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Travel Tips Around The World

Sep 25 2017

Things to Do on Kauai's North Shore

Category: Best Of | Favorites | General | Itineraries | Lists | Sightseeingkmaxwell @ 05:23

Known as "the Garden Isle" thanks to the lush tropical forest covering much of its 562.3 sq mi of terrain, Kauai has been featured in more than 70 Hollywood movies and TV shows—in large part for the breathtaking beauty of its dramatic peaks, scenic waterfalls and stunning canyons.

If you're lucky enough to visit this peaceful island in the middle of the Pacific, consider adding the following sights and activities to your itinerary:

Kilauea Lighthouse

This century-old lighthouse situated on a rocky peninsula 180 ft above the ocean is located in the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, a protected breeding ground for many Hawaiian seabirds. Placards along the walkway provide information on wildlife visible from the point, including the red-tailed tropicbird (koa'e 'ula), Layson albatross (moli), great frigatebird ('iwa) and more.

Tours are offered, but times vary based on availability of staff and volunteers. The refuge is open 10 am-4 pm Tuesday-Saturday.

Kilauea Lighthouse from the lookout point

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Aug 7 2017

A Day in Austin, Texas

Category: Best Of | Favorites | General | Itineraries | Sightseeingkmaxwell @ 09:34

As the fastest-growing large city in the United States and the second most populous capital city (after Phoenix, Arizona), Austin has much to offer – from finger-lickin’-good barbecue to honky-tonk dance bars to large cultural events, such as the annual South by Southwest festival.

A day is not nearly enough time to experience all of Austin’s gems, but if it’s all you have, check out these highlights to get a feel for the city. And along the way, don’t forget to join the locals in “Keeping Austin Weird.”

Texas State Capitol

Start the day with a visit to the Texas State Capitol. Completed in 1888, this pink-granite structure, designed in Italian Renaissance Revival-style, features wood wainscoting and an impressive rotunda, along with nearly 400 rooms. Its surrounding grounds, decorated with various statues and monuments, provide plenty of photo ops.

Guided tours are free and available throughout the week. They generally depart every 30 to 45 minutes and last approximately 30 minutes.

Texas State Capitol building

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Jun 12 2017

Portland's Finest Roasters

Category: Best Of | Cafes | Favorites | Listskmaxwell @ 04:19

In a city known for its specialty coffee, it can be hard to choose among the dozens of micro-roasteries and cafes that dot the downtown streets. But choose, you must. This coffee mecca takes its java-sipping seriously, and it’s one of the best ways to get a true taste of Portland. Skip the Starbucks for now (especially if your time in the Pacific Northwest includes a stop in Seattle, where you can visit the original Starbucks), and check out these local standouts instead:  

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Although this roaster and retailer has been recently acquired by powerhouse Peet's Coffee, it began as a grassroots operation that popularized a new type of cafe experience—one that elevated coffee from commodity to craft. There are now multiple locations throughout the city, as well as sites in Seattle, New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans.

Head to the headquarters on Salmon Street for free public tastings, where you can sip samples and learn from one of their knowledgeable baristas.

Stumptown Coffee cafe in Portland, Oregon; photo via Wikimedia Commons

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Feb 17 2017

Stunning natural sights on Hawaii's Big Island

Hawaii Island, the biggest island in the Hawaiian chain, is home to some of its most stunning scenery. Much less populated than Oahu, the Big Island has gorgeously preserved nature and a strong agricultural economy. Take a tour of a coffee plantation and enjoy relaxation in the resort areas of the island, but be sure not to miss these incredible natural sights.

       punaluu

                                         A green turtles basks on Punalu'u Beach; photo via Aloha Valley.

Punalu'u Beach is a beautiful black-sand beach, the color coming from the fact that the sand is made up of very finely ground lava rocks—lava flowed into the ocean and exploded upon contact with the cooling water. The beach is a regular nesting and sun-bathing area for green and hawksbill turtles, and sightings are nearly guaranteed year-round. In addition to being a lovely spot, the beach is fully outfitted for swimming—though the water can be cold—with lifeguards on duty. For a day at the beach that's a little something different, make the trek to the south side of the island to Punalu'u.

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Sep 22 2016

Chicago Neighborhood Profile: Logan Square

Most visitors to Chicago only make it outside of the Loop (our name for downtown) to head to the Southside for the Museum of Science and Industry, or maybe to head a little bit north to Wrigley Field; and that's a real shame, because our city is vibrant, diverse and full of incredible experiences, many of the best of which are outside the tourist hubs. If you want to escape the endless hordes of people on Michigan Avenue, hop the CTA Blue Line for twenty minutes and get off at either the California or Logan Square stops, and you'll find yourself in Logan Square, the most up-and-coming area in the city, jam-packed with award-winning bars and restaurants. Here are some of my favorite dining, drinking and shopping spots in my neighborhood. 

                        

                                     The signature dish at Logan Square's Fat Rice. Photo via Bon Appetit.

Dining. Some of the most exciting and unique dining experiences in the city reside in Logan Square. My favorite is Fat Rice, which serves Macau cuisine—Macau was a Portuguese trading outpost in China where many cultures blended, producing a one-of-a-kind fusion cuisine. You'll find dumplings and pork buns along with traditional Portuguese drinks such as caipirinhas, but the real star is the titular dish, the fat rice, which is a rice pot loaded with clams, prawns, a variety of sausages and porks, and hardboiled eggs (it'll feed two to four people). It's basically a treasure trove that you eat. Get a reservation, because I was once told on a Thursday evening that it was a two-and-a-half-hour wait for a party of two. (Tip: Fat Rice has a bakery next door where you can buy a wide variety of buns (they even have a Chicago-style hot dog bun, if you're feeling brave) and coffee and tea that's open during the day.)

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Sep 22 2016

The Goddess and the Baker: Fuel for your trip to Chicago's Art Institute

Category: Destinations | Dining | Favorites | GeneralChristine Norris @ 04:09

The Art Institute of Chicago is consistently ranked as one of the best museums in the world, and with a slew of the world's most famous pieces of art, visiting there is an overwhelming but incredible experience. As a resident of Chicago and a member of the Art Institute, I've been lucky to be able to get an insider's perspective, to learn where everything is in relation to everything else, and finally, to have the luxury of a quick trip of only an hour or two if I'm low on time or just want to check out that one new exhibit. Even though I visit with frequency, and though my visits are rarely exhausting, I still find myself at The Goddess and the Baker before or after every single trip to the museum.

                       g&b-eatnowcaffeinate

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Jun 23 2016

Get in the FLOW with Adventure Flow Tours

Category: Destinations | Favorites | On The Scene | Recreationbhicks @ 07:15

Juneau is a popular stop on almost every Alaskan cruise, with shopping, sight-seeing, and whale watching being just SOME of the amazing options to choose from while in port. This blogger, though, set his sights on something a little more... ADVENTUROUS!

Adventure Flow offers outdoor small group tours that focus on providing the optimal Alaskan experience. The most attractive feature of Adventure Flow is the promise that their passionate guides will take you a step away from the crowds—most guided hikes in the area are highly populated, but Adventure Flow takes your small group on an intimate hike together. With walking, hiking, and smartphone photography tours they have something for everyone to enjoy the Southeast Alaska splendor. Adventure Flow tours place you in the moment and maximize your experience, giving you a unique opportunity not offered by any other tour operator. 

Here I am, preparing to embark on a Smart Phone Photography Tour. I was very excited to get started! The description of the tour promised that More...

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Jun 2 2016

Delicious, delightful dining in Rio de Janeiro

Category: Destinations | Dining | FavoritesChristine Norris @ 07:56

Brazil's most colorful city, Rio de Janeiro, might be host to this summer's Olympic Games, but it's also a cultural behemoth with a wide array of dining options to satisfy any palate. The traditional Brazilian food that you can find there is to die for, but as a global hub, there are also many international options to choose from; in short, eating in Rio is a treat that will please all palates. These are just a few of our favorite places in the city to nosh, but variety and quality abound all over Rio.

Casa de Feijoada serves Brazil's traditional black-bean stew; the meal is typically eaten on Saturday, but at this restaurant, you can get it any day of the week. The dish consists of black beans cooked with a variety of meat products, including pork, beef, bacon and sausage; pork "trimmings" (feet, ears, tails—you know, the fun stuff) are typical, too. For those a little worried about what parts of what animals they're putting in their mouths, the Casa de Feijoada accommodates you by allowing you to choose the cuts of meat that go into your stew (this is not a usual practice in Rio; everywhere else, be prepared to eat what's in front of you and try not to think about what might be in it). Portions are huge, making this place not only a cultural stop, but a great deal, too.

                      

                    A typical serving of the namesake dish at Casa de Feijoada. Photo via Cruzando Mundo.

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Apr 6 2016

Five must-see temples in Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto, Japan is a city of seemingly endless temples and shrines, and it is easy to begin to feel as though one has seen it all—there are so many that even several days in Kyoto wouldn't allow for visiting nearly all of them. A few temples stand out for their intricacies and idiosyncrasies, and we highly recommend checking them out.

1. Fushimi Inari. This temple is famous for its red torii gates—there are thousands of them crawling up the hillside to the temple, with more being added all the time: Wealthy businesspeople donate them for large sums of money as tribute to the shrine of the god of rice and money. The shrine itself, at the top of the mountain (a long hike, and not really a necessity), isn't much of an attraction; you come for the gates. It's a great place to visit at night as well.

                                                                                    

          Just a small sampling of the thousands of gates at Fushimi Inari; photo via Wikimedia Commons

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Mar 9 2016

Historical and affordable: The paradores of Spain

Category: Favorites | General | HotelsChristine Norris @ 06:53

Spain boasts a large number of paradores: state-run hotels that are more often than not housed in buildings of historical and architectural significance. Before the word "state-run" has you heading for the comfort of the name brands, take a closer look at some of our favorite paradores—you'll find incredible locations, superb dining (with ample options for vegetarian and gluten-free travelers, not to mention the breakfast spread replete with chilled cava) and something just a little more authentic than a stay at the reliable but typical name brand offerings. While some paradores do have steep prices that are on par with bigger hotels, many are incredibly affordable.

                           

                  The Parador de Ronda clings to its cliffside perch. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

To say the Parador de Ronda's setting is breathtaking doesn't quite capture how it really does take one's breath away: Dining alfresco means being right on the edge, looking down onto the gorge from 400 feet up; and most rooms have small balconies, which provide fantastic views, whether looking at the city or over the cliffside. Service and room standards here are especially good for a parador, and the restaurant serves hearty, authentic Spanish fare, but it's the location that makes this place a must-stay. This property is definitely going straight to the top of our "Dreamiest Hotels" list.

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