Tag: "tour"

Book Review: Cosmos Screen by Perry Kelly

When they invited me to review Cosmos Screen, I agreed because there were a few things I thought would be interesting.

Since this is a travel site, I first flipped to page 115 and the description of a tour through Europe in 1958. Travel by ship was normal then and at least on the Greek Queen Frederica, the parties on the lower levels went all night long (kind of like in the Titanic movie I guess where the richer people on the higher floors go to bed early).

Another interesting note is that people took time to tour 12 countries in six weeks. These days you wonder how many people would make time for a six-week tour. And how much would it cost if they did make the time? Here is one trip’s itinerary:

New York, Barcelona, Genoa by ship. Then Rapallo (day trip to Portofino), Grosseto, Naples (day trip to Capri and the Blue Grotto), Rome, Florence, Bologna, Ferrara, Padua, Venice (day trip to Lido Beach), Trieste.

And then on to Austria: Klagenfurt, Valden, Portachach, Vienna (day trip to Vienna Woods), Salzburg.

Then Germany and Switzerland: Munich, Zurich, Baden-Baden (Germany), Assmannshausen (for a Rhine River cruise to Bonn), Cologne.

And to save me from listing countries, the rest of Western Europe: Brussels, Antwerp, The Hague, Amsterdam, Copenhagen (day trip to North Zealand, Elsinore castle, Danish Riviera), Stockholm, Oslo, Newcastle, London, Paris, Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Gibraltar.

Then back to New York by ship.

While reading about the travel experience is enjoyable, the book seems to be a memoir first and some of the details may not interest everyone – the college boy who wants to dump his girlfriend on tour, the woman who sees the ship doctor for menstrual pains, etc.

There are other travel experiences too, like China in 1988 and Brazil in 1989. But the travel experiences may not be the most interesting part of the story. The author grew up on a farm in Alabama in the 1930s. He “gave up” on being heterosexual in 1968. In the end, I decided to save some of the travel experiences for later and learn more about a kid’s experiences growing up during the Great Depression.

In conclusion, if you like memoirs and travel, then Cosmos Screen by Perry Kelly may be a good book for you. The writing seems matter-of-fact to me. I never laughed but I did sometimes nod my head and think to myself that this detail or that detail was interesting. Not all of the author’s memories resonated with me, but Cosmos Screen did give me a glimpse of a world that I had never seen before and never could have glimpsed on my own.

Introduction to Tenerife, Canary Islands: Santa Cruz tour highlights

Please enjoy the following guest submission on the tour highlights of Santa Cruz. All pictures are thumbnails so click to enlarge.

As a blogger, I’ve become a savvy traveller (I tend to think so but reality might be different) and learnt to figure my way round my destinations, embarking on solo tours and expeditions to lesser-known towns because I have a base knowledge of where to go and where to get information but I always think back to when I first started out.
Going on your first trip overseas or visiting a country you know nothing about can be quite intimidating especially when the destination doesn’t speak your home language but luckily most of the popular holiday destinations have friendly people and this is quite prevalent on any of the Canary Islands.

tropical beach wallpaper

The Spanish Square (Plaza De España)

This is usually the starting point for most tours of Santa Cruz, mainly for its laid-back atmosphere. After the plane ride and transfer from the airport, then booking into the hotel and getting settled, I found it a calm transition into being on holiday (I understand why people like stay-cations, the stress of travel can overwhelm). Depending on your arrival time and disposition, you can have a coffee, ice-cream, beer or a mojito in any one of the cafés in the Plaza and take in the sights, sounds and smells of this island capital.

The Market of Our Lady of Africa (Mercado de Nuestra Señora de África)

Although I’ve worked in many countries, I am definitely a trinket hound and typical tourist, I’m sure merchants see me and my money coming a mile away and get all the curios they can out in front of me. And I love it. The market has little shops that sell wine, olive oil, jams and preserves. Stalls sell local art, statues, clothing, beads and other jewellery as well as their fish market and local foods made fresh. I’m used to the loud markets of Tunisia and Turkey but at here, people leave you be to mull around and look at things, there was never any feeling of pressure to buy anything, but me being me, I wanted to buy everything.

Tenerife-market-of-our-lady (2)

The Almeida Military Barracks (Cuartel De Almeida)

I’ve always been interested in the military history of countries. What they have or don’t have or have but never used illustrates the amount of sacrifice one country has made and what the local people have suffered. You get a unique glimpse at the heart of the people. These barracks were converted into the Regional Military Museum in the early 1940’s and houses two important cannons, the Hercules and the Tiger (El Tigre), most noted for injuring Admiral Horatio Nelson during battle in 1797. The museum also highlights historical cartography, history of the San Cristóbal castle and a display of weapons used during the conquest of Tenerife.

Tenerife-Military-museum (2)

A Guide to Getting There & Back

There are a number of charter flights that connect the islands with mainland Spain as well as most European countries have flights to Tenerife leaving from the main cities at cheap rates. There are also a number of ferry services that run weekly ferries Cádiz, via Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Puerto de Rosario (Fuerteventura) and Arrecife (Lanzarote), departing every Monday at around 3pm.

The island has so much more to offer than the above list, which was in no particular order but it’s up to you to visit the island and see what gems the island has to offer, as well as adopt the Tinerfeños motto of ‘pleasure before business’. I’m positive I’ve forgotten many attractions, so what are your favourite places to visit on the island?

San Doong cave in Vietnam

An awesome cave in central Vietnam. Previously unknown species, a river, 3 kilometers in there’s a rain forest. And almost no one has seen it.

It was discovered in 1991, but the local who found it never entered the Son Doong Cave. Visitors have rappel 80 meters to enter Son Doong. It’s the biggest cave in the world – over 5.5 miles long and could fit a 40-story skyscraper within its walls.

British cavers were the first to explore it in 2009. The tour company Oxalis is running trial tours of the cave and accepting sign-ups for real six-day tours to take place next year.

How awesome would it be to spend 6 days in this place?

You’d have to have about $3,000 to make it happen, not counting the airfare to Vietnam. Also not included are the rappelling lessons you’ll want to take before you go.

Awesome pictures in this Huffington Post story. Click the thumbnail to enlarge or hit the link to see more pics.

Rock formation shines in Hang Son Doong

Americans can visit Cuba legally and fre if they win this sweepstakes

Insight Cuba is running a sweepstakes for Americans to get a chance to visit Cuba. They provide legal, small group tours for U.S. citizens, Travel to Cuba is legal for only the third time in 50 years. The licensed tour operator is offering consumers the chance to explore the once-forbidden island with its “Win a Trip to Cuba for Two” Facebook sweepstakes, running now through June 17th.

To participate, like the Insight Cuba Facebook page and enter via the “Win a Trip to Cuba for Two” tab at the top. It’s a quick one, the entry form takes less than a minute to fill out.

The winner will be selected at random on June 18th to receive a free trip for two on the tour of choice: Undiscovered Cuba, Cuban Music & Art or Classic Cuba. Full sweepstakes terms and conditions are listed on the Facebook page.

The grand prize includes roundtrip airfare from Miami to Havana; first-class accommodations, meals and activities as outlined in the itinerary; U.S. Department of the Treasury License and Letter of Authorization; Insight Cuba tour leader and Cuban guide; entrance fees to scheduled activities; in-country ground transportation and transfers; in-country airfare (where applicable); travel health insurance; emergency medical evacuation; trip cancellation coverage (up to $1,000); Insight Cuba travel guidebook; and 24-hour emergency service.

Travel plan for Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, and San Francisco

I start school in September. As a poor student, I’ll have less money for traveling but I don’t want that to stop me entirely. I’ll be based in Tallahassee, Florida, and I’ll try to get to a few places in America and maybe South America or Central America. So time to start dreaming up American holidays and – as many of you know – I like to check out different tours to get some well-planned itineraries to start from. For a British perspective, I found a site promising luxury holidays in America and started to search for their itineraries.

So if you were to check out this page for USA tours, you would find the following itinerary: New York -> Washington DC -> Chicago -> Scottsdale -> Grand Canyon -> Las Vegas -> Los Angeles -> San Diego -> San Francisco. That’s a beautiful itinerary for someone with 22 days to spare. I’m thinking I can just take a part of that travel plan. For example three places I’ve never been: Las Vegas -> Grand Canyon -> San Francisco.

My travel plan:

Day 1: Las Vegas

I start here first because it should be a very easy airport to fly into. For lunch, try Mon Ami Gabi in front of Paris – Get a table on the patio. Excellent food and great place to people watch. If you time it right you’ll see the fountains at Bellagio during your meal.

After that, how about a Vegas-style nature walk? The MGM Grand’s lion habitat is open from 11am to 10pm. The Mirage has its white tiger habitat (by the Las Vegas Boulevard entrance). The volcano erupts at the top of each hour from 6pm to midnight so you may want to come back later in the evening.

What you have to do at some point before leaving Vegas is see an Elvis show. I’m told that there’s a good free one in the Riviera Hotel but I can’t find confirmation on their website. This part of the travel plan could use some more research.

Day 2: Las Vegas

For brunch, try Bouchon in the Venetian hotel. It’s a Thomas Keller restaurant and it’s excellent. While there at the Venetian, you could do a gondola ride, but I’d feel weird doing it in Vegas when I skipped it in Venice (a regret I must admit, but it was pretty pricey as I recall – Vegas is probably less expensive).

After you’ve eaten, walk off those calories at the Fremont Street Expereince. Fremont street has stuffy casinos and vendors if you’re a shopper. The huge LED canopy covering 5 blocks of Fremont Street does something special every hour on the hour.

Back to the strip to check out Circus Circus. Different acts perform each half hour from 11 a.m. to midnight. They only have about 60 seats and you can’t reserve one. But the news isn’t all bad – it’s free and 15 minutes before a show starts usually gets you a seat.

Days 3 and 4: Grand Canyon

I really want to raft the Colorado River here and camp overnight. My wife isn’t so sure but I have some time to talk her into it. It’s hard to really itemize this part of the itinerary, but the tour I linked to above has some good ideas like a sunset tour of the South Rim for some stunning views.

Day 5: San Francisco

Head down to the Fisherman’s Wharf where there’s sure to be something for everyone. Pier 39 is a festive marketplace with more than 110 stores, 12 Bay view restaurants and loads of outdoor stuff like the Aquarium of the Bay, bike rentals, street performers and a Carousel with famous miniature San Fran landmarks. If fun and laughter don’t suite your fancy you can always hop on an Alcatraz Cruise from Pier 33 that will take you to Alcatraz Island. In case you don’t already know, Alcatraz used to be the home of some of America’s most notorious criminals like Al “Scarface” Capone and the “Birdman” Robert Stroud.

San Francisco has a great Asian influence and being right on the water, sushi in this city is to die for. Take yourself out for dinner in Japantown or J-Town as the locals like to call it, to Kiss Sea Food Japanese Restaurant (1700 Laguna St.) The restaurant is a little small so be prepared to wait in line or make sure to head there early.

Day 6: San Francisco

The site I linked to above has some more cool ideas. One is a guided bicycle tour of the Waterfront, Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito, including a ferry trip to return to the city. This sounds like a lot of fun. They also have a scenic seaplane flight (weather dependent) over the beautiful San Francisco bay for views of the cityscape, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge. It also occurs to me I don’t have a single museum in my itinerary. The Walt Disney Family Museum is one option, but I think I would prefer the Asian Art Museum.

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

Indo China and China tour itineraries: Vietnam and Cambodia travel plan

I just learned that Indochina refers to Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from this site that does Indochina tours. Cambodia and Vietnam have been on my list for a while but now I have to add Laos as well – I didn’t know they had a UNESCO listed town in Luang Prabang on the banks of the Mekong River.

This is the one tour that covers my three main targets: Luang Prabang, Halong Bay, and Angkor Watt. 28 days is a long tour and however awesome it may be, I’m not sure I’ll get to do this anytime soon. But I love their little search engine where you click the places you most want to go and they tell you which tours do it. So I tried again with only Angkor Wat and Halong Bay.

This search turned up a few results including a couple of group tours and a couple of private tours. Here’s one of the private tours somewhat abbreviated.

Days 1-2: UK – Hanoi

Fly overnight to Hanoi.

Day 3: Hanoi

See the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (closed Sep-Dec), Stilt House, One Pillar Pagoda and the Temple of Literature. Also enjoy a walking tour of the Old Quarter and a drive around Hoan Kiem Lake. In the evening, enjoy a performance of the famous Water Puppets.

Day 4 : Halong Bay Junk Cruise

Cruise the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay. Return to Hanoi in the afternoon, driving through the striking rural countryside of the Red River Delta.

Day 5 : Hanoi – Hoi An

Fly to Danang and transfer to Hoi An (another UNESCO listed town I hadn’t heard of). See the Cham Museum, Marble Mountains and China Beach en-route. Later, take part in a cooking class focusing on select local dishes designed for the Royal Courts.

Day 6 : Hoi An

A walking tour of Hoi An visits a 200-year-old home, the Japanese Bridge, Hoi An Market and a local Chinese Pagoda. In the afternoon and evening, visit the renowned tailors, stroll through the local markets, or relax in a riverside cafè.

Day 7 : Hoi An – Saigon

Fly to Saigon. Visit to the former Presidential Palace, the War Remnants Museum, the imposing Notre Dame Cathedral and the French-style Post Office. Also visit Cholon (Chinatown), Thien Hau Pagoda and Ben Thanh Market for some shopping.

Day 8 : Cu Chi Tunnels & Tay Ninh day tour

Visit the famous tunnel system at Cu Chi and then attend the noon service at the Cao Dai Temple.

Day 9 : Mekong Delta day tour

Travel to My Tho and enjoy a cruise on the Mekong. Visit floating markets, villages, home industries and plantations as well as Thoi Son Island and Vinh Trang Pagoda. Later, fly to Siem Reap.

Day 10 : Siem Reap

Travel to the fortified city of Angkor Thom. Start at the Southern Gate and continue to The Bayon, which is beautifully carved with numerous striking faces followed by a visit to the Elephant Terrace, the Terrace of the Leper King and the magnificent Angkor Wat.

Day 11 : Siem Reap

Visit Banteay Srei, a Hindu temple which is dedicated to Shiva. Also visit Srah Srang, Banteay Kdei, Kravan, Ta Keo and the fabulous Ta Prohm Temple.

Day 12 : Siem Reap – Phnom Penh

Fly to Phnom Penh and visit the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes.

Days 13-14 : Phnom Penh – UK

Sightseeing today includes visits to the Silver Pagoda, the striking Emerald Buddha and the National Museum. Later, fly overnight to the UK, arriving home the following day filled with many happy memories.

You can also take a China tour with the same people. For example the “China Contrasts” tour is said to “combine the striking and breathtaking landscape scenery of limestone karsts, tranquil fishing scenes and lush green rice paddies along the Li River with the famous sights of cosmopolitan Shanghai, historic Xian and China’s capital city – Beijing. This truly is a tour of contrasts.” This 11 day tour will run you £1,490 per person.