent place for delicious steak and fries! Hours: Mon-Fri, 12:30–2:30pm, 7pm-2am. Sat & Sun, 7pm-2am. Main meals: $40

Day 3 – Visiting Cultural Attractions

Fado Museum – Following the history of Fado or “destiny,” music, the museum features exhibitions, interactive information panels, audio-visual presentations, wax figures, and other memorabilia. Live performances of Fado are given by the Visitas Cantadas, Singing Tours. Gift shop & café onsite.
Hours: Tues-Sun, 10am-6pm. Closed 1 Jan, 1 May, & 25 Dec. Admission: $5

Maritime Museum – Not to be missed, this museum traces Portugal’s maritime history with model boat exhibits, memorabilia from ships and famous explorers such as Vasco de Gama, as well as nautical devices and uniforms. Hours: Tues-Sun, 10am-5pm, Oct-May. 10am-6pm, May-Oct. Admission: Adults – $5, ages 6-18, $2.50.

Lunch at the highly recommended Gambrinus restaurant in the city center before going on to the Tile Museum, a short distance from town. Specialties include shellfish bisque, gourmet appetizers and shrimp, lobster, sea bass, and spicy chicken. Expensive, great food, excellent service. $27-$47 (full meal).

National Tile Museum – Known for exquisite ceramic tiles or “azulejos” throughout Portugal, Lisbon’s Tile Museum in the Convento Madre de Deus is definitely worth seeing. Housing collections and history of tiles and tile making dating back to the 15th century, the museum features Lisbon in 1738 with a 7′ long landscape masterpiece of 1300 tiles. Cafeteria & gift shop. Hours: Wed-Sun, 10am-6pm, Tues, 2-6pm. Admission: $7

After a full day, return to hotel. Go Italian tonight with pizza, pasta, or risotto at the small, romantic Come Prima restaurant. Dinner Hours: Mon-Thurs, 7-11pm, Fri & Sat, 7-Midnight. Prices: $12-$22.

Day 4 – Shopping Day

Explore and spend money in the Chiado district of numerous boutiques, designer label shops, and second hand clothing stores. Among those recommended are A Vida Portuguesa for unique gifts, the beautiful Ourevesaria Aliança for silver and gold, Bertrands, the oldest bookstore in the world, and Voa for perfumes, textiles, and ceramics.

Lunch at A Brasileira café on Rua Garrett, the famous café/coffeehouse popular with visitors, poets, writers, and artists. From the bronze statue of poet Fernando Pessoa at the entrance and the art deco interior of chandeliers and mirrored walls to the outdoor umbrella tables, A Brasileira is the place to socialize and people watch, or join friends for late night drinking and conversation. Be prepared to pay a bit more here because of its popularity, over $6 for a cup of local coffee “bica” or a pastel de nata “custard tart.” Hours: 8am-2am.

Return to hotel with full shopping bags, relax before dinner and cocktails at the Ad Lib hotel restaurant.

Day 5 – Tours

After breakfast, join the 3 1/2 hour guided tour of the old parts of Lisbon including the Alfama, Graça, and Castelo districts. Walk through the Martime Moniz Square and the traditional neighborhood of Mouraria while learning about the Moorish conquests. Other highlights of the tour include the spectacular view from the Chapel of Our Lady on the Hill, the Castle Citadel, and the Casa dos Bicos palace. Price: $20.

Lunch at one of the many cafes and spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sights in town.

Return to hotel to pack before joining a small group for the Fado and Tapas 4-hour tour beginning at 7pm. Visit neighborhoods and listen to music with a glass of beer, wine, or Lisbon’s Ginjinha liqueur. The tour ends at a small restaurant with a live performance of Fado and a plate of tapas. Price: $52

Day 6 – Leaving Lisbon.

Sharon L Slayton

Travel plan: 5 Days in Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley is a coastal region of New South Wales, comprising of a mixture of big cities and small towns, all of which have something to offer visitors. While the renowned Hunter Valley vineyards are what put the area on the map, travellers are also drawn to the region for the stunning scenery, white sandy beaches and a chance to view nature in all its glory. In fact, with an estimated 2.5 million tourists visiting Hunter Valley each year, the region is the 6th most popular vacation destination in all of Australia.

With tiny mining towns such as Singleton showcasing the Hunter Valley history, and large cities such as Newcastle bringing a more modern and cosmopolitan aspect, trying to find a way to see everything can be a nightmare. If you’re short of time, you may need to pick just a handful of Hunter Valley highlights. This 5 day itinerary combines small town charm, big city excitement and, of course, a look at the famous Hunter Valley vineyards, which no trip is complete without.

Day 1: Relax on the beach

You’re probably ready and raring to go upon arrival, but a relaxing first day is a great start to any vacation. Spend an afternoon by the sea, it’s quite the contrast to the lush green Hunter Valley vineyards and farmland that occupy most of the region.

If you’ve arrived into Newcastle, the beaches there are a good place to start. Caves Beach is ideal for enjoying the sea views with a bit of privacy. The beach is lined with gigantic rock formations which form caves large enough for sitting and enjoying a picnic. If you’re travelling with children, Bar Beach is a good choice due to its rock pools and sand that lends itself to sandcastle building. You may wish to check out the beaches in nearby Port Stephens for the best surfing conditions, particularly One Mile Beach.

Day 2: Sample the local wines

Face it, the real reason you’ve travelled to the region is to visit the Hunter Valley vineyards and taste some of the local offerings, and who’d blame you? Wine making is big business in Hunter Valley, and it’s one of Australia’s biggest producers of both red and white wines.

The area of Pokolbin, just outside Cessnock, is a popular place for wine lovers. It’s here that you can visit Audrey Wilkinson, one of the oldest Hunter Valley vineyards, having been producing wine since 1866. This vineyard has a huge variety of wines on offer, but really specializes in Chardonnays, Semillons and Merlots. You can also take a tour of Hunter Valley vineyards with a number of tour companies such as Vineyard Tours and Boutique Wines Tours. If you’re in the Pokolbin area in October, be sure to buy tickets to Jazz in the Vines; an annual event combining the chilled out sounds of jazz with the smooth tastes of wines from the local Hunter Valley vineyards.

Day 3: Enjoy the views

Pokolbin is about more than just the wines, it’s also a place to gain incredible views over the entire Hunter Valley region. If you love to see sights from a unique perspective, and aren’t afraid of heights, why not book a hot air balloon flight?

Balloon Aloft and Hunter Valley Ballooning are just two of a number of hot air balloon companies that have a base in Pokolbin. It’s an ideal spot, as visitors can soar up high above the Hunter Valley vineyards and the area is close to the Aberdare, Watagan, Corrabare and Pokolbin state forests, as well as the Werakata National Park so fantastic views are guaranteed. Choose a flight that includes a glass of wine direct from the Hunter Valley vineyards below. If you prefer to stay on the ground, head to Nobbys Head at Newcastle and take in the great views from the lighthouse, or perhaps venture over to Mount View (set in the surroundings of the Brokenback Range) and go to Bistro Molines, just one of the Hunter Valley restaurants complete with culinary excellence and stunning views.

Day 4: Marvel at nature

The coastal location of Hunter Valley makes is the perfect spot for viewing marine life. The great thing is, it really doesn’t matter what time of year you visit Hunter Valley, as dolphins can be seen during the winter (Australian summer) months, and whales can be seen during the other months.

Many cruises operate out of Port Stephens, such as Imagine Cruises and Moonshadow, while some also offer sailings from Newcastle harbour at certain times of the year. Vessels are usually fitted with underwater cameras as well as open topped decks so you can really get the best views from all angles. Many cruise operators in Hunter Valley boast a 99% success rate in terms of sightings, so hopefully you should spot a few mammals. Just be sure to take your camera!

Day 5: Pick up some souvenirs

If you’re leaving Hunter Valley today, make sure you take a few reminders of your trip home with you, along with some gifts for family and friends of course. Hunter Valley offers some very unique shopping experiences, and visitors may be amazed at the variety of items they can pick up here.

If you’ve not got far to travel, grab a few bits of the local Hunter Valley produce to enjoy back at home. The Newcastle City Farmers Market displays seasonal fruit and veg, freshly baked breads, and locally grown herbs and cheeses amongst much more. Alternatively, stop by Roberts Meats who have won multiple awards and are considered one of the best sausage sellers in the region. Of course, you absolutely cannot leave the region without picking up a bottle of your favourite local wine. Most of the Hunter Valley vineyards offer cellar door sales, where you can purchase bottles directly from the winery. There’s no better souvenir to take away from Hunter Valley.

See also: Visiting the land of Robin Hood

Travel Plan for the Solo Traveler to Cardiff, Wales

Traveling solo is popular with students, backpackers, and young adventurers on a limited budget who want to see the world as economically as possible. But, times have changed considerably, and traveling solo at any age is now widely accepted and much more common than ever before. People realize that there are many benefits to traveling single, as Mark Twain once wrote, they have a great deal more freedom to “Explore, Dream, Discover.”

Day 1 – London to Cardiff

Leave Paddington Station in London by train, which takes about two hours, probably the fastest and least expensive way to get there. You can catch the train about every half hour during the main part of the day. Buy your ticket in advance, about $52/rd trip – check the single ticket prices; it may be cheaper to buy two than one round trip. Arrive some time after 1400 to check into the famous NosDa (Good night in Welsh) Studio Hostel), known as the Backpacker Mark 2, the only 5-star hostel in Wales. Your private room with shared bathroom runs about $36/night, continental breakfast included. Kitchen facilities available. Enjoy a beer or cocktail in the café bar, relax with a DVD or check your e-mail in the Lounge, and save the exploring for tomorrow.

Day 2 – Explore & Discover

Begin your day with a 30-minute workout in the gym, breakfast, and set out to explore the city. The hostel is centrally located on the River Taff, near the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Castle, and only 20 minutes walk to Cardiff Bay. Your first stop might be the Castle, an elegant, romantic historic attraction deeply rooted in a 2000-year-old history. Each room is lavish with murals, stained glass, and expert craftsmanship. You can take a tour through the castle and Wartime Shelters. Tickets: $22 Hours: 9am-6pm.

An inexpensive place for lunch or mid-afternoon meal is the Vegetarian Food Studio, perfect for the single traveler with a good selection of Indian cuisine such as curry and rice for $10 or smaller entrees for $5-$8. Take out from the deli or have it delivered. Hours: Tues-Sun, 10:30am-10pm.

You’ll probably have time before supper to visit the Cardiff Story Museum in the Old Library Building near the City Center. Experience the art and history as Cardiff evolved from a 12th century market town to a major seaport in the 1900’s and a bustling city today. Enjoy free exhibits, interactive galleries, and demonstrations. Hours: 10am-5pm daily except Sun,11-4pm.

After a full day exploring the city, have dinner at Y Mochyn Du (the Black Pig), a Victorian style pub on Cathedral Road about 20 minutes from the city center. Good selection of Welsh dishes and ales, indoor and outdoor service. Prices: $5.50-$11. Hours: Mon, 12Noon-11:30pm, Tues-Thu, 12Noon-11pm, Fri-Sat, 12Noon-12:30am.

Day 3 – Cardiff Bay & Doctor Who

Start your day with breakfast at Servini’s in the Wyndham Arcade, a family run café serving inexpensive baguettes for $4, scones less than $1, or full breakfast for
$7. Great food at reasonable prices served all day. Hours: Mon-Fri, 8am-4pm, Sat, 8-4:30pm.

For something different take the bus to Cardiff Bay and the Doctor Who experience, an interactive journey with exciting sound effects, lights, and costumes. Fly on the Tardis, do some role playing as a scarecrow, monster, or cyberman. Tickets: Adults – $24
Buses leave every 10 minutes from the city. Hours: 10am-3:30pm. 90-minute sessions.

Day 4 – Cycling & Socializing

You may have met some new friends at the hostel who are ready to go on a cycle tour. The 3½ Bute tour leaves from the Millennium Center at 1:30pm and covers some major historic attractions such as the Castle, Cardiff docks, and other monuments. Price: $24 p/p. Another cycling option is the 2-hour Bay Tour of popular city landmarks. Price: $16p/p. Or, you could rent a bike at the Coal Exchange and explore alone. Rates: $16 ½ day, morning or afternoon. $24 full day.

You’re probably ready for some fun and local entertainment at Gwdihw, located off Churchill Way, an excellent choice for the single traveler. Fully stocked back bar, teas and coffees with pies and paninis, games, and outdoor beer garden. Live entertainment varies from Latin to jazz and funk. Hours: 3pm-12Midnight, Mon-Wed; 12Noon-2am, Thurs & Fri; 4pm-12Midnight, Sat.

Day 5 – Last day in Cardiff

Out for a full day of shopping, stopping at the beautiful arcades featuring Welsh textiles, gifts, and souvenirs, at Spiller’s the oldest record shop in the world, on to Queen Street for designer shops, and time for afternoon lunch and relaxing at Mermaid Quay. On the way back to the NosDa, go to Café Citta for pizza. Prices: $9.

Go by the train station, check on the schedule, and purchase your ticket to the next town you want to visit. Have a quick nightcap in the hostel bar and early to bed.

Day 6 – Leaving Cardiff

Check out and catch the train for your next adventure.

Sharon L Slayton

A Trip to China – In the Eye of the Beholder

I am reluctant to recommend China as a travel destination. There are plenty of great places to see in Asia (Malaysia, Nepal, and Thailand spring to mind), but I don’t consider China one of them. For the haven’t-been-but-am-really-curious sorts, I would recommend reading a travel narrative about the country before booking a flight. Peter Hessler’s Country Driving is probably a good choice. Rob Gifford’s China Road is very balanced, which some people, for some reason, find important. Paul Theroux’s Riding the Iron Rooster and Colin Thubron’s Behind the Wall are excellent but dated (from the 1980s), yet still relevant. But if you’ve read those books and are still undeterred, and if I had to come up with a China itinerary, I’d come up with one that looks like the following.

To get a travel visa for China, your best option is Hong Kong. Hong Kong is fantastic, pulsing with energy, light, sound, and color. A trip up Victoria Peak is a must and the territory has a surprising amount of natural scenery. The New Territories, for instance, are quite striking and a good place to go if you’re suffering from neon overload. From Hong Kong, travel by ferry to the former Portuguese enclave of Macau, where you can spend a day eating almond cookies and inspecting colonial buildings. Next, hop on the bus to Guangzhou, a monster of a metropolis. Be sure to visit its Qing Ping Market to discover why the Chinese say they eat anything with four legs except a table. Deep-fried starfish-kebab anyone?

Now that you’ve seen a big brassy Chinese city (and, with a handful of exceptions, they’re all the same), make your way east by train through the limestone-knolled south. Scenic Yangshuo, a town in the countryside, is a decent spot, and Dali Old Town, in Yunnan Province, is touristy but pretty – but what you really want to do is get a travel permit for Tibet. You can do this in tiny Zhongdian in Yunnan province.

Lhasa won’t disappoint. In fact, a jaunt around Tibet would likely be more rewarding than one around any other Chinese “province.” Patrick French’s Tibet, Tibet makes for good background reading. So does Ma Jian’s Stick Out Your Tongue. The Potala Palace is unforgettable. So is the Barkhor, the neighborhood that houses the frenetic Jokhang Temple. A lot of Westerners hire a driver to take them to Nampsto Lake. Take into consideration altitude sickness.

Done marveling at the creamy zeniths and the yaks and nomads on the rooftop of the world, you can fly anywhere. I would fly to Bali, Indonesia, but if you’re still not finished with China then I’d suggest a flight to China’s most interesting city, Beijing.

What sets Beijing apart is that it still retains a sense of traditional culture. Nanjing is China’s most handsome city and Shanghai is its biggest and brightest, but from a cultural perspective, neither compete with the capital. Yes, “Peking” is heavily polluted, heavily policed, and has heavy traffic, but it’s easy to navigate, features fine restaurants, and is still culturally authentic – it has a traditional atmosphere which most municipal governments have bulldozed. There are the well-known attractions (Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace), but more engaging are the hutong or traditional alleys with their fortress-like courtyard homes and their portly, smudgy lanterns. Walking around the hutong on a bright winter’s day, or at night, is like stepping back in time. You gain an understanding of how people live, much more enlightening than observing honking thoroughfares or inspecting one of the burg’s dire museums. An exceptional guidebook is The Rough Guide to Beijing by Simon Lewis.

I suppose you’ll want to go to the Great Wall. Everyone does. But there’s no such thing as the Great Wall – it’s just an idea, a myth; and the walls north of Beijing are probably younger than you are. But a visit still makes for a fun day trip, and the surrounding mountains are pleasant to gaze it. Don’t go in for a tour that includes a trip to (Cousin Li’s) Jade Factory or the Ming Tombs. There’s nothing to see at the Ming Tombs. Just go to “the wall” (and back). To learn more about “the Great Wall,” read John Man’s The Great Wall.

My final China recommendation (and, yes, I realize I haven’t included Jiuzhaigou Valley, Xian, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Qingdao, or a dozen other oft-touted spots) is Harbin during the Ice Festival. To my way of thinking, wandering around a sooty and frozen Chinese city filled with old Russian buildings and marked by the taint of industry is infinitely more stimulating – or at least genuine – than clicking pictures of the Terracotta Warriors, Shanghai’s lights, or inert pandas behind bars in awful Chengdu. But I’m a bit different, not to mention biased. Living in Taiwan for a decade will do that to you.

Troy Parfitt is the author of Why China Will Never Rule the World.

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