Saturday, 31 January 2015

News and Tips - #1 (January 31, 2015)

January 31, 2015

In this issue:
1.  How to Learn a Language
2.  Europe's Most (and Least) Affordable Cities
3.  Dubai jumps Heathrow as 'world's busiest international airport'
4.  London on a Budget - Hostel Rocket
5.  5 tips for getting an upgrade to first class - A Luxury Travel Blog

Even a simple "Bonjour" will break the ice if you're facing a grumpy Parisian. Often, though, you can do a lot more with very little extra effort.
This isn't about becoming fluent or even proficient: it's just about getting by, and that's muchmore within your reach than you might think.  Read more...
A newly released ranking of 56 major European cities by price aims to assist budget-minded travelers plan and easily compare destinations.  Read more...

Dubai jumps Heathrow as 'world's busiest international airport'

Dubai has overtaken London Heathrow as the world's busiest airport for international passengers. The change comes as Dubai's status as a global crossroads soars, but also as Heathrow hits capacity limits with no solution in sight.  Read more...

London on a Budget - Hostel Rocket

When you think of cheap travel you rarely think of London for budget hostels and activities. But by following just a few of these insider tips you can make sure you see the capital and still walk away with a few pounds in your pocket.  Read more...

5 tips for getting an upgrade to first class - A Luxury Travel Blog

Everyone that’s taken a long haul flight has at some point wished to be given a free upgrade, or maybe you’ve just taken a fair few short haul flights and wished that just one time the air hostess would beckon you to the front into business class. Either way, if you’ve been passed over for an upgrade you know how frustrating it can be – so what is the best way to get an upgrade?   Read more...

Experience, travel...

Oia, Santorini, Greece

Friday, 30 January 2015

Where in the world? Week 11 (January 30)

Where in the world is this?

Enter your answer in the comment box below.

Come back next Friday (February 6) for the answer, and another photo.

Where in the world was last week's photo?

Front Street,
Philipsburg, Sint Maarten

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Buffalo is not just chicken wings...

Buffalo, New York, I believe, is under-appreciated for all that it has to offer.  Buffalo is not just chicken wings, or what you see as you drive by on I-90.  If you go off the expressways and go in to the actual city you will find that it actually has a lot of character that is often overlooked and possibly unknown.

House on Delaware Avenue
Buffalo's location is of geographical importance.  It is located at the western terminus of the Erie Canal, a major transportation link between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, built in the 1800s.  The importance of the canal decreased over the years with the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the building of substantial highway systems.  However, much of Buffalo's older architecture reflects its glory days of the canal.  Go into the centre of the city along Delaware Avenue you will see some of the large stately homes still standing from that era.

Even today, it's location is significant.  It sits at the point where Lake Erie flows into the Niagara River.  Across the river is Canada.  Fort Erie, Ontario to be exact.  The Peace Bridge which crosses the river acts as a main crossing point between Canada and the United States, not just for travellers, but also for the transportation of goods between the two countries.

Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Buffalo has numerous cultural offerings.  There are many art galleries in the area.  The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is the largest and best known.  It has an excellent collection of modern and contemporary art.  The main building is beautiful in the beaux arts architectural style.

Kleinhans Music Hall is the home of The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.  Shea's Performing Arts Centre presents many theatrical productions and concerts.

Buffalo has an extensive system of connected parks and parkways.  Many of them were part of an original plan developed in the mid-1800s by Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.

Walter V. Davidson House
Buffalo is the home to some amazing architecture.  About 80 buildings in the city are on the National Register of Historic Places.  There are a number of examples of art deco architecture among them the Buffalo City Hall and the Buffalo Central Terminal.  A number of examples of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright are also in the city.

The sports teams of Buffalo cannot be overlooked.  There are the Sabres the National Hockey League team that plays in HBC Centre.  The Buffalo Bills that play for in the National Football League.  The Buffalo Bisons .....  As well, with a number of colleges and universities in the area there is a well developed sports program at the college level.

Elmwood Village

As already alluded to, Buffalo does have good shopping.  There are numerous malls around the city.  The Walden Galleria is the largest on the east side of the city just off I-90.  As well, another shopping area is on Elmwood Avenue.  Many interesting shops are found there, as well as numerous eateries and cafes.

Chicken wings

Of course Buffalo is known for its chicken wings.  There is the Anchor Bar, that is renowned as the home of the chicken wing; however, the dish is not exclusive to this restaurant.  You can find a variety of cuisines available in Buffalo.  A Taste of Buffalo, an annual two-day food fair, is held in July (July 11-12, 2015).  It is an opportunity for many of the local eateries to show off their best.

Winter storm November 2014
Yes, there is the weather.  Winter has been known to not favour Buffalo.  However, the major snowstorms are a time to show the strong sense of civic spirit in the city.  Where else would you find local citizens volunteering to shovel out the stadium of their hometown NFL team so that a game could be played?

Buffalo deserves more than a drive-through on an expressway.

It is easily accessible by car from many areas of the US northeast and Canada.  It is served by the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.  Amtrak has a station in Depew just to the east of the city.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Where in the World? Week 10 (January 23)

Where in the world is this?

Enter your answer in the comment box below.

Come back next Friday (January 30) for the answer, and another photo.

Where in the world was last week's photo?

Cicek Pasaji (Flower Passage)
Istiklal Caddesi
Beyoglu, Istanbul, Turkey

The Cicek Pasaji (Flower Passage) at one time was a very fashionable place in Istanbul.  Originally it was the site of the Naum Theatre an important centre for opera in Istanbul and in Europe.  In the 1870s, after a fire, a shopping arcade and luxury apartments were built there.  After the Russian Revolution many Russian immigrants sold flowers here.  Thus the name.  Today it is an arcade full of restaurants and bars.

Monday, 19 January 2015

101 Tips that Will Save You Money and make travel easy: A Reading Recommendation

There are many things to consider as you plan your travels.

The free e-book 101 Travel Tips: That WILL save you money & make travel easy  is a great little book that will help you not only prepare for your trip, but also as you work through your trip.

Information is presented in themes - General Information, Transport, Eating, and the list goes on.   Each of the themes gives practical and money-saving tips.  While the ultimate goal of the book is to save you money, many tips are useful information whether you are a well-healed or budget traveler.

A couple of tips about Working/Volunteering are particularly noteworthy.   Tip 58: Volunteering can be illegal.  Gulp.  Nothing like having noble intentions, and a social consciousness and ending up in jail or deported.  Tip 59: Some volunteer programs charge you, a lot.  Amen!  Enough said!

This book is an easy read.  It is not too detailed so you are not inundated with information.  It does provide links to other online resources.  There are great photographs included.  In many ways this book is a reminder of things to do as you prepare and travel.  Perhaps it serves as a confirmation of the things you already know and do.  It can serve as a great check list.

Whether I am travelling, or contemplating my next adventure as I am now, this is a great book to have accessible at all times.

Williams, Tom, and Meagen Collins (2013).  101 Travel Tips: That WILL save you money & make travel easy [Kindle Edition] Retrieved from

Going to Cuba: For Now

The announcement of changes to the US embargo on Cuba in December 2014 has brought renewed excitement for travellers.  Americans want to visit this land so rich in culture and history.  Especially for some it is a chance to return to their homeland, or the land of their heritage.

While the excitement rises the opportunity for travel is still limited.  Independent travel is still not an option.  However, travelling through cultural programs is a viable and expanding option.

Read how US tour operators are responding for Americans to travel to Cuba in 2015.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Cuba - 6 interesting facts

With the relaxing of the US embargo on Cuba late last year, there has been an increased interest in the island, and in travel to it.  Here are 6 interesting facts about Cuba.

1) The beaches are gorgeous.

2) Rum based drinks are quite popular.
    Cuba was the home of Barcardi
    distillers until the revolution.  It was
    the 'birthplace' of the mojito.

3) Yes, there are a lot of old cars.
     Cuban citizens can only own
     cars from 1959 or earlier -
     those seized from their previous
     owners during the revolution.

4)  Baseball is the favourite sport in

5) Cuba has a very high literacy rate - 99.8%.
    This is one of the highest rates in the world.

6) Cuba has one of the best universal health care
    systems in the world.  As well, because there are
    so many doctors that they are often sent to other
    countries where there is a shortage of them.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Ski trails less travelled

Whistler, BC

Sometimes the runs of Jay are no longer challenging?  The apres-ski of Whistler is becoming common place?  Tahoe is too crowded?

Looking for something a little different?  A little more out of the way?  Places with awesome scenery?

Belle Plagne, France
Look no further....Consider the seven ski resorts of this article from Lonely Planet....Off the beaten piste: 7 far-flung European ski resorts 

Travel is the only thing...

Mykonos, Greece

Friday, 16 January 2015

The Colourful Doors Of Dublin

On my first trip to Dublin, I quickly noticed, and was intrigued by the colourful doors on many of the houses.

The doors were particularly common, but not exclusive to, the Georgian townhouses that lined streets in areas of the city south of the River Liffey around Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Square.

Why the colourful doors?

There are many stories behind this phenomena.  Each of them has its own possible truth, and some of them are probably more urban legend than anything.

In the 1800's Ireland was still part of the United Kingdom.  At the time of the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, in 1861 the doors of all the houses in the British Empire were ordered to be painted black.  Already, there was an independent air in Dublin and in much of Ireland.  Upon this order many of the homeowners responded by painting their doors any bright colour.

Two possible stories have to do with drinking.  Tired of their husbands coming home drunk at night, and not being unable to distinguish one house from another, the weary wives took to painting the doors different colours to help them out.

Related to the same theme, is that story that two eccentric writers, George Moore and Oliver St. John O'Gogarty lived next door to each other.  Moore painted his door green so that the drunken O'Gogarty would not mistakenly knock at his door late in the night.  In response O'Gogarty painted his door bright red and from there the trend took off.

At the time of construction many of the homes did not have street numbers.  In order to help distinguish one home from another, the doors were painted different colours.

The Georgian townhouses are all very stately and in parts of the city stand row upon row for blocks.    Due to the strict guidelines for the planning and construction of these home there was very little to distinguish one house from another.  In response to this owners of these homes took it upon themselves to use colour on their doorways to distinguish one home from the other.  What is interesting to know is that the stark exterior of these homes was in great contrast to the stately insides of the homes with large rooms and high ceilings.

Where in the World? Week 9 (January 16)

Where in the world is this?

Enter your answer in the comment box below.

Come back next Friday (January 23) for the answer, and another photo.

Where in the world was last week's photo?

The Peace Bridge
River Foyle
Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Disney World and Disneyland: A Comparison

Yahoo Travel does a comparison of Disney World and Disneyland this week in their Smackdown series.

Personally, having been to both resorts, I can say I like them both.

First, just from a Disney perspective both of them capture the 'child' in all of us or at least most of us. I never tire of the Disney experience.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle - Disneyland
I enjoyed Disneyland as I realized that this was the original Disney.  This was the park that spawned all the development now in many countries.  A cautionary note, due to the expansion of the California park, and the continual upgrading of the park, this nostalgic reason is probably more emotionally based.  There have been many changes to the park that Walt knew best.

Cinderella's Castle - Walt Disney World
As for Disney World, I like it because of the space.  Although it can be crowded at holidays, even then there is still room to roam.  I am not a big fan of crowds, or super-long lines for attractions.

Disney World also provides a greater variety of attractions to see.  There are the theme parks and also the water parks.  Each of these is worth at least a day's visit, if not more.

There is more available on-site accommodation, albeit some of it is still a distance from the actual parks.  Transportation is available to the parks.  There is a greater chance of finding a room, and at a variety of price points.

Read the article Smackdown: Walt Disney World vs Disneyland  and see what you think.  Be sure to vote for your preference at the end.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Flight to Europe $144! And other deals.... (Jan. 12/15)

In the effort to find good travel deals to Europe here are a few current ones.

The $144 airfare on Norwegian Airlines in incredible.

Check out the other deals too.  Five amazing travel deals to Europe including a 144 flight. Really.

The Path Less Travelled...

Sometimes you can see and learn so much by checking out of the way places in cities or rural areas.

On my most recent visit to Paris, I was staying in the 18th arrondissement.  This was a new area for me.  I loved the vibrant mix of cultures so evident as you walked the area.  The street market set up 3 days a week was a visual array of fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood and meat.

One day I was out exploring and making my way to Sacre Coeur.  I decided to approach it directly  by the streets of the 'backside' where I was located.  It was interesting to take another approach, rather than the usual one off the Boulevard Rochechouart, to this icon of Paris.

I saw some beautiful Parisian street scenery.  I love the look of the buildings and the apartments.  Sometimes my imagination wandered thinking of what it would be like to live in Paris in one of the apartments I saw.

At one point, I heard the voices of children.  As a former educator I was caught up in the sounds of outdoor play.  Obviously I was near a school or nursery school.  I continued my walk and the voices became louder.  The school was in sight.

Just before I got to the door of the school, I saw a wall plaque.  I quickly scanned it and then stopped, stunned as I read it.  It was in memory of the Jewish children of that school who were deported to the Nazi camps during World War II.  Gulp!  As a human, as a parent, as an educator, I read that plaque over and over.  Yes, I had heard about this happening, but this was a real reminder of the sad events.

I would have missed this experience had I not taken the 'road less travelled'.  Yes, the usual tourist routes are great, and should not be overlooked, but little sojourns like this enrich your travels.