Feb 12, 2013 16:16 - helenecooper | 3,652 views
It was on a rather random morning in February that I found myself alone in Aqaba during Ramadan. I had arrived by bus from Amman having left my Iraqi boyfriend behind to continue his studies on ‘How to solve the Middle East Crisis’. I had already visited the main tourist sites of Petra, Madaba, Mt Nebo, Dead Sea and Jerash (by far my favorite) and some of the lesser known sites such as, a newly discovered ancient city that was being excavated towards the Golan Heights near the Syrian border, and a cinema showing eighties movies preceded by a whole hour of trailers in Amman.
As I wandered the somewhat deserted streets in search of suitable accommodation a local shop owner beckoned me into his premises. He was very keen to converse in English and find out what I thought about his country. He plied me with tea and sweet pastries and gave me a variety of goodies he sold in his shop including a keffiyeh, a traditional Arab scarf which he showed me how to wear. He wanted to organize a trip to Wadi Rum for me, home of the ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ and a mere half hour away and somewhere I would sorely love to have visited, being a fan of David Lean movies. However the paltry $20 charge was more than my minuscule budget could afford at the time. He then insisted I return later that day to join him and his family at their ‘break of fast’ which I duly did. So, at 8 o’clock that evening I found myself in a position I would never have put myself in back in the UK, in a complete stranger’s home, sitting on the floor surrounded by the women of the house (the men seemed to use a separate living room), being offered endless local delicacies and tea (‘Bedouin whisky’) and communicating by hand signals as no English was spoken by the females present. A truly bizarre experience, but one I have never forgotten and one that firmly cements in my mind, the genuine warmth and friendliness of the local Jordanian people who have had to suffer from a proximity to some rather volatile neighbors thus putting many potential travelers off from visiting this incredible country.
I have since been back (for a ‘hen party’ kind of blast pre-wedding – not to the Iraqi boyfriend though) and once again enjoyed some amazingly welcoming experiences with the local people, including making good friends with a taxi driver who was supposed to just take us from the airport to our hotel on arrival and ended up becoming our tour guide/mother hen, driving us around the entire country all week. I also eventually made it to Wadi Rum and spent a hugely memorable couple of days in a desert camp there, scrambling up some of the sandstone mountains and overnighting beneath the stars around a campfire with a local Bedouin guide.
Now with family, I cannot wait to take my children to Jordan and introduce them to the delights of exploring the narrow siq leading to Petra, snorkeling over the coral in the Red Sea, being covered in mud then floating surrealy in the Dead Sea, playing gladiators in the Roman ruins of Jerash and playing in the endless sandscapes of Wadi Rum. I am absolutely certain we will enjoy more wonderfully warm encounters with the locals to complete the experience.
This guest post has been written by Helene Cooper who is a keen globetrotter and has spent much of her life travelling to all seven continents including climbing Aconcagua in South America, getting engaged at Everest Base Camp, crossing the leech-infested jungles of Borneo and coming face to face with a rhino whilst on foot safari in South Africa. Helene currently writes for Dragoman.
Feb 11, 2013 21:28 - 84petersmith | 1,982 views
Have you always wanted to skipper your own boat? To travel down the canals of Europe in your own floating hotel, taking in stunning views? Then why not hire a canal boat for your next holiday? Whether you choose a boating holiday in the UK or Europe, this truly is an adventure to remember.
What can I expect from a boating holiday?
You control your own itinerary; once you pick up your boat, you can wake up when you feel like it, have breakfast and set off at any time of day, stopping whenever you feel like a break. On a sunny day, you can moor by the side of the river and sunbathe on the deck all day, if you wish, or head for land and explore the local area. With no traffic jams to bother you and a peaceful stretch of water ahead, it is one of the most relaxing ways to enjoy your spring or summer break. Part of the fun of a boating experience is learning to use locks (which are relatively easy); you’ll soon feel like an expert.
Don’t I need a licence?
Most boating holiday companies hire out canal boats which don’t require a licence, or any boating experience. You’ll normally be provided with some hands-on demonstrations and a full briefing explaining how to use all the equipment and supplies on board. Larger companies usually have bases in various locations, so if you experience any problems whilst boating, you can moor at the nearest town or village and head for assistance.
Where should I go?
The choice is yours. Many boating holiday operators cover Europe as well as the UK and France is one of the top destinations for boating holidays in the world! Why not try the South of France; the Canal du Midi is the oldest waterway in Europe. In the UK, consider the Norfolk Broads or The Thames, both giving a very different perspective on England. If you’re looking to get back to nature, then Ireland is the choice for you. Taking in the lush green scenery, tiny villages and local culture is never better than when cruising down the Shannon in your own boat. Ireland is the perfect destination for anglers, with the rivers Erne and Shannon being filled with salmon, perch and tench, or why not head ashore to a traditional Irish pub for lively music and a pint (or two) of Guinness.
What will my boat be like?
Boating holidays are designed to provide a home-from-home experience, so you can expect your boat to have all the facilities that you are used to. Most boats have a sundeck, ideal for enjoying the hot summer weather and some come with a sliding roof so that you can enjoy the sun whilst manning the controls.
Generally, boat rentals come fully equipped with kitchen appliances and equipment, bedding, linen, towels and security equipment. Some holiday operators even offer an ordering service where you can pre-order groceries and supplies you’ll need for your holiday, which will then be waiting for you on the boat when you arrive. Boats have electricity, points for shavers and come with heating, should the weather be cold and generally your boat rental will include a full tank of diesel which will last you for a week long holiday.
Renting a canal boat is a great idea for an adventure holiday and a fantastic way to entertain the whole family this summer. You’ll experience the freedom of organising your own holiday and the excitement of travelling along the waterways in your own boat, taking in beautiful scenery and having the experience of a lifetime.
Peter writes for a range of travel magazines and booked his last family holiday through http://www.leboat.co.uk, spending a week cruising through the South of France with his wife and two children a truly memorable holiday!
Feb 7, 2013 09:40 - erexkiss | 2,984 views
Traveling in an RV is one of the most exciting ways to see the landscapes and cities that make the US vibrant. Whether you own and RV or plan on getting an RV rental, choosing where you want to explore in the US in your RV requires understanding what you are looking for. You should also match this with the cities that offer you freedom in the attractions that you can see. Take a look at our choices for the best places to visit in your RV:
Top 5 Places to Visit in Your RV
- Memphis, Tennessee: The city known for its affiliation with music superstar Elvis Presley is popular with international tourists and domestic travelers who are looking for a good time. The numerous music bars make Memphis the perfect choice for anyone who loves the textured sounds like blues and rock and roll.
- New Orleans, Louisiana: Commonly called the Big Easy, New Orleans is renowned for its culture which is drenched in French-Creole history and stunning architecture that you can see in the French Quarter. New Orleans is ideal for people who want to explore a historical city from the comfort of their RV. Sample some of the local cuisine that has made New Orleans famous as well as the city’s rich cocktail culture from the watering holes of the Big Easy.
- Los Angeles, California: LA is the city of angels and because of this, it has attracted a wide range of people such as actors and producers in entertainment for decades because it is the city where dreams are made. Shopping near Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard is bound to give you the chance to explore what makes LA so magnetic for the people who live there and the tourists who come to the famous city.
- Dallas, Texas: Everything is bigger in Texas; in your RV, you can discover what has made this oil city one of the most popular cities in the US. The city has plenty to offer you especially if you are traveling with your family. The Dallas World Aquarium is perfect for children while the Perot Museum of Nature gives adults the cultural kick they need.
- Miami, Florida: Tourists who like going to the beach are spoiled for choice when they go to Miami. This city sparkles with sandy beaches and resorts that cater to all types of beach fans. The city is also paved with art-deco buildings that come in a rainbow wash of colors. It can be like looking through a kaleidoscope when you are looking at Miami from the comfort of your RV.
Cross country travel in an RV is exciting especially if you are going to any of the destinations above. Be sure to pack extra sets of necessities such as clothing and blankets to make your journey to these cities as carefree as possible.
Top tip: Take frequent breaks while driving to remain alert when you are on the road in your RV.
This is as Guest Post by Endre RK, a part-time blogger and full-time petrolhead. Endre currently represents Parts Geek, the best online car parts ware house to look for Honda Accord accessories & parts along with various other parts and accessories for your car and RV.
Feb 6, 2013 13:38 - holly | 2,779 views
Japan has a population of almost 130 million permanent residents and welcomes almost 10 million foreign visitors to its islands each and every year, making the country one of the most visited in the world. It is renowned for its larger cities – like Tokyo and Osaka – and for their glittering attractions – the neon lights of futuristic Akihabara or playful Shinjuku. But the quieter elements of traditional Japanese life continue to exist in parallel with general hustle and bustle. Here are a few of the Japan’s most peaceful places, located in or near by some of the country’s largest cities.
1. Sankei-en Garden, Yokohama
Yokohama boasts one of the largest populations in Japan, second only to the capital Tokyo, and thanks to its location just 30 miles south, it’s also home to the busiest cruise port in the country. Cruise ship after cruise ship carries curious tourists to the area in large numbers. With so many residents and so many visitors arriving each day, it must often seem like there’s no escape from the constant on-the-go atmosphere in this coastal city. But that’s just not true: Yokohama’s impressive, yet peaceful, 175,000 square meter park, Sankei-en Garden, was created in 1902 in traditional Japanese style. The tranquil gardens contain historical buildings –homes from the Japan’s Edo period – beautiful three story pagodas, and memorial structures.
2. Nunobiki Falls, Kobe
Downtown Kobe, away from the city’s tourist-oriented harbor, doesn’t come top of many travelers’ lists, though those that make it to this business-focused district are rewarded with what may well be the highlight of their trip to Japan. Shin-Kobe Station sees thousands of ‘salary’ men and women pass through its doors each day; yet a small, unmarked doorway on the station’s upper level offers a gateway to Mount Rokkō and the natural spectacle of the Nunobiki waterfalls. Despite having featured prominently in traditional Japanese literature and the arts, the Falls are relatively unknown to travelers from further afield. They represent a deliciously isolated spot for time away from the city and offer great views over the streets below.
3. Meiji Shrine Forest, Tokyo
The Meiji Shrine is located right in the heart of Tokyo and is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. The walkway to the shrine, however, is almost always peaceful. Although the pathway and its torii gates cut a direct walking route through the forest from Yoyogi to Harajuku, it’s remarkably quiet and the river running alongside the route means it is often obscured by a thick layer of mist, creating a somewhat eerie, yet beautiful atmosphere. The walkway is widely considered to be the calm before the storm when it comes to avoiding the traveling hoards, but it is still worth visiting at any time of the day – early mornings are especially magical.
4. Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima
Created in 1954, Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park is built on one of the two sites of the United States’ 1945 nuclear attacks and is dedicated to the estimated 140,000 people who lost their lives as a result. The A-Bomb Dome is perhaps the park’s most famous structure – it is one of the most recognizable ruins in the world. The spacious, green park adorned with memorial candles and monuments is a peaceful yet stark contrast to the haunting images conjured by the skeletal dome and by the artifacts housed in the park’s heartbreaking museum.
5. Mount Misen, Miyajima
Although located a mere 15 miles from the heart of Hiroshima, the historic island of Miyajima is one of the most peaceful places in Japan. Access is only possible via water: many opt for scheduled ferry services; others choose to cross by canoe and kayak. Mount Misen stands tall, overlooking the island’s small, cobbled streets filled with vendors selling weird and wonderful Asian street food. The Mount’s summit can be reached via cable car, but for a more meditative experience consider making the two hour walk to the top – it’s rare to encounter anyone besides monkeys, but beware! Those monkeys are not as friendly as they look: they’ve been known to make off with keys, handbags, jewelry, and anything else they can get their hands on, so be sure to travel light.
Feb 4, 2013 18:33 - Regina Falkowski | 1,778 views
Make your next vacation an adventure trip by visiting one of the nation’s best off-road cycling trails.
Most travel destinations are not bike friendly. Mountain bikers understand the problems of city biking; from pesky pedestrians, unpredictable traffic and safety devices like cones and poles and removable bollards. So why visit any place that doesn’t welcome your favorite pastime? From the Eastern seaboard to the country’s heartland, The Grasslands, the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coast, find out which trails are some of the nation’s best for biking.
Maah Daah Hey Trail
In the small town of Medora, N.D.population 112lies 96 miles of mountain biking bliss, the Maah Daah Hey Trail. Medora.com states that a rugged ride begins just south of the city at Sully Creek State Park and spans through the North Dakota Badlands, passing through Little Missouri National Grasslands and state and private land as it winds its way between the north and south parts of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
CO Canal Trail
According to bikecando.com the trail is 185 miles, stretching along the Potomac River, from Georgetown, Washington D.C. to Cumberland, Md. The trail takes mountain bikers through the eastern seaboard wilderness through the heart of Appalachia with dozens of campsites nestled along the trail with historic sites from the Civil War.
The Colorado Trail
According to coloradotrail.org, the trail is nearly 500 miles, stretching from Denver to Durango, Col., taking bikers through the Rocky Mountains, “amongst peaks with lakes, creeks and diverse ecosystems” with the average elevation higher than 10,000 feet.
The Flume Trail
From Marlette Lake to Spooner Lake, the 22-mile Flume Trail is one of the West’s most well-known biking trails. Named after the real-life wooden flume which transported water and logs to Virginia City, Nevada during the 1800′s, the trail offers breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe’s Eastern Shore.
Stretching 237 miles across the state of Missouri, according to bikekatytrail.com, the Katy Trail covers more than half of Lewis and Clark’s path along the Missouri River. The trail offers scenic insight into the Midwest and American farmland with small towns scattered along parts of the trail.
According to visitIdaho.org, the historic Old Milwaukee Railroad has been converted into a scenic 15-mile ride that takes bikers along the Idaho/ Montana border. Considered the crown jewel of rail-to-trail projects, the trail offers views of big mountain terrain over the Bitterroot and St. Joe Mountains, canyon-spanning trestles while the path cuts through 10 tunnels and seven bridges, some ranging up to 230 feet high.
A mountain bike vacation would not be complete without visiting the birthplace of the sport. According to Gorp.com, 20 years ago mountain biking’s origins were created in Northern California‘s Mt. Tamaplais. Now enthusiasts will find more than 50 miles of paths crossing through the Redwood and Madron forests. Offering picture-perfect ocean views, the 22-mile Mount Tam loop offers a smooth ride that ventures through twisting forests of wild oak. With trails ranging from moderate to hardcore difficulty, Mt. Tamalpais is great for those traveling with bikers of varying abilities.