The Advantages of Nile Cruises in Egypt

download (17)Among the most important reasons why tourists who travel to Egypt love to go on Nile Cruises is that the ride includes all the important historical sites in the cities of Luxor, Aswan, and even between the two cities.

In Aswan, the guests enjoying their vacations in Egypt would visit the High Dam, the most significant architectural achievement of modern Egypt. The High Dam was constructed in the 1960s to control the water of the flood of the River Nile and to generate electricity. After a long story of struggle to collect the money to fund such a huge project, the Egyptians were able to do it!

The other visits tourists who travel to Egypt enjoy in Aswan are the Philae Temple, one of the finest Greco Roman temples of ancient Egypt. The temple was relocated after the construction of the High Dam. The water reserved due to the dam exposed many historical sites to drawn in the River Nile. The rocks Philae temple were divided, numbered, transferred, and then assembled it its new location in Agilika Island.

One more historical site tourists enjoying their holidays in Egypt explore as part of their Nile Cruise is the Unfinished Obelisk, the largest piece of rock humans have ever dealt with. The visit is a marvelous chance for travelers to know about how and why the ancient Egyptians constructed these huge buildings.

In Luxor, the guests who tour Egypt will spend two days discovering the secrets of the city. They would visit the Temple of Karnak, the largest and most impressive ancient Pharaonic temple in the world that was constructed over a period of time that exceed 1000 years. They would go on with their visits to explore the Luxor Temple, another magnificent temple of ancient Egypt.

In the second day, the guests who spend their vacation in Egypt in a Nile Cruise would visit the Valley of the Kings, the ancient necropolis of the New Kingdom of Egypt where Howard Carter discovered the intact tomb of Tut Ankh Amun in 1922. This is in addition to several impressive colorful tombs like these of Ramses VI, Tuthmosis III, and many other kings. The guests would go on to visit the Temple of Hatshepsut, the splendor of splendors, as historians prefer to call it. This temple is a marvelous masterpiece of the art and architecture of ancient Egypt. The last place tourists explore in Luxor is the Colossi of Memnon, these two huge statues that are the only remaining parts of the once quite magnificent temple of Amenhotep.

Even the historical sites located between the two cities of Luxor and Aswan are included in the travel package to Egypt that includes a Nile Cruise. The guests will have the chance to visit the Temple of Kom Ombo, this Greco Roman temple dedicated to Sobek, the local crocodile god and the Horus, the famous Pharaonic god. The other place to be visited between Luxor and Aswan is the Temple of Edfu. Dedicated to the god Horus, this temple is the best-preserved temple built by the Ptolemies in Egypt.

It’s not only about the visits, the Nile Cruise ships themselves are luxurious as they offer the highest standards of services and they offer the best facilities including a sundeck and a swimming pool. This is in addition to that all the meals are served in open buffet in the ship with international and local dishes to please all the passengers.

The guests enjoying their trip in Egypt would spend the days exploring the historical sites, what about the evenings? The guests would have a comprehensive entertainment program that includes a belly dance show, a Tanoora dance, competitions, dances, cocktails, and a costume party as well.

 

Cuba: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

download (16)“Es complicado,” our Cuban guide, Lázaro, said in response to a question from one of our group

I was in a bus on a busy street in Havana with fourteen travel companions (thirteen women and two men) who were touring Cuba with Sisters Across the Straits, a group organized and sponsored by the Florida state chapter of League of Women Voters. Our purpose was not only to visit regular tourist stops but to become more knowledgeable about Cuba, the Cuban people and the country’s history.

Besides Lázaro, we were fortunate to be accompanied by Miami resident Annie Betancourt, founder of Sisters Across the Straits, a Board Director of the League and a member for more than three decades. We were the twenty-sixth group Annie has taken to Cuba. She later explained that ‘it’s complicated’ is the standard response Cubans use to describe any difficult situation. It’s a diplomatic way of saying there is no answer to your question or perhaps there is no solution. ‘It’s complicated’ became the password for our six day adventure in Cuba.

Annie was born in Cuba and lived there with her parents until she was thirteen years old. That was when the revolution occurred and Fidel Castro came into power. Her father, an engineer, understood the changes that were coming and, like hundreds of other Cubans, moved his family to Miami, hoping that their time in that city would be short. But Fidel remained in power and the family soon realized that Miami was their new home.

Annie’s hope is that these visits will improve mutual understanding after decades of isolation and distrust between the US and Cuba. The itineraries, as you will see, are designed to provide League members with opportunities to learn about Cuba’s history, culture and society and to meet both academic experts and ordinary Cuban citizens.

Day 1.

Our flight from Miami to the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana was just 45 minutes long, a reminder that Cuba is only 90 miles from the United States. As soon as our group passed through customs, we boarded the bus and started our tour with a ride through central Havana and the Plaza de la Revolucion. Annie had warned us that we were going to a third world country but it was still a shock to see so many buildings that looked as if they had been bombed. Other buildings appeared very fragile, as if they might collapse at any moment. However, they were obviously inhabited, with people going in and out of the entrances and others hanging wash from balconies ten or fifteen stories high. The American embargo and a failing economy had obviously had a huge impact.

After a lunch stop at an outdoor restaurant in a garden setting, we stopped at the Jose Fuster Studio, the home of a ceramist who has changed the area where he lives. The entire street looked like an immense modern painting with bright colors imbedded in every yard. But as I got closer, I could see the designs created with vibrant ceramics, each one different from the one before. The artist had begun this project by transforming his own gate into an elaborate scene created with ceramics. When neighbors saw the effect, they asked him to do the same to their homes. He never asked for money, always raising funds through donations and by selling his own work. Finally, he transformed his entire courtyard into a ceramic masterpiece. Because the American embargo had made ceramics and just about everything else difficult to obtain, he has been forced to travel great distances to find the tiles he needs.

After we checked in to our temporary home, the Hotel Sevilla, and had a short rest, we joined Annie and most of our fellow travelers for a walk through the Plaza and Calle Obispo – a pedestrian street in Haban Vieja (Old City). Our walk ended at a hotel where Annie had planned to have us eat dinner at its roof-top restaurant. However, like much of Cuba, the elevator was not working. A hotel employee invited us to use the service elevator which was located around the corner. It turned out to be a small, dark box that held five people including the elevator operator. Our group went up in shifts; I went up with my eyes closed and my fingers crossed, convinced that each bump meant we were about to plunge to the ground. However, the view of the city from the top made it all worthwhile. The food was another story.

After dinner, four of us walked down six flights (thank goodness there was a bannister) and made our way through the plaza, looking for a taxi. Finally, we found six of them, all 1950’s automobiles, patched up and roaring to take us back to the hotel. We were herded into the backseat of one and enjoyed a bumpy, breezy and gasoline infused trip back to the hotel. As we were getting out, I noticed that much of the ancient upholstery was held together by tape.

Day 2.

At breakfast, I heard about a lot of problems with the rooms. One of our group had hit the jackpot: her window wouldn’t close, the air conditioning didn’t work, and the door wouldn’t lock. My traveling companion, Pat, and I had been lucky. Although the room was basic (we weren’t expecting anything else), everything worked. In fact, the air conditioning was too cold and we couldn’t seem to turn it down but we weren’t going to complain. The hotel had a lovely swimming pool which we enjoyed almost every afternoon; except for the last day when it was closed down at 5:00 pm for mosquito spraying!

Our first stop was the Cuban Embassy to meet women who were members of the Cuban chapter of the United Nations. The Embassy building had been the home of one of the wealthy Cuban families who had left during the Revolution and it was still in good shape. Soaya E. Alvarez, Director of ACNU Associacion Cubana de las Naciones Unidas, spoke to us about Cuba and the United Nations and the importance of lifting the embargo. The Cuban people are suffering; salaries are $15 to $20 a month; Lázarus (who has a master’s degree) left a government job to become a guide because he could earn more money. Although health care is free, gas and some food is rationed and there is not much left over for luxuries. The Cuban dream is to come to the US; in 2015/16, 153,000 Cubans arrived in the US. People are leaving now because they are afraid the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows a path to citizenship, will be repealed. Thus, the Cuban workforce has been diminished and the population is aging.

Our next stop was a visit to El Quitrin, a women’s clothing shop sponsored by the Federation of Cuban Women. Annie had suggested we bring thread and needles as gifts for the women working here as these items, like everything else, are in short supply. At the time of our visit, most of the finished dresses and shirts in the shop were white cotton. The work on the clothes was amazing but I didn’t find anything to buy (for a change).

Later in the afternoon, we visited a conservative synagogue and heard about the Jewish population in Cuba from a young woman. There are 1200 Jews in Cuba and three synagogues; a typical situation for Jewish people in any location. But in Cuba, they are either conservative or orthodox; the modern reform movement has not reached Cuba. However, I was glad to hear that girls are having Bat Mitzvahs.

That evening, three of us took a taxi to a restaurant for dinner and made the acquaintance of a young driver who spoke excellent English. The taxi was brand new, had leather seats and purred as it made its way through town. Our driver told us it was made in China and purchased by the Cuban government. He was leasing it from the government and sharing it with another driver; each had three days on and three days off. He was married and had a toddler. When we asked him about President Obama’s visit, he said, with emotion, “Obama is our hero.”

Day 3.

Annie had arranged a visit to the newly opened U.S. Embassy. I was surprised at the amount of security – our passports were carefully examined and our bags were checked. We entered through a turnstile and were seated in a room right off the entrance. An embassy director who had been sent to Cuba to prepare for Obama’s visit gave us an overview of our country’s situation and answered all our questions. It was thorough and interesting. She encouraged us to interact with Cubans to dispel any negative impressions they might have about Americans.

At the end of the sidewalk in front of the entrance to the American Embassy, there is a football field of very tall black poles that look like they had been planted. Annie told us that, right after the Revolution, the American Embassy began running a ticker tape with a message about freedom along the top of the building. To retaliate, the Cuban government put up the poles and topped them with the Cuban flag to block out the tape.

Our next stop was Finca Vigia, the home of Nobel Prize laureate Ernest Hemingway who lived in Cuba from 1930 to 1960. Pat and I had seen the movie “Papa Hemingway in Cuba” just a few days before our trip so it was exciting to look in the windows and doors and see where the movie had been filmed. His fishing boat Pilar has been restored and is on display at the property.

We had lunch in Cojimar, a fishing village that was the backdrop of Hemingway’s novel, “The Old Man and the Sea.” I looked out at the water and could almost see the old man rowing the boat. Lunch was at a privately owned restaurant run by young local entrepreneurs and it was delicious. Many restaurants in Cuba are owned and operated by the government but more and more people are getting permission to open their own restaurants, a very good sign.

Day 4.

Breakfasts at the hotel were enormous; five large tables filled with everything from fruit to meats to pancakes or eggs and sweet breads. By now I knew our lunches would be huge – at least four courses – so I stuck to cereal, fruit and yogurt (at least I think it was yogurt) for breakfasts. I also decided I would not weigh myself for a week after I got home.

We walked through Old Havana and visited the plazas. There were dozens of stands selling books and street artists were everywhere, displaying their work on boards and boxes. One young man followed our group, drawing quick profiles of a few women and then trying to sell the sketch to the owner. He was remarkably good and we later found out he was an art student. One woman bought her sketch; then discovered that it looked more like another member of our group. Then we visited an artisans’ cooperative and I bought a small painting to take home (my first purchase).

In the afternoon we visited the Museum of Fine Arts- Cuban Collection and I was so awed by the art that I kept moving even when my body was telling me to go back to the hotel and take a nap. Of course the elevator was out here also so we did a lot of walking.

Day 5.

A day in the country! The bus took us through the countryside for over an hour and Lázaro kept us awake with a lesson on Cuba’s history. Now and then, Annie took over the microphone, giving Lázaro a rest and us some background from the American point of view. We arrived at lookout point in Valle Vinales in Pinar del Rio Province which is west of Havana. The unique hill formations (known as mogotes) are gorgeous; unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Then we moved on to a rum distillery (not sure that’s what it’s called) and then a tobacco farm. We watched a man actually roll cigars which almost made me want to smoke one. Of course I bought some for my husband; he smokes one occasionally but only when I’m not home.

Lunch was on the porch of a charming country restaurant. Annie warned us there would be a lot of courses and there were; one after another, each one better than the last. Dessert was the best flan I have ever eaten.

I thought I’d never eat again but by 7:30, I was at yet another restaurant eating the best eggplant lasagna I’d ever had.

Day 6.

Time to pack our suitcases for our trip back to Miami that evening. But in the meantime, we were still moving. We visited a local arts and craft market where I searched for (and found) a humidor in which to put my five precious cigars. I also bought a beautiful, hand-made white cotton dress for my granddaughter which will probably not fit but I couldn’t resist it. Next, our group visited an art community project in inner city Centro Habana. An artist named Salvador Gonzales Escolono first started developing art from graffiti until galleries opened and it became a street of art celebrating the African/Cuban experience. Salvador, who was leaving for Washington and New York the next day, was at his gallery and he told us to “enjoy my country but don’t try to understand it.”

Lunch was at an organic farm that also provides meals for people in need, painting and environmental classes plus classes for single mothers and seniors. When the government gave the land to the family that has produced all this, it was a swamp area. Now they grow 150 different varieties of fruits and vegetables (plus a little dog that kept getting underfoot). The lunches help pay for the free food and classes.

Next stop: The airport and the end of our adventure in Cuba. But first, I and several other travelers checked out all the duty free shops, trying to spend what was left of our Cuban money. I settled on two bottles of vintage rum which my husband tells me tastes like smooth bourbon.

Last thoughts:

A fellow traveler who has been to Cuba before was overwhelmed with the number of yellow cabs and even open-air double decker buses – all made in China. The Chinese have also built an automobile factory in Cuba. She noticed lots of tourists from Spain, France, and even a few from Switzerland. I spoke to two young men from Germany and a couple of English women who rode the hotel elevator with me. Also, there are a lot of new restaurants. Cuba, she commented, is catering to tourists.

The internet is still very difficult for Cubans to access; it’s expensive and slow. The government has begun to open up WiFi hotspots outside of some buildings where you will see lines of young people sitting, standing, leaning – all with computers in their hands.

Change is happening but it’s slow. Although the country is still under the Castro’s, I continually heard Cubans describe Raul as “pragmatic” compared to his brother. I’m assuming this means he is more open to change and to private ownership which we experienced during our visit. Personally, I believe that if the embargo was lifted and the Cuban Adjustment Act repealed, Cubans would be able to visit America, learn from all of us and then go home instead of seeking citizenship in this country. And the distribution of American products in Cuba would stop the rationing and improve every Cuban’s life immensely. The ferry will travel across those 90 miles once more and the Cuban people will be lifted out of poverty and into the twenty-first century. I know ‘es complicado’ but it’s way past time:

Lift the Embargo!

 

The Zen of Travel

images (1)A few years ago I was in Las Vegas on my way home from teaching a seminar. When I got to the airport, I found out that my flight had been delayed which caused a bunch of us to miss our connecting flights. Ah well! I tend to be calm about these sorts of things because there really is no use getting mad about it. In fact, I was cracking jokes to the woman in back of me to lighten the mood a bit.

The gentleman in front of me, however, was different. He was so mad that I could almost see steam coming out of his ears. He was yelling and screaming at this poor young girl behind the counter. It wasn’t her fault that our flight was delayed, but he didn’t seem to care about that. He spent about 10 minutes banging the counter with his hand and yelling at her in loud tones, and then stormed off. As I watched him go, I wondered why on earth would you yell at the person who has the power to get you home?

Since I was next in line, I walked up to her counter and immediately noticed that she was doing everything in her power to stop herself from crying in front of me. She was so distraught that her hands were shaking! My heart melted. So I put my bags down and looked her right in the eyes. I then told her to take as much time as she needed to get herself together because I was sure her supervisor wasn’t going to let her go on a break. I then started to gently talk to her while she wiped her eyes and took a few deep breaths.

We chatted about the man and his situation for a few minutes until she had calmed down. I got her to laugh about it and she was able to move forward. She then put me on a flight and I headed towards my gate. As I walked towards security, I looked down at the ticket and was stunned when I saw that she had given me a seat in first class! Plus there was a certificate that bought me dinner in the airport.

As I’ve said many times… what you put out in this world, you’ll get back. Treat people like you yourself would like to be treated. That’s the true key to it all.

 

Benfits of Metro Transportation

imagesTransportation in India is one of the major issues which rested from many decades. People who are living in the megacities like Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai suffers less, in comparison to those cities which still not have sufficient infrastructures. These megacities sustain various means of transportation such as Auto rickshaw, Bus and rapid transit system such as Metro.

Due to increasing rate of the population in these cities, Metro is one of the major transport systems which provides better options to the inhabitants. Do we ever think why this rapid system is beneficial for most crowded cities like Kolkata, Bangalore, and Delhi? To know an answer you have to understand, various viewpoints of Kolkata metro report which is as follows:

Fuel cost saving: The yearly saving due to minimum fuel utilization will be Rs.180.89 crore in 2009, more than twofold from Rs.73.22 crore two years prior.

A Number of vehicles off the street: Since the Metro started operations in December 2002, there has been a dynamic reduction in the day by day vehicle demand because of the people moving to Metro for commuting. In 2009, the Metro will take the day by day share of 57,953 vehicles for every other method of travel, for example, autos, transports, bikes, auto-rickshaws, etc.

Vehicle cost saving: The yearly vehicle (capital and working) cost saving will practically triple from Rs.93.21 crore in 2007 to Rs.276.24 crore this year.

Reduction in the outflow of greenhouse gasses: The expanding utilization of the Metro will bring about the counteractive action of discharge of 131,395.34 tons of greenhouse gasses, for example, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxide from being radiated into Delhi¡¦s air up to 2009. This is a five-time increment from 27,614.34 tons in 2007.

Emission cost saving: The discharge cost saving will likewise increment very nearly three times from Rs.14.29 crore in 2007 to Rs.41.04 crore in 2009.

Various Road accidents avoided: The Metro will stay away from an aggregate of 255 accidents, including 51 fatalities, in 2009. In 2007, the individual figures were 196 and 21.

Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) has done a study which says that the yearly cost saved by Metro travelers by virtue of diminished travel the reality of the situation will become obvious eventually up three times from Rs.310.13 crore in 2007 to Rs.947.07 crore in 2009.

 

The Highlight of Casablanca

download (15)With a population of around 4 million people, it is one of the largest cities located on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Africa. It developed from a small fishing town at the beginning of the 20th century to a huge commercial and cultural center in Northern Africa. Many tourists who travel to Morocco would pay Casablanca a visit due to its marvelous blends of various architecture, culture, and artistic elements.

Today we will be pointing out to some of the most marvelous highlights of the city of Casablanca commonly visited by several tourists spending their vacations in Morocco.

The Cornish of Casablanca

One of the most distinctive features of the city of Casa is the Cornish, or this street that is attached with the coast of the Atlantic Ocean of the city. This is one of the most popular places for the locals and the tourists who travel to Morocco in the city of Casablanca. It is the place that never sleeps and that is vibrant with action 24/7.

Thousands of people would be around the Cornish of Casablanca in different times of the day. Some vacationers who spend their holidays in Morocco would enjoy some swimming, chilling out, and some water sports in the beaches of Casa. Moreover, there are dozens of nightspots including restaurants, discos, and nightclubs where guests can enjoy a drink or go dancing.

The Mosque of Al Hassan II

The Mosque of Al Hassan II is the largest mosque in Morocco and Africa, and the seventh largest mosque in the world. It is featured with its wonderful towering minaret that is 210 meters in height. Many travellers who tour Morocco would admire the mosque at least from outside.

The mosque, that is also considered the largest religious building in the world, was constructed in 1993 after six years of building processes during the reign of Al Hassan El II, the king of Morocco. The prayer area of the mosque can accommodate up to 25,000 worshipers. This is besides 80,000 other worshiper in the open courtyard of the mosque. Many travel packages to Marco include a visit to the Mosque of Al Hassan II in Casablanca.

The Mohamed V Square

The Mohamed V Square is the center of the city of Casablanca. The location of this famous square was never chosen by coincidence. This was where the first Europeans walked when they arrived in Casablanca in 1907. This is why the square has a Moorish Islamic feeling and mood. The Mohamed V Square is often included to many tours to Morocco.

The square is famous for its impressive European style buildings, the large fountain, and the pigeons that many tourists enjoying their holidays in Morocco commonly feed and take photographs with.

The Royal Palace of Casablanca

The Royal Palace of Casablanca is the residence of Mohamed VI, the king of Morocco and it is considered one of the most popular highlights of the country often explored by tourists who travel to Morocco. The palace is popular for its marvelous design and architecture.

The Old Medina of Casablanca

The City of Casablanca was surrounded by some fortified walls that were constructed at the end of the 18th century as the first section of the old Medina. However, many of the section we view today were constructed at the beginning of the 20th century. Today many travellers who tour Morocco would visit this section of the city to have a wonderful walk around the monuments and to buy some remarkable souvenirs.

 

The Most Important Attractions of Esfahan

download (14)Esfahan is half the world, except for Tabriz. This is the famous Iranian saying that glorifies the importance of Esfahan, a significant touristic destination that is often included in travel packages to Iran.

Situated at the heart of the country, Esfahan is located around 414 kilometers to the South Of Tehran, the capital of the country. Due to the wonderful weather of Esfahan, many travelers who tour Iran spend a couple of nights at least exploring the wonders of the city.

The Northern section of Esfahan is featured with its cooler weather. While in the South and the West, many mountains surround the city and the Eastern and the Northern sections of the city are linked together through a number of plains. Several travel packages to Iran would sometimes include a visit to the natural regions of Esfahan.

UNESCO considered Esfahan among the seven historical cities of the world. The international organization asserted how important it is to maintain the architectural and building patterns and style of the city that amaze many travelers who tour Iran.

Historians noted that Esfahan was built as early as Tahmures, the builder of Merv was briefly the largest city in the world in the 12th century. Esfahan was an important transit point of several caravans. Today many tourists who travel to Iran would usually visit Esfahan.

The spread of Islam in Esfahan in the 8th century AD and the influence of the Islamic civilization formed one of the most marvelous cities in the world. Esfahan today has some amazing mosques, Islamic schools, and other interesting historical sites that are commonly included in several tours to Iran.

Among the most popular and interesting sections of Esfahan is the old market of the city that is situated in the Northern section of the Naqsh-e Jahan Square, one of the world heritage sites of the UNESCO. The old market of Esfahan is one of the most appealing in the whole world and it welcomes thousands of tourists who spend their vacations in Iran.

The old market of Esfahan is the largest in Iran and one of the biggest in the whole world. It begins with a central market and then many smaller markets emerged that sell specific goods and products including handcrafts, golden and silver jewelry, rugs and carpets, shoes, and many other products. Travelers who tour Iran spend many hours in the market.

The Zoroastrianism Temple is one of the most remarkable monuments of Esfahan. It is located at the top of the Atshkah Mountain, more than 1680 meters above sea level. Constructed in the 13th century, the temple was made out clay and sand layers in one of the most unparalleled buildings in the world. Many tours to Iran include a visit to this matchless temple.

Esfahan is also famous for many Islamic monuments. There is for example the Monar Jonban. This complex consists of two minarets and an Iwan, or an open courtyard. The complex was constructed in the 14th century when the Mongols ruled over the country. The complex is characterized that if one minaret shakes, the other minaret, and the whole complex shakes in a reaction. Included in almost all travel packages to Iran, it is one of the remarkable Islamic monuments in the world.

 

Climate Makes Barcelona a Tourist’s Haven

download (13)What do you look for in terms of climate, when you select a destination to take a vacation? Is a pleasant climate an attraction for you? Alternatively, do you look for interesting things to see and do, on your vacation? If you are looking for a place that has a cold climate, then let me tell you that Barcelona has mild winters and warn summers. The Troll-Paffen climate classification has shown that Barcelona has a warm temperate climate. Because of its location, this city receives no rainfall. What is more, winter is experienced only during December, January and February. This city is summer dominant with July and August being the warmest months.

Talking of the seasons in Barcelona, Spring season in Barcelona occurs between March to May and during this period, average daily temperatures reach 12 degrees Celsius, but by May temperatures reach a high of 17-18 degrees Celsius. However, during the month of May, evenings are invariably cooler. This compels tourists to get their shawls or woolens with them, when moving out of their hotels. You should expect at least 5-6 wet days during each month in spring. On other days, the sunshine breaks through the fog created because of the cooler temperatures. This fog is a result of the low temperatures hovering around 12 degree Celsius.

Summer season in Barcelona lasts during the months June, July and August. These also happen to be the peak months for tourism in Barcelona. During this period, the city becomes very crowded. In fact, in August, you will experience quite a crowd of tourists. The city’s elevation and sea breezes make the weather in this city cooler than that in other Mediterranean resorts. This makes it an attractive destination during summer for tourists. Barcelona also has beaches, which hold watersports for connoisseurs. This is also another reason why summer is the favorite time to visit Barcelona. What is more, if you visit the city in summer, you will enjoy the city’s architectural and cultural side and its vibrant street life.

Autumn in Barcelona is quite different. October happens to be one of the wettest months of the year when there is rainfall for 7 days in a year. Many music and food festivals in Barcelona occur during the autumn days. Thus, if you are a gourmet or a musician, the best time to visit Barcelona is from September to November. In September, visitors can also enjoy the spectacle of Catalan Day apart from other attractions of tourist interest. You will be surprised to know that October is the wettest month of the year, with rainfall occurring for 7 days a year.

Winters in Barcelona are cooler with temperatures hovering at 11 degrees Celsius during the day and around 4 degrees Celsius during nightfall. This season is excellent for taking a leisurely walk along the architecturally rich structures including the cathedral, the Gothic quarter and Gaudi’s quirky architectural complex. It is said that you will receive 7 days of rainfall during each of the winter months. However, this fact is not proven yet. Thus, we can see that Barcelona is an attractive tourist destination what with its

 

Travel Deeper: How to Walk the Back Streets and Connect With the Locals

download (12)Walking the back streets can seem a little daunting. I know, I do it all the time. You find yourself in places that are a little uncomfortable, out of your comfort zone. In fact, it is a culture shock.

Usually, when people travel they go to tourist spots and focus on carefully pre-planned stuff to do. For example, on the main island of Bocas Del Toro, you walk down the strip, go to a nice restaurant, and buy a ticket to a boat tour that will take you to a nice beach. Thats fine, and you should do it because it is part of the experience.

But to get a little deeper into the culture, all you have to do is walk a few streets back into the neighborhood and you will see a different world. Yes, it is dirty, yes, it may not smell very good. But if you stop looking at the poor conditions and look at the people, your perspective will start to change.

You will see grandmothers sitting on porches watching the world go by. And if you smile and wave, they will wave back in a friendly way. You will see kids making games out empty plastic bottles and fishing line. Stop and watch for a minute. try to figure out the rules of the game and how to win. It puts you in a completely different frame of mind. All of a sudden you really “see” them. they notice you and all you have to do is smile. No need to even speak the language. People may look nervous about your presence at first, after all, you are in their “territory” But a smile seems to override any negative feelings. Soon you will find yourself forgetting about your own fears and getting out of your own head for a minute to actually connect with happy kids playing in the street. And that is when you realize, poverty is not what you think it is.

People are relaxed. They are living full lives. They have a lot of family and friends around. They take time to pat each other on the back and chat for a while. They don’t rush. They are not in a hurry.

It’s very refreshing.

Along the back streets you will see the places the locals shop. The grocery stores are small and dingy looking and they don’t have the selection of the ones on the main drag. But they do have the simple necessities for living and they are MUCH cheaper than the ones the tourists see. Stop and buy a bottle of water or candy bar. It gives you a moment to connect with the seller. They may look at you funny when you first walk in because you look different. But, again, just smile. If you know a few Spanish words, use them, even if you think you sound foolish (which you probably do) They are happy you are trying to communicate and it will immediately open doors for a better connection.

Take a look around the store while you are in there. take note of what is on the shelves. That gives you clues about what people live on in that area. Chances are you will find big bags of rice and lots of cans of tuna and sardines. You will find canned powdered milk and rotten looking bananas (that are actually perfectly ripe and very sweet) You will also find cleaning supplies, lots of bleach. In spite of the dirty living conditions, every kids goes to school in sparkling clean school uniforms.

You will also find candles with pictures of saints on them and incense marked with things like “prosperity, wealth and success”. This shows you the people are into alters in their homes. They take their mix of Catholicism and old religion very seriously. See how much you are learning?

Leave the grocery store and head further down the street and you will see barber shops for the men and beauty salons (very small and dingy) for the women. Stop for a minute to see whats going on inside and you will find guys having fancy designs shaved into their very short hair and women getting their nails painted in every color and design you can imagine. Again, these people are not as poor as you think they are. Personal grooming is extremely important to them. As you leave the shop, look in the street and see how people ar dressed. You will find fancy handbags and nice sneakers, high heels and jewelry. This is all part of learning to connect. In order to understand a people, you need to slow down and pay attention to the details.

Keep walking and you are bound to find some place to eat. Most likely it will be extremely small, like 2 tables and 8 chairs. It will probably be dark inside (that keeps it cool) and any menu will either be written on the wall somewhere or inside you server’s head.

If you are brave enough, stop and have something to eat. This is one of the BEST ways to experience another culture. My secret to not getting sick is to stop places that seem busy. No one wants to get sick and the locals know the best places to eat.

If you have no idea what to order and are very adventurous, just ask the server to bring you whatever they think is best. You may find yourself with a bowl of soup sitting before you that has bones of some unknown animal in it and huge chunks of root vegetable. Don’t worry, most of the food is either beef or chicken. It may look funny, but it is bound to taste good.

Walking the back streets may take a little bit of courage and I would not suggest it at night or in big cities. But small towns are full of people just like you and me. And in all honesty, you will never really see the people if you don’t go to where they live. All you will see is people trying to make a buck in a tourist town and that is not a very fair sampling of who really lives there.

 

Amazing Gardens From Around The World

download (11)As spellbinding as flowers could be, it may not be your thing. This is especially true when you can’t even grow a single plant during your science class.

Let these gardens prove you wrong. Ladies and gents, it is time to let go of your grudge with your science professor for taking away your playtime. It is time to take a refreshing stroll into the world’s most grandiose bed of flowers.

Dubai Miracle Garden (UAE)

What we know about Dubai and the Middle East are the vast desert land and very humid climate. Who would have thought that the place grows the largest garden on record? But, we can always expect grand and extravagance in Dubai. Miracle Garden’s magic will truly change your love for flowers. It houses more than 45 million floral varieties in vivid colors and fun shapes. The garden arrangement will change from season to season. You will definitely enjoy an assortment of flowers shaped into stars, arches, and hearts.

Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha (Australia)

Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha, established in the 70s, has become more breathtaking if that is even possible. It consists of several gardens arranged in different themes that bring the gardens from around the world into the 52-hectare field.

Flowers and plants incapable of growing under the Australian climate are grown inside the Tropical Display Dome. Seeing the plant display inside will give you the urge to grow your own and order flowers online Brisbane florists have in their gardens.

Versailles (France)

Château of Versailles is famous in its own right that even Hollywood royalties like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West tied the knot in the glorious estate. Its gardens are true to its roots with the formal French garden style and design that took André Le Nôtre 40 years to complete. Over four decades of hard work is worth the timeless beauty of the garden.

The garden’s fountains, ponds, and topiaries are the winning features of the garden. It may not have colorful blooms, but it flourishes alluringly cut or clipped topiaries into interesting shapes. Traipsing around the garden will give you the majestic French experience.

Jardim Botânico de Curitiba (Brazil)

Jardim Botânico de Curitiba show that love for country can be expressed through flowers. The flower field is a place for botanical research of scientifically recognized and systematized blooms that also promotes of floral patriotism. Special legislations are enacted for the protection of the garden. Yes, it is that important.

 

The Whale Migration in South Africa

download (7)Beautiful South Africa. Africa is home to many wonderful cultures and experiences. One such sight to behold is the migration of the whales along 1,200 miles of coastline. Where two oceans meet at the southern tip of Africa, you will find a vast array of cultures that only the Western Cape can offer. This is where you can watch whales from both land and sea.

Every year Southern Right whales move through the waters in a mass migration. This is where you will be able to bear witness to the calving and feeding of their joyous and playful young. These beautiful creatures can be seen scant meters from the shore. Because the whales venture so close, this allows for some of the best whale watching in the entire world. When can you see this miracle take place? The best times to witness this event are between June and November. You can see other beautiful whales in the Western Cape as well. Humpback whales migrate through the same area between May and December and Bryde’s whales can be seen a bit further offshore all year.

The route that the whales follow begins in the south of Cape Town and runs all the way to Durban. The route follows through many protected areas of land such as the Tsitsikamma National Park, the Garden Route, and the Transkei.

There are over 37 species of dolphins and whales that can be found off South Africa. The route is most famous for its encounters with the humpback whales and southern right whales as well as quite a few species of coastal dolphins. There are many different forms of marine life and birds to see as well. Along with whales and dolphins, you can also see Cape fur seals, African penguins, and black oystercatcher birds. The Cape Whale Route reaches 560 miles from Doringbaai to Storms River Mouth, which lies in the Tsitsikamma National Park.

If you want to observe any of the following whale migrations, you can go to any one of the following places.

Lamberts Bay

Saldanha Bay

False Bay

Bettys Bay

Ballots Bay

Herold’s Bay

Plettenberg Bay

Dana Bay

Mossel Bay

The Mossel Bay coastline also sees orca as well as the many other whales and dolphins. The killer whales are easily seen from June to November. Be advised, however, that it’s illegal to go within 300m of the whales while in a boat or any other vessel or aircraft unless you have a permit that allows you to do so. Please make certain that you don’t fall prey to unlicensed whale watching operations.