Sunday, October 30, 2011

Destination Spotlight: Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

Happy Halloween weekend everybody!

I hope y
a’ll have a fantastically spooky time on Monday dressing up, passing out candy, and being scared out of your mind! In honor of Halloween I thought it would be fun to check out one of the world’s coolest caves according to Travel and Leisure magazine.

This week we’ll be traveling to the hills of New Zealand’s North Island to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Quarter-inch-long luminescent glowworms radiate blue lights and dangle from the ceiling of the caves to look like an amazingly beautiful sky of stars.

According to the Waitomo website, these caves contain world renowned limestone formations that are a landmark to New Zealand and the world’s natural history. 30 million years ago the entire Waitomo region was far beneath the sea and now it is one of the coolest cave systems in the world!

Visitors to the caves are able to ride in an inflatable raft along the underground Waitomo River with Spellbound Glowworm & Cave Tours. There are also two other caves nearby, the Ruakuri Cave and the Aranui Cave which are said to be equally exciting! The tour also offers great deal combo prices for adults and children, if you’re interested in experiencing all three. The average price is about $30 per person.

Well once again we’ll just add this one to our list of future “to-do’s”!

Happy Trick or’ Treating!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Destination Spotlight: Dijon, France

If the first thing you were thinking when you read "Dijon" was "mustard" you're totally on the right track! Dijon, France is famous for its moutarde de Dijon with mustard shops featuring exotic or unusually-flavored mustard often sold in decorative hand-painted pots. Fruit-flavored mustard anyone?

Being a French minor, I'm considering studying abroad in Dijon this summer! Dijon is just two hours by train from Paris and three hours from Geneva, Switzerland making it the perfect place to live and experience the countryside as well as the Paris city-life!

Dijon is also located right at the edge of Burgundy, one of France's most famous wine regions. Many incredible wine vineyards are just 2o minutes from the city center of Dijon!

To compliment my love for wine is my interest in art which is also widely respected in Dijon. It is home to numerous museums and many parks and botanical gardens.

Doesn’t this sound like just the perfect place to study abroad? I can already picture myself sitting at a little cafĂ© reading a good book and sipping a delicious glass of wine.

Also recommended by numerous travel guides is to fully experience Dijon’s cuisine at one of the many cafes, brasseries, creperies, and restaurants! Also note that the bread is apparently to die for!

Here are three of the top best restaurants:

1. The Hostellerie du Chapeau Rouge- 5, rue Michelet.

2. Le Pre aux Clercs - 13, place de la Liberation.

3. Restaurant Stephane Derbord - 10, place Wilson.

Can’t summer be here already!

Bon voyage!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Destination Spotlight: Ice Hotel, Sweden

Breaking free from my usual trend towards tropical and sunny destinations, this week we're traveling to a tiny village 124 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden. The village of Jukkasjarvi is home to an absolutely incredible piece of art also known as the Ice Hotel. Built completely out of ice and snow, the hotel is "rebuilt" each winter, inspired and sourced by the Torne River on which it is built from!

Each winter, a highly skilled team of architects, snow builders, designers, and artists from all over the world come together in Jukkasjarvi to create and plan the new version of the Ice Hotel. (To learn more about the intense building process, click here)

If you're planning on gathering up your snow gear and heading for the icy suites, the first round of guests are greeted in the beginning of December while phases of the hotel are still in the process of being built. This is also the darkest time of year but one of the best chances to see the Northern Lights dance across the sky. The Ice Hotel closes by the end of April, so be sure to plan your little getaway before the hotel melts away into the river!

The hotel recommends that you stay in a "cold suite" for one night and several nights in a "warm suite". Basically, the cold suites are approximately 15 degrees Fahrenheit equipped with ice beds, thermal sleeping bags, and ice furniture. The other nights, you are free to stay in one of their partner hotels in a "warm suite", also known as a normal hotel room.

There is a whole list of tips and procedures for this entire "ice experience" which may sound like a bit of a hassle but I feel would definitely be worth it for one night. Some examples of tips given on their website are not wearing cream or moisturizer to avoid frost bite and leaving your luggage in a personal locker so it doesn't freeze!

Hmmm....maybe a trip to the Absolut Ice Bar will also be in order?

Happy Travels!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Destination Spotlight: Poseidon Mystery Island, Fiji

One of the most undeniably beautiful places on this earth and most likely my favorite playground to ever exist: the ocean. As you have probably noticed, I love being in the water and I dream of traveling to amazing beaches with amazing sunsets, fantastic water activities, and the water obsession goes on and on. So it really should be no surprise that this next dream vacation spot encompasses all of those in one.

Welcome to Poseidon Mystery Island, the world's first seafloor resort! On its own private island in Fiji, Poseidon guests are transported underwater 40 feet by an elevator to find 24 unbelievable suites! The resort also includes spectacular underwater restaurants and lounges. It seriously can't get any better than this! Also, just in case you were worried you wouldn't be able to feed the fish outside your can. With the simple push of a button from your control console, you can release food to feed your underwater neighbors!

Now, this vacation is definitely very pricey and geared for the "elite vacationer" as their website says, but that includes me...right?

Regardless, here's the breakdown of the damage:

Seven days & six nights
US $15,000 per person includes
- transportation to the island from the company airplanes
- four nights in a luxury or over-water villa
- two nights in a luxury undersea suite
- diving onboard a luxury expedition submarine outside the lagoon
- an initiation to piloting a three-passenger mini-sub inside the lagoon with the assistance of a trained pilot
- scuba diving and snorkeling
- walks on the lagoon floor with the Sea-Trek System
- wine tasting classes
- and a few other exciting adventures!

Oh what I would give to visit here!

Happy Travels!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Destination Spotlight: Santorini Island, Greece

In honor of fall break coming up next weekend and the first time I'll be back home in sunny California since the beginning of junior year, I've chosen the number one destination on my mother's travel wish list: Santorini Island, Greece.

As if the crystal blue waters set against quaint villages nestled in hilltops isn't enough to make you want to hop onto a plane at this very moment, it is said that this island has some of the best sunsets on the planet. Yet another reason my mom dreams of visiting this place. Sunsets are her favorite.

In planning my future dream vacation to this beautiful island, I came across tons of things to do from dining, nightlife, architecture, museums, churches, diving, tours, bike rides, and so much more! Although I think I'd be perfectly content sitting in a chair overlooking the ocean all day long, it would definitely be fun to explore the culture of this little island. A bike ride while enjoying the island sea breeze sounds lovely right about now.

I think it's pretty clear why Santorini Island is one of the most popular summer destination spots by simply looking at this picture. It radiates beauty and screams relaxation. I really hope one day I'll reach Santorini's shores. Until then, I'll be taking junior year one day at a time with this incredible picture as a little motivation during these long study nights.

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Destination Spotlight: Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Ever since I can remember, I have absolutely loved being in the water. I'd spend endless summer days splashing around in the pool until my feet and hands looked like prunes. I dreamt of how amazing it would be to be a fish able to breathe underwater. One summer, five years ago, my dream came true. Well almost...

I became PADI scuba certified in Mexico during a family vacation, furthering my love for the ocean. Ever since, my ultimate dream has been to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the world's largest reef system, and one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The Great Barrier Reef is so large it can be seen from outer space! Now that is mind-blowing. The reef lies just off the northeast coast of Queensland and is said to be a major tourist attraction all year round because of it's consistently warm and sunny weather.

If the thought of using an air tank as your life support scares you, there are plenty of other ways to still experience the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. Some exciting alternatives are snorkelling, parasailing, a helicopter ride, a hot air balloon ride, kayaking, boating and much more.

Personally they all sound quite exciting, but I'd prefer to be face to face with the colorful creatures. There's something I find so incredibly calming about scuba diving when all you can hear is the rise and fall of your breath. Your eyes are the window to an entire world so foreign and unknown and you realize you are the visitors down there.

One of these days I'll make my way to see this beautiful masterpiece God created. It really blows my mind to think of all the beauty that I've yet to see in this world.

Happy Diving!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Destination Spotlight: Machu Picchu, Peru

If you're looking for an adventure, this one is definitely for you. Named one of the 7 wonders of the world, Machu Picchu is a magical city with rich history and breathtaking views. My mother has had the privilege of seeing this beautiful place in person and she tells me that the experience was one that absolutely took her breath away.

In researching this little vacation getaway, I found many tour and hotel options at almost every price range. Many people recommend the guided tours and insist on opting for the train instead of the hike, which seems to be very treacherous. Visitors to the magical city typically leave from Cuzco, a nearby city, and make their way to the ruins.

Machu Picchu is located at about 8,000 feet and is often referred to as "The Lost City of the Incas." There is only one hotel that is actually in the park, called the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge and is extremely expensive. If you are absolutely set on staying overnight in the park this is the only option but many choose to stay in Aguas Calientes, another nearby city.

This luscious paradise is just calling my name! If you're as set as I am on embarking on this adventure, don't forget to pack your sunblock, comfortable walking shoes, and camera of course!

Happy Travels!

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