Aug 16, 2012 12:31 - holly | 1,055 views
Preikestolen, Prekestolen, Hyvlatonna, Preacher’s Pulpit, Pulpit Rock… Call it what you will. The name may vary depending on who you talk to but what doesn’t change is the fact that this 604 meter tall cliff edge in Norway is one of the most potentially dangerous tourist attractions in the world.
Why “potentially” dangerous? Well, although there is no barrier or railing separating the estimated 90,000 annual visitors from the 1900 foot drop into the 1300 foot deep Lysefjord below, there is yet to be any major accidents atop the 25 square meter summit. In fact, hiking the 2.5 mile trail to Preikestolen is more likely to cause injury than peering over the summit’s ledge, with many visitors reporting sprained ankles due to the rocky and unkempt pathways.
Injury is even more likely if the walk is attempted in bad weather, or during the colder months. Not only can these Northern Europe destinations get very wet and icy causing the ground to become slippery and dangerous, but the area also gets rather foggy at times and the last thing you want is to be on an unmarked cliff edge in poor visibility! Besides, you want to be able to see the views from the top; they’re one of the best parts of the hike!
Located in Norway’s Ryfylke region, there’s no major cities in the surrounding area, making the views from the top of Preikestolen absolutely spectacular. Hikers who make it to the summit are rewarded with unique views over the Norwegian Fjords, the lush green valleys, Kjerag Mountain and the Europe cruise liners that dock in nearby Stavanger.
The car park at the base of the Preikestolen hiking trail is located just an hour from Stavanger, so it’s a particularly popular excursion for those enjoying a cruise through the Norwegian Fjords. Many Europe cruise operators have arrangements in place with local tour companies to transport passengers between Stavanger and Preikestolen.
Unfortunately for passengers whose Europe cruise experience doesn’t last very long in Stavanger, the hour long trip to the trail’s base and the 3-4 hour round trip to the summit may not be feasible. Fortunately, there is another way to see Preikestolen, and it’s a lot less nerve wracking too!
Local ferries make a number of daily trips along Lysefjord, taking passengers right under the top of the cliff that juts out over the water. The views may not be as good, and the adrenaline from the risk of imminent death may be non-existent, but it’s an ideal way to view one of Europe’s most amazing natural phenomena if you’re either short on time or don’t fancy the arduous trek to the summit.
If you’re vacationing in Norway, or are onboard a Europe cruise ship that makes a stop in Stavanger, Preikestolen is an absolute must see attraction. Not only are there endless photo opportunities, but it’s also a chance to say you’ve survived a trip to one of Europe’s most dangerous tourist hot spots!
Aug 13, 2012 13:01 - holly | 1,550 views
Every country has got its own traditions and rituals (especially for the holidays) and it would seem the further away from Europe you go, the more unusual they get. Influenced by quaint customs and rituals from religions known and spread across the world it is usually Christmas we take as an example when it comes to differences in holiday traditions across our globe, however New Year’s Eve is also notably varied depending on where you are.
Many people like to escape for the holidays at this time of the year. Some migrate to a warmer climate, perhaps on a Caribbean cruise where they can experience 5 star luxury and have a night to remember seeing in the new year underneath the stars (maybe even fireworks) on the top deck of a ship. Others may head to the Alps to have a traditional Christmas card experience in the snow.
However, if you’re after something truly different and oozing with tradition, culture, and festivity, the Peruvian city of Arequipa, also known as La Ciudad Blanca (the white city) might be just the place for you.
During the weeks leading up to December 31st, when one year’s burdens come to an end and a fresh year is about to start, you will notice a gradual change of the color scheme displayed in the streets of the shiny, white city. Day by day little spots of yellow begin to appear, tainting the many alleyways and main plaza.
The reason for this is that throughout the modern history of this third-world country, superstitious residents have put their faith in rituals that are supposed to ensure them luck, health and good fortune for the future.
One of these practices involves the color yellow, which reflects the sun’s brightness and the optimism that will surely rub off on you when you carry (or even better wear) an item in this light spectrum of the rainbow. This is why it counts as lucky if you are wearing bright yellow underpants when the clock strikes midnight. If you go against this charming tradition be prepared for a bucket of bad fortune to come your way. During the count down revelers will flash their yellow items to everyone they meet so as to re-enforce their luck and enhance the vibes of good fortune.
This is not the only unusual practice around New Year’s in Arequipa. Another enchanting tradition is the life-like puppets that the city’s inhabitants fashion out of their old clothes. After each family or family member has created their own doppelganger out of garments, they write a letter in which they confess the events in their lives over the past year which have made them unhappy and the areas of their lives that they want to see change for the better. The letter is then folded up and tucked either into a shirt-pocket or sleeve on the doll.
When the ghostly hour starts, the families gather on the roads in front of their houses and set light to the puppets in a blazing fire of desire, hope and wishful thinking. The next morning, the bodies and ashes of the burnt dolls cover the streets of the white city and mark the finale of a year past and celebrate the virgin year which lies ahead.
Aug 4, 2012 21:04 - holly | 1,005 views
The Bermuda Triangle, otherwise known as the ‘Devil’s Triangle’, is notorious for being one of the most mysterious areas of the seven seas. It is located on a busy shipping lane and cruise route in the western part of the North Atlantic. The 3 points of the triangle reaching Florida, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda, have been accused for the disappearance of boats, aircrafts, and humans for many years.
In the mid 40s, Flight 19 and its crew of 5 US Navy bombers seemingly disappeared whilst on a training mission. This sparked a multitude of other allegations and stories of mysterious happenings, most farcical and made up by hyperbolic locals, though some to this day have been left as real mysteries.
Are you looking for a holiday with an element of nervous excitement and adrenalin? Why not choose a Caribbean Cruise that includes Bermuda as a stop-off port? There are some cruises where Bermuda is the final destination, and if this is so, you should book a few nights in this mystifying area before carrying on your way.
A great activity to book is a late night boat tour out to the spots where the disappearances were said to have occurred. The tour lasts around 2 hours, and as you leave shore, you slowly sail into ghostlike darkness, making your heart race all the more. Just as you think you may burst with fear, the sea is illuminated with lights underneath your glass bottom boat, and you are able to experience Bermuda’s nightlife at its best, from the beautiful coral to the alien-like wildlife that it’s home to.
It’s not only the night-time that provides magical beauty, but also during the day there are many activities that you can participate in and explore what else the island has to offer. You could take a trek on horseback, hire some snorkel gear and float on top of the crystal clear waters taking in the natural beauty that lies beneath, check out the subterranean lakes below the earth in the Crystal and Fantasy Caves, or simply just find a good spot on one of the many beaches, immerse yourself in a good book, and soak up the sun.
When it is time for you to move on, you could hop over the sea to Florida and continue on your adventure up the East coast of America – that’s as long as you’ve not disappeared!
Jul 31, 2012 20:24 - holly | 1,552 views
Many people have summer and winter destinations where they enjoy going with family and friends every year. In the summer, many will choose to take a cruise around one of numerous routes including Northern Europe, South Pacific, Mexico and Central America. What better way to relax in the heat than by being ferried around to different ports, enjoying fine cuisine and entertainment?
In the winter perhaps you will enjoy something active to warm your bones, and if you’re looking for something with a little bit more “va va voom” what better getaway than escaping to the snow laden, whitewash mountains of ‘Les 3 Vallées’ (the 3 valleys) in France for a week of skiing. Whether you want to whizz down mountains, enjoy the scenery and breathtaking views from a chairlift, or experience the infamous ‘aprés ski’, Les 3 Vallées has it all!
As the name suggests, this part of the French Alps is made up of 3 different valleys (Méribel, Courchevel, and Val Thorens), though there are in fact 8 different resorts. It is the largest ski circuit in the world with over 600kms of slopes and 180 different lifts. If you want to heighten your chances of perfect conditions on the piste during your trip, aim to go between December and mid-March.
Courchevel’s ‘1650’ region is viewed as the “crème de la crème”. It has an extensive range of chalets, hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, and good transport links to the other two mountains, whether by foot, ski, gondola, or bus.
Throughout the 3 valleys there are many different styles of accommodation to suit all sorts of budgets and needs; for those looking for a no expenses spared week of being waited on hand and foot, a hotel or catered chalet will satisfy your every need. If you are on a tighter budget you could opt for one of the many perfectly good self-catered chalets or flats. Remember, the earlier that you book the better deals you are likely to find so plan early as some companies may even include free or discounted lift passes or boot and ski hire with your booking.
There are numerous companies specialising in these sorts of package holidays, employing a dedicated workforce to make your vacation truly memorable – just make sure that you do your research before deciding on which one to go with.
Skiing is like riding a bicycle – once you’ve learned how to do it it’s pretty difficult to forget! If you are a beginner don’t let that put you off this sort of holiday as there are lots of different English-speaking ski schools just waiting to help. Whether you’re an absolute beginner, want to brush up on your technique, or just want to have a fun afternoon lesson in one of the valleys’ four snow parks and learn some fancy new tricks.
Even if you don’t fancy skiing everyday from dawn till dusk there are many other activities to enjoy including tobogganing, snow mobile or dog sled tours, and (for the more daring) paragliding. There is no way that you could get bored!
A week long holiday skiing in Les 3 Vallées is guaranteed to give you just the right balance of rest, retail therapy and activity as well as a whole host of funny stories to take home with you.
Jul 28, 2012 15:10 - holly | 1,238 views
The most exciting playground for all the Lewis and Clarke wannabes of the 21st century can still be found in the New World. The Everglades is an area of subtropical wetlands located in the southern part of the Florida peninsula and the third largest National Park in the lower 48. The 2,358 square miles of wetland still seems to be uncharted and untouched by humans in many parts, and act as the living-room for creatures that are as ancient as dinosaurs would be if they were still around today. Alligators, bullfrogs, pythons and panthers are only some of the inhabitants of natural wonder and beauty that you will encounter when exploring this wet terrain.
One major obstacle in the Everglades is the dangerously sharp sawgrass prairie. If not navigated in the proper way these sharp blades can cut your skin right to the bones. When hiking through this area during the dry season you must be careful because the muddy ground camouflaged by the grass could act as a trap and pull you under like quicksand.
If you’re looking for a really thrilling, heart-racing adventure go on a guided hovercraft tour that will take you out into the seemingly never-ending vastness of the swamp. Usually steered by a guide who is missing a couple fingers and whose skin is deep with wrinkles from squinting into the sun for too long, the boat will fly across the wetlands at dangerously high speeds, only occasionally touching the surface and making your stomach do somersaults.
Whilst aboard one of these airboat tours you will be asked to try and spot some alligators, and if you are lucky or skilled enough to find some you will get the chance to feed them chickens. A word of warning – feed the alligators from a safe distance. Were you not curious as to how your driver lost his fingers?
If you continue out into the wild for a little longer, make sure to stop at one of the local restaurants where you can order a serving of incredibly large bullfrog legs – definitely something worth trying. You could also help the indigenous people of the region to support themselves by popping into one of their casinos for some fun. Usually it is prohibited to run such gambling establishments anywhere outside Nevada, however the Everglades have gained special permission.
Once you’ve had enough excitement here head down south to the marvelously beautiful Key West and hop onboard a Caribbean Cruise to finish off your trip in style, replacing bullfrog legs with 5 star cuisine, sawgrass with crystal clear water, and alligator sightings with dolphins.