Tag: "travel"

Vacation like a celebrity in Vegas (if you have the cash)

Just got a press release on where celebrities vacation in Vegas and since i haven’t posted anything in my Celebrity travel gossip category in a very long time, I figured this could be a nice change of pace:

Dining in Decadence

Where does Taylor Swift eat in Las Vegas? At the innovative Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant & Lounge at Bellagio. Enjoy Chef Akira Back’s signature Popping Spicy Crab hand roll and maybe catch a glimpse of a celeb at the acclaimed restaurant where Usher, John Mayer and Pink have also been seen delicately eating delicious bites. If you’re looking to make a reality TV debut, check out STACK Restaurant & Bar at The Mirage where the Kardashians love to get together and enjoy a family meal.

Red Carpet Ready

Be sure to make the “Best Dressed” list and have a personal shopping concierge at Crystals pick out the perfect celeb-inspired outfit from the widest collection of Las Vegas exclusives. Pick up a Tag Heuer LINK LADY watch that Cameron Diaz has been seen wearing on and off the red carpet to ensure a fashionably late entrance to any event. Then choose from the Crystals-exclusive runway collection at the largest Prada store in the U.S. and have “frenemies” green with envy.

Famous Fun

Fight nights at MGM Grand Arena bring out some of the country’s hottest stars including Justin Bieber, Charlize Theron, Rihanna, Mariah Carey and Leonardo DiCaprio. No, the celebrities aren’t the ones duking it out, but they can be found front and center watching world-renowned boxing and UFC legends face off inside of the ring or octagon. Another place to get up close to a favorite celeb is at Cirque du Soleil’s “O” at Bellagio or The Beatles LOVE at The Mirage where Michelle Obama, Nicole Kidman and the cast of “Glee” have been spotted during recent Las Vegas visits.

Party Rocking

Party like a rockstar (and make sure to stay out of the tabloids) at some of Las Vegas’ newest nightclubs, Hyde Bellagio and 1 OAK at The Mirage, and rub elbows with some of the biggest names in the industry. Be the star at Hyde Bellagio and purchase the $250,000 package that includes a 30-liter bottle of Ace of Spades champagne, reservations at the best table in the house, lavish goodies and the ability to control the breathtaking Fountains of Bellagio. The following night, dance until dawn at 1 OAK where Katy Perry, Fergie, Jessica Alba and Bruno Mars love to enjoy VIP treatment.

Anyone shopping for travel stuff this holiday season?

Happy American Thanksgiving!

After some real shopping and some online shopping on this Black Friday, I figured I’d ask how everyone here did with their shopping.

I’ve found that buying travel as a gift for anyone besides my wife can be pretty tricky. And then when I buy for my wife she rightly points out that I’m really just buying for me. So I didn’t buy any vacations or travel gear today but I did buy some stuff for traveling, namely some winter coats (50% off in Pet Supermarket thanks to Black Friday) for my dogs. Well their Christmas present is set but they are pretty easy to shop for, even if my little girl does complain every time we put clothes on her.

I did get a few emails for Cyber Monday travel deals:

Sceptre Tours will be offering exceptional pricing on 5 of its most popular Ireland vacations (both independent and escorted) for 24 hours beginning Monday, 11/26 at midnight and continuing until 11:59pm (EST). Included in the sale are 4 independent vacations starting at $799pp including roundtrip air, accommodations, rental car, taxes and fees and more, and 1 escorted tour from $399 pp (land only) which includes luxury motorcoach tour, accommodations, most meals, admissions to attractions, taxes, fees and more. Details can be found on the attached release or by visiting http://www.sceptretours.com/cyber-monday-deals

Viceroy Hotel Group Cyber Monday offers are actually on now and end on Cyber Monday. With 14 hotels worldwide, book unique experiences and access special savings now. Use Promotional Code: CYBER12

USA Today has a bigger list.

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.

Related: 10 tips for business travel in ChinaXi’an travel plan

Old notes on travel to Nepal

So I was doing a little cleaning and found some old notes I took while talking to a friend who spent lots of time trekking in India and Nepal. The dude has even been to the Mt. Everest base camp which sounds pretty darn impressive to me. In order to throw out this piece of paper, which will be a very small thing compared to all the junk I’ve still got, I have to write my notes here.

Cold in winter and monsoons in summer make those bad times for visiting Nepal. September and October are, I’m told, the best times to visit in terms of weather. Spring is my friend’s next favorite time to visit.

One hike my friend recommended is Jomsom to Pokhara. It’s a 7-10 day hike or a 45 minute plane ride. Jomsom to Muktinath is supposed to be a good one too.

Pokhara is supposed to be OK in winter. I don’t know how cold that means but my friend said he would ask some locals and then find a 1 bedroom place with no kitchen for $3 a day after haggling. This was 5 years ago but still… Then you can do day hikes around Pokhara and that’s supposed to be real nice too. So just fly into Kathmandu and take the bus to Pokhara and start living cheap.

But I was warned to use bottled water for everything like brushing your teeth and stuff.

Older related blog entries: 2005 travel plan, my student volunteering in Nepal.

Discovering Celebrity Travel Destinations – Anguilla

Travelers from every country often choose to vacation on a Caribbean island, where the climate is warm and moderate, the beaches are sparkling white sand, the people are friendly, and the atmosphere is inviting. If you want to go where the celebrities go, one of the most popular islands is Anguilla, a small eel shaped island, 16 miles long x 3 miles wide in the British West Indies. Located east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, just 6 miles north of the island of St Martin/St Maarten, Anguilla has played host to many of the rich and famous including Brad & Angie, Uma Thurman, John Malkovich, Robert de Niro, and Ethan Hawke. Even so, it is a vacation destination that should be well within any traveler’s financial planning powers.

Accommodations: The Anguilla Great House resort on beautiful Rendezvous Bay offers 35 large rooms with all amenities, private porches, and views of the sea. Enjoy a variety of water sports, soak up the sun, or just lounge on the beach or beside the freshwater pool at this popular resort. Dine on local Caribbean specialties or try an exotic tropical drink in the open-air restaurant. Open 7:00am for early morning risers. The staff will help you arrange other excursions such as dolphin watching, scuba diving, horseback riding, day & evening cruises, as well as bike and scooter rentals to explore the island on your own.

Seasonal Rates: 1 Oct – 15 Dec 2010 – $210 garden view, single or double; $240 ocean view. 16 Dec – 10 Apr 2011 – $290 single garden view, $310 single ocean view; $310 garden double, $340 ocean double.

Lloyds B&B, a favorite of David Letterman, provides a genuine Caribbean atmosphere near the beach at Crocus Bay, and a short walk to the commercial center, restaurants, and art galleries. It has kept its elegant, old-fashioned charm since it first opened in 1959, and entertained numerous dignitaries and world leaders including the 1973 reception for Prince Charles. Each room reflects a different décor from the traditional and the romantic to the secluded and the inspirational.

Reasonable Rates: $99/single, $145/double (includes breakfast & taxes)

If you’re looking for more private accommodations, consider renting a villa on Anguilla. These range widely in price, depending on size, number of people, and any extras such as a personal chef or dining vouchers, massages, and other services. Couples can splurge on a 5 or 7 night package for $2400 or $3360 at the Jasmine Villa. The Panarea Villa offers a 7-night package for 1 to 3 bedrooms, from $2755 to $3245. Another highly recommended place is the upscale Bellamare Villa on Shoal Bay East, considered one of the 10 best beaches in the world.

Rates: Averaging $800 to $1500 per night, depending on the season.

A $10 million real estate development is ongoing at Crocus Hill, which will bring jobs and increase revenue to the economy. These villas will be environmentally friendly and maintained by a condominium association in keeping with the natural beauty and appeal of Anguilla.

Restaurants: For the ultimate dining experience, visit Santorini at the CuisinArt Resort & Spa, owned by Conair, and located on Rendezvous Beach. With over 860 varieties of wine and a cellar of 4,000 bottles, they offer dinner 5 nights a week – Tuesday is lobster buffet and Friday a Caribbean buffet. They even have luncheons twice a week where guests choose their own produce from the resort’s hydroponic garden.

Hours: 7pm to 10pm, closed Tues, Fri, & Sun.

Prices: Average $95p/p. Under 12, $48.

We need to include the award winning Pimms restaurant at the very exclusive Cap Juluca resort on the southwestern corner of Anguilla, which features 18 private resort villas. (Rates of $1500 a night are definitely out of range for most travelers, unless you’re a celebrity of course.). Renowned Johnny Clero from Savoy & Claridge fame is the culinary expert at Pimms, serving gourmet cuisine such as Kobe Beef and Lobster Ravioli, with manageable prices of $30 to $36.

If you’re looking for the casual open air beachside restaurant, go to Gwen’s Reggae Grill at Shoal Bay East, one of Rod Stewart’s favorite places. After a delicious meal of barbequed ribs or fish, homemade coleslaw, a glass of rum punch or Caribbean beer, you can grab a hammock and relax beneath the palms.

Hours: 8am to 5pm, Mon thru Sat. 8am to 7pm, Sundays, live music 1:30pm to 7pm.

Prices: $12 to $14 – from the grill, $10 to $20 – sandwiches & salads, $8 – kids menu. Seafood is somewhat more expensive.

Other recommended restaurants: Blanchards, Tasty’s, and the Straw Hat.

Things to Do: Besides sunbathing, swimming, diving, fishing, golf, and tennis, Anguilla offers horseback riding on the beach and over the island. Rates at Seaside Stables: $60 1 hour; $40 ½ hour, $75 private rides, $85 moonlight rides. (first time and advanced riders.) Two rides daily; call for times – 1-264-235-3667 or e-mail seahorses@caribcable.com

Swim with the Dolphins: Dolphin Discovery offers several programs including the Royal Swim at $165p/p, the Adventure at $129p/p, the Encounter at $99 and children $89. Ph: 1-866-393-5158

You can visit any number of spas and/or beauty salons on the island or do some shopping for a unique gift or souvenir. Find driftwood carvings at Cheddie’s Studio, beachwear and other fun things at Irie Life near Sandy Ground Harbor or the Why Knot at Crocus Bay, and island art at Lynne’s Gallery.

Attractions: The Anguilla Heritage Trail, officially opened in June of this year, follows interpretive plaques at 10 historic sites including Rendezvous Bay, the Pumphouse, Old Valley Well, and the Factory. The trail is free and visitors can obtain brochures from hotels, car rental agencies, etc. The first stop on the Heritage Trail is the Heritage Collection Museum. Colville Petty, curator of the museum, has an outstanding collection of artifacts representing the archaeological and cultural history of Anguilla. The exhibits feature items used by the Arawak Indians and those used by the British from the 1600’s through the early 1900’s and the 1967 revolution, which led to the island becoming a separate overseas territory of the British. Emphasis is also placed on fishing, boat building, and salt production, which provided a way of life for the islanders.

Hours: 10am to 5pm. Admission: $5 – Adults & children 12+, Under 12 – $3.

Transportation: A few airlines such as Cape Air and LIAT fly into Anguilla, with connections from San Juan, Antigua, or St Maarten – there don’t seem to be any direct flights from North America or Europe. Charter air service is also available, and ferries from St Maarten, about a 20 minute ride, depart every hour from 7am to 7pm, cost – $15/pp + $5 departure tax.

(Note: Prices are always subject to change, and may not be up to date on every website.)

Despite its worldwide celebrity reputation, Anguilla is not on a regular cruise ship itinerary, so it remains a delightful hideaway from the paparazzi and the crowds of tourists seen at other island destinations.

Sharon L Slayton

Call for papers: Educational Travel conference in Estonia

Part of my job is to speak at conferences and publish papers. I normally stick to TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) conferences but this title seemed like it might be a good one for me: Educational Travel – Expanding Horizons. It will be held at Tallinn University, Estonia, 19th to 21st of August 2011.

At first I thought I might interview some students who traveled to do volunteer work. You may, for example, remember this story of a young woman who had a remarkable experience in Nepal.

That seemed like a pretty good match to one of the main conference themes:

Conference Theme:

Educational Travel is undertaken for a wide variety of purposes and includes both formal and informal experiential learning. It includes, but is not limited to, travel aimed at:

-Satisfying curiosity regarding people, language and culture

-Stimulating interest in art, music, heritage and folklore

-Inspiring concern for the natural environment and geological features

-Deepening the fascination with cultural heritage and historic places

Speakers will address key issues relating to Educational Travel from a range of academic, public policy and operational perspectives. The conference sub-themes provide a coherent logic to the proceedings yet are diverse enough to allow for the articulation of a wide range of perspectives which it is hoped will result in lively debate and provide new insights into the production processed and consumption practice of Educational Travel.

Abstracts are invited on the following sub-themes:

-Educational Travel and Community Development

-Educational Travel and Dark Tourism

-Educational Travel and Destination Marketing

-Educational Travel and Environment

-Educational Travel and Ethics

-Educational Travel and Senior Tourism

-Educational Travel and Heritage

-Educational Travel and Mobility

-Educational Travel and Pilgrimage

-Educational Travel and Social Media

-Educational Travel and Transformation

-Educational Travel and Travel Writing

-Educational Travel and Volunteering

In the end I stuck with what I know better (teaching travel writing to non-native English speakers).

If you’d like to speak at the conference you can submit your abstract online. Please contact Dr. William Feighery at william.feighery@eduf.org for further information on the conference or if you have any queries with regard to paper submissions/themes.

Careers Beneath The Sea – Underwater Photography

From the first attempts at underwater photography in the mid-1800’s, followed by others such as the renowned Jacques Cousteau, oceanographers, environmentalists, marine biologists, and scuba divers have explored and filmed the world below. A rare opportunity to capture mesmerizing images of coral reefs and changing formations, the fascinating, unusual creatures living among the crevices and caves of the sea, and more amazing discoveries in the deep awaits the underwater photographer.

Once no more than a hobby for a few, an exciting career in underwater photography has become even more popular through the years as modern equipment and advanced techniques have been introduced. Digital cameras enclosed in some type of underwater housing such as plastic or aluminum have replaced, for the most part, the cumbersome waterproof 35mm cameras used by most photographers in the past. Wide angle lenses, light filters, and powerful flashes are considered necessities today to produce good images and adapt to the limited visibility, color, and contrast as you go further down in the depths of the sea. There are excellent photography courses you can take to learn more about the complexities of underwater photography.

Underwater photography, of course, goes hand in hand with proficiency in scuba diving. You may seek employment first as a professional scuba diver to provide some income while you learn the skills required for underwater photography. Jobs are available in many countries at dive schools, resorts, and for cruise ship tours, but our focus in this article will be on underwater photography. The first requirement if you’re considering a career in underwater photography is to obtain certification by the PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). Your training will begin with confined and open water courses for basic certification, and you can continue advancing to master scuba diver and divemaster in about three months. There are over 25 additional specialty courses available including buoyancy control, rescue, deep diving, cavern, night diving, and techniques of digital camera photography, all of which will further enhance your skills and assure your prospective employer of your qualifications and expertise.

You can enroll in courses online to gain some familiarity, but many job seekers may prefer to combine their travel with training that is offered at over 5,000 dive shops and dive resorts in numerous locations around the world including South Africa, New Zealand, Malaysia, Australia, Hawaii, Thailand, Egypt, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Pursuing a career in underwater photography will take some money upfront, but the cost of training does vary depending on the location. Keep a record of your diving hours as part of your resume, and continue to build your portfolio. Broaden your knowledge of the sea and marine life, and learn as much as possible about the equipment you will use if you want to be a successful underwater photographer.

After you have completed the diver’s instruction courses, you are ready to find a job. Jobs are available for instructors in underwater photography, on assignment with National Geographic, the Smithsonian, and scuba magazines, as well as for TV programs such as Discovery and Animal Planet. At some time, but certainly not overnight, there may be opportunities to work in the motion picture industry. Once you are recognized as an expert in your field, the sky’s the limit in your career, with some professionals earning as much as $1,500 a day. Underwater photography is challenging, and perhaps not as safe as staying on dry land with your camera and tripod by your side. The more risk involved with the videography of what lies beneath the sea, the better the salary; however, you can expect some strong competition for such high paying jobs.

Some underwater photographers find exciting careers in filming shipwrecks for deep sea explorers, salvage companies, and adventurers on scientific and historical expeditions looking for sunken treasure, lost ships, and artifacts. Of course, these jobs will require more expensive equipment, which may or may not be provided by the employer, and considerably more experience in underwater photography and deep water diving ability to deal with the dim light and decreased visibility near the ocean floor.

Several overseas companies can be found online that offer on the job training, or you can apply as an assistant to an established professional in the field. Another option is to contract as a freelancer with an independent agent or photographer, create your own website, or register with one that will offer your photographs for sale and give you a commission. This may not provide much income, however, but it is a start and a way to get exposure and hopefully an offer for long-term permanent employment. As you gain experience and add to your photography portfolio, travel assignments will be more plentiful, and many will offer generous salaries and benefits for your services.

The unusual life style of a career beneath the sea may have been something you thought about, but really didn’t know where to begin. If you already have a genuine interest in photography, whether as an amateur or a professional, with the proper equipment, motivation, and expert training, underwater photography can be an interesting and rewarding career.

Sharon Slayton

Let me just take a few lines to thank Sharon for all the great articles she has been writing for us. Also, I’ll add my comment on this one – despite what I wrote before about childhood dreams of a career in underwater photography, I’m not ready to change careers just yet.

Travel Trends for 2010, Christmas Gift Ideas

This blog has already reported that 2010 should be a year of travel bargains, but what else can we expect next year? I always find it fun to look at the predicted popular travel destinations for the coming year; these are the top 10 destinations for 2010, according to Lonely Planet. I know absolutely nothing about Suriname (other than where it is) and am not sure I want to go there, but I would love to go to Nepal one day.

Lonely Planet also predicts that certain cities will be popular in 2010 – among them, Abu Dhabi, Kyoto, Vancouver (hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics), Cork, Cuenca (in Ecuador – I had to look that one up) and Singapore. Istanbul is European Capital of Culture next year and is also likely to be popular. Eco-tourism will supposedly be increasingly popular next year and Stockholm, which is designated as European Green Capital for 2010, will also be a hot destination.

Budget travel is likely to be increasingly popular (for me, anyway) and apparently, one trend is for hotels to start offering basic rooms for a rock-bottom price and then charge you for any additional items, such as air-conditioning, etc. This article reports that a hotel in Malaysia is offering rooms for 20 cents a night and there are plans to have similar hotels in the UK and Australia. I think it’s a great idea, although whenever I try to take advantage of these things, I always seem to be told that the offer has expired / all the cheap rooms have already gone, or some similar thing. Rather like using frequent flier miles – all the mileage seats all seem to go before you can book anything.

If you are looking for Christmas gift ideas for somebody who loves to travel, there are plenty of useful gadgets out there, including a folding footrest and various adaptors, to cope with the different power outlets found around the world. And apparently, there is now something called a Chumby, a mini computer with a wi-fi connection that sells for about $200. Yet more technology that I know nothing about! Books always make good gifts and this site has a list of the best travel books published this year.