Europe’s first underwater restaurant revealed

Wow – simply stunning! 

Designs for Europe¿s first underwater eatery have been revealed - and it¿s stunning

If you’ve got an appetite for dramatic, never-before-seen restaurants, look no further.

Designs for Europe’s first underwater eatery have been revealed – and it’s stunning. The concept is that of a half-sunken monolith where diners will be able to view the seabed through a 36ft-wide panoramic window.

Called ‘Under’, the restaurant has been designed by the imaginative Snohetta agency and will be located at the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline by the village of Baly.

Called ¿Under¿, the restaurant has been designed by the imaginative Snohetta agency and will be located at the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline by the village of Baly. Guests will have a view of the seabed through a 36ft window

It will also function as a research centre for marine life.

The structure, Snohetta says, will ‘surface to lie against the craggy shoreline. The structure will become a part of its marine environment, coming to rest directly on the sea bed five meters below the water’s surface’.

The structure, Snohetta says, will ¿surface to lie against the craggy shoreline. The structure will become a part of its marine environment, coming to rest directly on the sea bed five meters below the water¿s surface¿

Diners need have no fear of the walls caving in, because they’re a metre thick. And the structure, it’s hoped, will become a reef for mussels.

The restaurant has been designed to hold between 80 and 100 guests, who will be able to watch the wildlife on the seabed through a window that’s 36 feet wide and 13 feet high.

There will be three levels altogether, with a cloakroom on the first floor, a champagne bar on the next and the restaurant at the bottom, where food rustled up by Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen will be enjoyed.

Seafood is likely to be a key feature on the menu.

There will be three levels altogether, with a cloakroom on the first floor, a champagne bar on the next and the restaurant at the bottom, where food rustled up by Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen will be enjoyed

Outside opening hours, parts of the restaurant will be dedicated to marine biology research.

Snohetta explains that researchers will come to the building to study, among other things, whether wild fish can be trained with sound signals.

The design firm adds: ‘Through its architecture, menu and mission of informing the public about the biodiversity of the sea, Under will provide an under-water experience inspiring a sense of awe and delight, activating all the senses – both physical and intellectual.’

Outside opening hours, parts of the restaurant will be dedicated to marine biology research. Snohetta explains that researchers will come to the building to study, among other things, whether wild fish can be trained with sound signals

Construction on the restaurant is scheduled to start in February 2018. Estimated completion is February/March 2019.

Snohetta is currently working on a number of projects internationally including The French Laundry Kitchen expansion and Garden Renovation in Yountville, California, the Le Monde Headquarters in Paris and the Cornell University Executive Education Center and Hotel in New York.

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Five “Real Life” Game Of Thrones Filming Locations – Which Are Amazing Destinations…

Welcome back after the summer guys – and what a hectic one it’s been!  More of my trekventures anon, but meanwhile in celebration of the current enthralling series of Game of Thrones here’s some mouthwatering travel suggestions from old friend Gilbert at GodSaveThePoints.

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If you haven’t been glued to your video device, obsessing over the violence, sex and deceit-filled blockbuster television show Game of Thrones, you’re in a stark minority (see what we did there?!). Game Of Thrones has swept the planet, but not just because of its intensely steamy scenes or treacherous plots, but also because of the ridiculously beautiful filming locations. Let’s take a look at a few GoT spots you’ll definitely want to add to the ole’ bucket list…

Vatnajökull, Iceland – A.K.A “Beyond The Wall”

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Actually, winter has already come. Vatnajökull is a a jaw dropping glacial heaven, with ice caves fit for any “wildling”. It’s reachable from Reykjavik, so be sure to get your own filming done on your next Iceland trip. On that note, you can visit for a mere $350 round trip en route to the US or Europe.

Bardenas Reales, Spain – A.K.A “The Dothraki Sea”

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If “endless” desert is your thing, do your best Dothraki soldier impression and run like a bull from nearby Pamplona to catch the stunning views and isolationist feelings of Bardenas Reales. You’ll find incredible sunsets, boutique hotels and one of the few deserts in Europe.

Dubrovnik, Croatia – A.K.A “Kings Landing” and “The Undying”

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Dubrovnik is incredible – far too nice for the likes of King Joffrey. Dubrovnik is not only the home to Kings Landing, the site of treachery, death and intrigue, but also to the fabled House of the Undying – in real life that is. The Minčeta Tower features in countless scenes, as does this amazing destination, which just so happens to be a trending destination in 2017.

County Down, Northern Ireland – A.K.A “Winterfell”

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Everyone just wishes they never left Winterfell, don’t they? Things aren’t too different in real life. Home to many of the world’s greatest golf courses, mountain peaks, sea breeze and of course, the infectiously charming people of Northern Ireland, County Down is one of the very best spots for your next trip. And yes, there really is a “Winterfell” castle: it’s called Castle Ward.

Ait Benhaddou, Morocco – A.K.A “Yunkai”

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Channel your inner Daenerys and unchain your desire to visit Morocco. Just a 3 hour day trip from Marakkech, Ait Behnhaddou is centuries old and largely untouched. Much like most of Morocco, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time; and since it’s 3 hours from the touristy areas, you may even get some uninhibited photos!

 

 

Dawn is the new sunset: The most magical spots in the world to watch daybreak revealed

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Sunsets may grace the covers of many a travel brochure, but there’s a lot to be said for catching dawn instead. 

Firstly, as these breathtaking shots prove, sunrise provides arguably the best natural light with which to take photographs.

It’s also the only time of day at which you’ll be able to dodge tourists at the world’s most-visited landmarks, India’s Taj Mahal for example.

In cold climates such as Sweden, the sun rises for just a few hours during the dark winter, so morning is your only chance to witness the snowy landscape when it’s bright.

In Africa, daybreak is by far the best time to witness its wildlife on safari, and in other hot countries, it’s the opportune time to take a solitary hike before the sun gets too oppressive.

Read on for MailOnline Travel‘s most spectacular spots around the world to enjoy before everyone else wakes up. 

Twelve Apostles

Head off on a road trip along Australia’s Great Ocean Road and be sure to get a head start on the driving just as the sun comes up, captured here from the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park

Cappadocia mountains

Not many destinations in the world inspire such wanderlust as the Turkish Cappadocia mountains, best enjoyed from a hot air balloon at sunrise

Amboseli National Park

Kenya is another region where it pays to drag yourself from slumber in the early hours, in order to catch a morning dose of ‘golden hour’, seen here in the Amboseli National Park

Valparai

Valparai, a lesser known scenic spot in India’s Tamil Nadu region, is located 3,500 feet above sea level and is often shrouded in a gentle mist first thing in the morning

Lion's Head Cape Town

Cape Town, a sleepy city in the west of South Africa, is renowned as being one of the best vantage points in the world from which to witness the sun rise, seen here peeking around Lion’s Head

 Bunyeroo Valley

The magestic Bunyeroo Valley in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges looks particularly fine under the first morning light

Atlas Mountains

A tiny Moroccan village in Berber appears to be bathed in a bolt of liquid gold as the rest of the Atlas mountains loom grey in the background

Abisko National Park

During the winter months in the northernmost reaches of Sweden, the sun rises briefly in the morning to paint the sky red, seen here over the Abisko National Park, but quickly retreats. True daylight isn’t witnessed here until summer rolls around

Antarctic icebergs

In Antarctica, however, the opposite is true. From September until around April, the sun rises early over the icebergs and doesn’t dip away again until midnight. Even then, it never fully sets

Angkor Wat temple

It looks upon first glance like a raging fire emerging from behind Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple complex, but rather it’s a cloud lit up by the rising sun

Patagonian Andes

Patagonia sees a lot of dramatic weather over the epic landscape of the Andes, and this early morning rainbow is no exception

Tanda Tula, Kruger National Park

African safaris dotted around the continent typically take their guests on drives at the crack of dawn, as it’s the best time to witness wildlife. A pack of hyenas are seen here on the Tanda Tula grounds in the Kruger National Park

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Varanasi, a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is one of the most colourful parts of the country – its sunrises being no exception

Corfe Castle, Dorset

Alternatively, stay closer to home and admire English country scenes like this dawn view of Corfe Castle in Dorset

 

 

 

Destination Inspiration: Ten of the World’s Most Legendary, Gorgeous Beaches…

So reckons the extremely well-trekked Gilbert Ott, editor of Godsavethepoints – and I must say I’m finding it hard to disagree with him!


City breaks are cool, cultural holidays are fun, but it’s hard to beat an nice cold refreshing drink on a gorgeous sandy beach with the shades on. If you’ve been spinning the globe looking for the perfect place to spend your hard earned holiday cash, it’s tough to pass up these beaches, which are arguably ten of the most stunning you’ll find anywhere in the world…

Horseshoe Beach, Bermuda

Believe it or not, there really is an island where the sand is pink: it’s called Bermuda. This particular stretch of beach features a hidden cove where you find tourist free, untouched beauty.

Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia

If the beach is crowded, just hit the amazing sand bar a few feet out. Shallow water, rolling hills, white sand and all the glory of an Australian holiday. Sold.

Honopu Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Pink sand, girly. White sand, standard. Black sand? Very cool! Honopu beach, amongst many of Hawaii’s best beaches, features volcanic black sand, creating one of the most unique experiences in the world against crystal blue water….

Pansy Island, Mozambique

Want to escape the world? Well this is about as “secluded” as you can get, requiring a plane and then a boat to bring you to these remote islands, only a few of which are inhabited…

Honopu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

If black sand is a bit extreme for your taste, perhaps one of these remote, hike-worthy beaches protected by massive rock formations. It’s worth the “trek”…

Temea Beach, Moorea, French Polynesia

You know life is tough when you’re choosing between Moorea and Bora Bora. If you opt to go the Moorea route, you’ll definitely want to hit Temea Beach, featuring water with color so pristine it makes pools envious. There’s plenty of soft sand and rugged terrain as well…

El Nido Beach, Palawan, Philippines

A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, probably worthy of enticing you to buy a $1000 plane ticket. El Nido beach is one of the most secluded, gorgeous beach areas, with lush greenery juxtaposing the surreal blue ocean and white sand. Simply paradise.

Long Beach, Koh Phi Phi Island, Thailand

Thailand’s beaches are so sought after the country is having to crack down on tourism. The Phi Phi Islands offer one of the most “Instagram” worthy settings. You’ll just want to arrive early to avoid the boats of people trying to get in on the amazing action. Unless you enjoy people…

Whitehaven Beach, Queensland, Australia

If there’s one thing to learn from this post, Queensland is worthy of a bucket list spot. With two beaches on the list (for obvious reasons shown above) you’ll find all the sand, snorkelling and surfing fun you could ever dream of.

Until then, keep dreaming…

17 Epic Places You Never Thought To Travel, But Should

“Be a traveller, not a tourist, in 2017”, say HuffPost.

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Paris? Been there. London? Done that. No offense to those storied standbys, but 2017 is a time to break out of your travel bubble and try someplace you’ve never thought to visit before.

Travel teaches us invaluable lessons we can’t learn in school. It expands our worldview. It pushes us to be better, stronger, more empathetic human beings. And these 17 places, in no particular order, are where that magic is going to happen this year. Some of them can be experienced in the lap of luxury, while others are for only the most adventurous souls. But all of them have the potential to be the best trip you’ve ever taken.

1. South Korea

Don’t let its northern neighbour scare you off: South Korea is full of adventurous travellers’ delights like national parks, mountains and islandsSki resorts here are top-notch, as some are preparing to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. For a more urban feel, try Korean BBQ in Seoul or chill out in Busan, a coastal city.

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Seoraksan National Park is the proud site of South Korea’s third-highest mountai. It also features hot springs, temples and jagged rock formations.

Locals vacation on Jeju Island for its beaches, outdoor spas and spine-tingling lava tube tours.

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Changdeokgung Palace, a 15th-century royal villa in Seoul, is a UNESCO world heritage site. Builders expertly designed the complex to accommodate the uneven terrain at the foot of a mountain peak.

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Cable cars haul skiers at what is now Deogyusan Resort, where hot springs await after a day on the slopes.

2. Mauritius

Mauritius is delicious. This tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean offers up a low-key vibe and endless turquoise waters perfect for sports like wind and kitesurfing. You can also sample local rum and street food or explore churches, temples, mosques and lighthouses from Mauritius’ rich history as a colonial trade hub.

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Le Morne Brabant is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site that serves as “an exceptional testimony to… resistance to slavery.” The mountain’s forbidding cliffs hid runaway slaves known as maroons, and their oral traditions live on.

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It doesn’t get better than this.

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This is the Seven Coloured Earths in Chamarel, where naturally occurring sands of different colours form unique striped dunes.

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Above is a shopping center in the capital of Port Louis. English, French, and Mauritian Creole are the most commonly spoken languages in Mauritius, while Hinduism and Christianity are the top two religions.

3. Kazakhstan

The world’s ninth-largest country is not just for Borat: Fans of architecture, city tours and wilderness explorations will feel right at home in this little-explored corner of the earth. Start in Almaty, the biggest city, for clothing markets and upscale restaurants. Then, venture out to the Tian Shan mountains and hike sacred forests where many modern fruit crops were first cultivated.

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Astana has been called the “world’s weirdest capital city,” in part because it hardly existed 20 years ago. CNN reports the area was “an empty patch of land… best known as a former gulag prison camp for the wives of Soviet traitors” before it was declared the new capital in 1997, sparking the quick rise of a futuristic skyline.

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Almaty’s wooden Ascension Cathedral was constructed without nails between 1904 and 1907, and is one of the only buildings in the city to survive a 1911 earthquake. Used for state and public purposes after the Russian Revolution, it was returned to the Russian Orthodox church in the 1990s.

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Big Almaty Lake sits in the Tian Shan mountains. The western Tian Shan range stretches into China and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, in part for its biodiversity.

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The city of Aktau, a hub for the oil industry, sits on the Caspian Sea and is a popular spot among locals for swimming.

4. Cyprus

This lush Mediterranean island sat under the rule of many ancient empires, and it shows: A trip here might include visits to a Byzantine monastery, a mosque or the tombs of high-ranking Hellenistic and Roman officials, which are part of a larger UNESCO world heritage site. Oh, and did we mention the island’s postcard-perfect beaches?

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In the port town of Kyrenia, you can take a boat cruise to swimming and snorkeling spots or visit a castle for a charming bird’s-eye view of the harbor.

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Limassol, Cyprus’ second-biggest city (and still a quaint one at that), has a lively bar and restaurant scene.

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See remains of an ancient outdoor theater, villas and baths at Kourion, a former city-kingdom on the coast.

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Adorable Pissouri village is the place to go for horseback riding and pub-hopping. Don’t be fooled, though: The ocean and impeccable diving are still within reach.

5. Latvia

Did you know Latvia has white sand beaches? This Baltic Sea gem, formerly part of the Soviet Union, is full of little surprises and a slight Scandinavian flair. The capital, Riga, was named the European Capital of Culture in 2014, and roughly half of the country is made up of pristine, accessible natural ecosystems. Historical Old Towns, churches and castles abound.

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Riga’s town hall square features the iconic House of the Blackheads, which was built in 1334, destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in 1999.

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Above is the Gauja River, on the border between Estonia and Latvia. Its namesake national park holds more than 500 cultural and historical monuments.

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Not a bad place to spend a summer’s day! Latvia sits across the Baltic Sea from Stockholm, Sweden.

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Kemeri National Park features a variety of wetlands, including the Great Kemeri Bog, which can be traversed by boardwalk.

6. Ecuador

Perched between Colombia and Peru on the Pacific, Ecuador has everything: mountains, beaches, rainforest, volcanos, hot springs, and the famous wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Once part of the Inca Empire, this dramatically beautiful land is steeped in both pre-Colombian and Spanish colonial culture and is perfect for cheap travellerstrek-happy adventurers and history lovers ― after all, Quito’s sprawling UNESCO-tapped city center is the colonial jewel of South America. (Bonus: Ecuador is on the dollar, so there’s no need to exchange currency.)

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Above is a photo of Bartolome Island in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. The endemic species in this volcanic archipelago inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and both land and sea are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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The Chimborazo volcano is the highest mountain in Ecuador.

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The historic center of Cuenca is yet another of Ecuador’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The town still subscribes to the rigid planning guidelines with which it was founded in 1557.

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Quito’s Jesuit Church of the Society of Jesus, informally known as la Compañía, has enough gold leaf inside to wow the most jaded travellers. The stunning baroque church also has a charming number of hidden nods to the local culture, including symbols of suns that salute Inca history and indigenous faces and plants worked into the ornate interior designs.

7. Samoa

This island nation ― not be confused with its equally awesome neighbour, American Samoa ― includes 10 islands brimming with volcanoes, waterfalls, rainforests, swimming holes and beaches. Journeying to a natural ocean blowhole or diving deep into a cave pool is just the beginning. Down-to-earth travellers will enjoy its lack of fancy resorts, too.

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Swimmers hop into To Sua Ocean Trench, part of a larger area with natural rock pools and blowholes.

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Perfect water awaits you on Upolu Island’s southwest coast.

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Papapapaitai Falls is about as impressive as waterfalls get: This showstopper tumbles into a giant gorge. Continue down the Cross Island Road for more falls, swimming holes and picnic spots.

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Upolu Island has plenty of beachfront hotels and ecolodges to maximize your time on the warm white sand.

8. Uruguay

Uruguay doesn’t get as much attention as neighbouring Argentina and Brazil, but this polished, progressive paradise on the Atlantic has a pinch of European flair and is well worth a visit. Experience gaucho culture on a ranch of rolling hills, take to the surf at Punta del Diablo, or party the night away in the clubs at Punta del Este.

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Stroll the cosmopolitan streets of Montevideo, including the famous Plaza Independencia.

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The rambling, eccentric Casapueblo resort in Punta Ballena was built by late Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, who was inspired by the mud nests of native hornero birds.

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The resort town of Punta del Este is known as a place to party, but the public art deserves a hand, too.

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Uruguay’s interior hills are rich in gaucho culture. Book a rural lodge and explore the beautiful countryside on horseback.

9. Namibia

First-time visitors to Africa should start here, in the world’s oldest desert, to experience the thrill of feeling like the last tourist on Earth. Considering its vast selection of wildlifenational parks, shipwrecks and larger-than-life sand dunes, Namibia somehow remains awesomely uncrowded. Many cities and towns have a distinctly German feel ― complete with German restaurants and colonial architecture ― due to years under European rule.

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Zebras drink at a waterhole in Etosha National Park, which offers various epic safaris.

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Ludertiz, a confusingly colonial harbour town, includes an old Lutheran church and bustling village shops that make it feel like anywhere but Africa.

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The quiver tree, a common sight in Southern Namibia, stands tall in a nature park known as Giant’s Playground.

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Off-roaders sit ready to explore the desert’s massive sand dunes, which also make for a daring day hike.

10. Guatemala

Mayan ruins play a starring role in Guatemala. Deep in the jungle, Tikal National Park is a lush playground of plazas, temples and dwellings that are well over 1,000 years old. Equally gorgeous are Guatemala’s active volcanoes, cascading lagoons and the Caribbean-blue Lake Petén Itzá. Even with all these natural wonders, a historic hotel-museum tops the list of places to visit nationwide.

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From the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D., Mayans inhabited what is now Tikal National Park. Current residents include jaguars, howler monkeys and more than 60 species of bats.

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Parque Central is a popular outdoor gathering place in Antigua, a city in the highlands.

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At Lake Petén Itzá, the blue water is perfect for sunsets and swimming with the locals.

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Daredevils can hike or camp near a handful of active volcanos in Guatemala’s rugged wilderness, though be careful to do so at the right time of year.

11. Papua New Guinea

One look at the water should make it, ahem, clear that this is a paradise. The U.S. State Department cautions that due to crime, an organized tour booked through a travel agency is the best way to explore this stunningly diverse and practically untouched country. (There’s little luxury involved, but it’s a trip of a lifetime.) Try a trekking tour along the rugged, mountainous Kokoda Track or journey to a sing-sing festival, at which Papua New Guineans display their many unique tribal cultures through music and dance.

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White sand beaches and few interruptions are hallmarks of the New Ireland Province.

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Capital Port Moresby is beautiful from the air, though its crime rate calls for sensible precautions. Infrastructure is virtually non-existent outside PNG’s major cities ― another reason to book a tour rather than travelling on your own.

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Local tribes celebrate a sing-sing in the Highlands. Some 836 indigenous languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea, most by fewer than a thousand speakers each.

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Of course, Papua New Guinea boasts excellent snorkelling and diving.

12. Newfoundland, Canada

Why Newfoundland? Here, east coasters can kayak with icebergs without taking a long flight to Greenland or Alaska and beyond. Then there’s 18,000 miles of unspoiled coastline with some 200 walking trails, plus the 22 species of whales that pass through Newfoundland and Labrador between May and September. Add in dramatic, glacier-carved fjords, and this part of Canada is truly a dream for nature lovers who prefer their international travel over-easy.

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Icebergs arrive from the Arctic each spring to places like Trinity Bay, above. Check the map of “Iceberg Alley,” then book a boat or kayak or car to experience them up close.

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We really can’t get enough of Gros Morne National Park, which, in addition to cool neon jellyfish, contains towering fjords you can tour by boat.

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The Fort Amherst historical site in St. John’s honors Colonel William Amherst, who recaptured the area from the French in 1762.

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Fall in Newfoundland is not too shabby. This is the Humber River in autumn.

13. Romania

Dracula’s homeland oozes eeriness and intrigue: The country has emerged from its Communist past to the delight of travellers who come to explore its medieval towns and ornate castles, including the one where fiction’s scariest bloodsucker once lived. Beyond the charming cobblestone streets, you’ll find adventurous alpine hikes through the towering Carpathian Mountains and all-inclusive beach resorts on the Black Sea coast.

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The Black Church, with its interior walls adorned with Turkish carpets, is the star of Brasov, a popular medieval town at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains.

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Corvin Castle in Transylvania features about 50 rooms of medieval art. It’s known as the most impressive Gothic castle in the country.

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It can take all day to drive the hairpin turns of Transfagarasan Road, which connects the provinces of Transylvania and Walachia through the mountains. Thanks to a gentle gradient, you can even bike it if you dare.

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Bucharest, Romania’s capital, is known for high energy and good food. Socialist and Art Nouveau architecture coexist here, and the nightlife is some of Eastern Europe’s best.

14. Laos

Even backpackers who have “seen it all” in Thailand and Cambodia will be awestruck in Laos. Stunning waterfalls, soaring mountains and blazing green rice fields are best enjoyed at the Laotian locals’ decidedly slow pace of life. Take a break from zip-lining and cave kayaking to join a yoga retreat or help out on an organic farm. The cuisine ― think sticky rice, papaya salad and fresh fish ― is worth savoring, too.

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A hot air balloon flies over Vang Vieng, a jungle town and magnet for backpackers.

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Kuang Si Falls are a refreshing ― but cold! ― place to swim. Prepare for the hike in, and look out for hidden pools along the way.

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Terraced rice fields overlook a village in Mu Cang Chai.

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Buddha Park in Vientiane is probably the most stunning sculpture park you’ll ever see.

15. Azerbaijan

“Untapped” may be the best way to describe this coastal country between Iran and Russia. Start in the capital of Baku, whose Old City has UNESCO world heritage status as a rare example of ancient architecture. Then, move out to explore quaint rural villages at the base of the Great Caucasus mountains. Former Peace Corps volunteers have set up a network of local homestays to help visitors enjoy the country’s outer fringes, where paved roads are scarce but the land is lush.

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Baku mixes old architecture with glittering 21st-century towers on the Caspian Sea.

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The Government House is just one of many historic monuments to see in Baku.

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Baku also offers museums, theaters, libraries and an opera house. Treat yourself to a balcony room at the glimmering Four Seasons Hotel.

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High in the mountains, Xinaliq is home to friendly shepherds who can point you in the right direction for adventurous hikes.

16. Slovenia

Croatia’s been a hot travel destination for a few years now, but don’t overlook its charming neighbour to the north. The snowy peaks of the Julian Alps are the dramatic backdrop for Slovenia’s storybook Lake Bled, while outdoor restaurants line the riverwalk in the friendly capital city Ljubljana and the sprawling Postojna Cave is a dramatic diversion. (Pro tip: You’ll likely save a few dollars by flying into Venice, Italy, rather than Ljubljana ― it’s not far over the border.)

Matthew Williams-Ellis / robertharding via Getty Images

 

The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation overlooks Ljubljana’s famous Triple Bridge, a lively spot at night.

Getty Images

 

Above you’ll see Lake Bled in the summer. Swim or row in the crystal-clear lake, dine at Bled Castle perched high on a cliff, or stroll the equally Instagram-worthy Vintgar Gorge.

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A tour boat on the Ljubljanica River in Ljubljana.

RossHelen via Getty Images

 

The town of Piran is a “luminescent pearl” on the Adriatic Sea.

17. The Seychelles

Will and Kate honeymooned here, so you know the views are fit for royalty. This collection of around 115 islands in the Indian Ocean is basically a beach-y theme park, with inlets of every size and type. It could take weeks to see them all. Thank goodness there are both private island villas and casual B&Bs to stay in.

Jon Arnold via Getty Images

 

With its pink sand and smooth boulders, Anse Source D’Argent is regularly praised as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Get there early in the day before other fanatics arrive.

SimonDannhauer via Getty Images

 

The beaches at Beau Vallon are some of the most highly trafficked in the Seychelles, but they’re still pleasantly low-key.

dibrova via Getty Images

 

From above, Mahe Island’s jungle flora and coastal towns shine in all their glory. Aside from the usual lineup of tucked-away beaches, the island’s forested interior is a hiker’s paradise.

FilippoBacci via Getty Images

 

St. Pierre is the teensy-tiny islet of your wildest dreams. Seriously.

 

 

The Best “Adventurous” Trips for Non-Adventurous People

Just because you don’t like climbing doesn’t mean you can’t go up tall mountains.

In theory, everybody wants to go ice climbing, camping in Antarctica and skydiving. In practice, not everybody has the courage (or desire) to jump off the tallest building in the world; falling from extremely high altitudes can be a petrifying experience.

Less adventurous people should not feel left out: tour operators know how they feel and have adapted. Visiting a natural wonder is possible with a helicopter; don’t risk dehydration or heatstroke by hiking the Grand Canyon in the summer.

This is also true for winter adventures – exploring the Alps while on a luxurious gondola may be more appealing to some than climbing the Matterhorn, a giant horn-looking mountain, with the highest fatality rate in the Alps: over 450 climbers have diedto date.

If you prefer a more balanced holiday, you can hike an active volcano for an adrenaline-pumping experience, followed by descending 400 feet to the bottom of the volcano’s magma chamber in an open cable lift. You won’t have to do anything but look and enjoy the moment.

Not everybody wants to get sweaty and tired when they head out to explore the outdoors. There is nothing wrong with making frequent stops to take photos and enjoy the scenery. If this is the case, go on a soft adventure tour where you’ll go on active adventures but will have plenty of leisure time.

Go on safari in Kenya

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You are witnessing wild animals in their natural habitat from the comfort of a car. Kenya is one of the premier destinations for this amazing experience. Known as one of the best country parks in country, Maasai Mara offers wide range of safaris – hot air balloons, walking, photographing. The best time to visit is between July and October because of the wildebeest migration, famous as the World Cup of Wildlife. Even if you go off season, the number of animals you’ll see – from zebras and giraffes to lions, elephants and leopards – is incredible.

Descend into a volcano in Iceland

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Who says you have to be a very courageous person to experience one of the most iconic volcanoes in the world? Thrihnukagigur in Iceland is a lot more accessible than you think. A tour offers you the chance to descend 400 feet to the bottom of the volcano’s magma chamber in an open cable lift. All you are required to do is walk about two miles each way, with a guide.

Sleep in a Cave in Turkey

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Staying at a unique hotel with breathtaking views of otherworldly landscapes is many vacationers’ dream that can easily become a reality. Some caves have been turned into luxurious hotels in Cappadocia, Turkey, while others are very basic. But they all have their own unique history and mystery. The adrenaline-seekers who don’t want to do much can stay in the deepest hotel room in the world – Sala Silvermine, Sweden – at 500 feet underground. A mine lift shaft will take you there.

Explore Ireland

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Walking in Ireland’s world-famous countryside is an adventure that will take your breath away but not because you’ll be tired. You’ll be surrounded by woodland paths, cliffs, lake shores, farmlands, and mountains. Visit Cong, which is nestled among some of the most picturesque forests and woodlands in the country, as well as along the stunning shores of Lough Corrib. Ashford Castle in Cong provides a serene and majestic backdrop.

Go on a river cruise

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Go on an adventure that will take you to a different city every day. On a river cruise, you probably won’t get sea-sick because there are no waves and you’ll always see land on the horizons, which is comforting. Travel along the stunning and major rivers in Europe, pass through Thailand, China, Myanmar and Vietnam along the Mekong River, or explore one of the most famous and exotic rivers in the world – the Amazon – all while being safe on a boat.

Experience the Alps from a gondola

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The infamous Matterhorn is one of the most difficult climbs in the world. But you can easily get up there with a cable car gondola. Enjoy a homely cheese fondue, accompanied by a refreshing drop of Valais wine, surrounded by spectacular vistas of Italy and Switzerland.

See the Grand Canyon in a helicopter

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The Grand Canyon is probably on every hiker and kayaker’s bucket list. See this natural wonder in a much less sweaty, wet and dangerous way – go on a 4.5-hour tour with the flight’s duration being more than an hour. You’ll see the stunning Hoover Dam, Grand Wash Cliffs, Grapevine Mesa and Grand Canyon West and land 4,000 feet below the rim for a champagne picnic.

Sleep under the Northern Lights in Finland

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Witnessing the unique Northern Lights up close is a bucket list experience. But you don’t have to camp in the snow to see the best of them. Consider glass igloos and log cabins with extraordinary views. They were designed so guests can enjoy the Aurora borealis in their full glory. The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland has 20 thermal glass igloos.

Travel through Europe on a train

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Go ahead then, and take the train. Choose the scenic route over the quick one, and make getting to your destination part of the vacation. Buy a Eurail Pass, save money and visit 28 countries in Europe. You’ll go to all the places everyone else does but in a hassle-free and comfortable way.  Relax and feel like you’re traveling through time – you’ll be thrilled by mountain summits, lavish landscapes, narrow and scary tunnels, as well as terrifyingly steep grades.

See Niagara Falls from a boat

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You can hike to them or plunge down a 100-foot waterfall at 60-90 miles per hour with a kayak, hitting a huge volume of water. Or you can go on a boat tour and see them just as close. Take Niagara Falls, for example. The legendary Maid of the Mist has been taking travelers up the river to the falls since 1848, which makes the boat tour not only the most popular but also among the oldest of Niagara Falls’ activities.

Explore the Galapagos Islands

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Exploring the Galapagos Islands feels more like being on an ecological walking tour. Nature-lovers will appreciate the unique wildlife. There are 19 major islands, which are often called a “living museum and showcase of evolution,” according to UNESCO. Cruises are the most popular choice to travel the Islands. Boats range from luxury to economy class.

Wander through Jigokudani Yaenkoen Park, Japan

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This is the only place in the world where monkeys bathe in hot springs. Ancient people called it the “Hell Valley” because of the very steep cliffs and the steam coming off the springs. Nowadays, you can get to the Monkey Park in two ways – by a 25-40 minute walk through the forest or a 10-15 minute walk from the nearest parking lot.

Tour the Arctic: Iceland, Greenland and Norway

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Witnessing the phenomenon of the Northern Lights is a must. You can avoid the aurora-chasing snowmobile and go on a bus tour. Cruise the fjords; you will always have a guide to stop at popular attractions along the way and learn about the local history. If you want to see the region’s amazing wildlife, the boat safari is the right choice.

Go on a train expedition through Australia

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Australia has been a very popular destination in recent years. See it a unique way: beginning in Darwin, this epic 4-day, 3-night, 9,773-mile tour will take you to some of the most remote yet captivating parts of the country. You won’t be bored on this trip as the panoramas are changing with every mile.

See incredible autumn foliage from a hot air balloon

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You don’t have to hike or camp for days to find clean air, panoramic views of bursting bright colors, beautiful countryside and miles of forests. Get on a hot air balloon and see awe-inspiring autumn foliage of phenomenal mixtures of yellow, red, gold and green. A lot of places in the U.S. offer this unique experience with unbeatable views.

 

Photos: Shutterstock

Source: http://www.theactivetimes.com/

12 Amazing Places Most Millennials Will Never See

The world is full of magical hidden wonders.  Need proof?  The talented team at Atlas Obscura spent the past five years working on a gorgeous, 480-page book that uncovers 600 of the strangest, most fascinating and downright bizarre places you’ve never heard of before.

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Huffington Post asked Atlas Obscura cofounder Dylan Thuras to pare down the tome to a list of a dozen mind-blowing spots that every millennial should visit.  From a UFO-shaped monument in the middle of the Balkans to a gigantic hole in Turkmenistan that has been on fire for nearly 50 years, prepare to be amazed and delighted by the curiosities he came back with — and pick up a copy of the new book for even more bucket-list inspiration.

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Photo: Christine Noh

Kjeragbolten, Kjerag Mountain, Norway
Looking like something from Middle Earth, Kjeragbolten is hidden in the Norwegian mountains: a rock stuck between two cliffs above a 984-meter deep abyss.  Brave visitors have been known to photograph themselves on the rock.

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Photo: Tim Whitby

The Gates of Hell, Derweze, Turkmenistan
If Atlas Obscura has a mascot, it might be the Gates of Hell.  This 200-foot hole in the desert was created in 1971 when a Soviet drilling rig fell into a massive natural cavern.  The scientists decided it was best to let the natural gas leaking from the hole burn itself off, so they lit it on fire.  It has been burning for 45 years.

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Photo: Clifford Norton

Buzludzha Monument, Kzanlak, Bulgaria
This huge UFO-shaped monument standing proudly at the top of a hill in the Balkan mountains was once a grand tribute to the Bulgarian Communist Party.  No more.  Once Bulgaria transitioned to democracy in the early 1990s, the monument was promptly abandoned.  It has stood since, falling further and further into disrepair, and is now a strange, hulking shell, stripped of its once-grand interior.  Graffiti on the front reads ‘Forget your past.’

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Photo: Martin Norris Travel Photography

Crystal Maiden, San Ignacio, Belize
Beautiful, horrifying, tragic, and fascinating, the Crystal Maiden is the calcified skeleton of a young woman who was sacrificed by the Maya around 700-900 AD.  Her body was left as an offering to the gods in a cave that was believed to be an entrance to the underworld; she was only 18 years old at the time of her death.  Over the last 1,200 years, her bones have formed a layer of crystals which sparkle in the light.

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Photo: Demerzel21

Kolmanskop Ghost Town, Luderitz, Namibia
Once a thriving diamond mine in the 1920s, it was home to a flapper-era theater, casino, and even bowling alley.  Of course, once a richer diamond mine was discovered, the town was abandoned and is now slowly being swallowed by the sand.

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Photo: MJ Photography

Stepwells Of India, Across Northern & Western India
These incredible architectural masterpieces call to mind M.C. Escher illustrations.  Hundreds of carved stone steps lead down to a reservoir and were built to serve as local sources of water.  A French traveller in 1864 described seeing a ‘vast sheet of water, covered with lotuses in flower, amid which thousands of aquatic birds are sporting.’  Built as early as 550 AD and through the medieval period, there are over 3,000 stepwells throughout India.

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Photo: Soulad

Wisteria Tunnel, Kitakyushu, Japan
Blooming from late April to mid May in the Kawachi Fuji Gardens near Kitakyushu, Japan, is an exquisite tunnel draped in flowers.  There are other flower tunnels in the world, but the Wisteria Tunnel in Japan is singular in its romantic beauty.

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Photo: Jaszmina Szendrey

Fingal’s Cave, Isle Of Staffa, Scotland
On the Scottish island of Staffa is an unusual sea cave, 270 feet deep, where the walls are perfect hexagonal columns.  Formed by ancient lava flows, the striking site has become something of an artistic inspiration: it is the basis of a famous piece of classical music by Mendelssohn, the name of a Pink Floyd song, and the location of a Matthew Barney ‘Cremaster’ video.

 

For more incredible destinations, visit Refinery29.

 

 

 

Dubai’s latest wacky project: a rainforest inside a hotel

Dubai. A place where you can ski in the morning, shop in the world’s biggest mall in the afternoon, and, from 2018, explore a tropical rainforest in the evening.https://i1.wp.com/icdn2.digitaltrends.com/image/rainforest-1-640x427-c.jpg

It’s true, the city that’s also home to the world’s tallest building and a bunch of extraordinary floating villas will soon become the first place on the planet to feature a hotel with its own rainforest.

Rosemont Hotel, Dubai

Rosemont Hotel, Dubai – Zas Architects

The small matter of Dubai’s location in a baking hot desert clearly hasn’t deterred Zas Architects in its quest to build the tropical oasis. In fact, it probably spurred them on. This is Dubai, after all.

Along with the requisite trees and plants, the Rosemont Hotel & Residences’ 75,000-square-foot rainforest will also include a beach, splash pool, stream, and adventure trails, though there’s no word on whether it’ll be populated with lots of exotic critters and creatures to scare the bejeezus out of unsuspecting visitors.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the luxury 448-room hotel will also feature a swimming pool 25 stories up – an overhanging swimming pool with a glass bottom offering a view 25 stories down.

But more on that rainforest.

Preetam Panwar of Zas Architects told Gulf News the man-made jungle will feature a 360-degree experience at the start called the Rain Room that “simulates the sensation of being surrounded by rainfall without actually getting wet.”

Panwar explained: “You’ll see rain but as you walk through it you won’t get wet because it has sensors on top and it stops water flowing in a two-meter radius around the person walking in the room.”

Sounds intriguing, though doubting types will still probably take an umbrella along.

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Source: Trevor Mogg at Digital Trends

Faded beauty of a bygone jewel

When I was a kid I watched the old Agatha Christie whodunnit, Murder on the Orient Express – and ever since I’ve had a strange yearning to travel on the infamous Venice-Simplon.  Imagine my disappointment to come across this piece in MailOnline travel about one of their abandoned old trains.  Dutch photographer Brian Romeijn took some eerily haunting shots of it: rusty, dusty and rather sad…  😦


Haunting photos show decaying ‘Orient Express’ train that was once a symbol of luxury

An urban explorer has captured these remarkable photos of the decaying remains of a passenger train that was once one of the finest ways to travel.

With their glory days long gone, the train carriage and locomotive have been left to rot at a train yard in Belgium, where they have become a popular attraction for photographers and adventurers.

Rotterdam-based photographer Brian Romeijn, 40, snapped these eerie images, which show the abandoned train’s rusting exterior, torn seats, dust-covered windows and floors and compact engineer’s room.

The train carriage and locomotive have been left to rot at a train yard in Belgium, attracting urban explorers

The train carriage and locomotive have been left to rot at a train yard in Belgium, attracting urban explorers

Rotterdam-based photographer Brian Romeijn, 40, snapped these eerie images        His snaps show torn seats and dusty floors
It has gained a reputation among urban explorers as an old Orient Express train, but it is a former Belgian national train

It has gained a reputation among urban explorers as an old Orient Express train, but it is a former Belgian national train

It has gained a reputation among urban explorers as an old Orient Express train. Those trains were a symbol of luxury when they operated under that legendary name from 1883 to 2009.

But that suspicion is incorrect. The locomotive, according to www.seat61.com, is ‘the only survivor of three class 654s built in 1936 for the Oostende-Brussels-Cologne run, redeployed after WW2 to Brussels-Tournai’. 

After 126 years on the rails, the last train service operating under the Orient Express name was from Strasbourg to Vienna in December 2009, bringing an end to a celebrated history.

The Orient Express, when it started in 1883 – run by La Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits – was actually known as the Express d’Orient and ran between Paris and Istanbul.

It became the Orient Express in 1891 and by the 1930s operated scheduled services throughout Europe.

It’s not to be confused with the privately run Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

Very few Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits luxury carriages still exist. 

This snap shows the compact engineer's room, where equipment is rusting, gauges are still installed and wires are exposed

This snap shows the compact engineer’s room, where equipment is rusting, gauges are still installed and wires are exposed

Romeijn said the engineer's room was 'kind of claustrophobic and the noise of the engine must have been tremendous'

Romeijn said the engineer’s room was ‘kind of claustrophobic and the noise of the engine must have been tremendous’

The abandoned locomotive and carriage have become a popular attraction for photographers and adventurers

The abandoned locomotive and carriage have become a popular attraction for photographers and adventurers

After visiting the forgotten train in Belgium, Romeijn told MailOnline Travel: ‘I really could feel how it must have been used in its heyday.

Wealthy gentlemen with high hats are joined by ladies in beautiful dresses on their journey.

‘Also the area of the engineer was kind of claustrophobic. There is very little space inside and the noise of the engine must have been tremendous.’


You can buy some of Brian’s gorgeous urban art at http://www.werkaandemuur.nl/nl/beeldmaker/Brian-Romeijn/7863

5 Places You Should Visit Before They Vanish

Our world is a vast and beautiful one, full of awe-inspiring landscapes. But Mother Nature is a cruel mistress and the powerful forces of erosion, rising seas, and the inevitable effects of tourism will render many of the current wonders of the world nearly unrecognizable in the next century. Here are five incredible locales around the world that you should visit immediately before they are lost to the passage of time and the savagery of climate change.

Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park, and Lake Sherburne. Montana. USA. Numerous glaciers are visible in this image.

Ed Reschke

Venice, Italy

Beautiful view of famous Grand Canal in Venice, ItalyiSailorr/Getty

This iconic city, hovering over a lagoon, is sinking rapidly. The canals that make up the streets of Venice rise 2 mm every year, submerging relics of history and ravaging architecture. Experts warn that without intervention, this city on stilts will disappear back into the Atlantic at an even faster rate, consumed by the rising sea levels of melting polar ice caps. Come get your fill of the beautiful cathedrals and gracious gondolas of Venice before the sea reclaims it.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Back side of the ruins of Machu Picchu and the mountain of Huayna Picchu. HDR image.Getty Images/Vetta

These Incan ruins have drawn adventurous tourists into the mountains of South America to marvel at an outstanding piece of archaeology for centuries. The forces of natural erosion have been accelerated by tourism and this landmark faces severe impact from increasing foot traffic. The Peruvian government recently proposed a cable car that would have cut out much of the intense hike up to the ruins, making the site instantly accessible to millions. Concerns about the impact of this project have caused officials to suspend the effort, but the future of Machu Picchu remains uncertain. Climb the steps to this ancient site to marvel at a miracle of ancient ingenuity before it’s ruined.

Madagascar, Africa

Sunrise over Avenue of the baobabs, MadagascarGetty Images/iStockphoto

Massive deforestation has left the unique animal population of this island nation vulnerable to extinction. Huddled off the coast of Africa, Madagascar has lush expanses of rain forest that are home to thousands of unique animal species as well as some of the oldest trees in the world, the ancient Baobabs. Experience and explore the joys of this outdoor paradise before the forests and their raucous inhabitants fade from existence.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Scenic view of Glacier National Park.Jordan Siemens/Getty

Perhaps you’ve heard that the ice caps are melting? Nowhere is that more apparent in the United States than in Glacier National Park. Estimates indicate that the glaciers that are part of the majestic beauty of this national landmark will disappear entirely in the next two decades. Go pitch a tent and soak up the view before the intense sunshine of our carbon footprint destroys it for good.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is the worlds largest reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching forGetty Images/Vetta

Hidden from view beneath the waves, The Great Barrier Reef has been rapidly dying off. Nearly fifty percent of this once massive sprawl of coral is gone, ravaged by pollution and disease. Strap on your scuba gear and visit soon, but practice eco-tourism to keep the reef from continued degradation.

 

 

Thanks to Kaz Weida for Parachute. Kaz is a parenting and food blogger who has been hunting down the best Salt Lake City has to offer for the last decade. She speaks fluent sarcasm and has a penchant for all things vintage. You can find her blogging at asweetlittlelife.com.

 

The 50 Most Beautiful Places in the World

Where are your top trek destinations?

Pinpointing every breathtaking place on the planet could take a lifetime, but the guys in the know at CN Traveler think that these 50 otherworldly landscapes and awe-inspiring natural wonders need to move to the very top of your travel bucket list.  (All images from Getty unless otherwise indicated)


Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, an area in Turkey where entire cities have been carved into rock, is pretty incredible on its own. But whenever hot-air balloons pepper the sky, its beauty level simply skyrockets.

Salar de Uyuni: Daniel Campos, Bolivia

The reflective surface of the world’s largest salt mine is like something from the imagination of Salvador Dali—although we’re happy it actually exists in real life.

Mù Cang Chải: Vietnam

Mù Cang Chải manages to be one of the most breathtaking spots in Vietnam, with terraced rice fields and mountainous landscapes.

Benagil Sea Cave: Algarve, Portugal

The southern coast of Portugal is lined with exquisite beaches and caves, including the famous Benagil Sea Cave (skylight included).

Snæfellsjökull: Iceland

Iceland’s Snæfellsjökull glacier, complete with ice caves and craters, has appeared in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and the film Batman Begins.

Palawan Island: The Philippines

With its limestone cliffs and pristine lagoons, it’s easy to see why Palawan was voted the best island in the world by our readers.

Venice, Italy

Of all the amazing cities in Italy, there is something truly enchanting about the sunlit canals of Venice.

Ashikaga Flower Park: Ashikaga, Japan

Ashikaga’s wisteria trees bloom brilliantly for a few weeks every spring, turning the park into a vision of pastel pinks and purples.

Brecon Beacons National Park: Wales

Brecon Beacons offers access to rolling hills, Medieval castles, and romantic waterfalls. Plus it’s arguably the best place to stargaze in the UK.

Namib Desert: Namibia

Red sand dunes and skeletal trees make Namibia the closest thing we have to Mars on Earth. The Namib Desert was also the filming location for Mad Max: Fury Road.

Milford Sound: New Zealand

New Zealand is no stranger to breathtaking landscapes. Case in point: Milford Sound, a mountainous fjord where you can live out all of your Lord of the Rings fantasies.

Kolukkumalai Tea Estate: Munnar, India

Situated more than 8,000 feet above sea level, Kolukkumalai is the highest tea estate in the world—and easily the most beautiful.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: Abu Dhabi, UAE

Although the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has only been around for less than a decade, its regal architecture has already made it the crown jewel of Abu Dhabi—and one of the largest mosques in the world.

Bryce Canyon: Bryce, Utah

Bryce Canyon’s layered red and orange rock pillars, known as hoodoos, make it a can’t-miss destination for campers and shutterbugs alike.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

You might know them better as the Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride, but this seaside wonder is actually located just south of Galway. Inconceivable!

Pyramids of Giza: El Giza, Egypt

Giza’s three great pyramids are mysterious marvels of architecture. We may never know whether or not they were built by mutants.

Okavango Delta: Botswana

The lush Okavango Delta is like a real-world Eden, where cheetahs, zebras, buffalo, and rhinos roam freely.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Gallery Stock

A striking natural setting makes Rio de Janeiro one of the most beautiful cities in the world, all overlooked by the equally stunning Christ the Redeemer statue.

Arashiyama: Kyoto, Japan

The serene beauty of the bamboo forest in the Arashiyama district is a wonderful site to behold. No wonder it’s one of Pinterest’s most beloved places.

Grand Prismatic Spring: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

As its name suggests, the largest hot spring in the United States is essentially a rainbow ring of vibrant colors.

Serengeti National Park: Tanzania

Tanzania’s portion of the Serengeti is the ideal location for an African adventure.

Grand Canyon National Park: Arizona, USA

There’s a reason why more than 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon every year: It’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world, but a lot easier to access than Mount Everest or the Great Barrier Reef.

The Arctic Circle

Whether you’re spotting the Northern Lights in Sweden or glaciers off the coast of Greenland, the Arctic Circle is a new kind of hidden paradise.

Great Wall of China: Beijing, China

It’s over 12,000 miles long, thousands of years old, and can be seen from space—no wonder the Great Wall nabbed a spot on this list.

Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley): Alaska

Despite controversies over name changes and a shrinking elevation, Denali’s beauty is worth braving the extreme low temperatures.

Isle of Skye: Scotland

With fairy pools and bright green hills, the magical Isle of Skye is the stuff dreams are made of (regardless of whether you’ve binge-watched Outlander yet).

Bromo Volcano: East Java, Indonesia

Mount Bromo is perhaps the most well-known volcano in East Java’s Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, thanks to its accessibility and epic sunrise views.

Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Alamy

While it may not be the first place you’d pick for a vacation abroad, Samarkand is a standout with intricately tiled buildings and colorfully dressed locals. It also has a rich history as a Silk Road stopping point.

Galápagos Islands: Ecuador

This volcanic archipelago off the coast of Ecuador is world-renowned for its idyllic snorkeling spots and diverse array of wildlife (including the always delightful blue-footed boobies, pictured).

Petra, Jordan

The ancient city of Petra may be renowned for the buildings carved directly into the sides of cliffs, but its real claim to fame is being the (fictional) home of the Holy Grail.

Ned’s tip: For the best of the best in Jordan, pamper yourself at the 5 star Hotel Le Royal – Amman.

Keukenhof Park, Holland: The Netherlands

Holland is known around the world for its rainbow-hued fields of tulips, especially those located in and around Keukenhof. Millions of bulbs are planted in the park each year—visit in mid-April to see the flowers during their peak season.

Machu Picchu: Peru

Machu Picchu’s panoramic views and intricate (and a tad mysterious) stone walls more than validate the site’s worldwide fame.

The Great Barrier Reef: Queensland, Australia

Although the largest living thing on Earth can be seen from space, the best vantage point belongs to the avid snorkelers and scuba divers who visit each year.

Moravian Fields: Czech Republic

It’s more believable to think the Moravian Fields are the product of an oil painter’s genius brushstrokes, but these pastel-colored hills are very much a reality.

Socotra, Yemen

Socotra kind of looks like it was transported to Earth from a distant planet. The UFO-like dragon’s blood trees are the island’s most notable feature.

Bagan (formerly Pagan): Myanmar

Bagan’s ancient city skyline is like nothing else in the world, with ochre stupas and temples rising above the surrounding forests.

Lavender fields: Provence, France

The seemingly endless stretches of lavender fields make Provence one of the prettiest (and best-smelling) places in France.

Oia: Santorini, Greece

Alamy

Santorini is officially one of the best islands in the world—and one of the most picturesque. The small village of Oia is particularly captivating, with its whitewashed buildings and bright blue roofs.

Slope Point: South Island, New Zealand

Alamy

The next time you want to complain about the wind messing up your hair, just consider the trees of Slope Point, which have been permanently twisted and windblown by intense Antarctic gusts.

Lake Louise: Alberta, Canada

As is the case with most glacial lakes, Lake Louise is surrounded by rugged mountains and filled with clear, vibrant water.

Valle de Cocora: Quindío, Colombia

In case you were wondering where to find the world’s tallest palm trees (palma de cera), you needn’t look further. The lithe trees are even more incredible set against the backdrop of misty green hills and sharp mountains.

Pamukkale: Denizli, Turkey

Alamy

The stacked pools in Pamukkale are usually surrounded by snow and frozen waterfalls, but the blue waters are hot and open to bathers. You’ll never be satisfied with your hotel’s infinity pool again.

Torres del Paine National Park: Patagonia, Chile

Torres del Paine is like a microcosm of all the things that make Patagonia such a spectacular place: sky-high mountains, blue icebergs, and mythical lakes.

Wulingyuan Scenic Area: Zhangjiajie, China

Scenic might be an understatement in this case. This 100-square-mile attraction contains thousands of sandstone pillars that are nature’s version of skyscrapers—some even stretch taller than the Empire State Building’s midpoint.

Angkor Wat: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Some popular tourist attractions are worth braving the potential crowds for, and Angkor Wat is at the top of that list. No matter how many Asian temples you’ve seen, this one will always be the grandest and most breathtaking.

Redwood National Park: California

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Standing in the middle of California’s Redwood National Park is a humbling experience to be sure, especially when you look straight up at the 2,000-year-old, 300-feet-tall natural giants.

Na’Pali Coast: Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai boasts one of the world’s most insanely beautiful coastlines, which makes you work a bit to soak up its wonders—Na’Pali can only be seen from a helicopter, catamaran, or rather grueling hike.

Halong Bay: Vietnam

Alamy

Halong Bay, located in northeast Vietnam, is beloved for its blue waters and spread of limestone islands, all occupied by tropical trees and wildlife.

Painted Cliffs: Maria Island, Tasmania

Alamy

Tasmania’s Maria Island is a motherlode of fascinating geology, including the swirling, Triassic-era limestone of the Painted Cliffs.

Jodhpur (“Blue City”): Rajasthan, India

Gallery Stock

Jodhpur is an ancient city with plenty to offer modern travellers, like bustling bazaars, incense-scented air, and delightfully Smurf-like buildings as far as you can see.

 

 

Live the Jungle Book lifestyle with these spectacular treehouses

Stunning photography of even more stunning places to visit from Mail Online – I just had to just copy and paste this one!   – Ned


If there was ever a time to book into a spectacular treehouse and spend the night close to nature, now could be it – as Disney’s Jungle Book has hit the screens.

If you are craving a night with just the bare necessities, there are plenty of simple retreats offering guests the chance to fall asleep in nature’s arms. But there are also some more lavish options for those looking for something more comfortable.

Here MailOnline Travel shares some of the most incredible boutique treehouses around the world – perfect for living like Mowgli for the night.

The Jungle Book is out now, and tells the story of Mowgli, who is raised by wolves and is friends with Bagheera and Baloo the bear

The Jungle Book is out now, and tells the story of Mowgli, who is raised by wolves and is friends with Bagheera and Baloo the bear

If you are craving a night with just the bare necessities like Mowgli, there are simple retreats offering guests the chance to fall asleep in nature's arms.And for those who prefer luxury breaks in the woods, there are plenty of breathtaking options available

Watamu Guest House, Watamu, Kenya 

The stunning Watamu Treehouse has three bedrooms which all boast ensuite bathrooms, and guests can check in on a self-catering or full-board basis

Nestled high in the trees on a breathtaking stretch of Watamu beach in Kenya is the Watamu Treehouse.

The white, unusually-designed property looks like something from a fairytale, with its thatched roofs, mosaic glass inside and panoramic views of the Indian Ocean.

The stunning Watamu Treehouse has three bedrooms which all boast ensuite bathrooms, and guests can check in on a self-catering or full-board basis.

Prices for the paradisal retreat don’t come cheap at £253 per night on TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, but it could be worth it for the views alone.

The Buckland, Atlanta, US

Peter and Katie Bahouth bought the land in 2000 and spent six months designing and building the fairytale retreat, which they now rent out

Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the interior with natural light, while pretty fairy lights and swishy curtains add a dash of romance to the scheme

If you’ve ever dreamed of a fairytale treehouse, complete with twinkling lights and romantic bridges, it probably looks a lot like this.

The Buckland retreat, nestled in pristine woodland in the heart of Atlanta, is listed on Airbnb for around £255 per night, and it even comes with Wi-Fi.

Set amid the branches of a 150-year-old Southern Short-Leaf Pine tree, the enchanting treehouse is the handywork of creative couple Peter and Katie Bahouth, and consists of three separate rooms that are connected by rope bridges strewn with fairy lights.

The cosy living room is decked out with a masterful blend of beautiful antiques and up-cycled furniture, including a chandelier to add a touch ofglamour to the scheme, and an 80-year-old butterfly window.

Keemala, Thailand 

Keemala is a small wellness-focused resort in the woodlands just outside the village and beach of Kamala on the island of Phuket

The bauble-shaped treehouses, one of four types of dwelling, loosely resemble James Cameron's Pandora from the blockbuster film Avatar

So close yet so far from the parties of Patong on Thailand’s biggest island, developers aimed for Keemala to be the epitome of serenity.

The hotel is a small wellness-focused resort in the woodlands just outside the village and beach of Kamala, on the west coast of the island, and opened in September of last year.

Small Luxury Hotels of the World says the tranquil setting of the resort will ‘encourage guests to rebalance, rejuvenate and relax’ among the trees, streams and waterfalls seamlessly added to enhance the natural landscape.

The resort’s 38 pool villas come in in four separate styles – clay and straw cottages, tent villas, treehouses and bird’s nest villas – with each one representing a clan of fictitious early Phuket settlers.

Treehouse Point, Washington

If you are looking for some rest and relaxation, TreeHouse Point, Washington, could be the perfect escape.

The utopia, which was constructed in 2006, features a number of treehouse options, the largest of which features leather reading chairs, a queen-sized bed and two singles, hand-made quilts, a writing desk, bookcases and large hammocks, all for around $330 (£234) per night, plus tax.

What makes it even more perfect are the ways you access the treehouses. Guests have to travel across a swinging rope bridge or ascend a ladder to reach the forest paradises.

Montaña Mágica Lodge, Chile 

The bar and restaurant inside are just as beautiful as the exterior, with its all-natural wood and stone decor

The southern Andes is home to the spectacular Montaña Mágica Lodge, a luxury hotel in the heart of Patagonia’s 300,000-acre Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve that has a spectacular waterfall cascading down one side.

Looking as though it’s been plucked straight out of a fantasy film, the hotel is made completely out of wood and stone, and would no doubt be at home as a background set for The Hobbit.

The retreat, in Los Rios, is accessible only by foot and intrepid guests must brave a swinging rope bridge to enter it.

Free Spirit Spheres – Vancouver Island, Canada 

These magical circular treehouses are suspended in the forest canopy and reached by guests via bridged walkways.

And since they move in a slow rocking motion when the wind blows, the experience of sleeping in a sphere is unique to each individual.

There are four different spherical rooms in all at the Free Spirit Spheres, Vancouver Island, Canada, and each can comfortably sleep an adult couple, though amenities are relatively limited inside.

Rates start at CAD$160 (£84) for one night in the smallest of the four.

Lion Sands Game Reserve, South Africa 

There can be few more spine-tingling ways of seeing lions, leopards and elephants in their natural habitat than from a lavish treehouse.

These amazing pictures show how one particular hotel allows its guests to gaze across a private reserve near the Kruger National Park in five-star luxury, with a four-poster bed, sofa and dining table installed on the decking.

Located in the exclusive Sabi Sand Reserve, it’s truly the ultimate exotic escape, with guests taken to the treehouse at sunset, where a picnic awaits them.

What’s more, they aren’t just treated to the sights and sounds of Africa’s wildlife. Lion Sands Game Reserve, which operates several ‘bush bedrooms’, promises that if you look up there are stars so great in number ‘they’re impossible to count’.

Prices are available from £590 per night.

Teahouse Tetsu, Japan 

Enchanting: The utterly charming Teahouse Tetsu was built by architect Terunobu Fujimori for the Kiyoharu Shirakaba Museum in Hokuto, Japan

Perhaps the most picturesque of all treehouses is the stunning Teahouse Tetsu at the Kiyoharu Shirakaba Museum in the Japanese city of Hokuto.

Perched atop a cypress base in a gorgeous grove of pink-petalled cherry trees, the Terunobu Fujimori-designed teahouse looks as if it sprang direct from the imagination of Hans Christian Andersen and even has a fairytale-style crooked chimney.

Sadly guests can only visit the treehouse and not spend the night in it.

Treehouses at Center Parcs, Longleat Forest

They feature four en-suite bedrooms, an open plan kitchen, dining and living area, a separate games den (accessed along a timber walkway) and a private hot tub

Many opt for a holiday at Center Parcs to enjoy cycling around the woodlands, the wealth of activities and dining options – but now you can have the full forest experience by staying in one of the picturesque treehouses.

In Longleat Forest there are three luxury, two-storey options, nestled in a quiet corner of the 400 acres of woodland.

They feature four en-suite bedrooms, an open plan kitchen, dining and living area, a separate games den (accessed along a timber walkway) and a private hot tub.

Prices start from £349 and can be booked on the website.

Tsala Treetop Lodge, South Africa 

When it’s time to eat, guests dine in a glass-walled dining room or on a suspended deck where they can take in the views

Holidaymakers who want to revisit the days when they climbed trees as a child can do one better at this luxurious hotel in the wilds of South Africa.

Tsala lodge is set high in the treetops with rustic suites and villas complete with fireplaces, spa bathrooms and infinity pools on private decks, where guests can admire spectacular vistas of a lush forest.

Offering a unique take on a room with a view, the wood and stone treehouses boast high ceilings, kitchenettes and outdoor showers in a peaceful location between the coastal towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.

Châteaux dans les Arbres, France 

Outside on the terrace is a hot tub for two and a personal chef is on hand to create a delicious supper to complete the romantic evening

Perched among the branches in a rural spot near Bergerac is a unique treehouse, complete with four fairytale turrets and all built out of wood.

The cosy interior of Châteaux dans les Arbres (Castle in the Trees) includes a double bed with a stained-glass window above, an electric heater for chilly evenings and a coffee machine for a morning pick-me-up.

Outside on the terrace is a hot tub for two and a personal chef is on hand to create a delicious supper to complete the romantic evening.

Pura Vida Eco lodge & Retreat, Province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica 

If you are looking for pampering, you may wish to opt for Pura Vida Ecolodge, an ‘eco-luxury’ retreat nestled amongst virgin rain forest in Central America’s Costa Rica.

This peaceful accommodation sleeps seven over its two bedrooms, and is listed as promoting a ‘sustainable lifestyle.’ The modern ecolodge, which comes with use of  an infinity-edge plunge pool with forest views, is set up with rain water catchment and has solar panels.

According to TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, ‘the most magical times are the early mornings and late afternoons where you can sit back with a freshly made juice or a glass of wine and be a spectator of nature with monkeys, parrots and toucans all frequently visiting the lodge and its surrounding reserve’.

Bird’s Nest Treehotel, Sweden

 

Inside the walls are clad with wood panels and the port hole windows almost disappear in the exterior’s network of branches

From the outside it looks like a giant bird’s nest, perched high in a tree in a Swedish forest, but inside it is a luxury guest room with enough space for four to stay comfortably.

The Bird’s Nest, built by architect Bertil Harström, is part of an outdoor sleeping experience called the Treehotel.

The unusual room is located in Harads, near the Lule River, in Sweden. Kent says: ‘From the Bird’s Nest you get a fantastic view of the Lule River valley, miles of forest and the powerful river.

Inside, the room, which sleeps a family of four is the height of luxury. The walls are clad with wood panels and the windows almost disappear in the exterior’s network of branches.

Overnight stays, including breakfast, start from £380 and there’s also a restaurant, bar, sauna and relaxation area, TV, and internet access on site.

Incredible Places That Don’t Exist, and Where to Go Instead

I’m a stickler for honesty in my travel blogging so I was pleased to see this feature from SmarterTravel via HuffPost.

With so many beautiful photographs of far-off destinations circulating the Internet, it should come as no surprise that some of these unbelievable places truly should not be believed. Through the power of Photoshop, artists can create beautiful scenes of fantasy worlds. But often, such images are taken out of context and advertised as real. You might have seen some of the following photographs making the rounds—the bad news is they’re totally fake, but the good news is there are places in the real world that are just as beautiful. Luckily for us, we live in a world so magnificent that it sometimes surpasses our imaginations.


The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye Scotland

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(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

One of the most popular picture hoaxes on the Internet, this photo and its bright purple trees are totally Photoshopped. On top of the fake color, this photograph isn’t even from Scotland’s Fairy Pools … it wasn’t even taken in Scotland. It is actually a photograph of New Zealand’s Shotover River—it’s just as beautiful, but somewhat disappointingly green.

Go Instead: If brightly colored trees stoke your wanderlust, head to Japan for cherry blossoms. In springtime, Japan comes together for Hanami, which literally translates into “flower viewing,” to celebrate the short window of two weeks in which the flowers bloom. One of the best places to see the bloom is Goryokaku Park in Hokkaido, but if you can’t make it to Japan, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. is just as beautiful.

Moon and Star Island

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons via CC Attribution/Share Alike)

This photo of two neighboring islands that appears to be shaped like a moon with a star is only half false. The crescent shape is real, part of a submerged volcanic crater in Hawaii, but the star is a total fake. Even without the star, Molokini Crater is still amazing, and turns out to be a pretty spectacular spot for scuba diving as well.

Go Instead: If a crescent without its star doesn’t do it for you, there are still some incredibly shaped islands out there, like Heart Island, a heart-shaped resort in in Fiji; or Dolphin Island, part of the Li Galli islands off Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

Temple of Lysistrata, Greece

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

This enchanting scene of an ancient Greek temple is in reality, a photo mash-up between Rome’s Pantheon and the Benagil Cave in Portugal. There is no temple of Lysistrata and in fact, this photo fake-out takes its name from a Greek play of the same name.

Go Instead: If you want to see the combination of incredible architecture and natural cave formations, and are willing to climb the steep 272 steps it will take to get there, look no farther than Malaysia’s Batu Caves. This Hindu shrine consists of three main limestone caves and holds temples inside where visitors can marvel at the stalagmites and the giant golden statue of Murugan, the Hindu God of War.

Castle Island

(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

This image of a castle balancing on top of a rock might seem amazing at first, but take a second to think about it and you’ll realize there’s no way this place could be real. It’s actually another photo mash-up of Khao Phing Kan island in Thailand and Lichtenstein Castle in Germany.

Go instead: If you’re looking for an island-bound castle, Italy’s Loreto Island is a magnificent alternative. A neo-gothic castle, constructed in 1910, crowns the island and, though the castle is privately owned, boat tours of the lake will take you past it.

Ngyen Khat Taktsang Monastery

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(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

This photograph of the “Ngyen Khat Taktsang Monastery” depicts a carving of Buddha in a truly impossible location: On the sheer side of a massive natural sandstone pillar. While the pillar in China’s Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is real, the carving is totally fake. Seriously, how would people even get up there?

Go Instead: If your interest is piqued for monasteries carved into rock, Jordan’s Petra is the perfect fit. Carved from the red sandstone canyons over 2,000 years ago, Petra is one of the wonders of the world. If you like your monasteries with a touch of vertigo, make a trip to the the truly gravity-defying Taktsank Monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest, in Bhutan.

Ned’s Tip:

 

Secret Tourist-Free Spots to View the World’s Most Famous Attractions

A neat little article here from Barbara Woolsey for Thrillist.

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David Evison/Shutterstock

In the TV show An Idiot Abroad, Ricky Gervais sends his buddy Karl to the Petra Monastery in Jordan, where Karl learns that the best view isn’t actually standing in front of the monastery but from a cave across the way. And what he says upon realizing this is actually freakin’ enlightening: “You’re better off livin’ in the hole looking at the palace, than living at the palace looking at the hole.”

Karl’s right: sometimes the better vantage point is where you least expect it (or rather, where you will encounter the fewest number of selfie sticks). Which is why we tracked down eight lesser-known spots for seeing some of the world’s biggest attractions.

St. Peter’s Basilica

Rome, Italy
Viewing spot: The Knights of Malta Keyhole
Unfortunately, there’s no other way to marvel at Michelangelo’s handiwork than to go inside of St. Peter’s Basilica, but you won’t want to miss seeing it from this other stealthier spot. It’s a teeny keyhole that perfectly frames the Renaissance church! Get there by climbing Aventine Hill and finding The Knights of Malta building, HQ to the world’s oldest order of knighthood.

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Matteo Gabrieli/Shutterstock

Wat Arun

Bangkok, Thailand
Viewing spot: The Deck
This Buddhist temple is a must-visit in Bangkok, but can be a real pain to get to — we’re talking jumping boats and dodging tourists. If you don’t really care about climbing the temple, book a table at The Deck restaurant for sunset drinks (by Western prices, it’s reasonable). You’ll enjoy a breathtaking view of Wat Arun sparkling on the water, with a breeze and cocktail thrown in for good measure.

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Flickr/Adam Baker

Acropolis

Athens, Greece
Viewing spot: Filopappou Hill
So Acropolis admission is going up this year (because, Greek debt crisis), but hold onto your Euros: one of the best spots to admire the ruins is actually totally free. Climbing up Filopappou Hill, you can get an awesome panorama of Athens, the Aegean, and even a full shot of the Acropolis — no backdrop of tour groups necessary.

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dimitris_k/Shutterstock

Berlin Wall

Berlin, Germany
Viewing spot: Invalids’ Cemetery
Go ahead and get that necessary selfie against some East Side Gallery graffiti, but also take time to check out Invalids’ Cemetery where a decrepit, lesser-known piece of the Berlin Wall still remains. Here in what was once “no man’s land” between East and West, you’ll also find the resting places of WWI veterans and Nazi leaders.

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Visit Berlin

Christ the Redeemer

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Viewing spot: From a helicopter
OK, OK, so not really a secret spot (or even an accessible one really), BUT if you’re only going to splurge $150 on a token tourist chopper ride once in your lifetime, trust us — Rio’s the place. Forty thousand feet in the air is where you’ll get the most epic view of Christ the Redeemer, including the bottom part, which can’t be seen from ground entry.

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Artyominc/wikipedia

Hollywood Sign

Los Angeles
Viewing spot: Lake Hollywood Park
Hiking Hollywood Ridge and Beachwood Canyon are the most popular ways to set eyes on this crucial American landmark, but your best view is actually (perhaps too sensibly) from underneath. Locals love to disagree about where that prime real estate is, but when it comes to overall experience, there’s Lake Hollywood Park. It’s one of the easier spots to find with a clear view of the sign, and a pretty location on its own boasting greenery and a neighboring reservoir.

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Flickr/Steve Boland

Cliffs of Moher

County Clare, Ireland
Viewing spot: Coming from Doolin
Google Ireland’s most famous attraction, and you’ll pull up words like “tourist trap” and “overrated” pretty quick. But blogger Shannon O’Donnell found a route through pastures starting in a charming village called Doolin (another town, Galway, is where most tourists head in from). Trade-off? There’s a high probability you will be stepping in cow patties.

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Flickr/Francesc Gonzalez

Taj Mahal

Agra, India
Viewing spot: Yamuna or Agra Rivers
Ah Taj Mahal, there you are as the world’s No.1 tourist trap and bane of happy-go-lucky travel photographers everywhere. Getting the money shot of this architectural wonder can be unbelievably tricky, and that’s why your best bet is on riverbanks, or even ON the water. Hire a boat to float out for a unique, full frontal angle. Trade-off? Sewage smell. Better than big crowds and fending off scams? You decide.

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Dmitry Strizhakov/Shutterstock

 

 

 

The Simple Bear Necessities

This is the cutest!

British Airways documented Pooh the teddy bear’s extraordinary journey home to an eight-month-old boy after being left behind 4,600 miles from his home in West Yorkshire. Little Woody Cranmer was devastated after leaving his small cuddly toy thousands of miles away in Argentina. The beloved plush had been passed down from the toddler’s father Scott, who was given Pooh as a baby. The British Airways team took pictures of Pooh’s journey home and made them into a book for little Woody to keep. 

Thanks to the good ol’ Mail Online for such an adorable tale.  🙂        – Ned


These adorable pictures show the moment a baby boy, who was devastated after leaving his beloved cuddly teddy bear 4,600 miles away in Argentina, was reunited with his toy.

When Woody Cranmer left his treasured teddy ‘Pooh’ in Buenos Aires, the eight-month-old thought he would never see his lovable companion again.

The toy had been passed down from his father Scott, 30, from Wakefield, who was given Pooh as a baby.

These adorable pictures show the moment Woody Cranmer was reunited with his beloved teddy bear after leaving him in Argentina

These adorable pictures show the moment Woody Cranmer was reunited with his beloved teddy bear after leaving him in Argentina

British Airways team behind the find took pictures of Pooh's journey home and made them into a book for Woody to keep

British Airways team behind the find took pictures of Pooh’s journey home and made them into a book for Woody to keep

During his 4,600 mile journey home to Leeds Bradford, Pooh the bear met with British Airways staff

During his 4,600 mile journey home to Leeds Bradford, Pooh the bear met with British Airways staff

The small bear was given lots of free goodies

The small bear was given lots of free goodies

Once the family realised he had gone missing during their trip last month they took to social media to try and find their furry family member.

And thankfully within days, Mr P Bear – now the owner of a gold executive club card – was located by the British Airways team and flown back to Leeds Bradford Airport, West Yorkshire, to be reunited with his anxious family.

Cranmer said: ‘I know to some people it’s only a silly teddy, but Pooh has been part of my life for the last 30 years.

‘When Woody was born, it was a huge thing to pass Pooh into Woody’s care. We were so worried when we lost Pooh while we were visiting Woody’s grandfather in Buenos Aires.

‘We were eternally grateful to British Airways for finding him and returning him to my little boy.

‘They go everywhere together and they’re inseparable when it comes time to go to bed.’

Pooh travelled 4,600 miles home alone to be reunited with his family after getting lost in Argentina during a holiday last month

Pooh travelled 4,600 miles home alone to be reunited with his family after getting lost in Argentina during a holiday last month

Once the family realised Pooh had gone missing they took to social media to try and find their furry family member - but little did they know, he was helping staff in Argentina. Here's Pooh inspecting one of BA's jet engines 

Once the family realised Pooh had gone missing they took to social media to try and find their furry family member – but little did they know, he was helping staff in Argentina. Here’s Pooh inspecting one of BA’s jet engines

The toy had been passed down from his father Scott (left) from Wakefield, who was given Pooh the small teddy bear as a baby

The toy had been passed down from his father Scott (left) from Wakefield, who was given Pooh the small teddy bear as a baby

Mr P Bear was flown back to Leeds Bradford Airport, West Yorks, to be reunited with his anxious family

Mr P Bear was flown back to Leeds Bradford Airport, West Yorks, to be reunited with his anxious family

The bear - who is now the owner of a gold executive club card - was located by the British Airways team

The bear – who is now the owner of a gold executive club card – was located by the British Airways team

The team behind the find even took pictures of Pooh’s journey and made them into a book for Woody to keep as a very special memento.

Cranmer added: ‘He has had a great adventure and we’re so happy he’s finally landed back home. We’ll have a great book to show Woody when he’s older.

‘I’d just like to thank everyone for their help in getting him home. Everyone has been superb.’

Pooh the bear helped out on the check in desks during his time in Argentina

Pooh the bear helped out on the check in desks during his time in Argentina

Pooh pictured at the gate before boarding his 15 hour flight home this week

Pooh pictured at the gate before boarding his 15 hour flight home this week

Airline Helps Stranded Passengers with Free Room at S&M Hotel <3

Okay okay, Valentine’s Day is long gone (for this year anyway) but I just HAD to post this little “themed” piece.  My eternal thanks to Mashable once more!  🙂


Love-hotel-1

Two Chinese women found themselves in an awkward situation on Valentine’s Day when an airline booked them into S&M-themed rooms in a love hotel in Chongqing, China.

According to local news reports, both women were passengers on a Hainan Airlines flight bound for Hangzhou but were forced to stay in Chongqing when the flight was delayed by bad weather.

After they were informed that their flight was rescheduled for 3 p.m. the next day, the airline then offered to put them up at a hotel overnight. Their day took a turn for the worse when they found out that they were checked into a by-the-hour S&M-themed “love hotel.”

Love hotels are common in Asia, especially in Japan where the concept originated. These hotels are used for short-stays and are rented out by the hour to couples for quickies.

One of the women, Lou Bao, was so horrified by her digs for the night that she took to Weibo to post photos of the room.

love hotel 2

Image: Weibo

The room came furnished with a “punishment chair” complete with wrist and ankle restraints. Strangely, the room reminded us of a low-rent version of 50 Shades of Grey’s “red room of pain.”

Since Lou Bao’s post went viral, Hainan Airlines have apologised on its official Weibo account and said that they were in contact with both passengers to make amends, reported People’s Online Daily.

“The passengers were delayed due to bad weather, and all the hotels were booked out because of Valentine’s Day. Our hotel-booking representative couldn’t secure any room and did not research what a ‘themed suite’ means,” the airline’s statement read.

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

 

 

A Heartfelt Post for Valentine’s Day! <3

Hey there all you romantics: I spotted this piece in the Mail Online Travel – just perfect for Feb 14th.
Check it out… ❤ ❤ ❤

Ned


It appears that love is not just in the air, but also hidden in natural wonders all over the planet. 

From peaceful atolls, vibrant islands and rocky cliffs there are heart-shapes surprises to be discovered among the landscape. 

Sir Richard Branson is even a fan of the phenomenon, forking out for a heart-shaped island resort in Australia.

Romantics may wish to spend a day exploring Croatia’s perfectly shaped paradise, Galesnjak, which received international fame after it was captured by a Google Earth satellite in 2009. 

Travellers can also visit Tupai, a tiny atoll located just north of Bora Bora. There are flights available for tours and couples can even tie the knot on the stunning island.

Here are some of the most spectacular natural wonders – that are sure to capture your heart.

Heart of the ocean: If you are lucky enough to get a helicopter ride over Australia's Great Barrier Reef you should look out for Heart Reef, in Hardy Reef, which is a stunning composition of coral that has naturally formed into the shape of a heart 

Heart of the ocean: If you are lucky enough to get a helicopter ride over Australia’s Great Barrier Reef you should look out for Heart Reef, in Hardy Reef, which is a stunning composition of coral that has naturally formed into the shape of a heart

Sir Richard Branson owns the tranquil Makepeace Island off Australia's Sunshine Coast. The secluded sanctuary offers 20 explorers the chance to stay in luxury villas with access to a lagoon pool and island bar

Sir Richard Branson owns the tranquil Makepeace Island off Australia’s Sunshine Coast. The secluded sanctuary offers 20 explorers the chance to stay in luxury villas with access to a lagoon pool and island bar

At sunset the silhouette of this heart-shaped hole in the rocky cliffs of Calanques de Piana on Corsica Island, France, is breathtaking

At sunset the silhouette of this heart-shaped hole in the rocky cliffs of Calanques de Piana on Corsica Island, France, is breathtaking

Contrasting against the lush green mountain, this bright turquoise heart-shaped lake is located near Ala-Kul Lake, Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan

Contrasting against the lush green mountain, this bright turquoise heart-shaped lake is located near Ala-Kul Lake, Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan

This large formation of vegetation in New Caledonia is called the Coeur or Heart of Voh. It was made famous in a photograph taken in 1990 and published a few years later on the book cover Earth from Heaven, by French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand

This large formation of vegetation in New Caledonia is called the Coeur or Heart of Voh. It was made famous in a photograph taken in 1990 and published a few years later on the book cover Earth from Heaven, by French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Heart Island in Galesnjak, Croatia, first gained worldwide recognition in 2009 when Google Earth captured its unique shape with this satellite image. Galesnjak is uninhabited and does not have any tourist facilities, but visitors can travel by boat for a day with their loved one

Heart Island in Galesnjak, Croatia, first gained worldwide recognition in 2009 when Google Earth captured its unique shape with this satellite image. Galesnjak is uninhabited and does not have any tourist facilities, but visitors can travel by boat for a day with their loved one

Travellers can also visit Tupai, a tiny atoll located just north of Bora Bora, with flights available to tour or tie the knot on the stunning island 

Travellers can also visit Tupai, a tiny atoll located just north of Bora Bora, with flights available to tour or tie the knot on the stunning island

In Germany there is a heart-shaped island in Kleine Muritz Lake, perfect for lovers wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the world

In Germany there is a heart-shaped island in Kleine Muritz Lake, perfect for lovers wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the world

At the foot of Dunsinane Hill in Perthshire, Scotland, surrounded by fields, is a cute heart-shaped pond

At the foot of Dunsinane Hill in Perthshire, Scotland, surrounded by fields, is a cute heart-shaped pond

Those travelling by boat may not be able to fully appreciate this small heart-shaped island in Germany located where the Ruhr River joins the Kemnade reservoir, as it is best viewed from above

Those travelling by boat may not be able to fully appreciate this small heart-shaped island in Germany located where the Ruhr River joins the Kemnade reservoir, as it is best viewed from above

Have the ultimate romantic retreat on Tavarua Island in Fiji. The 29-acre island is surrounded by a stunning coral reef

Have the ultimate romantic retreat on Tavarua Island in Fiji. The 29-acre island is surrounded by a stunning coral reef

Located in the Bavarian Alps, this beautiful heart-shaped islands sits on Germany’s Lake Walchensee

Located in the Bavarian Alps, this beautiful heart-shaped islands sits on Germany’s Lake Walchensee

Those flying above the British Columbia landscape in Canada can catch a glimpse of this unusually carved lake

Those flying above the British Columbia landscape in Canada can catch a glimpse of this unusually carved lake

In 2013 it was rumoured that Angelina Jolie bought the heart-shaped Petra Island near New York as a 50th birthday gift for partner Brad Pitt but this was later disputed 

In 2013 it was rumoured that Angelina Jolie bought the heart-shaped Petra Island near New York as a 50th birthday gift for partner Brad Pitt but this was later disputed

 

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    This scenic property in Pas-de-Calais, Louches, France, comes with its own heart-shaped lake - ideal for romantic strolls

    This scenic property in Pas-de-Calais, Louches, France, comes with its own heart-shaped lake – ideal for romantic strolls

    Those who venture up Austrian Alps should look out for a glimpse of this heart-shaped glacier lake during the trip

    Those who venture up Austrian Alps should look out for a glimpse of this heart-shaped glacier lake during the trip

    Water in this reservoir in Goldried, High Tauern National Park, Austria, is collected in the shape of a heart

    Water in this reservoir in Goldried, High Tauern National Park, Austria, is collected in the shape of a heart

    Lake Pupuke is a heart-shaped freshwater lake occupying a volcanic crater between the suburbs of Takapuna and Milford on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand 

    Lake Pupuke is a heart-shaped freshwater lake occupying a volcanic crater between the suburbs of Takapuna and Milford on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand

     

 

Taylor, Bardot, Newman – Venice has Always had the Glamour

Venice has always had celebrity pulling power and these wonderfully nostalgic black and white photographs, dating from the 1940s through to the 1970s, show some of the world’s most beautiful people enjoying arguably the world’s most beautiful city.

Venice played host to the very first international film festival and long attracted the rich and famous to sample its renowned waterways, from Hollywood actors to acclaimed artists.  As you will see below, some of the greats, like Salvador Dali or Mick and Bianca Jagger, enjoyed a relaxing gondola ride, while American actress Gene Tierney tried having a punt herself.

Thanks to the Mail Online for digging up these gorgeous shots.


British actress Claire Bloom and her husband American actor Rod Steiger hiding under an umbrella. They were in Venice for the film festival in September 1963

British actress Claire Bloom and her husband American actor Rod Steiger hiding under an umbrella. They were in Venice for the film festival in September 1963

The sandy beaches of the French Riviera might be the obvious choice for celebrity spotting today but these vintage photographs show that the waterways of Venice were once the go-to spot for holidaying stars.

While George and Amal Clooney are names still drawn to the romantic city, these images, dating from the 1940s to the 1970s, reveal that everyone from Gary Cooper to Salvador Dali has fallen in love with the dreamy destination at some point.

Actors including Sue Lyon and Anthony Quinn are pictured enjoying a relaxing ride on a gondola while action man Sean Connery tries his hand at driving his own boat. 

For Spartacus legend Kirk Douglas, it was all about enjoying the beach and socialising with stylish locals, while others, such as Elizabeth Taylor and her then husband Eddie Fisher, preferred to retreat to Burano island and are captured enjoying a candid moment by the lagoon.

It comes as no surprise then, that the Italian city was the host of the world’s first film festival in 1932 and it was the place to be seen.

Even today, more than 80 years since the first Venice Film Festival, the coastal city remains dazzling and popular.

Rock star appeal: British singer Mick Jagger sits next to Bianca Jagger in a gondola, with the gondolier behind them in Venice  in 1971

Rock star appeal: British singer Mick Jagger sits next to Bianca Jagger in a gondola, with the gondolier behind them in Venice in 1971

Legendary American actor Paul Newman, wearing a tuxedo and a bow tie during a trip on a water taxi with St. Mark Square in the background, Venice 1963

Legendary American actor Paul Newman, wearing a tuxedo and a bow tie during a trip on a water taxi with St. Mark Square in the background, Venice 1963

Spanish artist Salvador Dali pulls a dramatic pose on a gondola while the gondolier rows on behind him

Spanish artist Salvador Dali pulls a dramatic pose on a gondola while the gondolier rows on behind him

Glamorous riviera: American actor Kirk Douglas, wearing just a swimming suit, signing the thigh of the painter Novella Parigini while another woman looks on at Lido Beach in 1953

Glamorous riviera: American actor Kirk Douglas, wearing just a swimming suit, signing the thigh of the painter Novella Parigini while another woman looks on at Lido Beach in 1953

Taken around 1960, Elizabeth Taylor and her then husband, singer Eddie Fisher, on holiday on Burano Island in the lagoon at Venice

Taken around 1960, Elizabeth Taylor and her then husband, singer Eddie Fisher, on holiday on Burano Island in the lagoon at Venice

French actress Brigitte Bardot with her partner, the french jazz guitarist Sasha Distel, in 1958. The extravagant star is surrounded by men in tuxedos

French actress Brigitte Bardot with her partner, the french jazz guitarist Sasha Distel, in 1958. The extravagant star is surrounded by men in tuxedos

American actor Sue Lyon, known for playing Lolita, is pictured wearing a strapless, striped bikini and reclining on a gondola in 1962

American actor Sue Lyon, known for playing Lolita, is pictured wearing a strapless, striped bikini and reclining on a gondola in 1962

American actor Gary Cooper, pictured in 1955, wears a blazer and a tie as he enjoys his gondola ride in St Mark's Basin

American actor Gary Cooper, pictured in 1955, wears a blazer and a tie as he enjoys his gondola ride in St Mark’s Basin

Taken in 1951, American actor Gene Tierney, wearing a striped short-sleeved nautical-style shirt, lounges on a gondola boat

Taken in 1951, American actor Gene Tierney, wearing a striped short-sleeved nautical-style shirt, lounges on a gondola boat

Later, donning a hat,  Gene Tierney tries her hand at rowing a gondola. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Ellen Berent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven

Later, donning a hat, Gene Tierney tries her hand at rowing a gondola. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Ellen Berent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven

Shaken not stirred: A dishevelled Sean Connery rides a water taxi with the wind is his hair, overlooking the Venetian lagoon in the 1970s

Shaken not stirred: A dishevelled Sean Connery rides a water taxi with the wind is his hair, overlooking the Venetian lagoon in the 1970s

American actor Warren Beatty pictured outside the Excelsior Hotel  in 1965. The hotel was also where the first film festival was hosted

American actor Warren Beatty pictured outside the Excelsior Hotel in 1965. The hotel was also where the first film festival was hosted

French actor Cathrine Deneuve on the set of the movie 'Mayerling', wearing a coat and and a beret. She holds a paintbrush in her mouth while photographers snaps away in March 1968

French actor Cathrine Deneuve on the set of the movie ‘Mayerling’, wearing a coat and and a beret. She holds a paintbrush in her mouth while photographers snaps away in March 1968

Mexican actor Anthony Quinn wearing a plaid blazer, with the actress Barbara Steele, sitting in a water taxi on the Canal Grande in 1958

Mexican actor Anthony Quinn wearing a plaid blazer, with the actress Barbara Steele, sitting in a water taxi on the Canal Grande in 1958

 

 

7 Places You Shouldn’t Visit on Valentine’s Day

Whether we’re single or dating, many of us use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to get away.  But more often than not, we wind up giving in to overpriced food and accommodation in some of the world’s most hideously touristy destinations.  Don’t be like that this year: on the most romantic day of the year steer clear of these seven destinations that simply aren’t worth visiting.  – Ned

7 Places You Should Never Go on Valentine's Day

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)


Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas, NV

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

The Las Vegas Strip is the most visited tourist attraction in the world, drawing in nearly 40 million visitors a year.  And in 2015 it also happened to be the most popular destination for celebrating Valentine’s Day, despite hotel rates surging by 62% according to a report by Hipmunk.

My advice?  Skip the casino chaos and costly hotels and take a road trip to one of Nevada’s smaller, cheaper, and less congested towns where you can still find plenty to do.

Where to go instead: With mountains as its backdrop, Pahrump Nevada is a small desert town near the California border, an hour west of Vegas.  Here you can enjoy wine tastings at Pahrump Valley Winery and the Sanders Family Winery, the only two wineries in Southern Nevada, go for scenic hikes and eat in eclectic restaurants.  And if you’re looking for a taste of Vegas, you can gamble in the Pahrump casinos – far less crowded and just as fun!

New York City

New York City

(Photo: Thinkstock/Photodisc)

From ice skating and Broadway to all-star restaurants and comfortable cafes, New York City is one of the most romantic destinations in the States.  And considering it’s home to two of the three most visited tourist sites in the entire world – Times Square (number two) and Central Park (number three) – it’s also one of the busiest.

New York is one of the top five destinations people consider visiting on Valentine’s Day, and among its tens of thousands of hotels, roughly two-thirds are designated “romantic” by Hipmunk – a classification based on neighbourhood, dining scene, and amenities like pool, spa, and balcony.  Anyone looking to spend February 14th in one of these properties can expect to pay up to 70% more.

Where to go instead: Boston also has a lively nightlife, top-notch restaurants, unique neighborhoods and many free attractions.  But while Boston can be busy and pricey too, you’ll still save money if you choose it over the Big Apple.

Food in Boston is 8% cheaper than in New York City, according to Expatistan, a website that compares cost-of-living and transportation expenses.  Getting around in Boston, which includes cab fares, public transportation and gas, costs 27% less than New York.  And if you’re looking for a hotel in Boston on Valentine’s Day, hotel rates in average $184 per night compared to $273 in NYC.

Paris

Paris

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

It doesn’t get any dreamier than Paris.  Lovebirds gather from all over the world to soak in the city’s classic architecture, iconic monuments, bridges and parks, world-class dining and theatre.  Paris is romantic all year round but even more so in the spring and summer, so save it for another time when you can dine outside and wander along the Seine.

Where to go instead: Ditch Paris (just this once) and head to Dijon, the capitol city of the Burgundy region and less than a two-hour train ride away.  Full of cultural sights, old-world charm, marvellous restaurants and shopping and some of the country’s best wineries, Dijon is a lively city that’s also much more affordable.

London

London

(Photo: Thinkstock/Image Source)

Romantic strolls along the Thames, cruises, cozy pubs, panoramic city views and iconic sites are only some of the reasons why lovers flock to London, but given that it’s one of the world’s most visited cities and a simply huge tourist magnet, it’s safe to assume that the UK’s capital city is one place you don’t want to be on Valentine’s Day!

Where to go instead: You can find plenty to do in the hip seaside city of Brighton, situated on the south coast of England and just a 50-minute train ride from the capital.  It offers the perfect mix of city life and laid-back beach lifestyle and boasts loads of food, art, and music festivals, a scenic waterfront and tons of shops and pubs – plus of course the world-famous Brighton Pier.  This globally up-and-coming destination is a cheaper and a far less crowded alternative to the bustling city of London, and it even made it onto TripAdvisor’s list of Top Destinations on the Rise for 2016.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Niagara Falls is the fifth-most visited tourist attraction in the world with 22.5 million annual visits, according to Travel Weekly.  Sure, the famous falls are impressive: admiring them with your significant other might even be deemed romantic, but don’t drive out of your way just to visit because that romantic high won’t last long.

Big crowds are a certainty on Valentine’s Day, and hotels close to the falls become super pricey.  Plus there’s nothing romantic about the fast foods joints, arcades and tacky souvenir shops all around.

Where to go instead: Take in scenic water views in the charming lakeside town of Canandaigua, less than a two-hour drive from Niagara Falls and just 45 minutes west of the Finger Lakes.  Here, you can walk the pier along Canandaigua Lake; stroll through the Sonnenburg Gardens and Mansion Historic State Park; and enjoy wine tastings, art exhibits, and – frankly – some peace and quiet.

Reno, NV

Reno, NV

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Reno is a popular “anti-Valentine’s Day” destination, known for its long running Vampire pub crawl (designed for those who think Valentine’s Day sucks!)  But ironically, it’s actually the most marked-up location in the USA to book over the holiday.

Last year, Hipmunk compared Reno’s hotel prices over Valentine’s Day weekend to the weekend before and found that rates spiked by a whopping 114%!  You’ll also be forced into overpaying for pre-fixed multi-course dinners in Reno’s overcrowded resorts and casinos.

Where to go instead: Head south of Reno and take a 75-minute drive to the small town of Markleeville, a popular stop for hot spring seekers and recreationists.  Mountain-style lodging, excellent food and warm hospitality are just a few of the things you’ll experience here.  With Grover Hot Springs State Park located just four miles west of the town, you can also cross-country ski, snowshoe, hike and warm up in the hot springs at the park’s winter campground.

Venice

Venice

(Photo: Thinkstock/Image Source)

Winding canals, romantic gondola rides, waterfront restaurants and postcard-perfect architecture make Venice the quintessential couple’s getaway.  But while a Venetian-style Valentine’s Day sounds like it would be nothing less than magical, the city is also massively overrun by tourists, making it difficult even to manoeuvre through the city on Feb 14th.

Where to go instead: Save yourself from the congestion and head to Bassano del Grappa in the Veneto region of northern Italy.  Here you’ll find more romantic bridges and canals, just an hour train ride from Venice.  Bassano is far less crowded and far less pricey than its watery counterpart, and it’s equally scenic.  Set on the Brenta River beneath the Venetian Prealps, you can soak in mountain and water views, enjoy authentic local Italian cuisine and stroll through this mediaeval city’s streets enjoying its many historic sites, such as the 11th Century cathedral (duomo), the castle and the wooden covered Bridge, or Ponte degli Alpini,

 

Happy Valentine’s Day lover-people!  ❤

 

Could just two people repopulate Earth?

This is a fascinating article from the BBC future website – not strictly travel-related (although it does mention journeying into outer space!) but certainly got me thinking.  Must pick my genetic partner carefully…!

Ned


The last man on Earth is a common trope in fiction – but what if it actually happened? How many people would it take to save our species?

Earth repopulation

Credit: Getty Images

The alien predators arrived by boat. Within two years, everyone was dead. Almost.

The tiny islet of Ball’s Pyramid lies 600km east of Australia in the South Pacific, rising out of the sea like a shard of glass. And there they were – halfway up its sheer cliff edge, sheltering under a spindly bush – the last of the species. Two escaped and just nine years later there were 9,000, the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Adam and Eve.

No, this isn’t a bizarre take on the story of creation. The lucky couple were tree lobsters Dryococelus australis, stick insects the size of a human hand. They were thought to be extinct soon after black rats invaded their native Lord Howe Island in 1918, but were found clinging on in Ball’s Pyramid 83 years later. The species owes its miraculous recovery to a team of scientists who scaled 500ft of vertical rock to reach their hiding place in 2003. The lobsters were named “Adam” and “Eve” and sent to start a breeding programme at Melbourne Zoo.

Lord Howe Island near Australia – where species have been driven to the brink thanks to ‘alien’ invaders (Credit: Getty Images)

Bouncing back after insect Armageddon is one thing. Female tree lobsters lay 10 eggs every 10 days and are capable of parthenogenesis; they don’t need a man to reproduce. Repopulating the earth with humans is quite another matter. Could we do it? And how long would it take?

The answer is more than a whimsical discussion for the pub. From Nasa’s research on the magic number of pioneers needed for our move to another planet, to decisions about the conservation of endangered species, it’s a matter of increasing international importance and urgency.

So let’s fast-forward 100 years. Humanity’s endeavours have gone horribly wrong and a robot uprising has wiped us off the face of the Earth – a fate predicted by Stephen Hawking in 2014. Just two people made it. There’s no way around it: the first generation would all be brothers and sisters.

Sigmund Freud believed incest was the only universal human taboo alongside murdering your parents. It’s not just gross, it’s downright dangerous. A study of children born in Czechoslovakia between 1933 and 1970 found that nearly 40% of those whose parents were first-degree relatives were severely handicapped, of which 14% eventually died.

Recessive risks

To understand why inbreeding can be so deadly, we need to get to grips with some genetics. We all have two copies of every gene, one from each parent. But some gene variants don’t show up unless you have two exactly the same. Most inherited diseases are caused by these “recessive” variants, which sneak through the evolutionary radar because they are harmless on their own. In fact, the average person has between one and two lethal recessive mutations in their genome.

When a couple are related, it doesn’t take long for the mask to slip. Take achromatopsia, a rare recessive disorder which causes total colour blindness. It affects 1 in 33,000 Americans and is carried by one in 100. If one of our post-apocalyptic survivors had the variant, there’s a one in four chance of their child having a copy. So far, so good. After just one generation of incest, the risk skyrockets – with a one in four chance of their child having two copies. That’s a 1 in 16 chance that the original couple’s first grandchild would have the disease.

This was the fate of the inhabitants of Pingelap, an isolated atoll in the western Pacific. The entire population is descended from just 20 survivors of a typhoon which swept the island in the 18th Century, including a carrier of achromatopsia. With such a small gene pool, today a 10th of the island’s population is totally colour blind.

Rebuilding populations of New Zealand’s threatened kakapo have struggled, partly because of the limited gene pool (Credit: Getty Images)

Even with these hideous risks in mind, if the survivors had enough children the chances are at least some of them would be healthy. But what happens when inbreeding continues for hundreds of years? It turns out you don’t have to be stuck on an island to find out, because there’s one community that just can’t get enough of their close relatives: European royalty. And with nine generations of strategic marriages between cousins, uncles, and nieces in 200 years, the Spanish Habsburgs are a natural experiment in how it all adds up.

Charles II was the family’s most famous victim. Born with a litany of physical and mental disabilities, the king didn’t learn to walk until he was eight years old. As an adult his infertility spelled the extinction of an entire dynasty.

In 2009 a team of Spanish scientists revealed why. Charles’ ancestry was so entangled, his “inbreeding coefficient” – a figure reflecting the proportion of inherited genes that would be identical from both parents – was higher than if he had been born to siblings.

It’s the same measure used by ecologists to assess the genetic risks faced by endangered species. “With a small population size everyone is going to be related sooner or later, and as relatedness increases inbreeding effects become more important,” explains Dr Bruce Robertson from Otago University. He studies New Zealand’s giant, flightless parrots, called the kakapo, of which there are only 125 left on the planet.

Of particular concern are the effects of inbreeding on sperm quality, which has increased the proportion of eggs that will never hatch from 10% to around 40%. It’s an example of inbreeding depression, Robertson says, caused by the exposure of recessive genetic defects in a population. Despite plenty of food and protection from predators, the kakapo might not make it.

Immune mix

Endangered species also run the gauntlet of longer-term risks. Although they may already be well adapted to their environment, genetic diversity allows species to evolve their way around future challenges. Nowhere is this more important than immunity. “It’s something that most species seem keen to promote diversity in, even humans. We pick mates with a very different immune composition so our offspring have a diverse array of immune locks,” says Dr Philip Stephens from Durham University. Back in our evolutionary past, it’s thought that pairing with Neanderthals may have given our immune systems a genetic boost.

Even if our species makes it, it could be unrecognisable. When small pockets of individuals remain isolated for too long they become susceptible to the founder effect, in which the loss of genetic diversity amplifies the population’s genetic quirks. Not only would the new humans look and sound different – they could be an entirely different species.

The European royal families of the 19th Century were living proof of the perils of inbreeding (Credit: Science Photo Library)

So how much variety do you need? It’s a debate that goes right back to the 80s, says Stephens, when an Australian scientist proposed a universal rule of thumb. “Basically you need 50 breeding individuals to avoid inbreeding depression and 500 in order to adapt,” he says. It’s a rule still used today – though it’s been upped to 500-5,000 to account for random losses when genes are passed from one generation to the next – to inform the IUCN Red List, which catalogues the world’s most threatened species.

Increasingly, the concept is leading those in the field to question the policies of large conservation charities, which prioritise the most endangered species. “It’s conservation framed in the context of triage – you sift casualties and ask is there a chance of saving them. It can be used to say well, can we forget about species?”

But before you write off our couple, as one scientist pointed out, we’re living proof of the concept’s inherent flaws. According to anatomical and archaeological evidence, our ancestors wouldn’t have made our own population targets, with 1,000 individuals in existence for nearly a million years. Then between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, we hit another rough patch as our ancestors migrated out of Africa. As you would expect, we’ve been left with astonishingly low genetic diversity. A 2012 study of the genetic differences between neighbouring groups of chimpanzees found more diversity in a single group than among all seven billion humans alive today.

Looking to our ancestors may be our best bet. Anthropologist John Moore’s estimate, which was published by Nasa in 2002, was modelled on small migrating groups of early humans – around 160 people. He recommends starting with young, childless couples and screening for the presence of potentially dangerous recessive genes. Alas, Moore was contemplating long-term space travel, not repopulating the planet. His number only allows for 200 years of isolation before the pioneers head back to Earth.

We could go from a handful to billions in a few short centuries – if we put our minds to it (Credit: Getty Images)

So what of the last man and woman? It’s impossible to say with any certainty, though Stephens is tentatively optimistic. “The evidence for the short-term effects of low genetic diversity is very strong, but all these things are probabilistic. There are stories of incredible journeys back from the brink – anything is possible.”

As long as the apocalypse doesn’t destroy the foundations of modern civilisation, humanity could bounce back surprisingly fast. At the turn of the 20th Century, the Hutterite community of North America – which is, incidentally, highly inbred – achieved the highest levels of population growth ever recorded, doubling every 17 years. It’s a tough ask, but if each woman had eight children, we’d be back to seven billion people and our current population crisis in just 556 years.

 

Paris too obvious? Try these unusual destinations to pop the question…

Source: Daily Mail Travel

A couple snuggle up on a chair in the North Frisian Islands

A couple snuggle up on a chair in the North Frisian Islands

I spent almost a week in Antarctica with an engagement ring in my pocket, waiting for the opportunity to propose to my fiancee, but as we spotted whales, penguins and enormous icebergs, I couldn’t find the right moment. Not until, that is, we docked at the (unfortunately named) Deception Island on our final day. We trekked to its rim, to an area known as Neptune’s Bellows, and there, finally, I popped the question. I’m not sure she had much option other to say yes by that stage – but she hasn’t changed her mind since.

Antarctic cruises set sail from Ushuaia, Argentina. For more details visit adventurelife.com. Lufthansa (lufthansa.com) offers return flights via Frankfurt and Buenos Aires from £952pp.

What is more romantic than being with a loved one under a sky bursting with stars? A three-day journey in a 4×4 vehicle from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile to the salt plains of Uyuni in Bolivia involves climbing to more than 16,000ft above sea level. At such altitude and hundreds of miles from any significant city, the sky is illuminated brilliantly. If that doesn’t seem like the right environment, nothing will.

Kanoo Tours (kanootours.com) is one of several companies offering the trip to Uyuni – prices vary throughout the year. Iberia (iberia.com) has return flights from London to Calama in Chile, via Madrid and Santiago, from £956pp.

A group of penguins is pictured on the beach on Deception Island in Antarctica

A group of penguins is pictured on the beach on Deception Island in Antarctica

Cruise the Tanon Strait between the islands of Negros and Cebu in the Philippines and your chances of seeing dolphins are almost guaranteed. Not only are they abundant, but the most common species in this stretch of water is the ludicrously playful spinner dolphin. The only trouble may be finding a peaceful moment to propose between their corkscrewing leaps and flips.

Asiana Airlines (flyasiana.com) has return flights from London to Cebu, via Seoul, from £796pp. For information on tours of the Tanon Strait go to www.godumaguete.com.

If you’re worried about having to propose in front of a crowd, the over-populated Machu Picchu is probably not for you. Instead, embark on a five-day trek to the far less visited Ciudad Perdida (Forgotten City) in Colombia. At times it’s an incredibly tough slog, but it is rewarding. At one time Ciudad Perdida was home to as many as 8,000 people, but now the only things looking on will be toads, birds and the odd snake.

Turcol Tours (turcol.i8.com) offers tours to the Forgotten City. Avianca (avianca.co.uk) has flights to the trek’s starting point, Santa Marta, from London via Madrid from £755pp.

Japanese macaques on the island of Yakushima

Japanese macaques on the island of Yakushima

They say it rains ’35 days a month’ on the Japanese island of Yakushima, but don’t let that put you off. It lies on the edge of two tropical zones, giving it an unusually fertile climate. Some of its 80ft cedar trees are thought to be 2,000 years old, while on the ground, people are outnumbered by skittish deer and bold, thieving monkeys – if you have a ring with you, hold on to it tight.

Return flights to the nearby island of Kyushu are available with Lufthansa (lufthansa.com), via Frankfurt and Nagoya, from £594pp. Ferries operate between Yakushima and Kyushu.

On Germany’s North Frisian Islands, winds blasting off the North Sea create ‘champagne air’ – a heady mix that might increase the chances of getting a Yes response to the big question. Afterwards, celebrate in one of the Michelin-starred restaurants on Sylt, the largest and most developed of the islands. The North Frisians connect to Hamburg by a typically efficient train network.

Visit bahn.de for details on the rail service between Hamburg and Sylt.

A view of the Monastery in Petra, Jordan

A view of the Monastery in Petra, Jordan

Featured in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, the enormous sculpted cave known as the Treasury in Petra, Jordan, is often awash with tourists. Better, then, to trek further into the ancient stone city to the Monastery, where the views are breathtaking. Just don’t get too close to the edge of the cliff face at such a nervy moment.

EasyJet (easyjet.com) flies from Gatwick to Amman from £147pp return. Jordan Select Tours (select.jo) has dozens of holiday options.

The Turkish resort of Marmaris may be light on romance, but head a little north to Sedir Island and you could find yourself a spot shared by two of history’s greatest lovers. Legend has it that Cleopatra refused to set foot on anything outside of Egypt, so when Mark Antony wanted her to visit Sedir Island he imported tons of Egyptian sand to coat the beach. Locals insist the same stuff still covers the island today.

Sedir (or Cleopatra Island) is 55 miles from Dalaman airport. EasyJet (easyjet.com) offers return flights to Dalaman from Stansted from £121pp. Tours to the island from Marmaris cost from €27 (£22). Visit easymarmaris.com.


Read this post for more on fascinating Jordan.  And for a wonderful place to stay, treat yourself to Le Royal Amman, part of the Royal Hotels & Resorts Division owned by Sir Nadhmi Auchi‘s GMH.

–  Ned