Wednesday, 31 December 2014

How to Say 'Happy New Year' Around the World

So your New Year's resolutions include learning a new language.  There's no better time to start your lessons than now at the beginning of the new year.  Use this handy list list to say 'Happy New Year' in many of the languages around the world.

Special Anniversaries in 2015

This year we saw a number of special anniversaries observed.  Two that come to mind are the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings in France, and the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Both were significant events in the shaping of our world today.

In 2015 there are again a number of anniversaries of events.  The article Special Anniversaries in 2015  lists some of these.  The Aya Sofya is a must-see any time.  An omission from the list is the 50th anniversary of the country of Singapore.

Top 10 Travel Stories of 2014 from Yahoo Travel

Here are Yahoo Travel's top 10 stories of 2014.  

Unusual New Year's Eve Drop in the USA

The ball in Times Square is not the only thing that drops in the USA to mark the New Year.  How about a chocolate chip cookie drop, a mushroom drop or a Fleur de Lis drop?  Some are very unusual, but have a connection to the city where they happen.  For example the Chocolate Chip Cookie drop will happen for the first time in Whitman, Mass, the home of the Toll House Cookie.

Read about Unusual New Year's Eve drop in the USA.

Oh the places you will the washroom

Part of the travel experience is the different washrooms you will find on your adventures - from spartan, to say the least, to well appointed.  Oh the places you will go to the washroom.

Here is one person's experience in the Philippines.  It just might be the the poshest service station washroom.

10 Budget Friendly New Year's Events in London

If you are in London, here are 10 budget friendly ideas for celebrating the New Year's.  Take note of the recommended viewing site around St. Paul's Cathedral for the fireworks.  Also, I like the concept of Our House, Your Party.  It sure saves you from the seemingly never-ending clean up.

10 Budget-friendly New Year's Events in London

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve is a time to celebrate.  It's a time to close the year that is passed and look forward with hope to the year ahead.

While many people will mark the moment in the quiet of their own home, others will party with friends, and others will celebrate at some special New Years event.

Here is a list of some New Years Eve events around the world.  It will take some planning to get to some, so perhaps it's time to plan for next year.  

The Big Apple - New York City is the probably the best known location for New Year's celebrations.  For years people have been going to Times Square to watch the entertainment, the ball drop, and to bring in the New Year.  Others have been watching the event and entertainment on the television for years.

Sydney - Be among the first to celebrate ringing in the New Year.  Join the crowd down on the Harbour watching the fireworks with the backdrop of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Have a meal or a drink at a bar or restaurant in The Rocks.  It's summertime in Sydney so no need to dress in layers.  Arrive early to claim your viewing spot as the best ones fill quickly.

Rome - The Eternal City can be a great city to ring in 2015.  Fireworks can be observed all over the city.  One of my most memorable travel experiences was the fireworks display at Circo Massimo, the site of the Roman chariot races. With some of the Roman ruins in the background, fireworks went off silhouetting the buildings.  In another part of the city, Villa Borghese befittingly has classical music, fireworks and traditional Italian food.  There is much going on in the city...seemingly everywhere...seemingly endless.

Cape Town - While next day is the beginning of the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, plenty happens on New Year's Eve.  The waterfront is the scene of a concert and fireworks display.  As well other concerts and events are held as Cape Town brings in the New Year and parties well beyond midnight.  The Minstrel Festival or "Kaapse clops" keeps the party going.  It has colourful parades, along with dancers, musicians, and minstrels.

Toronto - Nathan Philips Square in the city centre is the main location of Toronto's New Year's Eve celebrations.  There is live entertainment which starts early in the evening.  You can put on skates and blade around the rink at the Square to bring in the New Year.  At midnight fireworks are lit to celebrate the beginning of the New Year.  There are also celebrations in other parts of the city.  A variety of activities are available for the whole family.

Niagara Falls -  Celebrate New Years Eve in Victoria Park, with the backdrop of Niagara Falls.  Activities begin at 7:30 p.m. with live music and entertainment.  Included in this year's list of entertainers are Keith Urban, Nick Jonas, Lights, and Shawn Mendes.  There are fireworks at both 9:00 p.m. and midnight.   All of this and more, and it's free.      

New Orleans - To mark the New Year, there is a fireworks display that erupts over the Mississippi River.  In a take-off of New York's famous ball, there is the Fleur de Lis drop from the roof of a building in Jackson Square which is the centre of the festivities.  The French Quarter is alive until the early hours of New Year's Day with music and people.   

Orlando - One could say it's like New Year's Eve every day at Disney World, but on New Year's Eve it is even more so.  The party goes on all day in the park with live entertainment which includes Cirque du Soleil presentations.  There are fireworks 'a la Disney' at midnight, and the celebrations continue until 1:00 a.m.  This is definitely a party for everyone in the family.

Paris - The City of Lights throw a big party for New Year's Eve.  Street parties are everywhere.  The Champs-Elysees is the main area for the festivities, as well as around the Eiffel Tower for the fireworks display.  Clubs, restaurants and bars are open quite late to let you celebrate and dance away the first hours of the New Year.  Up in Montmartre there is a more causal street party, and while a distance away from the Champs-Elysees, the plaza around Sacre Coeur allows a great view of the city and the fireworks.  For something more romantic take a cruise along the Seine to bring in the New Year. 

Edinburgh - Hogmanay is the name the Scots give to New Year's celebration which begin on December 30 and last for three to four nights.  A torch procession starts the celebrations.  Street parties take place with the biggest one running the full length of Princes Street on December 31.  To mark the New Year a fireworks display takes place above Edinburgh Castle at midnight.

London - London pulls out all the stops for the biggest party of the year. Over 250,000 people cram along the boats and banks of the River Thames and its surrounding bars and restaurants for a prime view of the night's events. As the epic countdown begins and Big Ben strikes midnight, the city erupts in a dramatic 10-minute light show and firework display, set to a backdrop of the towering London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster.  Festivities don't end on New Year's Eve though -- there's a three-hour parade in central London on New Year's Day, with colourful floats, marching bands, costumed dancers and a procession of the Queen's horses.

Vienna - Vienna provides a cultural and classical theme for New Years with a lot to do in this  city already decorated for the Christmas markets which are now New Years fairs.  The fireworks are at the Wiener Prater.  The Grand Ball is at the Hofburg Palace,  There are other balls and galas, as well as concerts, even dinner cruises along the Danube.  And the party doesn't stop that night.  The next day, a crowd gathers in the square of the City Hall to watch the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra perform their New Year's concert on a large screen TV.

Not enough time to plan for New Years 2015?  There's always Hong Kong and the Lunar New Year.  This year, the Year of the Goat, begins on February 19.  Or start planning now for New Years 2016.

And now to decide....

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

New Year's Travel Resolutions

What are your New Year's Travel Resolutions?

Here are 5 New Year's Travel Resolutions.  All of them are excellent suggestions.  

Controlling the photo situation is so important.  Not only do you have the "952 photos you took on the last vacation" that you need to edit so your computer does not 'drown' you need to take a note of where the less obvious photos were taken.  Otherwise, a few months after your trip it will just be a place you saw with very little significance.

There is More to Do on Oahu

For sure Hawai'i is not just Oahu and Honolulu; however, to skip visiting Oahu is missing part of Hawai'i.  Honolulu is Oahu's main city.  It is a bustling urban metropolis at the crossroads of the Pacific - where east meets west.  Known for Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, and its beaches, it is also the home of much of the political history of Hawai'i.  Click here to read There is More to Do on Oahu, the Hawaiian Island That Has It All.

3 Lesser Known Things to do in Rome on a Budget

Rome!  Roma!  The Eternal City.

There is no place like it!  So much to see and do.  History and culture at every corner and in between. For most people, as with all of Italy, once is not enough.

Here are 3 Lesser Known Things to do in Rome on a Budget .

Villa Borghese Gardens is a personal favourite.  It contains a number of buildings, museums, and attractions and is lovely to walk around and enjoy all it has to offer.

Weird New Year's Eve Traditions From Around the World

It's almost New Year's Eve.  Read about some Weird New Year's Eve Traditions from Around the World.  If you are visiting one of the countries mentioned you may be able to prepare for the festivities, or at least you will understand what is going on.  Perhaps you can incorporate some of the traditions into your New Years Eve celebrations where you are in order to make things more interesting.

Monday, 29 December 2014

What travelers really want in 2015

This USA Today article, What travelers really want in 2015 is an interesting read.  It looks at the American Customer Satisfaction Index.  Personally, I think it presents a pretty accurate picture.  What is even more interesting are the simple suggestions given for the travel industry to become more in tune with its customers.  The final part gives suggestions on how the travel consumer can get better service in 2015.  Here's hoping.

Once a Year...

St. Nicolas Chapel, Georgioupolis, Crete

'Free' or 'Almost Free' are great words!

I love the word 'free'.  'Almost free' isn't bad either.  Especially when they are related to travel.  They help stretch your travel budget further.  In the accompanying article, 10 (Almost) Free Travel Deals, I particularly liked:
  • 'Free International Calls'.  One of the easiest ways to lose money when travelling is to deal with phones and SIMs.  Know your plans.  Don't get caught roaming, or you could come home to a hefty bill, and all those pleasant memories of your trip will be lost.

  • 'Free Stopovers'.  A stopover of appropriate length in a city can give you an opportunity to see a city while en route to, or from your main destination.  I call them 'exploratory visits' or 'a taste of...'.  I get to see a city and decide whether I would like to return there in the future, or if one visit is enough.  So far all my stopovers have led me to want to return to that destination.

  • 'Free City Tours'.  What better way to take advantage of your time on a layover than to take a complimentary tour of the city.  

It's a beautiful world...

Evol, France

Sunday, 28 December 2014

What plug goes where?

Keeping yourself 'plugged in' in another country can be problematic, especially if you need to charge your phone, camera, computer, etc.  In the past, this was not so big an issue as we travelled with less electronic equipment.
The graphic at the link below shows you the plug you need when travelling in different parts of the world.  The colour of the country/region will match the colour of the plug.  As noted you can buy adapters for these plugs at travel shops, online or in a shop at the airport.

What plug goes where?

Below are two adapters available on Amazon.  The first adapter has many pieces that are easy to lose.  but you can take only those pieces that you need on a specific trip.  My personal preference is the first adapter as it is one piece.  While a bit cumbersome, because it is one piece you cannot lose parts.

Keep that boarding pass!

Who would have thought that your boarding pass could be so valuable?  Many companies have signed up with airlines to offer on-ground perks or freebies if you show that little slip of paper.  One example of such deals is free entry to museums and, discounts at shops and restaurants for 10 days after your flight are available for passengers of Austrian Airlines.  Don't miss out.  Keep that boarding pass!

Luxury vs budget travel

Luxury vs budget travel is a matter of personal taste and let's be honest your pocketbook.

Some people cannot be comfortable travelling unless they know that they will be staying in a 5-star hotel at their destination.  For them the comforts of home, or even comforts greater than home are essential.  For others, sleeping on a rock under the stars is not a problem.  It is all part of the experience of travel.

Jasper Park Lodge
I tend to travel more on the budget side.  I find that it allows me to better experience my destination.  More importantly, it allows me to stretch my travel dollar further.  When I want to upgrade my accommodation at some point then I will.  Perhaps there is a hotel where I am going that in itself is part of the travel experience in the area.  Two examples I would suggest are the Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper, Alberta or the Ice Hotel in Quebec City.  Other times if I have just completed some heavy travelling I may want to really sleep on a comfy bed and pillow.  If I want to dine at a finer restaurant at some point, I will, but in general  eating with the locals is fine with me.  Sometimes it will allow you to strike up conversations with them and get to know more about where you are at - sights, events, history.

What it all comes down to, is what you, the traveller, find to be most comfortable.  You are doing the travelling and need to ensure you have set things in place to enjoy the experience.

The attached article considers both approaches to travel.

Luxury vs budget travel

Stay at the Abbey

You want a weekend getaway that is different.  Why not stay at the Abbey?
Downton Abbey has been an immensely popular series on TV.  Starting for Valentines Day, and other weekends throughout the spring and summer you can reserve a room at a part of the estate.

Downton Abbey weekend stays 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Bargain Shopping in Paris

For some reason Paris and bargain shopping do not seem to go together; however, it is possible to find shopping at reasonable prices.  This article gives some tips on how to shop in Paris and not blow the budget.  Having been to Paris a few times I would agree with the tips about shopping around Porte de la Clingnancourt and in the Marais.  As well, one of many street markets selling great food produce three or four days of the week is just down Boulevard Ornano from Porte de la Clingnacourt (around Metro:Simplon).

Bargain Shopping in France

Holiday Reading List of Great Travel Writing - Easy Hiker

Perhaps sometime between the celebrations of the season you may find some quiet time to read.  Here is a list of holiday reading on travel with a particular, but not exclusive focus on hiking.  It may help you plan for future adventures, or it just may provide that opportunity to let your mind go and to experience an adventure through someone else's eyes.

Holiday Reading List of Great Travel Writing

10 Tips to avoid blowing your travel budget

There's nothing worse than being thousands of kilometres from home and running out of money.  All of a sudden the possibility of sleeping on a park bench in a town square becomes a daunting reality.  Panic can set in.  All the joy of your travels becomes secondary and lost, at least for the moment.

This is especially frustrating as you have spent many hours planning your trip and ensuring that you have allotted enough money for all expenses.  Sometimes things catch you by surprise.

This article lists 10 tips to help you avoid blowing your travel
budget and give you peace of
mind while travelling.

Where in the world? Week 6 (December 26)

Where in the world is this?

Enter your answer in the comment box below.

Come back next Friday (January 2) for the answer, and another photo.

Where in the world was last week's photo?

BHV Homme Store, Paris, France
36, rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris

Vertical landscaping is quite popular in Paris.  This example is on the face of the BHV Homme Store in Paris just off rue de Rivoli.
Patrick Blanc is recognized as the leader of the vertical garden.

The Vertical Garden

Friday, 26 December 2014

5 International Beverages way better than eggnog

You want to toast the holidays or the New Year, but you want to do it a little differently.  It's time to give eggnog a break.  Time to try something a bit more exotic.  Cheers!

5 International Beverages way better than eggnog 

100 Reasons why traveling is awesome

If you just can't find a reason to travel, this list may help you find the one you are looking for in order to start you adventure.

100 Reasons why traveling is awesome

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

10 top destinations to visit in 2015

As the year ends, top 10 lists are being developed on many topics including travel.

Here is a list of the 10 top destinations to visit in 2015 as compiled by CNN.  Not all of the destinations are obvious.  Perhaps it will give you some ideas for your personal travel plans for next year.

10 top destinations to visit in 2015

The Most Expensive US Destinations for New Year's Eve

It's always great to have a good time on New Year's Eve.  These US destinations may give you a good time, but will significantly lighten your pocket book.

The Most Expensive US Destinations for New Year's Eve

World's Top 10 Christmas Lights Displays

So you are looking to find out where the World's Top 10 Christmas Lights Displays are.  Perhaps they are around the corner, down the road, or far off.

World's Top 10 Christmas Lights Displays

Monday, 22 December 2014

If one had but a single glance....

Christmas Markets - 27 of Europe's Best Christmas Markets

Salzburg Christmas Market

Helping you get your fix of Christmas Markets, this blog lists 27 of the best markets in Europe.

27 of Europe's Best Christmas Markets

The Top 10 Villa holidays in Spain

This article in the Telegraph gives a list of the top 10 villa holidays in Spain.  Many Brits go to Spain for the winter so the list should be accurate.

The top 10 villa holidays in Spain

6 Things to Help Ease Your Way Through LAX this holiday season

If your holiday travels include LAX you may find this article especially useful reading.  The first point is vital information.  Some airlines have recently changed terminals.  Having experienced this once when travelling, it's not fun.  Don't get caught.

6 Things to Help Ease Your Way Through LAX this holiday season

This Airline Actually Wants to Make You Happy

It will be interesting to watch this airline in 2015, and to see if this trend continues.  Here's hoping!

This Airline Actually Wants to Make You Happy

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Travel Thoughts 2015

What will be some of the travel trends in 2015?  Here are one writer's thoughts.
"If travel industry experts are correct, next year will see us snapping holiday "braggies," eating dinner at a local's house, being served by a "Botler" and, more than likely, heading to Asia..." Read more

Christmastime in Lille

Lille is a small city on the northern French frontier with Belgium.  Read one person's account of Christmastime in Lille.  Its Christmas Market is considered to be one of the top ones in Europe.

Christmastime in Lille

Friday, 19 December 2014

Christmas Markets V - European Highlights

One way to get into the spirit of the season is to go to a Christmas Market.  The sights, sounds and smells of a market evoke thoughts of a Dickens' or old world Christmas.  A European tradition, they began in the 1400s in Germany.

For the last several weeks you have had the opportunity to read about Christmas Markets in North America.  As a final writing about markets for this year, here is a brief tour some of the highly recommended markets in Europe.

Nuremberg - The Nuremberg Christmas Market or Christkindlesmarkt is held from November 28 to December 24.  It is one of the largest German Christmas markets, and it is among the best known in the world.  Enjoy the sights and sounds of the market in the central square and streets surrounding it.

Copenhagen - Tivoli Gardens is the setting for the Copenhagen Christmas Market.  The market allows you to experience some of the traditions of a Scandinavian Christmas.  As well as the Market, there are so many other events in the garden.  The Market runs from Novenber 15 to January 4.

Tivoli Christmas Market

Budapest - The Christmas Market in Budapest is set up in Vorosmarty Square from November 28 to December 31 (closed December 25 and 26).  Over 100 wooden pavilions display Christmas decorations, crafts, and one-of-a-kind gifts.  Treat yourself to Hungarian treats and snacks as you stroll, and enjoy performances by children, and adults featuring choirs, dance, bands and orchestras.  A giant Advent Calendar is set up on the facade of a building facing onto the square and each day of Advent a new window is opened.

Budapest Christmas Market

Vienna - Vienna, home of the waltz, also hosts many Christmas Markets.  From November 15 to December 24 the Weiner Christkindlmarkt is on the square in front of City Hall.  The area surrounding City Hall is decorated for the season, along with pony rides, displays of scenes from fairy tales, and an opportunity to ride the Christkindl Express.

Vienna Christmas Market

For other Christmas Markets in Vienna - The Many Christmas Markets of Vienna

Dresden - Dresden's Christmas Market is Germany's oldest Christmas Market tracing its history back to 1434.  It is known locally as the Streitzelmarkt.  "Streitzel" refers to the name of the well known Christmas cake of the area the "stollen".  The Stollen Fest occurs on the second Sunday of Advent  A giant stollen is carried into the town square, cut and given out to visitors at the market.  Over 200 stalls display many items including arts and crafts unique to the region.  The market is open from November 27 to December 24.

Dresden Christmas Market (Streitzelmarkt)

Prague - The Christmas Market in the Old Town Square of Prague is considered the prettiest and the busiest in the city.  This market is open from November 29 to January 1.  Stalls are set up with traditional Czech foods such as barbecued pork, beer and mulled wine.  Others sell arts and crafts and other gift ideas.  Two highlights of the market are a manger scene with live animals for children to stroke, and a huge, real Christmas tree that dominates the square.

Prague Christmas Market

Strasbourg - Strasbourg is often referred to as the Capital of Christmas.  Its Christmas Market is the oldest in France dating back to 1570 and maintains many of the traditions.  The Market is located in front of Strasbourg Cathedral and runs from November 28 to December 31.  The market has over 300 stalls (chalets) selling foods and arts and crafts.  Other areas of the city also have markets for Christmas.  In all of the choices, at least one should appeal to you and to your senses.

Strasbourg Christmas Market

Munich - In the capital of Bavaria, Munich's Christmas Market gives you a Bavarian Christmas experience.  While there are many markets in the city, the traditional one in Marienplatz is the most well-known.  The town hall behind the square helps to give the market a fairy tale setting.  Stalls are set up to sell arts and crafts, and, foods and drink of the Bavarian region.  The Market is open from November 27 - December 24.  As well, nearby at Theresienwiese (the site of Oktoberfest) is another market (November 25 - December 31), the Tollwood Winter Festival.  Stalls display arts and crafts and foods with a more international flavour.  As well there are live shows and entertainment.

Munich Christmas Market

Tollwood Winter Festival

Salzburg - The Christmas Market in Salzburg, the city of Mozart, is open from November 14 - December 26.  The Market is set up around the cathedral and in the shadows of the Hohensalzburg Fortress.  Stalls selling foods and gift items are set up.  As might be expected in Salzburg music is a prominent feature of this market.   There are concerts by local choirs and  children's choirs.  Turmblasen, a brass concert is held in the square every Saturday evening.

Salzburg Christmas Market

One way to visit a number of Christmas Markets is by taking a river cruise.  There are a number of European river cruises in November and December.  Experience the romance of the Rhine, Danube, Main, or Seine, relaxing as you go.  Enjoy the scenery of the castle-lined rivers.  Visit cities along the way decorated for Christmas and go to their Christmas Markets.

Uniworld has three holiday market cruises:
 - Nuremberg to Frankfurt on the Main River;
 - Basel to Cologne on the Rhine;
 - Passau to Budapest on the Danube;
 - and Paris to Paris on the Seine;
 plus other holiday cruises.
Uniworld Christmas Market Cruises

Check out for an overview of many cruises that are available during the Christmas Market season.